Errors #1 and 2

Error #1: Paul Knew of Loving Same-Sex Relationships

Dr. Brownson’s claim that there were no accounts of loving same-sex relationships in Paul’s day is key to his position that Paul only prohibited excessive acts. Brownson’s claim is that Paul could not prohibit what he did not know. If it can be shown there were loving same-sex relationships during Paul’s day, then this particular objection of Dr. Brownson’s is completely undermined.

When this point is considered from a logical point of view it might appear to be out of place as far as the direction section 2 takes at this point. As far as correctly interpreting Romans 1 is concerned, that is perhaps true. However, the primary purpose of this section is to examine Dr. Brownson’s proposed interpretation of Romans 1. When viewed in that light it is hoped the reader will see that it is very important to understand this statement by Dr. Brownson and the light it sheds on his overall position.   

It comes as quite a surprise that Dr. Brownson makes such a strong claim that there were no accounts of loving same-sex relationships in Paul’s day. Dr. Brownson states, “What Paul has in mind here is not the modern concept of homosexual orientation, that is, the notion that some people are not sexually attracted to those of the opposite sex at all, but instead are inclined to love those of the same sex. Such a perspective is found nowhere in the literature of Paul’s day” (Brownson, pages 155-56). In his bibliography Dr. Brownson lists an article written by Dr. Mark Smith. That article is only 33 pages long. Therefore, Dr. Brownson must be acquainted with all of the contents of such a relatively short work. Yet, in that article Dr. Smith lists six accounts of loving same-sex relationships from Paul’s time period. One of the partners is no less than Dr. Brownson’s ultimate example of excess, namely Emperor Caligula. Caligula was involved in a loving relationship with a man named Lepidus.

So why doesn’t Dr. Brownson cover these six cases? He is silent on these examples. If Dr. Browson disagrees with the fact that Smith lists these as six instances of loving, same-sex relationships then Brownson needs to show how Smith is wrong. Or quote someone who does disprove them. Ignoring them is simply not an option. This is a very serious short-coming of Dr. Brownson’s book.


Error #2: Dr. Brownson Bases His Conclusions on the General Language of Romans 1 and Ignores Very Specific Statements

Dr. Brownson’s primary objection to the historic interpretation of Romans 1 is his position that only acts which are excessive are prohibited in Romans 1. He refers to the four terms for the justification of his position. Those four terms are translated lust or desire (verse 24), passion (verse 26), consumed (verse 27) and passion (verse 27).

It must be pointed out that these terms of lust (desire), passion, impurity and dishonor (terms he also deals with at length) are all general in nature. Impurity could be caused in the Old Testament and in the New Testament by a wide variety of things. Dishonor, too, can be the result of many things. The same is true of someone who is or something that is shameless. Nowhere prior to verses 26 and 27 does Paul say they did “_______” (fill in the blank) which made them impure, or dishonorable. So up to here this is all very vague.

Nowhere in Romans 1 does Paul list a specific act and say because they did this act, which is self-destructive or over-the-top they were guilty of excessive acts. Dr. Brownson’s argument of excess is based entirely and solely on vague generalities. Dr. Brownson suggests that Paul is referring to sins such as Caligula committed. However, aside from same-sex acts Romans 1 does not spell out any of the atrocities Caligula committed. Dr. Brownson’s reference to Caligula is pure conjecture, there is nothing in Romans 1 to base it on.

Verses 26 and 27, on the other hand, are very specific. When they spell out that men giving up women and turning to men sexually is shameless, they define very clearly just what is impure, what is dishonorable and what is shameless. The four specific references are as follows:

  • For their women exchanged the natural sexual use (implied of males) for those that are contrary to nature . . .

  • . . . and the men likewise gave up the natural sexual use of women . . .

  • . . . and were consumed with passion for one another . . .

  • . . . men committing shameless acts with men . . .

We must not miss the forest for the trees. The message frankly seems to be very clear here. If the message is not clearly the historical understanding of this passage, then it will be possible for someone to write a clear rebuttal, which can be included in the Response section in reply to this statement.

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