Saturday, January 10, 2009

Were eunuchs in the bible gay?

Well, at least some of them.

The traditional view of a eunuch in the bible is a male who does not possess male genitalia - either as a birth defect or from castration. But, perhaps the bible is not meant to be taken so literally. Maybe the definition of a eunuch is more broad describing someone who is incapable of male/female bonding - for whatever reason.

Jesus describes three types of eunuchs
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 19:12
Looking at each of these individually

Born eunuch's

This could refer to men with a birth defect rendering them incapable of male/female bonding; but, was this such a common occurrence that it warranted special mention in the bible? Also, in biblical society, people born with disabilities were often shunned and relegated to a life of begging - yet eunuch's were often held in high esteem and had positions of power and authority. Why would a person with a congenital defect affecting reproduction be treated so much differently than the blind and lame?

It seems reasonable that a eunuch could be a man who was born from his mothers womb with a natural inclination towards other men. They're incapable of male/female bonding - because they don't like girls.

Man-made eunuch's

This could refer to people who have been wounded and/or castrated as an injury of war. Such people could be held in high esteem and given a position of authority because of the sacrifice they made. Others could be forcibly castrated to serve as guardians of women or harem servants, yet others as a punishment for some sin. While the former could be held in high esteem, such seems unlikely for the latter who would, presumably, be shunned.

Regardless of how someone became a eunuch, such people were excluded from the congregation by the law of Moses
He that is wounded in the stones, or hath his privy member cut off, shall not enter into the congregation of the Lord.
Deuteronomy 23:1

Self-made eunuch's

How many men will voluntarily cut off their own genitalia for the glory of God? What sort of warped logic could lead a person to conclude "God created me in his own image - yet he requires me to mutilate myself." I'm sure there are people like that in the world (both ancient and modern); but, are these who Jesus was referring to? It seems more reasonable that these are people who are physically capable of sexual relationships - but choose celibacy so as to dedicate their life to God - a sort of virtual eunuch.

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This notion of homosexuals being identified as eunuch's in the bible is certainly not something I came up with on my own. I've been following, with interest, a couple of related discussion threads in the "Thoughts and Discussions" forum on the Gay Christian Network website. This particular forum is only available to registered users on GCN; although, registration is free - for anyone interested in referring to them.

It's difficult to find any objective material on the subject given the politically charged nature of homosexuality. However, homosexuality is often viewed as a modern phenomena since it's only been relatively recently (last couple hundred years) that it's even been acknowledged. But, it seems logical to conclude that homosexuality is as old as man himself - historically disguised as something else because ancient society couldn't comprehend or explain it.

There are people who have studied this topic in great depth - exploring root meanings of words from the original Aramaic and so forth. Likewise, there are others who have made similar exploration to refute this claim. But, I am a simple man - and, frankly, when I start reading these sort of discussions, my eyes just sorta glaze over. But you can find them by googling "bible eunuch gay"

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So what if the eunuch's in the bible were gay - does it change anything?

Probably not.

But it does suggest that homosexuals do, in deed, have a place at the Lord's table - but, perhaps, the world is not quite ready to receive this teaching.


Colin said...

Love the Tilda Swinton picture, considering the topic of this entry, haha.

invisible said...

I have never thought of that! It is something to ponder. Thanks for sharing!

Duck said...

I very much enjoyed this post. It gave me lots to think about in a context I had not previously considered. Thank you for your insights.
I no longer write "The sentinel declared war", but have a new blog "Enlighten up." Thank you.

Ephilei said...

I won't claim to be objective, but I did some research on the subject: don't know that it would matter regarding gay eunuchs, but it would matter regarding transgender eunuchs. Please tell me what you think.

Anonymous said...

I find your insight interesting as I myself have delved into the discussion of inclusion in the church today. I have a gay christian daughter, and even though I may be a little bias I hold her values and character in high esteem. I would like to add to your comments about eunuchs not being allow in the assembly Deut. 23:1 I have not completely come to a definate conclusion on the exclusion of gays from the conservative base church however I do believe Jesus loved all people and wanted justice for all who seek Him. I think Isaiah supercedes deuteronomy where eunuch are concerned and think that this is huge for gay and straight christians alike. Isaiah 56: 1-6
All Nations Will Obey the Lord
1 This is what the Lord says:
"Give justice to all people,
and do what is right,
because my salvation will come to you soon.
Soon everyone will know that I do what is right.
2 The person who obeys the law about the Sabbath
will be blessed,
and the person who does no evil
will be blessed."

3 Foreigners who have joined the Lord should not say,
"The Lord will not accept me with his people."
The eunuch should not say,
"Because I cannot have children, the Lord will not accept me."
4 This is what the Lord says:
"The eunuchs should obey the law about the Sabbath
and do what I want
and keep my agreement.
5 If they do, I will make their names remembered
within my Temple and its walls.
It will be better for them than children.
I will give them a name that will last forever,
that will never be forgotten.

what do you think, to me it suggest that there is room at the Lord's table.

Anonymous said...

if eunuchs cannot bond with females then why the need to castrate them in order to serve women? and what about lesbians? are they eunuchs as well?

Aaron Saltzer said...

I think there were many types of eunuchs in Jesus's day. The men that were castrated, were done so, so that they wouldn't have affairs with women. There were men who probably were born without testes, which might not have had a sex drive toward women. If only Jesus were here in the flesh, to tell us what he meant. Lol Ik a Christian gay man who claims to have the Holy Spirit in him. And I've heard of Christian LGBTs being active in the religious community. I wouldn't doubt that Jesus accepts the LGBT community as they are, as long as they accept him into their lives, and live the way God would want them to.

Aaron Saltzer said...

Btw, that was @ Anonymous. Haha Here's a good website as to why men were castrated: