Carol Towarincky in the Philadelphia Daily News:
Take the story of Sodom and Gomorrah.
The word “sodomy” comes from the idea that homosexual sex was the sin for which God destroyed the inhabitants of these two ancient cities.
The story is told in Genesis (19). The men of Sodom surrounded Lot’s house and demanded that he let them rape two heavenly messengers whom he had invited into his home. Lot refused, instead offering the men sex with his unmarried daughters.
The “traditional” interpretation of the story turns out to be a relatively modern one not shared by the ancient Hebrews. The “iniquity” of Sodom was long understood to represent the failure to offer hospitality to visitors, a matter of life and death in desert societies. In the words of the prophet Ezekiel (16:49), Sodom’s sins were “pride, fullness of bread, an abundance of idleness” and a failure to help the poor and needy.
But the context of the Sodom story supports another interpretation: In the verses immediately before it, God has already decided to destroy the city, but Abraham exacts a promise that it will be spared if 10 men are found to be innocent. If the sin of Sodom was homosexuality, and all the men were guilty of it, why would Lot think his daughters would satisfy them? And does saving Lot mean God approved of his willingness to let his daughters be raped?
Jewish legends about Sodom, called “midrash,” make the same point, describing the crimes of the Sodomites as over-the-top greed and cruelty to visitors.
If the very source of the word sodomy is based on a misreading of the Bible, how much else have the traditionalists misunderstood?
Read it all here.