A Theology of Sex: Genesis and Homosexuality (Part 1)

Even sex had a beginning. So in order to understand exactly what the Bible does and doesn’t say about homosexuality we should start with that book of beginnings: Genesis. What we will find in Genesis are two passages relevant for the discussion at hand. One passage doesn’t seem to have anything directly to say about homosexuality itself, and the other is a hotly debated passage. Nonetheless Genesis sets a pattern for what is healthy sexual expression and sinful sexual expression.

We will start with Genesis 1-2 and the discussions of sexual expression developed there. There are two passages in the opening chapters of Genesis that address human sexuality. The first passage, found in Genesis 1, comes as part of a rapid survey of all of God’s creative work, and it zeroes in on humanity as the overseers of this created world. The language regarding human sexuality in this passage focuses on its relation to the command to “fill the earth,” “subdue it” and “have dominion over it.” The text reads:

  Then God said, “Let us make man1 in our image, after our likeness. And let them have dominion over the fish of the sea and over the birds of the heavens and over the livestock and over all the earth and over every creeping thing that creeps on the earth.”  27 So God created man in his own image, in the image of God he created him; male and female he created them.  28 And God blessed them. And God said to them, “Be fruitful and multiply and fill the earth and subdue it and have dominion over the fish of the sea and over the birds of the heavens and over every living thing that moves on the earth.” (Genesis 1:26-28)

So sex here is primarily about procreation. The argument could be made that in an age of underpopulation heterosexuality must be necessarily enforced; it’s sort of heterosexuality by default. But is that to be the expected norm? Genesis 2 comes alongside this account to offer an answer.

Man is a greater focus in Genesis 2. But the discussion of human sexuality in this passage has nothing to do with procreation, in fact procreation doesn’t even appear as a part of the story until Genesis 3:16 (as part of the curse for sin no less). Instead the discussion of human sexuality in Genesis 2 revolves around companionship. It is “not good for man to be alone,” God says. And he proceeds to find a suitable helper for Adam, but none of the animals are fit. So God makes woman. Robert Gagnon writes about the significance of the creation of Eve, saying:

The solution that God arrived at was not the independent creation of another adam, a replica of the first, but rather to “build” a complementary being from a portion of adam’s own self, a “rib” (2:21-22). That the unique complementarity of male and female is being stressed in the narrative is evident from adam’s response when this new being was presented to him (now clearly a “him”): “This at last is bone from my bones and flesh from my flesh; to this one shall be given the name ‘woman’ for from man this one was taken” (2:23). Only a being made from adam can and ought to become someone with whom adam longs to reunite in sexual intercourse and marriage, a reunion that not only provides companionship but restores adam to his original wholeness. (The Bible and Homosexual Practice, 60-61)

This is important because it creates a pattern for healthy sexuality that is picked up in the rest of the Scriptures. This motif of male and female complementarity reappears in both the Old Testament and the New as the “natural” order. In fact it becomes common to critique homosexuality in the Scriptures as that which goes against “nature,” as “unnatural.”

Though Genesis 1 and 2 do not address specifically homosexuality they are no less important to the discussion, for they develop a foundation for healthy human sexual expression. That foundation includes an argument for heterosexuality rooted in both procreation and relational complementarity. Based on the ways later authors of Scripture use this account we will see that the etiology of Genesis 1 and 2 is not merely descriptive but prescriptive. Heterosexuality is the Biblical model for God-ordained sexual expression.

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