Read in the light of other Jewish literature of the time, not least, Philo of Alexandria, Paul's comments in Romans 1 about same-sex relations should be seen as a rhetorical ploy to gain a sympathetic hearing for his argument from the Roman recipients of his letter by appealing to common ground in deploring the sins of the Gentile world before turning to challenge them about the fact that all have sinned, and so need the good 1st century rome sexuality of God's righteousness revealed in Christ.
Typically Paul's focus is not just acts, but attitude and misdirected passions, which he sees as the result of misdirected and perverted understandings of God. Based on the Genesis creation stories, Paul assumes that all people are heterosexual and that the prohibitions of Leviticus should apply also to lesbian relations. Where these assumptions are not shared, Paul's conclusions must be revisited in the light of informed compassion and responsible ethical insight.
It is somewhat fortuitous that we have in the New Testament NT some reference to same-sex relations. We have this because Paul wanted to what he could assume his hearers would most agree with him in condemning.
He does so in order to introduce his argument that in fact all people fall under God's condemnation - not only those Gentiles, but also Jews.
He packs very much into the four relevant verses in Romans 1: Fortunately he is not the only Jew of his time to address the issue and other Jews were not so terse. I have discussed Jewish literature Loader, a, b, Our best resource for extensive Jewish comment is Paul's contemporary, Philo of Alexandria, who happily "1st century rome sexuality" at the interface of Jewish and Hellenistic Roman culture in a way that enables us to recognise perspectives informing his thought from both sources.
Whilst we cannot assume that Alexandria's Philo and Tarsus' Paul would have necessarily shared the same perspectives in such matters, it is clear that they have much in common, so that Philo provides a helpful entry into the biblical texts. He has the advantage of not being considered inspired and authoritative, and so being less laden with the distorting hopes and fears which that brings. In his account of the Therapeuts, mostly people of senior age, men and women who live in celibacy on the shores of Lake Mareotis near Alexandria in reflection and contemplation, Philo contrasts their holy feasts with the unholy parties of his day.
He then describes some 'who are still boys' and others 'full-grown lads fresh from the 1st century rome sexuality and smooth shaven, with their faces smeared with cosmetics and paint under the eyelids and the hair of the head prettily plaited and tightly bound' Contempt.
In the background are others, grown lads newly bearded with the down just blooming on their cheeks, recently pets of the pederasts, elaborately dressed up for the heavier services, a proof of the opulence of the hosts as those who employ 1st century rome sexuality know, but in reality of their bad taste. He goes on to describe the gluttony and drunkenness typical of such occasions and the sexual profligacy which ensues Contempt. Elsewhere he describes the men at such parties as typically engaging in indiscriminate sex with both women and men or boys Spec.
He describes the men of Sodom similarly as engaged both in adultery and in mounting other men, as he puts it Abr. Already we see three important elements in Philo's discussion: Same-sex acts happen primarily in wild drunken parties. They are simply part of profligate sexual response: Antony's profligacy illustrates the point A.
The passive partners are frequently slaves exploited for the purpose, made to look like women, functioning in many instances as male prostitutes, and ranging in age from puberty to maturity.
At Sodom, Philo assumes adults are engaged in such acts. Sodom is associated with unnatural and strange sexual behaviour also in Her. In the context of his discourse about the Therapeuts, Philo goes on to speak rather disparagingly of the Symposiums of Xenophon and of Plato, citing from the latter the myth of Aristophanes Contempt.
The myth is an aetiology of sexuality 1 according to which humans once existed as male, female, or androgynous.
Because of the insolence of these humans, Zeus cut each in half so that the halves have sought each other ever since. Those deriving from the androgynous being have been seeking their opposite, thus men seeking women, and women, men. The other 1st century rome sexuality produced the phenomenon of men seeking men as their other half, and women seeking women as their other half.
This theory of the origins of heterosexuality and homosexuality, put by Plato on the lips of Aristophanes and not reflecting his own convictions, receives short shrift in Philo.
Philo notes that it is 'seductive enough calculated by the novelty of the notion to beguile the ear', but to be treated by 'the disciples of Moses trained from their earliest years to love the truth The disciples of Moses know that God made humankind male and female and that whilst their God also engaged in a kind of surgery, the creation of woman was not a rash stroke of anger but divine purpose.
They also know that their Moses forbade lying with a man as with a woman, and declared 1st century rome sexuality an abomination Lv In his exposition of Mosaic law Spec. Aristophanes's myth is evidence that some did indeed see what we would call a homosexual orientation as natural, but such belief was relatively rare, and unlikely to find any more assent amongst Jews in general than it did with Philo.
Philo bolsters his conviction, rooted in the biblical prohibition, with arguments reflecting significant values of his day.