Dr. Michael Brown is a Messianic-Jewish Theologian and author, who’s publications include Can You Be Gay and Christian? and Outlasting The Gay Revolution: Where Homosexual Activism Is.I have been reading Dr.Brown’s material, on multiple theological matters, and have a great respect for him as my brother in Christ, but I must say that for a heterosexual man – he seems awfully concerned with what homosexuals do in the privacy of their bedrooms – especially considering that there are sins that should be of much greater concern.
It must also be noted, that for someone with a Ph.D in Near Eastern Languages and Literature and whom also serves as a professor of practical theology, he appears to find it difficult to apply exegesis when studying/teaching.1
Nonetheless, the two questions2 he posed to Gay-Christian activist Matthew Vines last year, are both reasonable and easily answered, yet go unreplied (until now!).
Question 1: Can you give me a single, unambiguous biblical example of a God-blessed homosexual relationship?
- There is no Biblical relationship – whether it be homosexual, heterosexual, romantic or platonic – that is completely unambiguous. Theologians are still debating over the most seemingly simple relationships between Biblical figures; Was Yeshua involved in a courtship with Miriam of Magdala? Did he have siblings, or was Mother Miriam a perpetual virgin? Everything is open to interpretation, it’s just about whether you have the evidence to back it up.
- Whilst God’s instruction is unchanging, the context in which we understand it very much is. We know that over the course of the 1600 year period in which the Bible was constructed, homosexual relationships were adulterous, incestuous, idolatrous and usually involved pederasty. This is why every obvious reference to a homosexual practise in the Bible is written in the context of temple prostitution, or rape. Gay couples as we know them today were so rare that they were virtually non-existent (In saying this, we do know that same-sex attraction has always occurred – as is evident through these exploitative, yet very real relationships – and that it is also a biological fact relating to hormones and birth order – see question 2).
Most of us know those words in which God declared the first marriage; words that are so often twisted around to batter LGBT people, “al ken azab ish eth ab eth em dabaq ishshah hayah basar echad” – “a man shall leave his father and his mother, and be joined (also clung, cleave) to his wife; and they shall become one flesh” (Genesis 2:24). Yet what those critics don’t realise, is that the same Hebrew word used to describe Adam’s oneness with Chavah, dabaq, is also used to describe Ruth’s feelings towards Naomi, “Ruth dabaq” – “Ruth clung unto her” (Ruth 1:14).
The book of Ruth was written between 931 and 1011 BCE, and the narrative begins in the town of Moab, where Naomi, her husband Elimelech and their two sons are forced to move after a famine sweeps their hometown of Bethlehem. It isn’t long before Naomi becomes a widow, and her sons husbands to Orpah and Ruth, two Moabite girls. Tragically, a short time later Orpah and Ruth too become widows. When Naomi declares that she will be returning to Bethlehem, she suggests that the girls also return to their families. Wisely Orpah compiles, but Ruth refuses and clings unto her.
the Bible goes onto to record Ruth saying (Ruth 1:16-17):
Do not press me to leave you or to turn back from following you! Where you go, I will go; where you lodge I will lodge; your people shall be my people, and your God my God. Where you die, I will die — there will I be buried. May the Lord do thus and so to me, and more as well, if even death parts me from you!
These vows are regularly exchanged at Christian weddings, with unsuspecting couples not realising that they were first exchanged between two women! What’s more, the vows take on a far deeper meaning than first expected.
When Ruth mentions death, it’s not a farce; the enormously patriarchal society in which Ruth lived, gave women 3 choices – to remain daughters of their fathers’ households, to become wives of their husbands’ households or to become outcasts of society which would likely result in death (see 1 Kings 17:10-24 & 2 Samuel 14:4-12). No man meant no social status, and women relied solely on men for their survival.3 So when we see Ruth potentially risking her life by clinging onto, and honouring another woman as spouses are supposed to honour each other, we begin to understand the profound bond these two women had.
When Ruth did remarry to Boaz, the Bible makes it clear that it was a marriage purely for convenience and stability – love is never even mentioned in reference to their relationship. Furthermore when Ruth bears a son, the neighbours congratulate Naomi saying, “A son has been born to Naomi!”, and as if he was simply their sperm donor, there is no mention of congratulations towards Boaz (Ruth 4:17).
Whilst it’d be impossible to prove a sexual relationship between these women (although highly unlikely, as that would be adultery), we can speculate safely whether it was of a romantic nature.4 As Paul Halsall states:
Is this a story about Lesbianism, which was not forbidden at all in the Law? Whatever the answer, it is a story of love and loyalty between two women.
Question 2: Do you agree that every reference to homosexual practice in the Bible is decidedly negative?
Homosexuality refers to romantic attraction, sexual attraction and/or sexual behaviours between people of the same sex.5 So if Dr. Brown is referring to the first two types of attractions listed, then no.
We must distinguish between romantic and sexual attraction, versus sexual behaviours – because not all of homosexual behaviours are Biblically moral (idolatry – Lev 18:22, rape – Gen 19:5, etc), just as not all heterosexual behaviours are Biblically moral (rape – Deut 22:25-27, adultery – Matt 5:27, etc).
Whenever the Bible makes mention of a sexual practise involving homosexuality, it is always in the context of idolatry or rape, which we understand to be immoral from a variety of other clearly-stated passages. There is no “decidedly negative” verse that refers to the “practise” of romantic or sexually moral homosexual relationships, as those were not relevant to the authors at the time. As Justin Lee has stated
Many things aren’t mentioned in the Bible, either because they weren’t part of the culture at that time (e.g. computer porn) or because they weren’t especially important issues to the Biblical authors (e.g. masturbation). In cases like these, we use general Biblical principles to address the issue, relying on the Holy Spirit for guidance.
I must also say that I personally find a great irony in Dr. Brown’s understanding of Leviticus 18:22, as he doesn’t appear to understand that this is a law forbidding idolatry, not homosexuality. In the hypothetical situation that he does and yet continues to preach against homosexuality in ALL cases – perhaps for the purpose of helping couples to avoid accidentally being idolatrous – there is a great irony that he has no problem cutting his hair as Leviticus 19:27 prohibits, which is also a law regarding idolatry.
So Dr. Brown, I hope that I was able to answer your questions sufficiently and help you to realise that you’re view of homosexuality, neither comes from God nor the Bible, but from yourself. May God continue to bless you.
1. “Biography – Ask Dr. Brown”. Ask Dr. Brown.
2. “Dr. Michael Brown Has 40 Answers And 2 Questions For ‘Gay’ Christian Matthew Vines”. Charisma News.
3. Lyimo-Mbowe, Hoyce Jacob. Feminist Expositions Of The Old Testament In Africa (Tanzania) In The Context Of The Office Held By Deborah In Judges 4 And 5, 2015.
4. “Ruth & Naomi, 20Th December”. Queering-the-church.blogspot.com.au, “Faithful To The Truth: The Teaching Of Sacred Scripture.”. Webspace.webring.com, “Ruth And Naomi: Love Between Women”. Jesusinlove.blogspot.com.au, “Would Jesus Discriminate? – Ruth Loved Naomi As Adam Loved Eve”. Wouldjesusdiscriminate.org.
5. Kaye, Bonnie and Doug Dittmer. Over The Cliff. [Terrace], B.C.: CCB, 2011.