Is the Bible homophobic?
Yes and no, but mostly yes. It’s complicated.
The Bible contains statements which, read literally, are homophobic. To cite two — .
“If a man has intercourse with a man as with a woman, both commit an abomination. They must be put to death.” ~ Leviticus 20:13
“Because of this, God gave them over to shameful lusts. Even their women exchanged natural sexual relations for unnatural ones. In the same way the men also abandoned natural relations with women and were inflamed with lust for one another. Men committed shameful acts with other men, and received in themselves the due penalty for their error.” ~ Romans 1:26–27
The question is somewhat anachronistic. Our conception of sexual orientation (gay, straight, bi, etc) didn’t exist until the 19th Century CE, 1500 years after the New Testament’s completion and 2000 years after the Old Testament’s completion. And there was no distinction between gender and sex until the 1960s, a mere 60 years ago. In Mediterranean antiquity, people didn’t think in terms of “gay” or “straight”. When you read ancient books like the Iliad, the Aeneid, the Bible, or the Epic of Gilgamesh, you’ll never see any references to sexual orientation. This wasn’t a case of erasure. Ancient people simply didn’t conceptualize sexual orientation.
Rather, ancient people thought in terms of masculinity and femininity. From their perspective, there were masculine and feminine cosmic principles. Masculinity was associated with the sun, dryness, strength, and assertiveness. Femininity was associated with the moon, wetness, weakness, and submissiveness. It was considered natural for male humans to do masculine things and for female humans to do feminine things. War and agriculture? Masculine, so men raised crops and went to war. Taking care of children? Feminine, so women took care of children.
Deviations from this principle were granted varying degrees of unacceptability. Masculinity was considered better than femininity. (For instance, the Latin word for “man”, vir, is the source for the word virtue. Arete, a Greek synonym for virtue, can mean “manliness”.) Though women were supposed to be feminine, it was understandable, though still unacceptable, if a woman wanted to be manly and virtuous, similarly to how we consider it understandable though unacceptable if a child wants to be a volunteer firefighter. By contrast, it was entirely unacceptable for a man to be feminine, for it would violate not only the cosmic principle of masculinity but it would also express desire to be a non-virtuous person.
This explains the homophobic passages in the Bible. Notice how the cited verses don’t say, “It’s bad to be gay.” Instead they say, “It’s bad to have gay sex.” If we could go back in time and ask the writers, “Why?”, they would respond, “Uh, because it’s not a natural sexual relation. Men are supposed to have sex with women, and men are supposed to have sex with men.”
The people who wrote the Bible did not consider gender roles to be socially constructed. They considered gender roles to be natural, essential, and innate. The idea that someone can have an innate sexual attraction to someone of the same sex was unconscionable. Clearly, there must have been something broken in people who wanted to have gave sex, hence Paul’s assertion that gay people are just full of sin.
So to answer the original question, “Is the Bible homophobic?”, the answer is, “The Bible is heteronormative by the standards of ancient people. So, the Bible is unconscious of LBGT orientations, but the Bible is anti gay sex.”
That being said, having been blessed by existentialism and feminism, we realize that gender is socially, not naturally, constructed. In that regard, deriving sexual morality from the Bible is like deriving medical knowledge from Hippocrates. It’s anachronistic and nonsensical to use blindly the mores of ancient people as the loadstone for a moral compass in the modern world.
Leet the olde thynges pace,
And leet the newe world the space.
~ Chaucer, Canterbury Tales