I often hear the phrase, "Jesus was silent on homosexuality", from many people when the subject of homosexuality or gay marriage comes up in regard to religious debate. The purpose of this blog is to educate people that this not quite true. Jesus spoke about homosexuality once and then had at least one encounter with a homosexual. In this blog I will touch on what Jesus said about homosexuality.
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.
The word eunuch comes from the Greek and means "bed keeper". In Aramaic, the language that Jesus spoke, it means "trusted one". In Hebrew, it means "appointed one and/or castrated one".
Eunuchs were literally men who had as their position the guarding of the beds of the wives or women of royalty in order to prevent other men from entering and having sex with the women. Since normal heterosexual men were themselves potential threats of having sex with the women they were entrusted to guard, it was a standard practice to castrate them. However, castrated men can still have erections and because they no longer ejaculate they can last longer than non-castrated men during sex. Women quickly realized this and eunuchs became very desirable as secret lovers. As a result, many eunuchs had their penises removed along with their testicles. So in the literal sense a eunuch is a man who has been either castrated and/or had his penis removed and who's job was to guard the wives and women of royalty so they don't have sex with other men. As I mentioned in a previous blog, Daniel of the lion's den fame was himself a eunuch. So eunuchs are found in the bible.
In Matthew 19:12, Jesus says there are three types of eunuchs.
1. Eunuchs who were born eunuchs.
2. Eunuchs who were made eunuchs.
3. Eunuchs who have chose to be eunuchs for religious reasons.
Let's start with number 3. A eunuch who has chosen to be a eunuch means a person who has chosen a life of celibacy, that is a person who willingly chooses to abstain from romantic and sexual relationships out of religious convictions. Jesus is not talking about men who castrate themselves. Jesus is not talking literally in this passage.
Number two covers men who were forcibly castrated and/or had their penises removed against their will by other men. These men would play the standard role of eunuchs who guarded the wives and women of royalty.
Now we get to the good stuff. In number one Jesus said that some eunuchs were born eunuchs. What did Jesus mean? Well, fundamentalist Christians claim this part of the passage only refers to men who were born deformed and incapable of penetrating and impregnating a woman. The problem is two-fold. First, we know in number 3 that Jesus was not talking literally. Yet fundamentalist Christians demand that Jesus was talking literally in number 1. Second, the term eunuch was often used to describe homosexual men in the ancient world. Words like gay and even homosexual did not exist in ancient times. In the ancient world it did not matter what gender you were attracted to. A man was still required to marry and reproduce, even if he preferred to have sex with other men. So any man who preferred other men and refused to marry a woman and reproduce was likewise put under the label of eunuch. Scholars know this. It's not a secret. It's just that fundamentalist Christian leaders want to deceive people.
So in number one when Jesus says that some eunuchs are born eunuchs he is talking about men who were born deformed and incapable of penetrating and impregnating a woman as well as homosexual men who refused to marry a woman and reproduce. So what did Jesus have to say about these people? He said, "He that is able to receive it, let him receive it", to paraphrase, "If it's your God-given nature or if it's your lot in life then it's perfectly fine." Why is this important? Because the Old Testament teaches that eunuchs are to be despised and are unworthy. Jesus is countering that by saying that through him eunuchs are now accepted.
Sexuality is not a choice. We do not chose what gender we are attracted to. Our sexual preference is determined in the womb and is hard-wired in the brain by exposure to sex hormones in the womb. People are born gay and bisexual, just as people are born heterosexual. Homosexuality is normal and is a part of nature. Homosexuality has been observed in nearly every single animal species. In fact, there are even entire species (reference Bonobo chimps) where every single member of the species is bisexual. There are even species where members have the ability to change their own gender!
*Note: Asexual men, men who have no sex drive and are not sexually attracted to either gender were also in ancient times included under the umbrella definition of eunuch.