Homosexuality: Contemporary Claims Examined in Light of the Bible and Other Ancient Literature and Law

By James B. DeYoung
Grand Rapids : Kregel (2000). 383 Pages.

Reviewed by Dr. Michael Grisanti
13.1 (Spring 2002) : 115-116

 James DeYoung, a professor of New Testament at Western Seminary in Portland, Oregon, writes this book to address the notion accepted in a number of denominations that “[o]ne can be a practicing homosexual and an authentic Christian.” This mistaken notion is based on the belief that ancient cultures and the Bible did not condemn homosexuality as a condition or as a lifestyle.

After a powerful preface and introduction, DeYoung presents his material in three sections: “OT Literature and Its Setting,” “New Testament Literature and Its Setting,” and “Law, Morality, and Homosexual Behavior.” At the end of the volume, DeYoung provides a select bibliography that includes only the key authors on both sides of the issue. The value of the book is greatly enhanced by the presence of a thorough Scripture and Ancient Literature index and subject index.

The first seven chapters share a common structure. DeYoung begins the chapter with a fictional story based on archaeological and literary evidence. This story delineates one or more characters’ confrontation or encounter with homosexuality in the time period covered by that chapter. After a thorough presentation of the key issues and passages, the chapter concludes with a helpful summary. DeYoung provides a helpful and concise overview of his main points in that chapter. The chapter concludes with a section entitled “So What?” Building on the content of the chapter (and further summarizing its major assertions), DeYoung provides pointed observations (in list form) about homosexuality and the impact of evidence against its moral viability. Four excurses and three tables appear throughout the volume.

The ensuing overview of the book summarizes the chapters that have the clearest biblical significance and only refers to the other chapters. DeYoung begins the first section by examining the witness of the OT and ancient Judaism concerning homosexuality. He examines the input of Genesis 1–2 (Creation), Genesis 19 (Sodom), Judges 19–20 (Gibeah), Deuteronomy and Kings, Ezekiel 16, and Leviticus 18–20. In summary, he contends that homosexuality violates the creation order and pattern for male and female and for marriage (Genesis 1–2). Genesis 19 and Judges 19–20 indeed address the issue of homosexual rape and references in legal passages indicate God’s attitude toward homosexuality, whether a one-time event or a lifestyle. A table providing a summary of vices referred to in Leviticus 18 and 20 comes at the end of the first chapter. The next two chapters consider the witness of the Apocrypha and Pseudepigrapha and that of the Septuagint against homosexuality.

The next major section looks at NT literature and its setting. In Chapter 4, DeYoung considers homosexuality as “against nature” in Romans 1. He concludes that Paul is not distinguishing between acceptable “natural” homosexuality and unacceptable “unnatural” homosexuality. Rather, Paul condemns all kinds of homosexual conduct. In the next chapter DeYoung delineates the meaning and origin of the Greek term arsenokoitai in 1 Corinthians and 1 Timothy. He argues that this term in both biblical books clearly serves as a reference to homosexuals in all of its manifestations. The final chapter of this section examines implicit references to homosexuality as found in the words of Jesus and the rest of the NT.

As part of the final section, Chapter 7 overviews various legislative precedents from the ancient world (from various cultures at different times). The last chapter provides answers to the twenty most important questions about homosexuality. After posing each question, DeYoung provides the “revisionist” answer and then the biblical answer.

Having read several sources that address the issue of homosexuality, this reviewer found DeYoung’s volume quite helpful. For anyone interested in discovering what the Bible has to say about current notions concerning homosexuality, DeYoung’s volume offers a great deal of help.