Posts Tagged ‘ christianity ’

Queering the Bible, Pt6 – Trans

“For some are Eunuchs because they were born that way; others were made that way by men; and others have made themselves Eunuchs because of the kingdom of heaven. The one who can accept this should accept it.” – Matthew 19: 12

In the Bible, the closest thing to being trans was being a Eunuch. Of course, back in antiquity, gender reassignment surgery and post-modernist, feminist concepts of being genderqueer did not exist. The term ‘eunuch’ was the only way to describe someone living between genders, as well as describing intersexuality. The above passage in Matthew 19 tells us that Jesus accepts trans and intersex people as equal. The term, ‘if they were born that way’, is particularly interesting to trans people who believe they were trans from birth, and can be seen as an OK for transexuality.

Isaiah 56:3-5 also may be of interest: “Let no foreigner who has bound himself to the LORD say, “The LORD will surely exclude me from his people.” And let not any eunuch complain, “I am only a dry tree.” For this is what the LORD says: “To the eunuchs who keep my Sabbaths, who choose what pleases me and hold fast to my covenant- to them I will give within my temple and its walls a memorial and a name better than sons and daughters; I will give them an everlasting name that will not be cut off.”

The only passage in the Bible that could be seen to be anti-trans is Deuteronomy 23:1 -“No one who has been emasculated by crushing or cutting may enter the assembly of the LORD.” This can be seen in the same context as the Holiness Code (see above), to create a distinct national identity away from pagan Gentiles who used to crush men’s testicles in deference to pagan gods.

Indeed there are many references to Eunuchs in the Bible; all of them (besides Deuteronomy 23) can be seen in a positive or neutral light. The neutral, historical accounts include 2 Kings 20:18, Jeremiah 29.2 ;34.19;41.1625.52. The positive accounts include 2 Kings 9:32-33 where 2 eunuchs throw Jezebel down at Juhu’s command, Jeremiah 38.7-13, where Ebedmelech (a eunuch) saves Jeremiah from imprisonment, Daniel 1 shows Daniels love for Eunuchs in the court of Nebuchadnezzar and how the eunuchs help Daniel stay ritually clean.Acts 8:26-39 shows Phillip baptising an Ethiopean Eunuch, and bringing them into the church.

The words of Genesis 1:27 – “So G-d created man in his own image, in the image of G-d he created them; male and female he created them.” are often perceived to be anti-trans. Let’s take a look at what the scripture really says here. Firstly, it tells us that G-d is androgynous, the image of G-d being both male and female. It tells us G-d made us in his image; it tells us G-d made us both male and female, though not necessarily one or the other. If G-d *him*self is androgynous, how can he condemn a human for being do too?

The term ‘eunuch’ is often misleading in translation. The original Hebrew/Greek may have a similar meaning to what we understand as the Indian concept of ‘third gender’, a group that comprises of gender variant people, including gays, bisexuals and lesbians.

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Queering the Bible, Pt5 – homophobic translations

The fifth part to my mega essay on LGBT issues in the Bible. This one deals with issues of translation – effectively where people had a choice to translate words as *anything* but chose homosexuality to be the big sin.

“Realizing the fact that law is not made for a righteous person, but for those who are lawless and rebellious, for the ungodly and sinners, for the unholy and profane, for those who kill their fathers or mothers, for murderers and immoral men and homosexuals and kidnappers and liars and perjurers, and whatever else is contrary to sound teaching.” –  1 Timothy 9-10

“Do you not know that the wicked will not inherit the kingdom of G-d? Do not be deceived: Neither the sexually immoral nor idolaters nor adulterers nor male prostitutes nor homosexual offenders” – 1 Corinthians 6:9

These passages are an issue of translation. If in either passage you see the word ‘homosexual’ than you can tell your Bible had been written after 1946, such as the New International Version and the New American Standard Bible, quoted in the footnotes.

Prior to 1946 Edition of the Revised Standard Version, words that were used in place of ‘homosexual’ included; boy prostitutes, effeminate, those who make women of themselves, sissies, the self-indulgent, sodomites, lewd persons, male prostitutes, and the unchaste. All those words were assumed to be translations of the Greek malakoi and arsenokoitai, which until the 16th century was thought to mean ‘masturbators’. Indeed, when early Greek-speaking Christians such as John Chrysostom and Clement of Alexandra the words malakoi and arsenkoitai were never used, nor was the passages in 1 Corinthians 6 or 1 Timothy 1 mentioned.

The problem with translating the word arsenokoitai is that it has not been located in any other material before Pauls use of the word, or at a similar time to Paul’s writings. The only instances of use of arsenokoitai are recorded to be after Pauls use, and dependant on Paul’s usage of the word. About 500 years after Paul’s death, Jerome translates arsenokoitai to be ‘male concubine’, with no distinction to whether the concubines were involved in hetero- or homo-eroticism. There were many common Greek words at the time of Paul, however that more accurately and distinctly references homosexuality, and yet he chooses not to use them.

Malakoi however has more recorded use before and after Paul uses it. Jesus is recorded to use the word Malakoi to describe soft clothes in Matthew 11:8 Traditionally, church tradition has referred to Malakoi as a term to describe moral weakness, in ancient Greek culture it was used to describe effeminacy, and occasionally as a descriptive word for eromenos (the passive partner in a pederastic relationship). It was, however, more often used in a broader sense to describe men who bathed often, presented himself as effeminate to attract women, wore aftershave, shaved, or ate too much.

Because of the complete ambiguity of the words Malakoi and arsenokoitai, it is inaccurate and misleading to translate the terms as meaning as homosexuality.

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Queering the Bible, Pt 2. – Sodom and Gomorrah

The story of the destruction of Sodom and Gomorrah in Genesis 19

Part 2 of an article that I wrote a while back, while I was the LGBT Officer at Bradford Uni, and had a lot of students come to me who felt that it was difficult to reconcile their sexuality or gender identity with their Christianity. I’m not a theologian, but I did a bit of research to bring this together.

This passage is often used to criticise homosexuality. It has been so often used that ‘Sodomite’ and ‘Sod’ has become an insult to throw at gay, lesbian, bisexuals and the wider queer community. ‘Sodomy’ was refered to in UK law as the act of anal sex, associated with gay males. But is Genesis 19 really a condemnation of homosexuality?

The actual sins of Sodom are provided throughout the Bible;

  • The sins of Sodom and Gomorrah include the making of false idols, Deuteronomy 29:23-26 and Deuteronomy 32:32-38 23
  • Making false sacrifice, murder, greed and rebellion against G-d, Isaiah 1:9-23
  • Arrogance and Pride, Isaiah 3:8-9

Jude 1:7 is often used as to argue that the sin of Sodom and Gommorah is homosexuality – “Even as Sodom and Gomorrha, and the cities about them in like manner, giving themselves over to fornication, and going after strange flesh, are set forth for an example, suffering the vengeance of eternal fire.”

The fornication and ‘strange flesh’ referred to here could either a condemnation of promiscuous adultery, as condemned in Jeremiah 23:14 or, more likely, a reference to the fact that the visitors were angels of G-d and their flesh was literally ‘strange’, coming from the Greek heteras which, ironically, is the source of the word heterosexual. The phrase more accurately translates as ‘other flesh’.

The main sin of Sodom and Gomorrah was inhospitality. In Gen 19, Lot, and immigrant to the city of Sodom, welcomes two strangers through the walls of the city and into his house. The townspeople are suspicious of Lot and the two strangers, them all being outsiders. All the men of the town gather outside Lot’s house demanding to have sex with the men. Now, let’s make this clear, not all the men of Sodom were gay, the presence of women and children in the city tells us that. The fact that the men of Sodom wanted to have sex with the men was nothing to do with sexual enjoyment, but about their assertion of power. They intended to let the strangers know who were in charge by gang-raping them. Modern psychology tells us that the main reasons for rape are through anger and to assert power. Sodom was destroyed because the townspeople were violently inhospitable to the visitors. To put it in context, because in Biblical times, towns and cities were separated by vast swathes of harsh desert, hospitality was more than just good manners, it was about saving lives. This view is backed up by Jesus’ later quotes on Sodom and Gomorrah, in Matthew 10:13-15
and Matthew 11:20-24.

Other references in the Bible to Sodom and Gomorrah can be found here: Jeremiah 49:16-18;50:2-40Lamentations 4:3-6Ezekiel 16:49-50Amos 4:1-11Zephaniah 2:8, and 2 Peter 2:6.

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Queering the Bible Pt1

Out of the thousands of passages in the Bible, only 5 or 6 are traditionally said to address homosexuality, and a handful more on trans issues. Yet, from the amount of vitriol that LGBT people receive from some reactionary Christian groups, you would imagine the entire book is condemning them. This is an article that I wrote a while back, while I was the LGBT Officer at Bradford Uni, and had a lot of students come to me who felt that it was difficult to reconcile their sexuality or gender identity with their Christianity. I’m not a theologian, but I did a bit of research to bring this together. I’ve split it up into a few posts, because otherwise it would just be epically long. This is part 1 – exploring Genesis 1:27-28.

1. “So G-d created man in his own image, in the image of G-d he created them; male and female he created them. G-d blessed them and said to them, be fruitful and increase in number; fill the earth and subdue it.” – Genesis 1:27-28

The Creation story of Genesis is used to criticise homosexuality as it is argued that G-d created them Eve from Adam’s rib to be his helpmate, the woman being complimentary to the man, and thus G-d made woman for man, man for woman, and it is then argued that same-sex relationships are in violation of this divine order. This argument can be simplified to ‘G-d made Adam and Eve, not Adam and Steve’

The authors of Genesis were attempting to answer the question of how we were created, and it must have seen obvious then as it is now that the only plausible answer is from the sexual union of a man and woman. The Creation story does not pretend to give judgement on any other form of relationship; it does not mention friendship, or the possibility of remaining celibate and single, and we do not condemn friendship or singleness. Simply because it does not mention homosexuality, does not mean that it is condemned.

Another argument is that G-d gave Adam and Eve the instruction to ‘go forth and multiply’ – to “be fruitful and increase in number”. Critics argue that because people in a same-sex relationship, they cannot procreate naturally and are because of that condemned.

This passage is all about recognising that heterosexual coupling is normative in most societies and leads to procreation; it does not expressively condemn same-sex relationships. The argument against homosexuality due to lack of procreation falls apart when we examine heterosexual marriages which do not lead to procreation, that are not condemned also. The lack of children doesn’t invalid these relationships nor does it devalue them. Neither should it for same-sex couples.

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