Challenge Response: Jesus Never Said a Word about Homosexuality

Here's my response to this week's challenge:

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Jesus never said a word about homosexuality. That's this week's challenge. In fact, it’s one that I've heard from a lot of people. This particular expression of the challenge comes from an interview done with the former President Jimmy Carter, and here's what he said: “Homosexuality was well-known in the ancient world well before Christ was born, and Jesus never said a word about homosexuality in all of his teachings about multiple things. He never said that gay people should be condemned. I personally think it is very fine for gay people to be married in civil ceremonies.” This is really bad reasoning, and I have seven responses to give to this challenge. 

Here's the first one: Jesus didn't have to say anything about homosexuality. The reason is because no first-century Jew ever had any question as to whether homosexual behavior was morally permissible or not. They all knew that it was condemned. Why? Because every reference to sex and marriage in the Old Testament, every poem, and every metaphor presumes heterosexual sex and heterosexual marriage. Every reference to homosexuality in the Old Testament was negative. So, there's no question as to what Jews and other people who were listening to Jesus at the time that he was speaking would have thought about the question of homosexuality. There was no need for him to address it.

Number two: It's not certain that Jesus never said anything about homosexuality. It's quite possible that he did say something about homosexuality but that it wasn't recorded by the gospel authors. After all, the gospel writers didn't put down everything that Jesus said, only the things that they deemed relevant to their audiences. In fact, in John 21 the gospel writer says, “and Jesus did many other things that if they were written in books there would be so many books we couldn't even fit them in the world.” In other words, there are lots of things that Jesus said and did that weren't documented. It's quite possible that Jesus did say something about homosexuality but because it wasn't really a hot-button issue of the day, the gospel writers didn’t include it in the gospel accounts.

Number three: Even if it turns out that Jesus never said anything about homosexuality, what follows from that? Nothing. Even if Jesus never said anything about it, it doesn't mean that he therefore thinks that it's morally permissible to engage in homosexual sex. This would be simply an argument from silence. After all, Jesus never said anything about drunkenness, child sacrifice, or neglecting the elderly, but clearly we wouldn't say that Jesus thinks that those things are morally permissible. It's quite possible that he never said anything about it, but that does not mean that therefore he thinks that homosexuality is okay.

Number four: We do know what Jesus would have said about homosexuality if he were asked. Why? Because Jesus was an observant Jew, and as an observant Jew, he upheld the Law of Moses. In fact, many times when he was in conversations with people, he would reference the Mosaic Law. He would say the greatest commandment, “Love your God with all your heart, soul, strength, and mind, and love your neighbor as yourself.” When the Jews were talking to Jesus about marriage and divorce, he even said, “What did Moses teach you in the law?” So he would often uphold the Law of Moses because it was still binding. Therefore, if Jesus was asked, “What do you think about homosexuality?” We know what he would say. He would have simply cited the Levitical prohibitions in Leviticus 18 and 20, which clearly teach that homosexuality is sin. So again, even if he was asked, we know what he would have said.

Number five: Jesus does voice his opinion on matters of sex and marriage. When Jesus is answering a question about divorce in Matthew 19, Jesus cites the creation account where it says that a man will leave his parents and be united to his wife and they shall become one flesh. Notice, Jesus' view of sex and marriage is one man, with one woman, becoming one flesh, for one lifetime. Then Jesus says, “What God has ordained, let no man separate.” What God has brought together, let no man separate. In other words, God Himself is ordaining this heterosexual union of man and wife. So, if Jesus’ view on sex and marriage is for one man and one woman to come together in a heterosexual union, then this would automatically disqualify all other forms of sex and all other forms of marriage. That would include fornication, adultery, and of course even homosexuality. In other words, by Jesus taking a stance on what sex and marriage is about, heterosexually speaking, then therefore, this disqualifies all other forms of sexual behavior, including homosexuality.

Number six: Jesus does basically say that homosexuality is a sin, and we see this in Mark 7 where Jesus is talking about what makes a man unclean and what defiles a man. He says that it's from within a man's heart and what comes out of it that ultimately makes a man unclean. He says sexual immorality, theft, murder, and a whole bunch of other things. The Greek word that's used for sexual immorality is “porneia,” and that Greek word is a reference to sexual sins of which homosexuality would be included. No first-century Jew would hear the word “porneia” and not automatically think that Jesus is making reference to the sexual sins that are listed in Leviticus 18 and Leviticus 20.

Finally, number seven: Saying that Jesus never said anything about homosexuality presumes that the words of Jesus are somehow more authoritative than the words of Scripture elsewhere. It's the Holy Spirit, God Himself, who has inspired all the words of Scripture, not just the red letters. Of course, that would include passages like Leviticus 18 and 20, Romans 1, 1 Corinthians 6, and 1 Timothy 1 where Scripture clearly condemns homosexual sex and says it’s not morally permissible. Since Jesus and the Holy Spirit are part of the Trinity, they have been living in perfect holy communion for all eternity past. Chances are, Jesus and the Holy Spirit agree with each other. Therefore, Jesus’ view would be the same as the Holy Spirit’s view who inspired all of Scripture of where we see many passages that clearly condemn homosexual behavior.

Any one of those seven responses is sufficient to respond to this challenge, but when you combine all seven of them together, it leaves no possibility for sustaining the idea that just because Jesus never said anything about homosexuality in the Bible, therefore Jesus is ok with homosexual behavior. He's not.

Alan Shlemon

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