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Yeshua of Nazareth/Jesus Christ

Part 1 of 3:
Was Yeshua of Nazareth straight, bisexual or gay?

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Overview:

We recognize that the title to this essay will be seen by many readers as rather inflammatory.

Australian educator, Michael Kelly wrote that this:

"... question is, apparently, provocative....even asking the question is sacrilege, blasphemy, a vilification of Christianity, and a mockery of people's deepest beliefs." 1

Judging by the anger shown by many Christians toward the Da Vinci Code book and movie, which portrayed Jesus as married, some find it difficult to wrap their minds around the concept of Jesus having been sexually active. The thought that he might have been gay or bisexual are even more difficult to handle.

There appears to be no passage in the Christian Scriptures (New Testament) which positively identifies Jesus' sexual orientation. The Bible does not say clearly whether Jesus was asexual -- that he had no feelings of sexual attraction at all. He If he was sexually attracted to others, the Bible does not say whether he was a:

  • Heterosexual, having feelings of sexual attraction only to women, or

  • Homosexual, being sexually attracted only to men,

  • Bisexual orientation, being attracted to both men and women.

It is also silent on whether Jesus was celibate or sexually active; single or married, childless or with children. 2 In spite of the Bible's silence, some theologians have asserted that Jesus was asexual or had, and presumably still has, a specific sexual orientation.

Following our web site mandate, we will attempt to objectively explain all sides to the issue, and let you make up your own mind.

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Terminology:

The words "gay" and "homosexual" are difficult to use without causing confusion, because they have been given multiple, contradictory meanings:

  1. Many religious conservatives define them in terms of behavior. Homosexuality is what a person does. A homosexual is a person who engages in sexual activities with persons of the same sex.
     
  2. Many religious liberals, Roman Catholics, gays, lesbians, bisexuals, religious mainliners, mental health professionals and human sexuality researchers define these words in terms of feelings. Homosexuality is one part of what a person is. A homosexual is a person who has a homosexual orientation. Their self-identification, fantasies and desire for sexual activity is focused only on persons of the same sex.

We will use the second definition in this essay, because it is in general use in the medical and scientific communities, and is in growing use among the public.

These two definitions can lead to disputes. They make dialogue essentially impossible between religious conservatives and others. For example:

  • A person with a bisexual orientation who engaged in sex with person(s) of the same sex and who now has decided to confine their sexual relationship to a person of the opposite sex is considered to be an ex-gay by many conservative Christians. But many others regard the person to be a bisexual whose sexual orientation has not changed. Only their behavior choice has altered.

  • A person with a homosexual orientation who was once sexually active and who has decided to remain celibate is also considered an ex-gay by many conservative Christians. But others regard them to be a homosexual whose sexual orientation has not changed. They have simply decided to become sexually inactive.

Indications that Jesus did not have a homosexual orientation:

  • Since there is no precise statement about Jesus' sexual orientation in the Bible, we can safely start with the assumption that Yeshua of Nazareth/Jesus was a heterosexual. Only about 5% of males have a homosexual orientation in North America today. The percentage in in ancient Judea during the 1st century CE was probably about the same. Some Lesbian, gay, bisexual and transgender groups (LGBT) often claim 10%; conservative Protestants often claim 2% or even less. But these claims seem to be based on unreliable science and unreliable polling methods. Even fewer men in their late 20s or early 30s when Jesus was conducting his ministry would be asexual. Perhaps 5% would be bisexual. So, without considering any other factors, the chances of Jesus being heterosexual is quite large -- almost 90%.

  • The vast majority of Christian theologians have probably never seriously considered the possibility that Jesus was gay. If they were asked their opinion on the question, the vast majority would probably consider him to be heterosexual; many probably assume that he was devoid of erotic or sexual feelings -- that is, asexual.

    On the other hand, there is an often quoted concept that reading the Gospels is like looking down a well. What you see in both cases is a reflection of yourself. Social activists often view Jesus as a social activist. Spiritual people frequently look upon Jesus as spiritual. Heterosexuals may see at Jesus as a heterosexual. Homosexuals may look upon him as gay, etc.

  • Jesus was an observant Jew who, according to the Gospels, was often followed by Pharisees and scribes who severely criticized him. He was charged with being possessed by Satan. He was accused of being a party animal who consorted with the dregs of society -- prostitutes, tax collectors, etc. Yet there is no record of them accusing him of being gay. In 1st century Judea, same-sex behavior among men was a most serious offense, worthy of the death penalty. If Jesus were gay, and if the Jewish establishment knew of his orientation, they would certainly have used it against him. Yet there is no record in the Gospels or in subsequent Jewish literature of the topic ever having been mentioned.

    On the other hand, the Pharisees might have accused Jesus of being gay. If so, then the story did not make it into the Gospels. Alternatively, the account might have appeared in early writings, but censored in later Gospel drafts.

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  • In Matthew 19:3-12 and Mark 10:2-12, Jesus supports the concept that God made a man and a woman so that they could marry. He is quoted as saying in both Gospels:

    "What therefore God hath joined together, let not man put asunder."

    Also, in Matthew 5:17-18, after the Sermon on the Mount, Jesus said:

    "Think not that I am come to destroy the law, or the prophets: I am not come to destroy, but to fulfill. For verily I say unto you, Till heaven and earth pass, one jot or one tittle shall in no wise pass from the law, till all be fulfilled."

    Jesus obviously supported opposite-sex marriage and the Mosaic Law which was interpreted at the time as calling for the execution of all male homosexuals. 3

    On the other hand, Jesus' general support for opposite-sex marriage and the Mosaic law gives little or no insight into his actual sexual orientation.

  • There are hints in the New Testament that Jesus had a very close loving relationship with Mary Magdalene which might have included sexually activity. Some theologians believe that the two were married. Dan Brown in his wildly successful novel "The Da Vinci Code" advocates this position. If Jesus possessed a homosexual orientation, he would have avoided sexual intimacy with all women:

    • The Gospel of John (20:1) states that she was the first person who, alone, visited the cave where Jesus' body was laid. That would have typically been the role of a wife in that society.

    • John (20:2-10) describes how other followers came to the tomb and left to return home. But Mary stayed. Again this would have been the behavior of a wife or an engaged woman.

    • In John (20:17) Jesus instructed Mary to "Touch me not." Apparently Mary was about to touch his body or at least there was some possibility that she might do so. Again it would have been inconceivable for an man and woman to touch in 1st century Judea, unless they were a married or engaged couple.

    • There are other indications that Jesus and Mary Magdalene were married. If this is true, then it is very unlikely that he would have been homosexual or asexual. He probably would have been heterosexual or bisexual.
       
    • Some English translation of he Gospel of Philip -- one of the forty or so gospels that were widely used by the early Christian Church but which did not make it into the Christian Scriptures (a.k.a. New Testament) -- contains two interesting statements:
       
      • "There were three who always walked with the Lord: Mary, his mother, and her sister, and Magdalene, the one who was called his companion. His sister and his mother and his companion were each ... [called] Mary."

      • "As for the Wisdom who is called 'the barren,' she is the mother of the angels. And the companion of the [...] Mary Magdalene. [...] loved her more than all the disciples, and used to kiss her often on her mouth." 4

    Whether the term "companion" meant that Jesus was married to Mary Magdalene or was sexually intimate with her is unclear.  There sole original manuscript unfortunately contains a hole where English translators have inserted the word "mouth." So the second passage might have actually referred to Jesus kissing her hand or her shoes. Still, the act of kissing anywhere would have been a gross violation of Jewish customs unless Jesus and Mary were engaged or married.

This topic continues in the next essay, Part 2.

References used:

The following information sources were used to prepare and update the above essay. The hyperlinks are not necessarily still active today.

  1. Michael B. Kelly, "Could Jesus Have Been Gay?," at: http://kspark.kaist.ac.kr/
  2. Peter Tatchell, "Was Jesus Gay?," at: http://www.petertatchell.net/
  3. George Broadhead, "Jesus and Homosexuality," Gay and Lesbian Humanist quarterly, at: http://www.galha.freeserve.co.uk/
  4. Lesa Bellevie, "Mary Magdalene FAQ," at: http://www.magdalene.org/

Copyright © 2003 to 2015 by Ontario Consultants on Religious Tolerance
Originally written: 2003-SEP-24
Latest update: 2015-APR-14
Author: B.A. Robinson

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