Re: Rom 1 and phusis

On Wed, 28 Sep 1994, Kenneth Litwak wrote:

>      I would pose two questions for Mr. Jordan's "transaltion:.  First, why is 
> that in 1 COr 6, where we encounter a rare word, only the context can dictate 
> what the word means, and other contexts andwords with possibly overlapping 
> semantic domains are irrelevant, but in Roms 1, the context seems all but 
> ignored while a wide net is cast to come up with possible meanings?

If you mean _arsenokoitEs_, I'm not sure what comparisons you are drawing 
with the meaning of the Rom. 1 passage.  If you mean the word _phusis_, 
it is used often enough in the NT to give some idea of what the NT 
writers meant by it and its related forms.  So _phusis_ in the NT is not 
a rare word.  I would also like to know in what sense I am "all but" 
ignoring the context of Rom. 1.  The context is one in which pagans 
"exchange" and "give up" an original conception of a single holy God in 
favor of worshipping created things; this "exchange" and "giving up" of a 
heterosexual nature, if that is what is being discussed in Rom. 1:26-27, 
is not served by reference to ordinary homosexuals.  That is why the 
context of Rom. 1 *demands* that the passage not refer to those who are 
already homosexual in their behavior and orientation.

One way out of that predicament is to assume that Rom. 1:26-27 refers not 
to actual persons but to the entire human race at a mytho-historical 
level (as Hays argues).  The trouble with that is that that also subverts 
and overthrows Paul's argument: his readers would have been well aware 
that the entire world did not become homosexual after it adopted 
paganism, and that Gentiles were just as likely to love members of the 
opposite sex as anyone.  In these 2 verses Paul has clearly shifted from 
the mytho-history of the fall from Ur-Monotheismus to indicating specific 
individuals with specific sins: people Paul's readers would recognize as 
their nextdoor neighbors and people they saw on the street every day.  
That is the point of his rhetorical turn in ch. 2 were he catches them in 
their condemnation of such people: real condemnations of real people.

> up in this is the issue that the proposed translation continues to assert the
> very case that needs proving, i.e., that Paul discerned a difference 
> between heterosexuals doing homosexual things and true homosexuals.  I think
> the most natural way to read the passage is to understand Paul as saying there
> was no such thing as a homosexual in any sense until God delivered them over 
> to an uncontrolled, God-alienated state (there's probably one long German 
> word for that, but I don't know what it is).

I don't think you realize the extent to which you are positing an unusual 
theological twist on this passage yourself.  You seem to be saying that 
God causes homosexuality at the same time as he condemns it, and that 
homosexuality is a product of and development from disbelief in God, 
which would make it difficult to account for the homosexuals that arise 
from among the ranks of Christians and Jews throughout history, despite the 
hand-wringing and guilt imposed upon them by their religious leaders.  I 
on the other hand am assuming that Paul was not naive (in my 
understanding of what would count as naive), and that he is aware of the 
existence of the homosexual orientation among those not "alienated from 
God."  It is *possible* that Paul thought homosexuals were heterosexuals, 
as I said, in which case his understanding of the issue would be so muddled 
that he could in no way be considered inspired or authoritative on this 
subject.  But actually many ancients were aware of the existence of 
exclusive homosexual and heterosexual orientations (even though they had 
no terms within which to discuss this directly - only by 
circumlocution).  It is my reluctance to dismiss Paul's insights for this 
reason that inspired my reconsideration of the passage.

Greg Jordan