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on March 3, 2002
As Father Helminiak points out, the Bible has no concept of homosexuality, which is a modern concept and word. What one can study is what the Bible says about what we would class as some forms of homosexual behavior. But the biblical authors lacked the concept, and so could not classify anything as homosexual. Therefore, there can be no general condemnation of homosexual behavior (our concept) in the Bible, like it or not. That's the fact.
There are only a few texts in the Bible that clearly refer to homosexual behavior, and a few others, which may do so. However, to mention something, even in the Bible, is not always to condemn it. The contrary assumption is simply the fallacy of special pleading.
Most of the points Dr. Helminiak makes are nothing new to anyone who has seriously looked into the subject.
The Sodom story in Gen. 19:1-29 is really about the abuse of strangers, who according to the mores of the area should be offered food and shelter. It is well known that no text in the Bible interprets the sin of Sodom as homosexual behavior, but a whole host of other things. Helminiak makes the very apt point that it is really those who give a hard time to the strangers and outsiders in our time (which would include homosexuals in great part) are the ones really guilty of the sin of Sodom.
Lev 18:22 and 20:13 are parts of the Holiness Code, a body of (ritual) uncleanness laws. The Holiness Code explicitly tries to keep the Israelites different from the pagans whose practices were considered impure, and probably involves a religious aversion to mixing of kinds (as sewing two kinds of seeds in a field or using to kinds of thread to make a cloth). The term translated as "abomination" in the King James Version is simply a term for uncleanness. Easily provable.
Helminiak makes a good case that the only thing that would have really counted as sexual intercourse for the ancient Hebrews was penile penetration in either vaginal or anal sex. This would explain why the ancient Jews had little concern for lesbianism or many other sexual activities.
In Romans 1:24-27, we find that Paul does not actually say that the sexual activity referred to is wrong, simply that it is a consequence and even punishment for idolatry. Paul was at that point addressing the Jewish Christians in Rome. Helminiak plausibly maintains that Paul maintains there are two sorts of consequences of idolatrous worship. There are impure, socially disapproved activities, as in 1:25-27, and there are other things which really are wrong, as in the listing in 1:28-32.
The sin lists in 1 Cor. 6:9-10 and 1 Tim. 1:9-10 may not even refer to homosexuality at all. "Malakos" simply means soft, and in times past was regarded as referring to the self-indulgent or even those who masturbate. "Arsenokoites" occurs in the Bible these two texts only, and no one really knows for sure what it means.
There seem to be some positive accounts of homosexual relationships in the Bible, although the Bible could not categorize them in that way. It seems quite likely that David and Jonathan had a love relationship, as can be gleaned from 1 Sam 18:1-4, 1 Sam. 20:16-17. Saul himself may have had a sexual relationship with David, if an alternate reading of the vowelless Hebrew text in 1 Sam 16:21 is correct. His outburst in 20:30-31 may indicate he is jealous of Jonathan's relationship with David. David's lament for both in 2 Sam. 1:19-27 is very revealing, especially that the love of Jonathan was better than the love of a woman.
There have been more speculative interpretations of the relationship between Ruth and Naomi, and also between Daniel and the chief eunuch in Nebuchadnezzar's court, but the evidence is scant.
However, it is quite likely that Jesus encountered a man in homosexual relationship. The Centurion who pleaded for a cure for his very dear servant in Matt. 8:5-13 and Lk. 7:1-10 may well been in love with him. It was common for a Roman slave owner to use slaves for sexual purposes, and soldiers often took along a male sexual partner. Matthew and Luke do not relate that Jesus reacted to any of this, but simply commended the Centurion's faith and told him his dear youth was healed.
Among the spurious texts, the old King James Version mentions "sodomites," a clear mistranslation, in Dt. 23:17; I Kgs 14:24, 15:12, 22:47; and 2 Kgs 23:7; although the same term in Gen 38:21 clearly means some kind of prostitute. The usual translations are cult prostitute, temple prostitute, or sacred prostitute.
How one evaluates something depends on the standards used. This is a work of popularization, depending in great part of research done by others, and it's a remarkably good one. It introduces one into biblical interpretation, placing a text in its historical context, determining the meaning of the actual words, and shows how such methods of study apply to the biblical texts that mention some sort of homosexual behavior. Dr. Helminiak also briefly summarizes some of the research into changing Christian attitudes toward homosexual behavior over the centuries and provides some references.
Helminiak does not cover all the scholarly interpretations of the texts, but then neither does any other book I am aware of. Sometimes, I prefer other interpretations, but I cannot exclude his. John Boswell and Robin Scroggs are well worth reading, as well. But he raises most of the major questions and provides intelligent answers. Also, it's a very clear read. It fully merits a 5 star rating.
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on January 24, 2000
Coming from a fundamentalist background - and being gay - I always found the two worlds always at odds. Now I have an intellegent, Biblical, and social defense to those who would try to deny my relationship with God. Not an easy read, but definitely a "must read" for any gay Christian and their families.
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on September 4, 2000
Helminiak's most important contribution to Biblical scholarship is not a new or creative viewpoint, but a readable summary of what we already know. And for me, the major revelation in Helminiak's book is not that homosexuality is okay, but that the Bible gives us what we need to understand this issue. A Christian only has to read Romans to learn that unrighteousness and uncleanness are two different things. The New Testament makes it clear that unrighteousness is inherently wrong, while uncleanness is not. And Paul clearly identifies homosexuality as uncleanness (Romans 1:26-27). We cannot honestly conclude from scripture, then, that homosexuality is wrong. This is only a small part of the Biblical evidence Helminiak presents, and all the evidence leads to the same conclusion.
With this information available, why do well-meaning Christians still argue that the Bible says homosexuality is wrong? I suggest that there are at least four reasons. First, the Bible has been mistranslated, and second, we read what we've been taught into scripture. Third, many Christians don't understand important Biblical concepts, such as uncleanness. And finally, people cling to their opinions so zealously that they even end up reinterpreting God's Word to avoid changing their own minds. As Helminiak suggests, Christians should get clear as to why they believe what they do, and stop imposing their own views on scripture. It's time to be honest about what the Bible says.
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on February 11, 2010
This book points in the right direction by arguing that what the Bible says about homosexuality is not what a great many Christians, especially Biblical literalists, think it says. Father Helminiak examines every passage in both Hebrew and Christian testaments that many today use to condemn homosexuality. He points out that some were rules aimed at keeping the ancient Hebrew tribe pure (as in Leviticus) while others (as in the letters of the apostle Paul) have been subjected to either mistranslation or misunderstanding of the contemporary social standards. The author does not make an air-tight case, and some of his arguments are more persuasive than others. He might have done better to emphasize simply that the overwhelming message of the Christian Gospels is one of love and acceptance of all, but his careful study of chapter and verse at least points out the ambiguity of the scriptures on this subject. His strongest point is to make it clear that it is misleading to take some Biblical passages out of their immediate historical & social context and apply them to our contemporary culture. The book of Leviticus, for example, applies the same language to homosexual acts as it uses to forbid the eating of pork or shrimp. Helminiak urges a historical-critical approach to reading the Bible as the way to truly understand its meaning.
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on December 30, 1999
This book is really a MUST HAVE, it is intelligent, involves a great deal of research, yet remains simply written, giving plenty of examples to drive its point home. This is for anyone who is struggling to reconscile their homosexuality or bisexuality with biblical scripture or has relatives convinced that homosexuality is a sin according to Judaism/Christianity. Helminiak, uses his research to prove that the Bible is decidedly neutral on the issue of homosexuality and bisexuality. With its simple writing style, "What the Bible Really Says About Homosexuality" has made me nearly a scholar on biblical issues concerning same sex relations. This book is so good, I am buying several extra copies to give out and lend out to people. Definitely worth your money.
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on August 23, 2001
The monks originated logic as we know and study it today. Through the study of biblical teachings in a logical view (or what Daniel Helminiak refers to as historically reading) it is evident that the bible does not address the "sinfulness" of homosexuality. I would strongly recommend anyone, without exception, read this book. It does not matter what religious beliefs are held or what their sexual orientation is; this book is insightful and open. I have spoken with many pastors since reading this book and was surprised that many of the bibles that are being used today do not even follow the true word as it was written (I spoke with several Hebrew translators to discover this). A final note is that anyone who owns or reads a bible wherein Genesis 19 the words "have relations with" appears should question the validity of the translation of that book. According to several reputable translators this phrase is a serious mistranslation and anyone adhering to the gospel with such grievous mistakes should evaluate what they are reading as it is not translated accurately, therefore the words themselves cannot be seen as valid.
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on October 23, 2001
When I first started reading this book, I thought it was just someone trying to justify their lifestyle. I am gay and didn't know if I could be a Christian or not. Upon reading this book, I was surprised at the content and discovered without a shadow of a doubt, I can be gay and Christian. It was refreshing to read the scripture based upon the original writings. This book was factual and encouraging. I would recommend it for your own personal reading as well as to pass around to others.
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on March 28, 2005
This book has cast the alleged Biblical condemnation of homosexuality in a whole new light. For those who always felt that there was something very wrong and un-Godly about the fundamentalist's extreme anti-gay views, this book will certainly confirm what you have known and felt in your heart all along.

For those Christians with gay family and friends, who have understood first hand the conflicts between what they know, experience, and God has impressed within their hearts, and the fundamentalist (and even mainstream) condemnation of the lives of your loved ones, this will open your eyes to the reality and truth of what is written in the Bible.

All in all a great read and an eye opener.
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on October 22, 2001
I first purchased this book almost a decade ago when I was in college. I read it twice the first month I had it. After lending it out to several people, I bought four additional copies as loaners and gifts about two years ago. I now have my original copy and one extra.
I and everyone I have lent it to have found this book incredibly thought provoking and informative. It starts with the old testament, discussing old Judaic notions of love, marriage, family, inheritance rites (including an interesting section on the legal ramifications of adultery), and most importantly, the purity codes of Old Testament Kashrut Law. "Questionable" words are presented in the original Latin, Greek, and occasionally Hebrew, with notes on how nuances and meanings changed as words went from Hebrew and Jewish Aramaic to old Greek to Latin and then to English. It refers tothe original languages, and so points out things like a same-sex union makes a person just as unclean before God as eating shellfish, since the exact same phrase is used to condemn both.
The new testament section deals with early Christians trying to find their own identity as a separate people from the Jews. Homosexuality was a relatively minor issue compared to keeping Kosher, circumcision, and if you had to become a Jew before becoming a Christian.
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on April 3, 2002
This is a reference that should be on the shelves of every ministers's library, in the home of anyone who has questions or concerns about homosexuality and Christianity. This book addresses the many misinterpreted ideas that modern Christianity proposes toward homosexuality. I am going to buy several of these books and pass them out as gifts (including one for you, Pat Robertson!)
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