Jesus and Paul on the Hermeneutics of Sexuality: Further on Eunuchs and Matthew 19

the-bible-and-sexuality-blog-headingSo I was sitting at home, minding my own business, reading Christopher J. H. Wright’s commentary on Deuteronomy (Understanding the Bible Commentary Series) (review forthcoming) for a little relaxation when — all of a sudden — I stumbled across this passage — which seems to be a pretty good place to wind up this series. (We’re getting close to the end. Really.)

Wait … wait … I’ve gotten ahead myself. We’ll come back to Deuteronomy. First we have to review Matthew.

Here’s the question: In Matthew 19, why did Jesus choose to refer to those who choose to be celibate for the sake of the Kingdom as “eunuchs”?

(Mat 19:12 ESV) 12 “For there are eunuchs who have been so from birth, and there are eunuchs who have been made eunuchs by men, and there are eunuchs who have made themselves eunuchs for the sake of the kingdom of heaven. Let the one who is able to receive this receive it.”

To modern ears, it’s off-putting — even offensive — to refer to a person choosing to be chaste as castrated! But to the Jews, well, they would have heard Jesus speaking in terms of the Torah, which says regarding eunuchs —

(Deu 23:1 ESV) “No one whose testicles are crushed or whose male organ is cut off shall enter the assembly of the LORD.”

A eunuch was not allowed in the Tabernacle (or, later, the Temple) — presumably even if he suffered castration in warfare or otherwise by accident. Wright does an excellent job of analyzing and explaining this passage in light of the rest of the Torah — but that’s not today’s discussion.

For Jesus to refer to those who live chaste, celibate lives for the sake of the Kingdom as eunuchs, well, eunuchs are rejected by the Torah! Oh, wow! How can this be? Was Jesus unaware of this passage? Or was he using it for his own purposes?

Well, the Torah wasn’t the final word. Isaiah said —

(Isa 56:1-5 ESV) Thus says the LORD: “Keep justice, and do righteousness, for soon my salvation will come, and my righteousness be revealed. … ”

3 Let not the foreigner who has joined himself to the LORD say, “The LORD will surely separate me from his people”; and let not the eunuch say, “Behold, I am a dry tree.”  4 For thus says the LORD: “To the eunuchs who keep my Sabbaths, who choose the things that please me and hold fast my covenant,  5 I will give in my house and within my walls a monument and a name better than sons and daughters; I will give them an everlasting name that shall not be cut off.”

Through Isaiah, God invites eunuchs into “my house and within my walls” — into the Temple. And he promises them blessings better than even sons and daughters.

Therefore, when Jesus invites his followers to become “eunuchs” by giving up their sexuality for the sake of the Kingdom, he is promising his celibate followers the blessings promised to true eunuchs by Isaiah. He is saying that for those who choose not to have children for the sake of the Kingdom, God will bless them with blessings beyond even sons and daughters and invite them into his Temple!

If the “foreigner,” who is not part of that line, and the “eunuch,” who cannot pass that line on, choose to live in obedience to God’s “covenant” (vv. 4, 6), they are more pleasing to God than the Israelite who lives in rebellion against that covenant. God will give the eunuch a better heritage than children, “an everlasting name” (v. 5).

But this righteousness is more than legalistic law-keeping. Verse 6 speaks in relational terms of binding oneself to God as an act of love, service, and worship. Those who do this will be brought into God’s “house of prayer,” there to participate in the worship of that place, because God’s purpose is to gather “all nations” to himself (vv. 7–8).

By beginning the final section of the book on this rather shocking note, the prophet is both tying us back to the beginning of the book, reminding us that the redeemed servants of the Lord have a mission, to draw all the world to the “holy mountain” (56:7; cf. 2:2–3), but also telling us that being a member of the covenant community is not a matter of inheritance but of obedience.

Oswalt, John N. (2010-05-11). Isaiah (NIV Application Commentary, The)

We have to notice the flavor of the passage. That is, just like physical eunuchs, those who remain single and chaste for the sake of the Kingdom will take on a role that society once scorned. Indeed, during Jesus’ day, to be single as an adult was to violate the command to be fruitful and multiply.

But just like the eunuchs of Old Testament times, the chaste single members of the Kingdom, who were once looked down on, will become honored by God even above those who are married.

That is, I think, the fairest reading. And in New Testament times, the apostles, Jesus, and surely many other church leaders gave up marriage and the blessings of children for the sake of the Kingdom and were honored by God for their sacrifice.

Today, some Christians are single against their will, despite their best efforts, and this is no sin. If they remain chaste in their singleness for the sake of Jesus, God will reward them. Those who choose to be single and chaste for the sake of the Kingdom make an even greater commitment to God, and they will be rewarded all the more.

It’s sad that we live in an age in which few can even imagine choosing to give up marriage for the sake of God — not that giving up marriage is by itself meritorious. It’s not. The merit is found when we take on a role in the Kingdom that is so challenging that it requires us to give up marriage — for the sake of the Kingdom.

It’s even sadder that when we discuss the inability to marry or decision not to marry, we think of the question in terms of sex vs. chastity, whereas God obviously sees the question in terms of children vs. no children. The ultimate joy of marriage, according to Isaiah, is not sex but children. (Isaiah seems to have been reading Hauerwas.)

If a youth minister chooses not to marry to be more available for the teens, he will be rewarded for having given up the chance to have his own children. If he marries, God will bless his marriage, too. Neither choice is sin. Rather, God just wants to be clear that the choice to give so much time to the Kingdom that marriage would be unwise will be richly rewarded.

Just so, if a Christian is not attracted to women, and if he is therefore single and chaste for the sake of the Kingdom, God will reward him with blessings beyond the value of children — provided, I think, that he uses the opportunities his singleness gives him for the sake of the Kingdom rather than self-indulgence.

You see, we Westerners enjoy a self-indulgent culture, and when we choose not to marry, we (straight and gay) figure that the money and time and energy we save should go to vacations and clothes and furniture and good times. We fill the absence of a spouse and children with selfishness.

But Jesus and Paul both call the singles among us to fill their lives with Kingdom matters. What might that be? Well, there are countless possibilities, including missions, social service, volunteering for those in need, taking on a larger role in church … the list goes on. And those opportunities are equally available to the straight and the gay.

The point is that not having a spouse not only means a life of chastity, it means time, energy, and opportunity to pour oneself into Christian service, to truly be single for the sake of the Kingdom.

And this is no punishment. It’s a blessing — indeed, an opportunity that God promises to bless more than marriage — to be even better than having children.

And so the question, I suppose, is whether we believe the promise.

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About Jay F Guin

My name is Jay Guin, and I’m a retired elder. I wrote The Holy Spirit and Revolutionary Grace about 18 years ago. I’ve spoken at the Pepperdine, Lipscomb, ACU, Harding, and Tulsa lectureships and at ElderLink. My wife’s name is Denise, and I have four sons, Chris, Jonathan, Tyler, and Philip. I have two grandchildren. And I practice law.
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2 Responses to Jesus and Paul on the Hermeneutics of Sexuality: Further on Eunuchs and Matthew 19

  1. Keith says:

    I have written this to show you the flaw in your theory about “Born Eunuchs” being homosexual men. I have an enlightened mind in this matter, one that males can not have, because they are men, they are the makers of sperm(seed), that which gives them the right to be called man or men by the laws of the Almighty All Knowing God, and which is written down in all of his Holy Scriptures for the enlightened to truly understand.

    Men have sperm that is used during intercourse with a woman, too create offspring (Sons,Daughters and Eunuchs). The man’s sperm joins with the woman’s ovum (egg), thus causing procreation. This is known as man laying with woman. It is the act of depositing ones sperm (seed) into the woman’s vagina to try to produce a child or children.

    So as Jesus Stated in Matthew 19: 12 – For their are eunuchs that were born such from their mother’s womb, and there are eunuchs that were made eunuchs by men, and there are eunuchs that have made themselves eunuchs on account of the kingdom of heavens. They that are able to receive this, let them receive it.

    Now let me explain this, well you know what males and females are, but apparently you need to be schooled as to what an eunuch is. A born eunuch can not be a homosexual man, because a born eunuch has no sperm (seed) only men have that gift from Almighty God. And only man can spill their sperm (seed) inside another man, and receive the wrath of God Almighty for the sin of man laying with man, or homosexuality as it is known today.
    Eunuchs born from their Mother’s womb are different genders than male and female, they are eunuch genders, let me explain further, thanks to science and medical technology today, we can now see what the Almighty God knows since before we are born. Male gender has the sex chromosomes of XY, and the female gender has the sex chromosomes of XX, eunuch gender has the sex chromosomes that can contain both of the sets of chromosomes of both the male gender and the female gender chromosomes or more or less of either X OR Y chromosomes. Science today gives male looking born eunuch’s many titles, some of which is Klinefelters syndrome or a variation of it call Klinefelters mosaic syndrome, for example the gender chromosomes for Klinefelters mosaic persons or born eunuchs of the past that are born of their mother’s womb are XYXXY, what all of the eunuch’s have in common, is that they can not procreate, meaning the born eunuchs that may look like males but have no sperm (seed) to deposit into a woman to procreate with her, to cause the creation of Sons, Daughters and Eunuchs. Thus eunuchs cannot procreate, yet in most cases they can have sexual relationships with each other or any of the other genders such as males and females. But born Eunuchs are, infertile the void of sperm. Now you may say to me how could someone from a thousand years ago or further back or even a hundred years ago before the time of science know if someone was a born eunuch or not, well that is easy, even though they may look like males, there are some differences, such as the size of the skull which falls between the size of a males and a females, the unusually long arms longer than males and females, the male looking born eunuchs for instance, the area of the scrotum is smaller, because of the non functioning and deformed testicles, and usually have more feminine looking bodies, breast tissue and more rounded features, the body and facial hair of the male looking born eunuch may be spare to non-existent. As to the sexuality of the born eunuchs they are heterosexual because they are the opposite gender of both males and females. But unlike males and females they don’t have the same drive or urge for sex as much as the procreating males and females. This is the first part of what Jesus says about “eunuchs born of their mother’s womb”.

    Now the second part of what Jesus said which pertains to,” eunuchs that were made eunuchs by men”, these eunuchs are not born with out sperm (seed), and they were born male, they had the gift of procreation removed from them by other men, their sex organs were either removed entirely or only had their testicles removed. This usually happened to male slaves taken in battle, so they could better serve there masters, by being submissive and less likely to cause violence again his master or his master property, their master’s also required them castrated so that could not procreate, so there was no worry of their master’s women becoming pregnant by them depositing their sperm (seed) into their master’s women. Depending on the damage done to their sex organs when castrated, controlled whether or not if they could have intercourse. Even though their testicles were removed they would still have sexual urges to some degree, but their masters had no worry of finding his women pregnant by his male slaves.

    Now as the the third part of what Jesus said about eunuchs, “there are eunuchs that have made themselves eunuchs on account of the kingdom of heavens”. Some people think that he is talking about people who remain celibate, such as some priests and monks, but this is flawed, seeing they are not eunuchs, they have sperm (seed) but prefer not to use the gift of procreation, so celibrate men are not eunuchs. But back in the time before, during and after the time Jesus came, there were men who castrated themselves, some where pagans would did it for their pagan Goddess they worshipped, but some followed the teaching of God Almighty and still castrated themselves, to not being tied down to a family and to better serve their Almighty God and spread his Holy Scriptures.

    So, “they that are able to receive this, let them receive it.

    Now that I have explained why eunuchs, whether they be born eunuchs, made by men eunuchs or made by their own hand eunuchs, they all have one thing in common, NO SPERM (SEED), can not deposit sperm into a woman, can not procreate with women, but provided they still have a working penis and it can get hard they can penetrate the woman or women but no offspring shall they receive from the sexual act of intercourse. Now you may say that what I said about born eunuchs is false, and you may use what science says about Klinefelters persons, that they are male because they have a Y chromosome or two, but Almighty God knows more than any scientist will ever know about human kind because he created us. Almighty God by his design males or men have sperm (seed) in which to procreate with women. So Klinefelters persons even thought they may look like males or men, they are born eunuchs in the eyes of Almighty God.

    Now I will address your theory that homosexual men are eunuchs because they don’t find women sexually attractive, eunuchs do find women sexually attractive, but either by being born eunuch or by the hand of man or their own hand, they may or may not be able to penetrate a woman sexually, but can pleasure her in other sexual ways that don’t involve penis insertion into the woman vagina. Homosexual men find the female body repulsive, not attractive, they prefer to penetrate men for the pleasure of sexual intercourse, they deposit their sperm inside each other, rather than inside a woman for procreation. You see a homosexual man or men, still have the ability to produce sperm (seed) for procreation, even though they don’t use it for procreation, they still have it, the sin of homosexuality or men laying with men, has nothing to do with men loving one another it has to do with wasting your sperm (seed) inside of a man, rather than depositing it inside a woman where it was designed by God Almighty to go for the purpose of creating offspring. So it is ok to love your fellow man, but not to unload your sperm inside of him, sperm is for the creation of offspring.

    So, as I see it, there is one way and only one way for two men to have sexual intercourse with one another without incurring, the wrath of Almighty God, for the sin of man laying with man as man lays with woman. They must do as it says in the third verse about eunuchs, that Jesus said, they must make themselves eunuchs for the kingdom of heaven, or to clarify it, they must remove what will cause the offence against Almighty God, they must have no sperm (seed) to waste inside another man, only by castrating themselves, by removing their testicles, will they be able to have intercourse as a man does, but have no sperm (seed) to unload inside his male lover and offend Almighty God. So the only way for a homosexual or gay man or men too be called eunuchs and not offend Almighty God is to be castrated.

    Now if you are wondering how I know this is what Jesus meant in Matthew 19:12 of the Holy Scriptures, well the reason I am so enlightened about this subject is that I am a born eunuch, born from my mother’s womb. So I have a better perspective then does a man or a woman on what exactly a born eunuch is and how we see the world around us, and how we see the glories of God Almighty, our minds are not always clouded with the urge for sexual conquest as we so observe in the other genders of male and female that we share this earth with, by the glory of God Almighty.

  2. Dwight says:

    Jay, There is a difference between having a spouse in the scriptures and being married to that spouse. This state is shown and reflected often in the Old Testament and also in the New Testament, but the problem is we don’t recognize this as we roll everything into our Western understanding of marriage.
    Mary and Joseph were betrothed and traveling together, but had not yet married or come together. They were partners. but not in a sexual relationship, but even so Josepth could have put her away. This is also reflected in I Cor.7:36-37 “But if any man thinks he is behaving improperly toward his virgin, if she is past the flower of youth, and thus it must be, let him do what he wishes. He does not sin; let them marry. Nevertheless he who stands steadfast in his heart, having no necessity, but has power over his own will, and has so determined in his heart that he will keep his virgin, does well.” So being celibate didn’t neccessarily mean not having a wife it just meant having ultimate control over yourself which was good, but not commanded in this instance.

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