After almost three years, I put in some minor revisions in my articles on interpretive efforts to make the Bible come out positive or neutral on gay relationships (Part I and Part II). I primarily interacted with Matthew Vines, who is a modern example of decades-old arguments that try to use Scripture to justify or excuse gay relationships, and I showed how they are exceptionally poor. I removed one section from Part II to make into a new article in order to shorten Part II and to add some more content. To his credit, Vines did not resort to using these especially atrocious arguments in his original presentation, but they are still worth talking about because they are unfortunately still used by uninformed Christians and non-Christians.
The Alleged Silence of Jesus
This argument says that because Jesus never explicitly spoke on homosexuality, we, as Christians, have no reason to reject it as a biblical lifestyle. Many people, both professed Christians and non-Christians, have thought that this is an especially clever thing to point out, with people flipping through the Bible in a mock search for Jesus’ teaching on this topic. Stephen Colbert is a good example of this.
This, however, is not very clever at all. This is a fallacy called “an argument from silence,” and while there are times where an argument from silence is useful because we would otherwise greatly expect someone to say something about a topic, it is not useful here at all. There are many things that Christ never mentioned explicitly, such as bestiality and rape, just to name a couple. It would obviously be ridiculous for someone to then say that he gave his tacit approval of such things. In fact, there is good reason why he never explicitly taught on the subject or, if he did, why the Gospel writers would not include that material: It simply was not part of his audience’s concern. While his message would go to the ends of the earth, it went first to the Jews in Judea, where there were no such debates on homosexuality. The Pharisees, the Sadducees, and other observing Jewish sects would have agreed that homosexuality is not part of God’s order, and therefore that subject would not be brought up before him as many others were. This is quite different than the Hellenistic environment Paul was primarily teaching in, which is why it is no surprise that he had to deal with it and Jesus did not. What did come up for Jesus was the subject of divorce because we actually know that there were some debates on this topic among the Jewish teachers, and Jesus’ answer reveals much on his view on sexuality and marriage:
4 “Haven’t you read,” he replied, “that at the beginning the Creator ‘made them male and female,’ 5 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’? 6 So they are no longer two, but one. Therefore what God has joined together, let man not separate.” (Matt. 19:4-6)
What Jesus had received was an interpretive question on Deuteronomy; he goes past the law and goes further to creation, where he points out that God’s original, intended design was that one woman and one man be joined together as one flesh in marriage. That is God’s ideal. This is actually far more revealing about Jesus’ attitudes than him trying to address every single issue out there; it is a positive statement of beliefs (as in, he is affirming what he believes rather than listing what he does not believe), which is a litmus test for everything else. If a sexual relationship does not look like what Jesus affirms, we know for certain that it is not something that he would have approved of. Thus, while Jesus does not explicitly address homosexuality, he is far from silent on the issue of sexual relations and marriage. Also, it is worth noting that Jesus’ words are not the only parts of the Bible that are authoritative; in fact, since Christians believe that all Scripture is God-breathed (2 Tim. 3:16) and Jesus is the Word (John 1:1), then the other parts of the Bible carry his authority as well.
The Centurion’s Servant
The second argument comes from Matthew 8:5-13, the story of the centurion and his servant. Basically, the argument is that the Greek word for servant, pais, can mean a boy that is part of a pederastic relationship (he is a sexual servant). Thus, when Jesus heals the boy based on the centurion’s faith, he gives his implied approval of their homosexual relationship.
This one is about as fallacious as one can get when it comes to interpretation. It is true that, in rare places in Greek (mostly much later than the NT period), pais can mean a boy in a sexual relationship with an older male. However, as we have discussed in Part II about word studies, that does not force us to accept that meaning everywhere else. Not only is it very rare, it is completely unsupported by the context of the passage. There is just no hint in the passage that we should take pais to mean such a thing. It would be enough to stop there because the burden of proof for such a far-fetched interpretation lies on its proponents, but it is also worth noting that even if we granted such a terrible argument, this does not come close to achieving what the pro-homosexual interpreters want. If we were to buy this argument, that would mean that Jesus is not just affirming homosexual relations; he is affirming pederastic ones, the type that such interpreters try hard to differentiate between a loving, monogamous relationship that is not exploitation. In effect, it would leave such interpreters with a giant mess of contradictions between their interpretation of this passage and the interpretations they have tried to put forth for other passages.
The Supposed Eroticism Between Naomi and Ruth and David and Jonathan
Quite remarkably, some people have tried to shoehorn gay eroticism into the close relationships between Naomi and Ruth as well as David and Jonathan. The clear desperation to shove one’s own ideals into the text without contextual support makes one want to either laugh or stare with amazement, but it is unfortunately something that still needs to be addressed.
These can easily be refuted by simply asking this: What in the context of these stories leads someone to conclude this, and why would this be a positive example for an ancient Israelite who knows the holiness codes in Leviticus? The level of eisegesis here is extraordinary, especially with the story of Ruth.
Though this interpretation is ridiculous given the whole narrative, there are two or three passages that people point to regarding David and Jonathan, and the most frequent one cited is when David laments Jonathan’s death:
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. (2 Sam. 1:26)
Of course, this passage makes perfect sense with the traditional interpretation that Jonathan and David had a very close friendship. All one is permitted to conclude from the text itself is that David valued Jonathan’s friendship more than the companionship of women, but it does not mean that the former is sexualized. In fact, there are many examples of this in our culture; for example, in the show Game of Thrones, the character Tyrion announces that someone’s death gave him “more relief than a thousand lying whores” (excuse the language). It would be fantastically silly to interpret this statement as saying that Tyrion took sexual pleasure from someone’s death; he means only that if he had to choose between his joy in a person’s death and the sexual pleasure of women, he’d choose the former. I am obviously not advocating an attitude like Tyrion’s but only pointing out that such language does not justify transferring sexual pleasure from one thing to another. There is even that relatively offensive “bros before hoes” saying, which never means that a guy should prefer sex with males more than females but only that he should value his male friendships just as much or more so than his romantic relationships with women. Again, excuse the language, but I am merely showing how language is used and understood even in our time. If such things are so easily understood now, how on earth can people justify reading gay eroticism into a passage with an Israelite audience and author?
It is enough to say here that these are transparent attempts to implant meanings in the text that are incongruous with the entire narratives. David indeed had a sexual problem, but it involved too many women, not any man. In fact, given this problem in David’s life, even if we were to grant the outlandish interpretation that David and Jonathan were sexually intimate, it would not automatically mean that the biblical narrator viewed such a relationship positively because David’s other sexual exploits are clearly shown to give him problems.
These represent the worst of attempts at creating pro-gay interpretations in the Bible, which is saying something given how poor the other ones are. Once again, we should heed Paul’s warning to Timothy about novel teaching that tickles our ears: It easy in our time to want to appear “tolerant” and accepting in the eyes of the world, but when Christians fail to stand for clear biblical truth, we do not love truly love the world and we help nobody. Frankly, Christians who resort to these arguments betray a desire to follow the world more than the Word of God.