Sexuality of Jesus

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On the issue of the sexuality of Jesus, the traditional understanding of Christian churches is that Jesus did not marry and remained celibate until his death. That has not prevented speculation on alternative theories of his sexuality. The Gospels and the New Testament reveal little on the subject.


Mary Magdalene[edit]

The non-canonical Gospel of Philip (dating from around the first century) describes Jesus's relationship with Mary Magdalene using Coptic variants of the Greek κοινωνός (koinōnos). That work uses cognates of koinōnos and Coptic equivalents to refer to the literal pairing of men and women in marriage and sexual intercourse, but also metaphorically, referring to a spiritual partnership, and the reunification of the Gnostic Christian with the divine realm.[1]

Mary Magdalene is mentioned as one of three Marys "who always walked with the Lord" and as his companion (Philip 59.6-11). The work also says that the Lord loved her more than all the disciples, and used to kiss her often (63.34-36).[2] Author John Dickson argues that it was common in early Christianity to kiss a fellow believer by way of greeting,[1 Pet. 5:14] thus such kissing would have no romantic connotations.[3] Kripal writes that "the historical sources are simply too contradictory and simultaneously too silent" to make absolute declarations regarding Jesus' sexuality.[4]

Bart Ehrman concludes that historical evidence tells us nothing at all about Jesus' sexuality—"certainly nothing to indicate that Jesus and Mary had a sexual relationship of any kind". Ehrman (a scholar of the Greek New Testament and Early Christianity) says that the question people ask him most often is whether Mary Magdalene and Jesus of Nazareth married each other:

"It is not true that the Dead Sea Scrolls contained Gospels that discussed Mary and Jesus. (...) Nor is it true that the marriage of Mary and Jesus is repeatedly discussed in the Gospels that didn't make it into the New Testament. In fact, it is never discussed at all—never even mentioned, not even once. (...) It is not true that the Gospel of Philip calls Mary Jesus' spouse."[5]

Gospel of Jesus' Wife[edit]

The "Gospel of Jesus' Wife", a Coptic papyrus fragment unveiled in 2012, presents Jesus as speaking of his wife: "My wife ... she will be able to be my disciple." If genuine, it appears to date to around the 6th to 9th centuries AD, and would suggest that some Egyptian Christians of that period believed that Jesus was married. Although it does not contain the name of Mary Magdalene, there has been speculation that she is the woman referred to.[6] However, there is substantial scholarly concern about the fragment's authenticity, with a number of scholars regarding it as a modern forgery.[7][8][9]

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 and subsequently Dan Brown's "The Da Vinci Code".


The Disciple Whom Jesus Loved[edit]

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 may be 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.[10]

Jesus and John at the Last Supper, by Valentin de Boulogne

In subsequent centuries the reference was used by those who supported a homoerotic reading of the relationship. For example, Aelred of Rievaulx, in his work Spiritual Friendship, referred to the relationship of Jesus and John as a "marriage" and held it out as an example sanctioning friendships between clerics.[11]

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."[12]

Others who have given voice to this interpretation of the relationship between Jesus and John have been the philosophers Denis Diderot and Jeremy Bentham.[13] However, many other researchers reject the theory.

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".[14]

Bob Goss the author of Jesus Acted Up, A Gay and Lesbian Manifesto and Queering Christ, Beyond Jesus Acted Up,[15] 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."[16]

In contrast, the writer Robert Gagnon has argued 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.[17]

The Naked Youth[edit]

The Gospel of Mark (14:51-53),describes how in the Garden of Gethsemane, "A young man, wearing nothing but a linen garment, was following Jesus. When they [the Temple guards] seized him, he fled naked, leaving his garment behind."

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 which has led to the tradition that Mark wrote himself into the text.[18]

The separate and non-canonical "Secret Gospel of Mark" - fragments of which were contained in the controversial Mar Saba letter by Clement of Alexandria - states that Jesus taught the secrets of the Kingdom of God alone to a partially clothed youth during one night. This has been linked to the views of an ancient group called the Carpocratians. Some modern commentators interpret it as a baptism, others as some form of sexual initiation, and others as an allegory for a non-sexual initiation into a gnostic religion.[19]

The Love That Dares to Speak Its Name[edit]

The fictional poem The Love That Dares to Speak Its Name speculated what it would have been like if Jesus had had several sexual encounters with other men - including with Pontius Pilate, and 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.[20]


Eunuchs for the Kingdom of Heaven[edit]

In the Gospel of Matthew, Jesus is reported to have referred to the behaviour of eunuchs to illustrate an approach to sexuality: "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."|Matthew 19:3-12

The term "eunuch" normally referred to a castrated man. Several theologians and Bible commentators have interpreted this passage as indicating Jesus's support for celibacy.[note 1]

The early Christian writer, Origen, interpreted Jesus' words literally and so physically castrated himself as an act of devotion.[21] The early Church Father Tertullian, wrote that Jesus himself lived as a "eunuch",[note 2] likewise encouraged people to adopt this practice.[22]

Bride of Christ[edit]

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 (3:22-36), 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.[23]


Latter Day Saints[edit]

Early Latter Day Saint Apostle Orson Hyde taught that Jesus was a polygamist who was married to Mary Magdalene, Martha, and Mary of Bethany, and fathered children with them. He also taught that the marriage at Cana was Jesus' own wedding.[24][25][26][27] This idea is not official LDS doctrine,[28] although it has certainly entered into Mormon folklore.[29][30][31]

In fiction, art, and imagination[edit]

Some Christians, believe that if Jesus was wholly human, he must have been a sexual being.[citation needed] The Children of God Christian group 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,[32] and equate prophecy with Jesus' ejaculation.[33] 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";[34] 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.[note 3]

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.[35]

See also[edit]


  1. ^ In the ancient Middle East and Asia, eunuchs often served as officials overseeing harems, or in other Royal positions. See Encyclopaedia of the Orient for more details.
  2. ^ 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. e.g. 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..."
  3. ^ Due to copyright restrictions, see Theresa: The Body of Christ article for poster.


  1. ^ Marjanen, Antti (1996). The Woman Jesus Loved: Mary Magdalene in the Nag Hammadi Library and Related Documents. Leiden: Brill. pp. 151–60 et passim. ISBN 9004106588. 
  2. ^ King, Karen L. "Women In Ancient Christianity: The New Discoveries". Frontline: The First Christians. Web: 2 November 2009.
  3. ^ The Christ Files: How Historians Know What They Know About Jesus, John Dickson, p. 95 (Sydney South: Blue Bottle Books, 2006). ISBN 1-921137-54-1
  4. ^ Jeffrey John Kripal, The Serpent's Gift: Gnostic Reflections on the Study of Religion, p. 52 (Chicago: The University of Chicago Press, 2007). ISBN 0-226-45380-4 ISBN 0-226-45381-2
  5. ^ B. D. Ehrman, Peter, Paul, and Mary Magdalene: The Followers of Jesus in History and Legend. New York: Oxford, 2006. p. 248.
  6. ^ Sam Masters (2014-04-11). "Jesus had a wife, say scientists, as ancient papyrus scroll verified - Americas - World". The Independent. Retrieved 2014-08-06. 
  7. ^ Andrew Brown. "Gospel of Jesus's Wife is fake, claims expert | World news". Retrieved 2014-08-06. 
  8. ^ LAURIE GOODSTEIN. "Fresh Doubts Raised About Papyrus Scrap Known as ‘Gospel of Jesus’ Wife’". The New York Times. 
  9. ^ "NT Blog: More evidence of forgery in the Jesus' Wife Sister Fragment". 2014-05-01. Retrieved 2014-08-06. 
  10. ^ Crosswalk: Gay Jesus' Claim Draws Fire by Patrick Goodenough, Pacific Rim Bureau Chief,
  11. ^ Louis Crompton, Homosexuality and Civilization, p. 180
  12. ^ Royal Panoply, Brief Lives Of The English Monarchs, Carrolly Erickson, St. Martin's Press (May 2, 2006). ISBN 0-312-31643-7
  13. ^ Louis Crompton, Homosexuality and Civilization, p. 111.
  14. ^ Day, Elizabeth (April 3, 2005). "Jesus might have been homosexual, says the first openly gay bishop". The Daily Telegraph (London). Retrieved January 29, 2010. 
  15. ^ Hansen, Jamie. "Goss challenges traditional Christian beliefs". Archived from the original on 5 December 2005. Retrieved 4 March 2015. 
  16. ^ Hank Hyena, "Was Jesus Gay: A search for the messiah's true sexuality leads to a snare of lusty theories", p.2, 1998-04.
  17. ^ Robert A. J. Gagnon, The Bible and homosexual practice (2001)
  18. ^ Robert J. Myles, Dandy Discipleship: A Queering of Mark’s Male Disciples JMMS 4:2 (2010), p. 66-81.
  19. ^ Miller, Robert J. (1994). The Complete Gospels: annotated Scholars Version. HarperSanFrancisco. p. 411. ISBN 9780060655877. 
  20. ^ Staff Writer (10 January 2008). "The gay poem that broke blasphemy laws". Pink News. Archived from the original on 3 June 2012. Retrieved 25 February 2015. 
  21. ^ 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)
  22. ^ Tertullian, Adversus Marcionem i.29.
  23. ^ Cyprian of Carthage, De Ecclesiae Catholicae Unitate, 4-6
  24. ^ Orson Hyde, Conference message, October 6, 1854, Journal of Discourses 2:82
  25. ^ Inside Today's Mormonism by Richard Abanes 2007 ISBN 0-7369-1968-6 page 239
  26. ^ A Disparity in Doctrine and Theology by E Roberts 2011 ISBN 1-4497-1210-X page 54
  27. ^ Cky J. Carrigan. "Did Jesus Christ Marry and Father Children?". Evangelical Ministries to New Religions. Archived from the original on 11 October 2014. Retrieved 4 March 2015. 
  28. ^ Barams, Cooper. "Do Mormons Believe that Jesus Christ Was Married and Practiced Polygamy?". Retrieved 4 March 2015. 
  29. ^ Pratt, Orson (October 1853), "Celestial Marriage", The Seer 1 (10), p. 159 
  30. ^ Wilford Woodruff, Journal Entry 1883-07-22, reporting on a sermon given by Joseph F. Smith.
  31. ^ Joseph Fielding Smith, Handwritten note responding to letter from J. Ricks Smith, 1963.[better source needed]
  32. ^ The "Loving Jesus" Revelation
  33. ^ Golden seeds
  34. ^ Dan Brown, Angels and Demons
  35. ^ Baggini, Julian (September 3, 2008). "Cock and bull". The Guardian (London). Retrieved May 23, 2010.