In this series (in 3 parts) it will be argued that Paul’s reference to the exchange of “natural function” for “unnatural” in Romans 1:26–27 does not correspond to the concept of “homosexuality” as we conceive of it in the 20th/21st century.
We began this series in part 1 by examining the debate between John Boswell, Christianity, Social Tolerance, and Homosexuality (1980) and Richard Hays, “Relations natural and unnatural: a response to John Boswell’s exegesis of Romans 1” (1986) about the interpretation of exchanging “the natural function for that which is unnatural” and abandoning “natural function of the woman” (Romans 1:26–27). The centre piece of Boswell’s argument is that “the persons Paul condemns are manifestly not homosexual: what he derogates are homosexual acts committed by apparently heterosexual persons.” He argues that this is the case because, “there is, however, no clear condemnation of homosexual acts in the verses in question.” He supported this by arguing that, “For Paul, ‘nature’ was not a question of universal law or truth but, rather, a matter of the character of some person or group of persons.” Hays rightly sums up Boswell’s argument, “Paul’s words do not apply to persons of homosexual orientation, and in any case homosexual acts are merely described as unusual rather than immoral.” Hays in his response conceded that it is true that “Paul’s portrayal of homosexual behaviour is of a secondary character in relation to the main line argument.” Hays’ argument comes down to the meaning of the word “nature” (physis). When we examined the Jewish literature in part 2 it was found that there was no particular Jewish nuance to the word physis (φύσις) nor do the Jewish writers depart conceptually from general Greek thought. Indeed, it was found that both Philo and Josephus relied on Plato’s deployment of the concept in the Republic and the Laws in order to defend Jewish national laws. It was also discovered that para physin (παρὰ φύσιν) could be used to be a euphemism for anal sex. This also needs to be kept in mind when we consider Paul’s use of para physin (παρὰ φύσιν) in Romans 1:26.
In this last instalment we will draw these conclusions together to consider how Paul uses the concept of ‘nature’ in his argument in Romans 1:18–3:31. But first we will consider Hay’s use of Dio Chrysostom’s argument against brothels as it provides a close parallel to Paul’s argument in Romans. We will then consider how Dio’s argument, as well as the arguments of Plato, Philo and Josephus about sexual relations that are “against nature,” enlighten Paul’s polemic in Romans 1:26–27. What we will discover is that the Boswell and Hays’ debate highlights and focuses the attention on important aspects of the interpretation of Romans 1:26–27.
Hays’ use of Dio Chrysostom’s Oration 7
We are now in a position to consider Hays’ use of Dio Chrysostom who he calls “a Stoic-Cynic preacher.” In Discourse 7 or the Euboean Discourse, Dio Chrysostom sees a progression of predatory acts of the sexual kind generated by the use of prostitutes in brothels. As Hays summarizes,
after charging that brothel-keeping dishonors the goddess Aphrodite ‘whose name stands for the natural (kata physin) intercourse and union of the male and female,’ goes on to suggest that a society which permits such practices will soon find its uncontrolled lusts leading to the still more deplorable practice of pederasty:
Is there any possibility that this lecherous class would refrain from dishonoring and corrupting the males, making their clear and sufficient limit that set by nature (physis)! Or will it not, while it satisfies its lust for women in every conceivable way, find itself grown weary of this pleasure, and then seek some other worse and more lawless form of wantonness?…The man whose appetite is insatiate in such things…will turn his assault against the male quarters, eager to befoul the youth who will very soon be magistrates and judges and generals, believing that in them he will find a kind of pleasure difficult and hard to procure. (Discourse 7.135, 151–52)
To start with it is unfortunate that Hays has failed to note that the ancient concept of “pederasty” is not the same as the modern idea of “homosexuality” (see the discussion on Philo in part 2). More could be said here but we’ll press on with Dio Chrysostom’s discourse.
In Oration 7, Dio Chrysostom portrays the noble existence that can be achieved by living a simple, rustic life in contrast to the moral perils of life in the city. In the second half of the discourse he discusses those ‘trades’ that should not be allowed to established. The word physis (φύσις) is used six times in this discourse, however, we will focus on the sense of the ‘natural order’ (LSJ III 4).
The first occurrence is in the transition from the noble rustics he met on his travels and his deliberation on the weaknesses of cities (81): “…anyone who wishes to consider whether in words and deeds and in social intercourse the poor are at a disadvantage in comparison with the rich on account of their poverty, so far as living a seemly and natural life (κατὰ φύσιν) is concerned, or in every way have the advantage.” Here Dio is introducing the idea of ‘natural life’ or, in other words, a life that is in harmony with nature and this is in contrast with city life he is about to critique.
The second is again about the natural life (103): “the life of the farmer, the hunter, and the shepherd…that poverty is no hopeless impediment to a life and existence befitting free men…but leads them on to deeds and actions that are far better and more useful and more in accordance with nature (κατὰ φύσιν) than those to which riches are wont to distract.”
The repetition indicates that Dio is establishing a theme that poverty allows a free man to live a life according to nature, or in other words in the harmony with the pattern that a man should live.
From here Dio lists the trades that he believes should not be in a city and the first is brothel-keepers (133): “must sternly forbid them and insist that no one…shall pursue such a business, thus levying a fee which all the world condemns as shameful, upon brutality and lust.” He says that “they must not take hapless women and children” and mate them like beasts because “human beings do feel shame and revulsion” so they should not be mated with “lecherous and dissolute men in an ineffectual and fruitless physical union that breeds destruction” (133–134). Dio here uses a similar argument as Philo for the fruitless sexual activity but this time it is against the fruitlessness of mating with the prostitute. He then goes on to say that the gods stand against this kind of activity including Aphrodite, “whose name stands for normal (κατὰ φύσιν) intercourse and union of male and female.” Hays’ reference to this in his article (p. 192) is somewhat misleading, since here Dio is contrasting normal intercourse (κατὰ φύσιν…καὶ ὁμιλίας) with the intercourse with prostitutes, therefore there is no contrast between homosexual and heterosexual intercourse.
Dio’s argument runs that a city should not allow brothels as it does not curb the lust of “the lecherous and dissolute men” (133), since “beginning with practices and habits that seem trivial and allowable, it acquits a strength and force that are uncontrollable, and no longer stops at anything” (138). This uncontrolled behaviour paths “the way to hidden and secret assaults upon the chastity of women and boys of good family” (139). After becoming bored with the pursuit of married women says Dio, lecherous men move on to boys (παιδείας), “Is there any possibility that this lecherous class would refrain from dishonouring and corrupting the males, making their clear and sufficient limit that set by nature (ὅρον τὸν τῆς φύσεως)? Or will it not, while it satisfies its lust for women in every conceivable way, find itself grown weary of this pleasure, and then seek some other worse and more lawless form of wantonness?” Tēs physeōs (τῆς φύσεως) here is in the sense of ‘the regular order of nature’ (LSJ III 4.) and is not relating directly to sexual intercourse as we have seen in Diodorus of Sicily and Apian. Instead, it means ‘according to the usual or the expected pattern.’ Perhaps here it could be refined to ‘the usual pattern of use.’
This passage does not assist Hays in his argument, since Dio Chrysostom in this discourse does not use the phrase para physin (παρὰ φύσιν). It is an irony that Dio Chrysostom’s Oration 7 actually supports Boswell’s argument that “Paul did not discuss gay persons but only homosexual acts committed by heterosexual persons,” since Dio’s argument is that lecherous men move from prostitutes to unmarried girls, adulterous affairs with women, to boys. In his mind sexual activity with boys is pederasty. Dio is not seeing the behaviour in terms of sexual orientation but in terms of licentiousness; that is, preying on married women and boys. There is a limit set by nature but perhaps this is for heterosexual men only. Boswell could justifiably ask “could the limit set by nature be different in the case of men who by nature are gay (ie from birth same-sex oriented)?”
Romans 1: 18–3:31: All are Sinners
We are now in a position to consider Romans 1: 18–32 and the relationship between God’s righteousness and nature,
For the wrath of God is revealed from heaven against all ungodliness and unrighteousness of men who suppress the truth in unrighteousness, because that which is known about God is evident within them; for God made it evident to them (Rom 1:18–19).
This verse begins an extended argument that culminates in chapter three. The judgement of God is revealed (ἀποκαλύπτεται). It is important to note that the revelation is from heaven (ἀπ’ οὐρανοῦ) and it is against all ungodliness and unrighteousness (ἐπὶ πᾶσαν ἀσέβειαν καὶ ἀδικίαν). The “all” (πᾶσαν) is essential to understanding Paul’s argument as it culminates at verses 3:29–26. These verses are the nub of the argument beginning “for we have already charged that both Jews and Greeks are all under sin” followed by an extended quotation drawn from the Scriptures that echoes the first line “There is none righteous, not even one” (3:10) climaxing in “for there is no distinction; for all have sinned and fall short of the glory of God” (3:2–-23). This forms the ground for Paul’s claim that his gospel is universal, it is for all who believe,
even the righteousness of God through faith in Jesus Christ for all those who believe (εἰς πάντας τοὺς πιστεύοντας); for there is no distinction; for all have sinned and fall short of the glory of God, being justified as a gift by His grace through the redemption which is in Christ Jesus; whom God displayed publicly as a propitiation in His blood through faith (Rom 3:22–25).
The structure of Paul’s argument from 1:18 falls into two parts; the Gentile first (1:18–32) followed by the Jew (Romans 2:1–2:29), since his aim to demonstrate that “both Jews and Greeks are all under sin” (Romans 3:9). In the part of the argument that concerns us most, Paul must demonstrate that Gentiles “are without excuse” (Romans 1:20). His greatest hurdle is the claim that the Jewish God has authority over the Gentiles who have their own gods. Josephus in his argument that the Jews were entitled to their own laws had rested on the fact that each nation was entitled to their own laws handed down to them through tradition from their gods. Here Paul must show that Gentiles are under the “wrath of God” (ὀργὴ θεοῦ; Romans 1:18). The subtext here is that this is the Jewish God and a Jewish lawgiver. Paul then is equating the Greek “god” with the Jewish God. Certainly in Plato there is a “God” (Republic 379a; Laws 682a). Thus while there are gods there is a God who is “of course good in reality” (Republic 379a). Paul is not claiming anything more than what Gentile thinkers have claimed themselves. This God says Paul has revealed his anger against all ungodliness and unrighteousness, and vices which were universally condemned (Xen. Apol. 24 ( ἀσέβειαν καὶ ἀδικίαν); Cyrop. 6.1.35; 8.8.7 (περὶ μὲν θεοὺς ἀσέβειαν, περὶ δὲ ἀνθρώπους ἀδικίαν); Plato, Laws 10.907b (περὶ πᾶσαν ἀσέβειαν); Sept. Psalm 72:6; Philo, On Rewards And Punishments 105).
While Gentile writers would agree that ungodliness and unrighteousness were to be condemned (Plato, Laws 10.907b), the twist is that Paul judges that these vices came through idolatry “exchanged the glory of the incorruptible God” (1:23– 24). This upsets the very notion of godliness and gives him cause to charge Gentiles with exchanging “the truth of God for a lie, and worshiped and served the creature rather than the Creator” (1:25). The outcome of this is that God handed them over “to degrading passions” (1:26). As we have seen in our previous essays these passions that Paul cites are well recognised both in the Gentile and Jewish literature. It appears that Paul is using a well-known topos (a standard form of argument) to substantiate his claim that Gentiles have acted in ungodliness and unrighteousness. Since this is a claim he is making against Gentiles he does not recourse to the Jewish Law, but to the Gentile critique of “degrading passions” (εἰς πάθη ἀτιμίας) (Romans 1:26). This is the same technique that Josephus employed to argue against Apolloius Molo. For Josephus’ argument to work he is calling on a shared acknowledgment that men lying with men is an “unnatural and impudent lust.” The ground of this shared acknowledgement is Plato. It would appear that Paul is utilising a knowledge of Plato’s critique of homosexual activity and this explains his discussion of both female and male participants.
This places us in a similar position as when we discussed Philo’s use of para physin (παρὰ φύσιν). There appears to be three contributions to Paul’s thought here in Romans:
- Jewish thought,
- Plato; There seems to be an allusion to Plato’s Laws reflecting the same argument centred on physis (φύσις),
- Possibly Paul is drawing on arguments he has heard against homosexual activity in his cultural milieu. Like Philo he could easily have heard the sexual invectives against opponents in cities with close Roman ties such as Corinth or Ephesus (eg. Cicero, Tusculan Disputations, 4. XXXIII). Certainly, the teaming of this discussion on homosexual activity with the vice list in verses 28–32 suggests the utilizing of Greco-Roman moral literature.
The question here is whether Paul is using a scheme similar to Philo in describing the relationship between physis (φύσις) and the Jewish Law. Again, we will set Paul’s statements out in parallel:
Parallel 1, “for their women exchanged the natural function (tēn physikēn chrēsin; τὴν φυσικὴν χρῆσιν) for that which is unnatural (eis tēn para physin; εἰς τὴν παρὰ φύσιν)” (1:26).
Parallel 2, “and in the same way also the men abandoned the natural function of the woman (tēn physikēn chrēsin; τὴν φυσικὴν χρῆσιν) and burned in their desire toward one another, men with men committing indecent acts and receiving in their own persons the due penalty of their error”(1:27).
Our first problem is that Paul uses the phrase tēn physikēn chrēsin (τὴν φυσικὴν χρῆσιν; verse 26) instead of kata physis (κατὰ φύσιν) as does Plato (Republic 444d) or “solemn law of nature” (physeōs dogma; φύσεως δόγμα; Special Laws 3. 46) as Philo does. Physikēn (φυσικὴν), or “natural” is a word related to physis (φύσις), but with a narrower semantic range. The LSJ translates it as “natural” or “in the order of nature, natural, physical.” In the second sense it is similar to III.4 of φύσις. This shows that Paul was not conforming to the wording of Plato’s argument, but this can be explained if Paul had only heard the argument rather than read it. He has substituted a phrase that corresponds to kata physin (κατὰ φύσιν). This is parallel to the abandonment by women and men of their “natural function.” This is appealing to “the usual pattern of use” as we have seen already. It appears that like Philo (and Josephus), Paul has in mind a pattern of use that is in harmony with nature and since nature is in harmony with the creator then this pattern of use is in harmony God and his Law. What is remarkable is that Paul is using the phrase εἰς τὴν παρὰ φύσιν “for that which is unnatural” in relation to the women. As we have seen when para physin (παρὰ φύσιν) is used about women it normally means “anal sex.” It is possible that Paul is speaking about that type of sexual intercourse. Certainly this is how Augustine understood Paul in this passage, “But as regards any part of the body which is not meant for generative purposes, should a man use even his own wife in it, it is against nature and flagitious.”
This would be a modification from Plato’s original discussion, but it could be that Paul has in mind a certain type of intercourse or incest which contravened the natural law. As we saw in Philo and Josephus para physin (παρὰ φύσιν) could be used to mean unnatural sexual relations such as incest. At the time of Paul there were allegations of sexual misuse of Roman women in many invectives. Either way, Paul is presenting a vice with an example of ungodliness and unrighteous that both Gentiles and Jews would agree on. This is similar to Philo for whom “nature” (φύσις) is innately connected to the Law and a misuse of nature is a violation of the Law and therefore is punishable under the Law. Paul shares this outlook with Philo but in his argument here in Romans is in the background. For his argument to work he must rely on the acknowledgement of Gentiles that men and women exchanging their natural function for the unnatural is unrighteous, since his argument is that “all have sinned” (Rom 3:23). It is of no use to say that under Jewish Law Gentile nations have erred; it must be that Gentile nations have erred against a recognised, universal standard of godly and righteous behaviour. Ultimately, he is relying on a shared recognition that there is a universal God with universal standards (cf. Philo, Special Laws III. 189).
In Romans 1: 28–32, Paul moves from the particular behaviour to a general vice list. In 1 Corinthians a similar list reflects the essence of the misbehaviour and here too in Romans Paul’s vice list reflects the essences of the misbehaviour of the Gentiles, who “do those things which are not proper (ποιεῖν τὰ μὴ καθήκοντα), being filled with all unrighteousness” etc (1:28–29). This may seem like Paul, the Jew, is condemning Gentiles out of hand, but this picture is balanced in Romans 2. In Chapter 2 the Gentiles, “who do not have the Law” when they do “instinctively the things of the Law (φύσει τὰ τοῦ νόμου ποιῶσιν),” and even though they do not have the Law, they are “a law to themselves, in that they show the work of the Law written in their hearts, their conscience bearing witness…”(2:14–15). We can see that this is Paul’s thinking repeated from Chapter 1, but in the positive. The Gentiles can act righteously by “doing the things of the law by nature (φύσει).” In Plato’s thought a man acting in harmony with nature acts in harmony with the creator. Hence, Paul’s thought is very similar to Plato’s conception of individual justice that we discussed in part 1 which, “is virtue ethical because it ties justice (acting justly) to an internal state of the person rather than to (adherence to) social norms or to good consequences.” The Gentiles demonstrate that they have an internal state that knows what is just by showing “the work of law written in their hearts” (Romans 2:15). Paul identifies this internal state as their conscience and it is this conscience that can bear witness against them.
It is therefore evident that Paul’s description of the Gentiles in 1:18–32 is somewhat of an overstatement, a piece of hyperbole. This passage forms a rhetorical set piece. The real object of Paul’s interest is the Jew or the Jewish believer. It is easy for both Jews and Gentiles to agree that the vices discussed by Paul are vices engaged in by Gentiles. The more difficult task for Paul is to convince the Jew that he is a sinner of the same order as the Gentile. The Jew may agree with Paul that the Gentiles are ungodly and unrighteous, but in so doing they fall into Paul’s rhetorical trap in Chapter 2,
Therefore you have no excuse, everyone of you who passes judgment, for in that which you judge another, you condemn yourself; for you who judge practice the same things (2:1).
From here Paul goes on to demonstrate that the Jew also sins as the Gentile,
But do you suppose this, O man, when you pass judgment on those who practice such things and do the same yourself, that you will escape the judgment of God? (2:3)…
But if you bear the name “Jew” and rely upon the Law and boast in God… and are confident that you yourself are a guide to the blind…having in the Law the embodiment of knowledge and of the truth, you, therefore, who teach another, do you not teach yourself? You who preach that one shall not steal, do you steal? You who say that one should not commit adultery, do you commit adultery? You who abhor idols, do you rob temples? You who boast in the Law, through your breaking the Law, do you dishonor God? For the name of God is blasphemed among the Gentiles because of you, “just as it is written” (2:17–24).
It is clear that the answer to the rhetorical questions that Paul asks his Jewish inoculator is “yes.” The proposed crimes are grounded in both the Jewish Law and the natural law. While stealing, adultery, and idolatry are crimes derived from the Ten Commandments, Paul’s question “do you rob temples” gives the rhetorical game away, since it is a rhetorical commonplace to accuse an opponent of temple robbing. This is similar to Philo’s thought in that crimes against the natural law are crimes against the holy Law. These blatant crimes against the natural law gives bite to Paul’s Scriptural citation “the name of God is blasphemed among the nations” (Romans 2:24).
If the Law condemns the Jew, then Paul asks an important question at Romans 3:1, “Then what advantage has the Jew?” There are advantages, “First of all, that they were entrusted with the oracles of God.” Having the Law is an advantage for the Jew since he is not forced to rely on his conscious to align his sense of godliness and righteous to nature, but has direct words from God. However, this same Law condemns all even the Jew, so God has graciously provided an alternative through faith,
But now apart from the Law the righteousness of God has been manifested, being witnessed by the Law and the Prophets, even the righteousness of God through faith in Jesus Christ for all those who believe…(Romans 3:21–22)
This alternative is available to both Greeks and Jews, “for there is no distinction; for all have sinned and fall short of the glory of God, being justified as a gift by His grace through the redemption which is in Christ Jesus” (Romans 3:22–23).
The question is, is the law nullified by this faith in Christ? Paul’s answer is that it does not. The implied thought here is that all godliness and righteousness is in harmony with the Law, as in Philo, thus Paul can say,
Do we then nullify the Law through faith? May it never be! On the contrary, we establish the Law (Romans 3:31).
Conclusion: the Hays/ Boswell debate and Romans
Returning to Hays, what can we say? We can agree with Hays that physis (φύσις) is being used in Romans to mean “the regular order of nature.” In Romans 1:18-32 the words physikēn (φυσικὴν) and physis (φύσις) occur in an argument that appears to be drawn from a common Greco-Roman/ Hellenistic Jewish topos against intercourse that does not conform to the expected use of the body, whether that be sister matrimony, adultery, or same-sex intercourse. Boswell’s argument that Paul is referring to “character” is not as strong. Unfortunately, Hays did not observe the Jewish discussions closely enough to see the influence of Plato’s thought. Also we have seen that the phrase para physin (παρὰ φύσιν) can be used in as a euphemism for anal sex. This is in the sense of a departure from natural bodily use.
It seems safe to conclude that Paul is drawing on readily recognised argument. Just like Philo and Josephus, Paul has an underlying conception that “according to nature” relates to harmony with God’s Law. Paul’s argument, however, is closer to Josephus in appealing to a Gentile argument to establish his point. While we can see a clear relation between the natural and the Jewish Law in Paul’s thinking, we in no way can refute Boswell’s claim, as Hays argues, that homosexual activity by one who is same-sex oriented is against natural use. Boswell has Dio Chrysostom as support. In the end we must conclude that while Paul views sexual relations that are against nature as unrighteous, we are not in a position, based on Romans 1: 18-32, to make a conclusion about same-sex oriented people. There is the possibility that Paul might consider people in this predicament to be like the girl in Diodorus of Sicily (XXXII 11.1-2 [in part 2]), who was obliged by her condition to have unnatural intercourse (παρὰ φύσιν ὁμιλίαν).
The Diodorus example of the phrase “against nature” accentuates the disparity between the ancient concept of nature and our twenty first century concept. We saw for both Gentiles and Jews that there was an expected pattern of created elements and human behaviours that was considered “natural.” This is illustrated in Herodutus (The Histories 2.38.2) where the priests inspected the cow’s tail to see if the hairs were growing according to nature (κατὰ φύσιν). In our modern thought we would not consider that the hairs were growing naturally or unnaturally, since nature to our minds cannot be unnatural. We would say that if the cow’s hairs were growing in a pattern we did not expect and that this was a natural variation. Therefore, it is beyond the text of Romans to come to a conclusion about what Paul might have considered “natural.” What we can confidently affirm is that Paul expected his audience to agree with him that sexual licentiousness of the worse kind is an example of unrighteousness. In the cases we have examined, Plato, Philo, and Dio Chrysostom, the focus is on pederasty. Dio Chrysostom’s example gives support to Boswell’s claim that the sexual misbehaviour Paul has in view are heterosexual men who have become unbridled in their sexual appetites and are wantonly seducing maidens, married women and free-born boys.
In the case of women it is difficult to tell if Paul has in mind lesbianism, thus keeping with Plato’s original thought, or the sexual act that is against nature. Both options have elements of support. The first option is supported by the Jewish predilection against mixing types as seen in “The Testament of Naphtali” and Philo. This combined with Plato’s original argument makes a strong case. However, the other option has support as well. Since the phrase “against nature” can be used as short-hand to mean anal sex and is used solely by Paul for the women in verse 26, he might have in mind that the parallel is not women with women and men with men, but that the parallel is the same kind of sexual act. This does have the support of Augustine’s reading. Since neither option can be ruled out, it would be unwise to point to this passage as a surreptitious command against lesbianism. Caution should also be exercised in seeing these verses as a complete parallel with the present dilemma in the case of same-sex oriented men. In Paul’s day people knew of children who were born with problematic sexual function (Diodorus of Sicily, XXXII. 11. 1–2; Matthew 19:12) or indeterminate gender (Livy, The History of Rome. 27.11; 31.12). What we do not have in the New Testament is anything remotely approaching a discussion on this. Since we now know that sexual orientation is not a matter of the will but a developmental outcome, involving a child’s genetics, temperament, social and cultural background, it would be far better to reason out our dilemma using modern science and the gospel.
© May 2018, Lyn M. Kidson
Image: A symposium scene on a 5th century BCE Greek cup currently housed in the State Antiquities Collection in Munich, Germany. Source: Wikimedia from http://allthatsinteresting.com/plato-symposium
 John Boswell, Christianity, Social Tolerance, and Homosexuality: Gay People in Western Europe from the Beginning of the Christian Era to the Fourteenth Century. Edited by ACLS Humanities E-Book Chicago: University of Chicago Press, 1980; Richard B. Hays, ‘Relations natural and unnatural: a response to John Boswell’s exegesis of Romans 1’, The Journal of Religious Ethics 14.1 (1986): 184–215;
http://www.dennyburk.com/Stuff/1986-Hays-Nature.pdf; All Scripture is from NASB.
 Boswell, Christianity, Social Tolerance, and Homosexuality, 109.
 Ibid., 110–111.
 Hays, ‘Relations natural and unnatural,’ 187.
 Hays, ‘Relations natural and unnatural,’ 191.
 Hays, ‘Relations natural and unnatural,’ 192–193; All Dio Chrysostom quotes from Discourses 1–11. Translated by J. W. Cohoon. Loeb Classical Library 257 (Cambridge, MA: Harvard University Press, 1932).
 Hays, ‘Relations natural and unnatural,’ 192–193.
 Other use of φύσις in Oration 7, 92, “character.”
 Athens did not produce this type of citizen (or character) “a degenerate breed of citizen (φύσεις πολιτῶν)” (108).
 Boswell, Christianity, Social Tolerance, and Homosexuality, 109.
 Douglas J. Moo, The Epistle to the Romans (Grand Rapids, MI; Cambridge, UK: Eerdmans, 1996), 91–94.
 Thomas H. Tobin, Paul’s Rhetoric in Its Contexts: The Arguments of Romans (Peabody, MI: Hendrickson Publishers, 2004), 108–110.
 Moo, Romans, 93.
 For further discussion on this see Dale Martin, Inventing Superstition: From the Hippocrates to the Christians (Cambridge, MA; London UK: Harvard University Press, 2004), 54–60.
 As Hays concedes there was “an emerging consensus not only among Jews and Christians but also among popular moral philosophers that homosexual practices were degrading and immoral,” ‘Relations natural and unnatural, fn 11, 212–213.
 This has long perplexed students of Romans, since there is no mention of female homosexuality in the Old Testament (see Moo’s note on this verse p.114, fn.114). This does not mean that Paul has read Plato’s Laws only that he has heard this critique. This may have been from a Gentile or Jewish source.
 For explicit descriptions of types of intercourse by ordinary people in the ancient world see the magical papyri, Papyri Demoticae Magicae: PGM XXXVI. 142, 147–52 & V. 304–69; For translations and discussion see John J. Winkler, ‘The Constraints of Eros’. In C.A. Faraone & D. Obbink, Magika Hiera: Ancient Greek Magic and Religion (New York: Oxford University Press, 1991), 214–243.
 Augustine, “On marriage and concupiscence (35).” In ‘Saint Augustine’s Anti-Pelagian Works’, trans. Peter Holmes, A Select Library Of The Nicene And Post-Nicene Fathers Of The Christian Church, Philip Schaff (ed.) (Edinburgh, UK: T&T Clark, 1886).
 Suetonius could be drawing on earlier invectives against Nero when he accuses him of incest with his mother (28.6), Tamsyn Barton, ‘The invectio of Nero: Suetonius’. In J. Elsner & J. Masters, Reflections of Nero: Culture, History and Representation (Chapel Hill, NC; London, UK: University of Nth Carolina Press,1994), 48–63.
 “Moreover it considered also that the Father who created the world does by the law of nature take care of that which he has created, exerting his providence in behalf of the whole universe and of its parts.” Translated, Yonge, http://www.earlychristianwritings.com/yonge/book29.html
 ‘Plato’ http://plato.stanford.edu/archives/fall2010/entries/justice-virtue/; cf. Moo, Romans, 150, “Paul is pressing into service a widespread Greek tradition…”
 As Scot McKnight argues in Reading Romans Backwards: A Gospel of Peace in the Midst of Empire (Waco: Baylor University Press, 2019), 101–113.
 Moo, Romans, 93; McKnight, Reading Romans Backwards, 107–113, argues that the Jewish person is a believer in Jesus and is the spokesperson for the ‘weak’ found in Chapter 14–15.
[234 James D.G. Dunn, Beginning from Jerusalem: The Making of Christianity, vol. 2 (Grand Rapids, MI; Cambridge, UK: Eerdmans), 885.
 Stanley K. Stowers, The Diatribe and Paul’s Letter to the Romans (Ann Arbor, MI: Scholars Press, 1981), 112; Although I disagree with Stowers who says that Paul is not addressing Jews here; cf. Moo, Romans, 128.
 Moo, Romans, 157.
 Cicero, Against Verres 22.214.171.124; 17.45ff.; 126.96.36.199; as an example of a rhetorical commonplace in Hermogenes, Süss 1910, 249 –250 — see Barton, ‘The invectio of Nero’ for commentary, 53.
It says something pretty terrible about the church context we live in that an argument is thorough as this one (over the last three blog posts) has to be kept behind pay wall! Even a hint that Paul might not be as anti-gay as we think him to be is heretical. In other words, it’s more important to follow modern orthodoxy then to wrestle with the Bible.
I also should say you’ve taken the long way about to say that Paul is not really much help in addressing the present-day issues that emerge from our very different understanding of human nature and sexual identity. Is this level of detailed exegesis necessary to make what should be an obvious point — that a first century author can’t speak directly to 21st-century issues, since he had a different context, worldview, and situation in view when he wrote. A more roundabout, nuanced approach is needed — a broad understanding of the direction of the gospel, and openness to fresh moves of the spirit.
This sounds like I’m dismissing your work — which is not my point at all. Thank you for your careful scholarship, and for setting out what should is a convincing case.
Thank you Shane for your kind words. These 3 articles started life out as study notes because as I started to share about my doubts on the translation of ἀρσενοκοίταις as”homosexual sinners” in 1 Corinthians 6:9 & 1 Timothy 1:9-10, people would say ‘ah but Romans 1.’ So I wrote this for my research and to satisfy myself. So this is me thinking out loud (I might be giving away to much about myself here-that I think in this round about way 🙂 ). You feed back on this means a lot to me.
Great writing. I did not see any cites to DeYoung but he wrote a small 1988 paper on some of the interpretive issues here; he rejects Scroggs’s conclusion and comes down on the side that the reformists get it wrong, but I think he jumped to some major conclusions without showing his work. https://www.etsjets.org/files/JETS-PDFs/31/31-4/31-4-pp429-441_JETS.pdf E.g., he considers that man’s “nature” is immutable and thus man’s sexual behaviors today would have historical precedent to Paul (but this guy wrote before the advent of the web, which I believe has not only changed man but expanded new avenues for the unchanged bits to find new expressions, often for the worse).
Reading up on this general debate led me to some interesting writing by Philo, who seemed to conclude that a chief evil of Sodom was that guys who let themselves get treated like women ended up afflicted with the “female disease” – which I think is a synonym for hysteria. (Something to effect of performative mimicry like the example you discussed from Tatian).
On another note, I find it interesting that Philo condemns recreative male-female sex dynamics; he is either a prude or drawing on a particular brand of Jewish / Hebrew traditions not shared by the Gentiles, as I know of no explicit condemnation of such in the Tanakh.
It’s great we are blessed with pieces like this that share subtle thinking on difficult texts. Sometimes I think it is sad only a few scholars can combat the ease of access the laity have to the Bible, but it is reassuring that a fight is happening at all. Kudos.