Willard M. Swartley is former academic dean of Associated Mennonite Biblical Seminary and author of many books, including Mark: The Way for all Nations and Slavery, Sabbath, War, and Women: Case Issues in Biblical Interpretation. He is perhaps the most respected exegete in the Mennonite church.


on the Biblical Interpretation of passages on homosexuality

Harold N. Miller

Willard Swartley writes:
    "...some people, generally reflecting the Boswell and/or Scroggs arguments, conclude that the seven biblical texts that explicitly speak of same-sex practices (Gen 19; Jdg 19; Lev 18:22; 20:13; Rom 1:24-27; 1 Cor 6:9; 1 Tim 1:10) do not address the issue of loving homosexual relations....
    "But is this really true? Numerous scholarly essays have considered the exegetical work of these contributions and have found them both flawed and unconvincing. The foremost contributions here, in order of publication are:

J. Robert Wright, "A Case Undemonstrated," Anglican Theological Review 66 (1984): 79-94;
David F. Wright, "Homosexuals or Prostitutes? The Meaning of ARSENOKOITAI (1 Cor. 6:9, 1 Tim. 1:10)," Vigiliae Christianae 38 (1984): 125-53;
Richard B. Hays, "Relations Natural and Unnatural: A Response to John Boswell's Exegesis of Romans 1," Journal of Religious Ethics 14 (1986): 184-215;
David F. Wright, "Early Christian Attitudes To Homosexuality," Studia Patristica 18.2 (1989): 329-34 [see here Bernadette Brooten's related article in 18.1 (1985): 287-91];
Lynne C. Boughton, "Biblical Texts and Homosexuality: A Response to John Boswell." Irish Theological Quarterly 58.2 (1992): 141-53;
David F. Malick, "The Condemnation of Homosexuality in Romans 1:26-27 " and "The Condemnation of Homosexuality in 1 Cor.6:9," Bibliotheca Sacra 151 (1993): 327-40, 479-92;
Marion Soards, Scripture and Homosexuality: Biblical Authority and the Church Today (Louisville: W/JK, 1994);
J. Glen Taylor, "The Bible and Homosexuality," Themelios 21 (Oct. 1995), 4-9;
Gerald D. Coleman, Homosexuality: Catholic Teaching and Pastoral Practice (New York/Mahwah: Paulist, 1995), 56-72;
Thomas E. Schmidt, Straight and Narrow: Compassion & Clarity in the Homosexuality Debate (Downers Grove: InterVarsity, 1995);
Stanley Grenz, Welcoming But Not Affirming (Louisville: W/JK, 1998);
Robert Gagnon,, The Bible and Homosexual Practice: Texts and Hermeneutics (Nashville: Abingdon Press, 2001);
    "These dozen authors span the Christian communion and cannot be dismissed as grinding a conservative ax. Rather, the fact is that careful scholarly work on these texts does not support dismissing them as irrelevant to today's issue of same sex relationships. A very good accessible brief discussion of these texts is by Richard B. Hays in Sojourners (July 91). See also Hays' helpful treatment of the topic in his excellent monograph, The Moral Vision of the New Testament (Harper/Collins, 1996), 379-406."

    --Willard Swartley, Homosexuality: Biblical Interpretation and Moral Discernment (Herald Press 2003), pages 30-31

In an April 2002 article, Swartley reviews The Bible and Homosexual Practice by Robert A. Gagnon (Nashville: Abingdon Press, 2001).
    He calls the book a massive tome (520 pages!), the first comprehensive exegetical treatment of the issue of homosexuality, and commends it as nonpolemical. He quotes Gagnon's two objectives for the book: to present "clear, strong, and credible evidence that the Bible unequivocally defines same-sex intercourse as sin" and that "there exist no valid hermeneutical arguments derived from either general principles of biblical interpretation or contemporary scientific knowledge and experience, for overriding the Bible's authority on this matter."
    Swartley says that Gagnon succeeds in dealing with all the leading reasons that have been put forth to discount or mute the relevance of the biblical passages on homosexuality:
...The Bible condemns only exploitative, pederastic forms of homosexuality.
...The Bible primarily condemns homosexuality because of its threat to male dominance.
...The Bible has no category for "homosexuals" with an exclusively same-sex orientation; same-sex passion was thought to originate in over-sexed individuals.
...Homosexuality has a genetic component that the writers of the Bible did not realize.
...There are only a few biblical texts that speak directly to homosexuality.
...We do not follow all the injunctions of the Bible now, so why should those against homosexual conduct be binding?
...Since we are all sinners anyway, why single out the sin of same-sex intercourse?

--from Willard M. Swartley. "The Church and Homosexuality: Review Essay." Mennonite Quarterly Review. April 2002. p215.