Tuesday, October 23, 2007

Most Oft-Quoted Bible Verses

There are 31,102 verses in the Bible (well, the King James Version). An interesting site called TopVerses.com has sent a bot crawling around the web counting the number of times each verse has been referenced and "ranking" the most often quoted verses. Verses about life and death and salvation and murder and family and apocalypse and on and on...

Top of the list? You guessed it: John 3:16. Indeed the New Testament dominates the top citations. The top quote from the Old Testament is Genesis 1:26, coming in at rank 15.

I thought it might be interesting to check the rankings of the verses some people believe oppose homosexuality. Check it out:

#101: Leviticus 18:22
#127: I Corinthians 6:9
#331: Romans 1:26
#333: Leviticus 20:13
#2,271: I Corinthians 6:11
#3,080: Romans 1:27
#14,749: I Timothy 1:10
#15,895: Genesis 19:4

  • Whereas the top verses in the Bible come from the New Testament, the most frequently cited anti-gay verse comes from the Old Testament. In spite of this fact, I was surprised to discover that the Old Testament story of the destruction of Sodom and Gomorrah (in Genesis 19) is the least-frequently quoted of the texts.
  • The most frequently-quoted verses from the books of Leviticus and I Corinthians are the supposedly anti-gay verses above. And poor lonely Leviticus; it seems the book is referenced almost exclusively for opposing gay folks; aside from the two verses mentioned above, only two other Levitical verses rank in the top 1,000.
  • Though I Corinthians 6:9 and I Corinthians 6:11 are separated by a single verse, the former is apparently much more popular than the latter. Why? Could it be due to the belief of some that 6:9 condemns gay men while some interpret 6:11 to offer them hope (to become straight)?
  • Of all the verses listed above, all but one address male sexual behavior. Romans 1:26 is the only verse in the Bible that some believe mentions lesbianism. I found it curious that this verse is mentioned far more frequently than its next-door neighbor, Romans 1:27, which is concerned with men only.
I once thought all of the above verses clearly expressed the Bible's (and hence, God's) condemnation to gay folks. That clarity disappeared under study. Whether those verses actually address loving, monogamous relationships between people of the same gender is not obvious to me due to complexities of cultural context and translation of words. Moreover, even in the unlikely case that it could be proved beyond shadow of doubt that these verses oppose homosexuality, showing that they accurately reflect the heart of God is an entirely different thing.

I believe the Bible is a collection of inspired writings, but I don't believe any of its authors wrote inerrantly or accurately captured the character of God. The (all-male) writers of the Bible were every bit as flawed and fallible as you and I. Furthermore, the (all-male) church councils that selected the books of the Bible and defined its authority by majority vote were just as flawed and fallible as we are. Finally, the transmission of the Bible has been imperfect; the book we have today resembles but does not match the original biblical texts. Even if an infallible Bible once existed, we don't possess it today.

No, the heart and mind of God are something to be pursued in relationship, not intellectually concluded from analysis of others' documented experiences (i.e. Bible study). Perhaps in a future post I will articulate more clearly my thoughts on the Bible and why I am no longer an evangelical Christian.

For other kicks, check out the Bible net art "exegesis," which displays on a single image all the verses of the Bible. Verses cites most frequently appear darker. The java interface is kinda nonintuitive and buggy, but it's a cool site nonetheless.

Hat tip: I don't remember who; but someone tipped me off to these sites.


Pomoprophet said...

Did you write all of this post?

- verse that may condemn homosexuality
- another allegedly anti-homosexual verse
- two supposedly anti-gay verses
- which some believe condemns homosexuality
- potentially anti-homosexual verses
- (which is said to address male homosexuality)
- Another perhaps anti-gay text
- passages believed to condemn homosexuality.

lol... isnt that a bit extreme? Why can't you just call them what they are? I've studied them. Those verses aren't "potential" or "alleged" or "supposedly" against gay sex. They are.

The way you wrote that is just funny to me. I know you're not evangelical. But still...

Joe Moderate said...

Yep, Pomo. This post is all my own composition! You said:

Why can't you just call them what they are? I've studied them. Those verses aren't potential or alleged or supposedly against gay sex they are.

I once felt as sure as you do about these verses, but now the implications of these verses is unclear to me. I know people who feel certain beyond shadow of doubt that they do not address homosexuality in general. Therefore I left their interpretation open.

Hmm. Repeating the condition does does introduce a lot of redundancy in the post! Perhaps I rewrite the post as just a list. Hmm.

Anonymous said...

Romans 1:27

In the same way the men also abandoned natural relations with women and were inflamed with lust for one another. Men committed indecent acts with other men, and received in themselves the due penalty for their perversion.

Let's get at the meaning of the two sentences.

men and women were inflammed with lust and had sex (committed indecent acts) with each other.

No matter how you attempt to sugar coat it, promote it, or demote it, God hates homosexuality. Regardless of the number of bible verses comdemning the homosexual act, once is enough (Rom 1:27) and God will have to punish those who practice it. Because you have changed your mind does nothing for the practicing homosexual.

Repent and seek Him, for the path to eternal salvation is quite narrow.

Carlos M Chapa said...

When dealing with homosexuality, a Christian should always emphasize love: God loves homosexuals but hates their sins.

Also, in my opinion, homosexuality is not necessarily a worse or more evil sin than others (worse than lying about your age, for example).

Homosexuality is indeed a sin and the Bible is crystal clear about it, but we should not pick on homosexuals. We must love them and see them as Jesus see them --with love and compassion.

However, all sins are bad. When Jesus was on earth in physical form, the Jews thought that a particular group of Galileans was especially evil because the way they died, but Jesus said "Nay: but, except ye repent, ye shall all likewise perish." (Luke 13:3).

An homosexual, just like any heterosexual that doesn't know Christ, they both will perish and will be thrown to the lake of fire.

People from all sexual "orientations" should repent and from there God will take over their lives. God will change and make saint anybody who believes on Him and keep up lighting up that fire inside their hearts through praying and Bible studying.

Sure, God has the power to change us by tomorrow morning before breakfast, but usually God doesn't work in that way. God will take over and change us little by little so we can also reflect His image on earth.

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jonathan said...

Anonymous - I suggest you read the whole passage. Paul did not intend for you to stop at Romans 1:27 - if you do so, you miss the whole point.

Here is the climax of the passage, starting with Romans 2:1

"Therefore you have no excuse, O man, every one of you who judges. For in passing judgment on another you condemn yourself, because you, the judge, practice the very same things. We know that the judgment of God rightly falls on those who practice such things. Do you suppose, O man—you who judge those who practice such things and yet do them yourself—that you will escape the judgment of God? Or do you presume on the riches of his kindness and forbearance and patience, not knowing that God's kindness is meant to lead you to repentance? But because of your hard and impenitent heart you are storing up wrath for yourself on the day of wrath when God's righteous judgment will be revealed."

The point of the passage isn't "condemn homosexuals". The point of the pass is "You are all sinners, so stop judging each other and repent of your own sin."