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Homosexuality in the Bible. Interview With Authors of Exegetical Work

ROME, FEB. 12, 2007 (Zenit.org).- Three exegetes have published a new book in which they conclude that the Bible clearly teaches homosexual practices are wrong.

"Clarifications sur l'Homosexualité dans la Bible" (Clarifications on Homosexuality in the Bible) was written by a priest from the John Paul II Institute and a priest and a Protestant pastor from the University of Fribourg.

Emmanuel Community Father Jean-Baptiste Edart, Dominican Father Adrian Schenker and pastor Innocent Himbaza spoke about their book in this interview with ZENIT.

Q: How was the idea of the book conceived?

Himbaza: A certain number of publications mention the topic of homosexuality when referring to the Bible. I must point out that I study these publications carefully, because I am especially interested in the way that social issues integrate biblical facts.

I then observed that on the topic of homosexuality, the biblical intention is often drowned by the authors' personal opinions. It seems to me that, in a number of cases, the biblical intention is biased or forced. Now, these positions influence readers, including theologians.

This is why, to enlarge the debate, I first suggested to Adrian Schenker to take up the biblical texts with me and reread them with respect. As we are two Old Testament scholars, we thought it would be interesting to associate a New Testament scholar with us in order to cover the whole Bible.

So he contacted Jean-Baptiste Edart, who willingly agreed to collaborate on this project. The aim was to limit ourselves to the Bible and to observe what it really says about homosexuality.

Father Schenker: I had a bit of time on several occasions, independently of one another, to encounter the problem of homosexuality posed to Christian Churches. These contacts and publications showed me that often the biblical facts are not treated with sufficient seriousness.

That is why, when Innocent Himbaza -- who had the idea of this book -- invited me to participate, I consented. For one must do justice to the biblical facts, even when it is well understood that the question has aspects other than that of the Bible. But the Bible is certainly one.

Q: A word on the book's content?

Father Edart: Above all one must first explain the literal sense of the biblical text on the question of homosexuality. To do so, we study the biblical texts with the aid of the instruments of modern biblical criticism, without taking recourse to the tradition of interpretation proper to each of the Christian confessions.

Father Schenker addresses the legislative texts of Leviticus -- 18:22 and 20:13, questioning himself on the justification of the biblical text on the clearly enounced prohibition, Pastor Himbaza takes up the accounts of the Old Testament: Sodom and Gomorrah -- Genesis 19; the rape of Gibeah -- Judges 19; and the relationship between Jonathan and David -- 1 Samuel 18:21 and 2 Samuel 1.

He questions the place that homosexuality has or might have in these texts. I address the texts of St. Paul which speak of this subject -- Romans 1:18-32; 1 Timothy 1:10 and 1 Corinthians 6:9, specifying the meaning of certain ambiguous expressions and seeking to understand why Paul, in Romans, links idolatry to homosexuality. I conclude trying to see in what measure the Gospels address this question.

Q: This work was written by two Catholics and a Protestant. Do you think it can contribute to the progress of the ecumenical cause?

Imbaza: This book, which does not deal with ecumenism, can remind readers that Catholics and Protestants can in fact meet again around the same Bible. It shows that initiatives on various themes are possible and can be envisioned in an ecumenical framework.

Father Edart: This book is in itself an ecumenical work. Although each author is responsible for his part alone, the work was carried out in profound listening to one another.

This was translated in a mutual correction of works not only in the form, but at times also on the background. We were especially careful to avoid any interpretation of the text that went beyond its literal sense -- which is already word of God as the constitution "Dei Verbum" underlines.

Thus we made the experience of a common reading of the Scriptures possible. We very much hope that this book will help Christians of different confessions to dialogue on a particularly delicate and important subject.

Q: What is the book's message?

Imbaza: On reading, in their contexts, the biblical texts relative to the topic of homosexuality, one is obliged to see that the Bible's position is clearly against homosexual practices.

A healthy reading of the Bible, both of the Old as well as of the New Testament, cannot escape this fact. Contrary to certain publications, we think that the passages mentioned before as supposed illustrations of active homosexual life -- Jonathan and David, Jesus and the beloved disciple, etc. -- do not, in fact, evoke the subject.