Clobbering back with the Clobber texts:
Taking the Bible Seriously - Are There Clobber Texts in the Bible?
Rev. Dr. Thomas Hanks
The New Testament: Beginning With Jesus, Not Paul
A major and gross deviation: Only in the case of homosexuals, faith is not sufficient for
Although traditionalists would like us to forget about Jesus and look only at the "clobber texts"
they think they find in Paul, such a procedure is contrary to what Paul himself recommends: to
interpret his writings in the light of Jesus' life and teaching, but not as autonomous authorities
(1 Corinthians 4:16-17). Even traditionalist academics now recognize that Jesus never said a
single word in condemnation of "homosexuals" or any kind of same-sex behavior. Jesus
sought to correct the bigotry, xenophobia and homophobia of his fellow Jews, referring to
Sodom only to condemn cruel failures of hospitality (Matthew 10:11-15; Luke 10:10-13). In
fact, Jesus said very little about sexual matters of any sort, but spoke frequently (often with
vehemence) against the kind of covetous money-grubbing and abuse of the poor and weak
often epitomized by so many TV preachers.
Traditionalist apologists have failed to notice the bind they are in once the Bible's 48
references to Sodom are seen to say nothing about "homosexuality": Jesus repeatedly invited
into his kingdom (or offered them eternal life) all who believe in him and obey HIS commands,
not those of Leviticus or Paul (Matthew 28:16-20, etc.). But the current generation of
traditionalists have created a new heresy: Jesus' promises are held up as valid for anyone
unless they are homosexuals! This is a major and gross deviation, utterly without precedent in
the church before 1950 (since before that Jesus' references to Sodomy were falsely
interpreted to condemn male anal intercourse).
Only in the case of homosexuals is it said that faith in Jesus' promises expressed in obedience
to his commands is not sufficient for salvation. For gay men, traditionalists today claim,
salvation is possible only on the condition of obedience to insignificant minutae in Moses' law
and conformity with an obscure term in two pauline vice lists (see below). For lesbians, a
single verse of disputed interpretation in a sermon illustration in Romans becomes an ethical
absolute that condemns them to eternal punishment. With this kind of legalistic "different
Gospel" (which Paul himself condemned in Galatians 1:6), modern traditionalists claim to be
"preaching Jesus' Good News to homosexuals"!
JUDE 7 (by Jesus' brother)
only Jude 7 spotlights what we would call the "sexual" dimension of Genesis 19. At first glance
this emphasis might appear to contradict Jesus' own focus on Sodom's refusal to be
hospitable to homeless travelers. Such a misconception is easily bolstered by common
translations, which are incredibly homophobic:
"Sodom and Gomorrah and surrounding towns gave themselves up to sexual immorality and
perversion" (NIV, Jude 7).
Given the background of centuries of misinterpretation of the Sodom narrative, probably most
modern readers will think "homosexuality" on seeing the word "sexual immorality" (Greek:
porneuo), but on seeing the word "perversion" they will have no doubt -- and with even a small
injection of outmoded Freudianism, may consider Jude quite perceptive scientifically to think
that homosexuality represents a "perversion."
However, any accurate translation will make clear that Jesus' brother also rejects the
homophobic misinterpretation of the Sodom story, which arose in intertestamental judaism.
That misreading of the text had become a favorite way of denouncing Greco-Roman
tyrannies, since same-sex relations (commonly an adolescent and an older male) were
common in Greco-Roman societies and often defended by leading writers. Jude, however, like
his brother, calls us back to the original meaning, indicating that the "sexual" dimension of
Sodom's sin involved going after "flesh" (Greek: sarkos) that was "different/strange" (Greek:
heteras). The Jerusalem Bible footnote summarizes well the conclusions of modern scholarly
studies, pointing out that Jude recognized that the Sodomites were attempting to have sexual
relations with angels. The incredible prejudice of modern translators is seen in the fact that
they take the Greek word heteras (from which we get the word heterosexual) and translate
with terms like "perversion", making modern readers think Jude is denouncing homosexuality.
One translation (NRSV) even drags in the concept of "unnatural" from Romans 1:26-27! Our
modern Bible translations are works of careful scholarship, but the translations of Jude 7 give
us examples of the most blatant bigotry.
refusal of hospitality and attempted gang rape of angels ("other/strange" flesh, which is not
human) is hardly what 19th century scientists had in mind when they coined the word
The other term Jude uses (Greek: ekporneusasai; cf. pornographic) referred to prostitution in
classical Greek. Modern translations avoid the mistake of rendering the word by "fornicate"
and prefer something like "sexual immorality" (NIV). This is an improvement over "fornicate."
However, it imports the 18th century concept of "sexual" into the ancient text as well as the
Greek philosophical concept of "morality"--and it also begs the question: precisely what
activities are "immoral"? The NIV does preserve something of the ambiguity of the original
term in New Testament times, but a better modern paraphrase might be "irresponsible sex."
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