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Homosexuality and the Bible: Two Views Paperback – 16 Sep 2003

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Product details

  • Paperback: 127 pages
  • Publisher: Augsburg Fortress (16 Sep 2003)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 080063618X
  • ISBN-13: 978-0800636180
  • Product Dimensions: 14.1 x 0.7 x 22 cm
  • Average Customer Review: 4.5 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (2 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Bestsellers Rank: 438,854 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)
  • See Complete Table of Contents

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Product Description


Christians challenged by questions surrounding Scripture on same-sex relations will find an invaluable chart for navigating these confusing waters. -- Joel B. Green, Dean of the School of Theology and Professor of New Testament Interpretation, Asbury Theological Seminary (endorsement inside book)

Gagnon's brilliant condensation of his arguments should be a significant asset for clergy and laity, while Via opens new challenges. -- Catherine Clark Kroeger, Associate Professor of Classical and Ministry Studies, Gordon Conwell Theological Seminary (endorsement inside book)

I know of no finer presentation of all the main issues. -- Graham Stanton, Lady Margaret's Professor of Divinity, University of Cambridge (endorsement inside book)

I know of no other work that so clearly illumines the biblical issues at the heart of the controversy. -- Stanley Hauerwas, Gilbert T. Rowe Professor of Theological Ethics, Duke Divinity School (endorsement inside book)

Presents a vigorous, illuminating debate about the implications of scripture for contemporary attitudes toward homosexuality. I strongly recommend this book. -- James F. Childress, Hollingsworth Professor of Ethics, University of Virginia (endorsement inside book)

About the Author

Dan O. Via is Professor Emeritus of New Testament at Duke University Divinity School. He is author of several Fortress Press books, including The Ethics of Mark`s Gospel (1985), Self-Deception and Wholeness in Paul and Matthew (1990) and What is New Testament Theology? (2002). Robert A.J.Gagnon is Associate Professor of New Testament at Pittsburgh Theological Seminary and author of The Bible and Homosexual Practice (2001).

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1 of 2 people found the following review helpful By Mrs. Lynda Davies on 15 May 2013
Format: Paperback Verified Purchase
This very much formed the bedrock of my Christian Ethics essay on Christian approaches to homosexuality. A very good read.
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22 of 41 people found the following review helpful By M. Greveson on 2 Mar 2007
Format: Paperback
Homosexuality and the Bible - Two Views - presents the views of two scholars - Dan O. Via presents a defence of loving consenting adults engaging in a same sex relationship as not sinful and attempts to demonstrate that the biblical narrative has a meaning that is open to differing interpretation and that were the biblical narrative is clear in its condemnation of the same sex union this can be amended by new light from science etc. Dan labels the opposing views of Robert Gagnon as being those views influenced by presupposition brought to the biblical text.

Having read this book I found the arguments of Dan O Via to be clearly influenced by his presupposition that the homosexual state is a given state rather than a chosen state, in fact its not your fault you turned out that way its just the way the cards are dealt. This affects his main thrust of argument and comes across in a clearly illogical manner. He fails to respond to the valid question, if it's a given state then what about those who engage in incest and maintain a loving and consensual relationship is this state therefore unsinful.

Robert Gagnon's treatment of the biblical narrative is clear, concise and logical. Dan O Via regards the biblical narrative in such a manner that it becomes devoid of any authority and his attempt to justify sexual acts by the term "abundant life" seems ridiculous. For many people multiple sexual partners and perhaps sexual contact with children would also be considered as "abundant life". I can confess to having once believed and attempted to gain as many sexual partners as possible for my own gratification as being the way to an "abundant life" - I was very very wrong!
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Most Helpful Customer Reviews on Amazon.com (beta)

Amazon.com: 21 reviews
128 of 152 people found the following review helpful
and unanticipated dissapointment 14 Aug 2005
By Nicola Gibson - Published on Amazon.com
Format: Paperback Verified Purchase
I do not come to this with merely abstract interest. I was asked to read this book by a good friend who is a gay Christian man (his description of himself). As he and I have had a many month conversation about homosexuality and the praxis of Christian sexuality I was seeking to read some of the best of the pro-gay Christian writing. This book was the first he assigned.

Dan O. Via is a Professor Emeritus of NT at Duke (per back cover) and Gagnon is a PS USA guy at Pittsburgh Theological Seminary. Both are very able scholars and clearly very bright. One could get an adequate book review by simply looking at the pictures on the back cover of the volume. Via has this slick, "I know what I'm doing and I know I know it" hypnotist look on his face, and Gagnon has this preppy little tie tied over a well starched white shirt with his perfectly groomed ill advised beard.

Via's essay read like he looks. It's smooth, direct, authoritative. Via sees Homosexual orientation as, in the words of my friend, "part of God's diversity in creation". Specifically he says he regards gay people as "differently ordered rather than disordered." (pg. 4) Via takes two main tacks- one exegetical and one hermeneutical. Exegetically, he argues that the prohibition of homosexuality in the OT is parallel to uncleanness, not sin. He then goes on to note that the category of uncleanness is abrogated in the NT. He states "the OT category of impurity is annulled" (pg. 9).

Hermeneutically Via sees quite a lot of room between the ancient text and our present reality. In fact, it's best said up front: anyone looking to via for a pro-gay argument with a "high view of scripture" will be disappointed. Via seems to hold some view in the neo-orthodox trajectory and if you're looking for something else he'll loose you on page 2.

Gagnon is also as you would expect form his picture- a mathematical perfectionist in terms of grammatical argumentation, semantical occurrences, and general factual scholarship. While Via's essay is 39 pages, Gagnon's is 58, and even within that longer essay he points us to his web page for more on the issue at hand. The astute bibliophile will note he has published a 493 page version with Abingdon press in 2001. Gagnon has a more direct, less stylistic approach that could not be more stylistically different than his co-author. Generally speaking Gagnon disagrees with Via. He has a somewhat higher view of scripture, takes the biblical passages in a more historic way, sees homosexuality as non-essential in regard to personhood, and sees the hermeneutical gap between the ancient text and the modern context as much narrower than Via.

In terms of my assessment, Via frustrated me and I found Gagnon's arguments to be more clearly explained, better though through and well supported by verifiable facts. For example as Via explains that homosexuality in the OT is considered unclean and not sinful he makes the argument that the two different words for "abomination" in Leviticus are synonymous- implying that eating a dead bird is as offensive morally as homosexual sex. But this is a true claim that is also very false. It is true that the LLX (Greek translation of the OT 200 BCE) uses the same word to translate the word for the "abomination" of eating unclean animals, but it does so only once in 18 occurrences (the rest refering technically to animals that are unclean or in an unclean state). The other verb that is supposedly "interchangeable" is translated with two other verbs 38 times and the "interchanges"one only once. So Technically he's telling the truth, but to those of us with linguistic training and training in the Biblical languages, he's being intellectually dishonest or he didn't check an important claim in a source he didn't cite. This broke my trust, and Via was arguing uphill from page 8 on.

This is especially startling given the contrast of Gagnon's rigor. Gagnon's meticulous nature reminds me of the kind of person I'd never date but who I would love as an oncologist. His argumentation is superior in my view by a long shot, but then again, I don't think that's much of a feat since I think arguing scripture does not condone homosexuality does not take a tremendous amount of creativity. Via is very creative, but to a fault I think if one is attempting to write a Christian theology.

Via will not convince the unconvinced thinker with biblical specialization, and I would not recommend him as a spokesman for Gay Christians. For others having this conversation between heterosexual and homosexual friends, I would recommend "Homosexuality and Christian Community" ed. Choon-Leong Seow. Some articles are no better, but the spattering of Princeton Scholars that contribute to that volume construct a better overall volume I think.

Concerning this volume, quite frankly I expected more form a Duke Scholar and was badly let down by Via. I am still looking for a really good pro-gay writer who has put his/er view together with a high view of Scripture.
22 of 25 people found the following review helpful
Homosexuality and the Bible: Two Views 9 May 2008
By R. Dawson - Published on Amazon.com
Format: Paperback Verified Purchase
This is a scholarly and civil treatment of a controversial issue. Dr. Via admits the scriptures consistently condemn homosexual practice. The core of his argument is: "I maintain, however, that the absolute prohibition can be overridden regardless of how many times it is stated, for there are good reasons to override it" (p. 94).
Dr. Gagnon contends that there are no good reasons to override the clear teaching of scripture. He says, "It is hard, when one sees another struggling with temptations, not to alleviate the struggle by permitting what Scripture deems sinful" (p. 92). He argues against declassifying homosexuality as a sin regardless of societal pressure to do so.
I was unconvinced by Via's reasons to override the scriptures, but I found his arguments useful in understanding those who take his stand.
I would recommend this book as an introduction to a scriptural view of homosexuality.
9 of 10 people found the following review helpful
As Fair-Minded a Discussion of the Topic As You'll Ever Find 22 Dec 2010
By Manny Yunker - Published on Amazon.com
Format: Paperback Verified Purchase
If you're looking for a book that presents a one-sided view of the topic of homosexuality from a biblical point of view, there are plenty of propaganda books available for people who want a book that simply agrees with their existing thoughts on the subject.

If, on the other hand, you want a book that honestly points out the strengths & weakness of the arguments on BOTH sides of this question, this book is for you.

The book begins with Dan Via's presentation of the pro-homosexuality point of view, and Robert Gagnon follows with a presentation of the anti-homosexuality point of view. Both authors then follow up with a rebuttal to the other's presentation, an additional step which fairly well ensures that each's points are fairly presented & counter-argued.

On such a hot topic such as this, it is rare to find a book such as this one that treats the opposing point of view in such a fair and respectful manner. Unfortunately, most books on this subject (from both points of view) tend to be written in a very un-Christian manner, resorting to vitriolic name-calling rather than reasoned arguing.

(Note that my use of the terms pro-homosexuality & anti-homosexuality refer to the author's view of how God feels about the subject as expressed in the Christian Bible, and don't imply any personal hatred or bigotry by either author)
4 of 4 people found the following review helpful
A Terrible Two Views Book 14 Mar 2013
By J. WHITE - Published on Amazon.com
Verified Purchase
I titled this review the way I did because Dan Via seemed unprepared and simply unable to deal with Gagnon's research on every level. Even Via's critique of Gagnon is, for a lack of a better term, awful scholarship. Via's argument in one sentence is this: "If the biblical writers knew today what we know about sexual orientation, the biblical writers may have rethought their prohibitions of homosexual practice." This summary demonstrates that Via lacked any knowledge about what was and was not understood about sexual orientation, especially during the period Paul was writing in, and it definitely shows that Via did not read, in any significant detail, Gagnon's works on the issue before writing his position or rebuttal. Via, as a scholar, should be ashamed to have his name on this book. The publisher should have picked a better advocate for the pro - homosexual side, if there is one.
2 of 2 people found the following review helpful
By Steven H Propp - Published on Amazon.com
Verified Purchase
The Preface to this 2003 book states, "In this brief book, two New Testament scholars examine the biblical passages on the subject of same-sex sexual behavior and how this relates to modern questions of construing homosexuality and sexual orientation. Discussing both Old Testament and New Testament passages, each author also raises important interpretive and moral questions and then offers a response to the other's assumptions, assertions, and conclusions."

Vis argues, "since I have sought a positive biblical basis for legitimating responsible homosexual practice, I suppose my argument belongs primarily to the second category. I have tried to show that if we look at a number of biblical themes in the light of contemporary knowledge and experience, we can justifiably override the unconditional biblical condemnations of homosexual practice. I can think of two arguments in support of my claim of a new 'revelation.' 1. In the Bible itself... Revelation occurs as the reinterpretation of tradition... If the revelation of God is not to remain fixed in the past, the reinterpretive process that produced the Bible must continue in the life of the Christian community... 2. ... The Jesus of John's Gospel tells his disciples that after he is gone both the Father and he will send the Spirit to remind them of all that he has taught them... More than that, he has many things to say to them that they are not able to bear now. However, when the Spirit comes, he will lead the disciples into all the truth..." (Pg. 38-39)

Gagnon states, "Most pro-homosex scholars argue that that Old Testament speaks to the issue of homosexual practice on only four occasions: the twin stories of Sodom )Gen 19:1-9) and the Levite at Gilbeah (Judg 19:22-25) and the two Levitical proscriptions (Lev 18:22, 20:13). they then discount each set, claiming that the two narratives refer only to homosexual gang rape, while the two Levitical proscriptions are antiquated purity rules. However, the Old Testament has a web of additional interconnecting texts that establish an indictment of same-sex intercourse per se and provide a reasonable basis for rejecting such behavior." (Pg. 56)

He adds, "Jesus reached out to sexual sinners. The key stories are: the sinful woman in Luke 7:36-50; the woman caught in adultery in John 7:53-8:11; and the Samaritan woman at the well in John 4. They no more suggest that Jesus was soft on sexual sin than do the stories about Jesus' fraternization with tax collectors insinuate an accommodation to economic exploitation. The subtext for all three stories is that the sexual lives of the women were turned around by Jesus' unexpected outreach. Indeed, Jesus was motivated by the concern that they would face judgment at the kingdom's coming." (Pg. 70)

He further states that "When Jesus declared that 'it will be more tolerable on the Day (of Judgment) for Sodom' than for towns that do not welcome his messengers... he was acknowledging Sodom's role in Scripture as the prime example of abuse of visitors. As noted above, ancient interpretations of the story of Sodom and Gomorrah that go beyond passing references show a special revulsion for the ghastly attempt at treating males sexually as females... failure to welcome Jesus and his emissaries was worse still because 'something more than' an angelic visitation was here." (Pg. 73)

Via suggests, "I have fully acknowledged that the Gospel of John does not literally or directly support my argument to justify homosexual practice among committed couples. But the canonization of the biblical books assembled them into a kind of single text. Within this multiplex configuration the various parts impinge upon each other so that the Johannine categories provide weighty theological material that can override the biblical rejection of all homosexual practice." (Pg. 96)

The dialogue in this book will be of keen interest to all Christians---on whatever “side,” if any---studying this controversial matter.
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