Some gay and lesbian folks find some relevance or resonance with
eunuchs down through history. When I first looked into this I found that most
websites that explored this devoted themselves to the absolute idea that
the term eunuch actually means gay and lesbian individuals. Quite frankly, I
found these black and white arguments to be rather far–fetched. In fact
some Side A websites gave a description of eunuch that better matched a
known medical condition then it did anyone who is gay. (For more on this
see this page) The overzealousness of these arguments almost led me to
abandon this idea all together. However, the concerns of some Side B gay
Christians I know, who find comfort and direction in the eunuch passages,
opened me up to the need to do more research on this issue. So here is
some additional research...
It would probably be good to look at this link first (warning .. this story is
rather sad) As you can see in the above story there were, sadly, some gay
persons in this society that either took the label of eunuch or actually
physically made themselves eunuchs to avoid persecution. When you
consider some ancient society’s attitudes towards gay and lesbian people
it would make sense that this could happen in the past as well. Scripture
passages in Leviticus 18 and 20 seem to pronounce the death penalty on
anyone engaging in male same-sex activity. With that in mind, it is
possible that some in that time period who were gay would claim eunuch
status or, sadly, make themselves a eunuch rather than face the possible
danger of death. Additionally, in early cultures, getting married and
producing children was an expected role for men and women. Failing to do
so could make you a bit conspicuous.
Also, the term ‘eunuch’ could be applied medically to many who are
sexually different such as those with kallman’s syndrome, those with other
hypogonadism conditions, those born with intersex condition, or those
simply born as eunuchs. It obviously would be applied to those who were
made to be eunuchs (ie castrated). Likewise, those who are gay and had
no desire for the opposite sex could allegorically fall under this especially if
they were seeking protection under the eunuch label. This would have
been a bit difficult to do since they would not have had the (pre-puberty)
appearance of a typical eunuch. In some cases they may have felt the
need to make themselves eunuchs as in the above link. The reasons for
this are quite simple. According to scripture and history eunuchs were
often employed in the service of kings to watch over their harem. (See
Esther 2:12-16 for example.
Obviously a king is not going to hire someone who appears fully sexually
functional to guard his harem. As it is doubtful that sexual orientation was
understood in ancient times a claim that one was gay would probably fall on
deaf ears. Even if sexual orientation was understood, the king would still
have to assume that the individual was telling the truth. Otherwise he would
be risking his harem. This is why I look at the eunuch label for gay folks as
being more allegorical unless of course they went to the length of being
castrated. Just to clarify, scripture does not call for people to castrate
themselves for any reason.
For those gay Christians who take the eunuch label, the bible does seem to
offer some encouragement and instruction (especially if you are Side B).
We will first look to where Jesus talks briefly about eunuchs in Matthew 19:
11-12. The key here is the third kind of eunuch who has decided to (or
been called to) be single for the kingdom. This would support the Side B
viewpoint of being celibate for the kingdom of God. So if one is gay Side
B this third type of eunuch would apply. This passage also holds true for
those straight folks who sense a call to singleness. I should mention that
there are some rather creative interpretations of this passage in Matthew
19 that I do not subscribe to because they do not match the cultural
context. I cover that here.
Promises of blessings for eunuchs are found in the Old Testament in Isaiah
56:1-8 . We see here, in this passage, a major message of inclusion
spoken by God through the prophet Isaiah. Eunuchs will be remembered.
They are promised a prominent place in the kingdom (and a memorial).
They will not be outcast because they have no children (or because they
are sexually different). It is important to remember that those with a blemish
or crushed testicles or other imperfections were not allowed to serve at the
altar.(see Leviticus 21:17-21)
So this promise of God in this passage is in great contrast to the social /
spiritual position of eunuchs in Old Testament culture.
Some questions we might ask..
Why would gay Christians find these passages, particularly the one
in Isaiah 56, encouraging? Why would they need this since the
gospel is for all who believe?
Christ’s salvation for all who believe (John 3:16) and the statement of the
Apostle Paul that there is neither Jew nor Greek, slave nor free, male nor
female but we are all one in Christ (see Galatians 3:28) would, to me,
provide a clearer scriptural path to God’s acceptance of all people who
come to faith in Christ.
However, as I am sure you know, there has been much ugliness from
culture and, at times, from the church directed toward lgbt individuals. This
ugliness often attacks the identity of those who are lgbt not just the actions.
(Note: Attacking the identity is an unbiblical position) Therefore, for
someone who is gay who embraces the eunuch label, the words of Isaiah
56, for example, are like a healing balm that counteracts some of that hurt.
With so much rejection (even from the church) gay folks that embrace the
eunuch label find acceptance and peace here in these passages. They
find encouragement that God accepts them and has a place for them in His
Since Isaiah 56 mentions a memorial for eunuchs is there relevant
memorial significance in celibacy for the Christian (gay or straight)?
There are advantages to singleness per the Apostle Paul (see I Cor 7:29-
34). A life of singleness is a life devoted to God in a special way. Certainly
such a commitment and devotion would be remembered by God (ie. ..
memorial). Additionally, though I am not Catholic, there are Catholic
priests, monks, and nuns who have committed themselves to singleness
out of devotion to God. So I would believe that there is relevance or
significance to that.
Just to close out this page I should mention Phillip's encounter with the
Ethiopian eunuch in Acts 8:26-40. Those gay individuals who embrace the
eunuch label look at this encounter and the resultant salvation of the eunuch
as showing some fullfillment of God's promise in Isaiah 56.