Christianity did not enter the world independently of other religions, or uninfluenced by them. It began as a Jewish sect, and still shares with Judaism a major part of its scriptures and traditions. The Jews in turn were just one small ethnic group in a diverse Mediterranean world of conflicting cultures and civilizations, subject to repeated conflict and war with their neighbours, and to repeated bouts of conquest and slavery. Before we can really appreciate the place of queer men and women in “Christian” history, we need to consider their place in a wider context: outside the Jewish world, in the Jewish scriptures, and in the contemporary world of Christ himself, before the expansion of his following became an independent faith with a name of its own – Christianity.
Before and Beyond the “People of the Book”
One characteristic feature of the Jews was how resolutely they identified themselves in religious terms, as recognising only a single God, who had chosen them as his people. In loyalty to this one God, they increasingly sought to distance themselves from the influences of all outside religious, with their elaborate pantheons of multiple gods and goddesses. What were the characteristics of these other religions, in their responses to human sexuality?
Studies of the animal kingdom, and of non-Western and pre-industrial societies show clearly that there is no single “natural” form for either human or animal sexuality. Homosexual activity has been described by science for all divisions of the animal kingdom, in all periods of history, and in all regions of the world. Most religions recognise this. The monotheistic Christian religion teaches that God made us in His own image and likeness – but other religions, when they attempted to picture their many gods and goddesses, created their gods in human image and likeness, and so incorporated into their pantheon many gods who had sex with males – either divine or human.
The Jewish Scriptures
The Hebrews’ concept of a single all-powerful God did not incorporate any concept of divine sexuality, but they did include into their Scriptures numerous passages that describe same sex loving relationships, as well as tales of eunuchs as prophets.
- Joseph and His Fabulous Queer Technicolour Dreamcoat
- David The Prophet & Jonathan, His Lover
- Ruth and Naomi
- The Queer Family in the Book of Ruth
- Daniel the Prophet
- The Three Young Men in the Burning Fiery Furnace
- The Queer Lesson of Nehemiah: “Rebuild God’s Church”
- Queering the Song of Songs
at The Wild Reed:
The Song of Songs: The Bible’s Gay Love Poem
The Christian New Testament
The Christian Gospels offer tantalizing hints at Jesus’ own sexuality, which may have included some male love interest. However, more directly relevant to us are His teaching and example , which clearly show that His message is an inclusive one, that quite explicitly does include sexual minorities of all kinds.
After the Gospels, the most important Christian writings are the letters of Paul, who has a reputation as strongly condemning same sex behaviour – but a more careful consideration of his life as well as his letters, in their own context, can offer a different perspective.
- Christ’s Queer Family
- Was Jesus Gay? The Gospel of Mark, and the Naked Young Man
- St John, and Jesus’ Gay Wedding at Cana
- The Gospel’s Queer Values
- Lazarus: Jesus’ beloved disciple?
- John the Beloved Disciple
- John, the (Queer) Evangelist
- St Paul, Apostle to the Gentiles
- Martha and Mary, Queer Saints
- The (Gay) Roman Centurion and His “Boy”
Related posts in this series:
- Queer Saints and Martyrs in Christian (and pre-Christian) History
- Queer Saints 1: Before “Christianity”
- Queer Saints 2. The Early Christians: Saints and Martyrs for the Church
- Queer Saints 3: The (Homoerotic?) Medieval Church
- Queer Saints 4: The Great Persecution (Martyred By the Church)
- Queer Saints 5: Gay Popesa
- Queer Saints 6: Modern Saints, Modern Heroes – A Great Resurrection?
5 thoughts on “Queer Saints 1: Before “Christianity””