If you've ever engaged with an activist, a liberal Christian or just the average person on the street on the subject of homosexuality, you've probably encountered this platitude: "Jesus never mentioned homosexuality!" Among those who make such a claim, that statement is one of the quickest, easiest and most common excuses for approving homosexual practice because it gives the appearance of being a biblical argument while being just the opposite.
Does such a claim hold any weight biblically? And if it is true that Jesus never mentioned homosexuality, does that really justify homosexual behavior?
The "Jesus never mentioned it" argument has numerous and serious flaws, so let's go through them one by one.
- The most obvious point to make is that Jesus didn't mention any number of sins. For example, He never mentioned child sexual abuse or wife beating. Does that mean that they are no longer sins? He never mentioned transvestism (Deut. 22:5). Does that make it okay now?
- It defies simple logic to claim that the absence of any mention of certain sins by Jesus in the New Testament indicates that He now approves of them. Homosexual practices were condemned in the Old Testament in the strongest of terms (Lev. 18:22; 20:13) and Jesus affirmed those prohibitions (Matt. 5:17-20).
- Additionally, the claim that He must mention a sin for it to be wrong assumes that the purpose of the New Testament was to re-state or to create a new list of forbidden practices. Such an argument unmasks complete ignorance of Scripture on the part of those who make it. These would-be scholars are no scholars at all. They are apologists for those who seek to jettison God's moral standards (see Rom. 1:28, 32). Until the modern era, no biblical scholar of the past 2,000 years has ever proposed such a ridiculous hermeneutic. Thus, such would-be scholars presume to know better than all of the biblical scholars (Christian or secular) of the past two millennia. They echo Satan's original deception, "Did God really say"? (Gen. 3:1, NIV).
What Jesus did do was to point out that the religious leaders of His day were inventing laws in an effort to establish their righteousness before God and to show themselves pious before men (Matt. 23:1-7, 27-28).
He also pointed out that their standards and practices for obeying the Mosaic Law fell short of its full meaning. For example, when He pointed out that the sin of adultery could be committed at the heart level, not just physically (Matt. 5:27-28), Jesus was revealing the deeper meaning, scope and intent of the law. He was also establishing the fact that no man could keep the Law in all of its aspects (see also Rom. 3:20, 27-28; James 2:8-11).
- Most of what Jesus said wasn't even recorded in the Bible (John 20:30, 21:25; Rev. 22:18-19). So the incompleteness of the biblical accounts of what He said mitigates the claim that Jesus never mentioned homosexual practices.
- Jesus reaffirmed all of the moral law (Matt. 5:17-20), and chided those who broke the commandments and taught others to do the same (Rom. 1:32).
Here, it's important to understand that there were different kinds of Old Testament law. The Old Testament contained ritual (ceremonial), sacrificial, civil and moral law. Jesus affirmed its entirety, yet brought to an end the ritual and sacrificial law by fulfilling them.
The civil law was established to facilitate the affairs of state for Israel through a direct relationship with God. It was stricter because God governed Israel directly from heaven via revelation through Moses and the Prophets. Though some of the wise principles found in that law are still in common practice today (such as the distinction between first degree murder and manslaughter), the stricter penalties no longer apply because we no longer have that kind of direct oversight by God.
As for the ritual and sacrificial laws, Jesus fulfilled them by His life and death. He became the sacrificial Lamb and fulfilled all of the matters to which such laws pointed.
The moral law, however, is a reflection of the very character of God. Consequently, moral law is as unchangeable as is the nature of God. As such, it will continue throughout eternity. Jesus kept the moral law perfectly (John 8:46; 2 Cor. 5:21; Heb. 4:15, 7:26, 9:14; 1 Pet. 1:19, 2:22; 1 John 3:5) in order to reflect His Father's character. His perfection also revealed His divinity and pointed to a future that He would give to those who accepted the only means by which that perfection could be applied to man; His sacrifice on the cross (Acts 4:12; John 8:24, 14:6).
- Historically, Jesus didn't need to comment on homosexual behavior. In first-century Judaism, there was no debate about its sinfulness. He would have been preaching to the choir.
- The "Jesus never mentioned it" argument assumes that only the words of Jesus are divinely inspired. This flies in the face of hundreds of Old Testament prophecies that have already been fulfilled. The mathematics of probability conclusively demonstrates that the Scriptures must be divinely inspired.
The "Jesus never mentioned it" argument also ignores Jesus' own witness to the divine origin of sacred Scripture (see Mark 12:35-36) as well as that of the apostles (see Acts 1:16; 1 Thess. 2:13; 2 Tim. 3:16-17; 2 Pet. 1:20-21, 3:15-16).
- Every mention of homosexual behavior in the Bible is thoroughly condemned in both the Old and New Testaments (see Lev. 18:22, 20:13; Rom. 1:18-32, 1 Cor. 6:9-11; 1 Tim. 1:8-11; Jude 1:7).
The original Greek and Hebrew texts are crystal clear on this. In fact, the apostle Paul waved a red flag on this very subject when he took the words of prohibition for homosexual behavior from Leviticus 18:22 (mishkav zakur) that had been translated by Jewish scholars as arsenos koites in the Septuagint (the earliest Greek translation of the Hebrew text, about third century B.C.) and used a conflated form of them in 1 Corinthians 6:9—arsenokoitēs—in speaking about the sin of homosexual behavior. According to New Testament scholar Richard Hays, it was the first time in the history of koine Greek (the Greek of the Bible) that such a word was used. In essence, Paul coined the term to alert readers that he was referring to the same prohibition found in Leviticus.
- Nowhere in Scripture and nowhere in biblical history until the last century has homosexuality been thought of as an inborn, natural and immutable orientation. The Bible only speaks of "behavior," not "orientation".
Many activists claim that Jesus didn't use the word "homosexual" because He was unaware that it was supposedly a holy and healthy orientation that was both God-ordained and God-approved.
Are we to believe that the divine, omniscient Son of God was unaware of anything? The idea is ludicrous. It also flies in the face of the fact that many in the Greek world of Jesus' time did believe that homosexuality was an orientation, a fact that Jesus would have known quite well even if He hadn't been omniscient.
The world's top scholar on the original translation of these passages (Dr. Robert Gagnon) says the concept of homosexual orientation was not wholly unknown in the Greco-Roman milieu. He also asserts that there is absolutely no evidence that modern "orientation theory" would have any impact on causing Paul to change his strong negative valuation of homosexual practice.
- Finally, homosexual behavior does not fit the stated purpose of sexuality in the Bible, which is heterosexual and monogamous. Scripturally, human sexuality has been designed to be expressed solely in a one-man, one-woman marital covenant. (See Gen. 1:27, 2:23-24, 5:2; Matt. 19:4-6; Eph. 5:31).
So, does the possibility that Jesus never mentioned "homosexuality" in the Bible create an excuse for homosexual practice? In the very strong words of the apostle Paul, me genoito, "May it never be!" (Rom. 3:4, NIV).
Dr. David Kyle Foster (M.Div, Trinity Evangelical Divinity School; D. Min., Trinity School for Ministry) is the author of Transformed Into His Image and Love Hunger and is the founder/director of Pure Passion Media (PurePassion.us). Read more of his take on sexual sin and brokenness in his newest book, Sexual Healing-Reference Edition.
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