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Scripture deserves more careful interpretation

09 August 2013


From the Revd Dr Thomas Plant

Sir, - I was intrigued by the Revd Jonathan Frais's response to the Very Revd Dr Jeffrey John's defence of "gay marriage" ( Letters, 26 July), given that not one of the passages that Mr Frais cites from holy scripture actually pertains to the matter.

In Romans 1, St Paul speaks of men turning from the "natural use" of women to each other. Leaving aside the problem of seeing sex as the "use" of women, or the fact that this passage refers only to men, one can hardly maintain that those who wish to enter same-sex partnerships are deserting heterosexual partners to do so.

In the latter two passages, 1 Corinthians 6 and 1 Timothy 1, Paul disparages "arsenokoitai", a word that, although often foolhardily translated in terms of male homosexuality, is unknown in any previous literature, and has so far escaped any scholarly consensus on its meaning.

In other words, Mr Frais's criticism of Dr John is based on one irrelevant passage and a single word of indeterminate sense.

That said, we should certainly heed Mr Frais's call for a return to the guidance of the Word. The living Word of God, Jesus Christ, never once mentions "arsenokoitai", despite St Paul's apparent fixation with them. And if by the "Word" Mr Frais means scripture, we must surely take the Bible seriously enough that we read it with scholarly discernment rather than inherited prejudice. The former, I think, is Dr John's approach.

15 Bourne Road
Hertfordshire HP4 3JY

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