Musings Of A Spiritual Atheist
Nurture Or Nature

Whenever the subject of homosexuality is discussed, sooner or later the question is raised as to whether it arises as a genetically mandated behaviour or comes about as a result of a dysfunctional family environment.

The first thing to point out is that it really does not matter how it came about. Why not? Because in either case it is an ingrained orientation over which the individual has little to no control. Whether it arises from nature or nurture is really an irrelevant question. It is a distracter, diverting attention from the individual’s right to live their life as they see fit and refocussing on an irrelevancy as if it were the most important question on the subject. However, since it is always asked, let's have a Bible based answer.

Many Christians are absolutely convinced that sexual orientation, sometimes referred to as sexual preference, is a free choice and that it is well within the ability of any person to change their orientation. Some Christians consider homosexuality to be a neurosis or a psychosis, hence treatable as a mental illness. Others believe it to be a freely chosen lifestyle under the sway of Satan, and that homosexuals are practitioners of a life in opposition to god and completely immoral. Yet others consider it to be sin resulting from Adam's eating of the tree and bringing a slow decline from the perfect standard onto the human race. Homosexual Christians themselves may say they are born that way, that god made them the way they are and they should not be condemned for expressing the desires that have been inherently placed within them.

Usually we are told that Jesus made no reference to homosexuality and homosexuals, and never condemned them. That is only partially true. The true part is that Jesus never did condemn homosexuals. The only people he did condemn were the religious hypocrites who loudly proclaimed that they knew the mind of the Creator. For everyone else Jesus had the greatest compassion. What is false is the statement that he never mentioned homosexuals. He did refer to them on one occasion.

It is found at Matthew 19:12, where Jesus is recorded as saying:–

“For there are some eunuchs, which were so born from their mother’s womb: and there are some eunuchs, which were made eunuchs of men: and there be eunuchs, which have made themselves eunuchs for the kingdom of heaven’s sake.”

First let us establish what eunuchs are. Merrian-Webster defines the word eunuch as:

So what did Jesus mean by saying that some of his followers made themselves eunuchs for the sake of the Kingdom. Did he really mean that mature men would cut off their own testicles so that they could serve him? Obviously not! Such an action would be unthinkable to a Jew like Jesus. Castration was a serious matter under the Mosaic Law, and no castrated male was allowed to approach god, being permanently blemished. There is no way that Jesus meant that. Jesus was talking about those of His followers who would forgo married life, including sexual intercourse, so that they could spread the message he brought. They would be "eunuchs" in the metaphorical sense of having no intimate relationships with women. They would forgo emotional and sexual relationships so that they could serve god more completely.

However, in passing Jesus makes a reference to two other kinds of "eunuchs", those made by men and those born that way. It is well documented that the eunuchs made by men were usually castrated. This used to be a fairly common practice. It is the third group, those eunuchs "born from their mother’s womb" who interest us here. Who are these?

This third group, those born as eunuchs, are men who were born without any interest in women. This could be because they were physically deformed and had no testicles, but that is not common and would not normally be what comes to most peoples’ minds when a reference is made to a eunuch being born. Ask yourself, how many boy babies do you know that were born without testicles? How many teenage boys do you know that have no interest in girls because of a physical deformity? None? That is the usual response. Even today, the fact is that most people, when hearing the kind of expression Jesus used would, first and foremost, think it was a reference to homosexuals. Jesus must have known that. He is represented as being intimately aware of people's innermost thoughts and would have understood what his listeners would have concluded what he meant. There is no complexity or hidden message here, Jesus was simply making a passing reference to homosexuals, saying they are born that way.

So there it is. God Himself answers the question for Jesus is god the son. Homosexuality is nature. Homosexuals are “eunuchs born”. For Christians then, the question has been answered by god. That should have closed the debate but it seems there are always some who want to dispute the most simple understandings about things they personally do not like. A point worth noting is that the bible was written for common people, not those highly educated in religious semantics, so a common, simple approach is all that is required to understand what Jesus meant.

Those who refuse to accept the simplest explanation say the statement by Jesus that some eunuchs are born that way does not refer to homosexuals, but to men born without any interest at all in women and marriage, but who are still heterosexual. Frankly, I don’t know who such men could be. They then try to support their contention that Jesus could not have meant to include homosexuals in this group with the flimsiest of arguments, claiming that because the bible condemns homosexuals as sinners but does not condemn eunuchs as sinners, that they must be different. It appears that they forget Jesus’ penchant for forgiveness of all sinners, including them. Rather, they put the cart before the horse claiming that born eunuchs are not homosexuals because Jesus did not specifically say they were. I’m sure Jesus did not specifically say many things. He never condemned killings by gladiators in the Roman arena for instance, but that doesn’t mean those contests and killings did not exist.

It must also be pointed out that Jesus did not specifically say they were heterosexual either, so there is nothing in his passing comment to indicate that eunuchs who were born that way were all heterosexual, as some contend. Stating that they were heterosexual is really just an imposed interpretation that avoids having to acknowledge even the slightest possibility that Jesus considered homosexuality to be inherent rather than taught. It is an example of allowing preconceived prejudices to determine how the bible is to be understood, and that is improper. Almost all bible interpreters take the position that the bible itself should lead us towards conclusions and that it should not be interpreted according to the pre-existing beliefs of its interpreters, but here is a clear example where that is not followed. Here, Jesus was clearly saying that some males were born with no interest in sexual relations with women. Whether this was from genital damage, genital defect or from inclination, i.e. no desire, is not specified. However, in common understanding, even today, any group of men like that would most certainly include a significant proportion who preferred other men as sexual partners rather than women and Jesus would have been aware of that.

The claim that eunuchs were not considered to be sinners is also questionable. Let’s leave aside what sexual activity they may have engaged in, considering that removing the testicles and consequently altering their hormonal responses would cause distinct and overt feminisation, since that is not relevant. What is relevant is that the term “eunuch” was sometimes used as a title for an important official whether he was castrated or not rather than just being a description of a castrated man, and these non-castrated eunuchs would have been men who were particularly trustworthy. From the context in which he used the term, Jesus was clearly not referring to these and was obviously aware what man made eunuchs were since he referred to them in a manner which indicated that who and what they were was within the common understanding of his listeners.

It is unlikely that the ancient Israelites practiced castration, particularly as such men would be considered unqualified to approach god, i.e. they were sinners, even if they were not overtly so by choice, but sinners in the same way as a new born child is a sinner, that is, they were blemished, incomplete, damaged, not measuring up to a standard. On the other hand, the nations surrounding Israel did practice castration so the Israelites would have been well aware of what a man made eunuch was.

The New heart English translation of Leviticus chapter 21, v. 17 to 20 says:–

“Say to Aaron, ‘None of your seed throughout their generations who has a blemish, may approach to offer the bread of his god. For whatever man he is that has a blemish, he shall not draw near: a blind man, or a lame, or he who has a flat nose, or any deformity, or a man who has an injured foot, or an injured hand, or hunchbacked, or a dwarf, or one who has a defect in his eye, or an itching disease, or scabs, or who has damaged testicles;’”

And in verse 24 it concludes with:–

“So Moses spoke to Aaron, and to his sons, and to all the children of Israel.”

Note the statement at the end of the first quotation referring to a man who has “damaged testicles” being unacceptable to Jehovah, a state emphasised in Deuteronomy chapter 23, v. 1, where it says:–

“he that is a eunuch, whether he have been crushed or cut, shall not come into the congregation of Jehovah.”

This makes clear that, although they were not voluntary, overt sinners, castrated men were not acceptable to god since they were damaged and therefore unqualified. For that reason, castration would not have been practiced in ancient Israel since it would have damaged a man’s relationship with god, a very serious matter. Anyone participating in such a practice would have born responsibility for another person being rendered damaged in god’s eyes, unable to approach him, a most reprehensible sin for any voluntary participant, whether they were performing the castration or submitting to it.

Under these circumstances, expecting the bible to contain comments on something not practiced in Israel is completely unreasonable. Of course eunuchs in the castrated sense were not condemned, but that was because castration was not generally done. As a consequence they would not be specifically identified as sinners because no Israelite would submit to it nor carry it out on another man. It must surely be self evident that making someone else, or yourself, unqualified to approach god would be a gross sin and would have been avoided. What we do know absolutely for sure is that those who were genitally damaged for any reason were unacceptable and not allowed to approach god in service.

Jesus, on the other hand, emphasised a different way, one in which anyone who called on the name of god would be blessed. Yes, that includes homosexuals, so why should we be so adamant that Jesus would never say that homosexuals could be born that way. Since they have been forgiven anyway, like the rest of us, what could it possibly matter.

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