Finally we get to the hoax that Romans 1 is about same-sex contact.
This is a very complex passage that draws extensively on Old Testament narratives. So this gets a little involved.
For Bible scholars today, the passage is often regarded as a mystery. As Kathy L. Gaca puts it, “the identity of Paul’s ‘truth-suppressing people’ remains open-ended, which likely precludes a modern consensus about their cultural identity.”
Romans 1 is a story about the problem of judgement.
Who is it about? As in 1:20, it seems to concern beings who are familiar with, or present at, ‘the creation of the world’. These are beings who ‘claimed to be wise’.
This points to 1 Corinthians 2:6–8, where Paul refers to “the wisdom of this age or of the rulers of this age, who are coming to nothing.”
Two clarifications are going to be helpful.
First, for over a millennia, Christianity tried to forget about the actual plot of the Bible. It came back into focus with the Dead Sea Scrolls, which highlight an involved story of angels who ‘ruled’ the earth. Romans 1 is a summary of that narrative, as Ann Nyland seems to have first realized.
The fact that Christians today are unfamiliar with these references is only to say that Christians don’t know their own book.
As scholars note, Romans 1 clearly revises a text in the Jewish scriptures called the Wisdom of Solomon, which is about evil spirits who induced humans into idolatry, i.e. worship of themselves.
Craig S. Keener summarizes:
Wisdom declares that truth about God is evident in creation (Wis. 13:1–9); people, however, have failed to infer that truth from the good things that are visible (13:1). Thus, they ended up reducing God’s rightful glory by worshipping images of humans or beasts (13:13–14), images of created things (13:10–14; 1; 14:8,11). Once introduced, idolatry grew comfortably worse (14:15–16), and it has led to other vices (14:22–24).
So, having spent a few years reading the Dead Sea Scrolls, the Wisdom of Solomon and other scholarly literature, let me try to summarize story Paul is telling in Romans 1.
In the ‘Beginning’, the humans are created. Just after, in Genesis 6, some evil angels co-opt and impregnate human women. This is Paul’s language of Romans 1:26: “For their women exchanged the natural sexual relations for unnatural ones . . .”
The ‘unnatural’ sexual relations are happening with angels, who have a different ‘nature’ than humans. They’re another kind of being.
The famous ‘Nephilim’ are born. The human race has a half-sibling, a hybrid race of angel-human beings who move to take over the world. Named super-beings like Nimrod and Goliath are this kind of being.
Other giants are unnamed but seen when the Israelites enter the Promised Land. Just check in with Numbers 13:33, where the spies report on the Nephilim: “We seemed like grasshoppers in our own eyes, and we looked the same to them.” They’re really tall.
The giants are not known for sexual appetite. As befits creatures of enormous size, they‘re known for eating. Matthew Goff notes: “Their crimes, which include murder, cannibalism and the consumption of blood, are driven by their insatiable appetites.” (cf. Psalm 57:4: “I am forced to dwell among ravenous beasts…” (cf. 1 Enoch 7:3–5)
Now, that verse, Romans 1:27, which has been used to persecute gays:
In the same way the men also abandoned natural relations with women and were inflamed with lust for one another. Men committed shameful acts with other men, and received in themselves the due penalty for their error.
Two notes. The Nephilim are ‘men’ in Genesis 6:4. In Daniel 9:21, the angel Gabriel is a ‘man’. So the word ‘man’ doesn’t mean ordinary human.
Then the word translated ‘lust’ here is not a word about sex. It’s the Greek orexei — used nowhere else in the New Testament — but used in the Wisdom of Solomon 16:2, where it means . . . appetite or hunger for food.
Paul is briefly alluding to a story of giants abandoning natural processes of sex with human women. Instead, they’re ‘inflamed’ with hunger. They commit shameful acts—killing people and eating them?
They receive ‘due penalty for their error’. The punishment fit the crime.
This is a key biblical principle, as noted in Wisdom 11:16: “a person is punished by the very things by which a person sins.”
The Nephilim story begins with illicit reproduction, the angels stealing human females in Genesis 6. The punishment which fits this crime is a race being born that can’t have sex. They’re too big and hungry! Their angel fathers didn’t think that one through too good.
To “abandon natural relations” in Romans 1:27 means the children of the angels don’t or can’t have sex.
Because of the Dead Sea Scrolls, Christian scholars are only recently getting around to asking questions important to the Bible’s Jewish writers, like: How did the giants die?