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With a major ruling passed in the capital recently regarding gay marriage there has been a significant exchange of opinions online, especially on social networking sites. One post in particular I noticed was of a billboard stating that the Bible affirmed gays and lesbians. On further investigation I found a number of additional similar billboards making the same claims.
The intent of the billboards is obvious when one considers the intense gay marriage debate that has raged on for years now. It is conservative Christians that seem to be the most vocal in opposing gay marriage, so if one can prove that Jesus affirmed gay couples, or admitted that some are born gay then clearly the conservative Christians would no longer have grounds to oppose gay marriage.
Now my aim in this article is not to open the gay marriage can of worms. My intent is to investigate the claim that the Bible affirms gay couples. Are the claims on these billboards true? Does the Bible affirm the homosexual lifestyle? Here is what I found in my research.
So what does the Bible actually say:
When Jesus had entered Capernaum, a centurion came to him, asking for help. ‘Lord,’ he said, ‘my servant lies at home paralyzed, suffering terribly.’
Jesus said to him, ‘Shall I come and heal him?’
The centurion replied, ‘Lord, I do not deserve to have you come under my roof. But just say the word, and my servant will be healed. For I myself am a man under authority, with soldiers under me. I tell this one, ‘Go,’ and he goes; and that one, ‘Come,’ and he comes. I say to my servant, ‘Do this,’ and he does it.’
When Jesus heard this, he was amazed and said to those following him, ‘Truly I tell you, I have not found anyone in Israel with such great faith. I say to you that many will come from the east and the west, and will take their places at the feast with Abraham, Isaac and Jacob in the kingdom of heaven. But the subjects of the kingdom will be thrown outside, into the darkness, where there will be weeping and gnashing of teeth.’
Then Jesus said to the centurion, ‘Go! Let it be done just as you believed it would.’ And his servant was healed at that moment.” Matthew 8:5-13 (NIV)
At face value it seems rather devoid of anything that would allude to the centurion and his servant being a gay couple. In fact, the story seems very simple in that the centurion has a servant that is dying that he wishes for Jesus to heal. So how can anyone think the centurion was gay?
According to the creator of the billboard, the Greek word used for servant is “pias,” which in Greek refers to a same-sex partner (1). But then of course they explain later that pais has multiple meanings ranging from “boy” to “servant” to “male concubine.” So then question naturally follows, why are they assuming pais is being used to reference a male concubine, and not just a male servant as all Bible translations present it as? They argue that the parallel story in Luke uses the word “entimos doulos” to describe the pais. Entimos meaning “honored.” This is where they make a jump to pais being a male concubine, because a servant wouldn’t be considered honorable. Yet “doulos” is defined as “slave” or “servant.” The translation is simply put, an “honorable servant.”
Additionally, when the centurion mentions the way in which he commands his servants, he refers to them as doulos yet he doesn’t use the same word to refer to his pais. It is then speculated that he didn’t use the same word because his pais was his male lover not a servant. But this overlooks something important: The Luke 7 version of the story refers to the pais as “entimos doulos” as previously used in the earlier argument. This reinforces the notion the pais used in the Matthew narrative is referring to a servant as well.
They then go on to claim that because the centurion traveled so far to see Jesus in seeking healing for the pais, it must be due to the centurion’s unending love for this pais. Could it just possibly be that the centurion is just compassionate and cares for one of his servants? After all, the words used to describe the sick person is entimos doulos, an honorable servant. If the centurion were to make an effort to help one of his servants it would surely be for an honorable one.
As Gill’s Exposition says, “The concern of the ‘centurion’ for him, shows him to have been a good servant, faithful and obedient to his master; since he was so much affected with his case, and took so much care of him; and Luke says, he ‘was dear unto him’; in great esteem, highly valued, and much beloved: and also, that the centurion was a good master; he does not put his sick servant from him, but takes care of him at home, and seeks out for relief for him, being greatly desirous of his life. And as his keeping him at home discovered a tender regard to him; so his not bringing him forth, or ordering him to be brought out to Christ, which was sometimes done in such cases, shows his great faith in Christ, that he was as able to cure him lying at home, as if brought before him; absent, as well as present,” (2).
Now, of course, maybe the centurion’s pais was a male concubine, but one would need contextual evidence within the story to leap to that particular translation over the honorable servant translation. Yet, there is no logical reason to jump to the male concubine translation within the context of the story. It is therefore no surprise when all of the Bible translations list the pais as a “servant” or “young man,” and not a male concubine (2).
A final point to make is this: Jesus never denied healing or service to sinners. Just as He helped the woman about to be stoned for adultery. Jesus’ service to sinners in no way means He condones their sin. Likewise, under the hypothetical situation in which the centurion’s servant was a male lover, Jesus’ healing works in no way affirms their lifestyle, it only shows Jesus’ compassion for sinners. With all things considered, it is an incredible stretch on scripture to declare that Jesus affirmed a gay couple.
Acts 8:26-40 says;
Now an angel of the Lord said to Philip, “Go south to the road—the desert road—that goes down from Jerusalem to Gaza.” So he started out, and on his way he met an Ethiopian eunuch, an important official in charge of all the treasury of the Kandake (which means “queen of the Ethiopians”). This man had gone to Jerusalem to worship, and on his way home was sitting in his chariot reading the Book of Isaiah the prophet. The Spirit told Philip, “Go to that chariot and stay near it.”
Then Philip ran up to the chariot and heard the man reading Isaiah the prophet. “Do you understand what you are reading?” Philip asked.
“How can I,” he said, “unless someone explains it to me?” So he invited Philip to come up and sit with him.
This is the passage of Scripture the eunuch was reading:
“He was led like a sheep to the slaughter,
and as a lamb before its shearer is silent,
so he did not open his mouth.
In his humiliation he was deprived of justice.
Who can speak of his descendants?
For his life was taken from the earth.”
The eunuch asked Philip, “Tell me, please, who is the prophet talking about, himself or someone else?” Then Philip began with that very passage of Scripture and told him the good news about Jesus.
As they traveled along the road, they came to some water and the eunuch said, “Look, here is water. What can stand in the way of my being baptized?” And he gave orders to stop the chariot. Then both Philip and the eunuch went down into the water and Philip baptized him. Then they came up out of the water, the Spirit of the Lord suddenly took Philip away, and the eunuch did not see him again, but went on his way rejoicing. Philip, however, appeared at Azotus and traveled about, preaching the gospel in all the towns until he reached Caesarea. (NIV)
So I am sure, just as with the previous Bible passage quoted, you’re wondering where the gay man is in this passage. According to www.gaychristian101.com it is the eunuch that is gay. The argument is this: Jesus accepted eunuchs that did want to marry (Matthew 19:12), then they quote Clement of Alexandria who said, “a true Eunuch is not one who is unable, but one who is unwilling to, to indulge in pleasure,” and “Some men, from their birth, have a natural sense of repulsion from a woman.” Ergo, Eunuch equals gay?
Another website, http://www.wouldjesusdiscriminate.org, thankfully goes into more detail into their argument. They argue that eunuchs are defined as men with no interest in women falling into two categories: “Man-made” eunuchs who had been castrated, and “natural” or “born” eunuchs that, from birth, were incapable or disinterested in women. They then go onto say that eunuchs in the Kama Sutra are said to have seduced men and that Alexander the Great fell in love with a eunuch, as proof that eunuchs are historically gay men.
Ok, so there were gay eunuchs all throughout history. But Clement of Alexandria didn’t write Acts, so his definition of a true eunuch doesn’t apply to this portion of scripture (nor any portion of the Bible) since he was not the author. Likewise, the Kama Sutra and Alexander the Great came come completely different cultures than that from which the Bible originated. So how do we know the Ethiopian eunuch in this passage was gay?
The first argument is this: The Eunuch was reading from Isaiah 53:7-8 which talks of the suffering of God’s anointed one. Verse 7 saying that He was “despised and rejected by others,” verse 8 saying that He was “oppressed and afflicted.” The author goes on to claim that these verses apply to the eunuch being treated in similar fashion, as eunuchs were typically mistreated in the Jewish culture, which is a stretch, because it very well could just be that… oh I don’t know… God wants the eunuch to know about Jesus. But given the benefit of the doubt, if we assume the Isaiah 53:7-8 is supposed to parallel the eunuchs circumstances we still haven’t arrived to the conclusion that the eunuch is gay. Only that he is a eunuch that is being mistreated, which came with the territory of being a eunuch.
The second argument is this: Eunuchs were not welcome into the assembly of the Lord per Jewish law (Deut 23:1). So when the Eunuch asks what is preventing him from being baptized, and Philip just says all you need to do is believe, and doesn’t mention Deut 23:1, the author makes the enormous jump to the conclusion that (assuming that the eunuch is gay) it doesn’t matter that the eunuch is gay. Because if being gay did matter Philip would have said something, but he did not, so being homosexual must have been accepted in the early church.
I have three problems with this conclusion: 1) There is still no conclusive evidence that the eunuch is gay. The arguments provided only work if one makes the gay assumption to begin with and is thus circumstantial. Without this major factor established the subsequent arguments about what Philip said to the Eunuch are null and void. 2) It would be illogical to assume that every word spoken between the eunuch and Philip was recorded and is in Acts. It would be illogical to assume that with any other conversations recorded in the Bible. In other words, Philip may have said more but it was not recorded. Granted this does not help either side in the discussion, but it should always be considered. In other words, never use the Bible’s silence on a particular subject to support your agenda. 3) My final point requires a hypothetical situation: Lets replace the eunuch with, let’s say… a horse thief. Philip meets this guy who notoriously steals horses. They get to talking about God and reading some scripture when the horse thief asks, “what can I do to be baptized?” Do you think Philip’s answer would be any different than what he said to the eunuch? He’d probably say the same very thing: “Just believe.” Yet, this in no way makes the horse thief’s lifestyle of stealing horses acceptable does it? Why of course not.
After all, if someone has to call out your sins and make you promise to stop doing them before they baptize you (which isn’t Biblical) they would have quite a long list wouldn’t they? Christianity is an inside out change in one’s life, not outside-in. You don’t promise to stop doing your sins and then ask for permission to be baptized. You place your trust and faith in Jesus, believing in His redemption and then become baptized, dying to your old sinful ways and living a newly reformed life in Christ. This newly reformed life in Christ being devoid of your old sinful ways. I think any Bible reading Christian would agree with me that the first step in anyone’s redemption is to first believe in Jesus, which is what exactly what Philip communicated to the Eunuch. Ultimately the arguments made for Acts supporting early church’s acceptance are very poor and inconclusive.
On a side note: It should be noted that, the billboard’s claim of a church welcoming a gay man is not a issue of contention. All church’s should welcome all individuals, since all are sinners.
Matthew 19:10-12 says; “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 there are eunuchs who were born that way, and there are eunuchs who have been made eunuchs by others—and there are those who choose to live like eunuchs for the sake of the kingdom of heaven. The one who can accept this should accept it,” (NIV).
Nothing is said here that can’t be solved by the previous argument from Acts. Being a Eunuch does not equal being gay. Jesus even mentions eunuchs in the plural form, and if we all agree that not all eunuchs were gay, we therefore can’t conclude Jesus was directly mentioning homosexuals, even if he is referring to those born a eunuch. Since there is no conclusive evidence presented (all provided is circumstantial) that Jesus is referring to homosexuals, one should not make an absolute claim that Jesus said some are born gay.
Outside of the Bible, there is a strong case against the general claim that people are born gay. Though many genes have been linked to homosexuality, the genes require environmental triggers, leaving a scenario in which genetic and environmental factors are required. So people may be predisposed to genetic factors, but these factors need to be triggered in order to be expressed. Likewise, most of us are born with genes that lead to cancer, which unless triggered, may never be expressed. In this scenario, when a parson does get cancer, would you tell them, “it’s OK, you were born that way,” ?
Other arguments against the born gay theory: Homosexuality is a sexual preference/orientation. Sexual preferences are not determined by anyone until later on in life, years after birth. Simply put, no doctor or scientist will ever be able to state with 100% certainty that a child is, at time of birth, a future homosexual, because that child will not determine its sexual preferences until much later on in development. Again, it is then fallacious to say an individual is born gay.
Another case to be made is that a significant portion of the gay/lesbian population claim their lifestyle is a choice, and to suggest otherwise, that they have no control over it because they were born gay, is highly offensive. We typically use the phrase “You were born that way,” to justify behaviors we generally do not wish to take credit for. Thus, many in the LGBT community see the phrase “born that way” as an offensive sympathetic justification for a wrong. As in, you’re gay, something is wrong with you, but it’s OK, because you were born that way, sorry.
Lastly, being born with anything doesn’t make it “good.” Being born with certain traits does not make them permissible either. We wouldn’t say that since a child was born with autism that makes autism OK would we? If we somehow had proven that pedophilia was 100% genetic and people were born that way, that wouldn’t make pedophilia OK would it? So being born a certain way does not mean we must accept it as “good.” The Bible declares we live in a cursed and fallen world, which is why children are born with birth defects every day. So even if it could be proven with 100% certainty that people are born gay, what does it really prove?
Yet, there is still one last argument to make against this claim. According to Gill’s Exposition, the Eunuchs born as natural, are in reference to being born with physical defects, “ Our Lord here distinguishes the various sorts of persons, that can and do live in a single state with content: some by nature, and others by violence offered to them, are rendered incapable of entering into a marriage state; and others, through the gift of God, and under the influence of his grace, abstain from marriage cheerfully and contentedly, in order to be more useful in the interest of religion; but the number of either of these is but few, in comparison of such who choose a conjugal state, and with whom it is right to enter into it, notwithstanding all the difficulties that may attend it. Some men are eunuchs, and of these there are different sorts; there are some, which were so born from their mother’s womb; meaning, not such who, through a natural temper and inclination of mind, could easily abstain from marriage, and chose to live single; but such who had such defects in nature that they were impotent, unfit for, and unable to perform the duties of a marriage state; who, as some are born without hands or feet, these were born without proper and perfect organs of generation; and such an one was, by the Jews, frequently called, , “an eunuch of the sun (n)”: that is, as their doctors (o) explain it, one that from his mother’s womb never saw the sun but as an eunuch; that is, one that is born so; and that such an one is here intended, ought not to be doubted. The signs of such an eunuch, are given by the Jewish (p) writers, which may be consulted by those, that have ability and leisure,” (3)
In conclusion, there is no sufficient evidence mentioned in scripture that Jesus was speaking of men born gay, rather than men born with physical defects. Additionally, outside of the Bible and concerning matters of science, there is no sufficient evidence that homosexuality is purely genetic with no environmental causes, which is what would be required for a man to be considered born gay.
Ruth 1:14 says, “At this they wept aloud again. Then Orpah kissed her mother-in-law goodbye, but Ruth clung to her,” (NIV).
This is actually the first verse that appears to have some legitimacy as an account of same sex affection. The book of Ruth speaks of Naomi and her husband Elimelech that move to Moab with their two sons. Elimelech dies, but the two sons marry local women, Ruth and Orpah. But right before the sons marry, both sons die, leaving Naomi, Ruth and Orpah to fend for themselves. Naomi tells her daughter in-laws to return to their homes since she cannot support them, this where Orpah merely kisses Naomi good-bye, but Ruth clings to her. The Hebrew word used for clung is “dabaq.” Interestingly enough, this is the same word used in Genesis 2:24 when God declares that man is supposed to leave his mother and father and cling to his wife. It would seem to suggest, at least initially, that Ruth’s affection towards Naomi was of similar significance to that of any man’s inclination towards his wife. Thus, Ruth and Naomi were lesbian lovers.
The first counter argument to this claim is that a lesbian couple requires both women to be lesbians. And though one may argue that Ruth is strongly attracted and in love with Naomi, there is no indication that Naomi feels similarly. After all, Naomi was commanding Ruth to leave her along with her sister. In fact, nothing in the book of Ruth would even hint that Naomi felt consensual other than letting Ruth live with her. But that would be a stretch, so we could only assert, at best, that Ruth was a lesbian, not Naomi.
A second point to make is that when one considers other usages of dabaq in the Bible. Psalm 63:8 says, “I cling to you, your right hand upholds me,” (NIV). Psalm 119:31 says, “I hold fast to your statues Lord, do not let me be put to shame,” (NIV). Joshua 23:8 says, “Hold fast to the Lord your God, as you have until now,” (NIV). Proverbs 18:24 says, “One who has unreliable friends soon comes to ruin, but there is a friend that sticks closer than a brother,” (NIV). So we see that there is nothing purely sexual in nature to dabaq, it only testifies to a deep commitment or oath of loyalty. This commitment or loyalty is something that two members of the same sex can have towards one another without being considered gay or lesbian. This deep commitment or oath of loyality applies to all usages in Genesis, Joshua, Proverbs, Psalms and Ruth. However, the same cannot be said for the intimate sexual partnership definition which doesn’t apply to Joshua, Proverbs, or Psalms. Rabbi Dr. Meir Levin writes of dabaq’s usage , “So Orpah has left but Ruth cleaved to Naomi. This description of their relationship is pregnant with meaning for the word “clinging’ is usually used in Tanach to indicate an intense commitment of one individual to another or of man to God,” (Levin).
Trevor Dennis of the Guardian, a believer of Ruth and Naomi’s lesbian relationship, writes, “The book of Ruth is the great love story of the Bible and it is a story of love between women – Ruth’s marriage to Boaz is entered into only to protect the relationship between the women and ensure their survival,” (Dennis). Wait! Who is Boaz? Oh yes, starting in Ruth 2, we read of a landowner named Boaz who takes a liking to Ruth. And in chapter 4 we read of Boaz’s marriage to Ruth, in which they make love and conceive a child. Something of which all the women rejoice over. This should lead one to question Ruth’s homosexuality, for her marriage to Boaz, which Naomi seems to set up, support and rejoice over, casts serious doubts on that assertion. Dennis claims the marriage is to ensure their survival, which is a valid argument to make. But this argument would be equally valid if Naomi and Ruth were both heterosexual. The additional claim that the marriage protected their relationship is only valid if one assumes their relationship was a lesbian one. So her marriage to Boaz can only lead one to question the homosexual assertion placed against Ruth and Naomi, not support it.
Now one might argue, that lesbians can have a deep commitment to each other, and just because there is no sexual connotation doesn’t make them any less lesbian. Well, actually it does. Homosexuality is defined as a sexual preference or orientation. Removing sexual attraction and preference out of the equation removes all the weight of the lesbian charge brought against Ruth and Naomi. Therefore, since there is no sexual connotation used in dabaq, and Ruth married man, we have no sufficient evidence that Ruth and Naomi were lesbians. The only way one can maintain such a theory is if one applies the unwarranted assertion of a lesbian relationship, when in fact, a neutral analysis of the text in no way leads to any such notion.
2 Samuel 1:26 says, “I grieve for you, Jonathan my brother; you were very dear to me. Your love for me was wonderful, more wonderful than that of women,” (NIV). Furthermore, 1 Samuel 20:41 says, “After the boy had gone, David got up from the south side of the stone and bowed down before Jonathan three times, with his face to the ground. Then they kissed each other and wept together—but David wept the most,” (NIV).
Compared to other passages in the Bible that supposedly affirm gay people, none is used more frequently utilized then David’s relationship with Jonathan. And rightfully so. David and Jonanthan seem to have a gay relationship. The quote from 2nd Samuel is David writing a peom to the deceased Jonathan who was killed in battle. In the 1st Samuel quote, the word used at the end is directly translated in the Hebrew to “enlarged,” according to Ben Kamin, a writer for the Examiner, (Kamin). Which would mean David and Jonathan kissed and wept together until David “enlarged,” or became erect. Theologian Theodore W Jennings Jr writes that their relationship was, “no platonic friendship, but with all the elements of passionate romance,” (Dennis).
It seems impossible to argue! Jonathan loved David more than any woman had? Let us examine this more carefully. The word used for “love” is “ahaba,” which can mean the love between man and woman, man and man, man towards himself, sexual desire, or God’s love to His people, (7). Ahaba is used numerously all throughout the Old Testament in various ways which is why it is defined in so many ways. So the question we must then ask is, in what context is ahaba being used? That the ahaba surpasses that of a woman does not immediately declare the love is sexual. After all, I can say that Christ loves me more wonderfully than any woman. Does that mean I am gay, or that Jesus is gay? Not at all. Because love (ahaba) does not necessitate sexual attraction in every instance it is used.
Gill’s Exposition says, “thy love to me was wonderful; as indeed he might well say, being towards one of a mean extract in comparison of his, to one who was not his own brother, but a brother-in-law; and to one that was a rival to the crown he was heir to, and would take it before him: and who ran the risk of losing his father’s affection, and even his life, for espousing his cause… passing the love of women; either that which they are loved with by men, or that with which they love their husbands and children; which is generally the strongest and most affectionate. The Targum is,’more than the love of two women,’ than his two wives, Ahinoam and Abigail; so Kimchi; meaning that he was more strongly and affectionately loved by Jonathan than by them, who yet might love him very well too,” (4). John Wesley concurs that the love mentioned of women is that of their love for their husbands and/or children (8).
In regards to the 1 Samuel verse, the original word used for exceed/enlarged is “ad higdil” which means “to magnify” of which the root word is, “gadal,” (6). Gadal is translated as follows: To be large in body, mind, soul, estate, honor, and or pride, (6). Another source translates it: to grow, become great or important, promote, make powerful, praise, magnify, do great things. So now that we know what ad higdil means, we can see that exceed/enlarge is an appropriate English word. But now we must consider context. And in context of the story between Jonathan and David: The two are departing and leaving one another, hence the weeping and kissing of goodbye. The situation is one of sorrow. So would we expect this to be a situation in which David becomes enlarged or erect? Such a translation seems out of place. However, in context where both are crying, scholars translate the “ad higdil” as David crying more than Jonathan, or to a greater degree. Such a translation fits the context much more seamlessly than an erect penis.
Now, one might immediately point out all the kissing. Two men kissing? They must be gay, right? Wrong! Again, when we consider context, in this case of time and place, kissing among the same sex was just as common as a hand shake, and in many middle eastern cultures, still is to this day. Kissing as a form of greeting of goodbye can also be read of in Acts 20:37, Romans 16:16, 1 Corinthians 16:20, 2 Corinthians 13:12, 1 Thessalonians 5:26, and 1 Peter 5:14. Let’s think about it, Judas betrayed Jesus with a kiss, does that mean Judas and Jesus were having a love affair? Hardly! Kissing was a common greeting and goodbye among close friends, not evidence of sexual attraction.
In summary, Gill’s Exposition reads, “and they kissed one another; as friends about to part: and wept one with another: as not knowing whether they should ever see each other’s face any more: until David exceeded; in weeping more than Jonathan; he having more to part with, not only him his dear friend, but his wife and family, and other dear friends and people of God, and especially the sanctuary and service of God, which of all things lay nearest his heart, and most distressed him,” (5)
Additionally, 1 Samuel 20:42, the very next verse reads, “Jonathan said to David, ‘Go in peace, for we have sworn friendship with each other in the name of the Lord, saying, “The Lord is witness between you and me, and between your descendants and my descendants forever.”’ Then David left, and Jonathan went back to the town,” (NIV).One might question, if David and Jonathan were both gay, what descendants would they be having? They would have no descendants to speak of. Unless they maintained sexual relations with women as well, in which case they’d be bisexual, not homosexual.
I think it again becomes apparent that only if homosexuality is assumed prior to analyzing the text can one come to the conclusion that David in Jonathan were gay. Dennis admits to this when he writes, “If we see Jonathan and David as two men passionately in love with one another – Jonathan from the first, and David once he has transferred his affections and loyalty from his wife, Michal, to Jonathan – then many details in the text, including the precise Hebrew terms it uses, which are drawn from erotic love poetry such as the Song of Songs, fall into place,” (Dennis). That is, the gay love theory will “fall into place,” “If we see Jonathan and David as two men passionately in love with another.” Thus, the only way to maintain David and Jonathan were gay is if one makes the prior assumption they were.
To close, I believe there is another very important topic to consider: Even if Characters in the Bible are gay we can’t assume their actions are acceptable by God. After all, all characters in the Bible (excluding Jesus) were fallible and made grave mistakes. There seems to be this odd notion among some people that if a character in the Bible commits to an action, the Bible condones it. This is hardly the case though, as Christians are only to follow the teachings of Christ and the commands of God found in the Bible. We are certainly not follow after every action Biblical figures have taken. If that were the case then we should be following the actions of Judas or the Pharisees…
Finally, all the verses mentioned on these billboards can hardly be substantiated as evidence that the Bible supports the gay lifestyle. The arguments used to support the gay assumption are foggy, relying on a variety of speculations outside of scriptural context. Yet, there are a number of verses within the Bible that aren’t so vague on the subject of homosexuality. Take for example, Leviticus 18:22, “You shall not lie with a male as with a woman; it is an abomination,” (ESV). Or Romans 1:26-27, “Because of this, God gave them over to shameful lusts. Even their women exchanged natural sexual relations for unnatural ones. In the same way the men also abandoned natural relations with women and were inflamed with lust for one another. Men committed shameful acts with other men, and received in themselves the due penalty for their error,” (NIV). Or 1 Corinthians 6:9, “…do you not know that the unrighteous will not inherit the kingdom of God? Do not be deceived: neither the sexually immoral, nor idolaters, nor adulterers, nor men who practice homosexuality…” (ESV). There is plenty more, but I think the point is very apparent that homosexuality is not approved of in the Bible.
During this time in our country where big decisions are being made at a state and federal level approving same sex marriage, there are numerous arguments that go back and forth over the subject. There are valid arguments to be made for, and there are valid arguments to be made against. But what certainly isn’t valid, is pushing the fallacious idea that the Bible supports homosexuality, when there is abundant evidence to the opposite, and the so-called evidence used to support this false idea is ambiguous at best.
Dennis, T. (Oct 13, 2006) “Face to faith,” www.gaurdian.co.uk
Kamin, B., (Feb 5, 2009) “Sorry, right wingers, but King David was gay,” http://www.examiner.com
Levin, M., “The Two Mothers,” http://www.torah.org
Tags: Christ, disciples, doubt, evidence, Gospels, Jesus, resurrection, skepticism, skeptics
There are many stories in the Bible that elicit skepticism. The one that seems to draw the most attention is most definitely the resurrection of Christ, due in part to its significance within the framework of salvation from sin and reconciliation with God. Yet, what I find very intriguing about skepticism of the resurrection is that it didn’t start in the halls of prestigious universities or the courts of Rome. Doubts of the resurrection originated from the people most devout to Christ: His disciples.
Doubt among the Disciples
Throughout Jesus’ ministry we read of numerous times when disciples had doubts in Jesus’ claims. These doubts only escalated when Christ’s crucifixion began. One might immediately think of Peter’s multiple public denials of Christ, or the fact that only a handful of Christ’s followers were present at the time Christ’s death. But no doubts seemed more profound than those that followed Jesus’ death.
What we read of in scripture is a full and complete acceptance of Christ’s death among His followers. There is no inclination what so ever that any of the disciples thought they’d see their Messiah alive and well again. Why would the women go to the tomb with spices to anoint Jesus’ dead body unless they honestly believed He was dead. Why did many of the disciples that saw Jesus resurrected think He was a ghost unless they honestly thought He was dead. We can rest assured that the disciples were certain Jesus was dead.
Thus, we would naturally expect strong skepticism from the disciples when reports began to trickle in that Christ had risen from the dead. And this is exactly what we read of. The disciples continually did not believe the testimony of those that claimed they saw Jesus (Mark 16:11; Luke 24:11, 41; and John 20:25). To me, this is a very important line of evidence in the authenticity of the Gospel accounts because it shows the same logical thought that any rational skeptic today would have upon hearing of a dead man’s resurrection. And what follows is even more profound: That such skeptics would immediately do a 180 and begin boldly preaching of their risen Messiah.
Naturally, skepticism remains today, and a variety of theories have been developed to explain away the disciples’ behavior at this important juncture. There is a theory that Christ rose again spiritually not physically, another that Jesus actually survived the crucifixion and escaped alive without ever dying, and there is a theory that the disciples stole the body. It is not worth discussing such theories in this article because the conclusive doubts of the disciples already disproves them and they are, for lack of better term, ridiculous, as the Gospel accounts in no way support such theories and they would require feats so miraculous it would defeat the whole motive behind these theories, which are to explain away the miraculous. But there are two theories worth exploring that are commonly used to explain the disciples change in behavior after the death of Christ: The Hallucination Theory and the good old fashioned Liar Theory.
The hallucination theory maintains that the disciples were so distraught at the death of their leader that they hallucinated his return as a coping mechanism. Thus, the disciples went on preaching what they thought to be true, though it really wasn’t. To anyone who doesn’t know the particulars of the gospel narratives that may seem like a plausible scenario, but when the content of story is analyzed its feasibility is remote.
The first thing to consider is the cause(s) of hallucinations. According to the National Institute of Health hallucinations are caused by the following: Drug or alcohol intoxication, dementia, epilepsy, fever, narcolepsy, psychiatric disorders, sensory impairment, and sever illness (1). Next we need to account for the supposed appearances of Christ after His death. Reappearances of Christ occurred to multiple people at multiple locations, at one point occurring to 500 people. And therein lies the problem with this theory: The causes of hallucination would need to apply to all the witnesses (over 500) at various different times and locations. It is incredibly unlikely for so many people at different times and locations to suffer from these symptoms. It is even more incredible that all these people would, at different times and locations, hallucinate in their own minds, the very same thing. Such a claim seems so preposterous it would necessitate a miracle, which is exactly what the theory looks to dismiss.
Now one might try to escalate the plausibility of this scenario by downplaying the amount of people that hallucinated of the resurrected Jesus. After all, we were told that 500 people saw the resurrected Jesus, but that could very well be an exaggeration. The visions may very well be limited to the disciples alone, and thus, the plausibility of the hallucination theory remains.
This rebuttal, however, overlooks Paul’s declarations regarding these hundreds of witnesses, of which Paul declared that half of the people that had witnessed these events were still alive and could testify of them (1 Corinthians 15:6). Apologist Timothy Keller writes, “Paul indicates [in this text] that the risen Jesus not only appeared to individuals and small groups but he also appeared to five hundred people at once, most of whom were still alive at the time of his writing and could be consulted for corroboration. Paul’s letter was to a church, and therefore it was a public document, written to be read aloud. Paul was inviting anyone who doubted that Jesus had appeared to people after his death to go and talk to the eyewitnesses if they wished. It was a bold challenge and one that could easily be taken up, since during the pax Romana travel around the Mediterranean was safe and easy. Paul could not have made such a challenge if those eyewitnesses didn’t exist,” (Keller, pp. 204).
So considering Paul’s very public declaration of Christ’s resurrection it is unlikely that he would embellish on the number of witnesses, leaving the original problem of such a wide variety of people suffering the same hallucinations. With that, it would be rational to conclude the hallucination theory holds no weight. The late apologist and associate professor of evangelism at Trinity Evangelical Divinity School in Deerfield Illinois, Paul E. Little, writes, “To hold the hallucination theory in explaining the appearances of Christ, one must completely ignore the evidence,” (Little, 56).
A Foundation of Lies
With the hallucination theory out of the way the only other scenario skeptics can resort to is the very basic and commonly held notion that the disciples flat out lied about Christ’s resurrection. The theory goes that the return of their Messiah is a concocted tale with motive ranging from saving face to emotional shock. Yet this theory does not hold under pressure either.
A major criticism comes from Anglican bishop and New Testament scholar N. T. Wright, “It will not do… to say that Jesus’ disciples were so stunned and shocked by his death, so unable to come to terms with it, that they projected their shattered hopes onto the screen of fantasy and invented the idea of Jesus’ ‘resurrection’ as a way of coping with a cruelly broken dream. That has an initial apparent psychological plausibility, but it won’t work as serious first century history. We know lots of other messianic and similar movements in the Jewish world roughly contemporary with Jesus. In many cases the leader died a violent death at the hands of the authorities. In not one single case do we hear the slightest mention of the disappointed followers claiming that their hero had been raised from the dead. They know better. ‘Resurrection’ was not a private event. It involved human bodies. There would have to be an empty tomb somewhere. A Jewish revolutionary whose leader had been executed by the authorities, and who managed to escape arrest himself, had two options: give up the revolution, or find another leader. We have evidence of people doing both. Claiming that the original leader was alive again was simply not an option. Unless, of course, he was,” (Wright, pp. 63).
Additional criticism stems from issues in motivation. What motivation did the disciples have for concocting this lie? They surely would not financially or physically prosper from it as they had already left their lives behind to follow Jesus. Lastly, and most obviously, would the disciples have willingly sacrificed themselves for something they knew to be untrue? A majority of the disciples were killed for their beliefs. It is one thing to die for something you believe to be true, it is quite another to die for something you know to be a lie. The fact that many disciples died painful deaths after a duration of being tortured, without recanting, testifies to the fact that they believed in what they preached, that their leaders was alive. If they had made the whole thing up, they surely would not have willingly died in such ways, or at the very least would have recanted during torture. With that said, the liar theory is not adequate either.
One very interesting source of authentication of this story comes from world famous philosopher, and skeptic, David Hume. Though Hume questioned the claims of scripture in general, he found value in the disciples’ actions after Christ’s death. He writes,
“The direct testimony for this event appears to me to be very feeble… But the indirect evidence is much stronger. We have testimony to the effect that the disciples were exceedingly depressed at the time of the Crucifixion; that they had extremely little faith in the future; and that, after a certain time, this depression disappeared, and they believed that they had evidence that their Master had risen from the dead. Now none of these alleged facts is in the least odd or improbable, and we have therefore little ground for not accepting them on the testimony offered us. But having done this, we are faced with the problem of accounting for the facts which we have accepted. What caused the disciples to believe, contrary to their previous conviction, and in spite of their feeling of depression, that Christ had risen from the dead? Clearly, one explanation is that he actually had arisen. And this explanation accounts for the facts so well that we may at least say that the indirect evidence for the miracle is far and way stronger than the direct evidence,” (Broad , 142-143). To Hume, it is the very change in behavior among the disciples from depressed doubters to highly motivated evangelists is what provides the strongest evidence for Christ’s resurrection.
Little further expands on this, “What was it that changed a band of frightened, cowardly disciples into men of courage and conviction? What was it that changed Peter who, the night before the crucifixion, was so afraid for his own skin that three times he denied publicly that he even knew Jesus. Some fifty days later he became a roaring lion, risking his life by saying he had seen Jesus risen from the dead. It must be remembered that Peter preached his electric Pentecost sermon in Jerusalem, where all the events took place and his life was in danger. He was not in Galilee, miles away where no one could verify the facts and where his ringing statements might go unchallenged. Only the bodily resurrection of Christ could have produced this change,” (Little, 56).
In conclusion, the actions of the disciples after Christ’s death provides compelling evidence to support the claims they made. And with all other conspiracy theories debunked, we’re left with only one explanation that is reasonable, which is that Christ did rise from the dead. Though this will obviously be difficult for skeptics who do not believe in the supernatural to accept. Dr. Jared M. Compton, Assistant Professor of the New Testament at Detroit Baptist Theological Seminary explains, “If the facts are patiently considered and one’s worldview is not illegitimately predisposed against the miraculous, then Scripture’s claim that Jesus rose from the dead is at least a possible conclusion. In other words, the Resurrection could be historically reliable. We might even say, for the moment, that since no better alternative explanation of the facts has arisen, Scripture’s explanation is presently the most satisfactory or plausible. The trouble is, Scripture, not least its divine Author, is not content with the Resurrection being deemed ‘possible’ or ‘most satisfactory.’ In fact, Scripture is not even content with ‘definite’ and ‘best,’ because its purpose points beyond belief in historical events. Scripture’s goal is not simply assent to history but, rather, conversion. As such, Scripture not only demands the events it records to be recognized as historical, it wants the explanations it gives those events to be believed (e.g., “Jesus was raised for our justification,” Rom 4:25),” (Compton).
British Bishop, scholar and theologian Brooke Foss Westcott once declared, “Indeed, taking all the evidence together, it is not too much to say there is no historic incident better or more variously supported than the resurrection of Christ. Nothing but the antecedent assumption that it must be false could have suggested the idea of deficiency in the proof of it,” (Westcott, pp. 4).
Alas, doubt of Christ’s resurrection may have originated with the disciples, but it is this same doubt, and the actions that followed afterwards, that go great lengths in authenticating the story.
(1) http://www.nlm.nih.gov/medlineplus/ency/article/003258.htm, accessed 6-22-2013.
-Broad, C.D., (1965) “Hume’s Theory of the Credibility of Miracles,” as written in Alexander Sesonske and Noel Fleming’s Human Understanding, (Belmont, CA: Wadsworth).
-Compton, J.M., (March 2010) “Is the Resurrection Historically Reliable?” http://www.biblearchaeology.org
-Keller, T., (2008) The Reason for God; Christian Belief in an Age of Skepticism, (New York, NY: Dutton).
-Little, P.E. (2000) Know Why You Believe, 4th Edition, (Downers Grove, IL: InterVarsity Press).
-Westcott, B.F. (1879) The Gospel of the Resurrection, (London).
-Wright, N.T., (1993 ) Who Was Jesus? (Grand Rapids, MI: Wm. B. Eerdmans Publishing Company)
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