1 Corinthians 6:9—Was Paul against all homosexual acts or only offensive ones?

Problem: According to the niv, 1 Corinthians 6:9 speaks only against “homosexual offenders,” not against homosexuality as such. That is, the passage only condemns offensive homosexual acts, but it is not against homosexual activity per se. Was Paul against homosexual behavior or only offensive homosexual behavior?

Solution: When Paul speaks of “homosexual offenders” (niv) it means the offense of homosexuality, not an offensive homosexual act as opposed to a non-offensive one. This is made plain by several factors. First, “homosexual” qualifies “offenders,” not the reverse. That is, it speaks against a homosexual kind of offense, not an offensive kind of homosexual.

Second, if only offensive kinds of homosexual acts were evil, then what about adulterers and idolaters spoken against in the same passage. Are we to conclude that only offensive kinds of adultery and idolatry are evil.

Third, no such qualification—that only offensive kinds of homosexuality are wrong—is made anywhere else in Scripture in the numerous times it is condemned (see Lev. 18:22–24; Rom. 1:26; cf. also 1 Tim. 1:10; Jude 7).

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This excerpt is from When Critics Ask: A Popular Handbook on Bible Difficulties (Wheaton, Ill.: Victor Books, 1992). © 2014 Norman Geisler and Thomas Howe. All rights reserved. Used by permission. Click here to purchase this book.