The topic of “sexuality” does not itself appear explicitly in the Bible. While the Bible teems with stories, laws, poetry, and prophecy concerning aspects of sexuality, the discourses that make sexuality an important topic today developed long after the close of the canon. This does not, however, differentiate sexuality from other more recent concepts such as “inclusiveness” or “democracy,” in that it remains possible to consider biblical sexuality as a source and guide for contemporary sexual ethics. With as ample a supply of directly relevant commandments, narratives, and images as the Bible provides, and with reasonable inference from related exempla, the Bible’s ethical relevance with sexuality may be construed in a variety of coherent, richly warranted directions.

These various approaches share a sense that sexuality and sexual behavior involve the expression of something fundamental to humanness and that particular expressions of sexuality (whether by suppression, indifference, or inordinate activity) imperil the relation of humans to God and the lived articulation of truthful theology. As an aspect of the whole picture of God’s creation, sexual behavior and identity constitute not simply a private option for individuals to indulge or to resist, but a public and positive affirmation of right relationships with God and other humans. A theologically sound account of sexuality will identify from biblical sources the cardinal characteristics of how people reflect and bear witness to God’s grace in their identity, their intimacy, their harmonious life with their neighbors, and all of creation.

The Plain Sense.

First, one may approach the task of discerning a biblical ethics of sexuality by regarding all passages that invoke sexual behavior as normative instruction for today: the Bible says “Do this and do not do that.” Such a position entails the premise that specific words, idioms, and assumptions can be mapped with little strain onto terms and categories familiar to contemporary readers. Those who place the highest authority on the plain sense of the biblical text and the least weight on shifting social norms, linguistic change, or interpretive plurality, may thus characterize these passages as nonnegotiably prescriptive.

Such an approach would hew closely to obvious warrants from the Law: “You shall not commit adultery” (Exod 20:14), “You shall not lie with a male as with a woman” (Lev 18:22); “Shun fornication!” (1 Cor 6:18), and so on. The resulting catalog of permissions and prohibitions would cover a surprisingly small selection of the questions that arise relative to sexuality; biblical terms for sexual malfeasance often lack explicit specificity, whether out of delicacy or because it was assumed that the reader would know the scope of the term. The effort to fill out what is omitted will inevitably draw on inferences about sexual behavior rather than on explicit biblical teaching. A position that regards all biblical teaching as straightforwardly normative will need to explain the Bible’s apparent equanimity with such incidents as Lot offering his daughters to violent would-be rapists outside his door (Gen 19) or Ezekiel comparing Israel’s unfaithfulness to women’s promiscuity (and envisioning divine justice as comparable to male domestic sexual violence [Ezek 22–23]).

The Plain Sense, Outdated.

A second, similar approach understands scriptural references to sexuality to be clear and prescriptive, but no longer applicable today. Passages that seem to reflect archaic social mores, misguided medical and psychological theories, and narrow-minded authors and redactors can be set aside because they depend on latent or explicit inhibitions, prejudices, and sociopolitical agendas. On this view, the apparently plain norms for biblical sexuality are trumped by larger themes of biblical ethics (love of neighbor, goodness of creation, care for the vulnerable, freedom from imposed laws, and the positive value of pleasure) to counter inappropriately restrictive passages.

In the spirit of this approach, one might note that biblical languages do not typically use precise technical terms relative to marriage; Hebrew does not distinguish “man” from “husband” or “woman” from “wife” in most contexts and often uses the verbs lqh (“take”) or baʿal (“rule over”) in contexts that translators render “marry.” One might also submit that Joseph’s experiments in animal husbandry in Genesis 30 give evidence that the Bible can offer only attenuated relevance for any topics involving reproduction or sexual ethics. Contemporary readers, on this account, can no more rely on Levitical reasoning about sexual propriety than they can rely on Genesis for guidance on the inheritance of acquired stripes. Since many patterns of sexual interaction that the Bible accepts no longer seem to pertain to historically dominant European and American social patterns—concubinage, polygyny, the abhorrence of masturbation—the particular injunctions in biblical material fall by the wayside altogether. More abstract principles (love of God and neighbor, return no one evil for evil) form the basis for a revitalized sexual ethic. The advantage in immediate relevancy is bought at the cost of nonspecificity: one reader may infer that love of neighbor permits indiscriminate carnal intimacy, while the next restricts such relations to a particular culture’s marital conventions, and both justify their actions in the name of “love.” This approach, predetermined by its assumption of univocal meaning and by its aversion to biblical particulars, offers uncertain guidance relative to distinguishing one alleged instance of neighbor-love from another.

Ideological Complications.

Third, attention to historical and cultural criticism challenges the assumption that biblical and contemporary accounts of sexuality address the same definitions of identities and actions. The homosexuality condemned in the Law and the epistles, for example, seems different in some significant ways from the homosexuality of today. Family structures of ancient nomadic peoples seem to have sanctioned sexual relationships that bear little connection with the dominant mores of twenty-first century Northern- and Western-hemisphere cultures. Scripture treats matters of the ownership, sexual use, and abuse of women in ways that most readers would not countenance today. These observations complicate the straightforward application or rejection of scriptural teaching and invite additional deliberation about how best to discern the authority and relevance of particular passages for a particular community.

Further, a history-of-ideas analysis of sexuality renders problematic even the concept of sexuality, given the disconnections between ancient and contemporary understandings of what it is to be human. Readers who place the beginnings of the contemporary discourses concerning sexuality in the nineteenth century note that sexuality was not always understood as a personal attribute, whether innate or chosen, to have, claim, legislate, or celebrate. The direct imposition of contemporary ideological presuppositions about sexuality onto texts that reflect premodern constructions of humans and minds, souls, bodies, and relationships produces confused moral mandates. When one uses biblical texts to evaluate and direct contemporary sexual practices, one must grapple with uncertain translations, archaic vocabulary and grammar, and unfamiliar anthropological concepts.

Biblical readers generally apply overlapping versions of the approaches described so far. Here follows a brief survey of some of the passages often considered in relation to sexuality.

Genesis: Spousal and Paraspousal Sex.

The biblical texts that might pertain to notions of sexuality range from Genesis to Revelation, from commandment to oracle. The practices and the assumptions of the patriarchs and matriarchs illustrate many dimensions of sexuality that would persist through the biblical compendium. The creation narrative in Genesis 1, focusing on fecundity as a manifestation of vitality and goodness, observes of humanity that “male and female [God] created them” (Gen 1:27) without comment on the bounds or manner of human proliferation. Nor does God stipulate to Adam or Eve any restrictions on their intimacy, though it is not clear that any conjugation or reproduction occurs in the background of the unit from Genesis 2:4—3:24; the humans are plant-eaters, and the narrative seems to associate death and the concomitant need for reproduction with the post-Edenic world. The text does not accompany its account of the complementarity of the man and woman with any observations on marriage per se or on any other aspect of sexual ethics; however, biblical readers often use the explanation that once “a man leaves his father and his mother and clings to his wife…they become one flesh” (Gen 2:24) as a warrant for reasoning about gender complementarity in marriage. These stories of human origins seem to describe human sexual behavior more than they dictate guidance.

Elsewhere, Genesis’s narrator disapproves of unions between “sons of God” and human women (6:2–4) and of Ham “seeing his father’s nakedness” (9:22–23; an obscure phrase clarified in Lev 20:11 as “lying with his father’s wife”). God destroys the cities on the plain for their men’s intemperate demand that Lot allow them sexual access to Lot’s angelic guests (a desire so intense that the residents of Sodom declined Lot’s offer of his virgin daughters as a substitute [Gen 19]). God’s sanction against adultery overshadows the wife-sister narratives of Abraham and Isaac with the threat that “if you do not restore her, know that you shall surely die, you and all that are yours” (Gen 20:7). The Genesis narratives evince no hesitation, however, about Jacob marrying multiple women (Rachel and Leah) or of his emulating his grandfather’s sexual relations with maidservants and concubines. Genesis tells of Lot’s drunken incest with his daughters without finding fault with the father—as so often in situations of child sexual abuse, the narrative locates responsibility with children whom it represents as actively seducing their father—though the story as a whole casts the pregnancies in an unfavorable light by associating them with the origins of the nations of Edom and Ammon (Gen 19:30–38). In a story with intertwining themes, Judah threatens Tamar with death for having “played the whore” (Gen 38:24), although he hired her for sex with no signs of a troubled conscience. The narrative discountenances Onan for his refusal to beget children for his widowed sister-in-law and Judah for not having made satisfactory arrangements to enable Tamar to bear a son; but it approves Tamar’s decisive actions to achieve the son she was owed. Through these complicated narratives, Genesis suggests an ethic of sexuality that reserves licit sexual relations to members of opposite genders in spousal or para spousal relationships without making explicit a distinct theology or jurisprudence of sexuality.

The Law: Holy and Unholy Sex.

The legal texts in succeeding books develop laws that govern the expression of human sexuality. One complex of laws articulates a human holiness that accords with God’s own holiness. These laws affirm categories and perspectives that (on one hand) pertain to a general condition of wholeness and cleanliness and those that (on the other hand) pertain to the government of human interactions. For instance, Leviticus 15 discusses the impurity of sexual partners in the light of seminal emission, menstruation, and sexually transmitted infection; Leviticus 18, however, discusses the range of permitted partners for sexual intimacy (degrees of consanguinity, species, genders, and so on). The former laws prescribe remedies for impurity; the latter, punishment for transgression. The apparent roles of these commandments differ, but Leviticus makes no distinction among them; “ritual” and “moral” laws have undifferentiated canonical standing.

The Law also sets apart from service in the Temple men whose genitals have been injured or excised (Lev 21:20, 24) or, more emphatically, separates them from the assembly of the LORD altogether (Deut 23:1). These laws reflect concern about the wholeness and health of the Temple and its constituent elements and possibly differentiates devotees of Israel’s God from worshippers of neighboring deities who required castration of males. Although Isaiah envisions a day when eunuchs will be reincorporated into full participation in the life of the people (56:3–5), the tenor of the Old Testament favors fecundity over sterility: eunuchs cannot participate fully in the Old Testament’s vision of a life of abundance and to that extent stand apart from God’s blessing.

The Former Prophets: Character and Fidelity in Relation to Sexuality.

In the narrative books that follow the giving of the Law, sexuality often plays a role in the plot, but only rarely does sexual expression correspond in a simple way to moral judgments based on either ancient or modern conventions. Rahab the prostitute receives acclaim and honorary citizenship among the people for helping the Hebrew spies escape, but the story’s repeated mentions of her profession involve no explicit criticism. Samson elicits disapprobation for marrying a Philistine, but not for going in to a prostitute. The Book of Judges closes with the story of the male Levite whom the men of Gibeah clamored to rape. In an echo of the story of Lot in Sodom, his host offered his own virgin daughter and the traveler’s concubine as a substitute, whom the mob refused. At length, the traveler thrust his concubine outdoors to the crowd, who gang-raped her until dawn, when the traveler found her apparently dead. His subsequent mutilation of her corpse occasioned the war of the tribes against Benjamin. The women involved (both unnamed) serve as material manifestations of the male characters’ honor and property.

The history-like narratives of the kings touch on sexuality, both directly in the enumeration of wives and concubines with which the kings surrounded themselves and indirectly in the ways that the male figures’ relations with women affect the coloration and shading of their character. David’s affections provide a barometer of his qualities. He attracts Michal (and wins her by severing 100 Philistine’s foreskins) and Abigail. Saul’s son Jonathan loves David “as his own soul” (1 Sam 18:1 and passim), “passing the love of women” (2 Sam 1:26), a homoerotic attraction that some have taken as a positive Old Testament instance of gay male affection (though David’s fondness for Jonathan is not described with equally vivid ardor). On the other hand, 2 Samuel contrasts “the time when kings go out to battle” with David’s delegation of warcraft to Joab, while David remained behind and spied on Bathsheba; and David’s life closes with scenes in which he lies with the attractive Abishag to warm him, but at a point when David no longer has sex with her. The senescent king is sexually ineffectual and does not resist the manipulation of Bathsheba and his advisors. David’s masculinity makes him irresistible in his vigorous rise, but in old age it fails him, leaving him weak and impotent in a feeble decline.

In Solomon’s case, sexuality does less work toward establishing his royal manliness (although any monarch who accumulates a retinue of hundreds of wives and concubines might be assumed to have attained virility) than toward illustrating the dangers of sexuality. His vaunted wisdom failed him in his later years, when “his wives turned away his heart after other gods; and his heart was not true to the LORD his God” (1 Kgs 11:4, recapitulating David’s captivation with Bathsheba). In a pattern paradigmatic for biblical ethics, human sexuality poses an obstacle to theological fidelity not solely when people pursue illicit sorts of sex, but all the more when sexual desire itself distracts them from God.

The Latter Prophets: Idolatry Narrated as Female Prostitution.

The prophetic books continue to present sexuality as appropriately expressed solely within the context of heterosexual marriage, and they thus treat adultery as a dangerous manifestation of sexuality. The prophets decry actual adultery (Jer 7:9, Hos 4:13–14, Mal 2:14–15), but even more they portray polytheistic tendencies among the people as adulterous relations with other gods (Jer 3:8–9). Similarly, prostitution (or “whoredom”) endangers Israel’s and Judah’s fidelity to their unique God (Isa 1:21; Ezek 23). They are sometimes envisioned as a male-identified people consorting with the prostitutes of the worship of other deities (Jer 5:7), but more often as a female-identified people accused of engaging in theological prostitution, indulging in promiscuous worship (Jer 3:1). The prophetic fixation on this trope, and especially its characterization of idolatry with a type of transgression associated with women (treating men’s role in adultery and prostitution more lightly), entwine the true worship of God with images of male-centered sexuality and female sin.

Wisdom: Protection from Temptation and Celebration of Sexually Passionate Love.

In wisdom books as well, adultery and prostitution (again associated with women’s sexuality) continue to represent theological infidelity. Lady Wisdom speaks of many things, but sex is usually not one of them; Folly, however, is “decked like a prostitute” (Prov 7:10) and lures simple men to her couch in the absence of her husband (7:6–23). Even when Proverbs endorses ardor—“rejoice in the wife of your youth… may you be intoxicated always by her love” (5:18B, 19C), it does so not as a commendation of marital intimacy, but as a safeguard against the temptation of adultery.

The only book that offers an unequivocally positive account of sexual activity is the Song of Songs (also known as the Song of Solomon, or Canticles), which evokes the ardor of whole-heartedly affectionate sexual embrace. The various voices in the Song share a powerful sense of sexual desire and its occasional fulfillment. Though the Song describes the pain of frustration, this compilation of love poetry conveys an earthy sense of sexual longing and satisfaction, without any indication of shame or ethical uncertainty and without an explicitly marital context. While many interpreters over the generations have reconciled the passionate sensuality of the Song with more strait-laced strictures of the Law and the Prophets by spiritualizing the intense desire it expresses, most critical readers treat the Song principally as a canonical instance of ancient love poetry, therefore indicating at least some interpretive approbation for the role of sexuality in human affection.

The Gospels: Sex within Marriage Now, Irrelevant in Heaven.

The gospels engage the topic of sexuality in several ways. At the outset, the question of Mary’s premarital virginity constitutes a focal motif in both Matthew and Luke; while for both authors, Jesus’s conception apart from ordinary biological processes signals his divine identity, Matthew also cites Mary’s premarital pregnancy as a possible rationale for Joseph considering a divorce. This underscores the prominence of extramarital sexual expression as the primary problem of sexuality in the gospels. The gospels decry “adultery,” used mostly as the term for the sexual act but also figuratively for general immorality (as in the Old Testament), and pornē, “fornication,” again used both in a literal and a figurative sense (for polytheism or idolatry). Further, Matthew attributes to Jesus the cryptic saying that “there are eunuchs who have been so from birth, and there are eunuchs who have been made eunuchs by others, and there are eunuchs who have made themselves eunuchs for the sake of the kingdom of heaven” (19:12, a saying that some interpreters have taken as affirmative toward gay identity); and all three synoptics report the assertion that in resurrection life, people do not marry but are like angels (so, presumably sexless [Mark 12:25, Matt 22:30, Luke 20:36]). Philip shows no hesitation whatsoever about incorporating the Ethiopian eunuch into the early Christian community, despite the proselyte’s atypical gender (Acts 8:26–40). The gospels and Acts depict an ethical world in which the people of God eschew nonmarital sexual relations (as they renounce attachment to any gods other than God) and aspire to a heavenly existence that transcends all sexuality.

The Epistles: Sexual Desire as a Distraction from Desire for God.

The epistles deal more directly with sinful manifestations of sexuality than do New Testament narratives. Vice lists from the epistles name such transgressions as adultery, fornication, licentiousness, soft effeminacy (in men), and more specific male homosexuality (“man-bedders,” 1 Cor 6:9). The last two terms just identified—malakoi and arsenokoitai—elude precise translation, but the general sense suggests men who are penetrated by and who penetrate other men. Jude and 2 Peter share a denunciation of licentiousness and filthy desire (2 Pet 2:7, 10) and “indulg[ing] in sexual immorality and pursu[ing] unnatural lust” (Jude 7); in Jude, this seems to be the mirror-image of the humans’ lust for angels in Genesis 19, while 2 Peter refers to more general sexual misconduct. Illicit sexual activity thus forms a consistent element in the epistles’ warnings against misbehavior.

In formulating ethical guidance for his congregations, Paul emphasizes as essential an unwavering orientation toward God; since sexual desire stands to distract followers from their focus on God, Paul commends asexual celibacy as the best of all types of sexuality. For those who could not attain that angelic condition, Paul commends marriage as a state in which sexual desires might not prove so distracting as they are for single Christians who cannot control their sexual desire (“It is better to marry than to burn,” 1 Cor 7:9). In this context, Paul identifies the problem of sexuality as a problem of a human’s capacity to live forward into angelic asexuality. Adultery and fornication (and, for Paul, same-sex intercourse) arise from the superabundance of desire; marriage draws that desire down into theologically tolerable channels.

Since sexuality’s expression in desire risks distracting believers from their true orientation toward God, Paul takes up the prophetic trope of adultery and fornication as correlates of idolatry and applies that reasoning to homosexual desire as well (for the first time in biblical discourse invoking the possibility of lesbian desire as well as gay male desire). In this construction of anti-idolatrous sexuality, Paul adds illicit same-sex activity (often associated particularly with Gentile behavior) to illicit heterosexual activity. His treatment of sexuality in all these spheres is ordered toward his understanding of what edifies individuals and congregations: when sexual desire is not suppressed by the graced will, it must be directed into marriage (where it can be directed toward mutual sexual abstinence, mutual enjoyment, or extinguished).

The Book of Revelation takes up the prophetic repertoire of tropes, reasserting the identification of adultery and female prostitution with wrongly directed worship. While John was surely opposed to promiscuity, the force of his rhetoric here aims at half-hearted, compromising members of the congregations he addresses. The element of divine violence in his treatment of sexual topics underscores their figurative reference to apostasy; in John’s Apocalypse, God annihilates opposition and excludes uncleanness. John’s male-centered perspective reserves his vision of the New Jerusalem for those who “have not defiled themselves with women,” and his God unleashes horrible violence against all adversaries (prominently figured as women: as Jezebel, 2:20–23, and as Babylon the whore [14:8; 17–19]).

Biblical Ethics of Sexuality.

As this overview shows, biblical texts constitute a varied compilation of genres and perspectives on sexuality. In the face of so diverse a collection, the plain-sense application of biblical admonitions about sexuality holds a powerful appeal. Whether or not it is proper to consider ancient same-sex intercourse “the same” as modern same-sex intimacy, the general contours of the activity in question are readily identifiable and have been forbidden by ecclesiastical authorities for much of history. The twin, mutually reinforcing considerations of traditional church teaching and apparently obvious applicability suffice for many readers to outweigh any of the challenges that might militate against such a direct appeal to the Bible. Those who advance the plain sense of these prohibitions usually do not advocate the plain sense of the punishments that the Law stipulates (adultery, homosexuality, and bestiality all call for death penalties), and some take a pastorally tolerant view of divorce despite Jesus having forbidden it (Mark 10:11–12 and parallels). A straightforward case for normative heterosexual marriage as the sole condition for licit sexual intimacy (with a view toward ultimately growing beyond sexual desire altogether) constitutes one strong candidate for a biblical ethic of sexuality, especially when reinforced by ideological axioms that smooth over possible contradictions.

As suggested above, the very contradictions that the plain-sense ethic accepts—together with the appalling ramifications of the biblical narrative’s more unsavory incidents involving sexuality—provide some readers with sufficient evidence that the Bible is locked into a cultural perspective too remote and too unenlightened to allow it as more than a conversation starter for ethical deliberation. The authority for an ethics of sexuality must reside, on this account, with sources that demonstrate a more humane, more scientifically informed theology. Where the Bible supports such ethics, it may indeed be enlisted for support—but only then. This modern version of biblical ethics willingly dispenses with the qualifier “biblical” if that term threatens to limit the conclusions that the readers’ reflection reaches.

Readers who expect a strong degree of continuity between the Bible and their ethics will combine attention to what the Bible seems plainly to teach with further considerations of culture, perspective, coherence, and a (careful) sense that human inquiry may have learned more about sexuality in the years that have passed since the biblical texts were written. For instance, parallels between biblical and contemporary accounts of sexual violence might warrant ongoing discernment about God’s relation to the mightiest and the most vulnerable. And, the New Testament’s relativization of sexuality with a view to an eventual divinization of desire may warrant an interpretation of sexual ethics that places strongest emphasis on transformation from the desire for indiscriminate sexual activity to desire for a unique, lifelong partner, to desire only for eternal life in the presence of God, where all desire is completed in persevering love.

Some will stipulate that licit sexuality must entail otherness (usually male- and female-gendered otherness) in order appropriately to convey a sense of God’s transcendent otherness. This requirement may reflect the conviction that sexuality rightly serves reproduction (or the possibility thereof), or it might reflect a commitment to a particular tradition of social ordering. Such stipulations can exclude some humans from the possibility of participation in marriage and licit sexuality if their relationships do not involve love between two people who are deemed adequately other, for example: those who are not heterosexual, those with ambiguous genitalia, and those who are transgendered. Alternatively, one may note that everyone is a stranger to the deepest heart of any other and that the gender of the partners in a marital relationship need not be the sole or most determinative aspect of the relationship, sexually or otherwise.

Sexuality and the Male-Identified Bible.

All the above granted, the Bible presents a further, comprehensive problem for an ethic of human sexuality: at almost every point in the Bible, the textual treatment of sexuality seems to respect the perspective of a man or a male-identified deity. It would not be surprising were one to learn (if it were possible) that no biblical author ever gave birth, experienced a menstrual period, was sexually penetrated, or lived in fear of sexual violence. Even where women appear in prominent roles and speak and act for themselves, they speak and act in narratives, proverbs, laws, and oracles written down by men, speaking for a male-identified God. Women are systemically alienated from the prevailing biblical characterization of their experience and behavior, whereas men encounter their sexuality assessed in a familiarly masculine voice. The command of God comes to all humanity extra nos, but its biblical manifestations come to humanity mediated by men only.

One may, on these grounds, disqualify the Bible from any sort of ethical authority. Even the most benign account of biblical sexuality remains under suspicion of advancing men’s interests while taking up women’s interests only from a distance. One cannot simply write off this androcentrism as a bad debt to our forebears or as the verdict of an authority whose divine rule precludes critique. Such evasions perpetuate the assertion of men’s power over women; and those accounts of biblical ethics that try to occlude men’s dominant role will be judged the more harshly for that deliberate insensitivity.

A biblical ethics of sexuality may opt for a putatively objective treatment of the topic, which can then offer conveniently straightforward mandates concerning what should or should not be done. God may have revealed only to men the divine way for humans to experience, share, restrain, and exercise sexuality; or a male hegemony may be foisting upon unjustly subjected women men’s own will under the guise of God’s guidance. Some readers may reason that the gender of the biblical sources makes no difference or can be corrected by particular methodological steps. Other accounts of sexuality and biblical ethics will seek a balance among traditional affirmations of marital normativity, the danger of distraction from godliness, the effects of the private expressions of sexuality on the common life of the greater community, the sociological importance of a people’s shared rules and practices, and the manner of embodying biblical figures of speech.

Biblical Authority and Sexual Ethics.

Those committed to granting room for biblical authority on sexuality will best proceed with a keen awareness that all humanity operates with a personal stake in the conclusions of a biblical ethic. With this in mind, readers will check for textual, traditional, and interpretive bias at every turn, receiving guidance from the heroes of the faith and the breadth of biblical wisdom. In this way, all versions of the right ordering of sexuality begin with a fuller attention to wives, widows, virgins, sex workers, refugees and prisoners, objectified children, people with disabilities, and those discarded and abused. These practices follow the consistent biblical emphasis on protecting the vulnerable, attending to the needs of the whole community, seeking and restoring justice, and taking care not to set stumbling blocks before the least of Jesus’s disciples. Such attention would not necessarily recast all of the contours of biblical sexuality, but it would make possible an ethic that issues more nearly from the whole body of the congregation and is less powerfully refracted by privilege and advantage. Sexual ethics might thus pertain less to individual sexual fulfillment and more to embodied relationships accountable to God and God’s creation. It might even provide glimpses of eschatological hope in the fulfillment of sexual—and all other human—desire through the redemption and resurrection of the body.

[See also FEMINISM; GENDER; MARRIAGE AND DIVORCE; RAPE; and SONG OF SOLOMON.]

Bibliography

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A. K. M. Adam and Margaret B. Adam