Was Jesus Gay?
There's not much to go on here. Jesus never said he was gay. He didn't march in gay pride parades or publicly defend gay rights. Still, there are some things in the gospels that make some people suspicious.
There's not much to go on here. Jesus never said he was gay. He didn't march in gay pride parades or publicly defend gay rights. Still, there are some things in the gospels that make some people suspicious.
According to the popular children's hymn, we know that Jesus loves us because the Bible tells us so. And yet in all of the synoptic gospels (the gospels of Matthew, Mark, and Luke) there is only one person that Jesus is said to have loved: the rich man in the gospel of Mark.2
And when he was gone forth into the way, there came one running, and kneeled to him, and asked him, Good Master, what shall I do that I may inherit eternal life? And Jesus said unto him, Why callest thou me good? there is none good but one, that is, God. Thou knowest the commandments, Do not commit adultery, Do not kill, Do not steal, Do not bear false witness, Defraud not, Honour thy father and mother. And he answered and said unto him, Master, all these have I observed from my youth. Then Jesus beholding him loved him, and said unto him, One thing thou lackest: go thy way, sell whatsoever thou hast, and give to the poor, and thou shalt have treasure in heaven: and come, take up the cross, and follow me. And he was sad at that saying, and went away grieved: for he had great possessions. Mark 10:17-22
To Jennings, there is only one reasonable interpretation to this story: Jesus had a homoerotic relationship with the rich man in this episode.
[T]he homoerotic interpretation of this episode [Mark 10:17-22] is virtually required if we are to account for the singularity of Jesus' love for just this person in the Gospel of Mark.3
When it comes to Jesus, the Gospel of John is the Gospel of Love. Jesus loved a total of four people in that gospel, three in a single verse: Lazarus, Martha, and Mary.
Lazarus is only mentioned in the Gospel of John, and there in only two chapters. The first thing that is said about him is that he is sick, so his sisters, Martha and Mary, send for Jesus.
Now a certain man was sick, named Lazarus, of Bethany, the town of Mary and her sister Martha ... Therefore his sisters sent unto him, saying, Lord, behold, he whom thou lovest is sick. John 11:1-3
When Jesus heard about Lazarus's illness, he wasn't worried about it. God, he said, made Lazarus sick so that God could be glorified by his sickness.
When Jesus heard that, he said, This sickness is not unto death, but for the glory of God, that the Son of God might be glorified thereby. 11:4
Then the author of John's gospel drops the love bomb on us. Jesus, he says, loves three people: Martha, her sister Mary, and their brother Lazarus.
Now Jesus loved Martha, and her sister, and Lazarus. 11:5
Although Jesus loved Martha, Mary, and Lazarus, he didn't respond right away to their request for help. He waited two days before deciding to visit Lazarus.
When he had heard therefore that he was sick, he abode two days still in the same place where he was. Then after that saith he to his disciples, Let us go into Judaea again. 11:6-7
The disciples tried to talk him out of going to visit Lazarus, saying, "The last time you went to Judea the Jews tried to stone you to death."
His disciples say unto him, Master, the Jews of late sought to stone thee; and goest thou thither again? 11:8
But Jesus said, "There are twelve hours in a day. If you walk in the day, you don't stumble; if you walk at night, you will."
Jesus answered, Are there not twelve hours in the day? If any man walk in the day, he stumbleth not, because he seeth the light of this world. But if a man walk in the night, he stumbleth, because there is no light in him. 11:9-10
And that pretty much shut them up.
Then Jesus said he had to go wake up Lazarus.
These things said he: and after that he saith unto them, Our friend Lazarus sleepeth; but I go, that I may awake him out of sleep. 11:11
His disciples said, "Oh, Jesus! Let him sleep."
Then said his disciples, Lord, if he sleep, he shall do well. 11:12
Then Jesus told them what he meant by "sleep." He meant Lazarus was dead.
Then said Jesus unto them plainly, Lazarus is dead. 11:14
Jesus said he was glad that he wasn't there when Lazarus died, though, because if he was, Lazarus wouldn't have died and Jesus's disciples wouldn't believe in him.
And I am glad for your sakes that I was not there, to the intent ye may believe 11:15a
"But enough chit-chat," Jesus said. "Let's get going."
Nevertheless let us go unto him. 11:15b
So they left. By the time they arrived, Lazarus had been dead for four days.
Then when Jesus came, he found that he had lain in the grave four days already. 11:17
As soon as Martha heard that Jesus was coming, she ran to meet him. But Mary stayed home.
Then Martha, as soon as she heard that Jesus was coming, went and met him: but Mary sat still in the house. 11:20
When Martha met Jesus, they had an extended theological discussion.
Then said Martha unto Jesus, Lord, if thou hadst been here, my brother had not died. But I know, that even now, whatsoever thou wilt ask of God, God will give it thee. Jesus saith unto her, Thy brother shall rise again. Martha saith unto him, I know that he shall rise again in the resurrection at the last day. Jesus said unto her, I am the resurrection, and the life: he that believeth in me, though he were dead, yet shall he live: And whosoever liveth and believeth in me shall never die. Believest thou this? She saith unto him, Yea, Lord: I believe that thou art the Christ, the Son of God, which should come into the world. 11:21-27
After they finished, Martha went home and secretly told Mary that Jesus wanted her.
And when she had so said, she went her way, and called Mary her sister secretly, saying, The Master is come, and calleth for thee. 11:28
As soon as Mary heard that, she came to him, fell down at his feet, and said to him, "Lord, if you had been here, Lazarus would still be alive."
As soon as she heard that, she arose quickly, and came unto him ... and ... she fell down at his feet, saying unto him, Lord, if thou hadst been here, my brother had not died. 11:2--32
When Jesus saw Mary and all the Jews weeping, his spirit groaned and he was troubled.
When Jesus therefore saw her weeping, and the Jews also weeping which came with her, he groaned in the spirit, and was troubled. 11:33
He said, "Where have you put him?" And they said, "Come and see."
And said, Where have ye laid him? They said unto him, Lord, come and see. 11:34
Then Jesus started crying and all the Jews said, "See how much Jesus loved him!"
Jesus wept. Then said the Jews, Behold how he loved him! 11:35-36
And some of them said, "He made the blind see, couldn't he have kept Lazarus from dying?"
And some of them said, Could not this man, which opened the eyes of the blind, have caused that even this man should not have died? 11:37
Jesus groaned again, came to the cave, and said, "Take away the stone."
Jesus therefore again groaning in himself cometh to the grave. It was a cave, and a stone lay upon it. Jesus said, Take ye away the stone. 11:38-39a
Martha said, "Lord, he stinks. He's been dead for four days."
Martha, the sister of him that was dead, saith unto him, Lord, by this time he stinketh: for he hath been dead four days. 11:39b
Jesus said, "Didn't I tell you that if you'd believe, you'd see God's glory?"
Jesus saith unto her, Said I not unto thee, that, if thou wouldest believe, thou shouldest see the glory of God? 11:40
Then they took away the stone and Jesus looked up and said, "Father, thanks for listening. I know that you hear me even when I don't talk to you out loud, but since there are people standing around, I'm letting them hear me talk to you, so they'll believe that you sent me."
Then they took away the stone from the place where the dead was laid. And Jesus lifted up his eyes, and said, Father, I thank thee that thou hast heard me. And I knew that thou hearest me always: but because of the people which stand by I said it, that they may believe that thou hast sent me. 11:41-42
After Jesus was done talking out loud to his father, he cried out with a loud voice, "Lazarus, come out!4 (Come out, wherever you are! Olly olly oxen free!)"
And when he thus had spoken, he cried with a loud voice, Lazarus, come forth. 11:43
And Lazarus came out, with his body wrapped in mummylike wrappings, and with a napkin on his face.
And he that was dead came forth, bound hand and foot with graveclothes: and his face was bound about with a napkin. 11:44a
Jesus said to unwrap him and let him go.
Jesus saith unto them, Loose him, and let him go. 11:45
Sometime later, after raising Lazarus from the dead, Jesus returned to Bethany. Martha served and Lazarus sat at the table with Jesus.
Then Jesus six days before the passover came to Bethany, where Lazarus was, which had been dead, whom he raised from the dead. There they made him a supper; and Martha served: but Lazarus was one of them that sat at the table with him. 12:1-2
Many Jews came to see Lazarus, whom Jesus had recently raised from the dead.
Much people of the Jews therefore knew that he was there: and they came not for Jesus' sake only, but that they might see Lazarus also, whom he had raised from the dead. 12:9
The chief priests decided to kill Lazarus, since so many Jews believed in Jesus because he raised Lazarus from the dead.
But the chief priests consulted that they might put Lazarus also to death; Because that by reason of him many of the Jews went away, and believed on Jesus. 12:11-12
The people that witnessed Lazarus come back to life believed in Jesus, and the Pharisees said the whole world now believes in Jesus.
The people therefore that was with him when he called Lazarus out of his grave, and raised him from the dead, bare record. For this cause the people also met him, for that they heard that he had done this miracle. The Pharisees therefore said among themselves, Perceive ye how ye prevail nothing? behold, the world is gone after him. 12:17-19
And now you know everything there is to know about Lazarus.
Still, you might have missed a few things.
Did Jesus have a homosexual affair with Lazarus? Nancy Wilson and Robert Goss seem to think so.
Did he [Lazarus] and Jesus have a platonic but distinctly homosexual relationship? ... How is it possible to read over and over about this man [Lazarus] whom he [Jesus] loved and not imagine there might have been at least some dimension of passion and eroticism connected with his feelings?5
Those who hold to the hypothesis that Jesus was celibate may debate whether Jesus was sexually intimate with the beloved. I choose to understand Jesus as sexually intimate with Lazarus.6
And were Martha and Mary really sisters? Maybe they were a lesbian couple that pretended to be sisters.
What if Mary and Martha were not sisters but called each other 'sister' as did most lesbian couples throughout recorded history? Nancy Wilson, Our Story Too...Reading the Bible with "New Eyes"7
And since verse 11:5 says that Jesus loved Martha, Mary, and Lazarus, does that mean that Jesus had sex with all three? Was he bisexual?
I believe that the most obvious way to see Jesus as a sexual being is to see him as bisexual in orientation. Nancy Wilson, Outing the Bible8
Besides Mary, Martha, and Lazarus, there was one other person in the gospel of John that Jesus is said to have loved, and he is said to have been loved by Jesus more often than anyone else in the entire Bible. His identity is much disputed,9 but he is always identified as "the disciple whom Jesus loved." Here are the four stories involving the beloved disciple as told in the gospel of John.
After eating his last meal with his disciples, Jesus took off his clothes, wrapped a towel around himself, and washed their feet using the same towel. (Must have been awkward.)
And supper being ended ... Jesus ... riseth from supper, and laid aside his garments; and took a towel, and girded himself. After that he poureth water into a bason, and began to wash the disciples' feet, and to wipe them with the towel wherewith he was girded. John 13:2-5
Then he put his clothes back on, sat down, and said, "Do you know what I just did to you?"
After he had washed their feet, and had taken his garments, and was set down again, he said unto them, Know ye what I have done to you? 13:12
Jesus explained that if he, as Lord and Master, washed his servants' feet, they ought to wash each other's feet.
If I then, your Lord and Master, have washed your feet; ye also ought to wash one another's feet. 13:12-14He then announced that someone whose feet he had washed would betray him.
When Jesus had thus said, he was troubled in spirit, and testified, and said, Verily, verily, I say unto you, that one of you shall betray me. 13:21
The disciples all looked at one another, wondering which of them was the one.
Then the disciples looked one on another, doubting of whom he spake. 13:22
One of the disciples, the one whom Jesus loved, was leaning on Jesus's breast.
Now there was leaning on Jesus' bosom one of his disciples, whom Jesus loved. 13:23
Peter asked the beloved disciple to ask Jesus to identify the betrayer.
Simon Peter therefore beckoned to him, that he should ask who it should be of whom he spake. 13:24
So the disciple who was lying on Jesus's breast asked Jesus who it was.
He then lying on Jesus' breast saith unto him, Lord, who is it? 13:25
Jesus dipped a piece of bread and gave it to Judas, saying, "It's the one I'm giving the food to."
Jesus answered, He it is, to whom I shall give a sop, when I have dipped it. And when he had dipped the sop, he gave it to Judas Iscariot, the son of Simon. 13:26
That was an interesting story. But what can we conclude from it about the relationship between Jesus and his beloved disciple? Well, here is one possible interpretation:
Here we have the actual physical intimacy of the beloved disciple with Jesus at the final farewell meal. The Gospel narrates the beloved disciple's act of reclining in the kolpos (literally "pocket") or undergarment of Jesus. Kopos is used to describe the garment extended from the breast to over the genital area. ... The beloved disciple who rests in the kolpos is physically intimate with Jesus. The phrase en to kolpo used in the Septuagint translation of the Hebrew Scriptures has a number of meanings, including an explicit sexual relationship.10
There were only a few followers of Jesus at the crucifixion. The three Marys: Jesus's mother, the wife of Cleophas, and Mary Magdalene.
Now there stood by the cross of Jesus his mother, and his mother's sister, Mary the wife of Cleophas, and Mary Magdalene. 19:25John 19:25
And the disciple whom Jesus loved. When Jesus saw his mother and the beloved disciple, he said, "Woman, look at your son!"
When Jesus therefore saw his mother, and the disciple standing by, whom he loved, he saith unto his mother, Woman, behold thy son! 19:26
Then Jesus said to the beloved disciple, "Here is your mother." And from that time on, he took Jesus's mother to his own home.
Then saith he to the disciple, Behold thy mother! And from that hour that disciple took her unto his own home. 19:27
What are we to make of this crucifixion scene? What does it tell us about Jesus's relationship with his beloved disciple? Well, here's what Theodore W. Jennings, Jr. said about it in his book, The Man Jesus Loved:
The plain sense of this episode is to buttress our hypothesis that Jesus is to be understood as having a lover.... The relationship is depicted by the text as a homoerotic one, which is here acknowledged as entailing a loyalty that has consequences even beyond the death of Jesus. ... [T]his scene should be read as underlining not Jesus' love for his mother (which is suggested nowhere in this or any other Gospel) but Jesus' love for his beloved.11
On Sunday morning, according the gospel of John, after Jesus was crucified, Mary Magdalene went to the sepulchre where Jesus was buried, and she saw that the stone had been taken away.
The first day of the week cometh Mary Magdalene early, when it was yet dark, unto the sepulchre, and seeth the stone taken away from the sepulchre. John 20:1
She ran to tell Peter and the disciple whom Jesus loved, and said to them, "They've taken away Jesus and I don't know where they've put him."
Then she runneth, and cometh to Simon Peter, and to the other disciple, whom Jesus loved, and saith unto them, They have taken away the LORD out of the sepulchre, and we know not where they have laid him. 20:2
So Peter and the disciple whom Jesus loved ran to the sepulchre.
Peter therefore went forth, and that other disciple, and came to the sepulchre. 20:3
But the beloved disciple outran Peter.
So they ran both together: and the other disciple did outrun Peter, and came first to the sepulchre. 20:4
And saw the linen clothes, but he didn't go in.
And he stooping down, and looking in, saw the linen clothes lying; yet went he not in. 20:5
Then Peter arrived and saw the linen clothes and the head napkin.
Then cometh Simon Peter following him, and went into the sepulchre, and seeth the linen clothes lie, And the napkin, that was about his head, not lying with the linen clothes, but wrapped together in a place by itself. 20:6-7
And then the disciple whom Jesus loved went in, saw, and believed.
Then went in also that other disciple, which came first to the sepulchre, and he saw, and believed. 20:8
As Jennings notes in The Man Jesus Loved, "The episode of the tomb does not add a great deal to our hypothesis concerning the nature of the relationship between Jesus and the beloved." Except, perhaps, that "the supposition that Jesus' relation to the beloved was an erotic one makes the relationship between Peter and the beloved more intelligible."12
One night, after Jesus was crucified, Peter and the apostles decided to go fishing. They fished all night but didn't catch a thing.
There were together Simon Peter, and Thomas called Didymus, and Nathanael of Cana in Galilee, and the sons of Zebedee, and two other of his disciples. Simon Peter saith unto them, I go a fishing. They say unto him, We also go with thee. They went forth, and entered into a ship immediately; and that night they caught nothing. John 21:2-3
The next morning a man on shore asked if they'd caught anything.
But when the morning was now come, Jesus stood on the shore: but the disciples knew not that it was Jesus. Then Jesus saith unto them, Children, have ye any meat? 21:4-5a
When they told him they hadn't, the man told them to cast their net on the right side of the boat.
They answered him, No. And he said unto them, Cast the net on the right side of the ship, and ye shall find. 21:5b-6a
So they did that and caught so many fish they couldn't haul in the net.
They cast therefore, and now they were not able to draw it for the multitude of fishes. 21:6b
One of the apostles (the one whom Jesus loved) decided that the guy on shore was really Jesus. When Peter, who was naked at the time, heard it was Jesus, he put his coat on and jumped into the water.
That disciple whom Jesus loved saith unto Peter, It is the Lord. Now when Simon Peter heard that it was the Lord, he girt his fisher's coat unto him, (for he was naked,) and did cast himself into the sea. 21:7
Some other apostles came out in another boat and helped tow the net to shore.
And the other disciples came in a little ship; (for they were not far from land, but as it were two hundred cubits,) dragging the net with fishes. 218
When they got there, Jesus was busy cooking fish over a fire.
As soon then as they were come to land, they saw a fire of coals there, and fish laid thereon, and bread. 21:9
He told them to bring over the fish that they caught.
Jesus saith unto them, Bring of the fish which ye have now caught. 21:10
Peter pulled up the net and counted 153 fishes.
Simon Peter went up, and drew the net to land full of great fishes, an hundred and fifty and three. 21:11
Jesus said to come and eat with him. None of the disciples dared to ask who he was, but by that time they figured it was Jesus anyway.
Jesus saith unto them, Come and dine. And none of the disciples durst ask him, Who art thou? knowing that it was the Lord. 21:12
And so they ate the fish that he had cooked.
Jesus then cometh, and taketh bread, and giveth them, and fish likewise. 21:13
After their meal, Jesus asks Peter the same question three times: Do you love me more than all the others? Peter keeps telling him that he does.
So when they had dined, Jesus saith to Simon Peter, Simon, son of Jonas, lovest thou me more than these? He saith unto him, Yea, Lord; thou knowest that I love thee. He saith unto him, Feed my lambs. He saith to him again the second time, Simon, son of Jonas, lovest thou me? He saith unto him, Yea, Lord; thou knowest that I love thee. He saith unto him, Feed my sheep. He saith unto him the third time, Simon, son of Jonas, lovest thou me? Peter was grieved because he said unto him the third time, Lovest thou me? And he said unto him, Lord, thou knowest all things; thou knowest that I love thee. Jesus saith unto him, Feed my sheep. 21:14-17
Then Peter asked Jesus what would happen to the disciple whom Jesus loved, you know, the one who leaned on his breast at supper.
Then Peter, turning about, seeth the disciple whom Jesus loved following; which also leaned on his breast at supper ... Peter seeing him saith to Jesus, Lord, and what shall this man do? 21:20-21
Jesus said, "If he lives until my second coming, what is that to you?"
Jesus saith unto him, If I will that he tarry till I come, what is that to thee? 21:22
Okay, so Jesus seemed to have a special relationship with one of his disciples, "the disciple whom Jesus loved." Jesus and the beloved disciple loved each other. But what was the nature of this love?
Well, you probably won't be too surprised to hear that some people think it was a full-blown, homoerotic, same-sex affair; Jesus and the beloved disciple were gay lovers.
The relation of Jesus and the beloved disciple [is] the pederastic relationship of the older male as lover (erastes) to the beloved younger male (eromenos)...." Robert E. Goss.13
If we are to follow the plain sense of the text it looks as if Jesus had a same sex lover." Keith Sharpe14
There is a mini-story in the gospel of Mark that has puzzled everyone who has ever read it. Jesus is praying in the garden of Gethsemane while Peter, James, and John sleep. Judas arrives with the priests, scribes, and elders; Judas kisses Jesus; someone chops off the ear of the high priest's slave; and "a certain young man" streaks naked across the playing field.
There followed him a certain young man, having a linen cloth cast about his naked body; and the young men laid hold on him: And he left the linen cloth, and fled from them naked. Mark 14:51-52
That is indeed a strange story, and I'm not sure what to make of it. Why was it included in the gospel of Mark? What was the relationship between Jesus and the naked young man? Does the story suggest that it had a homosexual component? Is that why it was left out of the gospels of Matthew and Luke? Or was it just a little too weird and creepy for them?
I don't know the answers to these questions, but others seem to. Adrian Thatcher, for example, in The Savage Text says the story is "an apparent allusion to the typical recipient of homoerotic attention ... at a decisive moment in the passion of Jesus, and with the suggestion of a particularly close relationship between Jesus and this youth."15
The story takes place on the the first Sunday after the crucifixion. A couple of Jesus's disciples were walking from Jerusalem to Emmaus, which was a distance of about eight miles. While they were walking, Jesus joined them on their journey.
And, behold, two of them went that same day to a village called Emmaus, which was from Jerusalem about threescore furlongs. And they talked together of all these things which had happened. And it came to pass, that, while they communed together and reasoned, Jesus himself drew near, and went with them. Luke 24:13-15
But, for some strange reason, the disciples, who you'd think would know him when they see him, don't recognize him. I guess he was in some sort of disguise.
But their eyes were holden that they should not know him. 24:16
Jesus noticed that they were sad, so he asked them about it. One of them, whose name was Cleopas, said, "Are you new around here, or what? Haven't you heard about Jesus and his recent crucifixion?"
And he said unto them, What manner of communications are these that ye have one to another, as ye walk, and are sad? And the one of them, whose name was Cleopas, answering said unto him, Art thou only a stranger in Jerusalem, and hast not known the things which are come to pass there in these days? And he said unto them, What things? And they said unto him, Concerning Jesus of Nazareth, which was a prophet mighty in deed and word before God and all the people: And how the chief priests and our rulers delivered him to be condemned to death, and have crucified him. But we trusted that it had been he which should have redeemed Israel: and beside all this, to day is the third day since these things were done. Yea, and certain women also of our company made us astonished, which were early at the sepulchre; And when they found not his body, they came, saying, that they had also seen a vision of angels, which said that he was alive. And certain of them which were with us went to the sepulchre, and found it even so as the women had said: but him they saw not. 24:17-24
When Jesus heard this, he called them unbelieving fools. Then he explained how God had to kill him because the scriptures said so.
Then he said unto them, O fools, and slow of heart to believe all that the prophets have spoken: Ought not Christ to have suffered these things, and to enter into his glory? And beginning at Moses and all the prophets, he expounded unto them in all the scriptures the things concerning himself. 24:25-27
When they arrived at Emmaus, Jesus pretended that he needed to keep going. But the disciples asked him to stay. So he did. Then at dinner, he blessed bread, broke it, and passed it to them. And that's when they recognized him. Then, the next thing they knew he just disappeared.
And they drew nigh unto the village, whither they went: and he made as though he would have gone further. But they constrained him, saying, Abide with us: for it is toward evening, and the day is far spent. And he went in to tarry with them. And it came to pass, as he sat at meat with them, he took bread, and blessed it, and brake, and gave to them. And their eyes were opened, and they knew him; and he vanished out of their sight. 24:28-31
After he left, they said to each other, "Didn't our hearts burn within us as he talked to us and told us about the scriptures?"
And they said one to another, Did not our heart burn within us, while he talked with us by the way, and while he opened to us the scriptures? 24:32
Then they began the eight-mile walk back to Jerusalem.
And they rose up the same hour, and returned to Jerusalem.... 24:33
Do you see the relevance of this story to the homosexuality debate?
Well, if not, that's okay. I didn't see it either on first reading. I was an unbelieving fool -- just like the disciples who didn't see Jesus when he was walking with them on the road to Emmaus. But then I read James Martin's essay, "And Then He Kissed Me," where he reveals the homosexual meaning that is hidden in the text. It turns out that "the story about Jesus at Emmaus ... is a story about ... the naked vulnerability of Jesus in sexual giving and receiving."16
So now you know.
But enough about the gay Jesus. Now let's take a look at his dad.
In the same pamphlet, Wilson continues to speculate about the sexuality of Jesus, Mary, Martha, and Lazarus: "Jesus loved Lazarus, Mary and Martha. What drew Jesus to this very non-traditional family group of a bachelor brother living with two spinster sisters? Two barren women and a eunuch are Jesus' adult family of choice. Are we to assume they were all celibate heterosexuals?"