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Was The Apostle Paul Gay?


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I was recently reading the book Rescuing The Bible From Fundamentalism by Bishop Spong and in one chapter, Spong suggests the possibility that Paul could have been a closeted gay man. He cites the verses where Paul talks about his uncontrollable members in Romans, which Spong believes is referring to Paul's sexual organs and other verses where Paul talks about his sins of the flesh he knows is wrong but he can't control. If we accept that members is referring to sexual organs, Spong goes onto suggest that why didn't Paul get married if he had uncontrollable sexual desires like he commands Christians to do in 1 Corinthians 7? Spong's explanation was that Paul was a closeted gay male and the thorn in the flesh is Paul's homosexuality. Some scholars believe the thorn in the flesh was some physical ailment Paul had, but Spong questions if it's a physical ailment, why does Paul refer to it as an attack from Satan? Do you think it's likely that Paul could have been a closeted gay and this explains why Paul was so fanatical as a believer or is Spong just reading a modern mindset into a first century writing?

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I would say the latter. Spong's interpretation strikes me as more for the sake of controversy than one arrived at for the sake of objective truth or scholarship. In the absence of any real or substantive reasons for thinking Paul was gay, Spong's claim just seems a little too tailor made for modern America's socio-cultural landscape. Not that I would care either way concerning Paul's sexuality.

Edited by Mike
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I agree with Mike. To my knowledge, this is all speculation and not scholarship. It's one thing to say "one understanding might be this," but he seems to want to assert it as a "scholarly" understanding. Of course, the problem here is that he argues that a significant problem with fundamentalism is that is isn't based on scholarship, or better yet it flies in the face of scholarship. When he says things like this, it unfortunately undermines his credibility as a scholar.

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To be fair, Spong does say this is only a hypothesis and this was an older book of his from the early 90s, so I don't know if he still holds the same views now. Some of his views on Paul's writings in this book are based on out-dated scholarship. Like in this book, he had still accepted Paul wrote Colossians, but modern scholarship no longer believes Paul wrote that book. In another instance, Spong attributes sexist verses in 1 Corinthians to Paul but modern scholarship believes that these verses were added in later, so I wonder if this is just an argument that's a product of an out-dated book. I've seen another more recent video on youtube where Spong seems to have changed his view on this. I've heard other arguments that the verses on homosexuality are mistranslated and that Romans is condemning temple prostitution and the original Greek word used in place of homosexuality in 1 Corinthians is a word that's difficult to translate in English and isn't referring to homosexuality, but I don't know how accurate these arguments are either.

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To be fair, Spong does say this is only a hypothesis and this was an older book of his from the early 90s, so I don't know if he still holds the same views now. Some of his views on Paul's writings in this book are based on out-dated scholarship. Like in this book, he had still accepted Paul wrote Colossians, but modern scholarship no longer believes Paul wrote that book. In another instance, Spong attributes sexist verses in 1 Corinthians to Paul but modern scholarship believes that these verses were added in later, so I wonder if this is just an argument that's a product of an out-dated book. I've seen another more recent video on youtube where Spong seems to have changed his view on this

Good point. If you have a link to that youtube vid, I'd like to see it. Sounds interesting.

 

. I've heard other arguments that the verses on homosexuality are mistranslated and that Romans is condemning temple prostitution and the original Greek word used in place of homosexuality in 1 Corinthians is a word that's difficult to translate in English and isn't referring to homosexuality, but I don't know how accurate these arguments are either.

I've heard that as well, but don't remember the source.

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I'm not sure how valid those alternate interpretations of Paul on homosexuality are, but I do know how they have historically been interpreted. I do endorse a liberal or metaphorical reading of scripture, but I'm not for revisionist approaches to the bible. Both Judaism and Christianity have historically generally been against homosexuality in its affirmation of the marriage covenant, and their scriptures as I read them honestly reflects that ethic. I, however - and I think just about all of us here would agree - do not regard homosexuality as a sin, or think that there is anything at all unnatural about it. If we disagree with Paul or with some other biblical author, we shouldn't hesitate to say so, we needn't try to make their views mesh with our understandings. Such an approach seems to argue that all our views need to be justified by the bible somehow, that if the bible is saying something then we really ought to believe it and not contradict it. This goes not just for homosexuality but other issues as well. I do not approach scripture as a one-way street, as in, it tells us what to do and then we do it. The way I see it, there ought to be a dialogue, a relationship with the text, that allows for disagreement and contradiction.

 

Peace to you,

Mike

Edited by Mike
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Such an approach seems to argue that all our views need to be justified by the bible somehow, that if the bible is saying something then we really ought to believe it and not contradict it. This goes not just for homosexuality but other issues as well. I do not approach scripture as a one-way street, as in, it tells us what to do and then we do it. The way I see it, there ought to be a dialogue, a relationship with the text, that allows for disagreement and contradiction.

 

 

That's definitely a good point. I just find these alternate theories about Paul to be interesting. I think the most way out there theory I've heard about Paul was this one theory that Paul never existed and that the letters of Paul were written by Simon Magus and the Marcionites but I'm not sure if I believe that: http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Simon_Magus#Radical_criticism
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