Bible Question:

In the Bible, does sodomite mean temple prostitute?

Bible Answer:

The  document “The Bible on Same Sex Relations” explains what the Bible teaches about homosexuality (Genesis 19). It also explains that God destroyed Sodom and Gomorrah because of the sin of homosexuality. This Q&A explains the meaning of the word sodomy and sodomite as used in ancient times and in the Bible.

One of the difficulties in present discussions about homosexuality and lesbianism is that same-sex advocates reinterpret the Bible and redefine terms such as sodomite and sodomy in an attempt to make homosexuality and lesbianism appear acceptable to God. Contrary to what these advocates would like us to understand, it is important to understand that the ancient writers were closer in time to the events in Sodom and Gomorrah in 2,070 BC.  Consequently, they had a better understanding of the meaning of the terms sodomy and sodomite. The ancients understood the history better and were not influenced by the advocates and movement in our modern culture and same-sex politics. Modern advocates seek to distort the Scripture to eliminate any opposition, and so they are motivated to twist the teachings of the Bible.  Since same-sex advocates are 4,200 years after the events in Sodom (Genesis 19), their understanding is not as clear as those who were nearer in time. Therefore, we will examine what the ancients said happened at Sodom and the meaning of the terms sodomy and sodomite.

Ruins Of The Canannite Temple of Baal-Shamin - Palymyra, Syria

Sodom and Sodomite in the Apocrypha, Pseudepigrapha and Josephus

The purpose of this section is to demonstrate that the ancients understood that homosexuality occurred in the city of Sodom and that was the reason for the city’s destruction. You will also discover that they believed homosexuality was a sin. They also state that homosexuality involved the anus.

The Testament of Benjamin 9:1 – 2nd Century B.C.

In the second century B.C. a document called “The Testament Benjamin” was published. It is part of the pseudepigrapha and is a subset of the Testaments of the Twelve Patriarchs. It refers to the “promiscuity of the sodomites” and clearly states that the judgment on the citizens at Sodom was due to a lack of hospitality as some advocates of homosexuality want us to believe, but was due to sexual promiscuity.

From the words of Enoch the Righteous I tell you that you will be sexually promiscuous like the promiscuity of the sodomites and will perish, with few exceptions . . .[1]

This quote is also important since it was written before God took on human flesh in the person of Christ and before the early church was established. It should also be remembered that the Old Testament was written before Christ, the apostles and the early church. Therefore, this second century B.C. document was not influenced by Christianity.

2 Enoch 34:1 – A.D. 1st Century

Another pseudepigrapha document is the 2 Enoch (first century A.D.). It connects the word sodomite with sexual sin and explicitly refers to it as abominable fornications involving the anus.

God convicts the persons who are idol worshippers and sodomite fornicators and for this reason he brings down the flood upon them.

And all the world will be reduced to confusion by iniquities and wickednesses and abominable fornications, that is, friend with friend in the anus, and every other kind of wicked uncleanness which is disgusting to report, and the worship of (the) evil (one).[2]

This clearly refers to homosexual behavior when we are told that the anus of each friend is involved in this form of fornication. It is impossible for someone to claim this about a male as the receiver and a female being the giver into the male’s anus.

Antiquities of the Jews – A.D. 1st Century

Flavius Josephus wrote the Antiquities of the Jews (A.D. 38-100). He was a Jew who wrote a history for the Roman government. In Book 1, chapter 11 and paragraph 3 he wrote,

When Abraham heard this, he was grieved for the sodomites; and he rose up, and besought God for them, and entreated him that he would not destroy the righteous with the wicked. And when God had replied that there was no good man among the sodomites; for if there were but ten such men among them, he would not punish any of them for their sins, Abraham held his peace.

. . . Now when the sodomites saw the young men to be of beautiful countenances, and this to an extraordinary degree, and that they took up their lodgings with Lot, they resolved themselves to enjoy these beautiful boys by force and violence; and when Lot exhorted them to sobriety, and not to offer anything immodest to the strangers, but to have regard to their lodging in his house; and promised that if their inclinations could not be governed, he would expose his daughters to their lust, instead of these strangers; neither thus were they made ashamed.[3]

Here Josephus teaches us what he learned from Genesis 18-19. Namely, that all of the people of Sodom were wicked, except for the family of Lot. Advocates of homosexuality want us to believe that only a small number of people committed the sin of lack of hospitality. But Josephus clearly understood that the Scriptures revealed the entire city was wicked, except for Lot and his family.

When he refers to the citizens of Sodom as sodomites, he is simply stating that the term sodomites refers to the inhabitants of the city of Sodom. Josephus also reveals that Lot had offered his daughters for sex when he says, “expose his daughters to their lust.” This reveals the issue at Sodom was sexual and not a lack of hospitality as some claim.

Apocalypse of Peter – A.D. mid-2nd Century

An apocryphal book called the “Apocalypse of Peter” (written A.D. mid-second century) indicates that homosexuality was considered to be a sin and those who committed the sin were punished in eternal flames after death.

Other men and women who cast themselves down from a high slope came to the bottom and were driven by their torturers to go up the precipice and were thrown down again, and had no rest from this torture. These were those who defiled their bodies, behaving like women. And the women with them, these were those who behaved with one another as a man with a woman.[4]

It is important to note that the word “behaved” is translated by others  as “lay.” “Behave” is stronger than “lay” since it implies a wide variety of sexual behaviors. While the text does not say men lay with men, it says “behaved with one another as a man with a woman.” This clearly implies men were having sex with men.

Apocalypse of Paul – A.D. 3rd Century

The Apocalypse of Paul (A.D. third-century) is one of the books in the New Testament apocrypha that helps us understand what the ancients understood occurred in the city of Sodom. The following quote occurs at the end of verse 39 of the Apocalypse of Paul.

And I saw other men and women covered in dust, and their faces were like blood, and they were in a pit of tar and brimstone, and they were running in a river of fire. And I asked, “Who are these, sir?” And he said to me: They are those who have committed the iniquity of Sodom and Gomorrah, men with men. Therefore, they pay the penalty unceasingly.[5]

While the Apocalypse of Paul is not Scripture, the above quote reveals that it was commonly believed and accepted that homosexuality was the sin of the city of Sodom, men with men, and the citizens were being severely punished with eternal fiery suffering after they died.

Sodomite Referred to Inhabitants of Sodom

In addition to the above quotes, the following quotes will further demonstrate that the word sodomite referred to inhabitants of the city of Sodom and later to homosexuality. In the next section, it will be demonstrated that the KJV mistranslated the Hebrew word that normally means cult, shrine or temple prostitute as sodomite. Consequently, due to the mistranslation advocates of homosexuality claim that sodomites were actually temple prostitutes, but that it is inaccurate.

It should also be noted that there are no Hebrew words that mean sodomite. Therefore, the purpose of this section is to demonstrate that the actual meaning of sodomite referred to citizens of Sodom, and then with the passage of time, it referred to homosexual activities.

The Instructor  – by Clement of Alexander

The ancient writer Clement of Alexander (A.D. 150-215) defines sodomites as citizens of Sodom and then describes their “insane love for boys,” “licentiousness,”  “lust,” and concludes with “committed like sins.”

The fate of the sodomites was judgment to those who had done wrong, instruction to those who hear. The sodomites having, through much luxury, fallen into uncleanness, practicing adultery shamelessly, and burning with insane love for boys; the All-seeing Word, whose notice those who commit impieties cannot escape, casts his eye on them. Nor did the sleepless guard of humanity observe their licentiousness in silence; but dissuading us from the imitation of them, and training us up to his own temperance, and falling on some sinners, lest lust being unavenged, should break loose from all the restraints of fear, ordered Sodom to be burned, pouring forth a little of the sagacious fire on licentiousness; lest lust, through want of punishment, should throw wide the gates to those that were rushing into voluptuousness. Accordingly, the just punishment of the sodomites became to men an image of the salvation which is well calculated for men. For those who have not committed like sins with those who are punished, will never receive a like punishment.[6]

Clement of Alexander refers to the citizens of Sodom as sodomites. He does not call homosexuals sodomites.

Holman Bible Dictionary

The Holman Bible Dictionary also states that the term sodomite originally referred to a citizen of the city of Sodom and later referred to male-to-male sexual relations.

Originally a citizen of the town of Sodom, one of the cities of the plain near the Dead Sea (Gen. 13:12). The term came to mean a male who has sexual relations with another male. The wickedness of Sodom become proverbial.[7]

Dictionary of the Bible

The five volume Dictionary of the Bible, published in 1902 by J. A. Selbie, reports that the term sodomite came from the city of Sodom.

The Eng. word is derived from SODOM (in 2 Es 7:36) “sodomites” of AV is used in lit. sense for “people of Sodom” (so RV), where unnatural offenses prevailed. [8]

Zondervan Pictorial Encyclopedia of the Bible

The Zondervan Pictorial Encyclopedia of the Bible reports that sodomy came from the name of the city of Sodom and also refers to homosexual behavior.

The name of Sodom has been enshrined in the word Sodomy, which means homosexuality. A picture of the enormity of the lust of the men of this city is given in the story of the visit of the two angelic beings to Lot’s home. The men of Sodom “to the last man” surrounded the house calling for these “men” to lust after them (Gen 19). Lot in his weakness offered them his daughters. Sodomy was condemned in the Mosaic law (Deut 23:17) and also in the writings of Paul (Rom 1:27; 1 Cor 6:9). Sodomites in the time of the kings are referred to (KJV) in 1 Kings 14:24; 15:12; 22:46 and 2 Kings 23:7.[9]

In summary, the ancient references and the biblical dictionaries all demonstrate that the English word sodomite referred to the citizens of Sodom and later to homosexuality.

KJV Mistranslated a Hebrew Word as Sodomite

The Hebrew word for the name Sodom is סְדֹם which is transliterated as sedom, and the Hebrew word that has been translated by the King James Version Bible as sodomite is קָדֵשׁ or kadesh. The two Hebrew words sedom and kadesh are spelled very differently. There is no connection between them. This is important since homosexual advocates accurately state that kadesh means temple prostitute. They then point to the KJV Bible which inaccurately translates the word as sodomite and want us to believe that sodomites are  temple prostitutes. However, this conclusion is wrong since the KJV Bible mistranslated kadesh originally as sodomite. That is, sodomites are not temple prostitutes.

It should be noted that the KJV and older translations are the only Bibles that translate kadesh as sodomite. The KJV Bible has translated kadesh incorrectly numerous times as sodomite, harlot, cult prostitute, unclean and whore. The newer Bible versions have recognized that kadesh does not mean sodomite and have translated kadesh correctly. What follows is further explanation of kadesh.

The five volume Dictionary of the Bible states,

But the Heb. words kadesh and kedeshah have in view not ordinary immorality but religious prostitution, i.e. “immorality practiced in the worship of a deity and in the immediate precincts of a temple” (Driver, Deut. 264, where we see references to authorities for the widespread existence of this practice) . . . The kedeshim are said to have been banished from Judah by Asa (1 K 15:12). References to them are found also in 1 K 14:24, 22:47(46), 2 K 23:7, Job 36:14, while we meet with kedeshoth in Gn 38:21 and Hos 4:14.[10]

For example, the word kadesh appears in Genesis 38:21-22, Deuteronomy 23:17, 1 Kings 14:24, 15:12; 22:46, 2 Kings 23:7, Job 36:14, and Hosea 4:14. Every time the word refers to cultic prostitution.

In Genesis 38:21-22, the Hebrew word that the KJV translates as sodomite is actually a “temple prostitute.” The New American Standard Bible (NASB) translates it correctly as “temple prostitute.” The English Standard Version Bible (ESV), Holman Christian Standard Bible (HCSB), New Living Translation Bible (NLT) and New English Translation (NET) translate the Hebrew word as “cult prostitute.” The New International Version (NIV) translates the word as “shrine prostitute.” The gender of kadesh is feminine  temple prostitute.

In 1 Kings 14:24 the Hebrew word for kadesh is translated as male cult prostitutes, male cultic prostitutes, sodomites, or shrine prostitutes. The word “male” is included in each translation because kadesh is in the masculine gender.

. . . and there were also male cult prostitutes in the land. They did according to all the abominations of the nations that the LORD drove out before the people of Israel. 1 Kings 14:24 (ESV)

. . . there were even male cult prostitutes in the land. They imitated all the detestable practices of the nations the LORD had dispossessed before the Israelites. 1 Kings 14:24 (HCSB)

And there were also sodomites in the land: and they did according to all the abominations of the nations which the LORD cast out before the children of Israel. 1 Kings 14:24 (KJV)

There were also male cult prostitutes in the land. They did according to all the abominations of the nations which the LORD dispossessed before the sons of Israel. 1 Kings 14:24 (NASB)

There were also male cultic prostitutes in the land. They committed the same horrible sins as the nations that the LORD had driven out from before the Israelites. 1 Kings 14:24 (NET)

There were even male shrine prostitutes in the land; the people engaged in all the detestable practices of the nations the LORD had driven out before the Israelites. 1 Kings 14:24 (NIV)

The examples of Genesis 38:21-22 and 1 Kings 14:24 demonstrate that the KJV mistranslated kadesh as sodomite since the word refers to either feminine or masculine cultic prostitutes but not homosexuals.[11] The Dictionary of Biblical Languages with Semantic Domains defines kadesh as,

Male shrine prostitute, i.e., person who engages in sexual acts related to worship of the pagan gods or other cultural reasons (Dt 23:18b[EB 17b]; 1 Ki 14:24; 15:12; 22:47(46)[EB 46]; 2 Ki 23:7; Job 36:14+), see also[12]

The Theological Wordbook of the Old Testament states this about kadesh,

The adjective qadesh, like the name Kadesh, means “holy,” but holy to what? The female functionaries in the pagan shrines were called qedesha, temple prostitutes, because that is what they were. The name is a sad commentary on the licentiousness of the Canaanite worship.[13]

Thus the Hebrew word kadesh is very different from the Hebrew word for the city of Sodom, sedom. Kadesh is not sedom. 

Unfortunately, the KJV mistranslation has given advocates of same-sex relationships the opportunity to claim that a sodomite was not a homosexual but a temple prostitute and, therefore, they claim that the activity in Sodom was not about homosexuality. However, this is not correct.

Conclusion:

Does sodomite mean temple prostitute in the Bible? No! The KJV mistranslated the Hebrew word kadesh in the Old Testament repeatedly as sodomite, when in fact the word refers to temple, cult, or shine prostitutes. The prostitutes were either female or male. It is not difficult to imagine that some male prostitutes provided sexual activities to other males. But the primary meaning of the Hebrew word kadesh is a temple prostitute and should never have been translated as sodomite. When the KJV made that mistake, it opened the door of homosexual advocates to apply the correct meaning of kadesh to sodomite. Then they claim that a sodomite was a temple prostitute. But that conclusion is wrong since kadesh has no relationship to the city of Sodom or to the activity of homosexuality that occurred in Sodom. The correct conclusion is that sodomite refers both to the citizens of Sodom and to those who practice homosexuality, and kadesh refers to something else.

The above discussion reveals that both the Bible and the ancients considered homosexual behavior to be sin. About A.D. 145-220, Tertullian wrote the  following in his document called the Apology,

The Christian [man] confines himself to the female sex . . . [14]

Later Eusebius (A.D. 260-341), the bishop of Cæsarea in Palestine and called the “Father of Church History,” wrote this about homosexual and lesbian behavior in “Proof of the Gospel.”

It is exactly this that the Word says . . . .

Ye shall not do according to the devices of Egypt, in which ye dwelt, and according to the devices of the land of Canaan, into which I bring you shall ye not do, and ye shall not walk in their ordinances, ye shall observe my judgments, and ye shall keep my ordinances. I am the Lord your God.

Then, having forbidden all unlawful marriage, and all unseemly practice, and the union of women with women and men with men, he adds:

Do not defile yourselves with any of these . . .[15]

The Scripture passage that Eusebius initially quoted is Leviticus 18:3-5. Then he summarized Leviticus 18:22 and concluded with verse 24.

The Q&A “What is the biblical definition of sodomite?” provides further explanation of the term sodomite in the New Testament.

 

 

References:

1.  James H. Charlesworth, ed., “Testament of Benjamin.,” The Old Testament Pseudepigrapha, trans. H. Andersen (Hendrickson, 2013),  vol. 2, p. 821.

2. Ibid., James H. Charlesworth, ed., “2 Enoch” The Old Testament Pseudepigrapha, trans. H. Andersen (Hendrickson, 2013), vol. 1, p. 158.

3. Flavius Josephus. Antiquities of the Jews. Kregel Publications. 1974. Book 1, chapter 11 and paragraph 3., p.35.

4. Schneemelcher. Apocalypse of Peter. New Testament Apocrypha. Westminster/John Knox Press. 1992. verse 39. p. 733.

5. Ibid., Apocalypse of Paul. verse 32, p. 631.

6. Clement of Alexander. The Instructor. Book 3, Chap. viii., Ante-Nicene Fathers. Hendrickson. 1995, vol. 2, p. 282.

7. Trent Butler. Holman Bible Dictionary. Holman Publishers. 1991.

8. J. A. Selbie. Sodomite. Dictionary of the Bible Dealing With Its Language, Literature and Contents, Including The Biblical Theology. Charles Scribner’s Sons. 1902. vol. iv, p. 559.

9. Merrill C. Tenny. The Zondervan Pictorial Encyclopedia of the Bible. Zondervan Publishing House. 1977. p. 468.

10. Ibid., J. A. Selbie.

11. Willem A. VanGremeren. New International Dictionary of the Old Testament Theology and Exegesis. Zondrvan Publishing. 1997. vol 3, p. 887.

12.  James Swanson, Dictionary of Biblical Languages with Semantic Domains: Hebrew (Old Testament) (Oak Harbor: Logos Research Systems, Inc., 1997).

13. Harris & Archer. Theological Wordbook of the Old Testament. Moody Press. 1980. vol. 2, p. 788.

14. Tertullian. Apology. Chapter 46. Ante-Nicene Fathers. Hendrickson. 1995, vol. 3, p. 51.

15. Eusebius. The Proof of the Gospel. Baker Book House. 1981. paragraph 162. p. 181.

Reference Links:

The Bible on Same Sex Relations
In what years were Sodom and Gomorrah destroyed?
The Destruction of Sodom and Gomorrah - Sermon
What is the biblical definition of sodomite?