The Good Book: Reading the Bible with Mind and Heart by Peter J. Gomes

TGB2(Not discussed by the group but written in a personal capacity.)

Some reviewers have made a big fuss about the author being gay, suggesting that he is twisting scripture to fit his lifestyle. They obviously haven’t thought that it is, maybe, they who are twisting scripture to fit in with their conservatism. It is good to read ‘theology from the underside’ – from a black, gay man. (Though he also seems to be a republican supporter!)

Those who discount any interpretation of the Bible seem to forget that Jesus himself interpreted it in his first sermon. So did Philip to the Ethiopian eunuch.

Scripture was used, and still is in some quarters, to justify slavery, anti-Semitism, homophobia and the subjugation of women for example. Those who take the Bible literally on such topics fail to heed Jesus’s words to the rich young ruler to sell all his possessions and give it to the poor.


TGB The subject of homosexuality is not mentioned in the Ten Command­ments, nor in the Summary of the Law. No prophet discourses on the subject. Jesus himself makes no mention of it, and homosexuality does not appear to be of much concern to those early churches with which Saint Paul and his successors were involved. One has to look rather hard, and with a user-friendly concordance, to find any mention of homosexuality at all. This should come as no surprise, because the word homosexuality itself is an invention of the late nineteenth century and does not occur in any of the original manuscripts from which the En­glish Bible is descended…. the King James Version of 1611 makes no mention of homosexuality or of any of its cognates, and that the first use of the term in an English Bible is to be found in the Revised Standard Version of 1946…. As Jeffrey S. Siker has pointed out in the July 1994 issue of Theology Today, to argue that the creation story privileges a heterosexual view of the relations between humankind is to make one of the weakest argu­ments possible, the argument from silence. The Genesis story is indeed about Adam and Eve, not Adam and Steve, as the critics of homosex­uality delight in admonishing. “Heterosexuality may be the dominant form of sexuality, but it does not follow that it is the only form of ap­propriate sexuality.” What the story does do is reflect the world experi­ence of those human beings who wrote it. Of course they would privilege the only way available to perpetuate the race, and they would do so with the aid of their own cultural lenses…. The creation story in Genesis does not pretend to be a history of anthropology or of every social relationship. It does not mention friend­ship, for example, and yet we do not assume that friendship is con­demned or abnormal. It does not mention the single state, and yet we know that singleness is not condemned, and that in certain religious circumstances it is held in very high esteem.

Even if we credit the Hebrew word “know” in the demands of the Sodomites, however — “that we might know” the strangers—in a carnal sense, we should not neglect the fact that the fate of the city was determined well before the ugly incident at Lot’s door. It was in behalf of that errand of doom, in fact, that the angels came at all. Boswell informs us that this particular form of the Hebrew verb “to know” is rarely used in a sexual sense. It occurs nine hundred and forty-three times in the Old Testament, and in only ten of these does it have the sense of carnal knowledge. More to the point, the passage in Genesis 19 is the only place in the Old Testament where it is generally believed to refer to homosexual relations. Sodom is referred to throughout the Old Testament as a place of wickedness and is synonymous with it, but nowhere does it state that homosexuality was the wickedness in question.

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