Thursday, March 15, 2012

Gay centurion: Jesus heals a soldier’s boyfriend in the Bible


Jesus praised a gay soldier as a role model of faith and healed his male lover in the gospels, according to many Bible experts. The soldier, a centurion in the Roman army, is highlighted here today (March 15) for the feast day of Longinus, another centurion in Jesus’ life.

“Centurion”
by Luc Viatour
www.Lucnix.be
Both Matthew 8:5-13 and Luke 7:1-10 tell how a centurion asked Jesus to heal the young man referred to in Greek as his “pais.” The word was commonly used for the younger partner in a same-sex relationship. It is usually translated as boy, servant or slave. In recent years progressive Bible scholars have concluded that the centurion was in a homosexual relationship with the “slave who was dear to him” in the gospel story.

Jesus was willing to go into the centurion’s house to heal his lover, but the centurion stopped him, saying, “Lord, I am not worthy to have you come under my roof; but only say the word, and my servant will be healed.”

Jesus marveled and told the crowd around him, “Not even in Israel have I found such faith!” To the centurion he said, “Go; be it done for you as you have believed.” And his boyfriend was healed at that moment.

Scholars believe that “boy” was the centurion’s sex partner not only due to the word “pais,” but also because it is unlikely that a soldier would care so much about a mere slave. It was common in Greco-Roman culture for mature men to pair up with a young man as his lover.

Books that explore the homosexuality of the centurion include:

Jonathan Loved David: Homosexuality in Biblical Times by Tom Horner

Freedom, Glorious Freedom: The Spiritual Journey to the Fullness of Life for Gays, Lesbians, and Everybody Else by John McNeill

The Children Are Free: Reexamining the Biblical Evidence on Same-sex Relationships by Jeff Miner and John Tyler Connoley

What the Bible Really Says about Homosexuality by Daniel Helminiak

The Man Jesus Loved: Homoerotic Narratives from the New Testament by Theodore Jennings

This interpretation is promoted by LGBT-friendly church groups such as WouldJesusDiscriminate.org and WhyWouldWe.org on billboards stating “Jesus affirmed a gay couple.” For more info, see our previous post, Billboards show gay-friendly Jesus.



The centurion’s story has gotten surprisingly little attention throughout history considering that Jesus himself was impressed by his faith. But the Roman soldier has always been an unlikely role model. Jesus’ contemporaries were probably shocked that the great healer would praise a military man who enforced Roman occupation of their land. Today people may find the centurion unappealing because he may have been gay, or a slave owner, or both. It was just like Jesus to take someone disreputable and praise them as holy.

While the faithful centurion himself is rarely mentioned, his words do live on in a prayer used in many Catholic and Protestant eucharistic liturgies. For example, the prayer immediately before communion at Catholic mass paraphrases his words: “Lord I am not worthy to receive you under my roof, but only say the word and my soul shall be healed.”

Saint Longinus, whose feast day is today (March 15) is the centurion who pierced Christ’s side at the crucifixion and declared, “Truly this man was the son of God.” It’s possible that he is the same faithful gay centurion whose beloved boyfriend was healed by Jesus.
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Call to artists: Is there an artist out there who wants to paint the faithful gay centurion and his boyfriend from the Bible? People need to see the happy scene of the centurion with his newly healed boyfriend -- as Jesus leaves or looks through their window. Artists from the past always show the centurion asking Jesus for the healing. I believe you will be the first artist in history to paint the centurion and his boyfriend!

“Jesus Heals a Centurion’s Servant” by Paolo Veronese (1528-1588) (Wikimedia Commons)
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Related links:

A gay centurion comes out to Jesus (Gay Christian 101)

Jesus and the centurion (Wild Reed)

Gay centurion (My Queer Scripture)

The centurion of great faith (Homosexuality and Scripture by Pharsea)

Jesus, the centurion, and his lover (Jack Clark Robinson at Gay and Lesbian Review)

When Jesus Healed a Same-Sex Partner by Jay Michaelson (Huffington Post)

Image at top:
Detail from “Healing the Centurion’s Servant” in Mother Stories From the New Testament by Anonymous, 1906
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This post is part of the GLBT Saints series by Kittredge Cherry at the Jesus in Love Blog. Saints, martyrs, mystics, heroes, holy people, deities and religious figures of special interest to lesbian, gay, bisexual and transgender (LGBT) and queer people and our allies are covered on appropriate dates throughout the year.

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6 comments:

Anonymous said...

Queering The Church also has a post on The Gay Centurion http://queeringthechurch.com/2012/03/14/mar-15th-the-gay-centurion/

Kittredge Cherry said...

Thanks for the additional link. I checked and the content seems the same as the link I posted from one of Terrence Weldon’s other blogs, My Queer Scripture.

Earthbound Spirit said...

The story of the centurion and his "lad" is explored at some length in 'The Man Jesus Loved' by Theodore (Ted) Jennings. [Jennings was my Gospels prof in seminary...] It's a story I plan to use in a sermon, someday...

Kittredge Cherry said...

Thanks, Earthbound, for reminding me of the reference to “The Man Jesus Loved.” It’s one of my favorite books. Writing about the healing of the centurion’s “lad” was on my to-do list here for years. When I set my mind to actually do it, I was blessed by rediscovering and deepening my knowledge of this inspiring incident. Let me know if you post your sermon online!

Beau said...

If we surmise from Matthew 8 and Luke 7 that gay relationships are granted tacit approval by Jesus, then by the same logic, are we not missing a far more obvious interpretation of these passages: that SLAVERY is granted tacit approval by Jesus.

Fortunately, human moral behavior is finally beginning to outgrow the need for "Biblical defense", although (if we begin counting from the spread of Christianity) it's taken us the better part of 2000 years to renounce the slavery of captives and all women.

As humans begin to value loving, committed relationships without sexual prejudice, why look to the bible for moral defense? In the biblical view of marriage, the wife is the slave to the husband.

You can argue that with both slaves and wives, the New Testament urges owners/husbands to "love" their slaves/wives, but loving relationships (especially sexual relationships) should always be suspect in the context of ownership.

Kittredge Cherry said...

Beau, you raise an important point. The Greek word “pais” can be translated several different ways and does not necessarily mean a slave or a gay lover. It can also mean “child” or “son.” Jesus didn’t require people to be perfect or to be in perfect relationships before he offered healing.