The Ancient World
Before the 19th century, men who engaged in homosexual acts were accused of sodomy (SA-duh-mee), or buggery, which were simply seen as crimes and not considered part of a person’s fundamental nature. Homosexual activity was common, homosexual prostitution was taxed by the state, and the writers of the time seemed to consider men loving men as natural as men loving women. Even after Rome became Christian, there was no anti-homosexual legislation for more than 200 years.
Lesbian love seems to have puzzled ancient writers (who were almost all men). The word lesbian itself comes from the island of Lesbos, in Greece, where the poet Sappho lived about 600 B. C. Lesbianism was rarely explicitly against the law in most ancient societies (in fact, two or more unmarried women living together has usually been seen as proper, whereas a woman living alone was viewed with suspicion; Bullough, 1979).
Contrary to popular belief, homosexuality was not treated with concern or much interest by either early Jews or early Christians. Neither ancient Greek nor Hebrew had a word for homosexual; in the entire Bible, same-gender sexual behavior is explicitly mentioned only in the prohibition in Leviticus (and here referring only to men); Saint Paul never explicitly condemned homosexuality, and Jesus made few pronouncements on proper or improper sexuality (except fidelity) and never mentioned homosexuality. Why, then, did Christianity become so antihomosexual?