The Bible and Homosexual Practice: Texts and Hermeneutics

Article excerpt

By Robert A. J. Gagnon. Nashville: Abingdon Press, 2001. 520 pp. $49.00 (cloth); $39.00 (paper).

Robert Gagnon offers a detailed argument, framed in terms of critical biblical scholarship, that Christian faith is incompatible with "homosexual practice." It is a maximalist argument. He seeks, for example, to reclaim the Sodom story for his purpose after most scholars on all sides of the question have set it aside. He even argues at length that Jesus' silence on the subject confirms his position.

The main thread of argument is the author's reliance on a theology of creation that appears to have originated in the last century as a kind of Protestant counterpart to Roman Catholic natural law theory. Genesis 1 and 2 are read as establishing a permanent and exclusive sexual order of heterosexual monogamy. Jesus and Paul are perceived not simply as making use of Genesis for their own purposes, but as anticipating this later systematic understanding of the passage in all its implications. Gagnon also finds this created order manifest in "nature" through the "obvious complementarity" of male and female genitalia. If the reader is unpersuaded (and there are multiple problems with both proposals), the rest of his argument will not carry much weight.

The author is not always careful with exegetical details. In Jude 7, for example, he wants the "harlotry" of the men of Sodom to be homosexuality rather than sex with angels, a reading that ignores Jude's statement that they acted "in the same way" as the Watchers of Genesis 6 (pp. 87-88). Indeed, he seems to have misplaced the phrase in question into Jude 8 in place of the weaker comparative language there. …