Does Romans 1:26-27 condemn shrine prostitution or same sex intercourse? Or both?

I’ve been wondering this for a while. Which one is it? Is it both?

why not both? I would say that this verse applies to both of your premises in a logical manner.

Well I was just thinking, that because Paul talks about Idolatry before that verse, I figured it would be about temple prostitution

while I think that’s what paul was speaking specically about, I would also say that this is not that bad of a proof text for the evils of SSI.

I agree with you, but what do I say to people who say that Paul doesn’t condemn monogamous same sex unions?

there seems to be more emphasis on the condemnation of homosexuality as it speaks about unnatural sex practiced by both men & women.

Its connected as when one loses his sight of God, he plunges in the most depraved urges thus committing all sorts of abominations.

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any same sex union is unnatural, just like bestiality.

The passage in question is condemning homosexual activity in the context of broader sexual debauchery, and idolatry, in the temple cults.

In order to engage in an informed exegesis of the introductory chapter from the Epistle to the Romans, it is essential for you to have some familiarity with the source of Paul’s thinking in these passages.

The relevant material can be found in the deuterocanonical Wisdom of Solomon, a Hellenistic Jewish text composed circa 150 BCE - early 1st century BCE that is considered to be sacred scripture by Catholics, Eastern Orthodox and Oriental Orthodox Christians, whilst being included in the apocrypha section of most Anglican and Lutheran bibles.

As to its influence upon Paul’s theology in Romans, here are some snippets from the extensive scholarly literature:

Stephen Barton., Where Shall Wisdom Be Found? Wisdom in the Bible (2005) p. 112:

Wisdom of Solomon is an important background source for Paul’s thought in Romans, especially in his condemnation of human sin and idolatry in Rom 1.18-32. Likewise, his account of the ruler’s authority as God-given in Romans 13 owes much to Wisdom 6.1-11

Linebaugh, A.J. God,. Grace, and Righteousness: Wisdom of Solomon and Paul’s Letter to the Romans in Conversation (2011)

“The lexical and thematic parallels between Wisdom 13-15 and Romans 1.18-2.5, and to a lesser extent Wisdom 10-12 (or 10-19) and Romans 9-11, have often been noted”

Watson, F., Paul and the Hermeneutics Of Faith (2004):

“Romans 1:18-32 follows Wisdom 13-14 not just at individual points but in the whole construction of the argument. Both writers argue that the true God might have been known by way of the created order, but that the opportunity has been wasted; that the most fundamental error is the manufacture and worship of idols; that idolatry is the root of all other evils; and that those who commit such sins are subject to divine punishment. While the differences are real and important, there appears to be little or nothing in either text with which the other of the other would have disagreed.” (408)


There are many studies by biblical scholars - of all theological persuasions, or lack thereof - which have argued for a close relationship (literary dependence, or at the very least significant allusion and familiarity), between Pauline epistles like Romans, 1 Corinthians and 2 Corinthians on one hand and the Wisdom of Solomon on the other.

St. Paul must have been very familiar with Wisdom of Solomon and obviously valued it as a reference point, or source of inspiration, for his theology - especially in his condemnation of sin. This is such that in his chapter on “Natural Theology in the Jewish Tradition” in the book Biblical Faith And Natural Theology (1994), the Scottish Old Testament scholar James Barr averred that he would “give pride of place to one particular document, the Wisdom of Solomon; for it shows an unusually high similarity to aspects of Paul’s language and thought”.

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Indeed, Paul appears to make allusions to this intertestamental text throughout his letters - even to the extent of basing his introductory argument in Romans upon it. Both texts progress by means of the exact same movement of thought: i.e. the idolaters should have been capable of perceiving God through knowledge from created things, rather than worshipping the creature and so are “without excuse” (Wisdom 13.1-9; Romans 1.19-20); the Gentiles rather turned to the idolatrous worship of created things as gods (Wisdom 13.2,7; Rom. 1.22-23, 25). Their ignorance of God (Wisdom 14.22; Rom. 1.21) in turn resulted in them going on to perpetrate all manner of sinfulness, including murder, theft, deceit and sexual promiscuity (Wisdom 14.22-27; Rom. 1.24, 26-31). God’s righteous judgement therefore remains on those who practice such abominable deeds (Wisdom 14.30-31; Romans 1.32).

Here is an important quotation from Wisdom 14:22–31 pertaining to this:

Then it was not enough for them to err about the knowledge of God,
but though living in great strife due to ignorance,
they call such great evils peace.
For whether they kill children in their initiations, or celebrate secret mysteries,
or hold frenzied revels with strange customs,
they no longer keep either their lives or their marriages pure,
but they either treacherously kill one another, or grieve one another by adultery,
and all is a raging riot of blood and murder, theft and deceit, corruption, faithlessness, tumult, perjury,
confusion over what is good, forgetfulness of favors,
defiling of souls, sexual perversion,
disorder in marriages, adultery, and debauchery.
For the worship of idols not to be named
is the beginning and cause and end of every evil.
For their worshipers[b] either rave in exultation,
or prophesy lies, or live unrighteously, or readily commit perjury;
for because they trust in lifeless idols
they swear wicked oaths and expect to suffer no harm.
But just penalties will overtake them on two counts:
because they thought wrongly about God in devoting themselves to idols,
and because in deceit they swore unrighteously through contempt for holiness.
For it is not the power of the things by which people swear,[c]
but the just penalty for those who sin,
that always pursues the transgression of the unrighteous.

Romans 1: 22 - 23

22 Claiming to be wise, they became fools; 23 and they exchanged the glory of the immortal God for images resembling a mortal human being or birds or four-footed animals or reptiles.

Its about people belonging to the Roman mystery cults who worship images of the “emperor” (a mortal human being) and gods in animal-form. Not atheists. The people he is referring to worship “gods”, they are polytheists - and not even meaning all idolaters, for he later notes that there are ones who will be excused on the day of judgement for living morally in accordance with their conscience.

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Paul’s description above is derived from chapters 13-15 of the Wisdom of Solomon, which is specifically about pagan idolatry in those specific chapters (although the earlier chapter 2 also refers to Jewish mortalists and Greek atomists who reject belief in an afterlife). Wisdom 13 states, in part:

But miserable, with their hopes set on dead things, are those
who give the name “gods” to the works of human hands,
gold and silver fashioned with skill,
and likenesses of animals,
or a useless stone, the work of an ancient hand…
He forms it in the likeness of a human being,
14 or makes it like some worthless animal,
giving it a coat of red paint and coloring its surface red
and covering every blemish in it with paint;
15 then he makes a suitable niche for it,
and sets it in the wall, and fastens it there with iron​

Ancient cities were full of temples and shrines with images of gods and goddesses worshipped in the form cats, jackals, crocodiles, serpents: Isis, Osiris, Anubis, Mithras with his sacred bull and so on. Mystery cults like Mithraism.

His discussion of sexual debauchery must also be understood in the context of these idolatrous cults. These are exactly the sort of things that went on in and around some (not all, obviously) pagan temples throughout the Mediterranean world in Paul’s time, as at the time of the writer of the Book of Wisdom, which goes into rather more detail than Paul does.

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Thank you very much Vouthon for this surprising examination of Wisdom and the book or Romans.

So I could basically say that both temple prostitution and Homosexual acts can be proven to be sinful in these two passages?

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@Joe1 Quite right my friend!

He is relying on the deuterocanonical Book of Wisdom to articulate an argument about the evil of idolatry in the context of the Roman mystery cults which he claims results in all manner of sin and sexual debauchery, with his focus in this respect being upon the homosexual acts as paradigmatic.

As Wisdom 14: 27- 31 puts it:

For the worship of idols not to be named
is the beginning and cause and end of every evil.
For their worshipers either rave in exultation,
or prophesy lies, or live unrighteously, or readily commit perjury;
for because they trust in lifeless idols
they swear wicked oaths and expect to suffer no harm.
But just penalties will overtake them on two counts:
because they thought wrongly about God in devoting themselves to idols,
and because in deceit they swore unrighteously through contempt for holiness.

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I don’t think one would necessarily exclude the other, so I’m inclined to agree.

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