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.
by Luc Viatour
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.
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!
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
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.