Sexuality of Jesus
||This article may be unbalanced towards certain viewpoints. (December 2012)|
|Part of a series on|
The sexuality of Jesus has been portrayed in fiction, but the Letter to the Hebrews 4:15 states: 'We do not have a high priest who is unable to sympathize with our weaknesses, but who in every respect has been tempted as we are, yet without sin.' Most Christian denominations throughout history thus have maintained that Jesus remained celibate until his death. Interpretation of indirect evidence has produced widely varying theories of Jesus's sexuality.
Divorce and eunuchs
- Moses permitted you to divorce your wives because your hearts were hard. But it was not this way from the beginning. I tell you that anyone who divorces his wife, except for marital unfaithfulness, and marries another woman commits adultery.
- The disciples said to him, "If this is the situation between a husband and wife, it is better not to marry.
- Jesus replied, "Not everyone can accept this word, but only those to whom it has been given. For some are eunuchs because they were born that way; others were made that way by men; and others have renounced marriage because of the kingdom of heaven. The one who can accept this should accept it. (NIV)
Jesus' praise for those who have made themselves eunuchs for the Kingdom of Heaven has, for many centuries, been interpreted by Christian theologians as a metaphor for celibacy, since the term "eunuch" normally referred to a castrated man. Some Christians (including, according to a few sources, Origen) interpreted Jesus' words literally and hence physically castrating themselves as an act of devotion. The early Church Father Tertullian, who wrote that Jesus himself lived as a eunuch, likewise encouraged people to adopt this practice.
The Gospel of Philip (not in the Biblical canon) states that Jesus kissed Mary Magdalene. Considering the gnostic nature of writing, most do not consider this a sexual act, instead interpreting it as an instance of a common Middle-Eastern cultural practice, signifying the transfer of knowledge (in this case, gnosis) between a teacher and his pupils. However, the notion of a marriage between Jesus and Mary Magdalene has been a frequent topic in literature, and within the 1982 book, The Holy Blood and the Holy Grail.
The beloved disciple
The Gospel of John makes references to the disciple whom Jesus loved (John 13:23, 19:26, 21:7, 20), a phrase which does not occur in the Synoptic Gospels. In the text, this beloved disciple is present at the crucifixion of Jesus, with Jesus' mother, Mary.
The disciple whom Jesus loved is a self-reference by the author of the Gospel (John 21:24), traditionally regarded as John the Apostle. Rollan McCleary, author of Signs for a Messiah, thinks this identification would make the phrase highly significant.
James I of England may have been relying on a pre-existing tradition when he defended his relationship with the young Duke of Buckingham: "I wish to speak in my own behalf and not to have it thought to be a defect, for Jesus Christ did the same, and therefore I cannot be blamed. Christ had his son John, and I have my George."
Others who have given voice to this interpretation of the relationship between Jesus and John have been the philosophers Denis Diderot and Jeremy Bentham. However, many other researchers reject the theory. For example, Robert A. Gagnon pointed out that the Greek word translated as "loved" is agape (used, for example, in John 3:16; "for God so loved the world"), rather than the Greek word referring to sexual love, eros.
Gene Robinson discussed the possible homoerotic inclinations of Jesus in a sermon in 2005. Robinson's claim has been widely criticized, most notably by David W. Virtue, who called it an "appalling deconstructionism from the liberal lobby which will spin even the remotest thing to turn it into a hint that Biblical figures are gay".
Bob Goss the author of "Jesus Acted Up, A Gay and Lesbian Manifesto" and "Queering Christ, Beyond Jesus Acted Up," said of the interaction between Jesus and John, it "is a pederastic relationship between an older man and a younger man. A Greek reader would understand."
The naked youth
The text of the naked youth is puzzling for conventional interpreters because it associates an unnamed and suggestively erotic youth very closely with Jesus. Moreover, the text only appears in Mark 14:51-53, which has led to the tradition that John Mark wrote himself into the text. Because this apologetic interpretation has been largely dismissed by scholars, it leaves open suggestions as to the identity of the young man, especially given the erotically-charged texture surrounding his brief appearance.
The Secret Gospel of Mark, fragments of which were contained in the controversial Mar Saba letter by Clement of Alexandria, has led to various interpretations concerning the views of an ancient group called the Carpocratians. The Secret Gospel of Mark states that Jesus taught the secrets of the Kingdom of God alone to a partially clothed youth during one night. Some modern commentators interpret it as a baptism, or an allegory for a non-sexual initiation into a gnostic religion.
Some see a connection between the youth of the "Secret Gospel of Mark" and the mysterious youth following Jesus during his arrest, who loses his cloak while trying to escape, mentioned in the Canonical Gospel of Mark; and the young man or angel clad only in white that Mark mentions was found in the Empty Tomb. Most scholars however see the so-called Secret Gospel as a modern hoax.
Bride of Christ
The Bride of Christ is a metaphor for the Ecclesia (church), likening the relationship between Christians and Jesus to a betrothal pointing to a future wedding, when Christians are re-united with Jesus. In the Gospel of John (chapter 3 verses 22-36), John the baptist speaks in terms of himself as a "best man" with the implication that Christ the bridegroom (see also Matthew 9:15) is coming to meet his bride, although there is nothing specific to identify the bride. Church Fathers such as Cyprian applied the image to the Church.
“Jesus said to them, ‘My wife...’”
In mid-September 2012, Karen L. King, the Hollis Chair of Divinity at Harvard Divinity School, published a paper, "Jesus said to them, ‘My wife…’" A New Coptic Gospel Papyrus, with contributions by AnneMarie Luijendijk, that describes a new codex (that King calls elsewhere the Gospel of Jesus' wife), thus: "Published here for the first time is a fragment of a fourth-century CE codex in Coptic containing a dialogue between Jesus and his disciples in which Jesus speaks of 'my wife.' This is the only extant ancient text which explicitly portrays Jesus as referring to a wife. It does not, however, provide evidence that the historical Jesus was married, given the late date of the fragment and the probable date of original composition only in the second half of the second century. Nevertheless, if the second century date of composition is correct, the fragment does provide direct evidence that claims about Jesus’s marital status first arose over a century after the death of Jesus in the context of intra-Christian controversies over sexuality, marriage, and discipleship."
In fiction, art, and imagination
The poem "The Love that Dares to Speak its Name" suggests that Jesus had several sexual encounters, including with Pontius Pilate, and contains a graphic description of Jesus' sexual encounter with a Roman soldier; Christian opposition to the poem's suggestions resulted in the Whitehouse v. Lemon court case, a famous blasphemous libel trial. The sadomasochistic undertones of the crucifixion have been commented upon, and occasionally portrayed explicitly in modern art; for satirical reasons, this was depicted in the controversial Jesus with erection poster, a concept which has also been depicted for serious reasons in sculpture by Terence Koh, though both works were denounced by many Christians as being provocatively offensive.
Some Christians, however, believe that if Jesus was wholly human, he must have been a sexual being. The Children of God Christian cult actively promotes the view that a sexual relationship with Jesus would be desirable, encouraging devotees to imagine during sexual activity that it is Jesus who is having sex with them, and equate prophecy with Jesus' ejaculation. Historic Christian figures have also been accused of similar thoughts. Teresa of Avila's description of her most famous vision has been interpreted by secular writers, such as Dan Brown, as a metaphor for some serious sex; the view of Teresa having a sexual relationship with Jesus, in her visions, is exemplified by the poster art for Theresa: The Body of Christ, a 2007 film by Ray Loriga.
- In the ancient Middle East and Asia, eunuchs often served as officials overseeing harems, or in other Royal positions. See:Encyclopaedia of the Orient
- J. David Hester (2005). Eunuchs and the Postgender Jesus: Matthew 19:12 and Transgressive Sexualities. Journal for the Study of the New Testament, Vol. 28, No. 1, 13-40 (2005)
- Note: There is some controversy in this statement as in context, spado, which in most cases means eunuch, is generally translated as virgin as in here and a fuller explanation can be found here . Tertullian, On Monogamy, 3: “...He stands before you, if you are willing to copy him, as a voluntary spado (eunuch) in the flesh.” And elsewhere: "The Lord Himself opened the kingdom of heaven to eunuchs and He Himself lived as a eunuch. The apostle [Paul] also, following His example, made himself a eunuch..."
- Tertullian, Adversus Marcionem i.29.
- Eric Lyons, "The Real Mary Magdalene", at Apologetics Press
- :: Jesus : expressions::
- Crosswalk: Gay Jesus' Claim Draws Fire by Patrick Goodenough, Pacific Rim Bureau Chief, CNSNews.com.
- Louis Crompton, Homosexuality and Civilization p.180
- Royal Panoply, Brief Lives Of The English Monarchs, Carrolly Erickson, St. Martin's Press (May 2, 2006). ISBN 0-312-31643-7
- Louis Crompton, Homosexuality and Civilization, p. 111.
- Robert A. J. Gagnon, The Bible and homosexual practice (2001)
- "How often have I seen men friends in such an attitude. There is not the slightest infringement of the rules of propriety; the act was as natural to us all as shaking hands. The practice is especially indulged in when intimate friends are about to part from one another, as on the eve of a journey, or when about the face a dangerous undertaking. Then they sit with their heads leaning against each other, or the one's head resting upon the other's shoulder or breast.", Abraham Rihbany, The Syrian Christ (1916)
- Day, Elizabeth (April 3, 2005). "Jesus might have been homosexual, says the first openly gay bishop". The Daily Telegraph (London). Retrieved January 29, 2010.
- Hank Hyena, "Was Jesus Gay: A search for the messiah's true sexuality leads to a snare of lusty theories", p.2, 1998-04.
- Robert J. Myles, Dandy Discipleship: A Queering of Mark’s Male Disciples JMMS 4:2 (2010), p. 66-81. http://www.jmmsweb.org/issues/volume4/number2/pp66-81
- Robert J. Miller, The Complete Gospels, Polebridge Press 1994, p. 411. ISBN 0-06-065587-9.
- Cyprian of Carthage, De Ecclesiae Catholicae Unitate, 4-6
- "Jesus said to them, ‘My wife…’" A New Coptic Gospel Papyrus, Karen L. King with contributions by AnneMarie Luijendijk, draft published 18 September 2012, for later publication in Harvard Theological Review 106:1, January 2013, accessed 20 September 2012
- The Gospel of Jesus's Wife: A New Coptic Gospel Papyrus, recto and verso images plus transcription of Coptic and translation into English, Harvard Divinity School, accessed 20 September 2012
- The Inside Story of a Controversial New Text About Jesus, Ariel Sabar, Smithsonian.com, 18 September 2012, accessed 20 September 2012 (image recto)
- Jesus Was Married?, David Haglund, Slate.com, 19 September 2012, accessed 20 September 2012 (image and video story)
- Baggini, Julian (September 3, 2008). "Cock and bull". The Guardian (London). Retrieved May 23, 2010.
- The "Loving Jesus" Revelation
- Golden seeds
- Dan Brown, Angels and Demons
- due to copyright restrictions, see Theresa: The Body of Christ article for poster