by Dr. Michael Kruger
This is the sixth and final installment of a series of posts reviewing the new History Channel series entitled Bible Secrets Revealed (for others installments, see here, here,here, here, and here).
It looks like the History Channel saved the best (or most controversial) for last. This last episode is provocatively entitled, “Sex and the Scriptures.” The episode description really sets the tone:
Millions of people around the world look to the Bible for moral guidance about marriage, faith and family. But could the Bible contain contradictions, or hidden meanings, that challenge our beliefs about what is right–and what is wrong–when it comes to human sexuality?
Gee, I wonder what the answer to this question will be. As we will see below, despite the veneer of neutrality here, the History Channel has no intention of presenting both sides of the issue. It has a clear agenda to push the boundaries about what the Bible really teaches about sex.
So, here are some issues the video raises, and my responses:
1. Does Ruth try to seduce Boaz? Not surprisingly, the episode quickly gets to the story of Ruth and Boaz. But, rather than seeing it as a story of love and redemption (as Boaz rescues Ruth from her life as a widow), it presents it as a story of sex and seduction. In particular, the video claims that when Ruth uncovers the feet of Boaz, it is her attempt to have sexual relations with him.
But is that really the case? It’s not surprising that modern readers may take the story in this direction (it seems like modern readers take most stories in this direction!), but it makes nonsense out of the text. For one, the Bible never shies away from telling the reader when people have sexual relations (e.g., David and Bathsheeba), so why would we have to read between the lines here? On the contrary, the text tells us not that Boaz had sexual relations with Ruth, but that he woke later in the night in surprise, saying “Who are you?”! If she were trying to send a sexual message, apparently he didn’t get it.
And then, to top it off, Boaz commends her integrity (v.10), and then shows his own integrity by deferring to a nearer kinsman-redeemer who might marry her first (v.12). These are hardly the actions of a man who just sleeps around with girls on the threshing floor.
2. Does the Bible condone sexual promiscuity for the sake of procreation? Next, the episode brings up the story of Abraham and Sarah and how they used a servant, Hagar, to have children. The use of servants/slaves as sexual partners for the sake of procreation was condoned by the Bible, we are told.
The problem with this perspective is that it is taught nowhere in the actual text of the story. The actions of Sarah (and Abraham) are not commended and lauded by Scripture, but rather their actions are portrayed as an act of faithlessness. God had promised Abraham and Sarah children, and they violated God’s law because of their impatience. If anything, therefore, the story upholds the integrity of marriage!
In all of this, the video makes no distinction between actions that are described in Scripture, versus actions that are prescribed by Scripture. The two are not the same, even though the episode frequently confuses and mixes them.
3. Does Jesus’ kindness to the prostitute in Luke 7 means he is “open” to different sexual lifestyles? Amazingly, this episode attempts to use Jesus’ interaction with the prostitute as a basis for saying that he is open to all kinds of different sexual lifestyles. This explains, it is argued, why the Pharisees in the story were so appalled–they could not believe Jesus was so accepting.
But, what is actually appalling here is the bad exegesis of this passage of Scripture. Secular/critical scholars love to use Jesus’ patience and grace to sinners as grounds for saying he approved of their sin. But, this is a twisting of the story. If they had read the story further, they would notice that Jesus is not condoning the woman’s lifestyle but praising her repentance! That is why Jesus tells the story of the moneylender who had two debtors. This woman recognized the depth of her sin, whereas the Pharisees did not. Jesus even says that her sins “are many” (v.47)! This is hardly a condoning of her lifestyle.
We should not, as this video does, confuse Christ’s forgiveness of an act, with his approval of an act. He is always gracious to repentant sinners, but that does not mean that they are not sinners.
Ironically, the modern liberal posture, which says, ‘My sexual actions are not sinful,” would be the very thing that Jesus does condemn! Thus, the interpretation of this story offered by the History Channel could not be more off the mark. It is the sheer opposite of what Jesus meant.
4. Were David and Jonathan Lovers? Well, it was inevitable. You knew eventually this video would raise this question. Unfortunately, our modern world is so overly-sexualized that it can recognize no other love than sexual love. Eros love so dominates modern thinking, that there can be no other options.
C.S. Lewis lamented this very thing when he talked about male friendships, which he said could be even more intimate (in a non-sexual way) than male-female relationships. Lewis said, “Those who cannot conceive Friendship as a substantive love but only as a disguise or elaboration of Erosbetray the fact that they have never had a Friend.” Sadly, the History Channel has succumbed to this very problem.
The truth of the matter is that there is zero evidence that David and Jonathan had a sexual relationship. And the Bible is usually quite blunt about such things; again the Bible doesn’t hide sexual impropriety in other stories, so why would they hide it here?
5. Was Sodom condemned for lack of hospitality? One of the most audacious parts of the video is the claim that the city of Sodom was condemned only for lack of hospitality to Lot and the angels, and not for anything else (like sexual/homosexual promiscuity). But, this interpretation just doesn’t hold up.
First, even if the interpretation is true, it has nothing to do with whether the Bible condemns homosexuality. Even if Sodom was only condemned for lack of hospitality, there are still numerous other passages that make it clear that homosexuality is not condoned by the Bible.
Second, the city of Sodom was already under God’s condemnation before the events concerning Lot and the angels. Gen 18:20 tells us that “the outcry against Sodom and Gomorrah is great and their sin is very grave.” Apparently, Sodom had been committing grave sins for some length of time. Is this describing just the ongoing lack of hospitality? That is difficult to believe.
Third, nowhere in Scripture does it tell us that Sodom was condemned for lack of hospitality. But Scripture does link Sodom with sexual deviancy. Jude 1:7: “just as Sodom and Gomorrah and the surrounding cities, which likewise indulged in sexual immorality and pursued unnatural desire, serve as an example by undergoing a punishment of eternal fire.” This is a clear reference to not only deviant sexual behavior, but homosexual behavior.
In the end, the History Channel has produced a documentary with one simple purpose: to create confusion in people’s minds about what the Bible teaches about sex. No doubt, many will watch such a video and conclude that there is no clear sexual guidance in the Bible; and therefore they can choose whichever sexual path feels best to them.
However, Jesus has a very different perspective about such things. He is not at all confused and unclear. He is very plain in Matt 19:4-6 about the kind of relationship God has created for sex:
Have you not read that he who created them from the beginning made them male and female, 5 and said, ‘Therefore a man shall leave his father and his mother and hold fast to his wife, and the two shall become one flesh’? 6 So they are no longer two but one flesh. What therefore God has joined together, let not man separate.
Dr. Michael Kruger is a Teaching Elder in the Presbyterian Church in America and President of RTS Charlotte where he also serves as a Professor of New Testament. This article first appeared in his blog, Canon Fodder.