Glossary of Terms



Oxford Dictionary of the Bible

by W.R.F. Browning (NY: Oxford University Press, 1996)

Sodom. One of the cities of the plain (Gen. 19:28) where Abraham's nephew Lot decided to live (Gen 13:8-13), near the Dead Sea; it was said to be a place of great wickedness, though there is no evidence that this wickedness was 'sodomy' -- an offensive description of homosexual acts.

Young People's Bible Dictionary

by Barbara Smith (Philadelphia: Westminster, 1965)

Sodom and Gomorrah. Two cities of the time of Abraham, located probably near the sourthen end of the Salt Sea. They were destroyed, according to the legend in Genesis, for their great wickedness. Gen. 18:16 to 19:29; Isa. 13:19; Jer. 23:14; Amos 4:11; Matt 10:15; Luke 17:29; 2 Peter 2:6.

sodomites in 1 Tim. 1:10 means homosexuals, and is derived from "Sodom."

Harper’s Bible Dictionary

edited by Paul J. Achtemier (San Francisco: Harper and Row, 1985)

Sodom, perhaps the best remembered of the five cities of the valley (Gen. 19:29). The city’s inhabitants joined with neighbors in fighting the marauding Chedorlaomer, the king of Elam (Gen. 14:1). Abraham’s nephew, Lot, chose Sodom for his residence (Gen. 13:8-13).

A precise location is not given for the city though the general area is associated with the Dead Sea. Archaeological research early in the twentieth century suggested to some that Sodom, along with other cities of the valley, is located under what is now the shallow, southern end of the Dead Sea. Furthermore, this research assigned a date for Sodom early in the second millennium b.c. on the basis of observable settlement patterns in the general area and the assumption that the chronological reckoning of the patriarchal narratives implied such a date. There is no positive evidence that ancient Sodom is submerged under the Dead Sea, however. More recent investigation has shown in detail that there were urban areas just to the east and south of the Dead Sea during most of the third millennium and in places perhaps into the early second millennium as well. Indeed, on the basis of the excavations of the Bab ed-Dhra (located on the tongue of land extending into the Dead Sea from its eastern shore) and at Numeira (further south on the eastern shore), some have proposed that to these two sites belong the valley cities of the Genesis narrative. Both of these cities were inhabited during most of the third millennium.

Sodom is remembered as a wicked city that brought divine wrath upon it. The Genesis narrative records both attempted sexual perversity and gross inhospitality (Gen. 19:1-11). Other writers use Sodom as an example of warning (Deut. 29:16-28) and sometimes as an accusation against the covenant people (Amos 4:11; Isa. 1:9-11). This principle extends into the nt period, where references to the wickedness of Sodom may still be found (Matt. 10:15; Luke 10:12; Rom. 9:29, quoting Isaiah; 2 Pet. 2:6; Jude 7).

There is also an interesting reference to the ‘Sea of Sodom’ (i.e., the Dead Sea) in 2 Esd. 5:7, where it is stated that in the days to come this ‘dead’ sea will produce fish as a miraculous sign.

sodomy, a generic term for copulation that is not ‘natural’ and heterosexual, derived from the story of Sodom whose inhabitants sought to have sexual relations with Lot’s visitors (Gen. 19:1-11). The Bible frequently condemns male homosexuality (Lev. 18:22; 20:13; Rom. 1:27; 1 Cor. 6:9) as well as bestiality (Exod. 22:19; Lev. 18:23; 20:15-16; Deut. 27:21), presumably because it considered male and female to be natural correlates (see Gen. 1:27; 2:18-24). Lesbianism along with male homosexuality is condemned by Paul (Rom.1:26-27).

To read a thought-provoking response to an inquirer's question, "Where does the Bible mention about the prohibition of the premarital sex and homosexuality?" browse


Topical index of terms
Edited for by Robert Nguyen Cramer
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