Deuteronomy 23:17—Was homosexuality condemned because it was connected with idolatry?

Problem: Some argue that the biblical condemnations used against homosexuality were because of the temple cult-prostitutes who were associated with these idolatrous practices (Deut. 23:17). They insist that homosexuality as such is not thereby condemned, but only homosexual acts that are associated with idolatry, such as, the shrine prostitute (cf. 1 Kings 14:24).

Solution: Homosexual practices are not condemned in the Bible simply because they were connected with idolatry. This is made evident by several things. First, the condemnations on homosexual practices are often given apart from any explicit idolatrous practice (Lev. 18:22; Rom. 1:26–27).

Second, when homosexuality is associated with idolatry (such as in temple cult-prostitution), it is not essentially connected. It is only a concomitant sin, but not an equivalent one.

Third, sexual unfaithfulness is often used as an illustration of idolatry (e.g., Hosea 3:1; 4:12), but it has no necessary connection with it. Idolatry is a spiritual form of immorality. But immorality is wrong not only if it is done in connection with idol worship.

Fourth, idolatry may lead to immorality (cf. Rom. 1:22–27), but they are different sins.

Fifth, even the Ten Commandments distinguishes between idolatry (First Table of the Law, Ex. 20:3–4) and sexual sins (Second Table, Ex. 20:14, 17).

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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.