Albert Barnes’ Commentary on Romans 1

“The sins which he proceeds to specify are the most indelicate, vile, and degrading which can be charged on man….Perhaps there is no sin which so deeply shows the depravity of man as this; none which would so much induce one ‘to hang his head, and blush to think himself a man.'”Nineteenth-Century Christian Commentator Albert Barnes describing the “shameful sin of Sodom,” as condemned by the Apostle Paul in the Book of Romans

Below we look at the writings of Albert Barnes (1798-1870), a popular Presbyterian minister and Bible commentator who crusaded against slavery and lived to see it outlawed in the United States. Over a million volumes of Barnes’ commentaries on New Testament books were sold by 1870.

Note Barnes’s clear explication of the Biblical text against homosexual behavior (the modern notion of an innocuous homosexual “sexual orientation” hadn’t been invented yet).

Also, note Barnes’ discussion of the ancient phenomenon of homosexual pederasty in Greece and Rome.  Gee, it looks like NAMBLA (the North American Man/Boy Love Association), which marched in the early “gay pride” parades — a right which  “gay” American “founding father” and icon Harry Hay fought to defend — isn’t such an historical aberration after all? 

Ask yourself: what is the justification for discarding the historic Christian view laid out by Barnes against what the King James Bible calls the “vile affection” of sodomy? If there is none — i.e., no serious indictment to be made against Biblical truth in this area, as the leading Bible-and-homosexuality scholar Rob Gagnon asserts — then we need to get back to the basics on homosexuality. 

Thanks to the Christian Classics Ethereal Library, you can view Barnes’ entire commentary on Romans 1 online HERE, but below are some excerpts from Romans 1:26-28. Here are some passages from Albert Barnes’ commentary on Romans 1

For this cause God gave them up unto vile affections: for even their women did change the natural use into that which is against nature:

And likewise also the men, leaving the natural use of the woman, burned in their lust one toward another; men with men working that which is unseemly, and receiving in themselves that recompence of their error which was meet.

And even as they did not like to retain God in their knowledge, God gave them over to a reprobate mind, to do those things which are not convenient;  (Romans 1:26-28)

Barnes’ commentary (emphasis added in bold):

[Verse 26] Vile affections. Disgraceful passions or desires. … The sins which he proceeds to specify are the most indelicate, vile, and degrading which can be charged on man. But this is not the fault of the apostle. If they existed, it was necessary for him to charge them on the pagan world. His argument would not be complete without it. The shame is not in specifying them, but in their existence; not in the apostle, but in those who practised them, and imposed on him the necessity of accusing them of these enormous offences…There is still abundant proof on record, in the writings of the heathen themselves, that these crimes were known and extensively practised.

For even their women, etc. Evidence of the shameful and disgraceful fact here charged on the women is abundant in the Greek and Roman writers…

Verse 27. And likewise the men, etc. The sin which is here specified is that which was the shameful sin of Sodom, and which from that has been called sodomy. It would scarcely be credible that man had been guilty of a crime so base and so degrading, unless there was ample and full testimony to it. Perhaps there is no sin which so deeply shows the depravity of man as this; none which would so much induce one “to hang his head, and blush to think himself a man.” And yet the evidence that the apostle did not bring a railing accusation against the heathen world, that he did not advance a charge which was unfounded, is too painfully clear. It has been indeed a matter of controversy whether paederasty, or the love of boys, among the ancients, was not a pure and harmless love, but the evidence is against it. See this discussed in Dr. Leland’s “Advantage and Necessity of Revelation,” vol. i. 49—56. The crime with which the apostle charges the Gentiles here was by no means confined to the lower classes of the people. It doubtless pervaded all classes, and we have distinct specifications of its existence in a great number of cases. Even Virgil speaks of the attachment of Corydon to Alexis, without seeming to feel the necessity of a blush for it. Maximus Tyrius (Diss. 10) says, that in the time of Socrates this vice was common among the Greeks; and is at pains to vindicate Socrates from it as almost a solitary exception. Cicero (Tuscul. Ques. iv. 84) says, that “Dicearchus had accused Plato of it, and probably not unjustly.” He also says, (Tuscul. Q. iv. 33,) that the practice was common among the Greeks, and that their poets and great men, and even their learned men and philosophers, not only practised, but gloried in it. And he adds, that it was the custom, not of particular cities only, but of Greece in general. (Tuscul. Ques. v. 20.) Xenophon says, that “the unnatural love of boys is so common, that in many places it is established by the public laws.”…

Among the Romans, to whom Paul was writing, this vice was no less common. Cicero introduces, without any mark of disapprobation, Cotta, a man of the first rank and genius, freely and familiarly owning to other Romans of the same quality, that this worse than beastly vice was practised by himself, and quoting the authority of ancient philosophers in vindication of it. (De Natura Decrum, b. i. eh. 28.) It appears from what Seneca says, (epis. 95,) that in his time it was practised openly at Rome, and without shame. He speaks of flocks and troops of boys, distinguished by their colours and nations; and says that great care was taken to train them up for this detestable employment. Those who may wish to see a further account of the morality in the pagan world may find it detailed in Tholick’s “Nature and Moral Influence of Heathenism,” in the Biblical Repository, vol. ii., and in Leland’s Advantage and Necessity of the Christian Revelation. There is not the least evidence that this abominable vice was confined to Greece and Rome. If so common there—if it had the sanction even of their philosophers—it may be presumed that it was practised elsewhere, and that the sin against nature was a common crime throughout the heathen world. Navaratte, in his account of the empire of China, (book ii. ch. 6,) says that it is extremely common among the Chinese. And there is every reason to believe that, both in the old world and the new, this abominable crime is still practised…

That which is unseemly. That which is shameful, or disgraceful.

And receiving in themselves, etc. The meaning of this doubtless is, that the effect of such base and unnatural passions was to enfeeble the body, to produce premature old age, disease, decay, and an early death. That this is the effect of the indulgence of licentious passions, is amply proved by the history of man. The despots who practise polygamy, and keep harems in the east, are commonly superannuated at forty years of age; and it is well known, even in Christian countries, that the effect of licentious indulgence is to break down and destroy the constitution. How much more might this be expected to follow the practice of the vice specified in the verse under examination! God has marked the indulgence of licentious passions with his frown. Since the time of the Romans and the Greeks, as if there had not been sufficient restraints before, he has originated a new disease [Editor’s note: assuming this is syphillis], which is one of the most loathsome and distressing which has ever afflicted man, and which has swept off millions of victims. But the effect on the body was not all. It tended to debase the mind; to sink man below the level of the brute; to destroy the sensibility; and to “sear the conscience as with a hot iron.” The last remnant of reason and conscience, it would seem, must be extinguished in those who would indulge in this unnatural and degrading vice. See Suetonius’ Life of Nero, 28.

Verse 28. And even as they did not like, etc. This was the true source of their crimes. They did not choose to acknowledge God. It was not because they could not, but because they were displeased with God, and chose to forsake him, and follow their own passions and lusts.

To retain God, etc. To think of him, or to serve and adore him. This was the first step in their sin. It was not that God compelled them; or that he did not give them knowledge; nor even is it said that he arbitrarily abandoned them as the first step; but they forsook him, and as a consequence he gave them up to a reprobate mind.

To a reprobate mind. A mind destitute of judgment. In the Greek the same word is used here which, in another form, occurs in the previous part of the verse, and which is translated “like.” The apostle meant, doubtless, to retain a reference to that in this place. “As they did not approve, edokimasan or choose to retain God, etc., he gave them up to a mind disapproved, rejected, reprobate,” adokimon; and he means, that the state of their minds was such that God could not approve it. It does not mean that they were reprobate by any arbitrary decree; but that, as a consequence of their headstrong passions, their determination to forget him, he left them to a state of mind which was evil, and which he could not approve.

Which are not convenient. Which are not fit or proper; which are disgraceful and shameful; to wit, those things which he proceeds to state in the remainder of the chapter.

Click HERE to read more of Albert Barnes’ commentary on Romans

This article was posted on Thursday, August 9th, 2007 at 9:59 am and is filed under A - What does the Bible say about homosexuality?, Bible, E - Praying for the Lost, News, Physical Health, Presbyterian Church, The Bible, Churches, & Homosexuality. You can follow any updates to this article through the RSS 2.0 feed.

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