May 18, 2015

The Bible and Homosexuality XIII: Born That Way

Homosexual Eisegesis: Assumptions about Biblical Source Texts

The next few posts will be on mostly pro-homosexual interpretation of Scripture or  more specifically a misinterpretation of it. It is generally an issue of reading into Scripture something that is not there (eisegesis). I will present the cases individually and then examine them to show why they do not work either theologically, biblically or logically.

The first homosexual assertion about a piece of Scripture that does not explicitly mention homosexuality finds us in the middle of the Gospel of Matthew. This argument aligns itself strongly with the homosexual view that God makes gay people gay or makes them the way that they are. It appears this assertion requires pulling the biblical statement from its historical context and from the context of which Jesus is speaking which was marriage and celibacy. His response is actually a rebuttal of the Pharisees who had come to test Him. Jesus is asked pointblank by Pharisees:

Matthew 19:3 ~ “Is it lawful for a man to divorce his wife for any and every reason?”

His response is and immediate and concise statement about divorce and what is considered proper marriage. It gets directly to the heart of a definition of marriage. Firstly, Jesus quotes Scripture as his authority (Genesis 2:24).

Matthew 19:4-6 “Haven’t you read,” he replied, “that at the beginning the Creator ‘made them male and female, ’and said, ‘For this reason a man will leave his father and mother and be united to his wife, and the two will become one flesh’? So they are no longer two, but one flesh. Therefore what God has joined together, let no one separate.

He later goes on to state that the Moses only permitted divorce of wives because of human’s already naturally sinful inclination or their hard hearts. Jesus ups the ante for marriage and says that if anyone divorces except on the grounds of sexual immorality and then remarries…they are guilty of adultery.

Matthew 19:9 ~ “I tell you that anyone who divorces his wife, except for sexual immorality, and marries another woman commits adultery."

Keep in mind that Jesus has just given a strong denunciation against divorce and remarriage. His disciples then state:

 Matthew 19:9 ~ “If this is the situation between a husband and wife, it is better not to marry.”

The reply found in the next two verses comprises the passage in question. Jesus makes a rather interesting statement about eunuchs that is profound in its implications according to the homosexual point of view. From a biblical point of view it is a moot point and has nothing to do with homosexuals. I’ll first give the verses and a traditional interpretation then I will state what homosexual groups believes this says.

Matthew 19:12 ~ 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.”

Celibacy Not Homosexuality

What really needs to be understood in Matthew 19 is Jesus is breaking up those that are celibate/eunuchs into three (3) distinct groups based on how they actually became eunuchs. First, there are those who were born that way. These are males who have been born with malformed testicles or are sterile from birth unable to create progeny. The Second are those who have been “made eunuchs by others,” or those who are eunuchs via physical surgery or castration. This was often done to harem guards and senior civil servants (Hester 26, Mounce 182). Daniel, for example, was a eunuch of this type as was the Ethiopian of Acts 8:26-40. Then Jesus mentions a third category of eunuch. The third are those that can be like eunuchs for the sake of the Kingdom.

Most conservative and orthodox understandings of this passage are pretty clear-cut. Jesus is simply stating that celibacy may be an option for some of his followers although He is not fully recommending celibacy as it would be at odds with what has just been said in verses 3-9 (France 282). What should really be focused on in terms of whether one should be celibate is in verse 11 where Jesus has said that those to whom this life has been given or those that can accept this type of life, should do so.

Furthermore, the eunuch that has been surgically altered or castrated and those that have physical deformities or congenital disability (impotent) in Jesus statement are meant to be understood in the literal sense. The third is to be understood in the metaphorical sense. It's interesting that people would adopt a homosexual view, since the implication in the entire passage is that being single is the resulting character.

The "Born That Way" Argument

The point of argument from the homosexual view arises from the first example: “There are eunuchs who were born that way.” This assumption of course closely parallels the "God made me that way" claim I will address in a later post. There is a rather large interpretive leap taking place to make a eunuch that has a congenital or natural defect into a homosexual in this context but that is exactly what we are being asked to believe Jesus is saying here (Rogers 79, Would Jesus Discriminate?-Born Gay). The exact statement from Jack Rogers in his book Jesus, the Bible, and Homosexuality is that those incapable of marriage or incapable of heterosexual sexual activity were considered eunuchs. This is a broad generalization by Rogers and assumes that those who simply lack sexual desire for people of the opposite sex can be considered eunuchs. This is just not true as there is historical evidence to show that eunuchs were not celibate or even chaste (Hester 18). Rogers even goes so far as to quote a Jesuit priest John J. McNeill who stated:

The first category-those eunuchs who have been so from birth-is the closest description we have in the Bible of what we understand today as a homosexual.” (Rogers 130)

Jack Rogers has allowed a bridging of contexts here. He has assumed that because Jesus is making statements about sexual abstinence it is assumed that the abstinence is based in sexual proclivity or sexual desire/preference. By doing this Rogers allows for the addition of homosexuality into the context in which it does not belong. He is reading things into the text. Nothing in this passage leads a reader to assume homosexuality is being addressed in any form unless a reader brings that presupposition to the text.

The context of this passage aligns itself with the idea of being chaste. Jesus understanding Scripture perfectly would’ve never allowed for sexual relations outside of a marriage…which is exactly what He had just got done talking about. He forbids divorce except in the case of sexual immorality. The very act of sexual immorality being the thing that allowed for the one example of divorce. Jesus is not affirming homosexual behavior, He is dissuading people from divorce and recommending celibacy to those to whom the ability has been given.

Illogical Conclusions Based On Context

This then begs the question: Why would Jesus, having forbid a divorce between man and woman, in the later verses allow for another form of sexual immorality as defined by Scripture? What’s more, it would be allowed outside of a marriage in the form of a homosexuality or being “born that way” (if we follow the homosexual argument). The answer to this question is that Jesus wouldn’t have allowed it since being homosexual would also be morally wrong and against Scripture. Christ is clearly referring to all these eunuchs as being chaste or celibate. To make any of these examples sexually active people outside of marriage destroys Christ’s point about divorce. It is a self-defeating argument that I believe we see from homosexuals about this passage.

An understanding of logic and basic theological principles about Jesus/God should quickly void this argument and mark the homosexual view of it as invalid. When this line of reasoning is raised to show that the Bible and Christ allowed for homosexuality, it is obvious that those raising these hypotheses do not understand that theologically and morally Christ would not contradict Himself nor make a claim that was contrary to the preponderant pattern of Scripture that would’ve been applicable to his time and understood by the Jewish Pharisees and his disciples (Genesis 2, Leviticus 18, 20).

There are major assumptions taking place here and there is little to base them on, either in the text itself (Sitz im buch) or in the historical context. They have taken a statement by Jesus in an ascetic context and try to make it mean something based on a homosexual framework. They are literally attempting to impose a new context on the passage. To mix a homosexual aspect into this is to totally fail to see that Jesus may very well have been presenting an apologia for Himself as he was celibate for the sake of the Kingdom.  Jesus was literally the third type of eunuch that he mentions (France 283).

Furthermore, Jesus beginning this passage about proper sexuality in marriage shows God’s concern for the sanctity of marriage and also the plight of sexual sinners that performed sexual acts outside of marriage (v.9) (Gagnon-Sexuality 743). By Jesus condoning and actually encouraging the heterosexual marriage here in Matthew 19 and Mark 10:1-10 we also see the Creator God addressing the fact that He made humanity, male and female (Genesis 1:27) and they were to become one flesh (Genesis 1:27, 2:24). This means that the Creator God ordained this to be the proper marriage. It was not a social construct which is the idea that is being pushed today in western ballot boxes and in some cases through the judicial systems and courtrooms (Gagnon-Sexuality 745).

Flawed Hermeneutics

What is seen in this line of debate is historical revisionism (Holtam 592). Those who come to the Scripture with homosexual bias re-interpret the Bible, as well as church history to make it advocate their way of thinking. They thereby distort the Bible's teaching on sexuality (Matthew 19) to include homosexuality by deconstructing the idea of what a eunuch was. They are trying to make this passage mean what they want it to mean (Gagnon-Sexuality 739). By redefinition of words and reframing of ideas, Scripture can then be made to say whatever those reframing it want it to say. This is exceptionally evident in when Helminiak states there is speculation (by whom he doesn’t say) that eunuchs in the Ancient mid-East were not necessarily castrated men at all but instead men whose sexual interest was only for other men yet he cites no source (Helminiak 127).

It should also be noted that similar to the interpretive leap being taken above in Matthew 19:12 the same assumption is often made about the Ethiopian eunuch in Acts 8 and of the prophet Daniel in the Old Testament (Robinson, Rogers 131-133). The hermeneutics used to determine that Jesus’ first eunuch who was “born that way” was homosexual is borrowed and applied to other Scripture and vice versa. Rogers even goes on to portray the Ethiopian eunuch as a sexual racial minority and also refers to him in racial terms as a black African subsequently calling him a person marginalized of society. This is merely imposing a modern context on an ancient one. Black Africans would not have been uncommon in the Middle East in ancient Jerusalem considering the Mid-east's geographical proximity to the African continent. Additionally, there is absolutely no context of sexuality in this passage except for that which can be drawn from the ambiguous sexuality/gender of a eunuch. It seems purely based on the misinterpretation that a Eunuch in general could be gay due to vague sexual physiognomies (Helminiak 127).

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