Origins of the Word ‘Homosexuality’
The word ‘homosexuality’ has its origins in the late 19th century and is a derivation of the terms homo, meaning ‘same’, and sexuality. This expression was originally prescribed to folks who had overt attractions to persons of the same gender and is typically used in discussions of gender and sexuality.
This specific word is used to describe the romantic or intimate behavior and thoughts between two people or more of the same gender, focusing on the gravity of the feelings shared between them.
It is used as an inclusive term, likely to displace terms such as ‘sodomy’ which were used to offend and generally humiliate those engaging in these activities. Originally believed to be an act between two men where one was dominant and the other behaved submissively, sodomy is more broadly used to refer to any sexual activity deemed ‘unnatural’.
The act of homosexuality, although not accepted in some societies, has been going on for centuries and its definition and acceptance in communities has changed over the years. Scholars have debated the concept of homosexuality being present in the Bible and studied its presence in the scriptures.
When Was the Word ‘Homosexuality’ Added to the Bible
The first time the word ‘homosexuality’ is used in a Bible translation was in 1946, in a study conducted by Reverend Josef Alfred Weller.
Weller had access to an array of Jewish and other manuscripts, and based on this, believed that the original Hebrew version of Leviticus would have referred to homosexuality instead of sodomy, which was the traditional word used in the King James Bible.
In his book ‘The Roots of the Bible’, which contains his Old Testament translation, Weller used the word ‘homosexuality’ for the first time, though his findings were largely overlooked and forgotten by most people. It wasn’t until the mid-twentieth century that the word became part of commonplace language.
In 1956, a revised version of the New American Bible used the word ‘homosexuality’ for the first time, with the encouragement of ecumenical councils.
However, most Christian denominations have not accepted this version and have also rejected Weller’s work, though some Protestant and Catholic scholars have incorporated elements of his translation into their writings.
Are Homosexual and Same-sex Behavior Banned in the Bible?
Though the word ‘homosexuality’ was incorporated into some Bible translations in the twentieth century, there is no definitive answer as to whether or not being homosexual or engaging in same-sex behavior is explicitly banned in the Bible.
The Bible does not use the word ‘homosexual’ or ‘homosexuality’ but it does mention same-sex behavior in the Books of Genesis, Leviticus, and Romans. It is important to note that there is vast disagreement amongst Christians on how these scriptures should be interpreted and understood.
Catholic scholars and theologians have interpreted these scriptures in a non literal way, and understand that homosexual behavior in itself is not sinful or outlawed, only disordered. This interpretation agrees with natural law theory, which argues that an individual’s same-sex orientation should not be acted upon, but instead, should be accepted and embraced, with any sexual activities between persons of the same gender being avoided.
Other interpretations such as those of conservative theologians may suggest that homosexual behavior is in direct conflict with the Bible, and any such action should be strictly not encouraged.
Implications of the Word ‘Homosexuality’ in the Bible Today
Due to the inclusion of the word ‘homosexuality’ in some Bible translations, there is much debate today as to how the Bible should be understood and interpreted. While some secularists may use this to suggest that the Bible is outdated and irrelevant, there are also people of faith who see it as a sign of inclusive tolerance and acceptance. Consequently, the debate around the interpretation of Bible passages on homosexuality continues.
The inclusion of the word ‘homosexuality’ in certain translations has sparked a range of reactions. To some, it serves as a sign of inclusion and of increased flexibility in interpretation, while to others, it might serve as a reminder of the taboo and historically oppressive nature of same-sex relationships.
The decision to include or exclude the word ‘homosexuality’ from Bible translations is still a highly contentious one. This is due to varying interpretations from different Christian denominations, as well as alternative spiritual and cultural views.
Catholician Perspective on Homosexuality in the Bible
The Roman Catholic Church is critical of any form of same-sex behavior, and it does not support that which it believes to be a lifestyle contrary to the teachings of Jesus Christ. Since it endorses a traditional interpretation of the Bible, it interprets homosexuality as a sin and believes it should not be publicly accepted. In its 2003 document, the Vatican stated that homosexual acts “are contrary to natural law” and described them as morally wrong, although it said that persons with what it defined as “homosexual tendencies” should be respected.
Despite this, some Catholics have interpreted the Bible differently and have chosen to be supportive of same-sex couples, seeing them as capable of love and experiencing the same joys that heterosexual couples can. Consequently, the polarised views of the Roman Catholic Church on this issue have led to much debate.
Non-Religous View on Homosexuality in the Bible
Those with no religious affiliation may view the Bible differently. To many, the Bible is a source of knowledge and it may be used to understand the history and development of the human race. Some may focus on the positive elements of the Bible and overlook any homophobic attitudes or behaviours as an antiquated relic in need of revision and reinterpretation.
Some scholars and activists have championed the idea of a more inclusive and loving interpretation of the Bible, taking an overarching sense of love and acceptance rather than focusing on specific and often specifically outdated situations. These interpretations have served to remind many of the Bible’s true purpose – the pure love of humans and the encouragement of a healthy acceptance of diversity.
Moving Beyond Homophobia
In modern society, it is generally accepted that sexual orientation is a personal choice and is to be respected, not condemned. As such, there is a growing understanding of and acceptance of homosexuality, and the concept of ‘love is love’ is becoming increasingly understood.
It is important to note that although the word ‘homosexuality’ was added to some translations of the Bible relatively recently, this does not mean that same-sex behaviour did not exist in Ancient times. Sexual behaviour of all sorts has been a part of human nature for thousands of years, and it is important that we move beyond mere tolerance and acceptance, and look to embrace and celebrate the uniqueness of all individuals.
Implications of the Word ‘Homosexuality’ Going Forward
The introduction of the word ‘homosexuality’ into some translations of the Bible has opened up discussion and debate surrounding the understanding of homosexuals and same-sex relationships. It has given way to reinterpretations of various scriptures, bringing about inclusivity, acceptance and tolerance for diverse sexual orientations.
On an individual level, it has empowered many LGBTQ+ people, granting them hope and the assurance that their orientation is nothing to be ashamed of. On a broader scale, it has served to challenge centuries-old ideas, beliefs and norms, and push the conversation forward.
With theword ‘homosexuality’ being increasingly used in everyday language, there is no doubt that society is progressing in the area of sexual and gender acceptance. We are moving towards a society where understanding, inclusion and celebration of all individuals is the norm, regardless of their sexual orientation.