There is only one passage in the Bible that deals directly and explicitly with lesbianism. It occurs in the first chapter of Paul's epistle to the Romans.
Wherefore God also gave them up to uncleanness through the lusts of their own hearts, to dishonour their own bodies between themselves: ... For this cause God gave them up unto vile affections: for even their women did change the natural use into that which is against nature: And likewise also the men, leaving the natural use of the woman, burned in their lust one toward another. Romans 1:24-27
It's obvious from these verses that Paul disapproves of homosexual relations among women (and men, for that matter). To him, such activity is unnatural, since it's against "the natural use of the woman." He even condemns sexual desire among lesbians who follow "the lusts of their own hearts." But what's with the word "Wherefore" here? Wherefore what? To understand that we have to read the preceding verses.
When they knew God, they glorified him not as God, neither were thankful; but became vain in their imaginations, and their foolish heart was darkened. Professing themselves to be wise, they became fools, And changed the glory of the uncorruptible God into an image made like to corruptible man, and to birds, and fourfooted beasts, and creeping things. 1:21-23
From this we see that becoming a lesbian is a long, clearly-defined process. It begins when a woman who believes in God fails to thank and glorify him properly. Then her imagination becomes vain and her heart darkens. Thinking herself to be wise, she becomes a fool. In the final stages, just before becoming a lesbian, she starts worshiping birds, four-footed beasts, and creeping things.
Okay, so now you know Paul's warning signs of lesbianism: ingratitude toward God, vain imagination, a darkened heart, foolish wisdom, and an inordinate fondness for nature.
Still, that doesn't entirely explain the "Wherefore" part of it. Becoming a lesbian is a five-stage process, but it isn't completed without God's involvement. After a woman becomes obsessed with creeping things, God "gives her up" to the "vile affections" and "unclean lusts of her own heart," and thereby pushes her over the edge into full-blown lesbianism.
If Paul is correct about all this, then we know that women do not choose to become lesbians, and they aren't born that way either. God makes them (or allows them to become) lesbians as a punishment for not thanking and glorifying him enough.
Is there anything else we can learn about lesbians in Romans 1? Well, yes there is. We learn that lesbians (and those who "have pleasure in them") are worthy of death.
They which commit such things are worthy of death, not only do the same, but have pleasure in them that do them. 1:32
Paul explains how God makes women lesbians; then he suggests that we kill them for it.
There are a four other Bible stories that are sometimes referenced in regard to lesbianism. They are presented below in biblical order.
The first mention of any kind of sexual orientation occurs in the third chapter of Genesis. The story begins when a nameless woman has a conversation with a talking serpent about trees, death, wisdom, and the knowledge of good and evil.
Now the serpent was more subtil than any beast of the field which the LORD God had made. And he said unto the woman, Yea, hath God said, Ye shall not eat of every tree of the garden? And the woman said unto the serpent, We may eat of the fruit of the trees of the garden: But of the fruit of the tree which is in the midst of the garden, God hath said, Ye shall not eat of it, neither shall ye touch it, lest ye die. And the serpent said unto the woman, Ye shall not surely die: For God doth know that in the day ye eat thereof, then your eyes shall be opened, and ye shall be as gods, knowing good and evil. Genesis 3:1-5After the discussion, the woman decided to eat from the tree in the middle of the garden, since it looked good to eat, was pleasant to look at, and she desired the wisdom that it would provide. So she ate one of its fruits and gave one to her husband.
And when the woman saw that the tree was good for food, and that it was pleasant to the eyes, and a tree to be desired to make one wise, she took of the fruit thereof, and did eat, and gave also unto her husband with her; and he did eat. 3:6After eating the fruit, their eyes suddenly opened and they knew that they were naked. So they sewed some fig leaves together to make aprons.
And the eyes of them both were opened, and they knew that they were naked; and they sewed fig leaves together, and made themselves aprons. 3:7Later, in the cool of the day, when Adam and his wife heard the voice of God walking in the garden, they hid behind some trees.
And they heard the voice of the LORD God walking in the garden in the cool of the day: and Adam and his wife hid themselves from the presence of the LORD God amongst the trees of the garden. 3:8But God somehow sensed their presence, saying to them, "Where are you?"
And the LORD God called unto Adam, and said unto him, Where art thou? 3:9Adam told God that he and his wife were hiding because they were naked and afraid.
And he said, I heard thy voice in the garden, and I was afraid, because I was naked; and I hid myself. 3:10Now God knew something was wrong. He asked Adam, "Who told you you were naked? Did you eat from the tree that I told you not to eat from?"
And he said, Who told thee that thou wast naked? Hast thou eaten of the tree, whereof I commanded thee that thou shouldest not eat? 3:11Adam blamed the woman that God had given him.
And the man said, The woman whom thou gavest to be with me, she gave me of the tree, and I did eat. 3:12God asked the woman what she had done. She said the serpent tricked her into eating the the fruit.
And the LORD God said unto the woman, What is this that thou hast done? And the woman said, The serpent beguiled me, and I did eat. 3:13To punished the serpent, God cursed it more than all other beasts. From now on it would have to crawl on his belly and eat dust. The serpent and the woman would be enemies, as would all of their descendants. Someday a descendant of the woman will bruise the head of a descendant of the serpent, and a descendant of the serpent will bruise the heel of a descendant of the woman.
And the LORD God said unto the serpent, Because thou hast done this, thou art cursed above all cattle, and above every beast of the field; upon thy belly shalt thou go, and dust shalt thou eat all the days of thy life: And I will put enmity between thee and the woman, and between thy seed and her seed; it shall bruise thy head, and thou shalt bruise his heel. 3:14-15God punished the woman with painful childbirths. In addition, she will sexually desire her husband, whom she will be forced to obey.
Unto the woman he said, I will greatly multiply thy sorrow and thy conception; in sorrow thou shalt bring forth children; and thy desire shall be to thy husband, and he shall rule over thee. 3:16The part of all this that concerns us here, of course, are the bolded words in the above quote: "Thy desire shall be to thy husband." God punished the woman (she isn't named until verse 20 when Adam gives her the name "Eve") with the curse of heterosexuality, implying that she was either a lesbian or asexual as originally created by God.1
When the Spirit of the Lord came upon Jephthah (one of the heroes of faith, according to Hebrews 11:32), he made a deal with God. If he would help Jephthah slaughter the Ammonites, Jephthah would offer whatever came out to greet him when he returned as a burnt offering.
Then the Spirit of the LORD came upon Jephthah ... And Jephthah vowed a vow unto the LORD, and said, If thou shalt without fail deliver the children of Ammon into mine hands, Then it shall be, that whatsoever cometh forth of the doors of my house to meet me, when I return in peace from the children of Ammon, shall surely be the LORD's, and I will offer it up for a burnt offering. Judges 11:29-31So according to this passage, God not only approved of Jephthah's vow, he inspired it. And, of course, God came through with his end of the deal by giving Jephthah "a very great slaughter."
So Jephthah passed over unto the children of Ammon to fight against them; and the LORD delivered them into his hands. And he smote them ... even twenty cities ... with a very great slaughter. 11:29-39When Jephthah returned home after slaughtering the Ammonites, his daughter came out to greet him.
Jephthah came to Mizpeh unto his house, and, behold, his daughter came out to meet him with timbrels and with dances. 11.34Jephthah tore his clothes and told her that he had opened his mouth to God.
When he saw her, that he rent his clothes, and said, Alas, my daughter ... for I have opened my mouth unto the LORD, and I cannot go back. 11.35His daughter (who is unnamed in the Bible) said, "Go ahead and kill me as a sacrifice to God. A deal's a deal."
My father, if thou hast opened thy mouth unto the LORD, do to me according to that which hath proceeded out of thy mouth. 11.36And so, by God, that's what Jephthah did. A man's gotta do what a man's gotta do.2
And ... her father ... did with her according to his vow which he had vowed: and she knew no man. 11.39But before Jephthah sacrificed his daughter to God, he granted her last request: to go up and down upon the mountains bewailing her virginity for two months with her lady friends.
And she said unto her father, Let this thing be done for me: let me alone two months, that I may go up and down upon the mountains, and bewail my virginity, I and my fellows: And he said, Go. And he sent her away for two months: and she went with her companions, and bewailed her virginity upon the mountains. 11:37-38And you only have to use your imagination a little bit to see what was going on here: she and her friends had wild lesbian sex for two months up on the mountains.3 Here's a picture to help with that.
In the book of Ruth, a story is told about a woman named Naomi and her daughter-in-law, Ruth. Naomi was an Israelite widow living in Moab with her two sons. Her sons married two Moabite women, Orpah and Ruth. When Naomi's sons died, she was left with her two daughters-in-law. Naomi decided to return to Israel and she suggested that her daughters-in-law return to the homes of their families in Moab, but they both wanted to go with her to Israel.
And they said unto her, Surely we will return with thee unto thy people. Ruth 1:10
Orpah kissed her mother Naomi, but "Ruth clave unto her."
And they lifted up their voice, and wept again: and Orpah kissed her mother in law; but Ruth clave unto her. 1:14
Ruth begged Naomi to let her go with her, saying the beautiful words that are often used at marriage ceremonies.
And Ruth said, Intreat me not to leave thee, or to return from following after thee: for whither thou goest, I will go; and where thou lodgest, I will lodge: thy people shall be my people, and thy God my God: Where thou diest, will I die, and there will I be buried: the LORD do so to me, and more also, if ought but death part thee and me. 1:16-17
So Naomi let Ruth return with her to Israel.
So Naomi returned, and Ruth the Moabitess, her daughter in law, with her, which returned out of the country of Moab: and they came to Bethlehem 1:22
In Bethlehem, Naomi coached Ruth on how to seduce Naomi's rich relative Boaz. Wait until he is a bit drunk and has fallen asleep. Then go in and uncover his feet [a biblical euphemism for male genitals].4 He'll tell you what to do.
Make not thyself known unto the man, until he shall have done eating and drinking ... When he lieth down ... uncover his feet, and lay thee down; and he will tell thee what thou shalt do. 3:3-4
Ruth does as Naomi says, and then at midnight Boaz wakes up and finds Ruth "at his feet." He asks who she is, and she says, "I am Ruth thine handmaid: spread therefore thy skirt over thine handmaid."
And when Boaz had eaten and drunk, and his heart was merry ... she came softly, and uncovered his feet, and laid her down. And it came to pass at midnight ... behold, a woman lay at his feet. And he said, Who art thou? And she answered, I am Ruth thine handmaid: spread therefore thy skirt over thine handmaid. 3:7-9
Boaz seems agreeable to the suggestion and says, "I will do to thee all that thou requirest." Next he asks her to "Tarry this night ... lie down until the morning." So Ruth "lay at his feet until the morning."
And now, my daughter, fear not; I will do to thee all that thou requirest ... Tarry this night ... lie down until the morning. And she lay at his feet until the morning. 3:11-14
Then Boaz bought Ruth as a wife.
Ruth the Moabitess, the wife of Mahlon, have I purchased to be my wife. 4:10
And he "went in unto her" and she had a baby boy.
Boaz took Ruth, and she was his wife: and when he went in unto her, the LORD gave her conception, and she bare a son. 4:13
Naomi nursed the baby for Ruth.
Naomi took the child, and laid it in her bosom, and became nurse unto it. 4:16
The neighborhood women said the son (Obed) was born to Naomi, not Ruth.
And the women her neighbours gave it a name, saying, There is a son born to Naomi. 4:17a
And it was the townswomen, not the father, that named the baby Obed, who was the grandfather of David.
And they called his name Obed: he is the father of Jesse, the father of David. 4:17b
So that's a nice story, you say. But what does it have to do with homosexuality?
Well, if you use your imagination, you might come up with these interpretations: Ruth and Naomi were lesbians5; Boaz was just a source of support and convenient cover for their relationship.6 The wedding quote from Ruth 1:16-17 was made from one lesbian lover to another,7 and the grandfather of David was raised by a lesbian couple.8
It is often said that Lydia of Thyatira (a town in the western part of modern-day Turkey) was the first European convert to Christianity.9 Here's what the Bible has to say about her.
And on the sabbath ... we sat down, and spake unto the women which resorted thither. And a certain woman named Lydia, a seller of purple, of the city of Thyatira, which worshipped God, heard us: whose heart the Lord opened, that she attended unto the things which were spoken of Paul. And when she was baptized, and her household, she besought us, saying, If ye have judged me to be faithful to the Lord, come into my house, and abide there. And she constrained us. Acts 16:13-15
And they went out of the prison, and entered into the house of Lydia. 16:40
So according to these verses, Lydia was a successful business woman, "a seller of purple [dye]" who was baptized by Paul, along with her household. After her conversion, Paul and his companions, stayed in her house for a while.
There is something a bit strange about Lydia, though. She seemed to be an independent woman (no mention is made of her husband or father) in a time when women were completely dependent on men. And who were those in "her household"? Were they Lydia's slaves, children, or friends (perhaps some of the "women that resorted thither").
But what really settles it, in Nancy Wilson's mind anyway, is the color purple:
She is a seller of purple dye. Purple, of course, has ancient associations with magic, royalty, and gays and lesbians.10
Lydia must have been a lesbian because she sells purple dye.
- "A reader might very well conclude that heterosexual desire on the part of the woman is a consequence of--or even a punishment for--the woman's misdeeds rather than an original component of her nature." Ken Stone, "The Garden of Eden and the Heterosexual Contract" in Take Back the Word, 63.
- Any vow that is made to God must be fulfilled, according to Deuteronomy 23:21: "When thou shalt vow a vow unto the LORD thy God, thou shalt not slack to pay it: for the LORD thy God will surely require it of thee; and it would be sin in thee."
- "[T]he possibility of female homoeroticism as an expression of deep emotion and intimate bonding cannot be ruled out. The writer assures us that Jephthah's daughter had never slept with a man even after the two months in the mountains. But the writer does not tell us how women found means to give one another solace in the wilderness as they faced the coming death of their friend." Theodore W. Jennings, Jr., Jacob's Wound, 226.
- All of these possible double entendres and sexual allusions are centered around the crucial instruction of Naomi's that Ruth should 'uncover his feet' ... a well known euphemism in the Bible for genetalia...." Tod Linafelt and T. K. Beal, Ruth and Esther, 49.
- It is difficult to imagine how any tale from antiquity could have been more explicit in dealing with 'women loving women' or with what is more prosaically termed a lesbian relationship." Jennings, Jacob's Wound, 230.
- "Naomi's intention is to find in Ruth's marriage to Boaz a shelter within which the two women can safely continue their relationship in the context of a rigidly heterosexist patriarchal society." Keith Sharpe, The Gay Gospels, 156.
- "How many brides and bridegrooms, one wonders realise that these words were actually spoken by a woman to another woman? What we apparently have here is an unashamed declaration of same-sex love...." Ibid., 155.
- "Ruth is actually King David's great-great-grandmother. Maybe homosexuality is genetic--at least in the Bible!" Nancy Wilson, Outing the Bible, 118.
- "She [Lydia] is the first person with whom Paul came into contacet in what is now Europe and the first 'European' Christian convert." John Cumming, The Lives of the Saints, 24.
- Nancy Wilson, Our Tribe, 158.