Two Men In One Bed–two men or two people?

There is some debate over how Luke 17:34 should be translated, whether on “that night” there are “two people in one bed” or “two men in one bed.”

The NIV, for example, favor the first rendering:

I tell you, on that night two people will be in one bed; one will be taken and the other left.

On the other hand, the KJV renders the phrase as “two men in one bed.”

I tell you, in that night there shall be two men in one bed; the one shall be taken, and the other shall be left.

People who support the “two people in one bed” reading say this is a better rendering because 1) the word “man” does not appear in the Greek, 2) that the masculine construction allows either “two people” or “two men,” 3) that the rendering which allows the most flexibility for the reader is the preferred rendering, and 4) that translators need to discard their sexist preference for the “generic he.”

To which I reply: The rendering “two men in one bed” is preferable because 1) Luke frequently employs male/female pairings in his gospel, 2) “two men” is a legitimate rendering, 3) the “two people” rendering disrupts the carefully crafted symmetry of verses 34 & 35,  4) this is not a case of a preference for the generic he; the context indicates that the masculine pronoun is appropriate, and 5) the verse in context (immediately following the story of Sodom in which male-on-male sex is a major feature) has raised the thought of homosexuality in the minds of Christian readers for hundreds of years.

Taken in isolation, verse 34 is ambiguous, and the question of rendering could be 50/50. But its placement within the context of Luke’s Small Apocalypse itself (Luke 17:22-37) indicates otherwise. With the Roman cultural icons of same-sex love (Zeus & Ganymede), the “two women grinding together” at night, and Judaism’s iconic story related to man-on-man sex, the “two men in one bed” rendering is very much indicated contextually.

This is not, by the way, a circular argument. I am not saying, “Since there are two gay men in verse 34 it follows that the women are lesbians in verse 35, and therefore the men are gay.” No. The argument for the sexual orientation of the “two men in one bed” is based on a legitimate rendering of the verse itself, which is then supported by three other same-sex elements in the passage, each of which can stand on its own.

About Ron Goetz

My first wife used to say, "There's nothing so sacred that Ron won't pick it apart." My desire to be a pastor -- that was a temperamental mismatch. She was so patient. If my birth mother had lived somewhere else, maybe I would've become a cold case detective. But I would have had to be J instead of a P, I think. And that mid-life reevaluation, starting adolescence as a GARB fundamentalist and transitioning to a non-theist, that gave me an unusual skill set.
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5 Responses to Two Men In One Bed–two men or two people?

  1. Ed Rogosky says:

    While I read your postings and (enjoy some of their creativity), I must confess to seeing that your reading of the Scripture is biased by your persistence in seeing a pro-homosexual orientation in everything. Your motivation is understandable. While I hate the abuse that differing races and others including homosexuals received at the hands of certan people who call themselves Christans, I cannot justify this as being a reason to be intellectually dishonest. It offends me as much as scientism does. Even the argument that “the other side does it” is no excuse for the laziness tha such a stance implies.


    • Ron Goetz says:

      Thanks for your feedback. Ed, you’ve made some sweeping generalizations and accusations. Unfortunately, you haven’t substantiated any of your criticisms with examples. For example, you wrote: “Your reading of the Scripture is biased by your persistence in seeing a pro-homosexual orientation in everything.” It is not sufficient to simply allege that my reading of Scripture is biased. I make what I believe are carefully reasoned arguments, and have evidence to back up my arguments. You need to engage the arguments and the evidence in order to demonstrate your allegation of bias.

      You need to show me four things: 1) where my reading is biased, 2) where I am intellectually dishonest, 3) where I have used the self-justification of “the other side does it,” and 4) where you see evidence of laziness. These are serious charges. Be specific.

      Take care and God bless.



  2. Ron Goetz says:

    Ed, I missed something important when I responded to your comment. You said that I found “a pro-homosexual orientation in everything.”

    It didn’t register with me that you were probably responding to the evidence of the gay theme in Luke’s Small Apocalypse. Yes, I found in that small section of scripture an abundance of material that indicated a same-sex theme. Not quite everything, but enough of it to demonstrate Jesus’ acceptance of gays and lesbians.

    Ed, what I’ve done is similar to what others do with one of the Psalms. People have noticed that Psalm 119 is a virtual hymn of praise to the Law. But the word “law” does not appear in each verse. Sometimes the word is “law,” but other words associated with the law are used as well: precepts, statutes, decrees, ways, commands.

    If a minister preaches on Psalm 119, she clarifies how those words relate to one another.

    What I’ve done in Luke 17:22-37 is exactly that. I have clarified the connections between four major elements in the passage. Just as the theme of Psalm 119 is the Law, the theme of Luke 17:22-37 is same-sex relationships.

    And I think I understand your use of the word “bias.” Your accusation of bias seems to be your recognition that I am arguing a case, that I am supporting a thesis. If that is what you mean by bias, then I am guilty as charged. I am guilty of believing that my thesis is correct. Yes, I do believe my thesis is correct. But that isn’t the usual definition of bias.


  3. Terry Meeks says:

    For all those who get stuck on the gay or not gay versions of these scriptures I would like to shed another line of thought for your readers. Going back to the time of Lot and Sodom, it was clear that for the ones which were called out were to NOT look back. As did Lot’s wife, we are encouraged to not look back but let go of the old and walk in newness of life. Paul demonstrates this for us in the book of Romans and warns us of the battle now raging in all believers, requesting us to be renewed in Spirit and let go of the old man and live according to the guidence of the Holy Spirit which will some day quicken our mortal bodies and mortal will take on inmortality. Therefore, we are all two beings if we are in Christ as belivers and when our time comes, God does not take this old flesh and bone body but leaves it behind. This will be the case with those who are still alive at his coming. Two men in one bed, our old natural body will be left behind while the new man is taken. For better clarity of this approach, see
    II Corinthians 5:1-3


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