Quote# 131529

[[=A Response on the historical and cultural possobility that Jesus was a witness to a same sex Union that he blessed. See the story of the centurion and his Pias=]]

A friend sent me a news story today about a set of billboards in Dallas, Texas that cite the Bible in support of homosexual relationships. Because you can find all kinds of crazy things on billboards, I initially didn’t think much of this report. But I was really intrigued by the picture of one billboard that was included in the story (see it at right).

The message reads simply, “Jesus affirmed a gay couple. Would Jesus Discriminate?” What caught my attention was not the suggestion that Jesus affirmed homosexual conduct. This is standard fare among religious progressives, and I have heard this many times before. What caught my attention was the single Bible text quoted in support of the message—Matthew 8:5-13.

I am very familiar with the biblical texts that progressives usually cite in support of homosexual behavior, and this is not one of them. At least it was not one that I was aware of. R. T. France’s 2007 commentary doesn’t mention such an interpretation of that text. Neither Robert Gagnon (2001) nor James DeYoung (2000) respond to any such interpretation in their books debunking pro-homosexual interpretations of key biblical texts. So I had to do some digging. Where was this interpretation of Matthew 8:5-13 coming from?

It turns out that the billboard reflects an obscure interpretation of the text that first appeared in 1978 but that was most recently defended in a 2004 article in The Journal of Biblical Literature: “Mistaken Identities but Model Faith: Rereading the Centurion, the Chap, and the Christ in Matthew 8:5-13” by Theodore Jennings and Tat-Siong Liew (pp. 467-94). But what I found in this article does not support the message contained on this billboard. The billboard suggests that Jesus affirms gay relationships—presumably between consenting adults—and that an example of his approval appears in Matthew 8:5-13. But this is not at all what Jennings and Liew argue.

In the article, the “gay couple” that Jesus affirmed was a Roman soldier and his young boy sex-slave. In short, Jennings and Liew argue that the Greek word pais—usually rendered as “servant” in verse 6—is actually a mistranslation. Jesus didn’t heal the centurion’s “servant.” Rather, Jesus healed the centurion’s “boy-love” (p. 468). The paralytic is a young boy who was the sexual plaything of a Roman centurion. The authors contend that such “forced pederastic relations” between Roman soldiers and young boys were both “legally permissible and socially prevalent” during Jesus’ time (p. 486). They argue further that the centurion is worried that Jesus will steal away the paralytic as his own “boy-love,” and that is why the centurion doesn’t want Jesus actually to come to his house (vs. 8, “I am not worthy for You to come under my roof”). Because Jesus “marvels” at the “great faith” of the centurion in verse 10, the authors conclude:

“The way Matthew’s Jesus seems to affirm the centurion’s pederastic relationship with his pai/j, we contend, may also be consistent with Matthew’s affirmation of many sexual dissidents in her Gospel” (p. 492).

The other sexually dissident behavior that Jesus affirms includes adultery, prostitution, and perhaps lesbianism (p. 493).

The problems with this article and with the billboard are manifold. First, it’s blasphemous and outrageous to suggest that Jesus supported this kind of behavior. In the Sermon on the Mount alone (a favorite text among progressives), Jesus unambiguously condemns sexual immorality (Matthew 5:28) while affirming the sanctity of the marital union (Matthew 5:32). Are these authors seriously going to suggest that Jesus goes against the Old Testament and his own teaching to affirm the alleged homosexual conduct of the centurion and his sex-slave? The whole suggestion strains credulity at every level.

Second, I’m not alone in finding this reading to be completely implausible. Jennings’ and Liew’s novel interpretation of Matthew 8:5-13 has not been widely received in scholarship and was subsequently debunked in the same journal on historical grounds (see Saddington, pp. 140-42). There was a reason that I couldn’t find the interpretation mentioned in France’s commentary. It is so out of the mainstream that it didn’t even bear mentioning.

Third, even if Jennings’ and Liew’s interpretation were correct, it would prove more than what this billboard probably intends to prove. Do the authors of this billboard really wish to suggest that Jesus supports forced sexual predation of older men upon underage boys? I certainly hope not.

In any case, it is very clear that the message of this billboard is absurd, and its supposed biblical basis is a farce. For any of you readers who may come upon a message such as this one, be assured that the claim is absolutely baseless. This is the kind of revisionist historicism that supports progressive interpretations of key texts. It’s not serious, though it is seriously damning, and people should pay no heed to it.

Denny Burk, Denny Burk 15 Comments [9/10/2017 11:42:30 PM]
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The Angry Dybbuk

The interpretation that Jesus affirmed a relationship that looks like modern homosexual marriage really is a stretch.

This guy's response is also a stretch.

Beyond that, marriage equality is a legal issue, and not a religious one except for among those with religions. It doesn't require religious sanction anymore than does modern divorce.

9/11/2017 12:00:41 AM

Philbert McAdamia

Because you can find all kinds of crazy things on billboards, in the bible.

9/11/2017 12:51:08 AM


Damn! Philbert beat me to it.

Can I add that you can find verses in the Wholly Babble to justify any predetermined moral or ethical stance. William Lane Craig, I rest my case.

9/11/2017 1:03:29 AM


Oh, but remember, Christian interpretations of scripture are always right. I've heard about a dozen defending Trumps right to Biblically be a little bitch as Gods will.

9/11/2017 5:06:20 AM

Churchy LaFemme

Well, you're talking about a man who associated almost exclusively with 12 men. The only 2 women reportedly in his inner circle of friends were his mother and an alleged hooker. None of the men were reportedly married, in spite of fairly rigid cultural dictates to do so. Today, it's entirely likely that an outside observer would conclude that the man and many of his associates were gay.

9/11/2017 5:07:54 AM


In other words, you have to bend over backwards to support your position on this, while making sure that the other side "has to" argue in favor of something they reject if they don't agree with you.

Some people go to great lengths to justify their stupidity. Just another example.

9/11/2017 7:10:53 AM


I'm sure that the author here is a fundie, but on this issue, they're not wrong. The original article really is a stretch, and what it claims would actually be pretty disturbing if it were true. The stuff about sex slavery was in the article, even though it's a strained interpretation of the actual verse (the word used meant servant in the overwhelming majority of contexts, but that takes away the sexual implication, too). If the billboard is referencing that, then its creator is sending an odd message.

9/11/2017 7:29:48 AM


David and Jonathan. Not so much as word one of condemnation in that part of Scripture, Dunny Berk.

Your call.

9/11/2017 7:36:08 AM


The bible itself is composed by many after-the-fact scraps from many authors, which does not mean that the bible itself is absurd, but certainly means that loyalty to it as "the word of god" is absurd. Get a grip.

9/11/2017 7:40:38 AM

Doubting Thomas

Reading the text it just says "servant," and I think it would be really hard to imply that the sick person was the centurion's boyfriend. At any rate, it's not about Jesus blessing a homosexual union, but healing a sick person because someone had extraordinary faith in him.

9/11/2017 7:42:15 AM


I don't even care which interpretation is correct, I just love the idea of BDSM and LGBTQ loving Jesus because it just might drive those guys to have a heart attack.

9/11/2017 8:42:50 AM

Unorthodox Christian

I can explain this with ease. A lot of people believe that the "servant" was a gay sex slave in the original texts. In the original text there's no implication of the servant being a sex slave, in fact there's more evidence it was actually one of the soldier's children! However, Jesus wouldn't judge. He preached acceptance. You don't have to believe another's beliefs, you just have to not be a d+++ about it.

9/11/2017 9:20:23 AM


I think it stems from the fact the Centurion did use the word servant as someone he wanted to heal, but he used Pias to differentiate between this particlar servant and his other servants, and the fact that Pias has a number of meanings, including a young same sex lover.

Our culture is not like their culture, so naturally we would think of this as sexual slavery and pedophila, but considering the age of consent varies depending on time period and place (I'm pretty sure this was a time where young teens where married off to older suitors), I'd say this is just an example of conqubinage.

9/11/2017 11:37:33 AM

Pharaoh Bastethotep

“The way Matthew’s Jesus seems to affirm the centurion’s pederastic relationship with his pai/j, we contend, may also be consistent with Matthew’s affirmation of many sexual dissidents in her Gospel” (p. 492).

Um... WHAT?!?!?!?

9/11/2017 11:49:00 AM


Hmm, did the Centurion wear a rainbow colored toga?

9/11/2017 4:24:33 PM

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