Tuesday

For a Lost Soldier

One thing I never approached in the Bible, up until to 4 days ago, is the story of the "Centurion and his Servant" (Luke 7:1-10, Matt 8:5-13). Whether or not the Centurion's servant was his gay lover never mattered to me because even though Jesus heals the servant, He never either condemns or condones the relationship, so it tells me nothing about how Jesus felt about homosexuality in this specific parable.

4 days ago I went on a poorly put together website that posted about the Centurion's story with how the word for his servant was the Greek word "Pais." That's about all the blog author got right about the story. The anti-gay blogger tried to make it very clear it had no sexual connotations and that it was pro-gay apologist like me reading into the text. He also threw in the colorful kicker that I should stop with "my inordinate affections and turn from this chimera "Christ" I invented."

First, the whole story of the Centurion and his servant is odd in itself in that you had a Roman guard building a Synagogue for the Jews. The Romans and the Jews had nothing to do with each other, so what was it about this Roman who developed such an affection for these Jews? Could his servant have a connection to the Jews or have been a Jew himself? Where and how did he develop this love for the Jews who like him back enough to plead his case to Jesus? So here you have a Roman Centurion, given the utmost respect in Roman society, looking for a Jewish faith healer he humiliates himself to with BEGGING (the term parakaloon used in Matthew verse 5 means 'beg') him to heal his "beloved servant." Keep in mind that a Roman Centurion can get a replacement slave as easily as getting a loaf of bread. So this is just a run of the mill story of a man high standing in Roman society who debased himself for a lowly servant?

It's true 'pais' is used in other parts of the Bible without a sexual component. but in this SPECIFIC CONTEXT the outside-the-Bible historical record of a Roman Centurion with his male slave narrows it down for us. Even a historian like Kenneth Dover and Roberto Gagnon himself admits 'pais' COULD be the younger half of a gay relationship (The Bible And Homosexual Practice, p. 163, footnote 6.) and there are accounts from the time that back it up (Plato’s Symposium (385 B.C.E.), The History of the Peloponnesian War (433-411 B.C.E.), Aeschines [Against Timarchos] (345 B.C.E.).
Around 13 B.C.E, Augustus banned solders from marrying so it could not have been his "son" or even a bastard son because that would have cost his position and possibly his banishment from Roman society.

Were the Centurion and his servant lovers? When you think about it, it really doesn't matter whether the pais was a sexual servant or not (Even though he started out as a "servant," who knows how the relationship evolved. Also Boswell showed the age range can be only up to 3 years in age difference between a Centurion and his male slave so it wouldn't have been a case of pederasty. Gagnon also states it could be a full grown man). The people who were witnessing this exchange between Jesus and this Roman guard BELIEVED, as according to the custom and norm of Roman Centurions with male slaves, there was sexual hanky panky going on. Historically this can't be denied and Jesus never clarified to the surrounding crowd with saying; "Wait! I know you're thinking this Centurion is talking about his beloved lover as is the custom with these Romans, BUT, that's NOT the case here people. It's not sexual and that's the only reason I'm healing his "pais."

Jesus ends with being "amazed" (amazing the Son of God is itself amazing) and praising the centurion's faith in saying; "I have not found anyone in Israel with such great faith." Maybe that's why the anti-homos won't give this nameless Centurion the love that dare not speak it's name, who wants to be schooled in faith by a man lover?





In the comments section below,* a blogger links to what Robert Gagnon has to say on the Centurion's story (I refuted on his blog a bogus study on homosexuals and it looks like he doesn't forgive or forget). I'll respond here outside of the comments section. Let me start by saying I'm the wrong person to bring Gagnon up to. I have no respect for his hackneyed scholarship. Others have pointed out his circular way of reasoning and there are significant refutes to his harangues.
Let me address his 6 points that are "airtight."

1. "Sex with male slaves not a universal phenomenon."

His claim that a homosexual practicing Centurion can't be "God-fearing" just shows how out of touch the man is with the subjects he claims to be an expert on. Gagnon really believes that if you practice homosexuality, whether it's an innate desire or not, it's IMPOSSIBLE to be "God-fearing" so the Centurion couldn't possibly be practicing homosexuality. This is a perfect example of Gagnon not seeing the real world with real people. He give no to evidence for his claim that a male slave being a sexual subject was NOT the norm with the Romans with the evidence clearly showing otherwise (Dover, Nissinen (an admirer of Gagnon), Jennings & Liew and David F. Greenberg who Gagnon quotes extensively in his book; "The Bible and Homosexual Practice: Texts and Hermeneutics").

2. "Jesus would have had to have been endorsing rape in this case."

Gagnon assumes the relationship between the Centurion and his pais was an exploitative rape relationship when the historical record shows how a slave was treated was dependent on the slave owner. The story shows a caring relationship, not an exploitative one. It fits the character of the man in this story with love in his heart for a hated people and having a great faith that even amazed the Son of God.

3. "Jesus’s fraternization with tax collectors and sexual sinners does not suggest support for their behavior."

I actually agree somewhat with Gagnon on this point, like I said in my post, the Centurion's story really doesn't tell me anything about Jesus's view of homosexuality. The problem with Gagnon is that he loves to read omission as prohibition in the Biblical narrative, a bad way of reading the Bible even for an elementary Bible reader and he lumps homosexuals with sexual sinners even when we have no account of Christ encountering a homosexual outside of the Centurion.

4. "The Jewish elders in Luke 7 could not have supported a homosexual relationship."

Once again Gagnon not living in a real world. This man built a synagogue (no small expense) and became a friend to the Jews who were in the hostile environment of Roman occupation. Notice the Jewish elders give no comment on the Centurion's relationship? I'm sure they would have turned a blind eye to this non-Jew and his expected sexual habits if he was a man in service to God's people. As long as THEY weren't practicing the sexual habits of the Romans, what would they have cared if he, a Roman not bound by Jewish laws, was?

5. "Q, Matthew, and Luke did not interpret Jesus’ healing as support for same-sex intercourse."

Gagnon somehow believes the Gospel writers had a say in what Jesus did, that they would have never affirmed a positive spin on this story if it involved homosexuality. No personal opinion, even if it was negative, is given in this story, but that doesn't stop Gagnon from bring up Paul, the mysterious Q community and everyone else who isn't nailed down to bolster his opinion. Once again Gagnon tries to link porneia (fornicator) with homosexuality because this fits in with HIS personal opinion and wishful thinking. Every instance, without exception, the word pornoi is used in the New Testament, it's talking about a man sleeping with another man's wife with no connection to homosexuality whatsoever. I've already pointed out long after the writing of Gagnon's book that corrects Gagnon's error with claiming Jesus, Paul and the Apostle saw homosexuality as a prohibition carried over from Leviticus that makes up most of his arguments ad infinitum.

6. "Historical Jesus study does not support a pro-homosex reading"

I love how Gagnon says this point is the "final blow." What's his final blow? His stating; "The earliest recoverable version of the story PROBABLY did not contain the requisite elements for a pro-homosex spin." Some blow THAT was lol.

I've already shown it would be impossible for his 'pais' to be his son without him being stripped of his position and banished from Roman society with what was a very public confession he feared no repercussion from with the Roman crowd who were hearing his exchange with Christ. I'm not going to bother further with Gagnon if that's all he's got or the blog author who's now debasing himself with personal attacks. Let me repeat it again, Gagnon HIMSELF says 'pais' is probably the younger half of a gay relationship.

(I noticed on Gagnon's website he's now saying it was the "son of an official" with absolutely no evidence of it in the narrative stating as such and he even goes so far with forcing that interpretation with saying Luke was wrong in calling the 'pais' a slave. I believe Gagnon was being historically honest in his book, but now it's the depths of where he's sunk to over the years that has him saying the Bible book of Luke was mistaken just so he can get around the homosexual angle of the story).

Someone who read this post with Gagnon's book in front of him wrote me this because there has been some discrepancy with exactly what Gagnon was saying in his footnote 6:

"I interpret you to be saying that Gagnon believes that the 'pais' in the Greek of Luke 7:1-10 is likely the younger gay partner. Is that right? Because that is not what Gagnon was saying (the reason why Gagnon is trying to dismiss Luke is because Luke uses the Greek term "doulos" that leaves no question it was a slave to the Centurion because "doulos" is never used in the Greek to mean son). Gagnon says the STANDARD MODEL (emphases mine) of homosexual relationships in the examples (Roman men and their male slaves examples), is pederastic. Footnote 6 is in reference to those non-biblical citations. Footnote 6 explains that pederasty involved eroticism with a boy who was approximately beginning puberty, but then Gagnon adds a note of caution, that 'pais' COULD (emphases mine) be used of any junior partner in a homosexual relationship, even one who was full grown." Nowhere in the footnote, or in the relevant text or nearby text, does Gagnon mention the centurion and his servant."

My response:

If Gagnon admits a "pais" could be a junior partner in a gay relationships from non-Biblical historical sources (what I said myself with quoting those very sources), what makes you think it can't be applied to the Centurion in the Biblical narrative even though Gagnon doesn't mention it by name? Like I said, of course Gagnon isn't going to read a homo angle in it, but Gagnon is looking ridiculous, again with this, with saying sexual relationships are the standard for Centurions and their slaves, BUT, not in this singular case of the Centurion and his slave in the Bible story? Really?



By the way, Gagnon says this story is a favorite of his, so I'm sure he tried to cover all the bases in his anti-gay reading of it.

*My apologies to those who left other comments below. When I deleted the comment of the person who left with what Gagnon had to say with answering it in the actual post, It looks like I deleted everything, including the actual blog comment feature itself.