Homosexuality, Science, and the 'Plain Sense' of Scripture

By David L. Balch | Go to book overview

CHAPTER 8
The Social Context and Implications of
Homoerotic References in Romans 1:24-27

ROBERT JEWETT

The denunciation of homoerotic relations in Romans 1:24-27 stands at the center of the current debate over sexual ethics. This passage is so troubling to some branches of current thought that extraordinary efforts have been made to reinterpret Paul's words. This paper attempts to clarify the translation and significance of the passage within the context of the Roman letter. In the light of those conclusions, I then wish to turn attention to several resultant issues. Why did Paul apparently feel that his denunciation would be so readily accepted by the audience of Christians in Rome? What was the social context of this audience, and of their attitude toward homoerotic relations? If further light could be shed on these matters, a new resource might be at hand to think through the difficult ethical and theological questions before us.

A brief word of introduction may be in order concerning my approach to Romans, developed in the context of currently writing a commentary. In the light of recent research into the rhetoric and social setting of the letter, I believe it is directed to house and tenement churches that are situated mainly in the slum districts of the city. These groups were marked by separate and competitive development. Paul is attempting in this letter to find common ground between these splintered congregations so that they might be willing and able to participate in the Spanish mission project. The letter is organized with an exordium/introduction (1:1-15), a proposition/thesis statement (1:16-17), four proofs (1:18-4:25; 5:1-8:39; 9:1-11:36; 12:1-15:13), followed by an extensive peroration (15:14-16:23). The purpose of the first proof, in

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