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“Jesus never mentioned homosexuality”. This is a comment that we read almost anytime the subject of homosexuality and the Bible comes up. But is it true? Well, since the science of sexual orientation did not exist until the late 19th century and there was no Hebrew, Aramiac, or Koine Greek equivalent to homosexual or homosexuality prior to that time, it is technically true. That, however, does not mean that there were no gay folks in the ancient past. There were. So, how was it dealt with and were there other categories (or words) that gay folks got lumped in with? Many believe that gay folks (or, at least gay men) were included in what Jesus referred to as “born eunuchs” in Matthew 19:12.

Some religious elders were quizzing Jesus about marriage in Matthew 19. They wanted to know if divorce was allowed. Jesus basically says no. Then they want to know why Moses allowed divorce. Jesus told them it was because of the hardness of your hearts, and that it was not that way in the beginning. And, He told them that they could only divorce their wives as a result of “fornication.” Then His disciples wanted to know if it was better NOT to get married at all, that being the case. This was Jesus’ reply:

Matthew 19:12

For there are some eunuchs, which were so born from their mother's womb: and there are some eunuchs, which were made eunuchs of men: and there be eunuchs, which have made themselves eunuchs for the kingdom of heaven's sake. He that is able to receive it, let him receive it. (KJV)

Now, who are these eunuchs who are born that way from their mother's womb? We know of the folks who are castrated, and we know of those who choose to be celibate for the kingdom's sake. Who the other eunuchs are is somewhat debatable, but many Christians believe that they include homosexuals. This is understandable considering historical evidence.

There is quite a bit of evidence in the literature of the time that suggests that the term "born eunuch" or "natural eunuch" was used to describe men who were not attracted to women, were not infertile, and had sex with men. Homosexuals, in a word.

Josephus probably wrote the most interesting thing, in which he abjured the use of "born eunuchs" as harem attendants. It seems the bored women in the harem would get these eunuchs drunk, seduce them and become pregnant.

If this subject is of interest to you, you can find out more here.

Jesus was not necessarily the first to state such a thing. This is what the prophet Isaiah had to say about eunuchs.

Isaiah 56:4-5

4) For thus saith the LORD unto the eunuchs that keep my sabbaths, and choose the things that please me, and take hold of my covenant;

5) Even unto them will I give in mine house and within my walls a place and a name better than of sons and of daughters: I will give them an everlasting name, that shall not be cut off.

I don't think that it is likely that Isaiah was speaking about castrated males or those born deformed. Compare that passage to this one:
Deuteronomy 23:1

He that is wounded in the stones, or hath his privy member cut off, shall not enter into the congregation of the Lord.

Thus, a modern definition of eunuch is meaningless in the context of the Old Testament texts.

8:54 PM PT: I also believe that FTM's would be included in the category of "born eunuch".

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Comment Preferences

  •  Thanks. Interesting diary. n/t (1+ / 0-)
    Recommended by:

    If you don't watch news, you're un-informed. If you watch Fox news, you're mis-informed. (paraphrasing Mark Twain)

    by edg on Mon Apr 07, 2014 at 09:40:05 PM PDT

  •  it may be more (0+ / 0-)

    about intersex/hermaphrodism given its statistical occurence

    Warning - some snark may be above‽ (-9.50; -7.03)‽ eState4Column5©2013 "I’m not the strapping young Muslim socialist that I used to be" - Barack Obama 04/27/2013 (@eState4Column5).

    by annieli on Mon Apr 07, 2014 at 10:11:10 PM PDT

  •  The passage in Deuteronomy is contradicted (1+ / 0-)
    Recommended by:

    many times in the OT.

    It doesn't necessarily mean a different definition of "eunuch" was applied, only that the passage missed the editors. It's simply a glaring Biblical self-contradiciton that was never corrected.

    Dick Cheney 2/14/10: "I was a big supporter of waterboarding"

    by Bob Love on Mon Apr 07, 2014 at 11:04:29 PM PDT

    •  Thanks for your comment. (1+ / 0-)
      Recommended by:
      Bob Love

      I'd never heard that explanation before (even from Jewish friends). Interesting.

    •  Deuteronomy = a redo (2+ / 0-)
      Recommended by:
      Bob Love, RiveroftheWest

      All verses of the Old Testament first five books ("Torah") have been identified as from four sources:  The Yahwehists, the Elohimists, the Deuteronomists, and the priestly source.  The first two are older.  The second two are rewritings of the former with emphasis on "purity" as a reaction to the return from the Babylonian Exile (500 BCE or thereabouts).  Some sixty years before, Solomon's Temple had been destroyed and the elite Jerusalemites were returned to Babylon to serve their conquerors.  Long story short, the Babylonians got toppled by the Persians, and some descendants of the exiles under Prince Zerrubabel got permission to return to rebuild the Temple.  Returning to a ravaged land and not having the resources to duplicate Solomon's architectural masterpiece, the redo was decidedly second rate.  These people believed they were cursed by God and sought to get right with diety by imposing state-enforced purity on the population.  Their descendants became the Pharisees, Saducees, and scribes who were Jesus' bane some 400 years later.  The Samaritans and Gallileans were hill people they regarded as rustics and not really full Jews.  Many had intermarried with other ethnicities.  Much of what the religious right claims is "the Word of God" is actually the desperate cravings of a conquered people with national PTSD.

      Two other chapters of note:  In Matthew 8, Jesus heals the "servant" of a Roman Centurion.  It's clear to me this was a relationship with both hierarchy and affection, but the religious right takes umbrage at the idea they were gay.  I believe that's denial on their part.  

      The other is Acts 8, where the disciple Phillip baptises an Ethiopian eunuch who is the Treasurer for Queen Charlotte while traveling through Gaza.  The nature of his eunuch status is not discussed, but we know LGBT folks just like Het folks played parts in palace intrigues and it's not unusual for some to rise in power.  Again, the RRs are offended at the suggestion a "eunuch" is gay, and point conceded, there's no guarantee he was.  But the right is composed of people who assiduously cultivate their own sexual ignorance to the extent they are dumbfounded to learn most acts of anal intercourse are engaged in by heterosexuals.  

      Your mileage may vary - just something I wanted to throw out there.

      The modern conservative is engaged in one of man's oldest exercises in moral philosophy; that is, the search for a superior moral justification for selfishness. -- John Kenneth Galbraith

      by Kangaroo on Tue Apr 08, 2014 at 07:16:26 AM PDT

      [ Parent ]

  •  If you just go to Wikipedia (0+ / 0-)

    from the search "homosexuality in the roman empire" you can see that the issue was extremely complex, much more so than reflected in the gospels. Near the end of the article the role of Christianity in the issue is outlined.

    So it really doesn't matter what is written in the gospels or in the OT on this topic.  These writings have no informational authority based in what was really happening in that culture at that time. In my view, using the scriptures to discuss this issue is a waste of time.  Even if everyone could agree on what the biblical texts say about homosexuality, it carries no reality based or moral lessons to declare that have any meaning in our world today.  

    Plus, trying to find relevance in the scriptures in order to remove the hard and fast bigotry of those who point to anti-homosexuality passages that back up their views is a waste of time. They are not listening.

  •  If one goes to Strong's Concordance... (1+ / 0-)
    Recommended by:
    Batya the Toon

    ...we find that the word translated "eunuchs" in Isaiah 56:4 is the Hebrew word meaning:

    from an unused root meaning to castrate; a eunuch; by implication, valet (especially of the female apartments), and thus, a minister of state:--chamberlain, eunuch, officer.
    I don't know that we can definitively state that this term does not include castrated eunuchs, but the "by implication" definition certainly supports your interpretation.

    It's one of those "do you call it a Kleenex or a tissue" things...

    (I highly recommend  Strong's to any student of Scripture - it really gives you a clear perspective on the oldest Greek and Hebrew texts. Here's an online KJV with Strong's Concordance annotations.)

    The word "parent" is supposed to be a VERB, people...

    by wesmorgan1 on Tue Apr 08, 2014 at 07:29:37 AM PDT

    •  Oh, and the Greek translated as "eunuchs" (1+ / 0-)
      Recommended by:
      Batya the Toon

      in Matthew...

      a bed keeper, bed guard, superintendent of the bedchamber, chamberlain

      in the palace of oriental monarchs who support numerous wives the superintendent of the women's apartment or harem, an office held by eunuchs

      an emasculated man, a eunuch

      eunuchs in oriental courts held by other offices of greater, held by the Ethiopian eunuch mentioned in Ac. 8:27-39.

      one naturally incapacitated
              for marriage
              begetting children

      one who voluntarily abstains from marriage

      So, again, there's a LOT packed into a single word.

      By the way, forget that online Strong's I mentioend in my previous comment; it is incomplete. I found a much better--and easier to use--online Strong's.)

      The word "parent" is supposed to be a VERB, people...

      by wesmorgan1 on Tue Apr 08, 2014 at 07:35:06 AM PDT

      [ Parent ]

    •  I don't like Strongs. (0+ / 0-)

      It just translates back to the KJV (with it's errors). It's almost useless, in my opinion. I know ancient language linguists (they agree with me).

      •  This comment sounds a bit stronger than I (1+ / 0-)
        Recommended by:

        meant it to be. Strongs can be helpful sometimes with routine translation issues. However, with more complex and complicated topics (such as this), much more is needed. And, I'd take Strongs with a grain of salt (but, still look at it).

        •  No offense taken...*grin*...but a question: (0+ / 0-)

          Is there another resource you would recommend for someone who is neither an ancient language linguist nor fluent in Hebrew or Greek?

          (To be precise, I'm not using Strong's original - rather, I'm using "The Strongest Strong's", Kohlneberger's/Swanson's update of the original.)

          I'm always on the lookout for better references. Of the ones found on the mass market--e.g. bookstores, Christian stores, etc.--Strong's format is (for me) the most accessible and a decent "one stop shop" for this kind of information.

          The word "parent" is supposed to be a VERB, people...

          by wesmorgan1 on Tue Apr 08, 2014 at 06:22:24 PM PDT

          [ Parent ]

    •  I was going to say (1+ / 0-)
      Recommended by:

      that the Hebrew word saris is used in some contexts to mean minister or officer, and not necessarily a eunuch.

      However, the passage in Isaiah going on to say "I will give them a place and a name, better than sons and daughters" suggests that it does mean people who cannot expect to have children of their own.

      Incidentally, the Hebrew phrase there for "a place and a name" is yad vashem.  Yes, that passage is the entirely appropriate source of Yad Vashem's name.

  •  "who are these eunuchs... (0+ / 0-)

    ... who are born that way from their mother's womb? "

    Since some 6 to 8% of Rams  exhibit  Homosexual behavior, and

    Since so much of biblical  time was involved with sheep, and

    Since Jesus is allegedly the "Lamb of God"...

    Can it be that...?

    Just wondering.


  •  Thank You (1+ / 0-)
    Recommended by:

    I'm an Alabamian, a Southern Christian woman (who, weirdly enough is an extreme liberal!!). My daughter, 28, is a lesbian, and has a fantastic life partner.  Being a Southerner, our religion permeates through every single thing families do.  The eldest male says prayer before a large meal, Sunday roast dinners, Easter egg hunts….or, better yet.  Just Watch Steel Magnolias.  That's it.

    I love and fully support my daughter for who she is.  She's a brilliant psychologist, to me - she's perfect in every way - but I yearned (and that is absolutely the word, YEARNED) to find something in the Bible showing God's acceptance of her.  I knew God loved my child, I've always known it in my soul, but it broke my heart to heart crass (Duck Dynasty, for example) ignorant, judgement filled, bigotry spewing out and condemning my child (who is ALSO a child of God).

    I do not mind getting into a good political debate.  I always win.  THANK YOU, THANK YOU, THANK YOU.  You've just given me a place to start.  Now I'm going to win this one, too.

    •  You are welcome. (1+ / 0-)
      Recommended by:

      And, thanks for the kind words.

      You might also check out the story of David and Jonathan. I wrote about that here.

      Also, since your daughter is a lesbian, you might want to take a look at the story of Ruth and Naomi in Ruth. There is also some good stuff there.

      Blessings and peace.

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