Fortress Press

Homoeroticism in the Biblical World: A Historical Perspective

Homoeroticism in the Biblical World

A Historical Perspective

Martti Nissinen (Author), Kirsi I. Stjerna (Translator)


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Nissinen's award-winning book surveys attitudes in the ancient world toward homoeroticism, that is, erotic same-sex relations. Focusing on the Bible and its cultural environment—Mesopotamia, Greece, Rome, Israel–Nissinen concisely and readably introduces the relevant sources and their historical contexts in a readable way.

Homoeroticism is examined as a part of gender identity, i.e., the interplay of sexual orientation, gender identification, gender roles, and sexual practice. In the patriarchal cultures of the biblical world, Nissinen shows, homoerotic practices were regarded as a role construction between the active and passive partners rather than as expressions of an orientation moderns call "homosexuality." Nissinen shows how this applies to the limited acceptance of homoerotic relationships in Greek and Roman culture, as well as to Israel's and the early church's condemnation of any same-sex erotic activity.

For readers interested in the ancient world or contemporary debates, Nissinen's fascinating study shows why the ancient texts – both biblical and nonbiblical – are not appropriate for use as sources of direct analogy or argument in today's discussion.

  • Publisher Fortress Press
  • Format Paperback
  • ISBN 9780800636456
  • Dimensions 6 x 9
  • Pages 216
  • Publication Date April 20, 2004


"I strongly recommend Nissinen's work. It fills a major need in contextualizing the Old Testament references to homosexual relations in a study of ancient Near Eastern references to same-sex sexual interactions. Many of the relevant texts have simply not been accessible to the general reader heretofore."
— Phyllis Bird, Garrett-Evangelical Theological Seminary

"This book has been admirably conceived and developed to assist the ordinary Bible reader in narrowing the cultural distance between the world of Jesus and our own. Both authors are expert teachers, proven researchers, and clear articulators of what they know so well: the society of Palestine in the time of Jesus, its social institutions, cultural values, daily experiences, and elite and non-elite approaches to the God of Israel. A careful reading will...make the pages of the Gospels come alive...."
— Bruce J. Malina, Creighton University

Table of Contents


1. Introduction
2. Mesopotamia
3. The Hebrew Bible
4. Classical Antiquity
5. Judaism
6. The New Testament
7. Homoeroticism in the Biblical World-Homosexuality Today

Appendix: Creation, Nature, and Gender Identity