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Jesus Christ

Was/is Yeshua of Nazareth (Jesus
Christ) straight, bisexual or gay?

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Overview:

We recognize that the title to this essay will be seen by many readers as rather inflammatory.

Australian educator, Michael Kelly wrote: "The question is, apparently, provocative....even asking the question is sacrilege, blasphemy, a vilification of Christianity, and a mockery of people's deepest beliefs." 1 Judging by the anger shown by many Christians toward the Da Vinci Code book and movie, some find it difficult to wrap their minds around the concept of Jesus having been sexually active. The thoughts that he might have been gay or bisexual are even more difficult to handle.

There is nothing in the Christian Scriptures (New Testament) which specifically identifies Jesus' sexual orientation. The Bible does not say clearly whether Jesus had sexual feelings at all. If he did have sexual attraction to others, the Bible does not say whether he was a:

bulletHeterosexual, having feelings of sexual attraction only to women, or
bulletHomosexual, being attracted only to men
bulletBisexual orientation, being attracted to both men and women.

It is also silent on whether Jesus was celibate or sexually active; single or married, childless or with children. 2 In spite of the Bible's silence, some theologians have asserted that Jesus was asexual or had, and presumably still has, a specific sexual orientation.

Following our website mandate, we explain all sides to the issue.

Topics covered in this section:

bulletTerminology. Indications that Jesus was not gay
bulletIndications that Jesus was gay
bulletMore indications that Jesus was gay. Public reactions

Terminology:

The words "gay" and "homosexual" are difficult to use without causing confusion, because they have multiple meanings:

  1. Many religious conservatives define them in terms of behavior. Homosexuality is what a person does. A homosexual is a person who engages in sexual activities with persons of the same sex.
     
  2. Many religious liberals, Roman Catholics, gays, lesbians, bisexuals, religious mainliners, mental health professionals and human sexuality researchers define these words in terms of feelings. Homosexuality is one part of what a person is. A homosexual is a person who has a homosexual orientation. Their self-identification, fantasies and desire for sexual activity is focused on persons of the same sex.

We will use the second definition in this essay, because it is in general use in the medical and scientific communities, and is in growing use among the public.

These two definitions can lead to disputes. They make dialogue essentially impossible between religious conservatives and others. For example:

bulletA person with a bisexual orientation who engaged in sex with person(s) of the same sex and who now has decided to confine their sexual relationship to a person of the opposite sex is considered to be an ex-gay by many conservative Christians. But many others regard the person to be a bisexual whose sexual orientation has not changed. Only their behavior choice has altered.
 
bulletA person with a homosexual orientation who was once sexually active and who has decided to remain celibate is also considered an ex-gay by many conservative Christians. But others regard them to be a homosexual whose sexual orientation has not changed. They have simply decided to become sexually inactive.

Indications that Jesus did not have a homosexual orientation:

bulletSince there is no precise statement about Jesus' sexual orientation in the Bible, we can safely start with the assumption that Yeshua of Nazareth/Jesus was a heterosexual. Probably only about 5% of males have a homosexual orientation -- both in ancient Judea during the 1st century CE, and in North America today. Lesbian, gay, bisexual and transgender groups (LGBT) often claim 10%; conservative Protestants often claim 2% or even less. But these claims are based on unreliable science. Even fewer men in their late 20s or early 30s when Jesus was conducting his ministry would be asexual. Few would be bisexual. So, without considering any other factors, the chances of Jesus being heterosexual is quite large -- above 90%.
 
bulletThe vast majority of Christian theologians have probably never seriously considered the possibility that Jesus was gay. If they were asked their opinion on the question, the vast majority would probably consider him to be heterosexual; many probably assume that he was devoid of erotic or sexual feelings -- asexual.

On the other hand, there is an often quoted concept that reading the Gospels is like looking down a well. What you see in both cases is a reflection of yourself. Social activists often view Jesus as a social activist. Spiritual people frequently look upon Jesus as spiritual. Heterosexuals may see at Jesus as a heterosexual. Homosexuals may look upon him as gay, etc.
 
bulletJesus was an observant Jew who, according to the Gospels, was often followed by Pharisees and scribes who severely criticized him. He was charged with being possessed by Satan. He was accused of being a party animal who consorted with the dregs of society -- prostitutes, tax collectors, etc. Yet there is no record of them accusing him of being gay. In 1st century Judea, same-sex behavior among men was a most serious offense, worthy of the death penalty. If Jesus were gay, and if the Jewish establishment knew of his orientation, they would certainly have used it against him. Yet there is no record in the Gospels or in subsequent Jewish literature of the topic ever having been mentioned.

On the other hand, the Pharisees may have accused Jesus of being gay. But the story might have never made it into the Gospels. Alternatively, the account might have appeared in early writings, but censored in later Gospel drafts.
 
bulletIn Matthew 19:3-12 and Mark 10:2-12, Jesus supports the concept that God made a man and a woman so that they could marry. He is quoted as saying in both Gospels: "What therefore God hath joined together, let not man put asunder." Also, in Matthew 5:17-18, after the Sermon on the Mount, Jesus said: "Think not that I am come to destroy the law, or the prophets: I am not come to destroy, but to fulfill. For verily I say unto you, Till heaven and earth pass, one jot or one tittle shall in no wise pass from the law, till all be fulfilled." Jesus obviously supported opposite-sex marriage and the Mosaic Law which was interpreted at the time as calling for the execution of all male homosexuals. 3

On the other hand, Jesus' general support for opposite-sex marriage and the Mosaic law gives little or no insight into his actual sexual orientation.
 
bulletThere are hints in the New Testament that Jesus had a very close loving relationship with Mary Magdalene which might have included sexually activity. Some theologians believe that the two were married. Dan Brown in his wildly successful novel "The Da Vinci Code" advocates this position. If Jesus possessed a homosexual orientation, he would have avoided sexual intimacy with all women:
 
bulletThe Gospel of John (20:1) states that she was the first person who, alone, visited the cave where Jesus' body was laid. That would have typically been the role of a wife in that society.
 
bulletJohn (20:2-10) describes how other followers came to the tomb and left to return home. But Mary stayed. Again this would have been the behavior of a wife or an engaged woman.
 
bulletIn John (20:17) Jesus instructed Mary to "Touch me not." Apparently Mary was about to touch his body or at least there was some possibility that she might do so. Again it would have been inconceivable for an man and woman to touch in 1st century Judea, unless they were a married or engaged couple.
 
bulletThere are other indications that Jesus and Mary Magdalene were married which we will describe in a future essay. If this is true, then it is very unlikely that he would have been homosexual or asexual. He probably would have been heterosexual or bisexual.
 
bulletSome English translation of he Gospel of Philip -- one of the forty or so gospels that did not make it into the Christian Scriptures (a.k.a. New Testament) -- contains two interesting statements:
 
bullet"There were three who always walked with the Lord: Mary, his mother, and her sister, and Magdalene, the one who was called his companion. His sister and his mother and his companion were each a Mary."
 
bullet"As for the Wisdom who is called 'the barren,' she is the mother of the angels. And the companion of the [...] Mary Magdalene. [...] loved her more than all the disciples, and used to kiss her often on her mouth." 19

Whether the term "companion" meant that Jesus was married to Mary Magdalene or was sexually intimate with her is unclear.  There sole original manuscript unfortunately contains a hole where English translators have inserted the word "mouth." So the second passage might have actually referred to Jesus kissing her hand or her shoes. Still, the act of kissing anywhere would have been a gross violation of Jewish customs unless Jesus and Mary were engaged or married.

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Indications that Jesus did have a homosexual orientation:

bullet"In the Gospel of John, the disciple John frequently refers to himself in the third person as 'the disciple whom Jesus loved'." 4 One might argue that Jesus loved all of his followers in a non-sexual way. Thus to identify Jesus' love for John in a special way might indicate a sexual relationship. The disciple was "the" beloved. He was in a class by himself. 

During the Last Supper before Jesus' execution, the author(s) of the Gospel of John describes how the "beloved" disciple laid himself on Jesus' inner tunic -- his undergarment. See John 13:25 and 21:20. Robert Goss, assistant professor of comparative religion at Webster University in St. Louis, LA, noted that Jesus and the beloved disciple: "... eat together, side by side. What's being portrayed here is a pederastic relationship between an older man and a younger man. A Greek reader would understand." 5

On the other hand:
bulletSome commentators have suggested that it was a common practice in Judea at that time for heterosexual man to lay his head on another's undergarment. Such behavior was common between two heterosexuals in an emotionally close but non-erotic relationship during the first century CE. 6
 
bulletJenny Stokes, research director for Saltshakers, a conservative Christian group in Australia, said that there are five words for love in Greek (the language in which the Gospels were written:
bulletAgape: spiritual, unconditional love,
bulletEros: erotic love,
bulletPhilia: love between friends,
bulletStorge: familial love.

The Gospel references to "the disciple whom Jesus loved" use the word "agape."  3 Whether the authors originally used "eros" and the word was subsequently changed is open to speculation.
 

bullet"Jagannath" interprets the Gospels differently. He argues that Jesus may have been bisexual. He wrote:

"In the Book of John a word is used eight times that means 'is in love with' with the implication of sexual intimacy. Five times it is used with reference to Jesus' relationship with John. Once it is used to define Jesus' relationship with Lazarus. And it is also used to describe his relationship with Mary and with her sister Martha." 7

bulletDuring the crucifixion, in John 19:26-28, Jesus is described as seeing his mother and an unidentified man: "the disciple standing by, whom he loved." Again, Jesus probably loved all of his 12 or 70 disciples in a non-sexual manner. But this particular disciple is identified as "the" disciple who Jesus loved. That might indicate a special intimate relationship with one special disciple.
 
bulletThe late Morton Smith, of Columbia University reported in 1958 that he had found a fragment of a manuscript which at the Mar Saba monastery near Jerusalem. It contained the full text of Mark, chapter 10. Apparently the version that is in the Christian Scriptures is an edited version of the original. Additional verses allegedly formed part of the full version of Mark, and were inserted after verse 34. It discusses how a young man, naked but for a linen covering, expressed his love for Jesus and stayed with him at his place all night. More details.
 
bullet"J Richards" suggested that Mark 7:14-16 shows that Jesus approves of homosexual acts. The critical phrase reads: "There is nothing from without a man, that entering into him can defile him..." Richards suggests that Jesus gave great emphasis to this teaching, directing it to everyone. Richards suggests that the sentence refers to dietary laws and also extends to  "blood transfusions, medication, organ transplants, and artificial insemination" and to homosexual acts as well. 8

On the other hand, these words have historically been interpreted as overturning the Mosaic law about eating,
 
bulletRollan McCleary, was awarded his doctorate from the University of Queensland in Australia during 2003-MAY for his work researching the sexual orientation of Jesus and his disciples. He obtained about $33,000 US in funding from the government to finance his degree. He concluded that Jesus and at least three of his disciples were gay. He based this conclusion on excerpts from the Gospel of John and on Jesus' astrological chart based on the approximate year, month, day and place where he was born. But not even the year of Jesus' birth is known. Many theologians have concluded that Jesus was born sometime in the Fall, between 4 and 7 BCE. Also, there is disagreement about where Jesus was born. Different theologians argue Bethlehem in Judea, Nazareth, and Bethlehem in the Galilee. The task of creating an astrological chart appears quite impossible. Dr. McCleary told Australian Broadcasting Commission radio that, in the past, "one or two queer theologians" had attempted to show Jesus was gay. "People haven't taken them very seriously because they don't have any evidence and they say things so sensationally that people are not really going to listen or just be very angry. What I'm doing is showing a much more theological and also astrological dimension on all this which will make a lot more sense to people." 9 He has written a book based on his doctoral thesis which was published in 2004. 18
 
bulletAn anonymous webmaster wrote about a revelation that he received during her/his daily prayer and meditation:

"Suddenly many aspects of the New Testament made sense. Jesus never married. He preached love, tolerance, and forgiveness of sins. He did not condemn and vilify as his so-called followers do today. He surrounded himself with men whom he loved. The Bible says nothing of Jesus' sexuality, yet we are taught that he was both divine and fully man. Why did he never marry? Why is the New Testament silent about his sexuality? It became so clear when I had the insight that Jesus was probably gay and that He understood hatred and bigotry first-hand." 10

Unfortunately, this webmaster merely described a type of vision that he/she had and did not provide any supporting evidence. It is unlikely to be convincing to others. Unfortunately, the statement is no longer online.

bulletMark 14:51-52 describes the incident when Jesus was arrested by the religious police. It describes how one of Jesus' followers was scantily dressed. The King James Version says he had a linen cloth cast on his naked body; the size and location of the cloth is not defined. The New International Version says that he was "wearing nothing but a linen garment."  When the police tried to seize him, they were able to grab only his cloth; the man ran away naked. Reverend Peter Murphy wrote: "We don't know from the sources what really was going on, but we do know that something was very peculiar between Jesus and young men." 11 (Emphasis in the original.)
 
bulletMichael Kelly wrote of Jesus' attitude towards a same-sex couple as described in  Matthew 8:5-13: and Luke 7:2: "One day a Roman Centurion asked him to heal his dying servant. Scholars of both Scripture and Ancient History tell us that Roman Centurions, who were not permitted to marry while in service, regularly chose a favorite male slave to be their personal assistant and sexual servant. Such liaisons were common in the Greco-Roman world and it was not unusual for them to deepen into loving partnerships....Jesus offered to go to the servant, but the centurion asked him simply to speak a word of healing, since he was not worthy to welcome this itinerant Jewish teacher under his roof. Jesus responded by healing the servant and proclaiming that even in Israel he had never found faith like this! So, in the one Gospel story where Jesus encountered people sharing what we would call a 'gay relationship,' we see him simply concerned about -- and deeply moved by -- their faith and love." Kelly implies that Jesus' sensitivity towards the gay couple might have arisen from his own bisexual or homosexual orientation. 1
 
bulletSome commentators argue from silence. They note that there is no passage in the Christian Scriptures (New Testament) that directly describes anything about Jesus' sexuality. There are many direct and indirect references to Jesus' sensuality. He was accused of being a "drunkard and a glutton" and of partying with "prostitutes and sinners." He apparently enjoyed a tender foot massage from a woman. Yet, neither Jesus' sexuality nor his celibacy is mentioned. Yet, sex is referred to, elsewhere in the Bible, quite often. One might argue that the books in the Christian Scriptures might have once described Jesus' sexual relationships, but that these passages have been vigorously censored by the later church because they were unconventional.
 
bulletOther commentators have noted that Jesus is silent towards homosexuality in the Gospels. Yet, Paul's opinions and those of many other authors in the Hebrew Scriptures (Old Testament) are clearly stated. They conclude that Jesus might have been gay. Odler Jeanlouie speculated: "Is it meaningful that, in the Sermon on the Mount, central to his teaching, he offered a one-way trip to the Kingdom of God, to anyone who is persecuted?" 12

Public reactions to the suggestion that Jesus was gay:

 Some indications of the anger displayed by Americans on this topic include:

bulletBomb threats and a promise to "burn the place to the ground" sent to the Manhattan Theatre Club if they included the Terrance McNally play Corpus Christi (The Body of Christ) in its 1998 schedule. It portrayed Jesus and his disciples as a group of gays. The American Society for the Defense of Tradition, Family and Property (TFP) and the Family Research Council organized a demonstration of over 3,000 Roman Catholic and Protestant Christians to protest the play being shown in New York City. 13 The theatre first cancelled the play, then reinstated it. In 1999-AUG, after being staged in New York City, it completed a run at the Edinburgh Festival. Florida legislators threatened to cut off funding for the Florida Atlantic University if this same play was shown there.
 
bulletSheik Omar Bakri Muhammad, judge of the Shari'ah Court of the UK -- an Islamic group -- issued a death fatwa against Terrence McNally. The fatwa is not enforceable in the UK. However, "If he travels to an Islamic state, then he would risk arrest and execution." 14
 
bulletThe protests have continued. A Roman Catholic group, America Needs Fatima, a subgroup of TFP has distributed hundreds of signed, preprinted postcards which protested the proposed 2004-MAR production of "Corpus Christi," in Madison, WI. The group had previously been successful in having the play canceled at a community college in Grand Rapids, MI. 15
 
bulletOver a million people wrote protest letters from 1984 to the end of 1985 against a non existent gay Jesus film. It was believed to have portrayed Jesus as a bisexual who had an affair with Mary Magdalene. By late 1984, the office of the Attorney general of Illinois was receiving about 1,000 protest letters a week. The movie was a hoax -- a Christian urban legend. No trace of it was ever found. 16

On the other hand, a survey conducted by Talk Radio in London, UK, on 1997-DEC-14 found that:

bullet51% said that revelations of Jesus being a homosexual would not affect their religious belief.
bullet49% said it would. 17

References:

  1. Michael B. Kelly, "Could Jesus Have Been Gay?," at: http://kspark.kaist.ac.kr/
  2. Peter Tatchell, "Was Jesus Gay?," at: http://www.petertatchell.net/
  3. George Broadhead, "Jesus and Homosexuality," Gay and Lesbian Humanist quarterly, at: http://www.galha.freeserve.co.uk/
  4. Patrick Goodenough, " 'Gay Jesus' Claim Draws Fire," Crosswalk.com, 2003-MAY-29, at: http://www.crosswalk.com/
  5. Hank Hyena, "Was Jesus Gay: A search for the messiah's true sexuality leads to a snare of lusty theories," 1998-APR, Salon.com, at: http://www.salon.com/
  6. James Holding, "Leaning on a broken reed," Tektonics Apologetics Ministries, at: http://www.tektonics.org/
  7. Jagannath, "Was Jesus Gay? Or: Can We Finally Let Him Out of the Closet?," at: http://www.geocities.com/
  8. J Richards, "Jesus Speaks of Homosexual Acts," Rainbow Alliance, at: http://rainbowallianceopenfaith.homestead.com/
  9. "Jesus was gay, says academic," smh.com.au, 2003-MAY-29, at: http://www.smh.com.au/
  10. "Was Jesus gay?," at: http://www.angelfire.com/ct/gayjesus/
  11. Reverend Peter Murphy, "The Sexuality of Jesus?," at:  http://kspark.kaist.ac.kr/
  12. Odler Robert Jeanlouie, "Was Jesus Gay?," 2001-JUL-19 at: http://www.readnrun.com/
  13. Bruce Sullivan, "3,000 Protest Gay Jesus Play," Conservative News Service, 1998-SEP-29, at: http://www.conservativenews.org/
  14. "UK Fatwa for 'gay Jesus' writer," BBC News, 1999-OCT-29, at: http://news.bbc.co.uk/
  15. Jacob Stockinger, "Group protests gay Jesus play," The Capital Times, Madison, WI, 2003-SEP-23, at: http://www.madison.com/
  16. "Jesus will be portrayed as a homosexual in an upcoming film: False," http://www.snopes.com/
  17. "Was Jesus gay?, Missing Fragments from St. Mark's Gospel," OutRage!, 1998-FEB-27, at: http://outrage.nabumedia.com/
  18. Rollan McCleary, "A Special Illumination: Authority, Inspiration and Heresy in Gay Spirituality," David Brown Book Co., (2004). Read reviews or order this book safely from Amazon.com online book store
  19. Lesa Bellevie, "Mary Magdalene FAQ," at: http://www.magdalene.org/

Books about this topic:

bullet Rollan McCleary, "A Special Illumination: Authority, Inspiration and Heresy in Gay Spirituality," David Brown Book Co., (2004). Read reviews or order this book safely from Amazon.com online book store
bulletRollan McCleary, "Signs for a Messiah." Hazard Press, (2003). Read reviews or order this book safely from Amazon.com online book store
bullet Theodore W. Jennings, Jr., "The Man Jesus Loved: Homoerotic Narratives from the New Testament," The Pilgrim Press, (2003-MAY). Read reviews or order this book safely from Amazon.com online book store
bulletMorton Smith, "The Secret Gospel: The Discovery and Interpretation of the Secret Gospel according to Mark," Harper & Row, (1973). Read reviews or order this book safely from Amazon.com online book store

Copyright © 2003 to 2010 by Ontario Consultants on Religious Tolerance
Originally written: 2003-SEP-24
Latest update: 2010-FEB-20
Author: B.A. Robinson

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