Is the word "eunuchs" really the Bible's way of saying homosexuals?
Justin is an apologist of sorts who defends the idea that God approves of homosexual relationships, and the Bible, rather than condemning homosexuality, genuinely commends same-sex couples and homosexual behavior. He further argues that the current debate against homosexual inclusivity into the Christian church is due in part to bigoted Christians who have mis-read the Bible and have warped Christ's teachings that affirms same-sex relationships.
When I first wrote about Justin, I stated quite clearly that he is an historical and biblical revisionist, and I bluntly proclaimed that he is "merely standing at the end of a long, twisting line running through Church History filled with a vast assortment of goofballs, kooks, and weirdoes who conveniently "revised" the Bible to fit their personal beliefs." My snarky name calling aside, I believe what I originally wrote is true and still stand by that assessment.
Justin wrote me a little bit ago to tell me how my comment amuses him to no end. He seriously finds it laughable. I wrote him back to ask him about his views of the Bible. He claims quite emphatically that he believes in inspiration and affirms the Bible as his authority, even though he is heavily dependent upon liberal theology and hermeneutics for shaping his "apologetics." I responded by saying I find such a claim mystifying, because if he truly believed in inspiration, infallibility and inerrancy, then he would treat with seriousness the biblical teaching on marriage found in Paul's letter to the Ephesians. How can a homosexual couple fulfill the marriage mandate outlined by Paul when he tells us God established marriage to be a picture of Christ loving the Church? Justin responded by stating gay couples are exempt from this mandate and it only applies to heterosexual couples. Hmmm...
He then sent me an interesting email citing a passage from Matthew that he claims demonstrates his argument. Justin writes,
“His disciples say unto him, “If the case of the man be so with [his] wife, it is not good to marry.” But he said unto them, “All [men] cannot receive this saying, save [they] to whom it is given. For there are some eunuchs, which were so born from [their] mother's womb: and there are some eunuchs, which were made eunuchs of men: and there be eunuchs, which have made themselves eunuchs for the kingdom of heaven's sake. He that is able to receive [it], let him receive [it].” Matthew 19:10-12
Jesus is exempting three groups of people from the Adam and Eve marriage paradigm.
1) Eunuch so born from their mother’s womb.
2) Eunuchs made so by men.
3) Eunuchs who have made themselves eunuchs for the kingdom of heaven's sake.
The term eunouchos did not simply mean someone who was castrated. If you know anything about Greek, you will know that Greek words have manifold meanings, just pick up a good Greek lexicon and you will find pages of meaning for each word. Jesus shows three meanings of eunouchos above.
I will argue that eunuchs so born from their mother’s womb are not impotent, or physically damaged in any way, but simply men who do not have inherent sexual interest in women (i.e. gay men). And Jesus is saying we are exempt from the Adam and Eve marriage paradigm.
Not only are there historical sources which refer to the semen of eunuchs, but Clement of Alexandria, though, reveals this perspective of eunuchs most clearly. He writes:
“…a true eunuch is not one who is unable, but one who is unwilling, to indulge in pleasure…” (Paedagogus, II, 4.)
“‘Not all can receive this saying; there are some eunuchs who are so from their birth, others are so of necessity.’ And their explanation of this saying is roughly as follows: Some men from their birth, have a natural sense of repulsion from a woman…” (The Stromata, II. 1.1.)
The idea is that these men are not aroused by women because they cannot physically, but because of an unwillingness, a repulsion, or a certain “temperament”—a word other sources use. There are accounts of these eunouchos appointed to watch over female royalty because they would not have sexual interest in them. In Rick’s book he does a good job in citing all these historical sources which help formulate a clearer understanding of what a eunouchos was in their Greek mind.
Now that is an interesting spin on Christ's words. Additionally, Justin quotes a couple of citations from Clement of Alexandria to show how the church fathers allegedly defined the word eunuch to be homosexuals. The argument looks rather impressive, but does it hold up under any serious scrutiny? I don't believe it does at all.
What exactly is a eunuch?
Now Justin says if you know anything about Greek, then you know a word could have a multitude of meanings. Such hyperbole aside, I do happen to know a little bit about Greek and his claim is a bit exaggerated in the case of the word eunuch.
The Greek word is a compound word that means literally "bed holder," or simply put, a holder of the bed. The historical understanding of a eunuch is a man who had been castrated or had his genitals mutilated in some manner that prevented him from becoming aroused around women. These men were commonly used as guards in royal harems, what would be known as a "bed guardian."
I made copies of articles from three of the standard theological and lexical works on the Old and New Testaments: The New International Dictionary of N.T. Theology, Kittel's Theological Dictionary of the N.T., and The International Dictionary of O.T. Theology and Exegesis, and all of them state the definition of a castrated man used as a harem guard was the standard, historical understanding of the word eunuch. I glanced through a handful of other theological and lexical works and all of them also affirmed the typical understanding of the word. In addition to the idea of a castrated harem guard, the word did expand in meaning to include high court officials who held prominent positions in a royal court, but may not necessarily be castrated. None of these works, however, implied the word could be used to describe a person disposed to homosexual persuasion. This is something of a novel, modern invention.
Yet, Justin argues otherwise, and even appeals to an external source in the works of early church father, Clement of Alexandria. Before I even address his citations, it is important to note that more times than not, external sources to help "define" biblical words, like appealing to quotations from church fathers, may not be particularly helpful. In the case of Clement of Alexandria, he is nearly 200 years removed from Jesus. We need to ascertain what Jesus meant by His use of the word during His time period and in light of scriptural definitions of marriage and eunuchs before we make authoritative appeals to some external source who wrote a couple of centuries later.
Now Justin cites from two of Clement's writings, the Paedagogus (the instructor) and The Stromata (miscellaneous writings). They can be viewed in their entirety here. Both works are divided into multiple books with multiple chapters in each book. According to Justin's reference, the first citation from the Paedagogus is found in chapter 4 of book 2. The second citation from The Stromata is found in chapter 1 of book 2.
I spent nearly a half hour or more looking through many websites which host these works, as well as the standard reference volumes found at my seminary library, and I could not locate the exact citations at all. After 45 minutes I thought maybe Justin mis-cited the reference, and sure enough I was right. I found them, but the first one was in Paedagogus, book 3, chapter 4. The second one was from The Stromata, book 3, chapter 1.
Now, I can excuse Justin's mistake. I have cited sources in the past and mistakenly credited them to the wrong reference. Such things are understandable, especially if he is re-calling from memory. What is truly inexcusable, however, is the intentional citation of these sources to make them say something they are not saying. In this case, that the word eunuch was understood by Clement of Alexandria to mean a person who doesn't desire women such as the alleged temperament of a male homosexual.
First, concerning the citation from the Paedagogus, Clement is addressing wealthy individuals who employ domestic servants. After giving an extensive list of individual servant staffers, he mentions eunuchs. The entire citation reads:
"Many are eunuchs; and these panders serve without suspicion those that wish to be free to enjoy their pleasures, because of the belief that they are unable to indulge in lust. But a true eunuch is not one who is unable, but one who is unwilling, to indulge in pleasure." Paedagogus, book 3, chapter 4
Clement really says nothing about their sexual orientation. He just says these are individuals who are believed to be unable to indulge in sex, but in reality, a true eunuch is not unable, but merely unwilling to indulge in the pleasure. Nothing is said by Clement as to why the eunuch is unwilling. This could be a vow of celibacy for all we know, and it is dishonest for homosexual revisionists in our modern day to abuse Clement's words in such a manner as to make the Bible say something it isn't saying.
The second citation from The Stromata is even worse, and in my opinion, dangerously deceptive. The citation reads in its entirety as follows (note my emphasis):
The Valentinians, who hold that the union of man and woman is derived from the divine emanation in heaven above, approve of marriage. The followers of Basilides, on the other hand, say that when the apostles asked whether it was not better not to marry, the Lord replied: "Not all can receive this saying; there are some eunuchs who are so from their birth, others are so of necessity." And their explanation of this saying is roughly as follows: Some men, from their birth, have a natural sense of repulsion from a woman; and those who are naturally so constituted do well not to marry. The Stromata, book 3, chapter 1.
The first thing that needs to be pointed out is that Clement is citing the followers of a gnostic heretic by the name of Basilides, who also was from Alexandria. Justin uses these words as if they are Clement's own. I believe that is beyond the pale of dishonesty to make your readers think the words of a false teacher are the words of a church father. Moreover, nothing in the text, which is a part of Clement's larger discourses on marriage relationships, even hints at homosexuality. Basilides' and his followers said these individuals have a natural repulsion of women and do well not to marry. Again, it is reading a 21st century understanding of homosexuality back into a text that is nearly 1,800 years old and drawing erroneous conclusions.
I say this citation is dangerously deceptive because there are eternal consequences at stake here. Rather than being shown the grievous error of pursuing this sexual sin, many individuals desperate to justify their homosexuality will be led into destruction, because they latch on to this type of fraudulent research as evidence for justifying their perversion. This is unconscionable in my mind.
So what is Christ meaning when He says, "A eunuch from birth?"
Moreover, and most importantly, Jesus could not have in mind homosexuals when he told his disciples there are "eunuchs from birth," because in the larger context of the entire revelation of scripture the participants in marriage are clearly limited to being only one male and one female. There are no other combinations permitted, nor are there any other combinations, such as a same-sex relationship, exempted from the divine ordinances established in Genesis for marriage, and are reiterated throughout the remainder of the Bible.
To ignore these clear commands, or even worse, reinterpret them according to a new paradigm, demonstrates a desperation to make the Bible affirm the non-affirmable. Perhaps that is why gay apologists like Justin have to appeal to liberal, neo-orthodox hermeneutics and biblical interpretation. What ever the case, this is still the historical and scriptural revisionism found in the writings of the myriads of heretical false teachers who have troubled the church since its founding in Acts.
Labels: Answering Gay "Christians"