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Caitlin Kennell Kim
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Our readers asked:

What did Jesus have to say about homosexuality?

Ann Naffziger Answers:

(CNS photo courtesy Catholic Communication Campaign)

If you were to read all four gospels thoroughly in search of Jesus’ teachings on homosexuality it would be a futile endeavor. Not only would you come to the end of the gospels without finding anything attributed to Jesus on the subject, you wouldn’t even find a single reference to the issue in any context.

In fact, there are only a handful of references to homosexuality in the entire Bible, but they are found in the Old Testament and Paul’s writings. (To put it in perspective, while there are only seven references to homosexuality, there are hundreds, perhaps thousands, of references to economic justice and the laws governing the accumulation and distribution of wealth.)

Jesus’ silence on the subject suggests that an issue which can be controversial and/or fraught with emotion these days was simply not a central issue in his lifetime 2,000 years ago in the land of Palestine. The fact that he didn’t address this issue leaves us all to ponder what he might say were he here today.

 
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The Author : Ann Naffziger
Ann Naffziger is a scripture instructor and spiritual director in the San Francisco Bay area. She has has written articles on spirituality and theology for various national magazines and edited several books on the Hebrew Scriptures.
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Please note that the editorial staff reserves the right to not post comments it deems to be inappropriate and/or malicious in nature, as well as edit comments for length, clarity and fairness.
  • Jose

    @ Matt Hayes: That was a curious rationalization. It seems disingenuous to claim absolution citing the technicality of the question. People come here to get more than superficial reasons for the answers their given.
    The answer Ann provided was misconstruing and misleading and deficient at best.
    The Church reflects what Jesus taught and expounds, today, through the Holy Spirit! To separate the two is ridiculous. The Church, does not answer our questions of faith sola scriptura. Ann muddied her credentials by doing so and you lost a bit of credibility by defending her answer in the manner you did.
    Finally, clarifying her answer with a more knowledgeable priest would have exhibited some humility on both your parts. You seemed to rather pitch both your credentials as sufficient than going that route.

  • Thomas

    Some here are confusing ceremonial and disciplinary laws with laws governing morals. The moral law has never been done away with. We still cannot commit adultery; in fact, we are not to even look at another person with lust. If one wants to dismiss a particular moral law simply because we are no longer bound by the dietary law of not eating shell fish or not bound by the disciplinary law of not wearing a garment with mixed fabric, then one has to also accept certain other issues as morally acceptable. So if one is consistent with their approach that since Jesus was apparently ‘silent’ and did not explicitly condemn these, all the moral laws must be done away with along with the ceremonial, dietary, disciplinary laws. We are talking about two different sets of laws… the moral law was carried over into the New Covenant.

  • Thomas

    As an observant Jew and as one who did not give any indication of abrogating the holiness code of Leviticus, my money is on that Jesus condemned homosexual acts. Those who say that Jesus never said anything about homosexuality are being misleading. Everything that is recorded as being said by Jesus could be cited out loud in about 20 minutes. You can be sure that He said much more than 20 minutes of teaching in his 3 years of public ministry. And as has been mentioned by others earlier, his silence on other moral issues does not mean he was reversing the teaching. In fact, if he intended to reverse any moral teaching, these are precisely the ones we would expect to hear about, especially because they would be so bold and provocative. So his apparent ‘silence’ on homosexuality should not be taken any differently than his apparent ‘silence’ on any other sexually immoral issue.

  • Eron

    Mr Maher, if this posting section had a “like” I would have tagged your witty analysis.

    This has been an enjoyable read and quite possibly the closest thing to civil discourse on the matter on the internet.

  • Ken Maher

    There are seven admonishments on homosexuality in the Bible, and there are 392 admonishments on heterosexuality. That doesn’t mean that God loves heterosexuals any less than God loves homosexuals. It merely means that heterosexuals need more supervision.

  • Mike Hayes

    As the editor of this section, I’d like to simply say that this has been quite a discussion–which is what we encourage and we are glad to hold such a forum here. To the folks who question Ann’s credentials (one asked to have a priest clarify): Ann has the blessing of our director as per her degree in scripture from an accredited Catholic University. She need not be a priest to be an expert. Her scripture specialty also would give her further knowledge than many priests on the subject of scripture which they may not be an expert in. The question is simple. What did Jesus say about homosexuality?–and that answer is nothing. Scripture scholars then speculate on why that silence takes place–much of which is debated here in these posts as they would be debated in academic settings.

    The truth is that nobody can claim what he meant by his silence (which is what Ann stated). We can’t put words into the Gospel writers mouths and nor did they put words into Jesus’ on this issue. If asked, what the church says about homosexuality we’d have a much different posting. We’ll be taking that one up in a future post. So look forward to that. -MH

  • Eron

    @doug I don’t feel like she is disregarding Catholic thought on the matter. She is however putting homosexuality in its place. There is no reason why it should be an issue ranked with abortion (killing the defenseless) or social justice (which Jesus did hammer over and over).

    Also there is the simple fact that the church does go with the flow on certain issues. Why is divorce essentially sanctioned by the Church in this day and age? Why is premarital sex essential ignored? Why are so many Catholics ready to sign up to the Tea Party when they flagrantly preach the gospel of personal greed and turning a blind eye to the poor?

  • Doug

    To ask WWJD is a noble thought. There needs to be civil discourse within the Catholic Church on all issues.

    However, in this article, I am a bit confused why Ann (the Roman Catholic author) disregards the Church writings on the matter in her article that are part of our Sacred Tradition.

    To look solely at Sacred Scripture makes her arguments that of a “bible church” that looks solely to Sacred Scripture for answers. Definitely, this is not a belief of a follower of the Roman Catholic Church.

    Maybe, a longer article where she addresses these writings head on (including the teachings in the catechism), and states her point-of-view would have been more appropriate. That way, Ann’s underlying beliefs would have been viewed in the fullness of light rather than mired in haziness.

  • Tom

    To say Jesus did not mention homosexuality because it was forbidden makes no sense. Eating shellfish and wearing clothes of two different materials was also forbidden, yet he is silent there too. But he did manage a word about divorce, also forbidden. Perhaps the Holy Spirit is trying to enlighten us today with wider info than the ancients had, but fear and prejudice is allowed to have the final say. God forgive us for attacking you in ther person of our gay sisters and brothers!

  • Anthony

    As others have made reference to, the conclusion of Anne’s article seems to be causing some confusion.

    “The fact that he didn’t address this issue leaves us all to ponder what he might say were he here today.”

    I get that Jesus did not make explicit reference to homosexuality (beyond his affirmations of the original unity of man and woman “in the beginning”) in the Gospel record, but this answer is still on its own incomplete and unnecessarily misleading. While Jesus did live at a particular time in history, as Christians our understanding of Christ goes far beyond a “historical” Jesus. We believe He Is Emmanuel: God with us; united eternally in God the Father and the Holy Spirit.

    After the Gospels the New Testament tells the story of the early years of the Church Christ founded to act as His Body on earth, and it is this same Church that compiled and proclaimed the authority of Scripture as the Word of God. So there’s a logical problem here for Catholics. We cannot say “Christ said or didn’t say this” and then discard what the Church says: that homosexual tendencies are “dis”ordered in light of heterosexual union and attraction being “ordered” by God in His original plan that Christ draws us back to. Then beyond this the Church teaches that persons with homosexual tendencies must be accepted with respect, compassion, and sensitivity. I don’t what else you expect that Jesus “would” say in this regard differently.

  • Catherine

    Michael: Bait not taken. When I pray for tolerance, I’ll add your name to the list.

  • Rick

    @ Michael

    Morally licit? Who are you to judge?

    You are the only one to mention bestiality, incest, bigamy, etc.. Why do you need paper tigers to support your viewpoint? Well, it’s pretty obvious.

    Not being compassionate? To whom? Please explain. You would deny people their rights. I would protect them, while in no way compromising your right to live your life as you choose. Please explain rather than just calling names.

    My version of jesus really doesn’t matter more than yours. (I doubt that he ever existed, for the record.) I just take morality from common sense rather than bias, prejudice and learned bigotry. Go ahead and blame your prejudice on Jesus if it makes you feel better. It is clear that you don’t have the courage to take responsibility for it yourself.

    Where did you learn your hatred of homosexuals? Just curious…

    • Justin Dee Huskey

      Bravo!

  • Michael

    There has been no name calling except by those who apparently support the homosexual lifestyle, unless using hater, bigot, homophobe, etc is not to be considered name-calling. Also, part of being Christ-like is judging, provided we are judging rightly.

    So, Catherine and Rick, are you prepared to accept as morally licit acts dealing with bestiality, incest, bigamy, polygamy, wife swapping, orgies, and the like. If not, then are you not being compassionate and being judgmental? Are you mindreading your version of Jesus? Are you smearing the name of Jesus with your bigotry? Just curious…

    • http://www.facebook.com/jamesreis1970 James Reis

      my brother, what part of’ judge not lest ye be judged’ did you not get exactly? and by the way, those other acts do not involve love or faith, but some ‘homosexuals have both. God says, “I will show mercy on whom, I choose

      • Ty M.

        Who says those others do not involve love or faith? Bigamy, polygamy..? Sure people shouldn’t judge, that’s for God, but everyone does. You have what you think is right, and what you think is wrong.

  • Rick

    I find the comments here amusing. The homophobes sure are good at mindreading their version of Jesus. They are so certain about things he would have thought, but never made it so scripture. It’s pretty clear they are not concerned about what’s in the scriptures.

    It would be nice if they would take responsibility for their own bigotry and stop trying to smear the name of Jesus with it. It would still be ugly, but at least it would be honest.

  • Catherine

    I’ve taken a class from Ann. She is a thoughtful scholar of the Gospels. She is also a very good Catholic in the sense that she walks the walk instead of talking the talk. If part of being Christ-like means being compassionate, not judging others, and not pointing fingers and name calling, then some of you making comments here might do well to spend some time thinking about that. The Church needs to evolve as the world evolves, and the work of theologians who help us to put the Bible into historical context will help us all to keep moving forward instead of constantly turning back. @Bob, thank you. Your attitude mirrors that of many of my LGBT friends, who help me to see God in all things.

  • Bob

    Above all things LOVE….
    Sin is sin, man is not the judge. I am a gay man who loves god and believes that god loves me. It is most definately the bigotry of man that makes issues like this so clouded and hurtful, but they like the homosexual still need to be loved. Yes, I am gay, like it or not Jesus is the lord of my life, and I try my best to walk in love, striving daily to allow the love of god flow through me touch the lives of everyone who shares my path that day. My prayers are with you all. So in focusing on these issues reagardless of what they are, come from a place of true love, compassion and respect. That is what I feel if Jesus was here today he would do.

  • maxine

    and on a side note, the devil is quite successful in dividing us and manipulating truth clearly…as long as we fight amongst ourselves, we can’t focus on loving one another…

    • Name

      I agree.

  • maxine

    I would like to comment about the kids that are taking their own lives and how we view this. First it is not okay to bully anyone for any reason and this has been happening for many reasons for many years. It is so sad when any human feels they cannot turn to God or anyone and then end their lives. Is your life worth a sexual preference? Jesus gave His life and suffered immensely for our sins, we have been given a book that was made for us to live by and in this teaching and way of life we are never promised we won’t suffer, we are promised eternal life. Again is any sin worth our lives? When I keep my life in line with the word of God, I find peace, joy, and happiness. Being so tortured about something is awful having the strength and mercy of God is available. Who is willing to give up their own wants and desires for God who gave His life for all? Sexual sin is a sin against your own body, I said, sexual sin all of it. He made man and woman as His helper and together they create life…It is truly that simple…I am a sinner, I have had sex outside of marriage, three children born out of wedlock that have all been welcomed into the Catholic Church and attended Catholic School. Thank God for confession, His patience with me when I repeatedly sinned. I have finally learned that having sex will not get me a husband that respects me. I have learned to honor the body I live in by waiting on God for a man that will love and worship God with me instead of a fixer upper project that I wanted to do myself, even with the best of intentions. I apologize to any man that I may have led on a path away from God…I am a sinner and I can admit it so I can be forgiven and live a life that Jesus would be happy with…

  • Michael

    Paul – You may think that Ann answered well the question asked of her, but the problem is that Ann was the one that went beyond the scope of what Jesus said to then mention that there are perhaps thousands of times elsewhere in scripture that speak of other topics more pressing, and then deliberately left the answer open-ended and ambiguous with regard to what Jesus taught. What was the point of the diversion into the thousands of other versus (and the apparent scorekeeping) if not to imply that the topic of homosexuality was not all that important? It has already been stated that Jesus did not address many other issues explicitly either. So while it can be stated that it is not recorded that Jesus ever mentioned homosexuality explicitly, He does mention it implicitly under the rubric of sexual immorality (porneia) in general; something that Ann does not mention.

    Again, Jesus also never explicitly mentions ephebophelia, pederasty, pedophilia, bestiality, incest, orgies, spouse swapping, etc, so are we to consider these morally unimportant because of their lack of mention? No, these, as well as homosexuality were not all that controversial because to the Jews, these were no-brainers with regard to their status as being immoral. Something Ann left open-ended.

    Trevor – With regard to Leviticus, you are confusing ceremonial and/or disciplinary laws with moral laws. The moral law has never been abrogated, which is why “a man shall not lie with a man as he would a woman” still holds. Thinks about it… if you want to dismiss this particular moral law simply because we are no longer bound by the dietary laws of abstaining from eating meat with blood or from eating lobster, then you have to also accept rape, or incest, or bestiality as morally licit. After all, since Jesus did not explicitly condemn these, all the moral laws must be abrogated along with the ceremonial, dietary, disciplinary laws… that is, if you want to remain consistent with your approach. The New Covenant incorporated the moral law of the Old Covenant, which is why the Church has always condemned homosexual practice.

    By the way folks – for those who castigate simply because they don’t agree with the position I and certain others are providing here, which incidentally, is simply the position of the Catholic Church, that does not mean hatred. Let’s make something rather clear – DISAGREEMENT IS NOT HATRED OR BIGOTRY.

    By the way, Jesus did teach that marriage is between one man and one woman.

    And Jesus said to them, “Have you not read that He who made them at 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 then, they are no longer two but one flesh. Therefore what God has joined together, let not man separate.”

  • Michael

    By the way, Jesus did teach that marriage is between one man and one woman.

    And Jesus said to them, “Have you not read that He who made them at 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 then, they are no longer two but one flesh. Therefore what God has joined together, let not man separate.”

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