Why Didn’t Jesus Teach on Homosexuality?

In the ongoing debate on the biblical status of homosexuality, a not-so-infrequent objection to the conservative (and classical, mind you) approach is that Jesus himself never addressed homosexuality. After all, if it were really a big deal, wouldn’t Jesus himself address it?

The nub of this argument is a half-truth (and the wrong end at that). First, though we have no explicit statements from Jesus on same gender attraction and relationships-using the word ‘homosexual’ or one of its cognates- we do have his positive definition of marriage with its undeniable link to sexuality (Mark 10:6-8).  Second, Jesus never explicitly denounced homosexuality as a deviation from God’s design for human sexuality for one primary reason:

 …the same reason why a GOP candidate doesn’t argue for lowering taxes at the RNC national convention.

 … the same reason why Whoopi Goldberg doesn’t argue in favor of a woman’s “right to choose” at a Planned Parenthood rally.

 … the same reason why a Jehovah’s Witness doesn’t argue against the deity of Christ in a Kingdom Hall.

…the same reason why a Muslim doesn’t try to convince those at his local mosque that there is no god but Allah and Muhammad is his prophet.

I think you get the picture.

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Posted on July 20, 2012, in Jesus Christ, Sexuality and tagged , , . Bookmark the permalink. 7 Comments.

  1. When I hear this objection, I can’t help but think that Jesus didn’t say anything about burning babies alive either. Just because he didn’t say something doesn’t mean it is moral. The larger issue here is missing the point of Christ’s mission to earth. He didn’t come to give us rules to live by, he came to save us from a standard we can’t possibly meet.

  2. Nicely put, Joseph.

    Arguably Jesus did teach on homosexuality. “Sexual immorality” (porneia) in Matthew 15:19 and Mark 7:21 is a covering term that includes homosexual relations (and certainly would have been so understood by the original audience).

  3. Exactly! I have always thought that this was a foolish observation. Christ’s teaching must be understood within the broader Biblical (OT) ethic. An argument from silence is both weak and fallacious. While it is debatable whether porneia would have been understood by a general Greek audience to refer to homosexuality (the term had a more specific meaning in the broader culture) it seems clear that within the Christian community it included such behavior (c.f. Paul’s usage).

    • I’m not sure whether KG meant to take issue with what I said, but let me add a few further comments.

      I didn’t claim that porneia referred to homosexuality, but only that the original audience would have understood it to include homosexual relations. The word generally refers to any illegitimate sexual intercourse. Jesus’ original audience was Jewish, so they would certainly have taken it to include homosexual relations. Regardless of whether Jesus taught in Aramaic or Greek (or Hebrew as some have argued), Matthew and Mark considered porneia the right word to capture Jesus’ meaning — and their audience, as KG notes, would have understood the term to include homosexual relations. So I think the argument from Matthew 15:19 and Mark 7:21 is sound.

      • James,

        I was not taking issue with what you said. I agree with you. Unfortunately, often those wishing to exclude Matt 15 argue based upon the usage of the word in Greek literature outside of the Bible that homosexuality is not in view since porneia was not a definitive term for homosexuality. This is clearly incorrect. Whatever use the term had in extrabiblical literature it is clear from its usage by both Jesus and Paul that within the context of Christian teaching it has a broader application that certainly includes homosexuality.

        I have been studying the term for an upcoming article on my site “Is Watching Porn Porneia?” to address a question I was asked. In the process I read many discussions by people trying to exclude homosexuality based upon the argument I alluded to above. We must, however, pay attention to the way particular authors define their terms as James points out.

  4. Thanks for clarifying, KG! Glad we’re on the same page.

    Your article sounds interesting. I’d be grateful if you would email me a link when you post it.

  5. Sorry for the delay in responding… I was going through some old stuff on my computer and realized I never posted the link. (yes I need to do a better job of keeping things cleaned up in my files).

    Anyhow, I welcome any feedback you may have.

    http://mathaytes.blogspot.com/2012/08/is-porn-porneia.html

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