A Discussion of Matthew 19
Here is the passage in question: Matthew 19: 11-12.
I discuss elsewhere the meaning of Matthew 19 in terms of eunuchs.
What follows here is a more creative interpretation of the passage and
my response to that interpretation.
The creative interpretation of this passage is as follows in terms of the
three things listed ie .. born eunuchs, made eunuchs by men, and
eunuchs for the kingdom.
1. " Some are born eunuchs" : is interpreted as "Some are born gay."
(Jesus said so). Assumes that ‘eunuch’ literally equals ‘gay’.
2. "Those made eunuchs by men": is interpreted as: "those who are
made incapable of marriage by other men" In other words it refers to
gay individuals who were/are prevented from marrying because of the
laws of the land that men had passed. (Side A)
3. "Eunuchs for the kingdom" : Jesus provided the celibacy option.
In contrast to the above points I believe Jesus was saying..
1. ‘People are born eunuchs’: This could include a variety of medical
conditions that would result in not going through puberty and being
incapable of having sex / children. See definition of eunuch. Note: I
have no problem with the possibility that people may be born gay. I just
don’t think that is what Jesus is saying here. There is no cultural context
to come to this conclusion.
2. ‘Those made eunuchs by men’: This most obviously refers to
castration.. a documented practice in the ancient and not so ancient
world. There is no context for assuming that this refers to the prohibition
of same sex marriage. Jesus is talking to heterosexual Jews in the
context of heterosexual marriage. As Jews, they would not, in their
wildest dreams, assume Jesus to be talking about gay marriage.
3. 'Eunuchs for the kingdom': This would refer to those who have
forsaken marriage for the kingdom. In other words it would refer to
those (gay or straight) who were led or feel called to a life of singleness.
Looking at cultural context...
The context of this passage is the disciples’ complaint that if divorce
and remarriage are not allowed then ‘it is good for man not to marry’ or
as the King James version reads .. it is “not good” for a man to marry.
This is in direct conflict to the passages in Genesis (the Torah for the
Jews) where God states that it is not good for man to be alone and thus
creates Eve. Therefore what the disciples were saying was a direct
affront to what God had said in Genesis .. ie. 'not good for man to be
alone' vs. the disciples saying it 'is not good for a man to marry' .... thus
Jesus' response is a rebuke of sorts.
This rebuke, in its cultural context, was probably taken as an insult by
the disciples. I say this because eunuchs in that day were still
considered outsiders under Jewish law and, additionally, were unable
to fulfill the culturally presumed procreation purpose of sex. So Jesus
telling the disciples that they could always be eunuchs (if they have a
problem with marriage as God planned it) would be taken as a cultural
For God to use culture this way to make a point is not unusual in
scripture. For example in the Old Testament, God used a woman
(rather than a man) to lead Israel and even to gain personal honor in a
victory. This was very counter-culture in that day (see Judges 4:4-9,17-
21 ). When the man, Barack, refused to follow Deborah’s instruction
unless she went with him, he lost the honor of the final victory. It instead
went to a woman.
So this entire conversation with the disciples is a response to their
calling something "not good" that God called "good". Jesus is not
proscribing anything with his response concerning eunuchs. He is
simply telling it like it is, but in the process He is also, in a quiet way,
correcting His disciples.