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Homosexual passages from the Christian Scriptures

Matthew, John and Jude

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Matthew 5:22:

"...anyone who says to his brother 'Raca' is answerable to the Sanhedrin [the Council]. But anyone who says 'You fool' will be in danger of the hell fire" (NIV)

It is often stated that Jesus never commented about homosexuality. A case can be made that he refers to gays in this verse. On the surface, the verse seems to condemn individuals who treat others with contempt and call them names. Hatred of others is considered here as serious to God as an overt act of murder. 'Raca' is defined in the NIV as an Aramaic term of contempt. It has been translated literally as "I spit on you." But "raca," "rakha" and similar terms in various Semitic languages also carry the meaning of effeminacy or weakness - terms frequently used to refer to homosexuals. The word 'Moros' which is translated as "fool" has a number of meanings, including both sexual aggressor and homosexual aggressor. 1 One could argue that Jesus was condemning homophobia in this passage; but it would be a weak case at best, because of the multiplicity of meanings of the key words.

Matthew 8:5-13:

These verses describe how a Roman centurion asked Jesus to cure his "pais" who lay paralyzed and in great agony. The centurion stated that all Jesus had to do was to say the right words to effect the cure. Jesus praised the centurion for his faith. If the boy had been the centurion's son, then the author probably would have used the Greek word "uios" (son). If the writer wanted to imply that they boy was a slave or indentured servant, then he probably would have used the word "duolos" (slave). But he did not. He used the Greek word pais which, in this situation, contains the suggestion of a young male kept for sexual purposes by his adult owner. The English word "pederasty" comes partly from this word. Various translations of the Christian Scriptures have suppressed the possible sexual component of the term and translated the word simply as a "servant boy", "serving boy", "young servant," "my son," and "my boy." A present-day relationship of this type would be considered child sexual abuse, a serious crime. However, such arrangements were common in the Roman Empire at the time, and were tolerated by society, as was human slavery itself.

The Gospel of Luke, starting at Luke 7:2 told the same story differently. The boy was changed into a slave of undefined age who was 'dear to' (KJV) the Centurion. The author used the Greek word doulos which is a generic term for servant or slave. He was described as being very sick and near death; this contrasts with the author of Matthew who description of a boy being paralyzed and in great pain.

Matthew 19:4-5:

"...at the beginning, the Creator 'made them male and female' and said 'For this reason man will leave his father and mother, and be united with his wife; and the two will become one flesh.'" (NIV)

Interpretation:

bulletConservatives frequently quote this verse in isolation and use it to show that God's plan was for every man and woman to be heterosexual. Thus, by implication, this verse condemns all homosexual behavior as a violation of God's intent for humanity.
bulletProgressives would frequently point out that the above statement attributed to Jesus was in direct response to a request of the Pharisees who asked in Verse 3: 'Is it lawful for a man to divorce his wife...?' (NIV) Jesus answer is obviously in response to a question directed at wives and husbands; i.e. the "them" refers to a married couple. It is unrelated to homosexuality. He confirms this in Verse 6 where Jesus is quoted as saying: 'So they are no longer two, but one. Therefore what God has joined together, let man not separate.' (NIV) Also, Jesus continues in Verse 12 by discussing men and women who, for various reasons, did not get married.

Persons opposed to equal rights to gays and lesbians often point out that "God made Adam and Eve, not Adam and Steve." The obvious reason why God made the first two humans as heterosexuals is that he was interested in them creating an entire human race, now totaling 6 billion descendents. If he had created two gays, humanity would not have started. 

Although unrelated to the question of gay and lesbian relationships, it is interesting to note that Jesus advocated the violation of existing Jewish Law by banning remarriage after divorce.

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Matthew 19:10-12:

"Jesus' disciples said to him, 'If such is the case of a man with his wife, it is better not to marry,' But he said to them 'Not everyone can accept this teaching, but only those to whom it is given. For there are eunuchs who have been so from birth, and there are eunuchs who have been made eunuchs by others, and there are eunuchs who have made themselves eunuchs for the sake of the dominion of heaven. Let anyone accept this who can.' " The New Testament & Psalms: An Inclusive Version.

In verse 10, Jesus' disciple are responding to Jesus' statement that divorce is not an option for a man unless his wife has committed adultery. The disciples say that if this is so, then people should not marry. However, Jesus admits that not all Christians can accept singlehood. God gives only some the ability to remain single. He then talks about 3 types of eunuchs. They appear to be:

  1. males who have been born with malformed testicles
  2. males who have been surgically castrated. This was often done to harem guards and senior civil servants. Daniel, for example, was a eunuch.
  3. males who "have made themselves eunuchs". There have been religious groups whose men have castrated themselves as a sign of their religious commitment. However, most commentators believe that "eunuch" is used here metaphorically, to refer to Christians who have decided to remained single in order to more fully devote themselves to the church's work. Some Christians in later years interpreted this verse literally and castrated themselves as a sign of faith. With the medical skills of those days, this was a life-threatening procedure.

One  source interprets the first category of eunuch as referring to homosexuals, rather than to males born without functioning testicles. 2 This source believes that the Bible contradicts itself, with Leviticus, 1 Corinthians and other passages condemning homosexual behavior, while Matthew "just accepts it as a reality." We have not been able to find support for this belief from any academic source.

John 3:16:

"For God so loved the world that he gave his one and only Son, that whoever believes in him shall not perish but have eternal life" (NIV)

This verse seems to imply that "whoever believes...will have eternal live. "Whoever" presumably includes all men and women, black and white, gay, lesbian, bisexual and heterosexual believers. But there are verses like I Corinthians 6:9 and 1 Timothy 1:9-10 which seem to conflict with John 3:16. The latter both have lists of behaviors that will cause people to be unfit for salvation and thus ineligible to attain heaven after death.

Interpretation:

bulletConservatives generally believe that all three verses are simultaneously correct. Some argue that if one is saved, then they become a "new creation" in Christ, and homosexual desires will quickly disappear. If they continue to engage in homosexual acts, then their religious conversion was not sincere, and they are doomed to hell.
bulletProgressives do not stress the concept of salvation and eternal punishment in hell for the unsaved. They discount the implied threat in John 3:16 that the unsaved will not have eternal life. And they discount the validity of the statements in 1 Corinthians and 1 Timothy that certain behaviors will cause you to go to Hell.

Jude 1:7:

The King James Version of the Bible translates verse 7 as:

bulletJude 1:7: "Even as Sodom and Gomorrha, and the cities about them in like manner, giving themselves over to fornication, and going after strange flesh, are set forth for an example, suffering the vengeance of eternal fire." (Emphasis ours)

The book of Jude is quite short and only has a single chapter.

The phrase translated as "strange flesh" in the original Greek reads: "sarkos heteras." Ironically, our English word "heterosexual" is derived from "heteras." "Strange flesh" has been variously translated in other versions as "perverted sensuality," "unnatural lust," "unnatural sex," "lust of men for other men," "pursued unnatural desire," "sexual sin, even perversion," and (in the NIV) "perversion."

Interpretations:

bulletConservatives: This verse is referring back to the story of Sodom and Gomorrah. The male mob in Sodom rejected the offer of two virgin women for sexual purposes and demanded to have sex with the male angels instead. This proves that they were homosexuals. The passage clearly condemns homosexual behavior.
bulletProgressives: Jude does not define exactly what sexual "perversion" he is referred to here. It seems to be sexual in nature, because it is coupled with a condemnation of fornication. Jude might have been referring to:
bulletThe intent of the mob to rape the angels. Rape is a clear perversion of God-given sexuality.
bulletThe fact that the angels were non-human. This would have made their sin of rape even worse; bestiality would have been involved.

The Harper Collin's New Revised Standard Version of the Bible uses the term "unnatural lust." A footnote comments: "The Sodomites attempted sexual relations with angels." They apparently use the term "Sodomites" in its original sense to refer to inhabitants of Sodom.

Jude appears to be in conflict with other Biblical passages which also refer to Genesis 19, but stress that the crime of the citizens of Sodom was their lack of hospitality to strangers and insensitivity to the needs of the poor.

Some biblical scholars interpret this verse as relating to an ancient Jewish legend that the women of Sodom engaged in sexual intercourse with angels. Jude's reference would then definitely be to the sin of bestiality, since angels are a different species from humans.

References used:

The following information sources were used to prepare and update the above essay. The hyperlinks are not necessarily still active today.

  1. The website "Radical Experiences in Faith: Lesbian, Gay, and Bisexual Catholics" (formerly the Lesbian, Gay and Bisexual Catholic Handbook) deals in depth with this verse. See: http://purl.oclc.org/
  2. "Sweettp," "Is Jesus Silent?" at: http://members.tripod.com/

Copyright © 1996 to 2008 by Ontario Consultants on Religious Tolerance
Latest update: 2008-SEP-23
Author: B.A. Robinson

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