There is no Hebrew or Greek word that corresponds to our very modern words homosexual and homosexuality. These words were coined by Karoly M. Benkert in 1869, (W.Dynes (ed.) The Encyclopaedia of Homosexuality, New York: Garland Press, 1990 p.555), and they apparently first appeared translated into English in 1912.
It is therefore unhelpful to discuss homosexuality as if it was one homogeneous biblical term. Any definitions we want to use should be derived from the Bible, not from the jargon of Hungarian, German, and modern sexual psychology. Or from unexamined evangelical tradition.
The word homosexual first appeared in an English Bible in 1946 in the RSV translation of two Greek words in 1 Cor. 6:9. NEB cautiously translated the two words together as sexual perversion. A subsequent RSV translation was sexual perverts, but the NRSV opted for a shot at translating the two Greek words as male prostitutes and sodomites. NIV went for perverts, and homosexual offenders. NRSV also picked on sodomites in 1 Timothy 1:10 as if everyone knew what the sin of Sodom was. Or was it to suggest that the word means anal sex as in modern legal terminology?
It is therefore nonsense to say that the Bible condemns one category of sin called homosexuality. The only way to proceed biblically is first to list the forms of same sex sexuality which we can identify in the ancient world and in our own. We then have to ask ourselves which of these forms of behaviour are being addressed in any particular biblical text, and then ask why they are morally wrong. For example:
A son's sexual act with his father as in Genesis 9:22.
The ancient world practice of public buggery to humiliate captives in war.
Public buggery to humiliate a foreigner as in Genesis 19:5 and Judges 19:20-22. In both cases the abusers were assumed to be capable of enjoying sex with the host's daughter or concubine.
The anal penetration of another man for mutual pleasure, which might be in view in Leviticus 18:22 and 20:13. Lesbian relationships among women are nowhere mentioned in the Old Testament.
Male temple prostitutes who offered sex to men (possibly the situation in Deuteronomy 23:17, 1 Kings 14:24, 1 Corinthians 6:9, 1 Timothy 1:10 ?)
The Greek practice of men using male slaves for various sexual acts.
The Greek practice of respected philosophers like Socrates making a fuss of their pupils in ways which included sexual intimacy.
The Greek practice of married men ignoring their wives and finding their sexual intimacy with male friends, and married women finding their satisfaction in lesbian relationships with their woman friends.
The typically English boys' boarding school practice of senior boys being romantically, and on occasion sexually, involved with the younger. And the English girls' school practice of younger girls having crushes on their teachers.
Male teachers, clergy, organists, scoutmasters, foster parents, and other adult males who express their love for the boys in their care in inappropriate and criminal ways.
Men who viciously rape and murder little boys.
Men cruising to find a sexual partner to relieve each other's sexual tension. Cruising is apparently very rare among women.
Men paying a male prostitute to satisfy their sexual desires. Women don't usually pay others for this.
Married men or women who in addition to sex with their partner also have a deep emotional attachment to a friend of the same sex (e.g. David and Jonathan in 2 Samuel 1:26).
Two men or two women who share a home over a long period with less or more degrees of affection.
To lump all these together under the modern and totally unbiblical words homosexual and homosexuality makes any kind of useful exegesis impossible. In making laws for our country it would for example be ridiculous for evangelicals to argue that two men or two women who share a home should be sent to jail for being homosexual in the same category as a man who rapes and murders little boys.
And if two men with the same address or two women with the same address appear in our congregation do we inquire whether they share a bed and what they do in it? Or do we wait to see if they tell us what they do in bed together, and condemn them on the basis of that?
The problem with our rantings against sexual sins is that it results in huge numbers of people never coming near our churches. Young people keep away because they have powerful sexual feelings. People living common law know they will be viewed with suspicion. If adultery has occurred, better not meet any Christians. Divorcing and divorced people are afraid they would be condemned. People with confused feelings about others of the same sex expect to be lectured about homosexuality. And any two men or two women who choose to share a home wonder if they will be under investigation for being gay or Lesbian.
The net result is that we successfully make sure that eighty per cent
of the population feel most uncomfortable in our churches. A better way
would be to explain that all of us need a huge amount of perfecting in
all sorts of different directions, and only the Holy Spirit can perfect
us in His own way and His own time.