Jesus didn’t talk about homosexuality. Does that mean it’s okay?
If you’ve ever claimed that Scripture says homosexual behavior is a sin, there’s a good chance someone tried to correct you with, “Jesus never said anything about homosexuality.” It doesn’t matter what Bible verse bolsters your claim, Jesus’ silence on the matter allegedly trumps all other considerations. Here are seven reasons why this objection doesn’t work.
First of all, Jesus didn’t need to say anything about homosexuality. No first century Jew questioned whether homosexual sex was morally permissible. That’s because every Old Testament reference, poem, or metaphor that addresses sex and marriage in a positive way presumes heterosexual relations. Furthermore, every reference to homosexuality in the Old Testament is negative. There was no debate as to what the biblical witness was on that behavior. God-fearing Jews already believed homosexual sex was prohibited.
Second, it’s not certain that Jesus never said anything about homosexuality. It’s possible He did address it but His statement wasn’t recorded. The Gospel writers didn’t document everything Jesus said and did—only what they thought was important to their audience. Indeed, most of what Jesus said (and did) was never written down. John 21:25 says, “And there are also many other things which Jesus did, which if they were written in detail, I suppose that even the world itself would not contain the books that would be written.” It’s possible Jesus did talk about homosexuality but the Gospel writers didn’t feel it was necessary to include it in their accounts.
Third, even if it turns out Jesus never said anything about homosexuality, so what? What follows from that? Jesus’ silence on the matter wouldn’t mean He approves of homosexual sex. That would be an argument from silence, a type of faulty reasoning. Besides, Jesus didn’t speak about every immoral behavior. Should we infer that drunkenness, child sacrifice, and neglecting the elderly are morally appropriate since Jesus never said anything about them either? That would be absurd. Jesus addressed moral issues of His day as they arose in conversation.
Fourth, we know what Jesus would have said about homosexuality if asked. Jesus was an observant Jew living during the Mosaic Law. He had not yet instituted the New Covenant. That’s why He often referenced the Law. For example, Jesus cited the two greatest commandments of the Law (Matthew 22:37, 39) and told the rich young ruler to uphold the commandments of the Law (Mark 10:17–22). Therefore, if asked what He thought about homosexuality, Jesus would have cited the Mosaic Law again (Leviticus 18:20, 20:13), which unequivocally states that homosexual behavior is a sin.
Fifth, Jesus did voice His opinion on matters of sex and marriage. When asked about divorce, Jesus cited the Genesis creation account: “Have you not read that He who created them from the beginning made them male and female, and said, ‘For this reason a man shall leave his father and mother and be joined to his wife, and the two shall become one flesh’? So they are no longer two, but one flesh. What therefore God has joined together, let no man separate” (Matthew 19:3–6). Jesus believed that God’s design in Genesis, making male and female join together to become one flesh, was the intended blueprint for sexuality even for His day. His view about sex and marriage is one man, with one woman, becoming one flesh, for one lifetime. Indeed, Jesus emphasized that the one-flesh union described in Genesis is a God-ordained institution (“What therefore God has joined together, let no man separate”). A male-female union has the Father’s stamp of approval. If that was Jesus’ view on sex and marriage, then every other type of sexual act, including homosexual behavior, is disqualified.
Sixth, Jesus does basically say homosexual behavior is a sin. In Mark 7:21–23, Jesus says, “For it is from within, out of a person’s heart, that evil thoughts come—sexual immorality, theft, murder, adultery...all these evils come from inside and defile a person.” The Greek word translated “sexual immorality” is porneiai, which is a term that includes many sexual sins, including homosexuality. First century Jews who heard that word would think of the sexual sins listed in the Mosaic Law, which includes homosexual sex.
Seventh, saying “Jesus never said anything about homosexuality” mistakenly presumes that the words of Jesus are more authoritative than the rest of Scripture. But it is the Holy Spirit—God Himself—who inspired all of the words of Scripture, not just the red letters. That means Leviticus 18:22 and 20:13, Romans 1:26–27, 1 Corinthians 6:9–11, and 1 Timothy 1:9–11, where homosexual behavior is specifically condemned, are also inspired by the Holy Spirit and are the authoritative word of God. Since Jesus and the Holy Spirit co-exist in the Godhead and are in perfect communion through all eternity, we can be confident that Jesus agrees with the Holy Spirit about what He’s inspired to be written in Scripture.
Any one of these seven responses alone is sufficient to respond to this challenge. When you combine them together, though, it leaves no room to doubt that this challenge can’t be sustained.
[This article was updated and expanded on 2/25/16.]