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When Jesus Healed a Same-Sex Partner

2012 August 8

By ,huffingtonpost – In this year’s battles over same-sex marriage (there are referenda on the issue in Minnesota, Maine, Maryland, and Washington), opponents have tried to depict the issue as a choice between traditional religious values and some sinister homosexual agenda, between God and gay. In fact, a vote for same-sex marriage is a vote for traditional religious values, such as the importance of companionship (Genesis 2:18) or civil justice (Deuteronomy 16:20), and the value that “love” isn’t whatever we say it is but that movement of the heart that is patient, kind, and humble (1 Corinthians 13:4-6).

But, some people argue, what about the fact that the only sanctioned relationship in the Bible is between a man and a woman? Well, in fact, that’s not quite the case. The story of the faithful centurion, told in Matthew 8:5-13 and Luke 7:1-10, is about a Roman centurion who comes to Jesus and begs that Jesus heal his pais, a word sometimes translated as “servant.” Jesus agrees and says he will come to the centurion’s home, but the centurion says that he does not deserve to have Jesus under his roof, and he has faith that if Jesus even utters a word of healing, the healing will be accomplished. Jesus praises the faith of the centurion, and the pais is healed. This tale illustrates the power and importance of faith, and how anyone can possess it. The centurion is not a Jew, yet he has faith in Jesus and is rewarded.

But pais does not mean “servant.” It means “lover.” In Thucydides, in Plutarch, in countless Greek sources, and according to leading Greek scholar Kenneth Dover, pais refers to the junior partner in a same-sex relationship. Now, this is not exactly a marriage of equals. An erastes-pais relationship generally consisted of a somewhat older man, usually a soldier between the ages of 18 and 30, and a younger adolescent, usually between the ages of 13 and 18. Sometimes that adolescent was a slave, as seems to be the case here. It would be inappropriate, in my view, to use the word “gay” to describe such a relationship; that word, and its many connotations, comes from our time, not that of Ancient Greece and Rome. This is not a relationship that any LGBT activist would want to promote today.

However, it is a same-sex relationship nonetheless. (It is also basically the same as the soldier/armor-bearer in the model of David and Jonathan, which I’ll explore in a future article.) And what is Jesus’s response? Does he spit in the centurion’s face for daring to suggest that he heal the soldier’s lover? Hardly. He recognizes the relationship and performs an act of grace. Read more…

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