When certain Christians find a specific teaching of one or more New Testament authors (usually Paul) to be unappealing, then they like to hold Jesus up as a counterweight. For example, if Paul emphasized hierarchical structures in theology, church polity, and domestic arrangements, then the counter-argument is that Jesus did away with hierarchies. If Paul was disinclined to invert the social order, then Jesus proclaimed an ethic of liberation. If Paul and Peter were intolerant of non-traditional sexual expression, then Jesus elevated tolerance to the level of a core Christian value, particularly in the area of sexual ethics.
The only problem with taking this position is…the Bible. An actual close examination of the texts themselves show that such an assumed contrast between Jesus and Pault to be entirely untenable. As a matter of fact, Dr. J. Gresham Machen destroyed this concept way back in 1921 when he published The Origin of Paul’s Religion.
Given the fact that there is no explicit statement from Christ that same-sex intercourse is good or bad, some take this silence and combine it with Jesus’ welcome of sinners and conclude that Jesus wouldn’t have criticized responsible and loving expressions of gay and lesbian conduct.
Reality, however, is a different story entirely. Jesus’ silence on the subject, combined with other factors, makes Jesus’ opposition to same-sex intercourse historically strong. In fact, the term ‘silence’ can only be used in an extremely restricted sense in this case. Jesus didn’t make direct or explicit comments on same-sex intercourse, just like he didn’t make direct comments about a slew of other subjects. But in a larger sense, though, Jesus wasn’t silent about same-sex intercourse since the inferential data speaks loud and clear about Jesus’ perspective.
There are essentially four points that confirm my assertion:
- Understood in the context of Second Temple Judaism, it is highly unlikely that Jesus would have taken a fundamentally different position on same-sex intercourse from the rest of the culture, especially given His approach to the Mosaic Law.
- Jesus’ appeal to Genesis 1:27 and 2:24 in his discussion of divorce in Mark 10 confirms his acceptance of an exclusively heterosexual model of monogamy.
- Jesus’ position on other matters having to do with sexual ethics were usually more – not less – inflexible than those of His surrounding culture.
- The ways that Jesus combined demands for mercy and righteousness in His teaching ministry just don’t support the idea that Jesus might have taken a positive (or even neutral) view of same-sex intercourse.
I’ll be going into more detail on these four points in the rest of this series, so come on back soon!