BIBLIOTHECA SACRA 147 (588) (1990): 437-54
Copyright © 1990 Dallas Theological Seminary. Cited with permission.
A Critique of Prohomosexual
Interpretations of the
Old Testament Apocrypha
James B. De Young
Professor of New Testament Language and Literature
Conservative Baptist Seminary,
The contemporary debate surrounding homosexuality has many
facets, including sexual behavior, public morality, law, civil rights,
public health, and the interpretation of Scripture. The last facet is
particularly important, for the way people perceive the relevance of
the Bible on the issue will determine in large measure how the issue
will be addressed from the other perspectives.
In recent years interpretations of the Scriptures have arisen that
challenge traditional teaching regarding homosexuality. The
"prohomosexual" interpretations are "revisionist" in that they ei-
ther (1) fail to find homosexuality where it has been found before
(Gen. 19; Judg. 19; Ezek. 16; 1 Cor. 6; 1 Tim. 1; etc.), or (2) claim that
passages referring to homosexuality are irrelevant to the Christian
church either because they concern
God (e.g., Lev. 18; 20), or because they concern a form of homosexual-
ity (rape or pederasty) unlike the modern phenomenon of mutual
adult relationships and hence have nothing to contribute.
Somewhat surprisingly, this "prohomosexual" position is
founded on the witness of the Old Testament Apocrypha and Pseude-
pigrapha. The claim is that the Scriptures, excluding 2 Peter and
do not link homosexuality to
ment Apocrypha. The Old Testament Psetidepigrapha makes this
connection for the first time in reactions to the homosexuality ram-
pant in Greco-Roman society. The Pseudepigrapha subsequently in-
438 Bibliotheca Sacra / October-December 1990
fluenced 2 Peter and Jude to
tices. Therefore, according to Bailey, "the traditional conception of
have followed Bailey in this approach. Scroggs indeed believes
that condemnations of Scripture concern pederasty, not mutual, adult
homosexuality, on the basis of interpretations found in the Pseude-
pigrapha. The New Testament, like the Pseudepigrapha, is only
reacting to the pederasty of the surrounding pagans.
The Old Testament Apocrypha consists of about 14 books or por-
tions found in the Septuagint, the Greek translation of the Old Tes-
tament. These are books of history (1 Esdras; 2 Esdras; 1, 2 Mac-
cabees); poetry and wisdom (Ecclesiasticus; Wisdom of Solomon); and
fiction having an edifying purpose (Judith; Tobit; Baruch and the
Epistle of Jeremiah; Prayer of Manasseh; three additions to Daniel;
and additions to Esther). In 1546 the Roman Catholic Church canon-
ized 11 of these books or portions, while Jews and Protestants have
refused to view them as authoritative.
The Old Testament Pseudepigrapha encompasses additional
books, most of which were written, like the Apocrypha, between the
Testaments of canonical Scripture. Most are named after Old Testa-
ment persons who purportedly authored the books, though no one was
deceived by these false claims and no one considered these writings
canonical. Nevertheless they provide encouragement and insight
into the times, and many claim to set forth the course of future events
in an apocalyptic genre.
It is clear that the proper interpretation of the Apocrypha and
Pseudepigrapha is crucial to the interpretation of Scripture on the
issue of homosexuality and to the modern debate over homosexual-
ity, at least in its use of Jewish and Christian Scriptures. This study
seeks to interpret all the references to
uality) found in this intertestamental literature and to critique "pro-
homosexual" use of it.
This book was written in Hebrew about 180 B.C. and is also known
as Sirach or the Wisdom of Joshua, son of Sirach. According to the
Sherwin Bailey, Homosexuality and the
Western Christian Tradition (
Longmans, Green, 1955), p. 10 (see also pp. 6-8, 27-28);
2 John Boswell, Christianity, Social Tolerance, and Homosexuality (
versity of Chicago Press, 1980), p. 94, n. 7, and pp. 108-11.
3 Robin Scroggs, The New Testament and Homosexuality (
Press, 1983), chaps. 5, 6, esp. pp. 67, 83-84, 97-98.
A Critique of Prohomosexual Interpretations 439
prologue it was translated into Greek by the grandson of the author
in 132 B.C. Prohomosexual interpreters cite Ecclesiasticus 16:8 as
making pride the sin of
edly "a more ancient tradition."4 The pertinent lines are the follow-
ing: "He did not spare
the people among whom
whom he detested for their pride."5
In the context the author successively discussed the judgment of
raelites who died in the sojourn. It is obvious that he was not trying
to be exhaustive in giving the reason for judgment in each case. For
example only the rebellion of the giants (16:7) is given as the reason
for the judgment of the Flood (saying nothing about violence, inter-
marriage, etc., as Genesis 6 relates).
Since Genesis 19 says nothing of pride, it is clear that the author
of Ecclesiasticus was interpreting when he assigned pride as the cause
of the overthrow. Yet he was not incorrect to do so, as will be shown.
Moreover, the author of Ecclesiasticus had a special reason for
giving pride as the cause of
especially abhorrent throughout, whereas wisdom is
dom characterizes those who fear the Lord and those who master
the Law (15:1). To fear the Lord is "the source of wisdom" () and
"all wisdom comes from the Lord" (1:1; cf. ; ; ; 16:4).
Also wisdom is "far from pride" (15:8). According to Ecclesiasticus
pride violates both wisdom and fear of the Lord. Thus in the context
"pride" (16:8), "obstinacy" (), and being "stiff-necked" ().
The author believed that God "will judge a man by his doings"
(16:12; cf. ). It must be assumed, therefore, that the author had
some deeds in mind for which
pressions of its pride.
It is clear that "pride" cannot be limited to a state of being or
disposition, but here must include "proud behavior," and perhaps
even "sexual desire"6 The Greek term is u[perhfa<nia, which occurs as
a noun here (often including actions: 10:7, 12-13, 18; 15:8; 16:8; ;
48:18; 51:10) and in the Letter of Aristeas (262, 269) and in Mark .
As the noun so the verb u[perhfane<w can mean both "be proud,
4 Boswell, Christianity, Social Tolerance, and Homosexuality, p. 94, n. 7.
5 Edgar J. Goodspeed, The Apocrypha (Chicago: University of Chicago Press, 1938),
6 Even the English word "pride" denotes this. See Webster's Third New Interna-
tional Dictionary (Springfield, MA: G. & C. Merriam Co., 1971), p. 1799. An obsolete
meaning is "sexual desire." Also see
The Compact Edition of the
tionary (Glasgow: Oxford University, 1971), 2:2297.
440 Bibliotheca Sacra / October-December 1990
haughty," and "treat arrogantly and disdainfully, despise" (4 Macc.
: "the law is despised").7 So both aspects characterize these
The word "detested" ("whom he detested for their pride") is e]b-
delu<cato. In it is said, "The Lord hates anything abominable"
(bde<lugma). Since these cognates are used in the Septuagint to refer
to sodomy (Lev. ; ), it may well be that sodomy is referred
to in Ecclesiasticus ; ; and 41:5 by this term (contrast ;
11:2; , twice; ; 20:8; 27:30).
It seems certain that sodomy is the meaning of the term in 49:2.
In this verse the author praised King Josiah as a godly king. He
wrote, "He succeeded in converting the people, and abolished the
The last two terms translate bdelu<gmata a]no<miaj. These same
terms are juxtaposed in Jeremiah 16:1.8 and are translated, "detest-
able idols and abominations" (NASB). Snaith renders the terms in
Ecclesiasticus as "loathsome and lawless deeds."9
It is important to note the event referred to by the author in 49:2.
The setting is 2 Kings 23:1-13, where the terms for "abolished" (vv.
5, 11) and "abomination" (v. 13) occur. In these verses Josiah, with
whom Jeremiah was a contemporary, is credited with defiling the
abominable high places of Ashtoreth, Chemosh, and Milcom (v. 13),
and ending the idolatrous priests and other idols (vv. 5, 11). Yet the
significant statement is Josiah's being credited with breaking down
"the houses of the male cult prostitutes which were in the house of
the Lord, where the women were weaving hangings for the
Asherah" (v. 7). This is a reference to religious prostitution between
males and constitutes sodomy (cf. 1 Kings ; ). Moses fore-
warned of such practices in Deuteronomy 23:17-18. It is not unreason-
able to assume that the writer of Ecclesiasticus had in mind this
7 William F. Arndt and F. Wilbur Gingrich, A Greek-English Lexicon of the New
Testament and Other
Early Christian Literature (
Press, 1957), pp. 848-49. Paul placed the adjective u[perh<fanoj between u[bri<sthj and
a]la<zwn in a list of vices (Rom. ), where the arrogant despisers of others stand con-
ceptually between the violently insolent and the empty boasters. The noun occurs in
the New Testament only in the list of vices in Mark 7:22. See the Theological
Dictionary of the New Testament, S.v. "u[perh<fanoj, u[perhfa<nia", by Georg Bertram,
8 Goodspeed, The Apocrypha, p. 321. :
9 John G. Snaith, Ecclesiasticus or the Wisdom of Jesus Son of Sirach (
terms see James B. DeYoung, "The Old Testament Witness to Homosexuality: A Criti-
cal Assessment of the Prohomosexual Interpretation of the Old Testament," paper pre-
sented to the Northwest Section, Evangelical Theological Society, May 4, 1985, Port-
A Critique of Prohomosexual Interpretations 441
idolatrous, sexual vice when he used the term bde<lugma in 49:2.
Yet probably the most significant passage for this study is -
18. The author wrote of the judgment on pride:
For pride begins with sin, and the man who clings to it will rain
down abominations. For this reason, the Lord brings unheard-of
calamities upon them, and overturns them utterly. The Lord tears
down the thrones of rulers, and seats the humble-minded in their
places. The Lord plucks up nations by the roots, and plants the lowly in
their places. The Lord overturns heathen countries, and destroys them
down to the foundations of the earth. He takes some of them away, and
destroys them, and makes the memory of them cease from the earth.
Pride was not created for men, nor fierce anger for those who are born
The concepts here are similar to those in 16:8 ("whom he de-
tested for their pride"). He wrote with sarcasm that on those who
hold to pride, God will bring abominations (bde<lugma). The first line
of verse 13 enforces the interpretation of 16:8 that other sins are im-
plicit in the passage.
The second line of verse 13 is rendered by Box and Oesterley as,
"And its source overfloweth with depravity."11 The idea is that sin
pours forth every form of depravity.12 Another Greek manuscript
reads, "And fornication is the source of both." Evidently the Hebrew
term for "depravity" is hmA.zi, used also in Ezekiel 16:27, 43, 58 ("lewd-
ness"), and Judges 20:6, where the Levite accused the men of Gibeah
of committing "a lewd act in
Other verbal connections with Old Testament contexts dealing
sin") the noun u[perhfa<nia occurs. In verse 17 the verb e]ch<ranen occurs
("He takes some of them away"). Both of these words and the pas-
sage as a whole support the idea that the author alluded to Ezekiel
-50 with its judgment of
they were haughty and committed abominations before Me. There-
fore I removed them when I saw it." The words "arrogance" and "re-
moved" in the Septuagint are from the same Greek terms as em-
ployed in Ecclesiasticus and 17.
In Ezekiel 16:56-57
10 Goodspeed, The Apocrypha, pp. 241-42.
11 G. H. Box and W. O. E. Oesterley, "The Book of Sirach," in The Apocrypha and
Pseudepigrapha of the Old Testament in English, ed. R. H. Charles, 2
Clarendon Press, 1913), 1:350.
12 Snaith renders the second line of as, "so persistence in it brings on a deluge of
depravity" (Ecclesiasticus or The Wisdom of Jesus Son of Sirach, p. 54).
442 Bibliotheca Sacra I October-December 1990
in a verse linking
before your wickedness was uncovered." Here in a context of har-
lotry, lewdness, and
abominations (v. 58)
fied as "pride"
u[perhfa<nia (used in Ezekiel only in ; , 56) translates the
Hebrew NOxGA. In similar contexts it means "arrogance, cynical insensi-
tivity to the needs of others, and presumption. It is both a disposi-
tion and a type of conduct (both of which are inextricably con-
nected)."13 The contexts of Ezekiel and Ecclesiasticus confirm this
In Ecclesiasticus the meaning of pride is given: "The origin
of pride is to forsake the Lord, man's heart revolting against his
Maker." Here "origin" has the sense of "essence" (cf. ).14 Hence
the essence of pride is revolt against God. Persistence in pride then
increases the depravity (v. 13). Can there be any doubt that or this
author "pride" includes conduct and disposition? Is this not an apt
description of sodomy?
The graphic portrayal of God's judgment in -18, coupled
with the Greek terms employed, and their Hebrew counterparts,
makes an allusion to the overthrow of
tremely probable. Even the translators suggest this as a possibil-
ity.15 The writer of Ecclesiasticus appears to be faithful to the ac-
count of Genesis 19 via Ezekiel 16. For his own theological purpose
he interprets the sin of
arrogant conduct and a violation of wisdom. For Bailey and Boswell
to limit their discussion to Ecclesiasticus 16:8 is unfortunate. And for
them to limit the sin of
even more unfortunate.
WISDOM OF SOLOMON
The Wisdom of Solomon is by an unknown author and is probably
a composite work dated 50 B.C. to A.D. 10, or as late as A.D. 40. The
passage most frequently discussed regarding sodomy occurs in a list of
vices in 14:23-26. The context deals with the origin and results of
idolatry. For the author there is a deliberate connection between
13 R. Laird Harris, Gleason L. Archer, Jr., and Bruce K. Waltke, eds., Theological
Wordbook of the Old Testament, 2 vols. (Chicago: Moody Press, 1980), s.v. "hxAGA," by
Victor P. Hamilton, 1:143.
14 Snaith, Ecclesiasticus, p. 56. So also Edward Lee Beavin, "Ecclesiasticus or the
Wisdom of Jesus the Son of Sirach," The Interpreter’s One-Volume Commentary on the
Bible, ed. Charles M. Layman (New York: Abingdon Press, 1971), p. 557.
15 "In 16b ('extirpateth
them,' etc.) there may be an allusion to
xvi. 49" (Box and Oesterley, "The Book of Sirach," 1:350, n. 16).
A Critique of Prohomosexual Interpretations 443
idolatry and sexual vice: "For the devising of idols was the begin-
ning of fornication" (; cf. v. 27). Then follows the catalog of
For neither while they murder children in their rites nor celebrate
secret mysteries, nor hold frenzied revels with alien laws do they keep
their lives or marriages pure, but one man waylays another and kills
him, or grieves him by adultery. And it is all a confusion of blood and
murder, theft and fraud, depravity, faithlessness, discord, perjury,
clamor at the good, forgetfulness of favors, defilement of souls, confu-
sion of sex, irregularity in marriage, adultery, and indecency. For the
worship of the unspeakable idols is the beginning and cause and end of
It is often claimed by "prohomosexual" interpreters that the
meaning of the phrase "confusion of sex" (genese<wj e]nalla<gh) is
uncertain and should not be used to refer to homosexuality. The
meaning is difficult to ascertain, primarily because the phrase ap-
parently occurs nowhere else in Greek literature. Research shows
that genese<wj is somewhat common in classical and biblical Greek
and means "birth, origin, kind, family, existence, generation, geneal-
ogy." "However, e]nalla<gh, while frequent in classical Greek
("interchange, change, variation"), occurs nowhere else in biblical
canonical or noncanonical
Psalm and Isaiah 66:4). Several cognates exist, one with a sex-
ual connotation, but only one cognate (e@nallac) occurs in Scripture,
and then only once (Gen. 48:14, "crossing").17
There may be some connection with e]ndihllagme<nou ("changed"
of sex), used by
reference is to a male cult prostitute. There is no Septuagintal text to
translate the Hebrew of 1 Kings 22:47-50.
The phrase seems similar to one found in Philo utilizing
e]nalla<gh: "change of the works of nature," according to Winston.18
16 Goodspeed, The Apocrypha, pp. 206-7. Samuel Holmes also renders the key
phrase as "confusion of sex" ("The Wisdom of Solomon," The Apocrypha and Pseude-
pigrapha, 1:559). The RSV reads "confusion over what is good." "Abuse of sex" is the
rendering of Edwin Cone Bissell (The Apocrypha of the Old Testament [
Charles Scribner's Sons, 1880], p. 262). He cites the KJV's "changing of kind" (marg.
17 See H. G. Liddell and R. Scott, comps., A Greek-English Lexicon, rev. H. S. Jones,
9th ed. (Oxford: Oxford University Press, 1940), pp. 343, 554, 1288; Arndt and Gin-
grich, A Greek-English Lexicon of the New Testament and Other Early Christian Lit-
erature, pp. 154,261; William L. Holladay, ed., A Concise Hebrew and Aramaic Lexi-
con of the Old Testament (Grand Rapids: Wm. B. Eerdmans Publishing Co., 1971), p.
18 David Winston, The Wisdom of Solomon, The Anchor Bible (
Doubleday & Co., 1979), p. 26. Ernest G. Clarke renders the phrase of as "sexual
perversion" (The Wisdom of Solomon [
444 Bibliotheca Sacra / October-December 1990
He renders the phrase in as "interchange of sex roles." He com-
pares the phrase to "changed the order of nature" (Test. Naph. 3:4
discussed later) and to "women exchanged natural relations for un-
natural" (Rom. , NIV). He notes that the preceding phrase in
Wisdom 14:26, "defilement of souls," has a moral sense, and the fol-
lowing phrase, "irregularity in marriage," points to sensual excess,
perhaps meaning "inordinate."
It seems that the phrase means "interchange, change of kind or
sex." Bailey argues that it could mean anything from "changing of
race" (a reference to Jewish apostasy) to self-castration, effeminacy,
mixed marriages, homosexuality, or cultic transvestism. He argues
that "there seems no reason to suppose that it has any special refer-
ence to homosexual acts."19
Yet Bailey seems to deal inadequately with the context. The
of Solomon clearly refers to
(10:6-9; -17), making a reference to sodomy in possible.
Also the immediate context refers to immoral sexual practices. The
list in -26 is a catalog of vices--a literary device occurring in
both Testaments (e.g., Jer. 7:9; Rom. -31) and in other Jewish,
Christian, and pagan literature.20 Homosexuality is often found in
such catalogs. Also the majority of translators and commentaries
translate the phrase in a way that allows a homosexual meaning.
referred to.21 The passage reads:
And upon the sinners came the punishments not without tokens given
beforehand by the force of thunders; for justly did they suffer through
their own exceeding wickedness, for grievous indeed was the hatred
which they practiced toward guests. For whereas certain men received
not strangers who came among them, these made slaves of guests who
were their benefactors. And not only so, but God shall visit the former
after another sort, since they received as enemies them that were
aliens; whereas these first welcomed with feastings, and then afflicted
with dreadful toils, them that had already shared with them in the same
rights. And they too were stricken with loss of sight (even as those
others at the righteous man's doors), when, being compassed about
p, 97). He cites a similar list of immoralities
in Hosea 4:2. In Hosea
rendered "shrine prostitute" by the term e]ndihllagme<nou, "changed" (of sex).
19 Bailey, Homosexuality and the Western Christian Tradition, p. 48. Scroggs
thinks the passage refers to homosexuality, but that the text "puts no particular
weight on homosexuality, or any other specific sin" (The New Testament and Homo-
sexuality, p. 92). This seems to be beside the point.
20 Winston, The Wisdom of Solomon, p. 280,
21 The author of the Wisdom of Solomon characteristically avoids the use of proper
names, but no one doubts the reference to
Solomon, pp. 37, 127, and the extended discussion of this phenomenon in Winston, The
Wisdom of Solomon, pp, 139-40.
A Critique of Prohomosexual Interpretations 445
with yawning darkness, they sought every one the passage through his
Here comparison is being made between the reception given by
the Sodomites and the more bitter hatred of strangers exhibited by
the Egyptians in their treatment of
“wickedness," etc.) describe the Egyptians and their behavior.
It is hardly legitimate to infer from this passage that the be-
havior of the Sodomites was merely inhospitable. The contrast be-
ing made in the passage is not between the kinds of sins involved or
their severity. Rather the contrast is between the recipients of the
the Sodomites did not "add fickleness to their
secuted aliens and strangers. The judgment of blindness recorded of
both () heightens the
perversity of both
One other passage in Wisdom clearly refers to
sins. In the context (10:1-14) the author illustrated the saving and
punishing power of Wisdom by describing seven righteous heroes and
their wicked counterparts, including
of them is named, in keeping with the author's style. The passage
describes Wisdom's deliverance of
It was she who rescued a righteous man when the ungodly were perish-
ing, and he escaped the fire that descended on the Five Cities, which
were turned into a smoking waste as a testimony of their wickedness;
with plants that bear fruit before they ripen, and a pillar of salt standing
there as a memorial of an
unbelieving soul. For having passed
dom by, they were not only distracted from a knowledge of the good,
but also left behind for the world a monument of their folly, so that they
were unable to go undetected in their failure. But Wisdom rescued
her servants from troubles.25
The Five Cities in 10:6 are those five cities of the plain named
in Genesis (; 14:2), including
22 Holmes, "Wisdom of Solomon," 1:567. Due to textual variations in it may be
rendered otherwise. Goodspeed has, "And not only so, but those others shall have
some consideration, for the men they received with such hostility were aliens" (The
Apocrypha, p. 219). Yet Holmes believes that it is unjustified to weaken the word
e]pisko<ph to "consideration, allowance." He points out that this is the "only certain
reference in this part of the book to future retribution" (The Wisdom of Solomon, p.
567, n. 15).
23 Clarke, The Wisdom of Solomon, p. 128.
24 Winston, The Wisdom of Solomon, p. 211.
25 The translation is that of Winston.
same five cities from Genesis 14 are found listed in the same order in an
tablet, dated about 2500 B.C. See Winston, The Wisdom of Solomon, p. 215.
446 Bibliotheca Sacra / October-December 1990
ence to unripened
fruit as a witness to
counterpart in Scripture (Deut. 32:32), Josephus, Tacitus, and
The passage describes the Sodomites by various terms, including
"ungodly" (a]se<bwn) and "wickedness" (ponhri<a). In Wisdom 10:8-9,
which forms a unit marked off from the preceding and the following,
the penalty for ignoring God and wisdom is given, followed by the
benefit to righteous men. The "folly" is a]frosu<nhj, and "in their
failure" is e]sfalh<sen ("to slip, stumble, fall"; rendered "enormities"
by one writer).28
It is clear that Wisdom of Solomon did not limit
inhospitality. In fact its writer never used the term "inhospitable"
but the indictment of
"confusion of sex" (or "interchange of sex roles") in shows the
author's acquaintance with sexual perversion, probably in the form
of homosexuality in light of 10:6-9. For "pro homosexual" inter-
preters such as Bailey and
Boswell to limit the sin of
hospitality is unwarranted in light of the total witness of Wisdom.
Their failure to discuss all the passages, or to quote them com-
pletely, is unfortunate and significantly distorts the witness.
The Old Testament Pseudepigrapha has even clearer references
to sodomy and
references are here brought together, but because of the limitations of
this article, discussion will be kept to a minimum. The passages
speak for themselves.29
Also known as Slavonic Enoch, this book (dated as early as 100
B.C. but probably best assigned to the turn of the era30) describes at
10:4-5a the place of torture between the third and fourth heavens.
The longer recensions (P, J) read:
This place, Enoch, has been prepared for those who do not glorify God,
who practice on the earth the sin which is against nature, which is child
27 See references in Winston, The Wisdom of Solomon, pp. 215-16.
28 Clark, The Wisdom of Solomon, on 10:8.
29 The author of this article is unaware of any other one source where all these pas-
sages pertinent to homosexuality are quoted or discussed.
Pseudepigrapha, ed. James H. Charlesworth, 2 vols. (
A Critique of Prohomosexual Interpretations 447
corruption in the anus in the
chantments, divinations, insulting, coveting, resentment, fornication,
murder-and who steal the souls taking away their possessions.
The shorter recension (A) has:
This place, youth, has been prepared for those who practice godless
uncleanness on the earth, who perform witchcraft and enchantments,
and who boast about their deeds. They steal souls secretly; who untie
the yoke that has been secured; who enrich themselves by fraud from
the possessions of others.31
It is clear that the words of the longer recensions, which so ex-
plicitly refer to
words of the shorter recension, "who practice godless uncleanness on
the earth." These words are clearly parallel to Jubilees 16:5-9, in
which the men of
ness on the earth" (discussed later). When these words are compared
to the longer recensions the nature of the sin is made clear.
In 2 Enoch 34:1-3 (J) there are additional references to sodomy.
God convicts the persons who are idol worshipers and sodomite forni-
cators, and for this reason He brings down the flood upon them.
For I know the wickedness of mankind, how they have rejected my
commandments and they will not carry the yoke which I have placed
on them. But they will cast off my yoke, and they will accept a different
yoke. And they will sow worthless seed, not fearing god and not wor-
shiping me, but they began to worship vain gods, and they renounced
my uniqueness. And all the world will be reduced to confusion by iniq-
uities and wickednesses and abominable fornications, that is, friend
with friend in the anus, and every other kind of wicked uncleanness
which it is disgusting to report, and the worship of (the) evil (one). And
that is why I shall bring down the flood onto the earth, and I shall de-
stroy everything, and the earth itself will collapse in great darkness.
The shorter recension (A) again omits the references to sodomy:
I know the wickedness of mankind, how they will not carry the yoke
which I have placed on them. Nor do they sow the seed which I have
given them; but they have renounced my yoke, and they will take on
another yoke; and they will sow worthless seed, and do obeisance to
vain gods. And they will reject my sole rule. And all the world will sin by
injustices and crimes and adulteries and idolatries. Then I shall bring
down the flood onto the earth, and the earth itself will be overwhelmed
by a great quantity of mud.32
Several summary observations about these passages in 2 Enoch
can be made. First, in 10:4-5 the reference seems primarily focused on
pederasty, whereas adult sodomy is the concern of 34:1-3. In 10:4 (P,
31 Ibid., pp. 118-19. The translation of both recensions is Andersen's. He seems to fa-
vor the longer recensions as genuine.
32 The translations are those of Andersen (ibid., pp. 158-59).
448 Bibliotheca Sacra / October-December 1990
J) the words "the sin which is against nature" remind one of Paul's
condemnation of sodomy (Rom. 1). In addition, sodomy and idolatry
are connected, as in Romans 1 and Wisdom 14:12. "A binding yoke" in
10:5 (A) and in 34:1 (both recensions) probably has a sexual connota-
tion33 and perhaps refers to sodomy. The connection with idolatry
(34:1) supports this. It seems that euphemism or other obscurity is
employed so as not to offend sensibilities. The phrase "reduced to
confusion" (34:2, J) supports the reference to sodomy in Wisdom of
Solomon ("the devising of idols was the beginning of fornica-
tion," cf. ). The words "who boast about their evil deeds" (2
Enoch 10:4-5 in both recensions) seem to reflect the meaning of
"pride" (u[perhfa<nia) discussed above as the
Ecclesiasticus 10:13; 16:8; and Ezekiel 16:49, 56. In 2 Enoch 34:1-3
(both recensions) the sins (including sodomy) are viewed as universal
before the Flood and the cause for the Flood.
This historical romance (100 B.C.) refers to
in 2:5 between references to the giants of the Flood and Pharaoh. It
says, "When the inhabitants of
notorious for their crimes you burned them up with fire and brimstone
and made them an example to later generations."34
The terms used to describe
came notorious," and "crimes," are wholly consistent with the sin of
in 2:3 all three examples (giants, Sodomites, Pharaoh) are indicted
as those who "act insolently and arrogantly.” Most significantly, the words used
e]rgazo<menoj. The former is the very word for “pride" in Ecclesiasticus and
Ezekiel. God's dealing with
This midrashic rewriting of biblical history (about 105 B.C.; or as
early as 160 B.C.) records
the cause for
And in that month the Lord executed the judgment
morrah and Zeboim
and all of the district of the
burned them with fire and sulphur and he annihilated them till this day
just as (he said), "Behold, I have made known to you all of their deeds
that (they were) cruel and great sinners and they were polluting them-
selves and they were fornicating in their flesh and they were causing
33 So Andersen comments to this effect (ibid., pp.119, 158).
34 H. Anderson, "3 Maccabees," in The Old Testament Pseudepigrapha, 2:518-19. See
also Cyril W. Emmet, trans., "The Third Book of Maccabees," The Apocrypha and
A Critique of Prohomosexual Interpretations 449
pollution upon the earth." And thus the Lord will execute judgment
like the judgment of
pollution of Sodom.35
In 16:7-9 the sins of
seed would undergo judgment "just like the
is the fourth mention of
The five phrases used to describe
homosexuality. R. H. Charles renders Wintermute's "causing pollu-
tion upon the earth" as "work uncleanness on the earth." This paral-
lels the phrase in 2 Enoch 10:4-5a (shorter recension), "practice god-
less uncleanness on the earth." The longer recension of Enoch elabo-
rates the phrase as sodomy in explicit terms. The terminology argues
for the dependency of 2 Enoch on Jubilees, or that both draw on a
Jubilees includes another
fourth year of this week
In Jubilees 20:5 it is written of Abraham and his children: "And
he told them the judgment of the giants and the judgments of the
Sodomites just as they had been judged on account of their evil. And
on account of their fornication and impurity and the corruption among
themselves with fornication they died."36 In 20:6 Abraham warns
that they not be cursed like
Here the five phrases describing
those in 16:5-6, with "corruption among themselves" perhaps even
more suggestive of homosexuality. The giants and Sodomites are
linked here as both culpable for such sins. When these phrases are
compared with those in the following passage (-21) describing
the sins of the giants, the reference to inordinate sexual practice
seems even more convincing. Indeed, a reference to bestiality ("they
sinned against beasts") seems to occur in and reminds one of the
same connection with sodomy in Leviticus 18:23 and -16. These
are the words in Jubilees 7:20-21:
And in the twenty-eighth jubilee Noah began to command his grand-
sons with ordinances and commandments and all of the judgments
which he knew. And he bore witness to his sons so that they might do
justice and cover the shame of their flesh and bless the one who cre-
ated them and honor father and mother, and each one love his neigh-
35 O. S. Wintermute, "Jubilees," in The Old Testament Pseudepigrapha, 2:88. He
dates Jubilees between 161 and 140 B.C. (p. 44). R. H. Charles dates it 109-105 B.C. in
The Apocrypha and Pseudepigrapha, 2:6. His translation uses "wicked" for "cruel,"
"defile themselves" for "polluting themselves," and "work uncleanness" for "causing
pollution" (ibid., ).
36 Wintermute, "Jubilees," 2:94.
450 Bibliotheca Sacra / October-December 1990
bor and preserve themselves from fornication and pollution and from
all injustice. For on account of these three the Flood came upon the
earth. For (it was) because of the fornication which the Watchers, apart
from the mandate of their authority, fornicated with the daughters of
men and took for themselves wives from all whom they chose and
made a beginning of impurity.37
Three brief references to
Esdras (so the AV and RSV). The original, middle section was com-
posed about A.D. 100, with chapters 1-2, 15-16 added later.
In 2:8-9 the unrighteous people of
ber what God "did to
of pitch and heaps of ashes." In 5:7 a sign of future judgment is that
prayers are ineffective on the day of judgment, asked, "How then do
we find that first Abraham prayed for the people
The motif of being reduced to ashes (4 Ezra 2:8-9) has a variant
reading: "it has sunk right down to hell."38 Both thoughts occur in
the New Testament, and
11:23-24, "descend to Hades"; Luke 17:29; 2 Pet. 2:6; Jude 7).
TESTAMENTS OF THE TWELVE PATRIARCHS
The Testaments of the Twelve Patriarchs purport to be the last
words of each of the 12 sons of Jacob (Gen. 49). The work is variously
dated, from as early as 150 B.C. to 40 B.C., with several additions
from the Christian era.39
The following are all the references to
the Testaments. In the Testament of Naphtali 3:4-5 and 4:1 the sin
ness," and is linked to the sin of the Watchers (angels) at the
Flood--an association made in Jubilees 20:5.
But ye shall not be so, my children, recognizing in the firmament,
in the earth, and in the sea, and in all created things, the Lord who
made all things, that ye
become not as
37 Ibid., 2.69-70.
38 Jacob M. Myers, I and II Esdras, The
Anchor Bible (
Fourth Book of Ezra," The Old Testament Pseudepigrapha, 1:526, 532, 541.
39 R. H. Charles dates it 109-40 B.C. ("The Testaments of the Twelve Patriarchs,"
The Apocrypha and Pseudepigrapha of the Old Testament, 2:282, 289-90). H. C. Kee
dates it as early as 150 B.C. ("Testaments of the Twelve Patriarchs," The Old Testa-
ment Pseudepigrapha, 1:777-78). A minor view puts it in the late second century and
early third century A.D. (M. Dejonge, The Testaments of the Twelve Patriarchs
[Assen: Van Gorcum & Co., 1975], pp.127-28). The translations of the Testaments are
A Critique of Prohomosexual Interpretations 451
order of nature. In like manner the Watchers also changed the order
of their nature, whom the Lord cursed at the flood, on whose account
He made the earth without inhabitants and fruitless.
These things I say unto you, my children, for I have read in the writ-
ing of Enoch that ye yourselves also shall depart from the Lord, walking
according to all the lawlessness of the Gentiles, and ye shall do accord-
ing to all the wickedness
Here for the first time the sin of
the order of nature" (ct. Rom. 1). In 4:1 this is summarized in the gen-
eral term "wickedness."
Bailey and others believe this passage and those from Jubilees
to be the sources of the "Christian
interpretation of the
story." Bailey believes that Jubilees departs from "the general tra-
dition of Scripture" both
in stressing the sexual nature of
and in linking it with the Watcher story and the Flood. Bailey
faults the Testament of Naphtali
3:4-5 for making
mosexuality rather than heterosexuality.40 These claims will be
In the Testament of Asher 7:1 the Sodomites for the first time
are said to have sinned against angels. The verse reads, "Become
not, my children, as
Lord, and perished for ever." Interestingly 6:2 (ct. 2:3; 3:2) speaks
about those who "both do the evil thing and they have pleasure in
them that do it." This reminds one of Paul's words in Romans 1:32,
also in a context of homosexuality.
The Testament of Benjamin 9:1 reads as follows: "And I believe
that there will be also evil-doings among you, from the words of
Enoch the righteous: that ye shall commit fornication with the for-
wanton deeds with women."
The last clause may allude to the outrage at Gibeah where the
Benjamites attempted the sodomy of a Levite but had to settle for
the rape and murder of his concubine (Judg.19-20).41
The Testament of Levi .14:6 prophesies that future, apostate Is-
rael would take Gentile women as wives, "purifying them with an
unlawful purification; and your union shall be
will become like
In occurs the only use, apparently, of the term "pederast"
(paido<fqoroj) in the intertestamental literature. The passage
prophesies the corruption of Jewish priests: "In the seventh week
40 Bailey, Homosexuality and the Western Christian Tradition, pp. 12-18. See also
41 Bailey rejects a homosexual interpretation of the sin at Gibeah (ibid.)
452 Bibliotheca Sacra / October-December 1990
there will come priests: idolators, adulterers, money lovers, arro-
gant, lawless, voluptuaries, pederasts, those who practice bestial-
ity." Interestingly the terms "arrogant" and "bestiality" occur here
also. In 17:8 the author wrote that there will be "pollution such as I
am unable to declare in the presence of human beings, because only
the ones who do these things understand such matters." This too
perhaps refers to sodomy.
Many of the Testaments refer to the "abominations of the Gen-
tiles" and the like (Testaments of Judah 23:1-4; Issachar 6:1-2; Zebu-
lun 9:5-6; Dan 5:5, 8; Gad 8:2; Simeon 5:4; Levi 10:1-3; Reuben 5:6-7;
6:8). It seems that references to sodomy are implicit in many of the
THE LETTER OF ARISTEAS
This letter, purportedly explaining the origin of the Septuagint,
is dated probably about 170 B.C., if not earlier (250 B.C.).42
The reference to sodomy occurs in verse 152. The passage reads
This moreover explains why we are distinct from all other men. The
majority of other men defile themselves in their relationships, thereby
committing a serious offense, and lands and whole cities take pride in
it: they not only procure the males, they also defile mothers and
daughters. We are quite separated from these practices.43
The clause, "they not only procure the males," is translated by
Andrews as, "they not only have intercourse with men." The context
makes clear that sodomy is meant by the Greek term (proa<gw). The
passage probably alludes to Leviticus 18 and 20, in which sexual
vices, including sodomy and incest, are condemned.
Scroggs believes that the passage is a reaction to pagan Greek
pederasty and refers to this practice, not to adult sodomy.44 Yet the
letter makes no use of terminology for pederasty, and it identifies
the vice as "men" with "males." The terminology is influenced by
the Old Testament, not Greek practices.
42 See R. J. H. Shutt, "Letter of Aristeas," The Old Testament Pseudepigrapha, 2:7-9;
Sidney Jellicoe, The Septuagint and Modern Study (Oxford: Clarendon Press, 1968),
pp. 47-50; and Herbert T. Andrews, "The Letter of Aristeas," The Apocrypha and
Pseudepigrapha of the Old Testament, 2:87. Some of these support an earlier date
(250-200 B.C.) or a date as late as the first century A.D.
43 The translation is from Shutt, "Letter of Aristeas," .
44 Scroggs, The New Testament and Homosexuality, pp. 92-97. Liddell and Scott cite
a cognate (proagwgeu<w) meaning "pander, pimp, procuress" (A Greek-English Lexicon,
p. 1466). A variant (prosa<gw) of the term used in 152 can mean to act toward a woman
"in an effeminate manner, procure," etc. (ibid., pp. 1499-50).
A Critique of Prohomosexual Interpretations 453
Summary and Conclusions
"Prohomosexual" interpreters, such as Bailey, Boswell, and
Scroggs, make several claims regarding the relationship of the in-
tertestamental literature to the canonical Scriptures on the issue of
homosexuality. These were briefly mentioned in the introduction.
in the Apocrypha has been shown to be false. The full meaning of
"pride" or "arrogance" and the use of such terms as "abominations,"
"sins," "ungodly," "wickedness," "folly," "failure," and "confusion of
sex" in Ecclesiasticus and Wisdom of Solomon argue against the "pro-
homosexual" view. The failure of this view to consider all the
pertinent passages where
contributes to the gravity of the misinterpretation.
The claim that the Pseudepigrapha, particularly Jubilees and
the Testament of Naphtali, associate sexual sin, and particularly
The association is implicit in the Apocrypha, as demonstrated in
this article. The sexual, homosexual meaning originates in Genesis
19 itself. Also terminology in both the Apocrypha and Pseude-
pigrapha is sufficiently similar to support a unified witness
throughout the intertestamental period.
It is true that the Testament of Naphtali uses unique, explicit
terms such as "changed the order of nature," but these words are a le-
gitimate interpretation if the Old Testament narrative (Gen. 19)
means sodomy. Jubilees is not any more explicit than Ecclesiasticus.
Indeed 2 Enoch is the most explicit of all (in its longer recensions),
with certain Testaments and the Letter of Aristeas being quite ex-
plicit as well. These observations seem valid whatever the dating
and interdependency of these books may be.
The claim that Jewish reaction to Greek pederasty influenced
the Pseudepigrapha to
associate (wrongfully) sodomy with
false. Only in one place does the term meaning "pederasty" occur
Levi ), and there is no link with
Philo used several terms for pederasty. Indeed, perversion of adults
with adults is assumed virtually everywhere (even 2 Enoch 34:1-3
balances the reference to "child corruption" in 10:4-5). Old Testa-
ment terminology, including euphemism (beginning with "know" in
Genesis 19 and Judges 19), influenced the Apocrypha and Pseude-
pigrapha, as one would expect (e.g., in the use of "abominations,"
The claim that the Pseudepigraphal books of Jubilees and Tes-
tament of Naphtali influenced 2 Peter and Jude to associate
(wrongfully) sodomy with
454 Bibliotheca Sacra I October-December 1990
books should be viewed as part of a stream of tradition regarding the
ers used terminology consistent with the Old Testament: "lawless
deeds," "ungodly," "sensual conduct," "fornication.”
Even a study comparing the series of judgments found in 2 Peter
and Jude with those in the Apocrypha and Pseudepigrapha argues
against any certain dependence. Peter and Jude have a different
order of judgments; Peter omits entirely a reference to Pharaoh; Jude
puts events of the wilderness first (out of chronological order, con-
trary, it seems, to the intertestamental books); and neither makes
reference to giants before the Flood (angels take their place).
Those who wish to use the Apocrypha and Pseudepigrapha to
eradicate sodomy from passages of the Old Testament or to eradicate
condemnation of it where it cannot be denied (Lev. 18; 20) are propos-
ing an extreme interpretation. It is so radical in its tenets, so serious
in its consequences for ethics, so contrary to a reasonable interpreta-
tion, that it may be properly termed "revisionist" in a sense not un-
like revisionist interpretations of recent history.
This material is cited with gracious permission from:
Please report any errors to Ted Hildebrandt at: firstname.lastname@example.org