Pro-Gay Texts in the Bible
©by Paul Halsall
First. Let us remember the most important verse for gay people in the Bible. John 3:16 “For God so loved the world that he gave his only Child, so that everyone who believes in him may not perish but have eternal life”.
And in this same Bible, a book produced, in all its phases, in patriarchal cultures in which marriage and property exchange were completely intertwined, God gave us also the most pro-gay book of the Bible – the Song of Songs.
Read it one day: it is about two lovers making love; the lovers are male and female, but they are not described as married, property and progeny and not an issue either. What is important in the Song is the beauty and value of human erotic attraction; this attraction is validated by God, and by Jesus also who continually plays down the importance of traditional ideas of the family.
God takes as one of the great prophets of the Old Testament a man who is not a man – a eunuch, the sexual minority par excellence, of the ancient world, the prophet Daniel, who, along with his companions, is take because of his physical beauty to be a court eunuch in the Palace of Nebuchadnezzar. This was known to all ancient commentators, for instance St. John Chrysostom, but has been ignored recently. GOD has a place for those who deviate sexually from social norms – gays, lesbians, and transgendered people. In Isaiah 56:4-5, the Lord addresses the eunuchs, and those who do not participate in the dominant culture of preserving name and family through children: “For thus says the Lord: to the eunuchs who keep my sabbaths, who choose the things that please me and hold fast to my covenant, I will give, in my house and within my walls, a monument better than sons and daughters, I will give them an everlasting name that shall not be cut off.”
Note that eunuchs could not keep the covenant in the same way as heterosexuals – they could not dedicate their first born sons for instance – and so, gay people CAN keep the covenant of the Law of Love – to love the Lord God and ones fellow human beings – but the way they do so might be slightly different from heterosexuals.
The Bible, you see, is full of many wonderful things. You can pull out a few verses here and there that seem, especially in modern translations, to be anti-gay, but this is always a misunderstanding. There are verses, indeed whole books of the Bible which challenge the viewpoint of the fundamentalists who seek to prove their view of the world by selective quotation [ask a fundamentalist where the Bible has any doctrine of the Trinity someday!].
As to St. Paul’s apparent attacks. It seems that Paul was disgusted with certain aspects of sex in Greco-Roman society. He was at times a bigot and a prude – he even admits as much when discussing whether women’s hair should be covered. He at no time discusses equal relationships between people of the same sex. It is possible that if he had known about them he would still have disliked them; after all Paul seems to condemn prostitutes, but given that we know most ancient prostitutes, whatever their social opprobrium, were forced, usually sold in fact, into prostitution, it does not speak well of Paul, IMO, that he condemned these poor abused people: Jesus never did! We hold Paul as authoritative for his expansionary view of an inclusionary church, for his profound understanding of sin and redemption, for his exaltation of Jesus as Saviour. We do not hold his every word and decision, nor those of any other apostle, as correct in every way.
And neither does anyone else! In Acts 9, I think, the Council of Jerusalem laid down certain laws for non-Jewish Christians [so we are not talking OT laws here]. Among the laws was an instruction not to eat the blood or the meat of strangled animals. No Christians observe these laws [what exactly do you think is in sausage? ], and while Catholic’s may have an excuse – we believe the Church existed before the Bible and has much say in interpreting it [and WE are the Church !], fundamentalists have no such rationale. They simply ignore it.
In sum: the Bible is *OUR* book. It speaks to us, and it speaks to all people who are “deviant” in their society. It is misused and picked over by fundamentalists, and you should resist going along with their agenda, in my opinion. But above all it teaches the God loves you and wants you to love and be loved. I hope you have found, and will find, Regina, a lover, woman or man, who will bring that experience of God into your life.
Text by Text Summary
The most pro-homosexual text in scripture is:
“For God so loved the World that he gave his only Son, that whoever believes in him should not perish but have eternal life”
In other words, all the pro-human texts in scripture are pro- homosexual too.
But that is not what anti-gay folk mean when they say there are no “progay” texts in Scripture. It all depends on how you read it, though.
Try these then:
Matthew 5:22 Jesus on Gays and Homophobia?
Matt 5:22 But I say unto you, That whosoever is angry with his brother without a cause shall be in danger of the judgment: and whosoever shall say to his brother, Raca, shall be in danger of the council: but whosoever shall say, Thou fool, shall be in danger of hell fire. Matt 5:23 Therefore if thou bring thy gift to the altar, and there rememberest that thy brother hath ought against thee;
( Mat 5:22 . . lego . . . pas ho . orgizo . . adelphos eike . eike . . . enochos . . krisis . hos an . epo . . adelphos rhaka . . . enochos . . sunedrion . hos an . epo . moros . . . enochos . geenna pur Mat 5:23 oun . . prosphero . doron . . thusiasterion . ekei mnaomai . . adelphos echo tis kata .)
Someone on the internet discussion group Gaynet recently pointed out that this passage may be the only reference made by Jesus to homosexuality. I think think argument can be made, but not conclusively.
I consulted the Greek Text [main word roots give in transliterated form, D. Greenberg, The Construction of Homosexuality, LSJ9 [Greek Dictionary], and various English translations.
The context is of course the compilation known as the Sermon on the Mount, a series of sayings of Jesus which are taken to call for a transcending of the Torah, to get to the “spirit” if you like [although I am sure a defence could be made of the Law, that is not my concern here].
The important words are Raca/Rhaka, and Fool/moros.
Rhaka is not a Greek word. This seems to be its only occurence in a Greek text, and LSJ merely states that it is Hebrew. Most translations either ignore the word, or note it as a general term of abuse. Greenberg relying on the work of Warren Johannssen [an acquaintance of mine - and very anti-religious in fact], points out that its roots in a variety of semetic languages mean “soft” [Hebrew "rakha"] and carries a connotation of effeminacy or weakness. The Akkadian word “raq” is used to denote a woman’s name or occupation, and its graphic representation in Akkadian derives from a Summerian symbol for woman. In other words it can be argued that “Raca” [applied here to a "brother"] is an accusation of “sissy”, or perhaps “catamite”.
This argument works better if the word “Moros” is considered. The word can mean “fool”, but it also has the amply used connotation of sexual aggressor, or even “homosexual aggressor”. LSJ9 confirms this, although Johannsen makes much more of it.
It could reasonably be argued then that Jesus words here condemn those who abuse other about their homosexuality.
Less convincing, but still plausible, is that since the abuse of “queers” is condemned, but homosexuality itself is not mentioned [unlike the women taken in adultery story] that Jesus is defending those who engage in homosexual practice. Considering Jesus break with other mores of contemporary Judaism, equally seen in his commendation of those who are “eunuchs for the kingdom of Heaven”, this is a plausible, but far from certain reading of this text.
Compared to justifying Cardinal Ratzinger and the Congregation for the Doctrine of the Faith from Matt 16:18 though, it is a cinch.
Matthew 8:5-13/Luke 7:1-10The Centurion and his “pais”
In Matthew 8:5-13 and Luke 7:1-10 the same story is told about the centurion who approaches Jesus so that this “servant” might be cured.
Mat 8:5 And when Jesus was entered into Capernaum, there came unto him a centurion, beseeching him, Mat 8:6 And saying, Lord, my servant lieth at home sick of the palsy, grievously tormented. Mat 8:7 And Jesus saith unto him, I will come and heal him. Mat 8:8 The centurion answered and said, Lord, I am not worthy that thou shouldest come under my roof: but speak the word only, and my servant shall be healed. Mat 8:9 For I am a man under authority, having soldiers under me: and I say to this man, Go, and he goeth; and to another, Come, and he cometh; and to my servant, Do this, and he doeth it. Mat 8:10 When Jesus heard it, he marvelled, and said to them that followed, Verily I say unto you, I have not found so great faith, no, not in Israel. Mat 8:11 And I say unto you, That many shall come from the east and west, and shall sit down with Abraham, and Isaac, and Jacob, in the kingdom of heaven. Mat 8:12 But the children of the kingdom shall be cast out into outer darkness: there shall be weeping and gnashing of teeth. Mat 8:13 And Jesus said unto the centurion, Go thy way; and as thou hast believed, so be it done unto thee. And his servant was healed in the selfsame hour.
Luke 7:1 Now when he had ended all his sayings in the audience of the people, he entered into Capernaum. Luke 7:2 And a certain centurion’s servant, who was dear unto him, was sick, and ready to die. Luke 7:3 And when he heard of Jesus, he sent unto him the elders of the Jews, beseeching him that he would come and heal his servant. Luke 7:4 And when they came to Jesus, they besought him instantly, saying, That he was worthy for whom he should do this: Luke 7:5 For he loveth our nation, and he hath built us a synagogue. Luke 7:6 Then Jesus went with them. And when he was now not far from the house, the centurion sent friends to him, saying unto him, Lord, trouble not thyself: for I am not worthy that thou shouldest enter under my roof: Luke 7:7 Wherefore neither thought I myself worthy to come unto thee: but say in a word, and my servant shall be healed. Luke 7:8 For I also am a man set under authority, having under me soldiers, and I say unto one, Go, and he goeth; and to another, Come, and he cometh; and to my servant, Do this, and he doeth it. Luke 7:9 When Jesus heard these things, he marvelled at him, and turned him about, and said unto the people that followed him, I say unto you, I have not found so great faith, no, not in Israel. Luke 7:10 And they that were sent, returning to the house, found the servant whole that had been sick.
There are several aspects to this story which might lend it to a gay reading. In the first place it seems somewhat odd that a centurion would be so caring about a slave, caring enough to risk ridicule by approaching a Jewish miracle worker for help. The underlying Greek text intensifies this suspicion of a possible homosexual relationship. Tom Horner, author of David and Jonathan: Homosexuality in Biblical Times, points out that in Matthew, the earlier account and directed to a Greek-speaking Jewish audience, the word for servent is “pais” – which means “boy”, but can also mean “servant”, and, given the rather greater than average concern for a servant demonstrated by the centurion, can also mean “lover”. The word “pederasty” for instance derives from “pais”. Luke, who was writing in a much more Greek milieu changes the word “pais” to the much more neutral “doulos” (“servent” or “slave”), presumably aware of its homosexual implications to any reader witha a Greek cultural background. Jesus, clearly, does not condemn the centurion in this story of faith.
The Book of Ruth sensitively portrays bonding and devotion between two women. Also don’t miss Book of Judith for a surprising overturning of male/female roles: Judith sneaks into the enemy camps, cuts off the head of Holofernes, the leader of the enemy army, returns and receives a hero’s welcome, and then lives out the remainder of her days with her maidservants, rejecting all male suitors!
Samuel 18, 19 & 20, II Samuel I:26
These texts describe the relationship between David and Jonathon. You may not interpret them as homosexual, but I do, and I think I have valid reasons to do so.
The “friendship” between David and Jonathan. The relevant passages: 1 Samuel 18:1-4; 20:3-4, and especially, 20:41 and 2 Samuel 1:25-26, quoted here: “And as soon as the lad had gone, David rose from beside the stone heap and fell on his face to the ground, and bowed three times; and *they* (David and Jonathan) KISSED ONE ANOTHER, and wept with another, until David recovered himself” (1 Sam. 20:41 New International Version). Note: It’s really amusing to see the Fundamentalists try to dismiss the obvious passion in this episode!
“(David speaks:) ‘Jonathan lies slain… I am distressed for you, my brother Jonathan; very pleasant have you been to me; YOUR LOVE TO ME WAS WONDERFUL, PASSING THE LOVE OF WOMEN’” (Emphasis added by editor.) (2 Sam 1:25-26, New International Version)
The Song of Songs [All of it] :
This is a series of herterosexual love poems. But it is unique in the scriptures [the product largely of a pastoral society in which property transfers were accomplished by marriage and inheritance, hence the laws and concern with marriage], in that it presents sexual love between two people who are not clearly married [marriage is not discussed] as a joyful thing in itself. This is pro- homosexual, if you like, because it challenges the procreation centered view of sex held by some.
Isaiah 56: 38
This prophecy concerns the outcasts of Israel, and specifically the sexual minorities of the time, ie eunuchs. These were people who were not part of the dominant family/property complex, but people still who God loves and includes [since there was no category of homosexul - until very late in the 19th century it seems - these Biblical texts are ones I read as relevant and pro-gay: I am not asserting that they are discussing homosexuality, which would falsify my earlier statement that there was no such concept at the time].
The prophet Daniel was understood by Byzantine commentators to have been taken to serve as a eunuch, the major defined sexual minority of the ancient world, at the King of Babylon’s court. Note the emphasis on the physical beauty of the four young men. He is, nevertheless, along with David one of the heros of the Jewish Scriptures. Fr. Helminiak reports suggestions that “eunuch” was just a general way of refering to “homosexuals” in the period, although remains merely a suggestion. More interesting has been discussion of the “favour and tender love” Daniel enjoyed with the chief eunuch. Nothing definite can be asserted, but Daniel is one of the most intersting biblical figures for gay people.
You may note the development seen in Isaiah and Daniel when you compare them with Deut. 23:1 which excluded eunuchs from the community. I take the phrase of Jesus about “Eunuchs from birth” to be the closest thing in the Bible to the concept of homosexual as we now understand it [BTW it is a modern misperception to think that eunuchs could not and did not have sex]. .
So I would also include as a pro-homosexual text :-
[an apparent description of bi-location by the way]. In this passage an Ethiopian Eunuch [remember a group specifically excluded for sexual reasons from membership in the people of Israel by Deut 23:1] is baptised by Philip. This entire passage [which has Philip also preaching to Samaritans] is about the inclusion in the Church of the excluded. First a racially/ethnically excluded group, then a sexually excluded individual.
You may not agree with my reading of these passages, but it is untrue to say that in either the Jewish Bible or the New Testament there are no passages that can be read as supportive of homosexuals.