Homosexuality is condemned in all three monotheistic religions: Judaism, Christianity, and Islam. While there are some similarities found on this issue in all three, there are also some major differences. Here I wish to focus on just one aspect of this: homosexuality and the death penalty.
In short, Judaism and Islam both call for the death penalty on this, while New Testament Christianity does not. But this needs to be much more fully explained. Part of the reason I raise this issue here is because the enemies of Christianity love to abuse and misuse all this.
They seek to create a false moral equivalency between Christianity and Islam. They do so in part by claiming that both affirm death for homosexuals. But this is quite incorrect, so let me explain. I will first look at what Islam says about this topic.
Islam on death to homosexuals
Homosexuality is viewed as a punishable offence in Islam. The Koran, the hadith and Islamic jurisprudence all speak to this. When we turn to the Koran we find these suras for example (I am using the Abdullah Yusef Ali translation here):
Koran 4:16 If two men among you are guilty of lewdness, punish them both. If they repent and amend, leave them alone.
Koran 7:80-84 Do ye commit lewdness such as no people in creation committed before you? For ye practise your lusts on men in preference to women: ye are indeed a people transgressing beyond bounds…. And we rained down on them a shower (of brimstone): Then see what was the end of those who indulged in sin and crime!
Koran 26:165-173 Of all the creatures in the world, will ye approach males, And leave those whom Allah has created for you to be your mates? Nay, ye are a people transgressing…. We rained down on them a shower (of brimstone): and evil was the shower on those who were admonished (but heeded not)!
When we turn to the hadith by Sahih Bukhari we find passages like this:
Bukhari (7:72:774) – The Prophet cursed effeminate men (those men who are in the similitude (assume the manners of women) and those women who assume the manners of men, and he said, “Turn them out of your houses.” The Prophet turned out such-and-such man, and ‘Umar turned out such-and-such woman. (Similar to 8:82:820.)
And also Abu Dawud and al-Tirmidhi:
Abu Dawud (4447-4448) – The Prophet (peace be upon him) said: If you find anyone doing as Lot’s people did, kill the one who does it, and the one to whom it is done. If a man who is not married is seized committing sodomy, he will be stoned to death.
Abu Dawud (4462) – The Messenger of Allah (peace and blessings of Allah be upon him) said, “Whoever you find doing the action of the people of Loot, execute the one who does it and the one to whom it is done”.
al-Tirmidhi, Sunan 1:152 – [Muhammad said] “Whoever is found conducting himself in the manner of the people of Lot, kill the doer and the receiver.”
The Islam Question and Answer site offers plenty more such quotes. Here are just two more:
(Narrated by al-Tirmidhi, 1457; Ibn Maajah, 2563. This hadeeth was classed as saheeh by Shaykh al-Albaani (may Allaah have mercy on him) in Saheeh al-Jaami’, no. 1552).
It was narrated that Ibn ‘Abbaas said: “The Prophet (peace and blessings of Allaah be upon him) said: “… cursed is the one who has intercourse with an animal, cursed is the one who does the action of the people of Loot.”
(Narrated by Ahmad, 1878. This hadeeth was classed as saheeh by Shaykh al-Albaani in Saheeh al-Jaami’, no. 5891).
It was narrated that Ibn ‘Abbaas said: “The Prophet (peace and blessings of Allaah be upon him) said: ‘Whoever you find doing the deed of the people of Loot, kill the one who does it and the one to whom it is done.”
And when I grab my copy of the important source book of legal commentary, the Reliance of the Traveller by al-Misri I find there is an entire section devoted to his: p17.0: SODOMY AND LESBIANISM. It reads:
Sec. p17.1: In more than one place in the Holy Koran, Allah recounts to us the story of Lot’s people, and how He destroyed them for their wicked practice. There is consensus among both Muslims and the followers of all other religions that sodomy is an enormity. It is even viler and uglier than adultery.
Sec. p17.2: Allah Most High says:
Do you approach the males of humanity, leaving the wives Allah has created for you? But you are a people who transgress (Koran 26:165-66).
Sec. p17.3: The Prophet (Allah bless him and give him peace) said:
(1) Kill the one who sodomizes and the one who lets it be done to him.
(2) May Allah curse him who does what Lot’s people did.
(3) Lesbianism by women is adultery between them.
Modern Islamic legal scholars concur. For example, just yesterday I cited one such news maker, someone currently visiting Sydney:
Dr Farrokh Sekaleshfar is a British-born Shi’a Muslim scholar who lives in Qum, Iran and allegedly gave a sermon to Muslims about executing the gay people in Orlando two weeks before the deadly massacre took place. In a presentation by the Students for Academic Awareness group that took place at the University of Michigan in 2013, Sekaleshfar addressed the topic of homosexuality claiming that their punishment should be “death.”
Portions of this university sermon were recorded by ABC 9’S WFTV and have since been re-uploaded to YouTube by Islamophobic group, The United West. In the videos, the controversial preacher says that the only way to deal with the “phenomenon of homosexuality” was to “get rid of them” and to do so out of “compassion.”
“Death is the sentence. There’s nothing to be embarrassed about this. Death is the sentence,” Sekaleshfar says. “We have to have that compassion for people. With homosexuals, it’s the same. Out of compassion, let’s get rid of them now.”
Various other contemporary Islamic scholars could be mentioned here. But the point is this: we have an unbroken 1400-year tradition in Islam viewing homosexuality as a great evil punishable by death. And we daily see Islam in action on this as the Islamic State (not the Jewish State or the Christian State) kills homosexuals in despicable fashion, such as throwing them blindfolded off tall buildings.
Judaism on death to homosexuals
Unlike the many references to this in the much smaller Koran, there is only one clear passage in the Hebrew Bible which speaks about homosexuality and the death penalty. This is Leviticus 20:13: “If a man lies with a man as one lies with a woman, both of them have done what is detestable. They must be put to death; their blood will be on their own heads.”
Leviticus 18:22 also speaks to homosexuality: “Do not lie with a man as one lies with a woman; that is detestable.” But in 18:29 we find this as the penalty: “Everyone who does any of these detestable things—such persons must be cut off from their people.”
The idea of being cut off here may mean premature death or exile (excommunication). These can be carried out either by God or God’s people. So all up, we have very few OT texts indeed on putting homosexuals to death. And whether this was ever actually carried out at any time in Jewish history is another matter to ponder.
Christianity on death to homosexuals
As to how the Christian understands this, several things must be said. Christians of course fully accept as inspired both Testaments – Old and New. The 39 books of the Hebrew Bible are fully part of the whole Christian Bible, combined with the 27 New Testament books.
But this must be explored in much more detail. Primarily, there is no small debate as to how the Old Testament law relates to Christians today. Entire libraries have been filled on this, so I can only offer an extremely brief outline here. While a few argue that basically all the OT law is fully applicable today even to pagan nations, most Christians take a different approach.
Almost all believers distinguish between moral law, civil law and ceremonial law. The moral law continues today but not the other two. That is, the moral law (eg, things like the Ten Commandments) certainly carries through into the NT, while the ceremonial law (offerings, sacrifices, etc) does not, since Christ is the final and complete sacrifice, never to be repeated, as the book of Hebrews makes so clear.
The hundreds of civil laws (which would include the laws on actions punishable by capital punishment) are seen by most Christians as being for Jews living in ancient Israel, not for 21st century Christians living in Australia and elsewhere. Sure, there is a moral dimension to all law, but except for some people – such as the theonomists – most argue that the civil laws and their penalties are not fully and directly transferable to modern pagan nations.
All that can be teased out much further, but that is the very short answer on this. Thus hardly any Christians today demand that we impose capital punishment on all 25 or so capital crimes listed in the OT. Modern secular states determine punishments and penalties that may or may not align with those found in the OT.
Therefore Christians differ radically from what Muslims are saying on this. Islam states that homosexuals should be put to death and that is an immutable punishment. Christians want homosexuals and everyone else – we are all sinners – converted to Christ and saved from a lost eternity.
So there is no comparison here – no moral equivalence at all. Muhammad commanded death to his enemies while Jesus commanded love for our enemies. Big difference. Islam commands that homosexuals must die. Christianity enjoins us to pray for their healing and salvation.