Was Jesus Gay?

The sexuality of Jesus Christ is queried.

Was Jesus queer? We don't know. But it is a possibility that cannot be ruled out. One version of St. Mark's gospel - which is still the subject of academic dispute - alludes to Jesus having a homosexual relationship with a youth he raised from the dead.

According to the US Biblical scholar, Morton Smith, of Columbia University, a fragment of manuscript he found at the Mar Saba monastery near Jerusalem in 1958, showed that the full text of St. Mark chapter 10 (between verses 34 and 35 in the standard version of the Bible) includes the passage:

"And the youth, looking upon him (Jesus), loved him and beseeched that he might remain with him. And going out of the tomb, they went into the house of the youth, for he was rich. And after six days, Jesus instructed him and, at evening, the youth came to him wearing a linen cloth over his naked body. And he remained with him that night, for Jesus taught him the mystery of the Kingdom of God".

The veracity of this manuscript is hotly contested by other Biblical scholars. This comes as no surprise. The revelation of a gay Jesus would undermine some of the most fundamental tenets of orthodox Christianity, including its rampant homophobia.

But even if the text is genuine, does this ambiguous, elliptical passage offer evidence of Jesus's homosexuality? It is hard to say. The precise nature of the relationship between Christ and the youth is not spelled out. Sexual relations are suggested but not explicitly stated.

The Morton Smith document is, in fact, irrelevant to the vexed issue of Christ's sexual orientation. What we can say for certain is that the standard, accepted Biblical narrative gives us no information at all about Jesus's sexuality.

This absence of firm information does not, of course, mean that we can take it for granted that Christ was heterosexual. Far from it! The lack of information about his erotic inclinations begs more questions than it answers.

The truth is that we simply don't know whether Jesus was straight, gay, bisexual or celibate. There is certainly no evidence for the Church's unspoken presumption that he was either heterosexual or devoid of carnal desires. Since nothing in the Bible points to Christ having erotic feelings for women, or relationships with the female sex, the possibility of him being gay cannot be discounted.

In the absence of any evidence - let alone proof - that Jesus was heterosexual, the theological basis of Church homophobia is all the more shaky and indefensible. How can established religion dare denounce homosexuality when the founder of its faith was himself a man of mysterious, unknown sexuality who could, for all we know, have been homosexual?

The Bible tells us that Jesus was born a man and therefore presumably had male sexual feelings. It would have been more or less impossible, biologically, for him not to have an element of erotic arousal - even if only having the normal male response of waking with an erection.

Published: 18/03/1996