I stumbled upon this article by Paul Oestreicher, an Anglican priest who claims that Jesus was “probably gay”. Although I haven’t attended seminary school, I like many know how to approach articles critically.
As someone who grew up with a best friend/relative who is LGBT, I think that the church needs to change its approach on how it deals with LGBT individuals. It needs to be about love and communication – not condemnation.
However, it’s quite different when someone – especially a priest- maligns the word of God for political purposes. Based on everything I’ve read in this article, that’s clearly evident in all of Oestreicher’s points.
His first argument is based upon Jesus telling Mary, his mother, that John was her son. It comes from the passage where Jesus was dying on the cross and He said to Mary, “behold, your son!” and then to John, “Behold, your mother!”
Dying, Jesus asks John to look after his mother and asks his mother to accept John as her son. John takes Mary home. John becomes unmistakably part of Jesus’s family.
Here, he’s implying that John and Jesus were lovers because Jesus wanted His mother to accept John as part of the family. However, that is a sign of a close relationship – not necessarily a romantic one. If I were about to die, I would also ask my closest friends – people who I considered my brothers and sisters as well as my lover – to take care of my parents in my place.
His next point comes from the place that John, the supposed disciple whom Jesus loved, had a special place in Jesus’ heart. It’s obvious that Jesus had great affection for John, but the word ‘loved’ itself comes from a definition that can be neutral and platonic and is not necessarily used in a romantic sense.
The author writes:
That disciple was John whom Jesus, the gospels affirm, loved in a special way. All the other disciples had fled in fear. Three women but only one man had the courage to go with Jesus to his execution. That man clearly had a unique place in the affection of Jesus.
When you write, “three women but only one man”, it implies that the women gave up on Jesus and had LESS affection for Him. Interesting how the author downplays the affection that the women – including Mary, who wet Jesus’ feet with her tears – had for Jesus.
Again, this shows that John had a strong bond with Jesus. A brotherly bond – not a romantic one. And we’ll soon see why I feel that it is a brotherly bond.
The author also says:
In all classic depictions of the Last Supper, a favourite subject of Christian art, John is next to Jesus, very often his head resting on Jesus’s breast.
From Ellicot’s Commentary for English Readers:
(23) Now there was leaning on Jesus’ bosom.–Leonardo’s picture is in one respect misleading, and, like most paintings of the Lord’s Supper, has not represented the method in which the guests reclined rather than sat at table. Each leaned on his left arm, leaving the right arm free. The feet were stretched out behind the guest on his right hand, and the back of the head reached near to the bosom of the guest on the left. (Comp. Note on John 13:25.) The Jews followed this Persian method of reclining on couches at meals from the time of the Captivity, and this method of eating the Passover had the special significance of security and possession of the Promised Land, as opposed to the attitude of one undertaking a journey, which was part of the original institution (Exodus 12:11).
Jesus was a Hebrew rabbi. Unusually, he was unmarried. The idea that he had a romantic relationship with Mary Magdalene is the stuff of fiction, based on no biblical evidence. The evidence, on the other hand, that he may have been what we today call gay is very strong. But even gay rights campaigners in the church have been reluctant to suggest it. A significant exception was Hugh Montefiore, bishop of Birmingham and a convert from a prominent Jewish family. He dared to suggest that possibility and was met with disdain, as though he were simply out to shock.
Is it truly unusual that Jesus remained unmarried? If Jesus had a wife and children, would He have been as willing to go to the Cross as a sacrifice?
Here, the author writes that He may have been ‘gay’ and that this is supported by strong evidence. However, up to this point, the author has presented virtually no evidence. He talks about how Jesus and John had a strong relationship , which is great, and this relationship can be interpreted as a brotherly friendship.
One of my close friends and I used to text each other every day. My mom kept seeing our imessages on the phone and thought we were lovers. We’re very close and fond of each other and it’s a platonic, sisterly friendship. And people who read into things like your friend being there for you in your moments of crisis have a motive.
Also, he writes about how the reaction of people to the thought of Jesus being gay tends to be intense. That’s like saying the Da Vinci code wasn’t controversial. What do you expect?
After much reflection and with certainly no wish to shock, I felt I was left with no option but to suggest, for the first time in half a century of my Anglican priesthood, that Jesus may well have been homosexual. Had he been devoid of sexuality, he would not have been truly human. To believe that would be heretical.
Whether or not Jesus was devoid of sexuality isn’t the case. His central message is His sacrifice on the cross and the lessons He taught about how others should treat each other.
It is likely that Jesus had sexual feelings – but why read into it and why connect homosexuality to it? What motive is there in that?
Heterosexual, bisexual, homosexual: Jesus could have been any of these. There can be no certainty which. The homosexual option simply seems the most likely. The intimate relationship with the beloved disciple points in that direction. It would be so interpreted in any person today.
The interesting thing about this article is that it keeps stating that there is ample evidence that Jesus was gay. That if only one could really do her Google-search, she could see that Jesus was totes homosexual. But that is not the truth. He has not presented any real evidence.
Let’s recount: the only evidence this author has presented are Biblical events that could very well have taken place between two friends who have a brotherly bond. The other piece of ‘evidence’ he uses to support his argument is what artists in the past have depicted. Were those artists divinely inspired? Did they ever claim to be? If not, what they draw does not matter.
If I had someone draw me as a six-foot model with long silky blonde hair and blue eyes, it wouldn’t make it any more accurate.
I’ve quoted each paragraph of this article successively. If he makes such a ‘shocking’ point, he should introduce the best support he can have to offer. And so far, there is no biblical basis for what he has written.
Although there is no rabbinic tradition of celibacy, Jesus could well have chosen to refrain from sexual activity, whether he was gay or not. Many Christians will wish to assume it, but I see no theological need to. The physical expression of faithful love is godly. To suggest otherwise is to buy into a kind of puritanism that has long tainted the churches
This paragraph implies that Jesus could have been sexually active. The author’s point is, “why not? If Jesus was sexually active, sex between two loving faithful people is a great expression of godliness. I see no theological need to assume otherwise. Only puritans would disagree – and their thoughts have tainted the churches for ages.”
To say that Jesus was sexually active is an inflammatory statement that seeks to distract from His mission and what He had to say. To call anyone who disagrees ‘puritans’ shows that this person has shrugged off the views of others. Anyone who disagrees with him is just a bigot who holds outdated views.
Even if I were not a Christian, I would still say that this article is as misleading as it is inflammatory. It’s not based on Biblical evidence. It’s based on total conjecture and supports a political agenda.
All that, I felt deeply, had to be addressed on Good Friday. I saw it as an act of penitence for the suffering and persecution of homosexual people that still persists in many parts of the church. Few readers of this column are likely to be outraged any more than the liberal congregation to whom I was preaching, yet I am only too aware how hurtful these reflections will be to most theologically conservative or simply traditional Christians. The essential question for me is: what does love demand? For my critics it is more often: what does scripture say? In this case, both point in the same direction.
In other words, “I know the truth. And I know the truth is going to hurt a lot of you traditional, bigoted Christians. But what does LOVE say? What does Scripture say? They’ll both prove my point, right?”
If you are writing an article about such a controversial topic, you should provide your best arguments. So far, you’ve only mentioned events that could be taken any other way. You have prevented no real Biblical evidence for your views and written this article for a secular newspaper that would be delighted at having the next Da Vinci Code.
Mr. Paul Oestreicher, love demands you to love your neighbor. It demands you to open your wallet and your heart to people who are in need. It asks for you to have love for your enemies – even those puritans who may disagree with your views. It does not, however, ask you to focus on the sexual activities of Jesus or slant certain events to fit your political views.
Whether Jesus was gay or straight in no way affects who he was and what he means for the world today. Spiritually it is immaterial. What matters in this context is that there are many gay and lesbian followers of Jesus – ordained and lay – who, despite the church, remarkably and humbly remain its faithful members. Would the Christian churches in their many guises more openly accept, embrace and love them, there would be many more disciples.
4 “Don’t you read the Scriptures?” he replied. “In them it is written that at the beginning God created man and woman, 5-6 and that a man should leave his father and mother, and be forever united to his wife. The two shall become one—no longer two, but one! And no man may divorce what God has joined together.”
When Jesus says this, He is implicitly affirming His culture’s belief that the relationship between a man and a woman are sacred in the eyes of God. If He had been engaging in any kind of sex, He would never have said this (because He wasn’t married). He saw sex as something sacred and cherished – it’s something to be taken so seriously it’s as if you become one person before God.
The author of this article is as incendiary and deceptive as prosperity Gospel preachers who ask you to donate your life’s savings to plant some ‘seeds of faith, y’all’. Claiming to speak out of love and the Scripture, he’s presented no real evidence.
What gets me upset is not the insinuation he’s making. It’s the lack of biblical evidence he presents and his motive – which is apparent. He truly does want to shock.
Also, some might quote John 20:2 where it is insinuated that John is the disciple whom Jesus loved. Using Strong’s concordance, this type of love is referred to as:
Original Word: φιλέω
Part of Speech: Verb
Phonetic Spelling: (fil-eh’-o)
Short Definition: I love, kiss
Definition: I love (of friendship), regard with affection, cherish; I kiss.
Strong’s exhaustive concordance states:
From philos; to be a friend to (fond of (an individual or an object)), i.e. Have affection for (denoting personal attachment, as a matter of sentiment or feeling; while agapao is wider, embracing especially the judgment and the deliberate assent of the will as a matter of principle, duty and propriety: the two thus stand related very much as ethelo and boulomai, or as thumos and nousrespectively; the former being chiefly of the heart and the latter of the head); specially, to kiss (as a mark of tenderness) — kiss, love.
This word for love is used to refer to the way Jesus felt about Lazarus as well. It is the type of love that I have for my close friends and my family.