Same-sex relationships: A 1st-century perspective
Read in the light of other Jewish literature of the time, not least, Philo of Alexandria, Paul’s comments in Romans 1 about same-sex relations should be seen as a rhetorical ploy to gain a sympathetic hearing for his argument from the Roman recipients of his letter by appealing to common ground in deploring the sins of the Gentile world before turning to challenge them about the fact that all have sinned, and so need the good news of God’s righteousness revealed in Christ. Typically Paul’s focus is not just acts, but attitude and misdirected passions, which he sees as the result of misdirected and perverted understandings of God. Based on the Genesis creation stories, Paul assumes that all people are heterosexual and that the prohibitions of Leviticus should apply also to lesbian relations. Where these assumptions are not shared, Paul’s conclusions must be revisited in the light of informed compassion and responsible ethical insight.