Intense love between men is celebrated in the Bible with the story of David and Jonathan. They lived about 3,000 years ago, but they still inspire GLBT people of faith. Today (Dec. 29) is the feast day of David, the king of Israel who is credited with composing many of the psalms.
The modern idea of a gay sexual orientation didn’t exist in Biblical times, and it’s impossible to know whether David and Jonathan expressed their love sexually. However, their powerful love story in 1 and 2 Samuel shows that gay relationships are affirmed and blessed by God. Many people honor David and Jonathan as gay saints.
The account begins with the two men making covenant of love, which is illustrated in the painting above by Atlanta artist Trudie Barreras. She paints the scene in 1 Samuel 18:3-4: “Then Jonathan made a covenant with David, because he loved him as his own soul. Jonathan stripped himself of the robe that he was wearing, and gave it to David, and his armor, and even his sword and his bow and his belt.”
After Jonathan was killed in battle, David mourned for him with his famous lament from 2 Samuel 1:26:
I grieve for you, Jonathan my brother;
you were very dear to me.
Your love for me was wonderful,
more wonderful than that of women.
Gay-positive Bible scholars have written extensively about the relationship between David and Jonathan. I recommend the classic book on the subject, “Jonathan Loved David: Homosexuality in Biblical Times” by Thomas Horner.
The icon above was painted by Brother Robert Lentz, a Franciscan friar and world-class iconographer known for his innovative icons. It is one of 10 Lentz icons that sparked a major controversy in 2005. Critics accused Lentz of glorifying sin and creating propaganda for a progressive sociopolitical agenda, and he temporarily gave away the copyright for the controversial images to his distributor, Trinity Stores. All 10 are now displayed there as a collection titled “Images That Challenge.”
The “David loved Jonathan” billboard below is part of the Would Jesus Discriminate project sponsored by Metropolitan Community Churches. It states boldly, “David loved Jonathan more than women. II Samuel 1:26.” For more info on the billboards, see our previous post, “Billboards show gay-friendly Jesus.”
This post is part of the GLBT Saints series at the Jesus in Love Blog. Saints and holy people of special interest to gay, lesbian, bisexual and transgender (GLBT) people and our allies are covered on appropriate dates throughout the year.