The Curse:

What Jesus said about homosexuality

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© By Billy Rojas 2013

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Billy Rojas, Eugene, Oregon. Billy Rojas is a lifelong student and teacher of history, religion, politics and philosophy. He holds degrees in Philosophy and Intellectual History from Roosevelt University, and did graduate work in Higher Education at the University of Massachusetts. He has taught in Arizona, Kentucky, Washington, and for the City Colleges of Chicago assigned to the U.S. Navy (on the aircraft carrier USS Enterprise).

   

Then [Jesus] began to upbraid the cities wherein most of his mighty works were done, because they repented not: Woe unto thee, Chorazin! woe unto thee, Bethsaida! for if the mighty works, which were done in you, had been done in Tyre and Sidon, they would have repented long ago in sackcloth and ashes. But I say unto you, It shall be more tolerable for Tyre and Sidon at the day of judgment, than for you. And thou, Capernaum, which art exalted unto heaven, shalt be brought down to hell: for if the mighty works, which have been done in thee, had been done in Sodom, it would have remained until this day. But I say unto you, That it shall be more tolerable for the land of Sodom in the day of judgment, than for thee. Matthew 11: 20 - 24 King James Version of the Bible

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This is the famous "alas for you Capernaum...alas for you Bethsaida" pericope in the first Gospel. It is anything but an obscure passage in Biblical scripture; it is well known and is a frequent sermon topic in Christian churches.

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This is pointed out because of the popularity of a myth that is currently in circulation and has been for many years --to the effect that Christ was silent on the subject of homosexuality, known as "sodomy" in the Bible. Here is irrefutable documentation that, on the contrary, Jesus condemned sodomy, a point of view consistent with all relevant passages on the issue in the Hebrew Bible / Old Testament, and consistent with the comments of the Apostle Paul, and with the authors of II Peter, James, Revelation, and so forth.

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The myth of a non-judgmental Jesus has been promoted by many people who should have known better, including William F. Buckley. And it has been repeated to the effect that : Since Jesus ( supposedly ) said nothing on the subject we can ignore all of those other passages where it is discussed because that other material is secondary and has no serious authority.

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This view is completely ridiculous While the Gospels have special status for Christians, all (all) of the Bible is regarded as divinely inspired and authoritative for matters of faith. It all counts, all of the Bible's words are there for good reasons and none can be disregarded. We can argue that not everyone agrees on exactly what some passages in the book mean, but "some" means exactly that, a minority of verses. About most major issues there is little or no room for

debate about meanings, especially concerning a well-known pericope like Matthew 11: 20 - 24. None of which Buckley ever understood.

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Of course, Buckley had a private agenda, and he wasn't he a student of the Bible in any case and was happy to disregard what it said whenever it was convenient to do so. Buckley illustrates a principle that is with us now even more than was true during his lifetime. This was discussed by Christopher Hitchens in an article published in the March 10, 2008 edition of the Weekly Standard. Said Hitchens, Buckley was full of self-contradictions; some he managed well, others poorly, with his views of homosexuality decidedly in the latter category.

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Buckley had a number of homosexual friends and he was not about to condemn them for anything and if that meant disregarding the Bible, so what? He wasn't all that interested in the Bible anyway. Hence his closeness with one-time congressman Bob Bauman and with Marvin Liebman, as well as with Gore Vidal. Many people only remember Buckley's insult of Vidal as a "goddamned queer" -- after Vidal had called him a crypto-Nazi-- but Buckley regretted his criticism and soon thereafter apologized. For the fact was that, like many people today,

homosexual interests counted far more than Biblical teachings. And when there is potential conflict there is a simple resolution: Falsify what the Bible actually says and promulgate a falsehood, a myth that can easily be passed off on others who are essentially ignorant of scripture, such as journalists and politicians, most educators, most business people, and most Republicans and Democrats.

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Who else may believe in myths about the Bible are professed "Christians" such as the members of the Jesus Seminar. This may even be true of "modern" Evangelicals in some instances, but the Jesus Seminar is especially instructive since its participants have made overt arguments that Evangelicals never make, openly anyway.

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The purpose of the Jesus Seminar, which has been largely dormant for several years now, was to "authenticate" the words of Jesus in the Gospels --or to disqualify words that its members believed were attributed to him but were not actually spoken by him. Leaving aside the chutzpah involved and other problems like unacknowledged biases of the participating scholars, what the Seminar actually seems to have done was to act as a sounding board for nominal Christians, or s'il vous plait, 'liberal' believers, to express views consistent with some version of a Left-leaning political outlook. That is, in the name of scholarship the members of the Jesus Seminar gave us

religious justification for social positions that can best be classified under the rubric "Political Correctness."

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In other words, in looking back at the work of the Seminar in the early 1990s, what we find are arguments on the issue of homosexuality that have passed into popular culture which seek to justify acceptance of so-called "gay marriage," so-called "gay rights," and so-called "gay identity." And central to all of this was the Seminar's treatment of Matthew 11: 20 - 24.

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This reflects on other quotes from Jesus in Matthew 10 and in Luke, but the 11th chapter of Matthew is critical to everything else.

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Here is the translation used by the Seminar of verses 20 - 24: "Then he began to insult the cities where he had performed most of his miracles, because they had not changed their ways. Damn you Chorazin! Damn you Bethsaida! If the miracles done in you had been done in Tyre and Sidon, they would have changed their ways long ago. So I tell you, Tyre and Sidon will be better off at the judgement than you. And you, Capernaum, you don't think you will be exalted to heaven, do you? No, you'll go to Hell. Because if the miracles done among you had been done in Sodom, Sodom would still be around. So I tell you, the land of Sodom will be better off

at the judgement than you."

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Their translation is called the SV, the Scholar's Version. Forgive me, but maybe better nomenclature would be, as other scholars have inferred, the CV, the Cussword Version. There is a tendency throughout to "translate" words like "woe" into idiom that may include "damn" or other such locutions.

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Which is to say that the scholars of the Jesus Seminar were more interested in writing about a surrogate for Jesus, someone made in their image as modern-day Left-wing intellectuals, and not with the Christ of the Gospels --all the while telling one and all that they venerate the "real" Jesus.

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The point of actual New Testament / Biblical scholarship can only be, if it is to have serious value, to find out what the authors of the text meant when they wrote what they did. The idea is to "let the Bible speak for itself." To start with an interpretation and let nothing get in the way of predetermining your conclusions based on modern-era values you want to find ancient justification for, isn't scholarship at all.

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This problem can be found on both the Right and the Left. Conservatives may insist that the only way to read the text is to demand that whatever you say it must be consistent with some denominational doctrine. But that isn't the problem here. This problem lies with the Left, and with its determination to produce interpretations of Biblical faith that "necessarily" turn the scriptures into antique versions of the views expressed in the editorial pages of the New York Times.

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But to return to the point and the translation of 11: 20 - 24, according to the worthies of the Jesus Seminar, Christ never criticized sodomy. Here was their reasoning:

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The towns referred to were scenes of unsuccessful Christian missionary efforts. Therefore it was (supposedly) incongruous for Jesus to have cursed these towns. After all, didn't Jesus also say that one should "love your enemies"?

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This passage is typical of Old Testament "oracles of condemnation" uttered by various Hebrew prophets. Therefore, according to the Jesus Seminar, the passage was actually written by some Christians who added the statement after Matthew was first written.

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But even if this argument is plausible, it also is highly questionable. Especially since it is cribbed from the Interpreter's Dictionary of the Bible, still the 1962 version at the time, but in reference to different textual material. The Interpreter's Dictionary had referred to Matthew 11: 25 - 30, not 20 - 24.

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About verses 25 - 30, a case can be made that somehow Johannine material was attributed to Matthew at an early date. If proven, which would seem to be impossible given present knowledge, this still would not invalidate the authenticity of Jesus' words in the passage in question, but it would raise questions about texts; are parts of an early version of the Gospel of John mixed in with Matthew? No-one knows, and the supposition could be flat out wrong, but it is an issue worth doing some research to arrive at better understanding of how the New Testament came to be written in the form we have it. It's just that it has no bearing on what Jesus is quoted as saying in the Chorazin-Bethsaida pericope.

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As an aside, the issue concerns John's focus on the view that no-one knows the Father except the Son. It is only in this pericope that the author of Matthew says any such thing. The normal perspective in Matthew is that any believer can know the Father.

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In other words, maybe there are problems with 25 - 30. Conceivably that material reflects still-current Christian prophetism of the era, something attested by Paul in I Corinthians. This is anything but inconsistent with Jesus as a prophet, which was one of his callings, and for all we know possibly he instituted the idea of prophetic (spiritually inspired) missions.

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And even if there is "Johannine material" in Matthew, do we really need to assume that there were hard and fast divisions in the early Christian community? Why couldn't the author of Matthew have had some ideas that were similar to those of the author of John? While there are no sure answers to such questions none of them are serious impediments to faith.

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What can be --in this case surely is-- a major problem concerns wilful distortion of obvious meaning of the text of the Bible. This is manifestly true with respect to how the Jesus Seminar treats Matthew 11: 20 - 24.

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One problem with the interpretation offered by the Seminar is the picture of Capernaum that is given in the Gospel of Mark. According to the earliest of the Gospels the city was a success story for Jesus and the disciples. Clearly Jesus lived in the town and knew it well; his disciples used the place as a sort of 'headquarters' for an unknown but substantial period of time. Yet in

Matthew no city on Earth is as corrupt, or more deserving of condemnation.

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About Christian successes in Capernaum, the miracle stories in the Gospels tell the tale. Whatever one's views about literal miracles there is no question that the early Christian community knew that Jesus made a special effort in Capernaum and believed that he performed miracles in the city.

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The list includes:

Mark 5: 22; Luke 8: 41, the daughter of Jairus was raised from the dead.

Mark 2: 1-12, a paralyzed man was lowered down through the roof and healed.

Matthew 17: 24-27, reports about how a silver coin was found in the

...mouth of a fish and was used to pay back taxes.

Luke 5: 1-11, a huge unexpected catch of fish in nets.

Mark 1: 21-28, an evil spirit was driven from a man in the synagogue.

Mark 1: 29-34, many people were healed of afflictions through the

...casting out of demons, and “all the city was gathered together at the door.”

John 4: 46-54, a nobleman of the royal court was healed.

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Then there is the story of Jesus' healing of the servant (or slave) of a centurion in Luke 7: 1-10 with a variant in Matthew 8: 5-13. This has been a subject of special interest for Christians for a long time for two reasons:

(1) It is one of the first events after the Sermon on the Mount, and

(2) Because of what it says about Jewish relationships with Romans

and with the very earliest Christians.

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The following observations partly derive from a February 14, 2010 essay just about the incident with the centurion, available at a website called Joakim's God Talk. The paper is entitled "Jesus heals the Centurion's slave."

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To resume the story, here is an example of sometimes everything working out for the best. This is possible when people sincerely respect each other despite their obvious differences. Hence, as Jesus returned to Capernaum he was met by a number of Jewish elders. They were sent at the request of a centurion who was living in the town. His servant was near death with a serious illness and wanted Jesus to heal the man. The elders said that the centurion "is worthy of having

you do this for him, for he loves our people, and it is he who built our synagogue for us."

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This passage tells us a great deal. At the height of Jesus' successes in Capernaum the city was home to Gentiles as well as Jews. Apparently the Roman officer was someone known at the time as a "God-fearer," a Gentile who attended a synagogue, learned about Jewish law and culture and was, we might say, 'half Jewish' by conviction.

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Of course, this would necessarily mean that the centurion would have been well aware of Biblical teachings against sodomy and, to judge from the good things said about him by the Jewish elders, he was in agreement with their moral precepts which included abhorrence of homosexuality.

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This was not how "Joakim" saw things, however. For him, a conclusion based on wishful thinking and no evidence, the centurion's servant was a homosexual with whom the centurion was sexually involved. Hence his fondness for the servant. Therefore, Jesus was accepting of homosexuality when it exists in a "loving" relationship. All of which is utter nonsense. But which tells Christians what to expect when discussing religion with sexual deviants. Expect one

distortion of the meaning of scripture after another.

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Jaokim speculated that the centurion "may have been more than compassionate  – he may have loved his slave. Luke uses the Greek word παῖς ‘pais’ translated here as servant, and Matthew uses the same word throughout his version of the story, not the Greek word δοῦλος ‘doulos’ meaning slave. Scholars say that in Greek παῖς ‘pais sometimes means the young male lover of an older man..."

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What "scholars"? If reference is to homosexuals there are no scholars to consider. In all of my reading of homosexual so-called scholarship all that you can find are examples of homosexual apologetics. Not one of them "does scholarship" at all. Interconnections between Bible verses are habitually overlooked (probably they are not even known to exist). Inferences are drawn from the most tenuous "evidence" imaginable. And well-established interpretations that have withstood many years of scrutiny are not considered. Everything is same-sex fantasy when you boil it all down.

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Neither in Matthew nor in Luke is there the least suggestion that the servant / slave is an object of the centurion's affections. Quite the opposite, to refer again to Jewish religious values and faith. And pretty much the whole point of this story is that the Roman soldier had faith in Jesus, indeed more than even many observant Jews, something given emphasis in the text.

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Regardless, what the actual evidence gives us is an appealing picture of Capernaum at the time of the Sermon on the Mount. It was a mixed city, including Pagans who were appreciative of both Jewish religion and the very first version of Christian faith. Here is a model of what can be, and should be. But everything was about to change for the worse.

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.The downfall of Capernaum

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The Jesus Seminar was right to note that various past prophets sometimes chastised towns they visited --or even lived in. There are rebukes of cities in Amos, Ezekiel, and Zechariah, for instance. But how this disqualifies words that Jesus is reputed to have said is totally uncertain. Besides, there is more than one way to look at the situation as it existed in the first century AD.

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Probably the conflict between Matthew and Mark is more apparent than real. Capernaum seems to have been a success story for a while, only for everything to fall apart later. Not exactly an unprecedented kind of development; such things happen all the time, now as well as long ago. The Bible allows for this again and again, especially with respect to the status of Jerusalem, usually revered as sacred territory, but periodically reviled. Yet the Jesus Seminar took a one dimensional view of Capernaum, viz, it was a failure from start to finish, which is untrue as a characterization if Mark has any value.

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As for the similarity to Old Testament prophetic oracles of condemnation, what is wrong with that? Jesus often followed Old Testament precedent; Matthew 11 is hardly some kind of fluke. After all, Jesus was a Galilean Jew. While that made him unorthodox in various ways, in others he was as normative as a Jew as anyone could get. Can anyone think something else? And not only was Jesus a Jew, so, too, were his disciples, and they all spent most of their lives in Judea.

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There is one difference between Luke's account and the one in Matthew that deserves attention here. Luke's view is that Jesus' condemnation of Capernaum is more-or-less generic; it could apply to any sinful city. And in some sense this must be taken as axiomatic. But there nonetheless is something specific about Capernaum that made it particularly onerous. The "curse" part of 11: 20 - 24 tells us what this was.

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What is unknown and maybe unknowable about Capernaum was its demography in Jesus' era. People do move into and out of cities. Maybe most historic settlements were fairly stable in terms of population, but the first century AD was a time of population flux in Judea. The nearby city of Sepphoris, curiously not mentioned in the New Testament, was expanding rapidly during the lifetime of Christ. Roman soldiers and their camp followers moved from place to place as circumstances dictated. The Decapolis, in particular, was a cluster of Gentile cities that had been largely Greek in the past but that were being Romanized in the years when Jesus lived in the vicinity and expansion has been noted at archaeological sites. Capernaum, near to the Decapolis, seems to have experienced an influx of non-Jews; some houses were being enlarged and redecorated.

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Which is to say that it looks like the population of the town changed during the period of Jesus' ministry. The theory is very plausible that what had been a successful Christian effort to evangelize the city ended when strangers entered the town in large numbers --bringing with them a number of practices that the first Christians found reprehensible and repulsive, especially sodomy.

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Indeed, it is hard to imagine what else the problem could have been.

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We also know that the majority of the population of the town, at some point in the years of Jesus, was Greek and Roman, with a Jewish minority. This did not necessarily make Capernaum a nest of homosexuals but the Gentile majority may well have facilitated toleration for sexual deviants.

This is significant because other small cities of the region which were Jewish would not have allowed any such thing. Hence, if this analysis is correct, Jesus "soured" on Capernaum. What had been a good place to live, and would be again (it seems as if Peter's home eventually was transformed into some kind of early "house church," indicating a growing Christian presence after the war of 66 - 70 AD), was, when Matthew was written, an abomination.

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Although it is not possible to know any specifics about changes in the population of Capernaum in the first century AD, there are legitimate inferences we can make based on documents of the early Christian era. Inferences are useful when they have a foundation of fact; inferences per se are not wrong as such. What is wrong is when their substance is essentially conjecture rather than analysis based on tangible evidence.

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The record for the first centuries of the Christian era is not what we would like. There are crucial missing pieces in the story. However, this hardly says that there aren't important parts of the story that we can examine and make good use of.

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The most important witness on the subject of homosexuality as it was known in the time of Christ is Philo, a Jewish scholar from Alexandra who was a contemporary of Jesus. Philo was born in about 20 BC and lived until 50 AD. A worthwhile study of him is available online at Prayson Daniel's site, With All I Am, under the title: "Philo on Homosexual Practice."

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True enough, Egypt is not Roman Judea, but Roman outliers were similar in many respects and, maybe more germane, what Philo said was entirely congruent with what Paul said, writing from the Greek world. The conclusion seems unavoidable that the homosexual subculture everywhere in the Roman Empire was much the same.

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Another useful source, although not as intended by its author, is Warren Johansson's "Judaism and Homosexuality: Hellenist Judaism," also available online. Johansson repeatedly chastised Philo as "homophobic" and Judaism itself as homophobic and therefore "evil." However, without meaning to provide information that can be made use of to argue the exact opposite of the case he was making, that is what he did. Having a perspective like Prayson Daniel's is all it takes.

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Here is what Philo Judeaus said; the quote is extended but is worth reading in full to understand just what it was that Jesus reacted against:

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"Moreover, another evil, much greater than that which we have already mentioned, has made its way among and been let loose upon cities, namely, the love of boys, which formerly was accounted a great infamy even to be spoken of, but which sin is a subject of boasting not only to those who practice it, but even to those who suffer it, and who, being accustomed to bearing the affliction of being treated like women, waste away as to both their souls and bodies, not bearing about them a single spark of a manly character to be kindled into a flame, but having even the hair of their heads conspicuously curled and adorned, and having their faces smeared with vermilion, and paint, and things of that kind, and having their eyes penciled beneath, and having

their skins anointed with fragrant perfumes (for in such persons as these a sweet smell is a most seductive quality), and being well appointed in everything that tends to beauty or elegance, are not ashamed to devote their constant study and endeavors to the task of changing their manly character into an effeminate one." Special Laws / Book III; Part 37, cited by Prayson Daniel.

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Sections 38 and 39 continue this theme: Such a perverted person "is a disgrace to himself, and to his family, and to his country, and to the whole race of mankind," # 38 says. Such a half man, half woman, should not be allowed to live a single day or even a single hour, so grievous is the sin involved.

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Part 39 then adds that any male who is "devoted to the love of boys" and who "pursues that pleasure which is contrary to nature" wastes human lives. Such people must be stopped, for they not only debauch themselves and throw away their own lives but act as "a guide and teacher of those greatest of all evils, unmanliness and effeminate lust" for the unwitting young, in the process destroying other lives. This cannot be tolerated.

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All of which is entirely consistent with the words of Jesus recorded in Matthew and Luke in condemning homosexuality. What had happened at Capernaum was happening all over the map.

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The record of Christian history

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The evidence does not end with Philo, however. Another witness who was a near contemporary was Josephus, born in approximately the same year that Jesus was crucified, and who lived until 100 AD. That is, Josephus Flavius saw things that were continuations from the time when Christ was alive. And, like Philo, the comments made by Josephus could just as well have been made by the Apostle Paul, the character of the words is that similar.

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Here is what Josephus said, as cited by Prayson Daniel in another online article, this for January 16, 2012, "Josephus on Homosexual Practice." The material is from Book II of Against Apion, sections 274 and 275. It is another extended passage but worth the little extra time it takes to read it; this gives a feeling for how classical era people thought about the issue:

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"And why do not the Lacedemonians think of abolishing that form of their government which suffers them not to associate with any others, as well as their contempt of matrimony? And why do not the Eleans and Thebans abolish that unnatural and impudent lust, which makes them lie with males? For they will not show sufficient sign of their repentance of what they of old thought to be very excellent, and very advantageous in their practices, unless they entirely avoid all such actions for the time to come : nay, such things are inserted into the body of their laws, and had once such a power among the Greeks, that they ascribed these sodomitical practices to the gods themselves, as part of their good character; and indeed it was according to the same manner that the gods married their own sisters. This the Greeks contrived as an apology for their own absurd and unnatural pleasures."

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Josephus also wrote about the Sodom and Gomorrah episode in Genesis. It is this common understanding of the meaning of the words "Sodom" or "sodomy" that Jesus used in both Matthew and Luke. As explained by Prayson Daniel, in Book I of The Antiquities of the Jews, Josephus was aghast at homosexual actions and regarded them as repulsive not only because they are perversions of human nature, but also are in complete opposition to the Laws of God intended for the good of mankind.

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As Josephus put it: “the Sodomites grew proud, on account of their riches and great wealth: they became unjust towards men, and impious towards God, insomuch that they did not call to mind the advantages they received from him: they hated strangers, and abused themselves with sodomitical practices. God was therefore much displeased at them, and determined to punish them for their pride, and to overthrow their city, and to lay waste their country, until there should neither plant nor fruit grow out of it.”

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Any argument that the concept of sodomy as understood by Jesus or Paul or any other early Christian was based on some other understanding would be completely mistaken.

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.There also is the Zadokite Document to consider in this context.

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On this subject there is controversy since no-one can be absolutely sure about what community it was written for. However, there are only two viable alternatives, Jews of Cairo who were alive in about 100 AD, or a Christian group. The view taken here is that of someone named Kahana, writing at his Hub Pages site, under the title, "The Zadokite Document," has it basically right.

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Kahana tells us that he is a Karaite Jew, hence non-Orthodox, and also hence, someone who is not predisposed to accept a traditional Jewish interpretation of provenance simply because it is traditional to do so. Close study of the words of the text certainly sound much more Christian than Jewish --even if a Jewish interpretation, if it could ever be proven, would not really weaken the argument being made here.

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This document was probably first composed at about the same time as the Book of Revelation in the New Testament. A Jewish outlook has attached itself to the writing because, for many centuries, it was copied and recopied by a Jewish community associated with the Genizah --archival department-- of the Ben Ezra Synagogue in Cairo, the center of Egyptian Jewry from the middle ages until the 20th century.

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This concerns a document that, as Kahana said, "was written by those that called themselves ‘the Many’ and they claimed to follow ‘the Way.’ These people considered themselves to be children of righteousness following the teaching of the ‘Righteous Teacher’, whom we know to be an Essene personage, but also following the ‘Unique Teacher’. These are two separate and distinct individuals."

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As Kahana continued, "the ‘Unique Teacher’ referred to was more current and interacted with the authors of this book. He is obviously Jesus and ‘the Many’ were the initial members of his following within the Jerusalem Church. The fact that we now understand that they referred to their beliefs as "The Way" meant that this was obviously overlooked by the first translators of the Zadokite document because they did not understand the reference. As far as those following The Way were concerned, they had inherited the new covenant between man and God. And what they write about is how they were finding themselves being overwhelmed by their contemporaries that had hijacked their teachings and were now distorting them beyond recognition."

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In other words, a community of still Jewish-in-many-respects Christians was outnumbered by Pauline (Gentile) Christians who were teaching the view that Mosaic tradition was obsolete and was superseded by a new kind of religion. But the Jewish Christians of Egypt still maintained the beliefs and values of the first Christians of Judea.

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Speaking for myself, which Christianity is more authentic, the version known at Jerusalem or the one that Paul evangelized on behalf of in the Greek speaking parts of the Roman Empire, is largely a moot point for the very beginning of the Church since the Apostle put himself under the authority of Jerusalem; when there were disagreements there were opportunities for discussion and adjudication to iron things out. And it certainly is a moot point now. But there may well have been a transition period, roughly 100 AD, when Pauline Christianity was becoming ascendant and the authority of the Church at Jerusalem was no longer viable --as happened after the Jewish War that ended in 70 AD.

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That is, as Kahana said, the community that followed the Zadokite Document believed that they were keeping the true "Jewish" Christian faith alive at a time when Gentiles were dominant everywhere in their religion. Doctrinally, however, it is difficult to see much difference. Regardless, there were feelings of being usurped, and feelings of being the most authentic believers.

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To continue with Kahana's text: " As we know from early Church history now, the Jewish sect in Jerusalem following the Nazarene were doing exactly what was laid down for them by Jesus and which was reinforced by his brother James and cousin Cleophas. Therefore they saw any other Christian Sect, especially the followers of Saul as a threat to their true religion."

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This is not the place to debate the merits of that case; what is crucial here is the set of rules that the Jewish Christians set down for themselves as, they believed, Christ would have wanted. These rules are known as the Ordinances. What is positively astounding is that Rule # 1 deals specifically with homosexuality / sodomy. Which is to say that they regarded this issue as important and that they had this view because, by their understanding, it was very important for Jesus himself. It addressed a problem that would not go away and that had to be faced

by each generation of believers --forthrightly and head on.

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Kahana first dismissed a previous translation of the document that is widely available, by "Shechter," because of its indirection. That is, Schecter apparently found the literal meaning of the text offensive and soft-soaped it in order to be able to read it in polite company. Which, parenthetically, is a serious problem. Christian clergy may well feel uncomfortable discussing such things, as may Orthodox Jews and others. What it being discussed, sodomy, simply is not talked about among believers, it is undignified, unseemly, and a subject to avoid at all costs.

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The trouble, despite the good intentions behind this kind of attitude, is that the truth gets lost. Homosexuals are "interpreted" as if they were just like everyone else except for sexual preference. The language that homosexuals and their supporters want employed, gets employed. Hence they are people "just like you and me," they are capable of "loving relationships," they deserve to be parents to children, they should be accepted in churches, and so forth. All of which is utterly false and completely unacceptable from the viewpoint expressed by Jesus in Matthew and Luke, and with good reason. And completely unacceptable from Paul's perspective, and Peter's, and other authors of the New Testament who wrote on the subject. As it was totally unacceptable to the Jewish Christians of ca. 100 AD.

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At any rate, these Christians took the view that any male who unites sexually with another male is "no longer to be considered to be a living man and is to be put to death by use of the Gentile court system." The offense is that serious and reprehensible. Jewish courts of the time might also carry out this punishment although that should be avoided if possible due to questions of conflict with Roman authority. Such punishment might be viewed by the Romans as extra-legal and therefore as murder. Not a good idea at all to follow that course of action. But death of homosexuals, inflicted by the Romans, would be a good thing.

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That is, we can now see that Paul's condemnation at the end of chapter # 1 in the Epistle to the Romans, that homosexuals deserve death, was not simply so much hyperbole. Paul meant exactly what he said. We can also see that Jesus wasn't using metaphor either, when he decreed that the punishment for sodomy at the Judgment must be death, final and forever.

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Modern day Christians who know about the Zadokite Document may be loathe to use it, however. There is a problem. As Kahana explained, the Jewish Christians, or some of them, falsely accused Paul of being homosexual. Which is absurd. It also seems to say that either they did not know of Paul's epistle to the Romans or, if they did, so despised him as a rival that they refused to read it. In either case, they missed Romans 1, which is the strongest possible critique of sodomy imaginable, a scathing indictment of everything about homosexuality, expressed in graphic terms. And like the Jewish Christians, the Apostle took the view that any thought of' allowing sexual deviants to belong to a community of Christians would be foolish beyond belief as well as morally unthinkable.

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Some of Kanaha's speculations reflect his own biases, of course. He is not favorably disposed to Christianity, and about some matters he simply misses the point. Were Christian congregations predominantly male? Anyone who has read the Gospel of Luke or the Book of Acts, or Paul's letters, knows better. Women were active in the Church from the beginning and some became leaders in the movement. Many are mentioned by name, like Junia, who apparently had some kind of apostolic authority. Others, like the daughters of Philip, were prophetesses  in the early Church. But these limitations aside, Kahana's research is extremely useful. From it we get one more window into the world of the first Christians, a world from which homosexuals were completely excluded and uncompromisingly condemned.

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Other examples come from the 200s AD, one from Tertullian and one from Clement of Alexandria. Although their accounts are "late" by this time, they nonetheless tell us that approximately the same kind of homosexual subculture was still extant as the Biblical writers had seen for themselves two centuries before.

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Tertullian, writing in 220 AD, made the point about total exclusion of homosexuals unmistakably clear. Chapter # 4 of his text, Modesty, says that of all the "frenzies and lusts which exceed the laws of nature, and are impious toward both bodies and the sexes, we banish, not only from the threshold but also from all shelter of the Church, for they are not sins so much as monstrosities"

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Clement of Alexandria, writing in the same time period, said that even talking about sodomy is "filthy." In his book, The Instructors, Clement added that the sodomites, because of their "burning with insane love for boys," therefore God, "whose notice those who commit impieties cannot escape, cast his eye on them." As a result, Sodom was burned and all in the city perished. This was fitting precisely because of the enormity of their sins.

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St. John Chrysostom had the same opinion. In his Homilies on Titus, dated 390 AD he said this about the heathen he knew, that they " were addicted to the love of boys, and one of their wise men made a law that pederasty .... should not be allowed to slaves, as if it was an honorable thing; and they had houses for this purpose, in which it was openly practiced. And if all that was done among them was related, it would be seen that they openly outraged nature, and there was none to restrain them. ... As for their passion for boys, whom they called their paedica, it is not fit to be named."

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This view of sodomy was normative in Christian faith from the beginning, in other words, and continued to our own time in history. It was expressed by Augustine in the 5th century as well as by Hildegard von Bingen in the 12th century. About whom there is a special irony. Feminists who are music enthusiasts often lionize Hildegard because she is the first woman composer of whom her actual music survives. And her music is first rate, it is very listenable-to by contemporary classical music fans, and some is positively delightful. But what is never said is how critical Hildegard was of all forms of homosexuality. Her opus, Scivias --Scito vias Domini, translated as "Know the Ways of the Lord"-- says, in Book II, Vision Six, quoting God, telling us

that he condemns sodomy, that this terrible sin includes female homosexuality: "a woman who takes up devilish ways and plays a male role in coupling with another woman is most vile in My sight, and so is she who subjects herself to such a one in this evil deed."

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Aquinas in the 13th century was just as adamant about this. And here is what Luther said in the 16th century:

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"The vice of the Sodomites is an unparalleled enormity. It departs from the natural passion and desire, planted into nature by God, according to which the male has a passionate desire for the female. Sodomy craves what is entirely contrary to nature. Whence comes this perversion? Without a doubt it comes from the devil. After a man has once turned aside from the fear of God, the devil puts such great pressure upon his nature that he extinguishes the fire of natural desire and stirs up another, which is contrary to nature."

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All of this stems directly from Jesus and from Paul and the very first Christians, whose words are enshrined in the Bible. The truths of this tradition were very much accepted as truths at the founding of our nation. All states in the Union have laws that treated sodomy as a criminal offense, some states demanding the death penalty for this offense. No less than Thomas Jefferson, every Liberal's paragon of virtue and their political exemplar, when he was governor of Virginia, even wrote the law of the commonwealth on the subject -- which condemned homosexuals to death for their criminality, viz, for the crime of sodomy.

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The curse of Capernaum recounted in Matthew 11: 20 - 24, in words spoken by Jesus, are directly relevant to everything since.

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Lessons of Capernaum

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The homosexual-tolerant Romans, or in fairness to other Romans, the mostly deviance-tolerant Romans, would seem to have been well known to Luke. Hence his use of "Capernaum" in a more generalized sense than in Matthew. Luke, that is, may have known, first hand, a pattern whereby an infusion of "Romans" --who could have hailed from just about anywhere in the

Empire -- meant, again and again, the arrival among them of sodomites. Therefore, to account for Luke's viewpoint we can surmise that, seeing this and understanding that it was anything but unique to Capernaum, he treated the condemnation as applying elsewhere as often as not.

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Where there is no possibility of questioning much of anything, however, is with respect to the curse with which Matthew 11: 20 - 24 ends. As bad as other towns and cities might get, what set Capernaum apart was the homosexual population in its midst. Jesus saw this and didn't like it. Indeed, he made it a major issue and regarded it as the worst of horrors.

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What else is there to conclude? Capernaum was worse than Sodom itself. This tells us everything we need to know about Jesus' opinion of homosexuals. He detested Sodom itself --for the obvious reason that it had been home to a large number of sexual perverts. Then there was Capernaum. Whatever it once may have been, and it seems to have been a good place to live

for a time, it became a "new Sodom," only even more depraved and disgusting than the original.

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The impression one gets is that Capernaum had become, in effect, a homosexual spa during the years when Jesus was alive. We have seen this happen in America, of course. Once clean and thriving vacation or other towns become magnets for even a small number of homosexuals, in time they migrate in, in large numbers, and take over. This has happened to Provincetown on Cape Cod, to Key West, to Palm Springs, and so forth, including urban neighborhoods that become homosexual enclaves in our cities. The best conclusion to reach would seem to be that Jesus saw this happen to Capernaum, his city and a city where many early Christians lived with their families. This turn of events appalled him. The result was Matthew 11: 20 - 24.

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The argument you hear from some people that the sin of Sodom was a matter of "inhospitality" is laughable --and a complete falsification of the Bible's testimony for the sake of contemporary political values cherished by Leftists.

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This is not some sort of praise-by-default of the political Right. There is plenty to be critical of about conservatives and conservatism, but this is not in that category. About Matthew 11: 20 - 24 the onus falls almost entirely on so-called "liberal" believers. Essentially they have turned this pericope upside down, made it out to be what it isn't, and propagate a viewpoint that gives us sodomy-tolerant urban 'Roman Empire-ism' as if it was  somehow compatible with Christian faith. This is a sick joke.

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This still leaves Jesus' injunction to "love one's enemies." But this observation by the Jesus Seminar --and many others-- is gratuitous. It completely fails to take into account Jesus as a multi-dimensional person, someone with a number of different dimensions to his personality and with a thoughtful system of values. There certainly is consistency to be found in the character of Christ, but it is not in the form of everything-reduces-to-the-Sermon-on-the-Mount, and we can forget all else in the Bible. Any such view is pure heresy.

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Jesus taught appropriate response to specific kinds of situations. Yes, love is the general rule, but there are classes of exceptions to the rule. That is, the need for a compassionate heart is fundamental but this hardly means that there never are times when anger is justified. Or disgust, righteous indignation, or outrage. Sometimes it is best to stand up to your enemies and even get rough with them, i.e., like throwing over their tables. Or to openly debate with them, face to face, as Jesus did with the Pharisees on several occasions. Christ hated evil and thought that unrepentant sinners were doomed to Gehenna.

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Speaking personally, I have no trouble whatsoever in thinking that Jesus cursed Capernaum. If Christ was on Earth today it is my belief that he would curse San Francisco, Hollywood in California and West Hollywood, and New York City --for pretty much the same reasons he cursed Capernaum.

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In cursing Capernaum, Jesus did not condemn each and every inhabitant of the town. Clearly his curses did not apply to his followers living there, including Peter who owned a house in the city. Yet in making a point about Sodom, Jesus made it obvious that there were many sodomites --homosexuals-- in the population. The curse was intended to apply to them and to everyone who tolerated or encouraged homosexuality.

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There can be no real question about actual Christian attitudes toward homosexuality. At least this is the case if what is being discussed are Bible-based values. This is not to discuss ersatz-Christianity, that version of religion in which what really counts is conformity to the values outlook of the New York Times and the mass media more generally, or conformity to results of opinion polls. What makes Christian faith special and true is what makes any religion special and true when it is, namely, faithfulness to its principles. These principles have been tested though the long process of historical experience and came to exist in the first place because other principles simply do not work.

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In other words, you cannot apply libertarian or anarchist standards to questions of faith; the two values systems are incompatible in the realm of religion. It simply is outright false that "anything goes," "do whatever you want," is viable spiritually. And from this observation comes the question: Is "anything goes" really viable in politics or economics? About economics,  Adam Smith himself did not think so, which was why he not only wrote The Wealth of Nations but also his Theory of Moral Sentiments in which he argued that unless a society is based on some kind of shared set of religious values Capitalism necessarily becomes barbarism.

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About Christian faith specifically, Paul made the principle as clear as anyone could possibly ask for. The most telling example of the Apostle's views can be found in 1 Corinthians 6: 12 - 13 and 19 - 20. To quote from the New English Bible translation:

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"I am free to do anything, you say. Yes, but not everything is for my good. No doubt I am free to do anything, but I for one will not let anything make free with me."

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"Do you not know that your body is a shrine of the indwelling Holy Spirit, and the Spirit is God's gift to you? You do not belong to yourselves; you were bought at a price. Then honour God in your body."

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The meaning should be clear enough. Priority should be on determining what the best thing to do actually is. Priority should not be on self expression. Self expression may be a virtue but only when it follows from careful consideration of the choices you make. Otherwise self expression is simply so much self-indulgence and very possibly self-destructive indulgence.

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Paul was also clear about this in 1 Corinthians 5, in a detailed discussion of the moral failings of the community at Corinth. "Your self-satisfaction ill becomes you," he said in the midst of his comments, making the point that just because you want something does not make it good. It should be objectively good and if it is not, then you should not want it, or should remake your values such that you cease to want it. All of which is the opposite of libertarian / anarchist values which start with wants and assume that simply because you want it, therefore it is good. Not much of a surprise, is it, that Atheism is the "religion of choice" among most libertarians and anarchists?

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We can and should give libertarians their due. What decidedly is a Christian virtue is libertarian insistence on the supreme value of free speech and freedom of conscience. As Americans we would be far less as people except for libertarian free speech values. And the roster of libertarian-inspired heroes in our history is lengthy and includes everyone from Thomas Jefferson to H.L. Mencken and beyond. But there are limits to the usefulness of libertarian philosophy, and this is especially obvious in the realm of social values and faith.

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Matthew 11: 20 - 24, read by Libertarians, would be objectionable. Their attitude would be something along the lines of: "Why shouldn't the sodomites do as they please? Everyone should do as they please. There is no moral right and wrong except insofar as someone may transgress against me and cause me physical harm or steal my property. Otherwise, live and let live. "

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This decidedly is not the view expressed in Matthew's Gospel. On the contrary the view Jesus expressed is that if something is morally reprehensible it should be strongly opposed. If little can be done for now, rest assured, God will curse all abominations --and wrongs will be made right in the future. But in any case believers should have nothing to do with people who do unspeakably evil things, such as homosexuals.

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Yes, Jesus befriended tax collectors and prostitutes and other people with unsavory reputations, but he drew a line. People who were guilty of extreme moral failings never had a place in his life. There were no associations with murderers, corrupt political leaders who steal from the people they are supposed to serve, or with homosexuals. Matthew 11: 20 - 24 tells us why.

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Yes, a vital part of Christ's message concerns love and understanding. But this is not indiscriminate. And in any eventuality there was no compromise with the many Biblical teachings that condemn homosexuality outright. And there are many such condemnations, at least 27 verses in the Bible; there never is toleration of sodomy in any passage in the Judeo-Christian scriptures. In all cases it is considered abominable. The only thing worse is murder.

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None of which should in any way be difficult to comprehend.

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Given the universal repudiations of sodomy in both testaments of the Holy Book whenever the subject is discussed, and there are no exceptions, it would be absurd not to interpret Matthew 11: 20 - 24 as entirely consistent with the rest of the Bible about the issue of homosexuality. Of course, this pericope is authentic; if it took any other view of sodomy than it does there would be cause to question its validity. But it takes a view that is the diametric opposite of the pro-homosexual outlook we know today that is being promoted by all kinds of people and groups who deserve our opprobrium and anything but acceptance or our plaudits.

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No-one says that Christians need to be stupid about this. There is no indication that Jesus was intemperate about the issue; had he preached on street corners about sodomy, or picked fights with the perverse, there surely would be accounts of such actions in the Gospels. But he wanted to make his views known to his disciples and did so in the Gospel of Matthew --also recorded in Luke.

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What is unmistakably clear is that one day there would be a showdown with homosexuals. Luke 17: 28 - 30 is a prophecy spoken by Christ : ..."the day that Lot went out from Sodom, it rained fire and sulphur from the sky and made an end of them all --it will be like that on the day when the Son of Man is revealed."

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There is a deserved harsh judgement reserved for sodomites and to pretend that Jesus had some other opinion would be false to the obvious meaning of scripture. It's all there. The meaning is clear. And it does no-one the least good to try and explain it all away as if, when all is said, everyone should be accommodating to homosexuals, non-judgemental, "understanding," and so forth, and be accepting of current public opinion. But to make an effective case in defense of Biblical values in today's world it is necessary to be smart and well-informed, sufficiently to refute each and every argument that homosexuals may try to make in defense of their "lifestyle" and identity. Which is exactly what the great majority of Christians are not doing at all.

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In another context in Matthew 19, Jesus is confronted with a group of Pharisees who want to discredit him with hard questions about scripture. The text does not say that in order to answer the Pharisees and turn their questions against them that he studied the Tanakh, the Hebrew Bible, thoroughly, and cultivated his intellect. But it doesn't have to. It is obvious from the dialogue that he had done precisely that; he had been a student of books and scrolls. For our time, while any believer needs to study the Bible as necessary to faith, it also is imperative to study whatever else can contribute to advancing Christ's message. Why? Because this is a fight that no-one can afford to lose. And because opposition to homosexuality is integral to Christian faith itself. Jesus, after all, said so.

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