The Meaning Of “Nature” In Romans 1 And Its Implications For Biblical Proscriptions Of Homosexual Behavior -- By: James B. DeYoung

Journal: Journal of the Evangelical Theological Society
Volume: JETS 31:4 (Dec 1988)
Article: The Meaning Of “Nature” In Romans 1 And Its Implications For Biblical Proscriptions Of Homosexual Behavior
Author: James B. DeYoung


The Meaning Of “Nature” In Romans 1
And Its Implications For Biblical Proscriptions
Of Homosexual Behavior

James B. DeYoung*

In recent years various attempts have been made to give approval to homosexual nature or behavior on the basis of the Bible. Various passages of Scripture, including Romans 1, have been reinterpreted so that the traditional interpretation has been found incorrect or at least irrelevant for the modern age.

Part of this new approach to Romans 1 focuses on new ways of understanding the meaning of “nature” (physis) in vv 26–27. For some it is limited to “what is natural to me.”1 It is argued that Paul does not refer to those whose own nature or primary orientation is homosexual. Hence Paul condemns heterosexuals acting as homosexuals (perverts) in a context of idolatry and lust; he does not condemn true homosexuals, homosexuals born such (inverts), for practicing homosexuality. Boswell adds that it has nothing to do with natural law since this concept did not exist until many centuries after Paul.

Others believe that the foregoing distinction made between inversion and perversion regarding “nature” is legitimate for modern times but that Paul was unaware of it in his day. The Bible “knows nothing of inversion as an inherited trait, or inherent condition due to psychological or glandular causes, and consequently regards all homosexual practice as evidence of perversion.”2 Therefore Paul could hardly have made distinctions regarding perversion and inversion when these were unintelligible to him. Hence Paul is simply irrelevant or incomplete on the question of homosexuality.

Still another view holds that “nature” has nothing to do with Jewish views of the creation or with theories of natural law. It is a concept ultimately derived from Greek, not Jewish, sources.3 The only model of homosexuality that Paul condemns is the current Greek one—namely, pederasty.4 Hence Romans 1 has little or no relevance to the modern model of mutual adult-adult

*James DeYoung is professor of New Testament language and literature at Western Conservative Baptist Seminary in Portland, Oregon.

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