The Bible has a huge role in the development of social ethics. It is an indispensable source of Christian faith as it witnesses to Christ. It is important to analyze and study sexuality critically in the context of various biblical texts. There is a high distinction on peripheral and central aspects of human sexuality in the Old Testament. Such distinction is arrived at by differentiating descriptive ancient cultural values from God's will.
In the biblical time, in Israel, biblical texts described the cultural, social, psychological and historical conditions of people. These factors are put into context as they relate to narratives, defining laws and composing songs. Much of what is in the biblical texts cannot be prescribed merely because it is articulated in the bible. The commission of adultery by David with Bathsheba is a description of David’s behavior. The narration is not intended to be prescribed on anyone else, but articulates of David’s misbehavior. In 2 Samuel verse 13, Amnon, who is David's son, seduced and raped his half-sister Tamar. This action is considered to be offensive and leads to the punishment of Amnon.
The description of sexual values and attitudes in existence began in the Garden of Eden with the narrative of human rebellion. Description of brokenness present in life is articulated in Genesis chapter 3. Human sinful nature is attributed to the desire of humans to be like God. It also entails making their own rules, instead of abiding by the Creator's will. Results of such rebellion are experienced in the context of sexuality. Gender hierarchy in existence, in the culture and society of biblical time of Israel, greatly put human sexuality into context. In Exodus 20: 17 and Exodus 22: 22-24, codes of law assuming certain realities in existence that include gender hierarchy were developed in Israel (The King James Study Bible). Married male adults were presupposed to be heads of the family and women were the property of their father or husband if unmarried. Husbands had the overall authority over their wives and for women who were yet to marry, their father had authority over them.
Sexual violations by a woman were viewed as an offence against the man that she belonged to. In contrast as stipulated, in Deuteronomy 22:22 and Lev. 18:20 and Lev. 20:10, sexual involvement by a married man with a prostitute or unmarried woman resulted to less severe consequences as there was no violation of another man's property. The man who has offended was required to marry the woman after payment of a determined marriage price. However, the father to a girl could decline to marry off her daughter and opt for payment to compensate for their acts. As a guarantee of the woman's security, Deut. 2: 29 barred divorce of a wife acquired under this circumstance.
After their exile from Egypt, Israelites stressed on holiness to counter unholy practices, things and people. In Lev. 18: 19 sexual intercourse during menstruation was a violation of the holy order set by God. In Lev. 12:1-8 and Lev. 15:16-33, the notion that one is defiled when body fluids were emitted specifically prohibited sexual intercourse during menstruation. Man became unclean until evening while women spent a good proportion of her life being unclean. In ancient Israel, the bearing of children was vital to the community’s economy. Members of the clan would specialize in different occupations. Because of the high importance attached to progeny, it was vital for a woman to bear children. Barren women would provide a maid or another woman to his husband, with whom the husband could bear children. This practice is spelt in Genesis 16 story of Hagar and Sarah.
In the Old Testament, sexual activities between two or more males were prohibited. Lev. 18: 22 has a set of guidelines focused on sexual relations. The first prohibition focuses on acts of sex with members of the extended family in general. Any form of promiscuity is guarded by the law among members of the various circles present in the extended family. Practices that have been forbidden include bestiality, intercourse amongst two or more males, adultery, performance of sexual activities in the presence of menstrual uncleanness and adultery. Another way of having the will of God is to put in mind that biblical records were written to express the will of God for life in peoples sexuality rather than specifically instruct us on sexuality based questions. The understanding of man as creatures of God comprises physical, sexual aspects of what being human means. The second chapter of Genesis says that man was created and brightened up by God’s breath in order for them to become living souls. Biblically, human beings are but souls and they also do not have souls (The King James Study Bible).
The book of Song of Solomon expresses a forward delight in erotic love and sensational feeling. The celebration of sexuality depicts mutuality between man and woman and procreation. The love songs contained in this book show that the people of Israel viewed sexuality as part of the good creation of God. It is there to be celebrated and not denied. However, they cannot be directly prescribed to in the form that they exist. The final chapter of Genesis gives us another portrayal of the will of God for life. It witnesses against attitudes about sexuality and gender that were in existence. The current state of brokenness among human beings at times overwhelms those caught in it. Regardless of whether tension and pressure arise from sexuality or other factors, people all along look for hope where apparently, there is none.
For early followers of Jesus, his death, resurrection and ministries mark the dawn of a new age that touched all every aspect of their life. Gospels reflect on various situations in the Christian community that reinterpreted and reserved traditions of Jesus. They reveal the post resurrection perspective. Jesus consistently related with people whose standards of holiness of what was proper and right were questionable. The Pharisees, who had high conscious on purity criticized Jesus for eating with prostitutes, tax collectors and sinners, who never looked keenly on what was considered clean and unclean thus undermining purity rules. In a very provocative manner, in John chapter 8, a woman caught while she was committing adultery was protected by Jesus. He challenged those without sin to first cast a stone. Jesus defined defilement as a moral problem resulting from evil actions and thoughts coming from one’s heart rather than items that are external to a person.
Jesus was more concerned with actions and attitudes separating one from other people and God rather than impurities acquired externally. Jesus is beyond taboos and stereotypes that were in existence, in the past portraying women negatively. In Mark 7: 21-22, Jesus argues that one is defiled by immoral thoughts and actions which include adultery and sexual immorality and not things that are external to the body (The King James Study Bible). In Matthew 5: 27-30, men are warned of the seriousness of lust, which is equated to adultery. This warning is placed beside the prohibition for divorce in the Sermon of the Mount, perhaps to advocate that lust can result to divorce. Pharisees involved Jesus in a debate concerning proper reasons to effect divorce. Contrary to the assumption in the Old Testament, Deut. 24:14, that the Jewish law allowed divorce, Jesus challenged the legitimacy of divorce in Mark 10:2-9.
He further states that the purpose of God in creating a husband and wife in Genesis chapter one and two had priority over the view in existence, in Deut. 24. Mark 10 intended to underlie seriousness of causing interference in marital relationships that have been sanctioned in a divine manner. Remarriage and divorce were compared to adultery, a sin against God. In Mark 10: 11, he claims of divorce being offensive to the former wife when remarriage occurs. In many of the sayings by Jesus, divorce followed by remarriage is adulterous. One who marries a divorced woman also commits adultery. This is articulated in the book of Luke 16: 18, the reason underlying being that the separation is made permanent by remarriage, yet the permanence of marriage is greatly emphasized by Jesus in Matthew chapter 5 and 19 (The King James Study Bible).
Paul views what occurred during the crucifixion and resurrection of Jesus as an ushering in of a new age by God. His approach about questions on sexual behavior was to consider them with a perspective of Jesus' death and resurrection and their implications in all human relationship and conduct aspects. His ethical view of sex was based on folly of the cross, defying conventional wisdom, and uniting enlivening the faithful in Christ’s Body through the transformative power of God. God created sexuality and transformed it among believers by the death and resurrection of Jesus. It is then purified by the indwelling Spirit.
In the book of Thessalonians 4: 3-8, Christians should act in a manner different from the gentiles, who are unaware of God. Responsibility in sexual behavior, which is exhibited to others in the community by respectful treatment, is a sign of sanctification. Christians are bound to avoid taking advantage of others in sexual matters. A considerable amount of attention is given to Romans 1: 26-28. It has reference to same-sex sexual activities. Confusion of sexual roles is characteristic of pagans resulting to the rejection of God. Paul urges people who have the gift of celibacy to stay unmarried so as to devote their lives to God’s work in 1st Corinthians chapter 7. He further calls equality in sexual relationships and views marriage as a substitute to sexual immorality.
In 1st Corinthians chapter 7, Paul gives instructions on how to exercise sexuality. His instructions are based on his understanding of the mission of the new reigning God and the Gospel. Different standards of conduct were to be followed by those in the church, and the distinguishing feature present in all the standards was love. In 1st Timothy chapter 2, and Titus chapter 2, influence by the church resulted to suspicion on sexuality. Women were associated with the body and sexuality. Men desisting from sexual intercourse with women helped them to aspire to spiritual life of their soul (The King James Study Bible).
The King James Study Bible: King James Version. Nashville: Thomas Nelson Publishers, 2008. Internet resource.