(From Chapter 2 of Strange Flesh: The Bible and Homosexuality by Steve Wells)

A note about the "strange flesh" of Jude 7

Jude is a strange little 'book' that is seldom read and seldom quoted. It consists of only 25 verses, three of which are of interest in the homosexuality debate.
And the angels which kept not their first estate, but left their own habitation, he hath reserved in everlasting chains under darkness unto the judgment of the great day. Even as Sodom and Gomorrha, and the cities about them in like manner, giving themselves over to fornication, and going after strange flesh, are set forth for an example, suffering the vengeance of eternal fire. Likewise also these filthy dreamers defile the flesh, despise dominion, and speak evil of dignities. Jude 6-8
Chained-up runaway angels, Sodom and Gomorrahites, fornicaters, filthy dreamers, flesh defilers, and dominion despisers -- it's hard to sort them all out, isn't it?

And yet there is a certain commonality here. There are two incidents that seem to upset 'Jude'1 in this passage, and both involve angel sex: God's sons (angels?) impregnate human women in Genesis 6,2 and the men of Sodom demand to 'know' Lot's angelic visitors in Genesis 19. Both bothered God. A lot. In the first case, he destroyed everything that breathed with a flood; in the second, he stoned and burned to death everyone in two cities, and then tortured them forever 'with the vengeance of eternal fire.'

So the moral of the story is this, I guess: Don't have sex with angels. Maybe that's what Jude meant by 'going after strange flesh.'

Or maybe not. Maybe it's all about homosexuality. Here's the argument for that:

The key phrase in this passage is "giving themselves over to fornication, and going after strange flesh." In it, the Greek word pornea is translated as "fornication" in the King James Bible, but it's meaning would have been broader than that, and would have included all sexual misconduct.3 Robert Gagnon suggests that the sexual misconduct referred specifically to homosexual acts and the phrase "strange flesh" referred to the Sodomites' "attempt to copulate with Lot's angelic visitors."4

And if the conservatives' interpretation of this passage in Jude is correct, then those who "go after strange flesh" will suffer "the vengeance of eternal fire" (i.e., they will go to hell) for their homosexual acts.

  1. The author "claims to be Jude (v.1), and by this claim he seems to be saying he is brother of Jesus.... This is an author claiming to be Jude in order to get Christians to read his book...." Bart Ehrman, Forged, pp. 187-188; See also Marcus J. Borg, Evolution of the Word, p. 401.

  2. "And it came to pass, when men began to multiply on the face of the earth, and daughters were born unto them, That the sons of God saw the daughters of men that they were fair; and they took them wives of all which they chose. And the LORD said, My spirit shall not always strive with man, for that he also is flesh: yet his days shall be an hundred and twenty years. There were giants in the earth in those days; and also after that, when the sons of God came in unto the daughters of men, and they bare children to them, the same became mighty men which were of old, men of renown." Genesis 6:2-4

  3. "Like the Greek word pornea that it often translates, 'fornication' means extramarital or illicit sexual intercourse; it can also mean 'sexual immorality' in a broader sense (see, e.g., 1 Cor. 5.1; 6.9)." The Oxford Companion to the Bible, p. 232.

  4. "Jude 7 and 2 Peter 2:6-10 ... connect the sin of Sodom with passions for sexual immorality, not failure to provide social justice or inhospitality." Gagnon, The Bible and Homosexual Practice, p. 88.