Next in our Clobber Passage series we have Romans 1:26-27. If you haven't already, check out our previous blog posts on Genesis, Leviticus, and Deuteronomy by clicking here!
"For this reason God gave them up to degrading passions. Their women exchanged natural intercourse for unnatural, and in the same way also the men, giving up natural intercourse with women, were consumed with passion for one another. Men committed shameless acts with men and received in their own persons the due penalty for their error.” (NRSV)
Who is "them" in the verse shown above? Is he talking to Jews or Gentiles? Patheos gives some insight via an article written by a Don M Burrows. In this article they reference an understanding that this "clobber passage" is referring to Gentiles of which the Jews thought to be untouchables.
"...They’re rotten, horrible individuals. Did you hear the sorts of things they do? In fact, as pointed out by scholar Calvin Porter, 'they' recurs in this section with striking concentration, with repetition of the third-person pronoun αὐτός thirteen times, the reflexive (“themselves”) once, and third-person plural verbs over and over: 'No other section of Romans contains such a concentration,' he observes."
The article continues, "...What’s even more striking, notes Porter, is what comes next: an abrupt change to the second person in Romans 2:1: 'Therefore you have no excuse, whoever you are, when you judge others; for in passing judgment on another you condemn yourself, because you, the judge, are doing the very same things.'
Here, then, is the vocative in the Greek, 'Oh man,' a grammatical case used for direct address: ὦ ἄνθρωπε. And this takes us to the question I have posed to those who repeat 1:26-27 in condemnation. Who’s the ἄνθρωπος that Paul’s addressing here?"
Many scholars have spent their lives studying WHO Paul is speaking to and the mass majority hold that he is referring to Gentiles. But what were they doing and why? What on earth was the reasoning for the sexual descriptions in the passage? Let's find out! Evangelical Concerned Inc. gives a much better understanding of Romans 1:26-27 in regards to contest:
"Paul is ridiculing pagan religious rebellion, saying that the pagans knew God but worshiped idols instead of God. To build his case — which he’ll turn against judgmental Jews in chapter 2 — he refers to typical practices of the fertility cults involving sex among priestesses and between men and eunuch prostitutes such as served Aphrodite at Corinth, from where he was writing this letter to the Romans. Their self-castration rites resulted in a bodily 'penalty'...these religious prostitutes would engage in same-sex orgies in the pagan temples all along the coasts of Paul’s missionary journeys."
Based on the above, I'd say another way the verse could be written might be one given by the QJV Bible:
"Their women did change their natural use into that which is against nature; and likewise also the men, left of the natural use of the woman, burned in ritual lust, one toward another; Men with men working that which is pagan and unseemly. For this cause God gave the idolaters up to vile affections, receiving in themselves that recompense of their error which was meet."
In conclusion, Romans 1: 26-27 is in reference to pagan Gentiles who are practicing idolatry by participating in temple orgies. Why use this to attack loving, Christian, same-gendered relationships?
What are your thoughts on all this? Let us know in the comments below!
Written by Alexander M. Burchnell
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Evangelicals Concerned Inc. https://ecinc.org/clobber-passages/romans-126-27/