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The New Testament does not explicitly indicate that Jesus had any sexual relationships. Many Christians believe that he remained celibate until his death. Throughout history, however, there have been those who have argued or suggested that there may be more to be said about Jesus' sexuality; some have argued that Jesus lived as a eunuch, and others on the contrary have argued that he had a sexual relationship. The details of these theories often vary widely.

Divorce and eunuchs

In the Gospel of Matthew 19:3-12 Jesus condemns divorce (though an exception is given in cases of adultery), quoting Genesis 1:27 and 2:24, and explains himself with these words:

Moses permitted you to divorce your wives because your hearts were hard. But it was not this way from the beginning. I tell you that anyone who divorces his wife, except for marital unfaithfulness, and marries another woman commits adultery.
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 some are eunuchs because they were born that way; others were made that way by men; and others have renounced marriage (or have made themselves eunuchs) because of the kingdom of heaven. The one who can accept this should accept it. (NIV)

Jesus' praise for those who have made themselves eunuchs for the Kingdom of Heaven has, for many centuries, been interpreted by Christian theologians as a metaphor for chastity, since the term "eunuch" normally referred to a castrated man.[1] Some Christians (including, according to a few sources, Origen) went farther than this by interpreting Jesus' words literally and hence physically castrating themselves as an act of devotion.[2] The early Church Father Tertullian, who wrote that Jesus himself lived as a eunuch,[3] likewise encouraged people to adopt this practice.[4]

The beloved disciple

Some have suspected Jesus had a sexual relationship from the Gospel of John's 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; Jesus tells Mary that here is [her] son, and tells the beloved disciple that here is [his] mother.

Much depends upon the exact interpretation of the Greek words translated "love", and the extent to which they imply or exclude a sexual relationship has been hotly contested.

It has traditionally been assumed that the disciple whom Jesus loved is a self-reference by the author of the Gospel, traditionally regarded as John the Apostle; Rollan McCleary, thinks this identification would make the phrase highly significant[5]


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.[6] The view that the two were lovers, considered a blasphemy, evolved during the late sixteenth and early seventeenth centuries; it has been claimed that it was held by Francesco Calcagno, who was investigated on that account by the Venetian Inquisition in 1550. Christopher Marlowe was accused of it in 1593, as was Manuel Figueiredo in a Lisbon Inquisition trial of 1618, as well as many others.

James I of England may have been relying on a pre-existing tradition when he defended his (supposedly homosexual) 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."[7]

Others who have given voice to this interpretation of the relationship between Jesus and John have been the philosophers Denis Diderot and Jeremy Bentham.[8]

The theme has been perennial, having recently been raised from within the Christian establishment by Gene Robinson, the Episcopal Bishop of New Hampshire, who has discussed the possible homoerotic inclinations of Jesus in his relationship with John in a sermon in 2005.[9]

According to Robert Goss, assistant professor of comparative religion at Webster University in St. Louis, Missouri, in analyzing the interaction between Jesus and John, "What's being portrayed here is a pederastic relationship between an older man and a younger man. A Greek reader would understand."[10]

Mary Magdalene

The Gnostic Gospel of Philip (believed to have been written in the late 2nd century or 3rd century, and hence later than the canonical Gospels) states that Jesus kissed Mary Magdalene. Considering the gnostic nature of writing, most do not consider this a sexual remark, instead interpreting it as an instance of a common Middle-Eastern cultural practice, signifying the transfer of knowledge (in this case, gnosis) between a teacher and his pupils[11][12]. However, the notion of a marriage between Jesus and Mary Magdalene has been a frequent topic in literature, and the controversial book, The Holy Blood and the Holy Grail.

The naked youth

The Secret Gospel of Mark, fragments of which were contained in the controversial, recently-discovered Mar Saba letter by Clement of Alexandria, has led to various interpretations concerning the views of an ancient group called the Carpocratians. The Secret Gospel of Mark states that Jesus taught the secrets of the Kingdom of God alone to a partially clothed youth during one night. Some modern commentators have suggested this represents a sexual encounter, while others interpret it as a baptism,[13] or an allegory for a non-sexual initiation into a gnostic religion.

Some academic theologians see a connection between the youth of the "Secret Gospel of Mark" and the mysterious youth following Jesus during his arrest, who loses his cloak while trying to escape, mentioned in the Canonical Gospel of Mark; and the young man or angel clad only in white that Mark mentions was found in the Empty Tomb. While some have seen this as allegory for the process of initiation into religious knowledge, and many have dismissed the youth(s) in Mark as insignificant[original research?], others have seen them as the male lover of Jesus, and the same beloved apostle mentioned in John.

In fiction, art, and imagination

The poem The Love that Dares to Speak its Name suggests that Jesus had several sexual encounters, including with Pontius Pilate, and contains 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. The sadomasochistic undertones of the crucifixion have often 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[14], though both works were denounced by many Christians as being provocatively offensive.

Some Christians, however, believe that if Jesus was wholly human, he must have been a sexual being. The Children of God Christian cult 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[15], and equate prophecy with Jesus' ejaculation[16]. Historic Christian figures have also been accused of similar thoughts. Saint Teresa's description of her most famous vision has been interpreted by secular writers, such as Dan Brown, as a metaphor for some serious sex[17]; 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[18].


References

  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
  2. 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)
  3. 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..."
  4. Tertullian, Adversus Marcionem i.29.
  5. Crosswalk: Gay Jesus' Claim Draws Fire by Patrick Goodenough, Pacific Rim Bureau Chief, CNSNews.com.
  6. Louis Crompton, Homosexuality and Civilization p.180
  7. "I love the Earl of Buckingham more than anyone else," James announced to his councilors, "and more than you who are here assembled." He compared his love for the earl to Jesus's affection for the "beloved disciple" John. "Jesus Christ did the same," the king said, "and therefore I cannot be blamed. Christ had his John, and I have my George." From Royal Panoply, Brief Lives Of The English Monarchs, Carrolly Erickson, St. Martin's Press (May 2, 2006). ISBN 0312316437
  8. Louis Crompton, Homosexuality and Civilization, p. 111.
  9. "[http://www.worldnetdaily.com/news/article.asp?ARTICLE_ID=43618 Rev. Gene Robinson: Jesus might be 'gay]". The Telegraph, London: 2005-04-03.
  10. Hank Hyena, "Was Jesus Gay: A search for the messiah's true sexuality leads to a snare of lusty theories," 1998-04, Salon.com.
  11. Eric Lyons, "The Real Mary Magdalene", at Apologetics Press
  12. :: Jesus : expressions::
  13. Robert J. Miller, The Complete Gospels, Polebridge Press 1994, p. 411. ISBN 0-06-065587-9.
  14. [1]
  15. The "Loving Jesus" Revelation
  16. Golden seeds
  17. Dan Brown, Angels and Demons
  18. due to copyright restrictions, see Theresa: The Body of Christ article for poster

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