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

and Pseudepigrapha

 

James B. De Young

Professor of New Testament Language and Literature

       Western Conservative Baptist Seminary, Portland, Oregon

 

            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 Israel's special relationship to

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

Jude, do not link homosexuality to Sodom, nor does the Old Testa-

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-

 

437



438                 Bibliotheca Sacra / October-December 1990

 

fluenced 2 Peter and Jude to connect Sodom with homosexual prac-

tices. Therefore, according to Bailey, "the traditional conception of

Sodom receives little support from Scripture."l Boswell2 and Scroggs3

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 Sodom and sodomy (homosex-

uality) found in this intertestamental literature and to critique "pro-

homosexual" use of it.

 

The Apocrypha

 

ECCLESIASTICUS

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

 

1    D. Sherwin Bailey, Homosexuality and the Western Christian Tradition (London:

Longmans, Green, 1955), p. 10 (see also pp. 6-8, 27-28);

2   John Boswell, Christianity, Social Tolerance, and Homosexuality (Chicago: Uni-

versity of Chicago Press, 1980), p. 94, n. 7, and pp. 108-11.

3    Robin Scroggs, The New Testament and Homosexuality (Philadelphia: Fortress

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 Sodom, not homosexuality. This is suppos-

edly "a more ancient tradition."4 The pertinent lines are the follow-

ing: "He did not spare the people among whom Lot was living,

whom he detested for their pride."5

In the context the author successively discussed the judgment of

Israel, the giants at the Flood, Sodom, Canaan, and the 600,000 Is-

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 Sodom's downfall. He viewed pride as

especially abhorrent throughout, whereas wisdom is extolled. Wis-

dom characterizes those who fear the Lord and those who master

the Law (15:1). To fear the Lord is "the source of wisdom" (1:14) and

"all wisdom comes from the Lord" (1:1; cf. 1:16; 14:20; 15:18; 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

which includes Sodom, past causes of judgment are interpreted as

"pride" (16:8), "obstinacy" (16:10), and being "stiff-necked" (16:11).

The author believed that God "will judge a man by his doings"

(16:12; cf. 16:14). It must be assumed, therefore, that the author had

some deeds in mind for which Sodom was judged, which were the ex-

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; 22:22;

48:18; 51:10) and in the Letter of Aristeas (262, 269) and in Mark 7:22.

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),

p.252.

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 Oxford English Dic-

tionary (Glasgow: Oxford University, 1971), 2:2297.



440                 Bibliotheca Sacra / October-December 1990

 

haughty," and "treat arrogantly and disdainfully, despise" (4 Macc.

5:21: "the law is despised").7 So both aspects characterize these

cognates.

The word "detested" ("whom he detested for their pride") is e]b-

delu<cato. In 15:13 it is said, "The Lord hates anything abominable"

(bde<lugma). Since these cognates are used in the Septuagint to refer

to sodomy (Lev. 18:22; 20:13), it may well be that sodomy is referred

to in Ecclesiasticus 15:13; 17:26; and 41:5 by this term (contrast 1:25;

11:2; 13:20, twice; 19:23; 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

wicked abominations."8

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 14:24; 15:12). 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 (Chicago: University of Chicago

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. 1:30), 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,

8:525-29.

8   Goodspeed, The Apocrypha, p. 321. :

9   John G. Snaith, Ecclesiasticus or the Wisdom of Jesus Son of Sirach (Cambridge:

Cambridge University Press, 1974), p. 244. For Old Testament usage of these and other

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-

land, OR.



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 10:13-

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

of women.10

 

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 Israel." They had desired a homosex-

ual relationship.

Other verbal connections with Old Testament contexts dealing

with Sodom occur. In Ecclesiasticus 10:13 ("For pride begins with

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

16:49-50 with its judgment of Sodom: "Behold, this was the guilt of

your sister Sodom: she and her daughters had arrogance. . . . thus

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 10:13 and 17.

In Ezekiel 16:56-57 Judah's sin is identified as this same pride

 

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 vols. (Oxford:

Clarendon Press, 1913), 1:350.

12   Snaith renders the second line of 10:13 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

 

(u[perhfa<nia) in a verse linking Judah with Sodom: "As the name of

your sister Sodom was not heard from your lips in your day of pride,

before your wickedness was uncovered." Here in a context of har-

lotry, lewdness, and abominations (v. 58) Judah's sin is also identi-

fied as "pride" just as Sodom's is identified in verse 49! The Greek

u[perhfa<nia (used in Ezekiel only in 7:20; 16:49, 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

statement.

In Ecclesiasticus 10:12 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. 1:14).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 10:12-18, coupled

with the Greek terms employed, and their Hebrew counterparts,

makes an allusion to the overthrow of Sodom because of sodomy ex-

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 Sodom as pride in 16:8, a pride that includes

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 Sodom to pride because of this passage is

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 Sodom.

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" (14:12; cf. v. 27). Then follows the catalog of

vices (14:23-27):

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

every evil.16

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 literature (although Aquila used it at

Psalm 9:12 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 Aquila and Origen at 1 Kings 22:47 (Eng., 22:46). The

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 [New York:

Charles Scribner's Sons, 1880], p. 262). He cites the KJV's "changing of kind" (marg.

"sex").

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.

352.

18   David Winston, The Wisdom of Solomon, The Anchor Bible (Garden City, NY:

Doubleday & Co., 1979), p. 26. Ernest G. Clarke renders the phrase of 14:26 as "sexual

perversion" (The Wisdom of Solomon [Cambridge: Cambridge University Press, 1973],

 


444                 Bibliotheca Sacra / October-December 1990

 

He renders the phrase in 14:26 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. 1:26, 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

Wisdom of Solomon clearly refers to Sodom on two other occasions

(10:6-9; 19:13-17), making a reference to sodomy in 14:26 possible.

Also the immediate context refers to immoral sexual practices. The

list in 14:23-26 is a catalog of vices--a literary device occurring in

both Testaments (e.g., Jer. 7:9; Rom. 1:29-31) 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.

In Wisdom 19:13-17 Sodom is not explicitly cited but is clearly

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 4:14 Aquila

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 Sodom here. See Clarke, The Wisdom of

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

own door.22

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 Israel. Strong terms ("sinners,"

“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

harsh treatment: Egypt persecuted guests and benefactors. At least

the Sodomites did not "add fickleness to their crimes."23 Sodom per-

secuted aliens and strangers. The judgment of blindness recorded of

both (19:17) heightens the perversity of both Egypt and Sodom (Gen.

19:11).

One other passage in Wisdom clearly refers to Sodom and its

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 Lot and the Sodomites.24 None

of them is named, in keeping with the author's style. The passage

(10:6-9) describes Wisdom's deliverance of Lot from Sodom and the

latter's destruction:

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 Wis-

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 (10:19; 14:2), including Sodom and Gomorrah.26 The refer-

 

22   Holmes, "Wisdom of Solomon," 1:567. Due to textual variations in 19:15 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.

26   These same five cities from Genesis 14 are found listed in the same order in an Ebla

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 Sodom's "wickedness" finds its

counterpart in Scripture (Deut. 32:32), Josephus, Tacitus, and

throughout history.27

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 Sodom's sin to

inhospitality. In fact its writer never used the term "inhospitable"

to describe Sodom. It may characterize such a passage as 19:13-17,

but the indictment of Sodom should not be limited to it. The phrase

"confusion of sex" (or "interchange of sex roles") in 14:26 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 Sodom to in-

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 Pseudepigrapha

 

The Old Testament Pseudepigrapha has even clearer references

to sodomy and Sodom than those found in the Apocrypha. All such

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

 

2 ENOCH

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.

30   Francis I. Andersen, "2 (Slavonic Apocalypse of) Enoch," in The Old Testament

Pseudepigrapha, ed. James H. Charlesworth, 2 vols. (Garden City, NY: Doubleday &

Co., 1983), 1:97.



A Critique of Prohomosexual Interpretations                    447

 

corruption in the anus in the manner of Sodom, of witchcraft, en-

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 Sodom and sodomy, find their counterpart in the

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 Sodom are described as those who "work unclean-

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 14:12 ("the devising of idols was the beginning of fornica-

tion," cf. 14:27). 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 sin of Sodom given in

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.

 

3 MACCABEES

This historical romance (100 B.C.) refers to Sodom and its crimes

in 2:5 between references to the giants of the Flood and Pharaoh. It

says, "When the inhabitants of Sodom acted insolently and became

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 Sodom's sins, "acted insolently," "be-

came notorious," and "crimes," are wholly consistent with the sin of

Sodom elsewhere designated as "pride," as discussed earlier. Indeed

in 2:3 all three examples (giants, Sodomites, Pharaoh) are indicted

as those who "act insolently and arrogantly.” Most significantly, the words used

of Sodom ("acted insolently") translate the Greek terms u[perhfa<nia

e]rgazo<menoj. The former is the very word for “pride" in Ecclesiasticus and

Ezekiel. God's dealing with Sodom is viewed as having universal significance.

 

JUBILEES

This midrashic rewriting of biblical history (about 105 B.C.; or as

early as 160 B.C.) records the cause for Sodom's destruction in 16:5-6.

And in that month the Lord executed the judgment of Sodom and Go-

morrah and Zeboim and all of the district of the Jordan. And he

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

Pseudepigrapha, 1:164. Anderson puts the date in the early first century B.C.



A Critique of Prohomosexual Interpretations                    449

 

pollution upon the earth." And thus the Lord will execute judgment

like the judgment of Sodom on places where they act according to the

pollution of Sodom.35

In 16:7-9 the sins of Lot and his daughters are described. Lot"s

seed would undergo judgment "just like the judgment of Sodom" (16:9).

This is the fourth mention of Sodom.

The five phrases used to describe Sodom's sin are appropriate to

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

common tradition.

Jubilees 13:17 includes another reference to Sodom: "And in the

fourth year of this week Lot parted from him, and Lot dwelt in

Sodom, and the men of Sodom were sinners exceedingly."

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 Sodom and Gomorrah.

Here the five phrases describing Sodom's sins are similar to

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 (7:20-21) 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 7:24 and reminds one of the

same connection with sodomy in Leviticus 18:23 and 20:15-16. 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., 2:37).

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

 

4 EZRA

Three brief references to Sodom occur in 4 Ezra, self-designated 2

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 Assyria are warned to remem-

ber what God "did to Sodom and Gomorrah, whose land lies in lumps

of pitch and heaps of ashes." In 5:7 a sign of future judgment is that

"the sea of Sodom shall cast up fish." In 7:106 Ezra, when told that

prayers are ineffective on the day of judgment, asked, "How then do

we find that first Abraham prayed for the people of Sodom?"

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 Sodom is in the context in each case (Matt.

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 Sodom or sodomy found in

the Testaments. In the Testament of Naphtali 3:4-5 and 4:1 the sin

of Sodom is described as "changed the order of nature" and "wicked-

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 Sodom, which changed the

 

37   Ibid., 2.69-70.

38   Jacob M. Myers, I and II Esdras, The Anchor Bible (Garden City, NY: Doubleday &

Co., 1974), pp. 144, 150. The translations of 4 Ezra are from Bruce M. Metzger, "The

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

from Charles.



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 of Sodom.

Here for the first time the sin of Sodom is said to have "changed

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 Sodom

story." Bailey believes that Jubilees departs from "the general tra-

dition of Scripture" both in stressing the sexual nature of Sodom's sin

and in linking it with the Watcher story and the Flood. Bailey

faults the Testament of Naphtali 3:4-5 for making Sodom's sin ho-

mosexuality rather than heterosexuality.40 These claims will be

evaluated later.

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 Sodom, which sinned against the angels of the

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-

nication of Sodom, and shall perish, all save a few, and shall renew

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 like unto Sodom and

Gomorrah." Kee renders the last clause as, "your sexual relations

will become like Sodom and Gomorrah."

In 17:11 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

pp. 27-28.

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

Testaments.

 

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

(151 b-152):

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," 2:23.

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.

The claim that Sodom is associated only with pride or inhospitality

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 Sodom or sodomy is explicit or implicit

contributes to the gravity of the misinterpretation.

The claim that the Pseudepigrapha, particularly Jubilees and

the Testament of Naphtali, associate sexual sin, and particularly

sodomy, with Sodom for the first time has been shown to be false.

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 Sodom is

false. Only in one place does the term meaning "pederasty" occur

(Test. Levi 17:11), and there is no link with Sodom. By contrast,

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,"

"pride," etc.).

The claim that the Pseudepigraphal books of Jubilees and Tes-

tament of Naphtali influenced 2 Peter and Jude to associate

(wrongfully) sodomy with Sodom is false. These New Testament



454                 Bibliotheca Sacra I October-December 1990

 

books should be viewed as part of a stream of tradition regarding the

sins of Sodom which began in the Old Testament itself. These writ-

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:

            Dallas Theological Seminary

            3909 Swiss Ave.

            Dallas, TX   75204

www.dts.edu

Please report any errors to Ted Hildebrandt at:  thildebrandt@gordon.edu