Warren Throckmorton has adopted an interesting take on scripture in Matthew in which Jesus refers to “eunuchs because they were born that way”. Throckmorton’s interpretation seems to be that some men are born without an attraction to women.
His article seems to be in response to Norwegian theologian, Ragnhild Schanke and her scholarship relating to Matthew 19: 3-12:
Some Pharisees came to him to test him. They asked, “Is it lawful for a man to divorce his wife for any and every reason?”
“Haven’t you read,” he replied, “that at the beginning the Creator ‘made them male and female,’ and said, ‘For this reason a man will leave his father and mother and be united to his wife, and the two will become one flesh’ so they are no longer two, but one. Therefore what God has joined together, let man not separate.”
“Why then,” they asked, “did Moses command that a man give his wife a certificate of divorce and send her away?”
Jesus replied, “Moses permitted you to divorce your wives because your hearts were hard. But it was not this way from the beginning. I tell you that anyone who divorces his wife, except for marital unfaithfulness, and marries another woman commits adultery.”
The disciples said to him, “If this is the situation between a husband and wife, it is better not to marry.”
Jesus replied, “Not everyone can accept this word, but only those to whom it has been given. For some are eunuchs because they were born that way; others were made that way by men; and others have renounced marriage because of the kingdom of heaven. The one who can accept this should accept it.”
A recent paper by a Norwegian theologian, Raghnild Schanke, asserts that Jesus was indeed referring to several categories of people including asexual persons and those who would fit the modern concept of homosexuality. She notes that many eunuchs in antiquity were capable of sexual relations but did not seem to have natural desire for women. She amasses an impressive array of ancient references to some eunuchs being disinterested in the opposite sex even though physically capable.
Throckmorton’s take is interesting and somewhat toublesome to the ex-gay movement’s statment that “no one is born gay”. Throckmorton balances on the idea that the “eunuchs” of which Christ speaks were born not gay but rather with a blank sexuality:
Such men are not born gay, but rather, without responsiveness to the opposite sex. Attractions to the same sex may or may not develop during the formative years via a combination of biological and environmental factors.
However, Jesus did not say that these people became eunuchs over their formative years. Christ clearly and simply said they were “born that way”.
Although suggesting some sort of in-between status (contrary to the words of Christ), he then concedes (in a backwards way) that, indeed, some people are gay due to circumstances of birth. Throckmorton then tries to double up the “formative environmental factors” to the second group and read into the words of Christ that some people were made to be gay by some psychological trauma:
I have counseled individuals who from their earliest recollections have little or no attraction to the opposite sex. Also, the opposite-sex desire of some is hindered due to traumatic circumstances in life, whether physical injury or emotional trauma (“eunuchs made that way by men”). And still others choose celibacy for “the kingdom of heaven.” Note that Jesus does not condemn such persons for their situation.
I think it HIGHLY unlikely that “eunuchs made that way by men” refers to emotional trauma. Christ’s listeners would never have understood Him to mean such a thing. They clearly would have understood what caused a eunuch made by man; at that time castrated persons were not at all uncommon.
Throckmorton wisely notes that Christ did not condemn the eunuchs be they castrati or (as he interprets) homosexual. I would also point out to him that there is no suggestion on the part of Christ that the person in any way change or try to become ex-eunuch.
Throckmorton (via Dr. Robert Gagnon, an anti-gay activist) then makes a huge leap. He jumps from a non-judgmental position that Christ has on homosexual persons to a condemnation of homosexual unions:
So do homosexual relationships have the endorsement of Jesus? Not so, says Dr. Gagnon: “The implication of Jesus’ saying is that all such ‘born eunuchs’ have no option for engaging in sexual activity outside of a man-woman bond.” Furthermore, fidelity to this teaching “does not require that one become exclusively heterosexually responsive with no homosexual temptation. However, it does require abstinence from homosexual bonds.”
Nonsense. I included the full text above to show that there is no indication whatsoever that there was any condemnation of sexual activity on these people’s part.
Surely if Jesus wanted to condemn homosexual activity, here was the place to do it. But it isn’t present in the text.
What is clear, however, is that there were classes of people for whom Jesus did not think it appropriate that they marry women. Throckmorton has, perhaps unintentionally, classified all categories of gay people (those born and those made) into this group. Clearly, Christ does not approve of gay men marrying women.
This too is troublesome for the goals of reorientation, especially those seeking to “maximize their heterosexual potential”.
Interestingly, Phillip had an experience with converting an Ethiopian eunuch as is told in Acts 8:27-39. Again there was no condemnation or encouragement to reorient. In fact, this story suggests that God’s grace extends far from the assumptions at that time. This person clearly was not a circumcised Jew (God’s chosen) but was a foreigner, probably black, possibly gay, definitely socially outcast, and Phillip made no demands on him. He baptized him and simply disappeared.
I’ve heard the eunuch theory for years and am not certain whether or not I agree. I don’t read Greek and am not a historian. However, if one does accept it, then the sum total of what Jesus said about homosexuality can be summarized in the following:
Jesus Christ said some men are born gay and should not marry women.