Saturday, August 27, 2005

10. The Children are Free

I just finished reading The Children are Free: Reexamining the Biblical Evidence on Same-Sex Relationships… like 10 minutes ago. So you are going to get my fresh, unvarnished thoughts. I will probably have to read the book again to digest it properly… I read it today in about 2 hours. It’s a nice, easy read – not like Women, Slaves and Homosexuals which is on my list and terrifies me… it’s just so big, and academic. But I’ll get to it. Another point on the plus side for The Children are Free is that it didn’t cause me to have an emotional breakdown, which I appreciate.

The first thing I will note is that this book had a more thorough analysis and study of the Greek origins of words than I have encountered thus far in my reading, which I liked. I find that sort of thing interesting, just in general… you know, where do words and phrases come from, how have their meanings evolved over time, what did they mean in their original context, what is the linguistic root… all that stuff is interesting to me. So, aside from my obvious need and desire to understand the meanings of the passages in Scripture about homosexuality, I was intrigued.

Most of it was stuff I had heard before – discussion of the words arsenokoitai and malakoi, which have been traditionally interpreted as homosexuals, homosexual offenders, or effeminate. This book had a more in depth analysis than I had read, but the conclusions were basically the same as I’d heard before… both of those Greek words were so rare even in the time the Bible was written, that it is difficult to interpret them properly, and if you look at them carefully, and in context, they seem more likely to apply to the practice of pederasty (grown men with young boys) or male prostitution than to homosexuals in general.

The one I found most interesting was the analysis of the word “eunuch” in Scripture. They look at Scripture and to other literature of the time period and come to the conclusion that ‘eunuch’ as used in Scripture referred to a class of people that would have been assumed to be homosexual. I’m not going to explain the whole thing, because… well, they wrote a perfectly fine section on it, and I would end up quoting the entire thing, but the conclusion that they come to is that to refer to yourself as a eunuch, or to be called a eunuch would be akin to saying that you are a male hair dresser from San Francisco. Not all of them are gay… but, well… people would make that assumption because most of them are.

Using this interpretation, it makes Jesus’ statement about eunuchs take on a whole new meaning. Jesus refers to three classification of eunuchs – those who have chosen to be eunuchs (those who choose celibacy), those who are made eunuchs (those who have been castrated… or had their genitals in some other way mutilated), and those who were born eunuchs. According to the authors of this book, when Jesus referred to those who were born eunuchs, he was referring to people who were born gay. Again, they use contemporary passages from Jewish literature to back this up. I’m not sure what to think of that, but it’s interesting.

Now, the one thing I would say about that is that if it is true, I am not sure about the conclusion they come to… Jesus makes this statement about eunuchs after talking about marriage, and how people are not to get divorced and remarried – how that is adultery. The disciples, I guess had commitment issues, because their response to this is that maybe no one should get married. In response to this, Jesus makes this statement about eunuchs: “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." Matthew 19:11-12.

My inclination would be to interpret that passage to mean that eunuchs (whether man made or born that way) are probably not to marry. The authors of this book interpret the passage as referring to Jesus’ previous reference to a marriage being between a man and a woman. I’ll have to read that section again, and probably do some personal study. It’s an interesting idea.

The other thing this book talks about a lot is how gays are portrayed in Scripture… which was kind of a ‘wow’ moment for me. A few years ago it occurred to me that gay people are in no way a new phenomenon, so there must have been gay people in Israel in the time of the Bible. This is the first time I actually considered the possibility that David and Jonathan might have been in love, something I have since come to believe is probably the case. Their relationship just reads like a love story to me. So, the authors of this book talk about David and Jonathan, as well as Ruth and Naomi. Now, I have heard the argument that Ruth and Naomi were a couple before, but to be perfectly honest, I don’t really see it… not as much as I see it in the story of David and Jonathan. I will say that I have heard the book of Ruth described by conservative Christians as a romantic love story between Ruth and Boaz, but that I don’t see at all. I think there is more evidence for romantic love between Ruth and Naomi than between Ruth and Boaz… but well, it’s just not as convincing to me.

Where I disagree with the authors is that I do not see evidence of a sexual relationship between either David and Jonathan or Ruth and Naomi – although they do make a plausible argument for a sexual relationship between David and Jonathan. It’s just not that convincing to me.

The one that blew me away was the story of the Roman centurion and his servant. Again, using the original Greek, they make a very convincing argument that the ‘servant’ in question was actually the Roman centurion’s male lover, or spouse… and that Jesus would have known this from the language the centurion used to describe his servant. They cite Jesus’ immediate willingness to heal the servant, without condemning the relationship as evidence that Jesus Himself endorses committed, loving, monogamous relationships between people of the same gender. It’s probably the best argument I’ve heard so far. I will probably have to do my own study on that part too… it’s really interesting.

There’s lots of other stuff in there, and like I said, I will probably have to read it again, because I whipped through it so fast, but it is really interesting.

I will say that I still ‘feel’ that celibacy (however miserable that makes me) is the answer… but I don’t think that means anything. I know that there are Christians who would rejoice in that, saying that ‘feeling’ was the Spirit’s witness, telling me the way to go… but these same Christians would tell a gay person who ‘felt’ that gay relationships were okay that they can’t live by their feelings, that feelings can be deceiving… so, I continue my search for truth and hope.


Eric said...

interesting...maybe i'll read that book sooner than later....

Anonymous said...

What about Hebrew translations/study of the original Hebrew for the old testament? Because the Old Testament was originally written in Hebrew, not Greek - though Greek is GREAT for New Testament!

Just wanted to ask about that and share that if you hadn't thought of it! (though I'm writing this in 2013 and you wrote this entry here in 2005, so you might have come across that! XD)


Anonymous said...

Also just want to someone who struggles with the idea of getting married and settling down - I'm typically more into guys, but I have YET to find a guy who is even remotely interested in my (or if they show it the slightest I must scare them away because they don't stick around)...and I have come to resign myself to being alone for the rest of my life (much like you seem to be struggling with - at least back in 2005)...but I find that doesn't mean you have to be lonely necessarily. It does mean being celibate in the sense of never having a sexual relationship, but it doesn't mean necessarily being forever alone. I'd find some people who are also of the same mindset (never going to settle down whether because they're gay Christians or just people who don't even want to/or don't seem to have the option to get married) and live with them as roommates so you'll never be alone. I know I have one friend who is like me and I can count on her to always be there if we ever decided that romantic relationships were never going to happen. I don't know if any of what I said made any sense...and maybe it's not the same thing, but I was just trying to give you other options I guess!

My prayers are with you, though regardless!


Anonymous said... commenting again...I wanted to know where the story of the Roman centurion and his servant is found in the Bible? like what book/chapter/verse?

thanks so much!!