Why Jesus never even dated

(A recent conversation between my wife Catherine ["Cat"] and me.)

Me: So I’m thinking about doing a blog post exploring the idea of Jesus on the one hand being fully man, but on the other hand not having a sex drive.

Cat: Oh?

Me: Yeah. Because how can Jesus be fully man, see, yet not have a sex drive? And if he does has a sex drive, then how can he be sinless? Matthew 5:27 says that anyone who looks at a woman lustfully has already committed adultery in his heart. But no man in the world (who isn’t gay) doesn’t look at at least some women lustfully.

Cat: Uh-huh.

Me: What? Don’t you think it’s interesting? That according to Christians Jesus has to be sinless—yet, by the Bible’s definition, can’t be, since being fully man means that he necessarily and regularly commits adultery? If Jesus was fully man, then he must have lusted. And if he lusted, then he couldn’t have been sinless. Don’t you think that’s at least vaguely interesting?

Cat: Not really.

Me: Of course it is! It’s core to the whole Christian conception of Jesus being fully man but without sin.

Cat: Look. You don’t lust after your sister, do you?

Me: Ew. No.

Cat: And you don’t lust after your mom, do you?

Me: No.

Cat: Because they’re not potential mates for you. That’s why you don’t have those feelings for them.

Me: True.

Cat: Well, that’s the same way Jesus saw all women. Just like no sane father can lust after his own daughter, Jesus couldn’t lust after any woman. Because to him every woman was his daughter. Literally.

Me: So there’s no psychological place for him to experience lust.

Cat: None. Plus, he’s God. All-knowing. All powerful. Immortal. The alpha and omega of all creation. Not exactly a suitable match for any woman. Talk about an unequal relationship.

John: So no mate for Jesus.

Cat: No mate for Jesus.

John: And he remains sinless.

Cat: Exactly.

Me: You know, I probably would have reached that same conclusion. I’m sure I would have thought of that myself.

Cat: I wonder if I should start my own blog?

Also read The myth of the Christian eunuch.

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About John Shore

John Shore (who, fwiw, is straight) is the author of UNFAIR: Christians and the LGBT Question, and three other great books. He is founder of Unfundamentalist Christians (on Facebook here), and executive editor of the Unfundamentalist Christians group blog.  (In total John's two blogs receive some 250,000 views per month.) John is also co-founder of The NALT Christians Project, which was written about by TIME,  The Washington Post, and others. His website is JohnShore.com. John is a pastor ordained by The Progressive Christian Alliance. You're invited to like John's Facebook page. And don't forget to sign up for his mucho awesome monthly newsletter.

  • http://www.facebook.com/robert.b.foster1 Robert Banks Foster via Facebook

    So God has created us so it is inevitable that we sin? And we were created with sexuality. That sexuality appeared magically after disobedience is certainly not Biblical. I’m going to check out texual problems.

  • http://www.facebook.com/robert.b.foster1 Robert Banks Foster via Facebook

    A ha. The word used is also used for covetting property. It is not desire as feeling sexual but plotting and planning even in fantasy to possess.

  • http://www.facebook.com/robert.b.foster1 Robert Banks Foster via Facebook

    By the by, the Bible was of course inspired by God but it was written down and translated by human beings who can err and sin. 5000 different versions on the NT can’t be right. We have to read with God, not as if we control God. (feels like I’m back in the pulpit) Yes Cat should get her own blog. But you are indeed fortune to have her in your life and that also says something very good about you. Struggle on, brother.

  • Sue

    It is much more likely that Jesus was a young widower when he started his ministry. There is no way a rabbi of his time was unmarried. He would have been married off in an arranged marriage by the time of he was about 19. Since he didn’t have a wife at age 30 the logical conclusion is that she had died, most likely in childbirth along with the child, but any number of illnesses or accidents might have occurred. Survival was iffy back then.

    • Valerie

      That is an interesting theory, Sue. I happen to agree with you at least on one point, that in order for Jews to see Jesus as a teacher/rabbi he would have to, according to their laws, have been married. Whether he was still married or a widower as you postulate is only natural given the time period. I would also point out that the Bible as we know it was put together by the Catholic church. They decided what books would be included and excluded any references that put women in positions of power or importance. They decided the divinity of Christ and in their worldly opinion a married Christ could not be divine.

  • Ric Jones via Facebook

    Old topics in theology, been around 1,000+ years. Fact – there is no primary evidence whatsoever for what the “historical Jesus” did or said, much less thought or felt – we have nothing he wrote (if he in fact wrote anything) and every early text written about him is so theologically colored as to call into question any historical claims that one might wish to base on biblical writings. Paul’s letters are the earliest documents (pre-dating the written Gospels) and he says very little about the “historical Jesus” and seems to have little interest in basing any of his theological claims on historical facts. These types of claims about “Jesus” – he was married – are formulated from sketches of historical likelihoods given what we do know about that time period. The “historical Jesus” is simply not available to us as a matter of knowledge, only speculation.

  • Jennifer Sandberg via Facebook

    I think Jesus was married & had a family. Why couldn’t he fully be a human? If he was fully human then he did lust. But why would that be a sin? Who cares. His message & teachings are what really are important and people so often forget that.

  • Deb

    mm, trouble with that though, is it makes him not really fully human in any sense that most of us can relate to..Isn’t he meant to have been tempted just like us, and really experienced what it was like to be one of us?

    And if he had a sex drive, but it couldn’t be directed toward any living creature, what would that do to him? Repression and all that?

    doesn’t really work for me as a theory- but then I’m a heretic who thinks if God was gonna take on human form, he’d have kept coming back, first as a woman and then over and over again in different lives so we could all know he’d really felt what it was like to be us.

  • Derek A Collins

    Suggest you read the two Jesus in Love Novels by Kittredge Cherry. (http://www.jesusinlove.org) Wonderful stuff.

  • Connie Chai McKenney via Facebook

    Okay, so, I’m a Buddhist, but I have always been a Jesus fangirl as well. The whole argument kind of baffles me – why does it matter so much whether he was or not married? Help a heathen out. Someone please explain the reason for the argument.

    • http://www.unnameablecuriosity.blogspot.com Christine

      There are a lot of Christians who feel that Jesus being married would indicate that he wasn’t really divine. That’s why it’s a big controversial problem. Personally, I think that comes out of a (very misguided) belief in gender complementarity – which it’s why the sexist elements are most likely to be up-in-arms about a potential wife of Jesus.

      • Jill H

        And that is why I seriously question whether definitive physical proof could exist to confirm the sexual nature of Jesus Christ the man. If it did but is lost, or does now and is meticulously hidden, we’d still have public forums picking it apart, each to their own points of view.

        This is all a very vibrant, thoughful, yet ultimately speculative discussion.

        Also there are those who see God as the marriage of the masculine and feminine combined, of which I agree. So there you go.

    • Don Rappe

      I am fascinated by the idea of a heathen Jesus fangirl club and highly approve it. Many of the traditions of the church seem to remember Jesus as either sexless or celibate, like many traditional priests and nuns. These traditions are very old and may date back to the Greek and Roman cults such as Vestal virgins, Diana the virgin huntress, the Pallas Athena etc. At some point, the religious followers of these religions converted to Christianity and brought their traditions with them. My family brought a tree inside in the winter and some of my ancestors worshiped trees. some people can get their nose out of joint if they are not called Christmas trees. In the same way many people have come to believe that ancient ideas about virginity are a part of the christian religion. Go heathen fangirls! hurray!

  • http://www.bodysoulblissyoga.com Jamie Brown

    Define “lust.” IMO sexual feelings/attraction per se does not = “lust.” I agree with Robert Banks Foster, above. Anyway He is married – to the Church. And lots and lots of nuns.

  • http://www.facebook.com/leah.jones.31924 Leah Jones via Facebook

    oh for God’s sake. Jesus was a man. he had a wife and very likely children. The bible was written over 100 years after his death and after that was plagarized and recopied and invented and edited and……. quoting from the bible is what people with excellent recall do for fun. it’s annoying and generally taken out of context to prove their particular point of view. yak

  • http://www.facebook.com/laura.parrish.77 Laura Parrish via Facebook

    Oh, but come on — let’s imagine setting up a girl friend on a blind date with — wait for it — Jesus!

  • Deb Curnock via Facebook

    @Connie- historically, sex has been seen as sinful in Christian tradition, although that doesn’t come from Jesus, it comes from Greek philosophical ideas, that the body is a trap, that our real home is in some spiritual netherland, physical= bad, mental/spiritual = good. That led to an ideal of celibacy, and also to the denigration of women who were seen as a constant source of temptation to men. Also, if Jesus was married he would have most probably had children who would have presumably been semi-divine, and perhaps people find it disturbing to think his descendants might still be around!

    • Lymis

      I got my genes from my parents, but my soul from God, not from some combination of my parents’ souls.

      I can’t see why any children Jesus had would have been any more or less divine than any other human. Sure, it would have been tough to live up to their Father’s example, but heck, we all have that challenge, don’t we?

      • http://www.unnameablecuriosity.blogspot.com Christine

        Yes, I doubt divinity could be biologically inherited… Which genes were those again?

  • Regina Robbins via Facebook

    One can lust without having a specific object for that lust. Our bodies have sexual needs. If Jesus (poor man) was somehow predisposed to see every woman on earth as a family member, that would leave him awfully frustrated.

  • Hannah Grace

    Oh, so Jesus wasn’t really fully human and didn’t experience humanity like everyone else. So Jesus can’t really identify with us in our struggles, because he’s God and didn’t really become human to be like us.

    Sorry, but this seems to create more problems than it solves. Maybe a better solution would be pointing out a difference between lust and attraction, or anything else that engages with the problem rather than just saying “Well, Jesus is God, so he obviously can’t experience basic parts of the human condition.” Especially when the taboo against incest isn’t a natural part of being human, it’s something society conditions us to find distasteful, and without a society conditioning Jesus to experience everyone as children, it doesn’t seem convincing. Especially when, in the absence of other mates, incest is really common – because lust.

    • Hannah Grace

      Maybe engaging with the creepy, weird attitude to sexuality rampant in theological tradition would be more helpful to people struggling with lust than handing Jesus the same “it’s pure to never ever have feelings and I don’t” card Christian tradition has ascribed to him for thousands of years.

    • Hannah Grace

      (not trying to be a jerk, sorry. I’m just kind of blunt)

      • Matt

        I don’t think you’re being too blunt, Hannah. I’ve wondered the same thing too. I wonder how Jesus, who was especially favored by God, could really understand what I (or any other human being) deal with every day. I sort of reconciled it by knowing that God knows each of our hearts, but still, how can They know what it’s like to be an ordinary, not-divine-at-all human?

        I’d frankly be a lot more impressed with Jesus if he’d had some kind of affair, or confessed his sexual struggles, but didn’t let them interfere with his ministry or teaching. It’s easy to be good when there’s no temptation, and you know the reward for being good better than anyone else.

        • http://www.unnameablecuriosity.blogspot.com Christine

          Hmm, good point about temptation. We read that Jesus was tempted… and if I remember correctly, in all possible ways. Wouldn’t this necessarily include temptation to sexual sin? And how could that happen without sexual attraction?

          • Don Rappe

            Yes.

    • http://www.unnameablecuriosity.blogspot.com Christine

      Jesus is supposed to be like our brother. And there’s lots of (condoned) sibling sex in the bible.

      Are we not just pasting our own cultural norms onto God here John?

  • Tricia Oliver

    I have always found it odd that we have absolutely zero messages written down by Jesus himself, yet we know that he knew how to read. If he did write messages for us and the men of that day couldn’t deal with Jesus treating women as equals, which is hinted at in other gospels, then I could easily see a follower hiding or destroying the writings of Jesus after his death in order to promote their own version of his ministry. The argument about Jesus being God and therefore knowing that would happen and either preventing it or just not writing it in the first place isn’t necessarily true because Jesus prayed. If he possessed the entire knowledge, memory and current thoughts of the Father within himself while he was human he would never need to pray. I doubt that a human body could hold the knowledge of God, even if that body is divine.

  • http://wilkinsonweb.com Dan Wilkinson

    Yes, Cat, start your own blog!

  • Joy Morene via Facebook

    To me, if Jesus was fully human than he did have human needs/desires. So if you call that sinful, so be it. But that’s the mystery of Jesus….fully human, fully divine.

  • Auntie Dasch via Facebook

    CAT RULES ! The real brains behind this outfit ;-)
    love you, love you both, and thank you from the bottom of my heart for all you do. xoxoxo

  • Joy Morene via Facebook

    of course, maybe that’s the mystery of all humans…fully human, but fully divine (made in God’s image) if we only would believe it

  • LUAlly

    John and Cat’s conversation kinda touched on this a little, but the main problem with Jesus having a wife would be that she would have to be someone as holy as Him: a standard that no human can meet.

    • Lymis

      Why? I don’t see that it follows that a wife would have to be as holy as he was. Did his disciples have to be? Was Peter, to whom he turned over the church?

      That would only follow if it was somehow sinful to be sexual within a marriage, and that sex within a marriage somehow soils the people involved in it.

      I’ll agree that there’s no reason to assume that Jesus was married, or that he by definition must have been married, or that there is anything inherently wrong with being single. But not because it would have been profane for him to marry.

      • Jill H

        I’m perhaps more inclined toward the ‘what does it actually matter’ camp on this one, but I am unwilling to have the Jesus marriage chapter stamped and closed shut this readily.

        The trouble is, there are too many stakes in this horse race. Everyone that has a strong opinion on either side seems to have an agenda behind it.

        I’m a feminist who doesn’t need Jesus to have been married for his respect for women’s rights to be clear. But I also don’t need Jesus to have been above all human tendencies in order for him to be reverent. I’d much rather err on the side of openness to the truth of the matter, which likely takes, well 2000+ years to uncover.

    • http://www.enesvy.com Nicole

      Huh. I don’t get this idea at all. Why would she have to be inhuman?

  • http://www.facebook.com/KristiOutlerByrd Kristi Outler Byrd via Facebook

    A corollary to this topic: If all men lust by nature and lusting after a woman is defined as a sin, isn’t that a design flaw? All men do lust – it is biology, written right into the male Operating System, so to speak. It is not something that can be helped (and, in fact, a lack of lust probably indicates a problem).

    If something so inherent is a sin, then how an man be fully culpable for something that is literally a part of the body’s God-given biology ? Obviously, man has a choice what he DOES with his lust, but I’m not talking about acting on lust, but the experience of the feeling itself. If that feeling is part and parcel of having a male body (and I believe it is), how can man be held totally accountable for that (again distinguishing from actual action)? It seems then that the Creator would bear some responsibility for developing the male OS and installing it in His
    creation.

    I think the resolution to this question lies in how Jesus spoke. He used a literary technique of hyperbole, which i understand was common in his time, exaggerating to make a point. I think His point was that men should be slow to judge because all action starts in the heart. Men (women too) who might feel superior to their brother who actually sinned sexually really aren’t that different, I think He is saying. I think the real message is one designed to keep us humble so don’t feel superior or judgmental. Just my take….

    • Jill H

      And let’s not forget the lustful nature of women as well… We notice you guys too. We’re not all just at home baking bread. (Although I should do that this weekend.)

      I’m thinking Jesus was probably quite a handsome catch for a young Jewish girl… even Yenta would’ve approved! (I’ve gotta watch that movie again too…)

    • http://www.enesvy.com Nicole

      I like this idea.

  • Lymis

    Whoa.

    Personally, I’d rather unpack the idea that merely looking at an attractive person and being sexually attracted to them constitutes a level of sin on a par with adultery.

    John, in another context, you’ve made the perfectly valid point that whatever else was going on in the story of Sodom, condemning gang rape of innocent strangers by a mob is not the same thing as a blanket condemnation of loving, committed, consensual homosexual relationships.

    I see using this story this way as quite similar. What exactly does “looking at a woman with lust in his heart” mean, and is it reasonable to extend it to all forms of sexual attraction? Especially in a context where every woman is effectively the property of one man or another. Surely there is some continuum where “lust” and “seeing someone else as attractive” don’t count as the same thing and can be discussed as separate concepts.

    Matthew 5:37 doesn’t make a distinction between single people and married people – surely two single people are free to experience a sexual attraction to each other. Adultery is wrong, not because it is sexual, but because it is a violation of agreements that people have made with each other, and in many cases, before God. Where those agreements have not been made, they can’t be violated.

    I’m also, honestly, a bit struck by the hint that “fully human” is identical to “heterosexual” – that a celibate Jesus must by definition still have been heterosexual, and it is only his possible attractions to women that need to be argued away. Remember, “the disciple that Jesus loved” was a man, as was Lazarus, who he felt it was appropriate to resurrect (even though he took his time about it.) I’m not saying that those things necessarily mean that Jesus was gay, or even bisexual, but it certainly doesn’t do much to disprove those possibilities, either.

    I know that this is more about “seeing yourself reflected in Jesus, and seeing Jesus reflected in yourself” and you, being straight, would naturally see things this way first, but coming from anyone with less of an obvious commitment to LGBT equality and humanity, this would sure come across as that whole “*unless you’re gay” phenomenon that is so common – in this case, Jesus was a man like us* in all things but sin. (*unless you’re gay, in which case Jesus was nothing like you.)

    If, (and I still feel it’s a BIG “if”) it is always sinful for a straight man to look upon a woman with lust in his heart, then it surely follows that it is equally sinful, and for the same reasons (whatever they might be) for a woman to look upon another woman with lust in her heart, or a man to look upon another man with lust in his heart. And equally not sinful to be sexually attracted when it is appropriate to be so.

    Whoever it was that the human Jesus found attractive to look at, it surely wasn’t sinful for him to experience that attraction, and that it was his choices about how to think about and act on that attraction (or not to) that constituted his sinlessness.

    Otherwise, we risk feeling the need to create a Jesus who was never angry, never tired, never horny, never frustrated, never impatient, never confused, never torn between options – and trying to claim that such a person was fully human and just like us.

    As bumperstickery as it is, the idea of “what would Jesus do” is a very valuable one, but it becomes largely meaningless when the answer is, “Well, he never would have been experiencing this in the first place, because just experiencing this is in itself already a sin, no matter what you do about it.”

    • http://www.unnameablecuriosity.blogspot.com Christine

      Thank you, Lymis. The whole “all sexual attraction = lust” bit and the Jesus being either asexual or straight, with no other possibilities, struck me as pretty unusual (for John) as well.

      • Matt

        Thanks man, for sticking up the (Little)GBT people ;).

    • Don Rappe

      I like to equate that particular type of lust with coveting as an impulse one is considering acting upon.

  • Theresa DePaepe via Facebook

    Love the female / male dynamics of this post.

    • Don Rappe

      Like.

  • Elexa

    I’m doubting the “Jesus WAS God” conclusion… Son of God, yes… but nevermind me, I’m just a recovering fundamental baptist going through a dark night of the soul in my 30s…

    • http://www.patheos.com/blogs/johnshore/ John Shore
      • Elexa

        I hadn’t seen that, thanks.

        Thankfully, my church was still a part of the SBC so *some* of the more terrible tenants of IFB were not present.

  • Susy Crandall via Facebook

    Actually as Jesus’ wife, I beg to differ. While he definitely considers women in general a lot of trouble, and could barely contemplate having even one, he hangs in there with me.

  • Susy Crandall via Facebook

    But on a serious note, if Jesus didn’t have a wife, as you say, do you also consider that he was a virgin who never had sex? The likelihood of this in my mind is remote, sex being the only true, just, and sufficient compensation for having to grow the fuck up.

  • http://www.facebook.com/lois.markiewicz Lois Markiewicz via Facebook

    Read Kathleen McGowan’s The Expected One :) It’s fiction, but introduces some interesting ideas.

  • Susy Crandall via Facebook

    This is why abstinence only sex education has been doomed since it’s inception.

  • Christy

    Cat sounds like someone I would like.

  • http://www.facebook.com/KristiOutlerByrd Kristi Outler Byrd via Facebook

    @John, LOL. I just left a comment on that one. I won’t repeat it all here except to say that I agree with what you wrote. God gave men those lusty natures, written indelibly into male biology. One can either embrace it ( dare I say be thankful for it ) or blame God for it. But to sublimate it, deny it or try to shame it is futile and, I think, harmful. God gave us our sexual natures but, boy, we get so confused about them!

  • http://small-letters.com Mindy M.

    I agree that we don’t have enough evidence to know that Jesus was married. But at the same time, how could we know that he WASN’T?

    I think the question is so important exactly because we have such a love-hate relationship with our own sexuality. (I saw “we” meaning the human race… or perhaps I should say much of civilized society, especially the religious parts.)

    • Jill H

      awesome point Mindy! I agree– I don’t think the evidence is “all in”, nor the conclusion obvious.

  • Joy Morene via Facebook

    Kristi, are you using “man” as a word for humans or do only men get to lust without shame? :)

  • http://www.facebook.com/KristiOutlerByrd Kristi Outler Byrd via Facebook

    Hahaha Joy! Now that would hardly be fair, now would it? I kept my comments about men because 1). The discussion seemed to be about men so I limited my comments, as well. and 2). While women certainly do lust, I do think there are differences in how the genders experience their respective sexual natures.

  • http://www.facebook.com/jl.h.linnell Jl Hatlen Linnell via Facebook

    “date” is a pretty modern concept, no?

  • Neal Finney via Facebook

    Very good. I must share.

  • Allie

    I liked this post the first go-round. Cat’s opinion makes a lot of sense to me. While it’s true that a Rabbi would be expected to marry, it seems to me that if Jesus had married it would have been written about, and not in the rather absurd way some of the gnostic gospels (which appear to me to be late forgeries) write about it.

    On the other hand, I think it’s worth discussing what exactly Jesus meant when he said that line about looking at a woman with lust, because I think that’s misused a lot by all types of Christians, not just fundamentalists, to say that sexual attraction is itself evil. In fact that’s what John appears to be arguing here. I know John’s other work enough to know that he doesn’t believe that, but it’s very easy to misconstrue his argument as given in this post.

    It seems to me that Jesus has a consistent voice throughout the Gospels, and he LOVED a good line. He loved hyperbole and all forms of artistic expression. And as a writer myself, I appreciate that sometimes he goes for the big gaudy statement even when it’s going to get misconstrued by people with literal minds. When he says that only if you hate your family can you follow him, he’s not saying that hating your family is a virtue, he’s saying that to be truly righteous, you have to give up that part of yourself that makes an exception for the people nearest and dearest to you, and treat all people as if they were your nearest and dearest. But if I had a penny for every yahoo on an internet forum who has used that line to “prove” that Jesus was somehow evil, I could buy a Starbucks coffee.

    In the same light, I don’t think Jesus meant that feeling itchy in the naughty bits was horrible so go flog yourself in a closet, you perv. He was making a more general statement (which is borne out by the context) about wanting to do wrong things and not doing them. If you want to steal money from the cash box but you don’t because there’s a camera on you, you’re not more virtuous than the guy who didn’t have a camera on him and therefore stole. It’s the intent, not the action, that counts. If you look at your neighbor’s wife and don’t go for her because your whole community would shun you and your neighbor would bust your nose, you’re still an adulterer in your heart.

    • Hannah Grace

      “If you want to steal money from the cash box but you don’t because there’s a camera on you, you’re not more virtuous than the guy who didn’t have a camera on him and therefore stole. It’s the intent, not the action, that counts. If you look at your neighbor’s wife and don’t go for her because your whole community would shun you and your neighbor would bust your nose, you’re still an adulterer in your heart.”

      This was the most helpful comment of them all. Thanks, really!

  • Joanna

    now i have an important question… you talk to your cat?

    • http://www.unnameablecuriosity.blogspot.com Christine

      LMFAO!

  • Patricia L. Money via Facebook

    Soooo Jesus experienced life as a human except for all that nasty being involved with women stuff? Because of course being involved with women would just be too icky? Ah no. don’t think so. If he came down here to live as a human and die for our sins it pretty much means he had to experience the whole package…even being involved with us icky women.

  • http://www.facebook.com/KristiOutlerByrd Kristi Outler Byrd via Facebook

    Also, to clarify:
    Men having sexual thoughts about women = normal, God-given biological fact.
    Men seeing women ONLY or even primarily as sexual objects to be used = NOT good.
    Perhaps that is the distinguishing factor between natural lust and harmful lust. Hmmmm…..

  • Barbara Vaughan via Facebook

    Thanks for the serious giggle this morning!

  • http://www.facebook.com/kathleen.a.denman.3 Kathleen A Denman via Facebook

    at that time in history for any man at that age to NOT have wife would have made him an untrustworthy FREEK of nature. But he was not considered thus. Interesting no?

    • Lymis

      You really don’t know he wasn’t. He was executed, remember, and we have reason to believe that the religious authority thought he was dangerous and heretical. Most of what we know is that his close friends and biographers didn’t think so. There really aren’t any other contemporary accounts one way or the other.

    • http://www.unnameablecuriosity.blogspot.com Christine

      There was a term used for that: not “freak”, but “eunuch”, a subject that Jesus addresses.

  • http://www.facebook.com/christopher.cudworth Christopher Cudworth via Facebook

    When you put the focus on lust versus love it conveniently removes the potential for a desire to be married. It also by proxy serves to affirm the patriarchal notion of necessary virginity for Mary. I think that whole realm is unhealthy for faith because it feeds into a patristic notion of control over women. What do you think?

  • Lisa Crawford via Facebook

    While I’ll gladly explore the trivialities surrounding Jesus’ marital status, it ultimately has no bearing on what he actually taught and modeled.

  • Ray Odiorne

    Okay, so Jesus was God. No problem.

    Okay, Jesus was human. Still not a problem.

    And because we believe that God became incarnate in Jesus, experienced ALL that the rest of humanity goes through- good, bad, whatever- we have take into consideration that Jesus went through far more than the limited info we have in the four gospels. And that includes, ahem, cough, sex.

    Wait, what?

    Well, God started it all, right- sex? (We won’t go into that whole issue of male/female exclusivity, or sex only meant for procreation- distraction, distraction!) If we believe in a God Who is present everywhere in everything, then that means that our sexuality is just as divine as any other part of us.

    Sure, like everything else we can misuse this divine gift. But making sexuality sinful, something to be repressed or sublimated, is just as misguided. Some Christians have even made into part of their doctrinal stance.

    So it was inevitable that we androgynize Jesus, finding ways to separate this very human God from the parts of being human we don’t feel comfortable with. No, there is no evidence He ever married or did anything explicitly sexual (although one wonders if He responded to that woman washing His feet with her tears and wiping them with her hair.) (And one wonders what exactly His relationship was with John, the Disciple who loved Him) But there are any number of human/social details we do not know about Jesus.

    Yes, John, your point about Jesus refraining from sex out of some sort of paternalistic attitude toward humanity is good. Too often people in positions of authority miss that and take advantage. But it still distances the Man of Nazareth from the rest of humanity, Who was, as I said at the beginning, human. And, uh, yes, God.

  • http://comingintothesoul.wordpress.com/ HJ

    Love it! Your wife is awesome!

    But also, it’s possible to be married without having a lustful or sexual relationship (ie – gay folks in straight marriages).

  • Michael D. Watt via Facebook

    I think your wife should start a blog. :D

  • Larry Petry via Facebook

    i think it’s fascinating what mindsets and preconceptions this article/idea opens up. it’s revealing.

  • Elizabeth

    First and foremost, Cat is a stone-cold genius.

    But, with me, there’s always a but. If Jesus was fully man, he had physiological reactions as a young boy. That’s fancy talk for he got boners reading the 1st Century CE equivalent of TV. If we reconcile the Bible and Freud – always a fun game at dinner parties – he went through an Oedipal stage of sexual attraction to his mother. Otherwise, he wouldn’t be the sane man we read about. He would have been frigid, hateful, and unable to relate to others.

    Jesus fasted for forty days and nights to prove he was beyond the reach of the Devil. He was still starving and delirious by the end. Sexual hunger is just as real and just as crazy-making. When he knew he was about to be taken into custody, he got on his knees in the Garden of Gesthesmene and prayed, Abba, father, take this cup away from me. Please, I don’t want to go. That he begged for a way out that night doesn’t negate his sacrifice on the cross.

    The trick isn’t, as Matthew redactors put it, to not look upon anyone with lust. It isn’t about not being tempted. The trick is not to give into temptation.

    There are plenty of books written on how Mary wasn’t a common whore, but a wealthy, well-educated woman in her own right. She was the only woman close to being his intellectual peer. By following a carpenter and his clueless band of fishermen and manual laborers, she damaged her reputation. She was as unmarriageable after he died as he was to pay her bride price while he lived. Jews were encouraged to marry. To stay unmarried was its own declaration of independence from Judaism. St. Jerome’s idea that Mary became betrothed to John the Evangelist is a prettily-embroidered but unlikely happily-ever-after ending.

    Generations would posit that Mary of Magdala was beneath Jesus, that he did her a favor by letting her sit at his feet and anoint him with special oils. That’s not what he said. What Jesus said was, “You have the poor with you always, and you can be kind to them whenever you wish, but you will not always have me. She has done what she could: she has anointed my body beforehand for its burial. In truth I tell you, wherever throughout all the world the gospel is proclaimed, what she has done will be told as well, in remembrance of her.” (Mark 14:7-9, NJB.)

    Sure enough, Mary the mother of Jesus, Mary the patron saint of reformed prostitutes and sexual temptation, and Salome – another wealthy, well-educated woman whose name would become synonymous with ‘exotic dancer’ after she asked her father for John the Baptist’s head on a plate – were the first to see a “ young man in a white robe seated on the right side” when the stone was miraculously rolled away.

    Jesus (whether himself as a vision or through an angel messenger) came to them first. He loved them, humanly, as equals and women. And, in the apocrypha to Mark, he came to Mary Magdalene alone. Mary’s the first person capital-h He had to say good-bye to: his friend, his confidante, his favorite girl.

    So, no, Jesus never dated. But if that’s not marriage, what is?

    • Elizabeth

      *watching not reading, second para.

    • http://www.greggdeselms.com Gregg DesElms

      Hm. Well… gotta’ like a woman who freely uses the term “boners,” I guess. [grin]

      _________________________

      Gregg L. DesElms

      Napa, California USA

      gregg at greggdeselms dot com

    • Elizabeth

      Pretty much love how the commenting is sticking to whether Jesus was asexual or gay. John’s blog is the best.

      • http://www.greggdeselms.com Gregg DesElms

        Agreed!

    • Don Rappe

      I find nothing in scripture to make me think Jesus and his disciples were not married. I like your interpretations above.

      • Don Rappe

        Of course, I also find nothing to make me think the mother of Jesus (Mary, if that was her name) was a biological virgin. I believe she cared for all her sons and daughters and sent his brothers after him to rescue him when his teaching began to put him in danger, as John had been. The book of Mark is pretty clear about this.

  • http://www.facebook.com/john10423 John Gragson via Facebook

    i love that. way to go Cat. :-)

  • Michelle P.

    This entry is great on a couple of levels. A theological discussion providing good for thought is great, AND it gives us a little peek into the dynamics of your relationship with each other. It makes me smile. Thanks, John and Cat.

  • http://www.unnameablecuriosity.blogspot.com Christine

    This really does present a prudish sexuality=sin mentality that doesn’t look good on you. There’s no way in your mind Jesus could have had a sex drive and not sinned, even if he was married? Even if we credit Jesus with the usual superhuman ability to resist sin that we credit Him with in all other instances? No? Not good.

    And Jesus had many human relationships that make no sense as a relationship to the divine – like having parents, or even friends. The analogy to siblings (and it is an analogy, not the biological fact of incest – I was supposed to see all other Christians as brothers and sisters, but still marry in the church, for instance…) would also not be “normal” for the divine. Jesus took on human relationships in being under the care of parents and in a peer group with us mere humans, so it already breaks the rule you want to argue for here.

    But Cat should still get her own blog. :)

    • http://www.patheos.com/blogs/johnshore/ John Shore

      I’m not arguing for anything here. You’re mistaking … oh, forget it.

      • Jill H

        I’m jumping into the fray here John… what is Christine mistaking? Because maybe I am missing the point you’re making in the post. I could be mistaken too. Enlighten, please?

        • http://www.patheos.com/blogs/johnshore/ John Shore

          I’m not here offering any personal opinion of mine relative to sex or sin or … anything whatsoever. I’m ONLY saying that Matthew 5:27 seems to absolutely refute the idea that Christ can be, at once, fully man and sinless. That’s all. Simple thought. Simple solution. Simple post.

          • Jill H

            Nothing discussed over here is simple! Please! It’s like saying the Taj Mahal is a fancy bungalow.

            Apparently I’m overthinking (not a stretch for me). Maybe I’ll read this again once I’m sober (kidding!)

          • Hannah Grace

            Maybe a little too simple, when you consider that having sexual feelings would have happened before the Fall, and cannot be sinful in and of themselves.

            If you’re not a fundie and accept that the Fall might not be literal, why pretend that the New Testament is really quoting Jesus word for word, and argue on behalf of a simple reading of Matthew? It’s obviously not that simple…especially when you consider that Jesus spoke aramaic, and the NT gospels were written in Greek decades after his death.

            You can’t shrug off scholarly findings (though the real argument for why the new findings don’t prove Jesus was married was because the fragment they found was so late it lacks any historical validity in uncovering the life of Jesus, and only offers insight into the debates of the early church) without engaging with some other scholarly findings, or at least using it to inform your theology. It just isn’t honest. Picking and choosing literalism isn’t a critical way to deal with the Bible.

          • http://www.patheos.com/blogs/johnshore/ John Shore

            *sigh*

          • http://small-letters.com Mindy M.

            Hugs, John!

          • http://www.greggdeselms.com Gregg DesElms

            Yeah… really. Hugs, John.

            These comments, though, are providing no end of entertainment. I’m laughing even as I type this.

            You’re (John) simply observing that the sky’s blue, and some others, here, are trying to explain color. “Overthinking it” is the LEAST of what’s going on, here.

            [grin]

          • Jill H

            I would be content to know how others see scripture, as it had been taught to me early on by modern-day Pharisees. So this is a learning process.

            I genuinely see that I’ve missed something along the way here. Because of perspective. Not because of hard-headedness or un-teachability.

            Gregg, that’s cool it read “blue sky” to you. It didn’t exactly translate for me. Oh well. Carry on!

          • Hannah Grace

            I’m really not trying to be a jerk, but don’t know what is going wrong….I guess our opinions and this debate can only ever be conjecture, but I swear I’m just interested in the issue and feel scared of the idea that Jesus really didn’t understand me, after all.

            I’m not just trolling, I’m just looking for understanding.

          • http://www.unnameablecuriosity.blogspot.com Christine

            It was that very premise (“that Matthew 5:27 seems to absolutely refute the idea that Christ can be, at once, fully man and sinless”) that I’m contesting. Along with other arguments in the exchange. You do seem to agree with Cat’s argument by the end. I don’t.

          • Don Rappe

            An excellent post. I always love to hear Cat’s point of view, which seems to respond so well to your quizzical concern. And the question IS certainly an interesting one which touches pretty deeply (a Scandinavian superlative) on a traditional important point of Christian teaching. And if you have anything else which needs to be overthought, I will try to keep myself available.

      • Allie

        As I said below, I have read enough of your other writings to know you didn’t mean that. But just reading this one post, it certainly does look as if you meant that. And you can see that’s where the responses to your post have mostly veered off to. Perhaps a clarification is in order?

  • Martha Jean-Prunier via Facebook

    You go Cat!!! I knew someone as mellow and yet biting as John, must have an awesome wife!

  • Don Rappe

    If Jesus was truly human, he should have had human sexuality. Scripture doesn’t tell us if he was straight, gay or other. This seems not to have played any important roll in his messianic mission. If it did, we don’t know what. What we do know is that he sent instruction in the covenant with God down from the hill of Zion and out to all the peoples of the earth. He taught us that God will be our God and we shall be God’s people. He taught that this is a loving relationship similar to that between parent and child. The relationship between creator and creature.

    • http://www.buzzdixon.com buzz

      Well, one form of human sexuality is asexuality. Others have very, very low sex drives. Christ alludes to this re his teaching “some are born eunuchs” etc.

      • Lymis

        I agree with that statement, but I’m not sure how it fits into this discussion. While it might well explain the human choices Jesus appears to have made, it doesn’t address the main point. All it does is shift his motivation.

        I still have trouble with the underlying concept that sexual desire is inherently sinful for those who experience it.

        If Jesus didn’t experience it because he was asexual or didn’t experience it because he saw all sex as incestuous for him, it still makes the point that “Jesus didn’t sin because he wasn’t subject to this temptation, and all the rest of y’all are out of luck.”

        • Don Rappe

          I couldn’t agree more with this comment, especially the last sentence.

    • Elizabeth

      Jesus was definitely other. Any conjecture on his sexuality is just that: conjecture. Thanks for the kind words below regarding Mark. My obsession with first sources (Mark in the New Testament, Job in the Old Testament) continues unabated.

      • Don Rappe

        In line with my personal program of avoiding every superstitious interpretation of the faith that was once delivered to the saints, I have become very fond of keeping track of the many bits of Biblical lore which are “inferred from” rather than “found in” scripture. This certainly includes John’s musings. I have no problem with these, but frequently I don’t share them. Not because I don’t think the subject is important, but because I don’t possess the factual knowledge that would be required to muse on the subjects. The marital status and type of sex drive (or lack) of the human figure at the center of Christian faith, whose name was very likely a form of Jesus. I have this damn semi-mathematical, semi- physicist way of looking at things which are mysterious to me. I must always know that the creature that tempted Eve was not a demon, but the subtlest of the beasts of the field. I must also know that other writers in scripture inferred it was a demon. I must know that JHWH of hosts has said: “All the fat is mine.” I know that in the four Gospels the women at the tomb were greeted by a young man dressed in white, two men in shining raiment, one angel and two angels depending on which Gospel I read. I know that the Gospel of John was finally redacted by someone who had access to all the other three because he takes the trouble to specifically contradict elements which appear uniquely in each of the others and which distinguish them. I get similarly opinionated against the “Copenhagen interpretation” of quantum mechanics, even though it is widely accepted, because it tends to ignore the relativistic timelessness and spacelessness of the frame of the photon.

        • Don Rappe

          In brief, I am a nit picker.

          • Jill H

            Remind me never to play trivia with you, Don. I don’t stand a chance. :)

    • Amber

      Since homosexual behavior is sinful Jesus couldn’t be gay.

      • Elizabeth

        Hi, “Amber”. So lovely you weighed in with such a deep and

        meaningful comment.

        • Jill H

          Yeah, “she’s” the brains of the outfit. Always informative.

      • Don Rappe

        I’m pretty sure that on the Day we come before him, we won’t be asked whether we are gay, but rather what we have done with our cups of cool water.

  • http://www.buzzdixon.com buzz

    Let’s make the assumption for sake of argument that Jesus was indeed married at one point in his life. Let’s say he was a late bloomer sexually but was still married off at age 13 or so. As he acquired sexual feelings he would already have a spouse to express those feelings with.

    Assume the spouse was barren or else died before Jesus’ ministry began; he might have (a) gotten his sexual desire out of his system and / or (b) been so in love with his wife that no other woman ever interested him again.

    (I’m not saying this is what did happen, only that it could explain all the known facts)

  • Christy

    Ok. Words have meaning and implications. Jesus was great with using double meanings, metaphors, similes, and deeper meaning. John has been wonderful in other pieces he’s written here about nuance vs. literalism. For me, “lust” can be nuanced and understood in the larger context of Jesus’ teaching. There’s a difference between noticing, appreciating and wanting. And when we compare lust with coveting this makes sense to me.

    I can notice my neighbor’s car. I can appreciate my neighbor’s car. And these are different than wanting my neighbor’s car. And different yet from becoming preoccupied with and fantasizing about my neighbor’s car to the extent that it interferes with my life and my relationships: What it would feel like to sit in those leather seats. Hear the roar of the engine. Feel the shifter in my hand and the horsepower beneath the hood… The responsiveness of the tires as they grip the pavement…The exhilaration of…

    You get my point.

    Jesus’ admonitions about lust and how it relates to adultery seem to me the same as his admonitions about cutting off your hand and plucking out your eye if they offend you: When desire becomes a distraction recognize it for what it is and nip it in the bud.

    I will never be a guy, but it seems to me, when your spiritual focus is in the right place, one isn’t easily distracted with desires.

  • http://www.greggdeselms.com Gregg DesElms

    Dare we complicate all this with talk of the recently-reported “Jesus wife” papyrus fragment thing? Or was this blog entry/posting by John intentionally on the heels of and/or in resp0nse to that?

    ________________________

    Gregg L. DesElms

    Napa, California USA

    gregg at greggdeselms dot com

    • Lymis

      Among all the other considerations of the document, the one that jumps out as me is the presumption that any reference to someone named Jesus in any ancient document must automatically refer to the carpenter from Nazareth, even if it doesn’t say any such thing.

      Joshua isn’t all that uncommon a name, and that’s what the people who talked to Jesus in his native language would have called him (in their language. Something more like Yeshua, if I recall.)

      • Allie

        Well, the fragment is clearly not about some Jeshua doing the laundry.

        What I’m more bewildered by is that anyone regards it as news that some people in the 4th century wrote that Jesus had a wife. There were just bundles of Christian “mystery religions” which wanted to put Mary Magdalene in the place of the Great Goddess at that era. This has been pretty widely accepted for a while now, but it has no more relevance to the Jesus of the Bible than slash fiction showing Malfoy having wild shower sex with Harry Potter has to do with JK Rowling.

        The other thing is that several authorities have suggested the fragment appears to be authentic ancient parchment with modern writing unlike any writing of the era. I’m not exactly an expert, but the thing LOOKS phony even to me. Has anyone here looked at the photos of it?

        • Elizabeth

          Funny you should ask. Near the bottom of the post, via an NYC religion editor and Yale Divinity grad I had lunch with today. Stare away. http://rogueclassicism.com/2012/09/22/the-gospel-of-jesus-wife-a-rogueclassicist-perspective/

          • Allie

            My husband looked over and said the reason it looks fake is that it tore too conveniently. There are no partial letters on the page. The letters were written after the page was damaged.

          • Elizabeth

            The letters on the back are also too light to be a true codex.

    • Elizabeth

      I’ve been following the papyrus controversy closely. Even the Harvard chair is waffling on her initial findings.

  • http://www.facebook.com/bill.steffenhagen?sk=wall Soulmentor

    I think John just wanted to start something and he sure did. It’s an intriguing conversation that is all over the net just now. It can’t go anywhere without further archeological evidence however. The current papyrus is to limited and inconclusive.

    • http://www.patheos.com/blogs/johnshore/ John Shore

      I didn’t want just … start something. I wanted to communicate in a manner as accessible and succinct as possible what I think is an irrefutable argument for why Jesus was never married or “with” any woman or man.

  • http://www.facebook.com/JohnShoreFans John Shore via Facebook

    I’ll tell Cat you said that, Martha; thanks.

  • Blind Boy Belvedere

    Cat in this instance brings to mind Proverbs 31:26:

    She opens her mouth with wisdom, and the teaching of kindness is on her tongue. (Proverbs 31:26 ESV)

  • http://fairybearconfessions.wordpress.com Meghan

    Hm. I thought that was a completely brilliant and totally plausible interpretation of Jesus’s sexuality, although I agree with the commenters who point out that if Jesus never desired another sexually, then that sort of seems to take away something from his full humanity. If Jesus can understand and have compassion for all my frailties, including hunger and thirst and anger, then I want him to fully empathize with my adolescent crush too.

    I think the issue might be, as some have already pointed out, with the distinction between God-given sexual desire and lust. I know from reading this blog previously that John doesn’t actually believe that sexuality is inherently sinful, but I can see how it might be inferred from this particular post. If Adam could say before the fall, “This then is bone of my bones and flesh of my flesh,” to the naked woman set before him, and they were given to one another explicitly for union and communion, then sex is blessed and celebratory, and definitely a central part of the human experience. It celebrates our most intimate and committed connections.

    I don’t think of Jesus as being asexual, but rather sort of super-sexual, able to desire really intimate connection with every individual person he encountered, but also able to refrain from objectifying any one of them, or using them for his own gratification, physical or otherwise. Look at his encounter with the Samaritan woman – he SAW her, right to her soul. It’s a very sexually charged conversation in my opinion, but he never takes advantage of her. And it says somewhere in Paul’s letters that husbands should love their wives “as Christ loved the church.” While it would be a little ridiculous to infer that that meant that Jesus had sex with all his followers, it does imply that he sought really intimate connection with people. And I’m not heavily invested in whether Jesus was or was not married, but I could see how if he were seeking connection and commitment with everybody, he might refrain from committing exclusively to one.

    Perhaps calling Jesus super-sexual puts me way too far into the weird camp?

  • Alexi Trevor Malmgren

    an un married of 33 in that time and place was unknown his parants would have araanged him a marrige buy the time he was 15 . some say he was married to mary magdaline . in australia we have a cult lead by a couple who claim to be reincarnations of jesus and mary magdaline

  • PoweredByCoffee

    I was taught that it was that He couldn’t lavish all His love on just one person, being sent to save humanity and all. Kind of like Spiderman.


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