I know that this will offend some Christians, but the notion that Scripture is perfectly clear is wishful thinking, as a recent white paper prepared by the All Saints’ clergy demonstrates. The writers of the four Gospels don’t agree on even so simple a thing as which people were present at Christ’s empty tomb.
Considering that, over the centuries, the Bible has been translated into and out of multiple languages, it only makes sense to consider the context of what’s written rather than believe that every word is literal divine revelation. In rebuttal to the notion of a clear teaching of Scripture, the evangelical author and speaker Tony Campolo has said that “sodomites” is a word of dubious translation. “Nobody knows what the word means,” he said. “Interestingly enough, up until the 14th century it was translated as masturbation.”
Timothy’s reference to sodomites, for its part, is in the context of boys who were castrated to maintain their feminine and childlike characteristics and then exploited for sex — a far cry from two consenting adults of the same sex consummating their committed love.
Today, there is much reference to the supposed Christian teaching that marriage is a sacrament between one man and one woman, but it was not until the 12th century that marriage became a sacrament in the Western church.
Sex, though, has always been a particularly Christian problem. Orthodox Jews are commanded to marry, but the early Christians found celibacy a high calling. St. Paul writes in 1 Corinthians 7 that he wished all Christians could stay single and celibate, as he had. He knew, however, that not everyone could and so he adds, “But if they are not practicing self-control, they should marry. For it is better to marry than to be aflame with passion.”