Monday, May 7, 2007

Was Jesus pro-gay?

Was Jesus pro-gay? Some scholars see evidence for this in the story of the Roman centurion (Matthew 8:5-13 and Luke 7:1-10).

A centurion came to Jesus asking him to heal his servant, who was stricken by some paralyzing disease. Jesus said he was willing to go to the centurion's house, but the latter said that he did deserve to have Jesus come to his house. Rather, one word from Jesus was enough to heal his servant. Jesus praised the centurion for his faith and pronounced the servant healed.

Apparently the servant in this tale is no ordinary servant. The Greek word that refers to him, pais, has a range of meanings, and the most likely one, given the context, is that of a slave boy (usually a teenager) used to provide sexual services to Roman soldiers, a very common practice in that period. Very often when these teenagers grow up they join the auxiliary army. So a first century reader of Matthew and Luke, upon reading that a centurion asked Jesus to heal his pais, would immediately understand the nature of the relationship. Perhaps the author of the Gospel of John was sufficiently concerned about this issue that he made the centurion a Jewish father trying to save his son.

Now Jesus, instead of saying, "Fuck off, you pervert" or "Serves you right for living in sin", simply told the centurion, "I will go and heal him." But to say that Jesus in this story affirmed a gay relationship seems to take the story out of its historical context. The modern concept of homosexuality simply did not exist in Biblical times. In the same way that many scholars think that 1 Corinthian 6:9-10 has nothing to do with gays, the form of relations 'affirmed' by Jesus--purchasing a boy in his mid teens and using him for sexual gratification--is something most modern gays would find alien, if not abhorrent (well, some modern gays.)

What I find touching about this story is that Jesus didn't make any judgements about the centurion's lifestyle. He simply responded to someone in need in a forceful, direct way. Whether or not Jesus was 'pro-gay' becomes a non-issue.

Further Reading

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