Plato On Homosexual Practice

In Law, Book I, Plato(ca. 429-347 BC) records that male mating with male, and female with female is para physin(contrary to nature; same Greek phrase Paul of Tarsus(ca. 5 A.D – 67 A.D) used in his epistle to the Romans 1:26, ). Plato wrote:

In truth, Strangers, it seems a difficult thing for State institutions to be equally beyond criticism both in theory and in practice. Their case resembles that of the human body, where it seems impossible to prescribe any given treatment for each case without finding that this same prescription is partly beneficial and partly injurious to the body.

So these common meals, for example, and these gymnasia, while they are at present beneficial to the States in many other respects, yet in the event of civil strife they prove dangerous (as is shown by the case of the youth of Miletus, Bocotia and Thurii); and, moreover, this institution, when of old standing, is thought to have corrupted the pleasures of love which are natural not to men only but also natural to beasts. For this your States are held primarily responsible, and along with them all others that especially encourage the use of gymnasia. And whether one makes the observation in earnest or in jest, one certainly should not fail to observe that when male unites with female for procreation the pleasure experienced is held to be due to nature, but contrary to nature when male mates with male or female with female, and that those first guilty of such enormities were impelled by their slavery to pleasure. And we all accuse the Cretans of concocting the story about Ganymede.

Because it was the belief that they derived their laws from Zeus, they added on this story about Zeus in order that they might be following his example in enjoying this pleasure as well. Now with the story itself we have no more concern; but when men are investigating the subject of laws their investigation deals almost entirely with pleasures and pains, whether in States or in individuals. These are the two fountains which gush out by nature’s impulse; and whoever draws from them a due supply at the due place and time is blessed—be it a State.(Plato, Law 1.636a-d)

Josephus(37-ca. 100) and Philo (ca 20 B.C- 50 A.D) also shared the same worldview as Plato on homosexual practice.

Source: Plato. Plato in Twelve Volumes, Vols. 10 & 11 translated by R.G. Bury. Cambridge, MA, Harvard University Press; London, William Heinemann Ltd. 1967 & 1968. Perseus Digital Library

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26 thoughts on “Plato On Homosexual Practice

  1. A lot of good comments. I think the cure for sin and vice is to develop and practice virtue and that Plato touched upon this in using the word “natural”. Virtue derived from nature contains prudence, justice, fortitude, and temperance.

    If you think about it, every sin and vise we were commanded not to do in the Biblical text is still done today, everything from murder, adultery, stealing, greed, drunkenness, bestiality, pedophilia, same-sex sexual practice and much more.

    All have sinned and fall short of the glory of God (Romans 3:23).

    Jesus replied, “I tell you the truth, everyone who sins is a slave to sin” (John 8:34).

    I [Jesus Christ] told you that you would die in your sins; if you do not believe that I [Jesus Christ] am the one I claim to be, you will indeed die in your sins. (John 8:24)

    “Do not go beyond what is written, that none of you may be puffed up in favor of one against another.” (1 Corinthians 4:6).

    But each one is tempted when, by his own evil desire, he is dragged away and enticed. Then, after desire has conceived, it gives birth to sin; and sin, when it is full-grown, gives birth to death (James 1:14-15).

    Having lost all sensitivity, they have given themselves over to sensuality so as to indulge in every kind of impurity, with a continual lust for more (Ephesians 4:19).

    Since we have these promises, dear friends, let us purify ourselves from everything that contaminates body and spirit, perfecting holiness out of reverence for God (2 Corinthians 7:1).

    Do you not know that your body is a temple of the Holy Spirit, who is in you, whom you have received from God? You are not your own; you were bought at a price. Therefore honor God with your body (1 Corinthians 6:19-20).

  2. JA Leonard–I used to fall for the “Jesus said nothing about homosexuality” line too. Jesus preached, however, primarily to Jewish people, who He told to either continue following the Law at that point or to upgrade it in several cases to an even stricter one. His teaching on marriage is second to none–HE said it was between one man and one woman, and for a lifetime, except if it was an invalid marriage to begin with. “What God has joined together let no man put asunder.” AND in regard to marriage His “proof text” (although He certainly did not need one) was the story of Adam and Eve in Genesis “but from the beginning it was not so” (meaning divorce allowed as it was under Mosaic Law). That is the context of His silence.

    Jesus was not shy about women’s true rights and dignity, and their equality before God. He Himself could have been stoned for protecting the woman in adultery “in her sin.” He broke all social taboos by not only talking to women of ill repute but dining with them and letting them fondle His feet, (washing them not once but twice with costly oil) and an act which, had He been like some men today and even then, could have secretly been almost sexual in nature had He allowed it to be in His mind.

    A celibate man with a hot and very available woman all over his feet with oil does not sound like an easy temptation to resist–but He was so far above that line of thinking and simply respected and gave honor to them both, and that with heavy criticism even from some of His Disciples.

    What I am saying is He went out of His way to dignify all people from every background. Samaritans, women, rich, and poor. Homosexuality was not unheard of in His day, and teaching on it was alread in the Law. If His silence can be used for anything, it would be to reinforce the Old Testament prohibitions on it. With all of the risks He was taking, and which eventually were used by God to bring His own death, taking one more chance on controversy would not have been beyond Him. So His silence on the topic was deafening from what I can hear.

  3. As I have pointed out in other forums, even from a purely secular standpoint, such as neo-Darwinian biology, there is no justification for homosexual practice. Apart from technologies such as artificial insemination and in vitro fertilization, it is a biological dead-end. Even if the LGBT crowd could produce reliable, scientifically valid evidence for a genetic predisposition for “gay-ness,” [which they never have], it would represent a mutation from the norm–having no value for the viability of the species. Since virtually all mutations have no value and are totally recessive, if they were not accorded favored status under the law, they would eventually be eliminated from the gene pool through the process of natural selection–if our society operated consistently with the humanistic, scientific worldview and ethos it claims.

  4. The word of God says that I am the same today, yesterday and forever. When we follow the Lord we must eat the whole scroll, not just the part, which makes us feel good. This has nothing to do with Mathew 7:1; but the word says man will be drawn away with their own lust, found in James. 1:14-15.
    Lev 20:13
    If a man also lie with mankind, as he lieth with a woman, both of them have committed an abomination: they shall surely be put to death; their blood [shall be] upon them.
    (HIV widespread and running rapid, some call down on low.)
    Gen 18:20
    And the LORD said, Because the cry of Sodom and Gomorrah is great, and because their sin is very grievous;
    Grievous (means something is dying or dead)
    Grievous: very serious/ extremely serious or significant
    Severe: very bad or severe
    Thesaurus: English
    Grave; serious; severe; dire; heinous; dreadful; terrible.
    Gen 19:3-12 (When you read this passage, it should shed some kind of light.)
    I know God don’t need help to explain his purpose for creation, I am going to stand on his word. Revelation tells us the penalty for changing any of his law to suit your on purpose.

    1Cr 14:33
    For God is not [the author] of confusion, but of peace, as in all churches of the saints.

  5. Well that was a dumb thing to say. Plato did, of course, have a huge influence on Christianity, but it’s not like he was a Christian himself. Plato was to Christianity what Woody Guthrie was to Bob Dylan. That’s what I’m saying, I guess. Something like that. Philosophy is confusing. So are religious arguments.

    Follow the heart, man.

  6. This is what Jesus said about homosexuality-

    See my point? All those other guys in the Bible, just men, and men are often full of crap. If Christ didn’t have an adverse opinion, why should Christians? Maybe he didn’t say a thing just to give all you folks a reason to argue about something, and to forget to forgive and love all your brothers and sisters. Maybe it was a test. So that hopefully, some day you wold remember that all people are people and deserve love and kindness and respect. Gays and Lesbians can love each other. I know a lot of them. They are just fine people by me.

    I guess it’s obvious which side I am on. Hopefully Jesus’, but even if I am wrong, the old boy’ll forgive me.

    Peace 🙂

    • I might also add, for you, Prayson, that I realize maybe you did not mean to even get into the Christian argument for or against homosexuality, seeing as how Plato had nothing to do with Christianity, but the argument arose anyway. So I gave my opinion. What an issue! Perhaps you should have added up top, “Please only comment on Plato and Greek philosophy.” But of course, due to your faith, these things will happen.

  7. .I wonder though, can we be sure that Plato really said that? How many manuscripts to we have of Plato? It seems that if one will argue that the Scriptures cannot be conclusively known, that it would be easier to argue that Plato never said what he said. Why accept Plato’s statement and not the Bible?

  8. Reblogged this on Citizen Tom and commented:
    As it happens we have been discussing homosexuality. Given that is the case, I thought this post might be an interesting addition to the discussion. I do not believe Prayson Daniel will mind.

  9. Like Plato I suspect most Greeks did not approve of homosexuality. Otherwise, the Apostle Paul’s arguments would not have appealed to them as much as they so obviously did. Slavery to pleasure is not so far, after all, from slavery to sin.

  10. I find his point interesting that those who first engaged in homosexual acts were “impelled by their slavery to pleasure”.

  11. By the way, I hope you are having a good summer. I am a teacher so I am being pretty lazy. Mostly just hanging out with my sons and catching up on some reading.

  12. In your excerpt Plato is the one who mentions the pleasure being derived from sex can only be considered natural if intercourse is for procreative purposes.

    “One certainly should not fail to observe that when male unites with female for procreation the pleasure experienced is held to be due to nature”

    Plato is saying that pleasure is not the natural driving force behind sex, procreation is. Therefore the only pleasure that can be considered natural is that which derives from sex as a means for furthering the species.

    It stands to reason therefore; that any sex or sex act that does not fit this description would be considered as unnatural as homosexuality since it would serve no procreative purpose.

  13. Form what I understand Plato is stating that sexual pleasure is only natural in a heterosexual procreative context. It could be reasoned therefore that hetero sex for the sake of pleasure only would be as equally unnatural as he posits homosexuality to be.

    Also there are other veiled issues here. The mythology of Ganymede was being used to promote pederasty, which was a sexual abuse of an adult males power over a teenage boy. So there may be some nuances to what Plato is speaking about that are specific to the context of the time period.

    And while Plato is a celebrated philosopher; I would like to think that we are allowed to move beyond any of his musings that we have discovered to be archaic or discriminatory. For instance, Plato argued that atheism should be punishable as a crime. His understanding of atheism would have included Christians and Muslims. Thankfully, we have seen past this simple thinking that was influenced by the his primitive culture.

    • Hej Phil,

      I believe you are confusing the nature of sexuality with purpose of sexuality.

      In this article I simply pointed Plato’s position on same gender sexual practice.

      Prayson

  14. During 15 years as an LGBT activist (celibate Catholic Christian now), I never once heard this argument–on either side of the issue!!! And I studied much, as I truly did wish to obey God but very honestly believed that “gay was okay” if you will. The explanation of Romans 1 always came to mean certain kinds or types of homosexuality, such as within idolatry or Greek soldier/mentor type relationships, and that explanation seemed to fit since the birth of idolatry is actually the main thrust of that chapter of Romans, as well as the first portion of Romans 2.

    I was also told that the word “nature” as used here really meant the “nature of things,” such as what was allowable or not under Jewish Law, as opposed to natural as in natural law, but that St Paul was setting us free from that Law anyway, and allowing us to obey whatever our true “nature” really was/is, whether SSA (same-sex attracted) or the opposite. Thus the clear message of this passage was literally turned on its head and many of us fell for it.

    Ironically since I was so heavily “Sola Scriptura,” I never once investigated or took seriously the opinions of Plato, or even Josephus, and certainly had no idea that Plato had used the same Greek words as the Apostle St Paul did regarding “nature.”

    As Alanis Morissette sang years back, “isn’t it ironic, don’t you think?” Ironic that a seeking Christian such as myself and so many others could be led off the path of righteousness by people’s feverish attempts to interpret the Bible for themselves with no help from Sacred Tradition or the corresponding secular culture surrounding the passages as written. We ignore those things at our own peril, because they too are part of reading the Bible in context.

    Thanks so much for this post…the ball went way out of the park in my humble opinion. May I reblog?

  15. @rkyeun: How exactly do we see that Plato is wrong about some things here? On the basis of bare philosophy and your personal preference perhaps? If not; which physical reality, of which Plato was ignorant or ignoring, are you referring to? A person is not wrong based upon whether or not you agree with him, but rather on the basis of his true or false arguments.
    I find that the most interesting thing about the debate on the rightness or the wrongness of homosexuality is not so much which wagon claims that the other group is wrong, but in the rethoric used to say it. This article does nothing other than relay a citation from Plato presumably to get the gist of what a Greek philosopher who lived in a culture that famously endorsed the practice of homosexuality actually spoke of it without drawing any conclusions or making a case that the practise is wrong, and the response is to say that philosophy is useless?
    What does it say about our culture? Primarily I think there is a misunderstanding of the word “tolerance”.
    Contrary to popular opinion the word should simply mean that we tolerate other people’s doing things, not that we don’t speak up to warn them if their behavior seems harmful to us.
    And as to the second comment, well… First argument: “gay is wrong cuz god says so”. Instead of dealing with whether there is such a creature as God, and that if there is and we can agree on who he is, whether he can know such a thing as right and wrong and help us determine it, it is simply used in this fashion that will simply make both sides of the controversy more sure of their own position: One side will see it as a sign of how obvious it is that their own position is right, and the other will see it as a sign of how the other side has no arguments and simply relies on cheap ridicule.
    In any case I hardly see any reason why someone should laugh at the article. No case is presented, nor is any position asserted but a citation is made. Now unless Prayson has used a bad translation or mistyped something there’s hardly anything to critique about the post, or any reason to do so since whether or not Plato, or even Josephus was on one side of the debate or the other is hardly a case for whether or not someone ought to believe it, unless that is, their argumentation is true and we therefore would have to accept their conclusions.
    In any case pointing out the “why” of why someone believes something, or the origin of a belief, is hardly the same thing as proving it to belief to be false.
    What are we trying to accomplish here?
    Thank you for you post Prayson: Always reading with interest.

  16. Plato pointed out that even something pleasurable could be wrong and in violation of nature. Many things fit this description. Homosexuality is wrong both because it violates nature and because God says so. Is it my business to point that out? Maybe, maybe not, but that makes it no less wrong. As for ours being a God of love, this is so true. He is also a God who hates sin and he himself calls homosexuality sin.
    Non believers often use the scripture in their defense peaking of casting the first stone. Read that whole passage and see that Jesus told the womam to go and sin no more. The sin of her accusers did not pardon the sin that they accused het of.

    • Do you know that the story of the adulterous woman is in none of the earliest accounts of scripture and most likely added to the gospel of John later? http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Jesus_and_the_woman_taken_in_adultery

      How can we call any scripture the words of God when we don’t know which words were actually his and which words were added by authors with agendas? There are over 300,000 discrepancies between different versions of New Testament text. This means that someone had to exercise subjective judgement to decide what would actually makes its way into the Bible…accuracy be damned.

      This is why I find it beyond arrogant for Christians to judge an entire group of people based on the assumed infallibility of scripture.

      • Hej Phil,

        Thank you for a great comment and critic. I know and do agree that the story is most likely that it is being added into the gospel of John. But the beauty Phil, is that it through textual criticism, theologians get closer and closer the the actual/original words of the text.

        Your correct, Phil, that in New Testament there is over 300,000 discrepancies. Tim Pickard pointed out the follow types of errors found in the Bible.

        1. Spelling and Nonsense Errors

        These are errors that occur when a scribe wrote a word that makes no sense in its context, usually because they were tired or took their eyes off the page. Some of these errors are quite comical, such as “we were horses among you” (Gk. hippoi, “horses,” instead of ēpioi, “gentle,” or nēpioi, “little children”) in 1 Thessalonians 2:7 in one late manuscript. Obviously, Paul isn’t saying he acted like a horse among them. That would be self-injury! These kinds of errors are easily corrected.

        2. Minor Changes

        These minor changes are as small as the presence or absence of an article such as “the” or changed word order, which can vary considerably in Greek. Depending on the sentence, Greek grammar allows the sentence to be written up to 18 times, while still saying the same thing! So just because a sentence wasn’t copied in the same order, doesn’t mean that we lost the meaning.

        3. Meaningful but Not Plausible

        These errors have meaning but aren’t a plausible reflection of the original text. For example, 1 Thessalonians 2:9, instead of “the gospel of God” (the reading of almost all the manuscripts), a late medieval copy has “the gospel of Christ.” There is a meaning difference between God and Christ, but the overall manuscript evidence points clearly in one direction, making the error plain and not plausibly part of the original.

        4. Meaningful and Plausible

        These are errors that have meaning and that the alternate reading is plausible as a reflection of the original wording. These types of errors account for less than 1% of all variants and typically involve a single word or phrase. The biggest of these types of errors is the ending of the Gospel of Mark, which most contemporary scholars do not regard as original. Our translations even footnote that!

        Remember, Ivan, the number is great because we do have many copies of copies. The earlier the copy the better. Thanks to archeology, theologians are coming closer and closer to capturing correctly the original wording. It is for this reasons they believe that the story in John is likely not original cause its missing in some of the earlier manuscripts.

        None of these errors affect the teachings of Christianity, thus I believe, Christians can use Jesus’ definition of marriage( Matthew 19:4-6 Creation design), and Paul understanding on male male and female female sexual practices to judge the Biblical position of our sexuality.

        Moreover, Christians or non-Christians, could use secular reasoning to make her case against sodomy(done why both heterosexual and homosexual) without assuming infallibility of scripture.

        We are all condemned, Ivan. Bible believing Christians believe that all sexual activity outside the Genesis design of marriage, viz., one man and one woman united together, is condemned, it being heterosexual, homosexual or bisexual. My lust for other women other than my wife, my sexual life before marriage, my teenhood masturbation and the list goes on, shows that I am sexually broken.

        Correct judgment begins with myself. First and foremost. Thank you Phil.

        Prayson

  17. seriously grayson, still on the “gay is wrong cuz god says so” bandwagon?! this “casting the first stone” thing is really tough for you it seems. dont you have something better to do? one of my greek friends, a philosophy major btw, was laughing about this article till his eyes teared up. and if your god is love, why do you keep condemning people about stuff that is not your business to begin with? articles like this show youre assuming responsibility for others wellbeing when noone actually asked you to butt in . yes, pun intended.
    anyway, you get the gist of it i think. your ignorance is still very amusing! keep it up!

    • Hej Prezzy,

      I am sorry for my ignorance, Prezzy. I believe I did not condemn gay nor could I be said to say “gay is wrong because God said so”. It would be wrong of me to say something is wrong without giving reasons why I think that to be the case. In this article I only shared what Plato wrote on homosexual practice.

      Did I offend you, Prezzy in writing Plato’s position on homosexual practice? Could you be kind Prezzy to ask you philosophy major Greek friend to explain why he laughed at Plato’s take on this issue?

      Thank you for your comment Prezzy.

      Prayson

  18. So here we see that Plato is also wrong about some things, and that bare philosophy and personal preference oblivious to physical reality are poor ways for determining fact from fiction.

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