Did Jesus Ever Speak About Homosexuality?

Did Jesus Ever Speak About Homosexuality? January 30, 2017

Whenever I get into a discussion on homosexuality I almost always encounter the line, “Jesus never spoke about homosexuality.” The pro-homosexuality party uses it as a trump card, as if it utterly shows the Christian view to be inconsistent and wrong. In this article I wish to show two things: first, how even if it were true, the “Jesus never spoke about homosexuality” line utterly fails as an argument; and second, how it is completely false.

First, as an argument, “Jesus never spoke about homosexuality” fails because there are many things of which Jesus never directly and explicitly addressed which are nonetheless still sins. For example, Jesus never spoke about torture, gang rape, drug abuse, bestiality, etc. He did not give an exhaustive list of specific sins because He did not come to do that. Some may object, saying, “But Jesus taught principles which are against torture, gang rape, drug abuse, bestiality, etc.” Fair enough, yet in making this objection the objector has pulled down his own house, for he has allowed that Jesus taught principles that have more than one specific application; once that is admitted it is easy to see how the broad scope of the application of Jesus’ teachings includes homosexuality

Second, Jesus did indeed speak about homosexuality. There are at least three different lines of argument one can take to show how Jesus spoke about homosexuality. First, Jesus is a member of the Godhead. He is “God of God, Light of Light, very God of very God; begotten, not made, being of one substance with the Father, by whom all things were made.” Jesus had authority to forgive sins (Mark 2:5-8), told the disciples to pray to Him (John 14:14), existed before Abraham (John 8:58), created the world (John 1:1-3; Colossians 1:15-20), and had glory with the Father before the universe existed (John 17:5); truly He is God over all (Romans 9:5). As a member of the Godhead He is of “one substance, power, and eternity” with God the Father and God the Spirit. As the eternal God, Jesus was the same God who sent fire and brimstone raining down from heaven to destroy Sodom and Gomorrah.

Second, Jesus spoke through His apostles after His ascension. In the upper room discourse Jesus said to His disciples,

I still have many things to say to you, but you cannot bear them now. When the Spirit of truth comes, he will guide you into all the truth, for he will not speak on his own authority, but whatever he hears he will speak, and he will declare to you the things that are to come. He will glorify me, for he will take what is mine and declare it to you. All that the Father has is mine; therefore I said that he will take what is mine and declare it to you.” (John 16:12-15)

When the Holy Spirit spoke through the apostles and inspired them to write the letters of the New Testament, He was taking what was Christ’s and declaring it to the apostles. This is clearly how the New Testament sees itself, which is why Paul can command the churches with the same authority as Christ (1 Corinthians 7:10, 12), can make his teaching the standard of recognition in the church (1 Corinthians 14:36-40), can command obedience to his letters (2 Thessalonians 3:13-15), and can refer to Luke’s gospel as Scripture (1 Timothy 5:17-18). Similarly, Peter refers to Paul’s writings as Scripture in 2 Peter 3:14-16. Therefore, when we encounter the explicit condemnation of homosexuality in the New Testament (Romans 1:26-27, 1 Corinthians 6:9-10) we know it is nothing other than Christ speaking through the Holy Spirit to His church.

Third, Jesus spoke of and defined marriage as between a man and a woman. In Matthew 19, Jesus answers the Pharisees’ question about divorce by appealing to Genesis 1-2 and defining marriage as a union between a “male and female” (Gk. ἄρσεν καὶ θῆλυ). In defining marriage thus, Christ ruled out any other form of so-called “marriage,” whether between man and man, woman and woman, man and beast, woman and object, one man and five women, etc. The only legitimate form of marriage is between one man and one woman.

Lastly, when we think about the context in which Jesus walked the earth and taught, it is easy to see why He did not give long discourses on the subject of homosexuality – because it was not a major problem for His audience. Jesus confronted the pride, lust, deception, and unbelief of His audience, but for them, homosexuality was not an issue. This is not because His audience affirmed homosexuality, but rather, because they were primarily Jews trained in the Old Testament, they would have known Leviticus 18:23 and 20:13, as well as Genesis 18-19 and Judges 19. This is also probably why Jesus explicitly condemned child sacrifice, not because He affirmed it as a good thing, but because He and His audience agreed on its sinfulness.

Lay aside the argument that Jesus never spoke about homosexuality, it doesn’t work and it isn’t true.

 

 

Image Credit: Bible by Lauri Rantala; CC 2.0

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  • Aaron37

    What an excellent refutation of the troll propaganda! But there is one other point at which the writings of Paul (on the subject of homosexuality) have been attacked.

    The question has been raised: Was Paul ignorant of homosexuality as it is understood today? The gay, Harvard historian, Dr. John Boswell, in his book “Christianity, Social Tolerance, and Homosexuality,” provides a foundation for the answer to that question in Chapter One of his book.

    https://books.google.com/books/about/Christianity_Social_Tolerance_and_Homose.html?id=v-MR5_AdG68C&hl=en

    [Page 25] “Plato argued that pairs of homosexual lovers would make the best soldiers…and the Thebans actually formed an army of such pairs in what turned out to an extraordinarily successful experiment…”

    [see also http://www.laits.utexas.edu/ancienthomosexuality/readindex.php?view=26 for a discussion of this famous Theban “Sacred Band” of adult male lover pairs.]

    [Page 28, Boswell] “Unfortunately, an equally distorting and even more seductive danger for the historian is posed by the tendency to exaggerate the differences between homosexuality in previous societies and modern ones…”

    However, was Paul aware of these widely-known facts? Paul was born in the city of Tarsus; on the far northeast Mediterranean coast (Acts 21:39, 22:28). Tarsus was a hotbed of intellectual activity. Strabo, the Greek historian and geographer (64 BCE to 21 CE), provides a stirring account of Tarsus and its intellectual life.
    13 “The people at Tarsus have devoted themselves so eagerly, not only to philosophy, but also to the whole round of education in general, that they have surpassed Athens, Alexandria, or any other place that can be named where there have been schools and lectures of philosophers.”

    http://penelope.uchicago.edu/Thayer/E/Roman/Texts/Strabo/14E*.html

    In 67 BCE, Tarsus became part of the Roman province of Cilicia. “A University was established that became known for its flourishing school of Greek philosophy”. Furthermore, Tarsus was known for its huge library of 200,000 books and for several other schools of philosophy.

    http://www.bible-history.com/maps/romanempire/Tarsus.html

    Paul, a “learned man” of Tarsus was educated in Greek culture and history. He could quote, off the cuff, even minor Greek philosophers and poets such as Aratus and Cleanthes (Acts 17:28), Epimenides (Titus 1:12), and Menander (1 Corinthians 15:33). Paul, like any other cosmopolitan man of that era, would certainly have seen and understood homosexuality in all its manifestations.

    • Thanks for sharing. I agree, I don’t think one can claim Paul’s ignorance to try to get around his teachings on this issue.

  • Iain Lovejoy

    The question your article posed it could then be summed up as answering in the one word “No.” The rest is flannel.
    No one claims the entire Bible has nothing to say on homosexuality, but it remains true it does not record Jesus in his earthly ministry saying a word about it, make of that what you will.

    • I think you touch on something really important! I phrased the argument how I have heard it phrased to me, that is, “Jesus never spoke about homosexuality.” I think you are defining it more specifically than I have heard it used, i.e. “Jesus, during His earthly ministry, never spoke explicitly about homosexuality” meaning that if one did a word search of the gospels for “homosexuality” it wouldn’t come up. Is that a fair representation of your point? If so, I wouldn’t disagree.

      What I tried to do in my article is point out that the sum total of Christ’s teachings are not limited to what He explicitly spoke of in His earthly ministry, such that it is wrong to say that He never spoke of it (without the aforementioned qualifications), especially if one means to argue by means of that line that Jesus approved of homosexuality. Therefore, if someone claims to be a Christian they must, by any historic standards of orthodoxy, believe in the deity of Christ and so cannot consistently say that Jesus never spoke about homosexuality.

      • Iain Lovejoy

        The point that Jesus in his earthly ministry did not speak about homosexuality is made not as proof he approved if it but because it shows the relative importance of the question to Jesus’ overall message (I.e. not a lot). It is also, despite it being very prevalent in the Roman empire, not a major theme of the rest of the New Testament either (the occasions where it – at least arguably – appears being as simply one item in a long list of example sins) and even in Jewish Law it is not singled out as a singular matter over and above the various holiness codes and rules of ritual purity.
        None of the above goes towards answering the question of whether it is wrong or not, but does I think make it important to remember that Christians can legitimately come down on either side of the matter without therefore ceasing to be sincere and faithful Christians.

        • Even as a former Christian myself, thank you for saying what needs to be said far more than is currently being said! I wholeheartedly agree. What cannot be denied by any fair minded person is the first key point in my blog post above – that the Bible hardly even makes a big deal of sex, let alone homosexuality, which can be seen in terms of the relative references on each topic.

          • How do you come to the conclusion that the bible does not make a big deal of sex given passages such as, Leviticus 18, Proverbs 5, Matthew 5:17-30, Romans 1:18ff, 1 Corinthians 5 & 6, Galatians 5:19-20, Ephesians 5:3-5, Colossians 3:5-6, 1 Thessalonians 4:3-8, Hebrews 13:4, 1 Peter 4:1-6, etc.? Even if you don’t believe the Bible is true, you can’t deny that it takes sex seriously.

          • Please read the linked blog post. It would be easier than giving a poor replica of my points here. I don’t deny that it takes sex seriously, please read *exactly* what I wrote. I simply argue that it is not a major theme or overriding concern, it is not even the foremost point of either New Testament or Old Testament law or ethics passages, compared with use of money and violence, which I would contend trump (if you’ll pardon the word!) sexuality. I have read and studied much of the Bible, so my arguments, even if incorrect, are rarely without considered thought of both perspectives. (E.g. I devoted some of my fledgling blog to discussing the Nebo Sarsekim tablet which conclusively evidenced a minor part of biblical history, for those non-Christians who are overly sceptical.)

        • Does Jesus need to have addressed something in his earthly ministry for it to be important? He does not mention a whole lot of sins, many of which I think we all would agree are very important.

    • Actually, as a floating agnostic atheist on Patheos, I *would* go as far to claim that the entire Bible fails address the topic. It doesn’t matter to me what I think the Bible “has to say” (as if it speaks with one voice on anything), since I see no convincing reason to make it (or my particular interpretation of it) the guiding force in my ethical philosophy or decision making. I simply believe, from my fascination and study of it, that the whole library of texts fails to to make any clear condemnation of what we would call ‘homosexuality’ today.

      https://thebookofamos.wordpress.com/2016/12/04/what-the-bible-doesnt-say-about-lgbt-people/

      • Iain Lovejoy

        Well…
        It’s probably stretching it to say that some of the “clobber” passages aren’t talking about some kind of homosexual activity, it’s just not really possible to say exactly what. I suspect that the problem is when they were written “homosexuality” wasn’t really seen as a category in itself, rather as a collection of assorted variations amongst others in the whole category of sexual immorality generally, wrong because prostitution, bed-hopping and sexual license generally is wrong, not especially because of the particular genders if the people involved.

        • I’d welcome your thoughts on the post I linked to if you have time. I really don’t think any of the clobber passages are remotely talking about consensual homosexual relationships, having read them and studied them as carefully as I am able to. Let me know what you think; I would be interested to know!

          • Iain Lovejoy

            I had a look at the link. He’s right, it’s not exactly clear what Leviticus is referring to as the “beds / layings of a woman”. It is certainly sexual, and involves two people only (since it says “both” have done something hateful) and at least one of them is a man.
            Paul’s arsenokoitai, literally “bedders of men” are male in gender, so if he is referencing back Leviticus it does suggest that Leviticus too refers to some form of homosexual activity.
            At a guess in both cases it is men seducing other men which is being talked about.
            I don’t think it is about male rape, because the Leviticus passages condemn both parties, but the phraseology suggests a relationship where there is very much a seducer and a seducee.
            The Romans “clobber passage” is interesting because, as the article says, Paul is talking about the consequences of idolatry, and the adverse spiritual effect on those involved. What is key here is he is talking about people abandoning their ordinary sexual mores and habits for new and different thrills, and not specifically about homosexuality as a discrete phenomenon.
            I think we have a serious problem in trying to read the Bible about sex, because the ancient world’s whole concept of it is totally different from our own and all we really do is read our own preconceived ideas into it.
            The Bible isn’t interested in sexual orientation or homosexuality as a phenomenon at all – I am not at all sure from what I have read about it that the concepts really existed when the Bible was written.
            Ancient concerns about sexual matters were variously about social / family stability, men’s property rights in women, ritual purity and what you might call “sexual continence”, not directly about the genders of those involved. Not marrying also seems to have been assumed to be about a rejection of family life and children, and maintaining a free “bachelor lifestyle” rather than sexual orientation, and it also appears at least from what I have read that men having sex with other men (and regrettably often boys) was just another form of recreational sex any man might engage in (rightly or wrongly), rather than the province specifically of indentifiable “homosexuals”. I suspect that as a result the existence of men who we today might classify as homosexuals would have gone completely unnoticed (even perhaps to themselves) in the mix.
            What about “Biblical” attitudes to sexuality, and homosexuality in particular?
            In the OT some commentators have suggested that male prostitution may have been involved in some of the non-JHWH cults in ancient Israel, which made it a particular concern: this may well be true.
            Other than that, the Leviticus passages may be about a situation where a man has abandoned family for a male lover, or indulging in a (male) “bit on the side” rather than a stable, committed homosexual relationship (if such things actually existed at the time at all).
            Paul’s “bedders of men” in this context would be men seducing (multiple?) men for recreational sex not a general reference to all male and male sexual activity. That this is the case is to my mind bolstered by his inclusion as separate items other variants of male and male sexual activity which would be redundant if arsenokoitai referred generally to homosexual sex as a category.
            I doubt stable, exclusive homosexual relationships between men whose sexual orientation precluded heterosexual family life I would be something that would even have occurred to him to consider. Paul’s concern in these passaged is to make it clear that a life of sexual indulgence is not compatible with the Christian life, even if Paul is saying gentile Christians are not bound to Jewish law, not sexual orientation as such.

          • Thanks for such thoughtful comments. I completely agree with what you have written so I can’t think of much else to say! (Apart from ‘he is right’ – I write that blog! Cheeky self promotion I know…)

            I will include what I think the ramifications of the use of the two terms are (which is largely what you say, but I fail to include it for the sake of keeping it short) when I find time to next edit the blog. Best wishes to you wherever you are in the world.

          • Iain Lovejoy

            Oh, right, “Book of Amos”: not at my most observant there!
            Thanks.

  • Wheezy1952

    Comparing homosexuality to “torture, gang rape, drug abuse, bestiality” does not help your argument.

    And if Jesus spoke highly of the Genesis style of marriage, He must have been ok with multiple wives, concubines, forced marriages, …

    • George

      Weak. Weak indeed.

      • Wheezy1952

        Deep. Deep indeed.

        • George

          Thank you for proving my point. Again.

          Now run on and make sure you have the last word. That’s what trolls always do.

          • Wheezy1952

            You’re kinda funny.

    • Realist1234

      He specifically ONLY spoke about the ‘first’ male and female couple. Not any subsequent forms of relationships. So your point is moot.

      The author is right. It is not surprising at all that Jesus during his public ministry did not explicitly say anything about gay sex – the wrongness of it simply was not an issue to his predominantly Jewish hearers. Why condemn something they all already knew was wrong?

      It should also be remembered that Jesus did condemn ‘all sexual immorality’, and as a Jewish Rabbi speaking to a primarily Jewish audience, that would undoubtedly have included gay sex.

      I find the argument put forward by some that gay sexual relationships are approved of by God as extremely weak.

      • Wheezy1952

        You can assume all you want.

        I would assume that, if Jesus thought it important enough to have His followers condemn and discriminate against, He might have been more specific.

  • Tianzhu

    The one occasion where Jesus was face to face with a sexual sinner, his words to her were “Go and sin no more.” That’s about all we need to know. Sexual sins can be forgiven – not condoned and certainly not celebrated. People who won’t live by the Christian moral standard are welcome to find a different religion, or no religion at all.

  • The argument is ridiculous because as a Jew, Jesus lived and taught under the Law of Moses which certainly contains condemnation of homosexual acts.

  • ocrttol

    The final two sentences in the article sayed: ” This is also probably why Jesus explicitly condemned child sacrifice,
    not because He affirmed it as a good thing, but because He and His
    audience agreed on its sinfulness.

    Should it not read: This is also probably why Jesus NEVER explicitly condemned child sacrifice,
    not because He affirmed it as a good thing, but because He and His
    audience agreed on its sinfulness.

  • ocrttol

    Any Jewish person from the first century CE wold naturally assume that all marriages consisted of one man and one or more women. The idea of two men marrying, or two women marrying would not have occurred to them. It just wasn’t part of the culture.