Twelve scholarly papers that change how you think of gays & the Bible

Saint Sebastian at Downside Abbey, Stratton-on-the-Fosse, UK

Over in “Twelve scholarly papers that will change how you think of sex in the Bible,” I list a few that help re-read the biblical view of same-sex affection. Twelve more to make you wonder?

  • Susan Pigott, “Leviticus Defiled: The Perversion of Two Verses”
    She translates for you: “And with a male you will not lay (on) the couches/beds of a woman” — but what does that mean? Answer: who knows? Several papers discuss the problems (see: Saul M. Olyan, “And with a Male You Shall Not Lie the Lying down of a Woman”: On the Meaning and Significance of Leviticus 18:22 and 20:13" or Jerome T. Walsh’s “Leviticus 18:22 and 20:13: Who Is Doing What to Whom?”). But Dr. Piggott is right that a cultic violation is in view. Christian readers have not often understood that, in Old Testament thinking, the deity is a ‘husband’, the covenant community is a ‘woman’, and the altar is a ‘bed’ (Isaiah 57:7; cf. Heb 13:4).
  • Saul M. Olyan, “‘Surpassing the Love of Women’: Another Look at 2 Samuel 1:26 and the Relationship of David and Jonathan”
    What is “passing the love of women”? How about a love for the person, not keyed into social, political, or gender role, i.e. what they can do for you materially? That it’s born in a same-sex mode, as also in the Ruth narrative with Naomi and Jesus with the Beloved Disciple, is crucial to understand. Same-sex love is the womb of agape love! Further reading: Theodore W. Jennings, Jr., Jacob’s Wound: Homoerotic Narrative in the Literature of Ancient Israel
  • Martha Himmelfarb, “Judaism and Hellenism in 2 Maccabees”
    In 1 Maccabees 1:14–15 and 2 Maccabees 4:7–17 there is a narrative of a gymnasium being constructed next to the Jewish temple, in which Jewish men exercised naked, in the Greek style. Could same-sex intimacies have occurred there, as often happened at gyms? Who can say otherwise?—and if they try, let’s recall that biblical commentators typically say Jews had a horror of public nakedness. So what else are they wrong about? Note Paul’s encouragement of exercise in 1 Tim 4:7–8, with the implicit backdrop of naked Greek athletics in 1 Cor 9:24, Phil 3:14, 2 Tim 4:7, cf. Hebrews 12:1. It seems God, and Paul, love gyms and naked athletes?
  • Paul Foster, “Polymorphic Christology: Its Origins and Development in Early Christianity”
    The themes most often associated with Jesus are also gay themes. He isn’t focused exclusively on biological family or clan. He helps with parties. He causes scenes, and tells jokes! He puts on a great show—the Sermon on the Mount, the Crucifixion. For Jesus, as well, identity is unstable, and as Dr. Foster discusses, he frequently changes appearance, as if to emphasize that mortality is a form of drag.
  • Elizabeth Castelli, “I Will Make Mary Male’: Pieties of the Body and Gender Transformation of Christian Women in Late Antiquity”
    In the Bible, God is identified as male and female. What does that mean? We’re only beginning to even recognize the scriptural evidence of ‘spiritual gender’. This paper evokes one curiosity in this discussion: women, in the teachings of Jesus, are prompted to become ‘male’. Further reading: Jennifer Lynne Henery, “Early Christian Sex Change: The Ascetical Context of ‘Being Made Male’ in Early Christianity”
  • Erik Koepnick, “The Historical Jesus and the Slave of the Centurion: How the Themes of Slavery, Sexuality, and Military Service Intersect in Matthew 8:5–13”
    As the sexually marginal seem to become the New Testament heroes, it’s hardly implausible that the Centurion is in love with the slave-boy whose healing he seeks. Jesus shows total consideration. Isn’t that the teaching? Love and faith. Further reading: Theodore W. Jennings, Jr., The Man Jesus Loved: Homoerotic Narratives From the New Testament.
  • Paul S. Minear, “The Beloved Disciple in the Gospel of John”
    That Christianity centers on a romance between the messiah and a young man is a reality that most Christians seem not to know. Check out Richard Bauckham’s Jesus and the Eyewitnesses to see that the ‘John’ of the first three gospels isn’t the ‘John’ of the fourth. The ‘Beloved Disciple’ is an unnamed person and probably Lazarus. Dr. Minear’s paper is helpful in understanding that the Beloved Disciple is central to all biblical narrative: John 13:23 (“Now there was leaning on Jesus’ bosom one of his disciples, whom Jesus loved”) echoes Deut 33:12 (“The beloved of the LORD shall dwell in safety by him”). The Bible has a deep, unappreciated vision of male companionship and love.
  • Scott G. Brown, “The Question of Motive in the Case against Morton Smith”
    In 1958, the story goes, a gay Bible scholar named Morton Smith found a manuscript in a monastery outside Jerusalem: a copy of a letter by an early Christian, Clement of Alexandria, saying a few more verses in the gospel of Mark existed. It’s the story of the night Jesus spent with Lazarus after bringing him back from the dead. Dr. Smith published a study of ‘Secret Mark’ in 1973. The manuscript was seen by several people, but by 1990 had gone missing. The photos and text, however, were deemed credible by many Bible scholars, and the ‘missing verses’ seemed to illuminate many references, as Richard Bauckham and Winsome Munro discuss. Along comes Scott G. Brown, a Canadian Bible scholar who published his PhD thesis defending Secret Mark (avail here free), and defended it from accusations of it being a hoax. My question: When Jesus taught Lazarus “the mystery of the kingdom of God”—why isn’t this understood to potentially be inclusive of sexuality? We are one in Christ.
  • Dale B. Martin, “Arsenokoités and Malakos: Meanings and Consequences”
    In two “vice lists” Paul uses a very rare Greek word that is lately translated ‘homosexual’ for no clear reason. Available in Dr. Martin’s Sex and the Single Christian, this paper is a body blow to that translation. The offense is something along the lines of predatory maleness with a hint of boy rape. Zeus in relation to Ganymede is the central example. Further reading: William L. Peterson, “Can apΣenokoitai Be Translated by “Homosexuals”? (I Cor. 6.9; I Tim. 1.10)”
  • Mary Rose D’Angelo, “Women Partners in the New Testament”
    The missionary pairings noted in the epistles are not often discussed as homoerotic possibilities, but let’s think a minute? Joan E. Taylor’s “Two by Two” suggests that Christian missionary pairs were done initially in a male/female pairing echoing Noah’s ark. However, when Paul notes these pairings in the epistles they are often same-sex. Dr. D’Angelo draws focus to the female pairs, suggesting a lesbian possibility. And who’s to say it couldn’t be? Of the male pairs, I’d note Paul referring to the other man as the ‘brother’ in 1 Cor 1:1, Philemon 1, 2 Cor 1:1. Would this make Paul the sister in the pair? He often speaks of himself in female terms (Gal 4:19, 1 Thess 2:7, 1 Cor 3:2, 2 Cor. 12:14), so that wouldn’t be unusual.
  • Jeramy Townsley, “Queer Sects in Patristic Commentaries on Romans 1:26–27: Goddess Cults, Free Will, and ‘Sex Contrary to Nature’?”
    Early Christians thought Romans 1:26–27 was about goddess worship. The meaning then twists and turns over time, and recently it’s a condemnation of “homosexuality.” Keep trying? Further reading: Theodore de Bruyn, “Ambrosiaster’s Interpretations of Romans 1:26–27.”
  • Kathy L. Gaca, “Paul’s Uncommon Declaration in Romans 1:18–32 and Its Problematic Legacy for Pagan and Christian Relations”
    It’s clear to me that Romans 1:18–32 is an expression of the ‘Enochian Judaism’ of the biblical writers, i.e. about the famous ‘Watchers’. But Dr. Gaca makes a nice effort to find who it’s about, if it’s about a human subject. It’s not so easy? As she concludes: “the identity of Paul’s ‘truth-suppressing people’ remains open-ended, which likely precludes a modern consensus about their cultural identity.”

Runners up!—

  • Chris L. de Wet, “John Chrysostom on Homoeroticism”
    Meet the man who invented the Christian idea of the homosexual, which for Chrysostom was entwined with his even deeper hatred of Jews and women. It is not pretty.
  • Donald Capps & Nathan Carlin, “The Homosexual Tendencies of King James: Should this Matter to Bible Readers Today?”
    It’s an enduring irony that American Christianity accepted, as nearly a holy text, the King James translation. Even as this religious tradition was bitterly anti-gay, James himself was clearly, and even openly and proudly, gay. Written from an anti-gay perspective, this paper is fascinatingly undermining itself. Note the Christian talk of James having been ‘prepared by God’ for his historic role! James was driven by Jesus’ urging to be a “peacemaker,” and liked the “male cooperative enterprise” of the translators working together.

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Jonathan Poletti

Jonathan Poletti

religion. sex. facts.

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