A friend, Justus Stout, wrote this article. I thought it was of interest, so I am posting it here with his permission:
The LGBT community has just produced undeniable biblical evidence that Jesus condoned gay marriage. With scribe-like insight, Jay Michaelson brings to light a passage that clearly shows Jesus condoning the gay lifestyle of a Roman centurion by healing his same-sex lover.
Well… not quite.
Jay Michaelson, a writer for Huffington Post’s “Gay Voices,” recently wrote an article titled “When Jesus Healed a Same-Sex Partner.” The entire article can be viewed here. Although he refers to some excellent passages, his conclusions are misguided at best. At worst? Unashamed fabrication.
Here is how Michaelson recounts the story:
The story of the faithful centurion, told in Matthew 8:5-13 and Luke 7:1-10, is about a Roman centurion who comes to Jesus and begs that Jesus heal his pais, a word sometimes translated as “servant.” Jesus agrees and says he will come to the centurion’s home, but the centurion says that he does not deserve to have Jesus under his roof, and he has faith that if Jesus even utters a word of healing, the healing will be accomplished. Jesus praises the faith of the centurion, and the pais is healed. This tale illustrates the power and importance of faith, and how anyone can possess it. The centurion is not a Jew, yet he has faith in Jesus and is rewarded.
So what’s the big deal? Michaelson excitedly presents an interesting textual fact that has somehow evaded the eye of church scribes and intellectuals for almost 2,000 years: the person that Jesus healed was gay! This is how he makes his argument:
But pais does not mean “servant.” It means “lover.” In Thucydides, in Plutarch, in countless Greek sources, and according to leading Greek scholar Kenneth Dover, pais refers to the junior partner in a same-sex relationship.
See, by healing the centurion’s same-sex lover, Jesus condones a kind of sexual intimacy other than heterosexuality! (Of course, this already raises an interesting question: does healing prove endorsement? Did Jesus condone every action of every person he healed? Seems like a stretch.)
First of all, the examples Michaelson gives (Thucydides and Plutarch) are pulled from Classical Greek, which is a separate study from the Koine Greek in which the New Testament was written. Even his “leading Greek scholar” (Kenneth Dover) is distinguished for his studies in Classical Greek. To “cross-pollinate” these two studies is a serious academic oversight. The use of a term in Classical Greek can greatly vary from the same term’s usage in Koine Greek, evident in something as seemingly trivial as the word the. The word pais is an example of this.
As with any term that has more than one possible meaning, we can best decipher an author’s intended meaning by seeing how he uses the same term elsewhere. In order to find out what Matthew and Luke mean by their use of pais, it would behoove us to look at their own use of this word in other contexts. Fortunately for our study, both authors use the word in several other places. Let’s take a look:
Matthew’s first use of pais is in Herod’s decree to kill all the male pais in the land (2:16). Was this a mass killing of young lover boys? Obviously not. Herod was trying to kill any and all boys around Jesus’ age in order to kill Jesus.
The next use (Matthew 12:18) is a quote from Isaiah, when God demands us to “Behold, my pais whom I have chosen.” Do we even want to suggest that God’s relationship with Jesus is a homosexual/pedophiliac one? That’ll be a difficult argument to make, to say the least.
Up next is when Herod hears about the miracles of Jesus and tells his servants (pais) that he thinks it is a returned-from-the-dead John the Baptist (14:2). It would make more sense for Herod to be discussing this issue with his civil servants instead of gossiping the news with his harem of young male lovers. The rest of Matthew’s uses of pais are similar: they refer to young boys or servants, with no evidence as to their sexual dealings with older men.
In the gospel of Luke, the word is used in reference to God’s pais Israel (make sense of that one), and God’s pais, David (again… are we to say David was the boy-lover of God?). Then we have the story of Jesus, when he remained in Jerusalem instead of returning home with his family (Luke 2:43). Unless you want to make the argument that Jesus (in his young days as a theological prodigy) was being molested by his teachers, pais in this context simply means boy.
Finally, in Luke 8:54 we have a similar story to that of the centurion. A ruler’s daughter dies. Jesus goes to the ruler’s house and, in the presence of the father and mother (and a few disciples), says the resurrecting words: “Pais, arise.” Now, unless Jesus is to be accused not only of pedophilia but also necrophilia, we would have to conclude that pais simply means “child.”
Just as the English word mistress doesn’t have to refer to a woman in an extramarital relationship, the Koine Greek word pais doesn’t always refer to a young boy who has sexual relations with older men. In fact, in the New Testament, it never does.
It seems Mr. Michaelson wanted something from Scripture that wasn’t really there: a proof-text for homosexuality being okayed by Jesus. Michaelson really doesn’t care what the Bible says about morality, though. He shows his cards when he says (concerning his take on the “pais” relationship): “This is not a relationship that any LGBT activist would want to promote today.” So wait, even if you are right about this word and about Jesus condoning this relationship, you would immediately refuse to promote such a relationship? Hold on… do you even care what Jesus thinks?