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Home: Articles / Bible Studies: Is the Word "Eunuch" Really the Bible's Way of Saying Homosexuals?

There are gay "evangelical" apologist who defends the idea that God approves of homosexual relationships, and the Bible, rather than condemning homosexuality, genuinely commends same-sex couples and homosexual behavior. They will further argue that the current debate against homosexual inclusivity into the Christian church is due in part to bigoted Christians who have mis-read the Bible and have warped Christ's teachings that affirms same-sex relationships.

These apologists will claim they affirm inspiration and biblical authority, however, their apologetic argumentation is heavily dependent upon liberal theology and hermeneutics. Much of their argumentation is revisional, meaning they re-interpret the Bible, as well as church history, twisting the Bible's teaching on sexuality to include homosexuality.

A clever example of what I mean is how gay apologists have re-interpreted the word "eunuch" in Matthew 19:10-12. That passage reads,

His disciples said to him, “If such is the case of the man with his wife, it is not better not to marry.” But he said unto them, “All cannot accept this saying, but only those to whom it has been given: For there are eunuchs who were born from their mother's womb, and there are eunuchs who were made eunuchs by men, and there eunuchs who have made themselves eunuchs for the kingdom of heaven's sake. He that is able to accept it let him accept it. Matthew 19:10-12

According to the gay "evangelical" apologists, Jesus is exempting three groups of people from the Adam and Eve marriage paradigm he just mentioned in 19:4-6 that limits marriage to just one man and one woman. The three groups are,

1) Eunuchs so born from their mother’s womb.

2) Eunuchs made so by men.

3) Eunuchs who have made themselves eunuchs for the kingdom of heaven's sake.

They go onto say the term eunouchos did not simply mean someone who was castrated. The eunouchos so born from their mother's womb are men who do not have inherent sexual interest in women and are even repulsed by them sexually. In other words, gay men, and by extension, gay women. This is the reason male eunuchs were placed in charge of the female royalty, because they would have no sexual interest in them. By saying they are eunuchs "born from their mother's womb," Jesus is exempting gays from the Adam and Eve marriage paradigm of only one man and one woman.

Gay apologists further argue there are historical sources which refer to eunuchs as being homosexuals. Clement of Alexandria, for instance, reveals this perspective of eunuchs most clearly when he writes in his work paedagogus, (The Instructor):

“…a true eunuch is not one who is unable, but one who is unwilling, to indulge in pleasure…” (Paedagogus, III, 4.)

And then The Stromata, or Clement's miscellaneous writings,

“Not all can receive this saying; there are some eunuchs who are so from their birth, others are so of necessity.’ And their explanation of this saying is roughly as follows: Some men from their birth, have a natural sense of repulsion from a woman…” (The Stromata, III. 1.1.)

Considered on its face, the argument looks rather impressive, but does it hold up under any serious scrutiny? I don't believe it does at all.

What exactly is a eunuch?

The Greek word for eunuch is a compound word that means literally "bed holder," or simply put, "a holder of the bed." The historical understanding of a eunuch is a man who had been castrated or had his genitals mutilated in some manner that prevented him from becoming aroused around women. These men were commonly used as guards in royal harems, what would be known as a "bed guardian."

Three of the standard theological and lexical works on the Old and New Testaments: The New International Dictionary of N.T. Theology, Kittel's Theological Dictionary of the N.T., and The International Dictionary of O.T. Theology and Exegesis, all state the standard, historical understanding of the word eunuch is of a castrated man used as a harem guard. I glanced through a handful of other theological and lexical works and all of them also affirmed the typical understanding of the word. None of them, including a few other works I consulted, remotely suggested "homosexual" could be an alternative definition. In addition to the idea of a castrated harem guard, the word eunuch did expand in meaning to include high court officials who held prominent positions in a royal court, but may not necessarily be castrated. Again, none of these works implied the word could be used to describe a person disposed to homosexual persuasion. This is something of a novel, modern invention.

What about those historical citations?

Before I even address the citations of Clement of Alexandria, it is important to note that more times than not, external sources to help "define" biblical words, like appealing to quotations from church fathers, may not be particularly helpful. In the case of Clement of Alexandria, he is nearly 200 years removed from Jesus. We need to ascertain what Jesus meant by His use of the word during His time period and in light of scriptural definitions of "marriage" and "eunuchs" before we make authoritative appeals to some external source who wrote a couple of centuries later.

the Paedagogus (the instructor) and The Stromata (miscellaneous writings). They can be viewed in their entirety here. Both works are divided into multiple books with multiple chapters in each book.

First, concerning the citation from the Paedagogusbook III, chapter 4, Clement is addressing wealthy individuals who employ domestic servants. After giving an extensive list of individual servant staffers, he mentions eunuchs. The entire citation reads:

"Many are eunuchs; and these panders serve without suspicion those that wish to be free to enjoy their pleasures, because of the belief that they are unable to indulge in lust. But a true eunuch is not one who is unable, but one who is unwilling, to indulge in pleasure." Paedagogus, book 3, chapter 4

Clement really says nothing about their sexual orientation. He just says these are individuals who are believed to be unable to indulge in sex, but in reality, a true eunuch is not unable, but merely unwilling to indulge in the pleasure. Nothing is said by Clement as to why the eunuch is unwilling. This could be a vow of celibacy for all we know, and it is dishonest for homosexual revisionists in our modern day to abuse Clement's words in such a manner as to make the Bible say something it isn't saying.

The second citation from The Stromata is even a worse abuse of Clement's words, and in my opinion, dangerously deceptive. The citation reads in its entirety as follows:

The Valentinians, who hold that the union of man and woman is derived from the divine emanation in heaven above, approve of marriage. The followers of Basilides, on the other hand, say that when the apostles asked whether it was not better not to marry, the Lord replied: "Not all can receive this saying; there are some eunuchs who are so from their birth, others are so of necessity." And their explanation of this saying is roughly as follows: Some men, from their birth, have a natural sense of repulsion from a woman; and those who are naturally so constituted do well not to marry. The Stromata, book 3, chapter 1.

The first thing that needs to be pointed out is that Clement is citing the followers of a gnostic heretic by the name of Basilides, who also was from Alexandria. Gay apologists often use these words as if they are Clement's own. I believe that is beyond the pale of dishonesty to make your readers think the words of a false teacher are the words of a church father. Moreover, nothing in the text, which is a part of Clement's larger discourses on marriage relationships, even hints at homosexuality. Basilides' and his followers said these individuals have a natural repulsion of women and do well not to marry. Again, it is reading a 21st century understanding of homosexuality back into a text that is nearly 1,800 years old and drawing erroneous conclusions.

I say this citation is dangerously deceptive because there are eternal consequences at stake here. It is truly inexcusable to intentionally cite these sources to make them say something they are not saying. In this case, that the word eunuch was understood by Clement of Alexandria to mean a person who doesn't desire women such as the alleged temperament of a male homosexual. Rather than being shown the grievous error of pursuing this sexual sin, many individuals desperate to justify their homosexuality will be led into destruction, because they latch on to this type of fraudulent research as evidence for justifying their perversion. This is unconscionable in my mind.

So what is Christ meaning when He says, "A eunuch from birth?"

Returning to Christ's words to the disciples in Matthew 19:12, nothing in the context of this first category of eunuchs, "a eunuch from birth," suggests Jesus had in mind natural born homosexual orientation. Christ had in mind the Jewish understanding of eunuchs as described in Levitical law and through out the Old Testament: those who were born with the physical inability to engage in sexual intercourse. Those inabilities could be more than just sexual impotence, but could very well be crippling deformities like paralysis, Downs, or other mental retardation that prevents a person from participating in being married to a spouse.

Moreover, and most importantly, Jesus could not have in mind homosexuals when he told his disciples there are "eunuchs from birth," because in the larger context of the entire revelation of scripture the participants in marriage are clearly limited to being only one male and one female. There are no other combinations permitted, nor are same-sex relationship, exempted from the divine ordinances established in Genesis for marriage - commands which are reiterated throughout the remainder of the Bible.

To ignore these clear commands, or even worse, reinterpret them according to a new paradigm, demonstrates a desperation to make the Bible affirm the non-affirmable. Perhaps that is why gay apologists have to appeal to liberal, neo-orthodox hermeneutics and biblical interpretation. What ever the case, this is still the historical and scriptural revisionism found in the writings of the myriads of heretical false teachers who have troubled the church since its founding in Acts.


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