Matthew 8:5-7, Homosexuality and the Bible, Part VI of VIII

And when Jesus was entered into Capernaum, there came unto him a centurion, beseeching him, and saying, Lord, my servant lieth at home sick of the palsy, grievously tormented. And Jesus saith unto him, I will come and heal him.

//Question 4 of 5: What did Jesus think about same-sex partners?

I promised that today I’d discuss what Jesus himself has to say about homosexuality. The answer is…

Nothing. Jesus has nothing to say at all. Yet there is one event which might actually shed light on how Jesus felt. It is in Matthew 8:5-13, and in Luke 7:1-10, where Jesus heals a centurion’s servant who is dying. The Greek word used for “servant” is “pais.”

According to some Bible scholars, this word pais almost always had a sexual connotation. Others say only sometimes. It also hints that the centurion’s “servant” was a youth. In any case, it leaves open the real possibility that the centurion’s servant was his young lover.

“Pais” may be the root word of pederasty, a word discussed earlier, but a twist … a “beloved” youth. The youth is also described in this story as highly-valued. Was it pure love, rather than a sex-slave relationship? Is that why the centurion was so desperate that the young man be healed? Is that why Jesus had no words of rebuke?

This is admittedly not a strong argument, since it relies on a deeper study of Biblical Greek than I am capable of, yet if there is any hint at all in scripture about how Jesus felt about same-sex relationships, this is it. No condemnation, only respect and compassion.

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4 Comments

  1. Kevin King

    It doesn’t really take a great deal of knowledge of the Bible to answer this point. The following is a listing of all the other places where pais is used in the NT. Just read through them and see if the claim that ‘pais almost always had a sexual connotation’ actually stands up…

    Matthew 2:16 Then Herod, when he saw that he was mocked of the wise men, was exceeding wroth, and sent forth, and slew all the children (pais) that were in Bethlehem, and in all the coasts thereof, from two years old and under, according to the time which he had diligently enquired of the wise men.

    Matthew 8:5-13 (The passage under discussion)

    Matthew 12:18 Behold my servant (pais), whom I have chosen; my beloved, in whom my soul is well pleased: I will put my spirit upon him, and he shall shew judgment to the Gentiles. (Quoting, in Greek, Isiah’s prophecy about Jesus.)

    Matthew 14:2 And said unto his servants (pais), This is John the Baptist; he is risen from the dead; and therefore mighty works do shew forth themselves in him.

    Matthew 17:18 And Jesus rebuked the devil; and he departed out of him: and the child (pais) was cured from that very hour.

    Matthew 21:15 And when the chief priests and scribes saw the wonderful things that he did, and the children (pais) crying in the temple, and saying, Hosanna to the Son of David; they were sore displeased,

    Luke 1:54 He hath holpen his servant (pais) Israel, in remembrance of his mercy;

    Luke 1:69 And hath raised up an horn of salvation for us in the house of his servant (pais) David;

    Luke 2:43 And when they had fulfilled the days, as they returned, the child (pais) Jesus tarried behind in Jerusalem; and Joseph and his mother knew not of it.

    Luke 7:7 Wherefore neither thought I myself worthy to come unto thee: but say in a word, and my servant (pais) shall be healed.

    Luke 8:51 And when he came into the house, he suffered no man to go in, save Peter, and James, and John, and the father and the mother of the maiden (pais).

    Luke 8:54 And he put them all out, and took her by the hand, and called, saying, Maid (pais), arise.

    Luke 9:42 And as he was yet a coming, the devil threw him down, and tare him. And Jesus rebuked the unclean spirit, and healed the child (pais), and delivered him again to his father.

    Luke 12:45 But and if that servant say in his heart, My lord delayeth his coming; and shall begin to beat the menservants (pais) and maidens, and to eat and drink, and to be drunken;

    Luke 15:26 And he called one of the servants (pais), and asked what these things meant.

    John 4:51 And as he was now going down, his servants met him, and told him, saying, Thy son (pais) liveth.

    Acts 3:13 The God of Abraham, and of Isaac, and of Jacob, the God of our fathers, hath glorified his Son (pais) Jesus; whom ye delivered up, and denied him in the presence of Pilate, when he was determined to let him go.

    Acts 4:25 Who by the mouth of thy servant (pais) David hast said, Why did the heathen rage, and the people imagine vain things?

    Acts 4:27 For of a truth against thy holy child (pais) Jesus, whom thou hast anointed, both Herod, and Pontius Pilate, with the Gentiles, and the people of Israel, were gathered together,

    Acts 4:30 By stretching forth thine hand to heal; and that signs and wonders may be done by the name of thy holy child (pais) Jesus.

    Acts 20:12 And they brought the young man (pais) alive, and were not a little comforted.

  2. Lee Harmon

    Hi Kevin, thanks for contributing! Here is a bit more detail on the argument:

    http://www.wouldjesusdiscriminate.org/biblical_evidence/gay_couple.html

    • Kevin King

      I’ve had a look at the article. It is a highly speculative interpretation based on the idea that, because the word pais had a sexual connotation in some Greek-speaking circles, that is what is meant here. But the clear evidence of the New Testament, as cited above, is that this was not how the NT writers used or understood this word.

      The author is attempting to argue that, despite this, Matthew, (who was addressing a Jewish audience; and, according to the early church fathers, wrote the original version of his gospel in either Hebrew or Aramaic, not Greek) has managed to capture a sexual overtones implied by the centurion in his use of the word pais. Even if the centurion had actually used that word, would he have used it in a sexual sense when asking a favour of a Jewish rabbi? Hardly.

      • Lee Harmon

        Kevin, I think you’re missing the point. The centurion sought Jesus out because he was special, because he was NOT a typical Jewish rabbi with typical Jewish prejudices.

        Here is a man who cared deeply about his (probably young) “servant.” So maybe it wasn’t his lover, as the word pais hints. Do we find Jesus saying “okay, i’ll heal him, but first I have to find out a little about what you guys do in the bedroom”? No. It simply didn’t matter to Jesus that this was probably a young lover.

        So let’s go at this in a different direction. Let’s play the odds. Leave this story aside for a minute. Since we know absolutely nothing else about Jesus that would tell us his opinion about same-sex partners (scripture doesn’t help, Jesus often rose above scripture where he found the law to be inhumane), except for the fact that Jesus cared deeply about other groups who were also marginalized, we are left to guess whether Jesus condoned a same-sex relationship.

        So what would you say the odds are? Shall we be very conservative and say a 40% chance that Jesus healed a gay lover without any hint of condemnation? Should we ignore context and language altogether and go all the way down to 10%, knowing that about 10% of us are gay? If there is then a 10% chance that we are siding against Jesus–working directly against what Jesus was trying to accomplish on earth–with our anti-gay doctrine, are those acceptable odds?

        I side with Jesus. I simply can’t see any reason to go sticking my nose into other people’s private lives.

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