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Were loving, faithful same-sex relations known in antiquity?

This is a guest post from John Pike, making the case that loving, faithful same-sex relations were known in antiquity, amongst other kinds of same-sex sexual relationships.

John is a GP in the Bristol area whom I know online. We have had some very interesting discussions in the context of our having quite different views on whether the Church should change its teaching on marriage and same-sex sexual relationships. But, as with such discussions, we often find unexpected things in common. John here makes the case that, in the range of patterns of relationship, loving and faithful same-sex relationships were known in antiquity, drawing on academic work which is itself based on primary research. Although I might assess parts of the evidence differently, I think he is essentially correct; it seems extraordinary to suppose that contemporary examples of such relationships are a modern construction—and outside the Church debate this is a widely held view, and one that deserves to be taken seriously. But if John is correct in his helpful summary of the evidence, then it makes it very hard to argue that the biblical writers ‘did not know’ of faithful and loving same-sex relationships, or that they ‘only condemned’ abusive relationships of this form. Same-sex relationships, and views about them, seem to have been as diverse then as they are now.

The post consists of the section of John’s discussion relating particularly to the New Testament texts; the whole of his piece is attached at the end as a document for download, if you are interested in the wider argument. It includes sections on the Ancient Near East, more on Ancient Greece, and a section on female homoeroticism.

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Why read the Book of Revelation?

The Book of Revelation is the most remarkable text you will ever read. Setting aside any claims that we might want to make about it as a result of its being part of the canonical Scriptures of the Christian faith, it is the most extraordinary piece of literature ever written by a human being, and […]

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The church changed its mind on slavery. Why not on sex?

Will Jones writes: It rarely takes long in any discussion about a controversial ethical issue amongst Christians for someone to bring up slavery. Slavery is the great exemple of how Christian thinking has changed on a key ethical issue. Christians in the past permitted slavery, practised slavery, defended slavery. Scripture clearly permits slavery in certain circumstances, […]

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Violence in Christianity and Islam

Following the atrocities in London and Manchester in recent weeks, many commentators have been quick to say ‘This violence has nothing to do with Islam.’ When that is claimed by a leader within the Muslim community, then it appears to mean something particular: ‘This violence is nothing to do with Islamic beliefs as I understand […]

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Palm Sunday according to Matthew

It is always a relief when we celebrate Palm Sunday from Matthew or Mark’s account. Luke 19.36 in his account talks only the garments, and does not mention palm branches, so in those years we have to call it Garment Sunday (which doesn’t have the same ring about it). In fact it is only John, […]

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How do we give and receive love? (John 13)

The new edition of Scripture Union’s Encounter with God has just been published, and this is the third part of my contribution reflection on John 11–13. Acceptable service (John 13:1–17) Why do we find it so difficult to be served by others? Because it draws unwelcome attention to us? Or because we don’t feel we deserve the attention? […]

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The compassion of God in John 11

The new edition of Scripture Union’s Encounter with God has just been published, and this is the first part of my contribution reflection on John 11–13. Even to the casual reader, John’s gospel seems to be in two halves. In the first, we have a series of seven ‘signs’ performed by Jesus (including the water into […]

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