What did Jesus think about homosexuality? While we can’t cite a verse to show that He affirmed or condemned same-sex love, I argued in my last post that Jesus’s Jewish worldview suggests that He probably would not have affirmed it.
For this post, I want to answer another question raised at the end of my last post: “What about Jesus’s disregard for purity laws (washing hands, eating pork, etc.) and His radical, counterintuitive outreach to the outcasts?”
First, we’ve already seen in a previous post that it’s not at all clear that same-sex intercourse was considered a purity law in the Old Testament. For the sake of space, I’ll rely on my previous argument. In short, not all laws in Leviticus 18 and 20 are classified as purity laws, and Paul, who did not embrace OT purity laws still alluded to Lev 18:22 and 20:13 to prohibit same-sex intercourse.
Second, it’s also not clear that Jesus rejected the purity laws of the Old Testament. He certainly challenged some Jewish traditions of His day; traditions about the Sabbath law, washing hands, etc. But it’s far from clear that Jesus actually broke, or taught others to break, the sacred laws of the Jewish Torah. In fact, His words in Matthew 5:17-20 suggest otherwise. Now, there are a few instances where Jesus seems to overturn (or bring to fulfillment) a prior OT law, such as divorce (Matt 5:31-32) and retaliation (Matt 5:38-42). (The Sabbath law is a bit tricky; Matt 12.) But in these cases, Jesus cites the OT law directly. He never does this with the laws regarding same-sex intercourse. Put simply, if we say that Jesus overturned the sexual laws prohibiting same-sex intercourse (Lev 18:22; 20:13), we’d need clear evidence—evidence which we don’t have.
I’m genuinely not trying to push an agenda here, and if you read all my previous blogs, I hope this shines through. But if I’m going to enlist Jesus to support same-sex relations against His Jewish worldview, I’m going to need a good, biblical, historical, and logical argument to do so. And unless I’m missing something, such an argument cannot be found in saying that since prohibitions of same-sex intercourse are part of the purity laws (which they aren’t), Jesus therefore overturned these OT laws (which he didn’t).
Third, to add to this, we should notice that even though Jesus never mentioned homosexuality, when it came to sexual matters in general, He took a very conservative stance compared to other rabbis of the day.
For instance, ancient rabbis disagreed on the grounds for divorce. Some (e.g. Hillel) said that a man could divorce his wife if she made a bad meal, while others (e.g. Shammai) said that divorce is only permitted if the woman has committed sexual immorality. Jesus, of course, is much closer to the latter; that is, he takes the conservative view that divorce is only permitted in cases of sexual immorality.
Jesus also takes a crazy conservative stance on adultery: anyone who simply lusts for a woman has committed adultery in his heart (Matt 5:27-30).
When Jesus moves away from His Jewish tradition regarding sexual matters (and we need textual evidence for such moves), we see Him moving to the right (a stricter interpretation of Torah) not the left (more lenient interpretation of Torah).
But let me end by pointing out a somewhat flawed argument offer by my conservative audience. Some say that since Jesus only sanctioned heterosexual love within marriage, He therefore condemned homosexual love. For instance, in Mark 10:6-8 Jesus says:
But from the beginning of creation, “God made them male and female.” “Therefore a man shall leave his father and mother and hold fast to his wife, and the two shall become one flesh.”
Jesus cites Gen 1:27 and 2:24 as Scriptural proof—but proof for what? Some people say that this is clear proof that Jesus was against homosexual relations. Some will then add the ever clever, knee-slapping hilarious, and studiously logical footnote that “God created Adam and Eve, not Adam and Steve,” which is neither clever, nor hilarious, nor logical. (Seriously, I hope that my Christian brothers and sisters will never, ever, ever say this stupid line, ever, ever again; it ignores biblical exegesis, showcases Evangelical ignorance, and isn’t, and never has been, funny.)
But Jesus’s positive affirmation of heterosexual union does not in itself preclude same-sex union. Although I disagree with 90% of his book, Daniel Helminiak is correct when he writes: “The fact that the Bible speaks often and positively about heterosexual relationships in no way implies a condemnation of homosexual ones” (What the Bible Really Says about Homosexuality, 122). Moreover, Jesus cites Genesis 1-2 to show that divorce is wrong, not that same-sex relations are wrong. If we go on the explicit reason why Jesus went to Gen 1-2, that reason is clearly not homosexual love (which is ironic when divorced Christians cite the verse to condemn homosexual unions).
Now, please don’t confuse my disagreement with this argument as proof that I disagree with the view it’s enlisted to support. From what I’ve studied so far, I don’t think the Bible sanctions same sex intercourse (or marriage), and Jesus’s silence on the issue cannot be used to support it. But I only want my view (wherever I end up landing in the end) to be based on solid, logical, historically viable arguments from the text of Scripture. I will not race to find it under every rock and tree, chapter and verse.
For the next post, I’ll look at Jesus’s view of unconditional love. Does His embrace of harlot and sinner show that His love is poured out regardless of behavior?