Gays and the Inclusiveness of Jesus

When I began to consider whether God accepted gays, I started studying. One advocate stated definitively that Jesus himself accepted gays. This was very encouraging and I listened eagerly for the evidence because I couldn’t think of any scriptures to support the statement.

Jesus Teaching by the Sea, James TissotFortunately, an opponent pushed her on the question. ‘How do you know?’, they asked. I waited for scriptural support, but instead the advocate responded: ‘He was inclusive.’

Since she supplied no proof-texts, I was unconvinced; but I continued to deliberate on it.

Are There Accepted Gays in the Bible?

Some advocates identify a gay man in Jesus’ ministry. Matthew 8 tells the story of a centurion who asked Jesus to heal his paralyzed servant, and Jesus healed him. The issue hinges on the fact that the word translated ‘servant’ can also mean a youth who is the male lover of an older man, a common practice in gentile culture.

Perhaps an even more popular example is David and Jonathan. David and Jonathan were certainly tight friends, 1 Samuel 18 says:

Jonathan became one in spirit with David, and he loved him as himself…And Jonathan made a covenant with David because he loved him as himself. Jonathan took off the robe he was wearing and gave it to David, along with his tunic, and even his sword, his bow and his belt.

This might stimulate our imagination, but I had a very close friend in my youth. We bonded deeply yet no sexual feelings were involved; you might have had such a buddy yourself.

These ‘discoveries’ of gays in the Bible could be valid, but assertions from limited facts are very tenuous. Building an argument on them is similar to anti-gays using tenuous biblical arguments for support.

These cases, plus those of the eunuch in Acts 8 and of Naomi and Ruth, are discussed at Gay Couples in the Bible, but I don’t find them compelling.

The Inclusiveness of Jesus

People commonly remark about Jesus’ inclusiveness, which was in stark contrast to the religious leaders who were not inclusive—the Pharisees. And the Pharisees noticed!

On one occasion, Jesus called a tax collector to follow him. He did, and guess what happened. Luke 5 says:

Then Levi held a great banquet for Jesus at his house, and a large crowd of tax collectors and others were eating with them. But the Pharisees and the teachers of the law who belonged to their sect complained to his disciples, “Why do you eat and drink with tax collectors and sinners?”

Luke 7 speaks of another dinner:

When one of the Pharisees invited Jesus to have dinner with him, he went to the Pharisee’s house and reclined at the table.

A woman in that town who lived a sinful life learned that Jesus was eating at the Pharisee’s house, so she came there with an alabaster jar of perfume. As she stood behind him at his feet weeping, she began to wet his feet with her tears. Then she wiped them with her hair, kissed them and poured perfume on them.

When the Pharisee who had invited him saw this, he said to himself, “If this man were a prophet, he would know who is touching him and what kind of woman she is—that she is a sinner.”

Jesus knew ‘what kind of woman she was’. She was marginalized and oppressed. The Pharisees were very picky in their legalism and refused to eat with those who wouldn’t, or couldn’t, observe their lofty rules—they called them sinners.

But Jesus ate with them.

Jesus was very supportive of those marginalized by the religious leaders. Unlike the Pharisees, Jesus was accepting of women, Samaritans, lepers, and Gentiles in addition to tax collectors like Zacchaeus and ‘sinners’ like the adulterous woman.

Jesus says in Matthew 11:

Come to me, all you who are weary and burdened, and I will give you rest.

Yes, Jesus was inclusive! The only group he took to task were self-righteous religious leaders. He said to them in Luke 11:

You experts in the law, woe to you, because you load people down with burdens they can hardly carry, and you yourselves will not lift one finger to help them.

And yet…Jesus even accepted religious leaders willing to challenge their legalism.

Is Homosexuality Sinful?

Some believers conclude that we should be inclusive; we should accept gays and treat them no worse than adulterers—if they repent and turn away from their sin we should accept them.

But this is an inadequate response. The question is whether gays are sinful in their same-sex attraction OR in following through on their same-sex attraction.

Pharisees branded everyone a sinner who did not act and believe as they did. In this sense, gays are sinners just like Sabbath-breakers are—and just as I am, today, because I don’t believe in hell. But these are not ‘sins’ in the Father’s eyes. The supposed ‘sin’ of being gay is more akin to the ‘sin’ of being black.

Over previous posts we learned that the Bible doesn’t call same-sex attraction a sin. LGBTs should be included as equals in the church, get married in the church, and teach or hold office in the church. LGBTs are neither rejected by, nor are they second class members of, the church of Jesus. If we choose to reject gays, we are out of step with the inclusiveness of Jesus.

Next time, I will offer concluding comments on gays and the church, so if you have questions you want addressed just comment below. I will also introduce the person I consider to be The Leader among gay Christians.

Image credit, James Tissot 1836-1902, Jesus Teaches the People by the Sea via Wikimedia Commons.wikimedia.org
I invite your comments and observations below.
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Have a great day! ~Tim
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66 Responses to Gays and the Inclusiveness of Jesus

  1. Teresa says:

    Having worked at Continental Airlines (now United Airlines) for many years, I had co-workers from every culture and embraced that diversity. I also had many co-workers that were gay and in very committed relationships. I embraced them also and have maintained contact with them all. Love is love, no matter the sexual gender. When I was in Prince Georges Community College near where I lived in D.C., many years ago, I wrote my term paper “A New Frontier for Freedom” and received an “A”! Ha ha. I visited many gay bars and interviewed the President of the Gay Liberation Front, among others. It was in 1979, I believe. Very little literature was available, so I was forced to talk with these individuals to get their opinion on the subject.. I’m convinced we are born heterosexual or gay. It’s just not a choice. We are what we are. God loves us all, no matter what………………. Teresa

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  2. michaeleeast says:

    Perhaps we are asking the wrong question.
    Instead of asking whether Jesus included gays
    we should be asking should we include gays today?
    The modern understanding of homosexuality
    would suggest that we should.

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    • You are right Michael, the real question is whether we should include gays today. However, it is significant to me, and others, to understand that Jesus was inclusive and that gays, like gentiles (me), are part of that inclusion.

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      • Chas says:

        Tim, Your use of ‘gentiles’ here sparked a thought with me. The Hebrew ‘goyim’ seems to have the meaning of both gentile (i.e. non-Jewish) and unbeliever, although it is easy for us to see that, from a Jewish perspective, the two have the same meaning. Jesus, on the other hand, seemed perfectly at ease with ‘goyim’ and it was only those Jews, such as the Pharisees and scribes (who claimed to be the true believers in God) that he opposed.

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  3. esbee says:

    Kudos to this you for finding that Jesus was/is inclusive. He hung around those considered lowlifes and sinners by everyone else; whores, tax collectors ( I am sure there were gays in the group.)

    When I was in christian college, one of my best friends, who also attended there, was a gay cowboy dude. We enjoyed riding horses together. A few years later at our church, I became friends with a young man trying to get out of the gay life style.

    That being said, I have to side with God (He is much bigger than you or anyone!) and what He says about the act of homosexuality (it is sin) but with all the media blitz having brought it to the forefront, I have given much thought, prayed and researched into what is homosexuality and how it relates to Christians who find that is what they are.

    Gay Christians often ask why does God, if it is so wrong, why does God not take those homosexual urges away? You can also ask why does God not remove blindness from the blind (He has), or take the urge to drink, gamble, look at porn, allow babies to be born with deformities, or people to experience cancer or have their loved ones die in car crashes? The wisest tell me it is a fallen world and there will always be troubles and struggles but God’s grace is bigger and stronger.

    Christians in Islamic or communist countries- for them to admit they are Christian can be a death sentence, prison or extreme public ridicule and punishment. EVERY DAY they wake up to those threats and daily face what being Christian in those countries can bring problems to them and their families. Why does God not take that away from them or move them to another country? Yet every day they pray and go about their business knowing the risk and some ultimately die for their faith.

    Paul, in the Bible, prayed 3 times for God to remove a certain thorn in the side (it is not told what it was) but each time God said No, His Grace was sufficient.

    I think Christian gays should do the same thing knowing that giving into homosexuality act is the sin (as is straight christians having sex before or outside of marriage or married christians committing adultery is sin as stated in the bible.)

    To see gays as just another life style choice you would have to go one step further (remember Jesus was inclusive) and say those who want sex with (or marry) children and animals is just another life style choice, as their reasons are exactly the same as gays “we cannot help who we love —we were born this way.” We all agree that what they do is abhorrent and outlawed, but at one time, we thought the same about being gay.

    I think it is more logical to group Christian gays in with those who have to carry crosses and burdens that God may or may not choose to remove. Sometimes illness is healed, addictions removed, sometimes Christians escape from godless regimes, but sometimes, like Joni Eareckson, who was paralyzed in a diving accident, EVERY DAY, she wakes up and she is still paralyzed. But she has said she would rather be in a wheel chair with God, then on 2 feet without him.

    Please understand that I don’t condemn anyone. Because of our natural propensity for sin, the Bible already condemns all of us. Our salvation solely rests in Christ’s righteousness, because of the precious blood that He gave for our sins.

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    • Esbee, thanks for sharing your perspective. I understand it, though I cannot agree that giving in to same-sex attraction is a sin. I am glad you raised the common comparison of being gay to pursuing children and animals; they are not the same.

      Jesus emphasizes treating others as we should; I don’t believe he is much concerned with rules and religious laws. Instead he wants us to internalize the love of the Father toward us so we can properly love ourselves and others.

      In the case of having sex with a child, the child is definitely hurt–even scarred for life. There is no way around it, children are incapable of being consensual in this case; they are dependent–sex with a child is a harmful predatory act. Rather than being compared to gay love, a sexual predator of children can better be compared to a murder who likes to kill people. Society will never consider accepting this sort of damaging practice.

      Love between gay people is essentially the same as between heterosexuals, and so is sex. I am heterosexual and have no attraction to homosexuality, but I cannot say that gay love is different than my heterosexual love.

      Thanks again for sharing your views, Esbee. You are welcome to respond further if you wish.

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      • Marc says:

        Tim, Human anatomy refutes your assertion that sexual relations between homosexuals is the same as heterosexuals. For those homosexuals and heterosexuals who are not in a marriage of one man and one woman, their sexual passions must be relieved by nocturnal release or masturbation to avoid sin. Yes, I said that masturbation is not a sin in many circumstances.

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    • Chas says:

      esbee. Thank you for this post, because it brings into sharp relief some of the problems that consideration of being gay and a Christian must cause. I feel that a proper definition of sin is ‘that which can lead to suffering.’ By this rule, it is possible to see that indulgence in extramarital sex (or even non-consensual sex within a marriage) can lead to somebody suffering. By this same rule, we can then see that sex with a child would causes the child to suffer, that a man having sex with an animal would probably cause the animal to suffer (but not definitely), but what about a woman presenting herself for an animal to have sex with her, would that cause the animal to suffer, or her? By further application of this rule, a consenting gay couple, who had made a firm and exclusive commitment to each other, would not cause anyone to suffer by having sex with each other (except that unprotected anal sex could bring about transmission of a disease (e.g. hepatitis or HIV). So that leads me to conclude that gay sex (under the above constraints) is not sinful.

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      • Chas, I like your observation that “a proper definition of sin is ‘that which can lead to suffering.'” This is my view of sin, though I’ve never said it precisely that way.

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        • Marc says:

          Jesus Christ desires everyone to experience eternal life in His Kingdom. He shows us the way to truth and life in His Church. As the Physician of our souls and bodies, He diagnoses (judges) our current condition and prescribes therapies (repentance, prayers, and sacraments). If we decide to ignore His diagnosis and forgo His therapies in this life we will be subject to much more painful therapies in the intermediate state. In light of this, self-misdiagnosis due to pride can end up leading to very unpleasant results.

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          • Marc, I know you are concerned for me, and I appreciate it; in fact I am touched and humbled.

            I do not hold and share my beliefs lightly or recklessly. They are the result of more than 50 years of honest reflection on the Bible and on Jesus. I began burdened down by tradition (fundamentalism), and slowly, carefully, I evaluated that tradition and others. I might be mistaken in some of my conclusions, but I feel that I have come closer to the truth.

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          • Marc says:

            Tim, In the Divine Liturgy we pray for all Christ loving people, so you remain in my prayers. It is true that we all have baggage accumulated from our own experiences. I respect your sincerity and love of our Lord, even when I take exception to some of the things that you write. Because there is much that has not been revealed to us, it is important to continue to explore the possibilities (see 1 Corinthians 13:12).

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          • I agree Marc. Let us continue to explore together.

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  4. Pingback: Perspectives on Paul and Homosexuality | Jesus Without Baggage

  5. ludybina says:

    Yes, Jesus loved everybody. He died for us sinners. And sin is sin. But He hates sin. The bible clearly states that about homosexuality. The bible does call same sex attraction a sin.

    Romans 1:18-32

    This is how God feels about it.

    You are right about Him not specifically calling the attraction a sin, but he calls the act of homosexuals having sex with each other a sin, in that is the same sex attraction. You don’t have sex unless you are attracted to the other person.

    But hey, you don’t believe in hell, so… why worry? 🙂

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    • Thanks for your comment, Ludybina. I have a question. Where does the Bible call same-sex attraction a sin?

      You also refer to Romans chapter 1 by saying only that ‘This is how God feels about it.’ However, I don’t think it is. It might be how Paul thinks about it, or it might even be what Paul’s opponents think about it. I discussed this passage on last week’s post:

      https://jesuswithoutbaggage.wordpress.com/2014/04/17/paul-and-homosexuality-in-romans/

      If you wish, you can read it and give me your thoughts on it.

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      • ludybina says:

        Lev. 18:22, “You shall not lie with a male as one lies with a female; it is an abomination.”

        Lev. 20:13, “If there is a man who lies with a male as those who lie with a woman, both of them have committed a detestable act; they shall surely be put to death. Their bloodguiltness is upon them”

        1 Cor. 6:9-10, “Or do you not know that the unrighteous shall not inherit the kingdom of God? Do not be deceived; neither fornicators, nor idolaters, nor adulterers, nor effeminate, nor homosexuals, 10nor thieves, nor the covetous, nor drunkards, nor revilers, nor swindlers, shall inherit the kingdom of God.”

        Rom. 1:26-28, “For this reason God gave them over to degrading passions; for their women exchanged the natural function for that which is unnatural, 27 and in the same way also the men abandoned the natural function of the woman and burned in their desire toward one another, men with men committing indecent acts and receiving in their own persons the due penalty of their error. 28 And just as they did not see fit to acknowledge God any longer, God gave them over to a depraved mind, to do those things which are not proper.”

        God does say so:

        All Scripture is God-breathed and is useful for teaching, rebuking, correcting and training in righteousness.

        – 2 Tim 3:16

        And sure let me check it out 🙂

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        • Ludybina, thanks for clarifying your response. I do have a clearer idea of your objection to the post.

          You provided a number of biblical passages that seem to have a common theme, but you do not elaborate on them. Therefore I suppose you expect me to know what significance you think they have. I try not to assume, but in this case I will.

          I assume that you understand these proof-texts as self-evident without context or further explanation; this is much of the distance between us. Scripture verses are not slogans, or even arguments, that can be detached from the situation in which they are written.

          If you are interested, I already addressed each of these passage, and more, in the posts leading up to this one, so I will not address them again here. However, I will address our different approaches to the Bible itself.

          I assume that you believe the Bible to be the word of God in every word, so that you might think: “God said it; I believe it; that settles it.” But this does not consider that the Bible was written over thousands of years, in many places and cultures, in many situation, by many individuals who didn’t understand things the same way.

          I also assume that you were raised in, or converted to, a doctrinal system that you were taught is ‘The Absolute Truth!’–just as I was. But I discovered many of these ‘truths’ are not so much what the biblical writers say, but what some believers along the way interpreted them to mean.

          The richness of the Bible does not consist in unrelated proof-texts that can simply be put together like puzzle pieces; rather it is in understanding the passages in light of the lives, culture, and understanding of the writers–especially in the light of Jesus.

          However, I am not here to change your mind on the issues of biblical approach or homosexuality. I am here to listen to your response, hear your point of view, and dialog on our differences of view so that we can understand and learn from each other. Many of the regular commenters here also appreciate dialog.

          Thanks for sharing your perspective. I will take up your argument of 2 Tim 3:16 in the other post where your offered it: https://jesuswithoutbaggage.wordpress.com/2014/04/17/paul-and-homosexuality-in-romans/

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        • Chas says:

          If you believe that all of the Bible is true, why don’t you stone to death adulterers and any man who has sexual relations with another man. You can’t just select what you obey and ignore the rest. It is ALL, or nothing.

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        • joe says:

          I get it. Leviticus 20:13 makes it very clear that those men who lie with other men as with a woman should be put to death. But I get upset at what verse 9 prescribes: if there is anyone who curses his father or his mother,he shall surely be put to death…… Surely that is not as bad a sin as gay sex, or is that an abomination too?

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          • Chas says:

            Only God can curse anybody. He allows them to condemn themselves through their own actions; i.e. their own actions come back upon them at some point in the future. Someone could curse at (i.e. swear at) their father or mother, or even wish them harm, but not truly curse them.

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  6. Marc says:

    Tim,
    It has become apparent to me that you have some very distorted perspectives that require a great deal of Scriptural interpretive gymnastics. Combined with your rejection of any kind of historical Christian authority, you have clearly lost your way. What you call baggage is often sound established doctrine. I am afraid that you are showing yourself to be a wolf in sheep’s clothing.

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  7. Marc, your comment is very valuable to me, as you have read a LOT of my posts and therefore have a good feel for what I believe.

    Like everyone, I can be wrong on some things. Can you be more specific in your concern that I might be a wolf? What issues do you have in mind?

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    • Chas says:

      Tim, I had some concerns myself. Rather than try to interpret the writings of Paul and the author of Leviticus in a better light, it seems much easier to acknowledge that they meant what they wrote, but attribute it to their personal prejudices.

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      • Chas, for me this is the underlying approach to reading the Bible–to understand that the writers were humans who shared what they understood to be true of God and our relationship to him. I agree with you very much in this regard.

        But I also see benefit in trying to understand as much as possible what they actually meant to say. Often differences in time, culture, and language make their statements less obvious than they seem. This is complicated further by lines of interpretation believers have established over the centuries that obscure the writings themselves.

        So I think both approaches are helpful. I recognize that some emphasize one approach much higher over the other, but I recognize the humanity and then attempt to understand what they intended to say as best I can.

        In addition, for those readers still leaning heavily on an ‘authoritative’ text, understanding a legitimate ‘alternate’ interpretation of the text might help them to consider new insights in a way that disregarding the text would not.

        I do thank you for expressing the concern.

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        • Chas says:

          Tim. I have no doubt that the Bible authors had good motives for writing what they wrote, but some/many of them must have known that they had no real justification for the words that they used, or the sentiments within them. In some cases, they must have known that what they were writing was not true, but they earnestly wanted others to believe what they believed, thinking that they were right to do so. However, the truth has inestimable value. It stands by itself. if you add to it, you subtract from it. Because so many writers, all trying to put forward their own beliefs, made contributions to the writings that were later chosen to be the hallowed scriptures of the early Christian church, the resulting text is dense and obscure and inevitably contradicts itself. While God used these texts for His own purpose, in recent years, He has started to set people free from these bindings. Your experience is just one part part of this and my own, which has come completely independently of yours, is another. There are signs that others too are receiving similar truth regarding scripture. It remains to be seen just how God intends to use this new revelation, but I feel blessed in being chosen to be a part of it.

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          • Chas, I agree that many are moving away from misleading approaches of inerrancy and harmonization of the disparate writings of the Bible. This is a good thing.

            The biblical writers wrote from their own perspective reflecting their times, cultures, and situations. Can you share examples of places where you think the writers “must have known that what they were writing was not true”?

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          • Chas says:

            Tim, the most clear deliberate falsification is the story of Jesus being taken to Egypt in Matthew 2, since it contradicts the account in Luke 2. The Matthew 2 version appears to have been written to fit with the ‘out of Egypt I called my son’ (2:15) in order to try to strengthen the claim for Jesus being the Son of God. The Luke account makes no mention of Egypt and has them returning to Nazareth at, or soon after, 41 days following the birth (8 days to circumcision plus 33 days for cleansing (Leviticus 12:2-4)). The Matthew account claims that they did not go to Judea at all, after they had returned from Egypt. There is nothing in Matthew’s account to suggest that they went from Bethlehem to Jerusalem, to fulfill the things Luke claims, and then back to Bethlehem before going to Egypt. Similarly, Luke’s account does not provide time for them to go to Egypt, and wait there until Herod died, before returning to Nazareth, avoiding Judea.

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          • I see what you mean, Chas.

            I agree that there was likely no trip to Egypt, and that the account was inspired by the quote from Hosea 11:1. But I’m not sure this was deliberate falsification, though it seems so from our cultural vantage point. It appears to me that it is a Christian form of Midrash on Hosea.

            I can’t say for sure that the writer of Matthew didn’t mean to mislead his hearers, but I think you are correct that he wrote something that never happened.

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          • Marc says:

            Because each of the four Gospels has unique revelations, it is certainly possible for the accounts of Matthew and Luke to fall into a reasonable timeline. It is likely that the events recording in the second chapter of Matthew happened between those event recording in Luke 2:39. Jesus may have been born in late September and remained with family in Bethlehem until late December when the wise men from the East arrived. Given the hardship and danger of travel for a postpartum mother and newborn child, three months would not be an unreasonable time to wait. When the angel of the Lord warned Joseph of Herod’s deadly intent, the resources provided by the wise men enabled the trip to Egypt. The death of Herod is tied historically to either the lunar eclipse of March 13, 4 B.C or January 9, 1 B. C. This would mean that a flight into Egypt the previous December would have been a short stay until returning to Nazareth.

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          • Chas says:

            One or two problems regarding Marc’s response, because the best estimates for the year of Jesus’ birth, based on the information given by Luke, is 6 BC. If Herod died in 4 BC, or 1 BC, then they would have been in Egypt for 2 to 5 years. Luke’s account says that they had what was necessary done and then went back to Nazereth = 41 days plus a few days for post-natal recovery.

            The second point about fabricating stories to fit to OT scripture is that this particular point regarding ‘out of Egypt I called my son’ has been a stumbling block for Jewish people who have been told the Good News, because Jewish religious authorities insist that this shows the people of Israel coming out of Egypt. An much greater stumbling block that comes out of fabricated stories is their claim that Jesus was the Messiah, because they failed in their endeavors to fit all of the characteristics that the Jewish religious authorities expected the Messiah to fulfill. The result is that the Jewish religious authorities can readily undermine the Christian claims that Jesus was the Messiah, thereby undermining the belief of many of those who had hitherto believed that Jesus was the Son of God.

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          • Marc says:

            Chas, I believe the weight of the evidence points to Jesus being born in late September of 2 B.C. Tertullian, Irenaeus, and Eusebius have recorder their beliefs that the Nativity took place in 2 B.C. Some historians maintain that the census spoken of in the second chapter of Luke was the census for taxation conducted by Governor Quirinius in 6 or 7 B. C. However, in 2 B.C. the Roman Empire was celebrating the Silver Jubilee or 25 year rule of Augustus Caesar and a registration-census of the Empire was conducted to ratify the Roman Senate’s proclamation to Augustus the title of Pater Patriae. As the former governor of Syria, Quirinius was asked to serve as a procurator while the sitting governor Saturninius was back in Rome to party and make political hay. Augustus Caesar died in A.D. 14 and the third chapter of Luke records that John the Baptist, and subsequently Jesus Christ began their ministries in the 15th year of the rule of Tiberius Caesar. This would have been in A.D. 29 making Jesus the minimum age of 30 required for priestly duties. In this chronology Jesus and His family left for Egypt within days of the visit of the wise men (possibly December 25, 2 B.C) and returned to Nazareth when Herod died shortly after the lunar eclipse of January 9, 1 B.C. The period of time between these two events was a matter of weeks, not years.

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  8. Marc says:

    Tim,
    I think your rejection of the traditional understanding of the spiritual realm and those who reside there is very problematic. To deny that Satan and the demons exist, and that there is an ongoing spiritual warfare, contributes to your misunderstandings about sin and sinful behavior. I don’t believe that you would intentionally misguide anyone Tim, but you need to be much more grounded in Holy Apostolic Tradition. Being prideful enough to believe that you can interpret the Holy Scriptures without striving to remain within the boundaries of Holy Apostolic Tradition, enables the evil one to use you as a wolf. Don’t be deceived my friend, let Holy Apostolic Tradition be your judge and guide. There remains a lot of baggage to identify and discard.

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    • Mere Dreamer says:

      From the beginning there has been a Holy Spirit induced questioning of the way some people interpret Scriptures. It is clear that there have been many perspectives upon this monument of literature. As can be evidence with the way Jesus handled the Pharisees, seeing oneself as “right without a doubt and aligned with tradition” does not necessarily mean that one is actually right.

      I don’t think it is prideful to ask questions and sincerely study, but rather a sign of humility. Any teacher would say that the students who think they know and no longer question are the ones who no longer learn.

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    • Chas says:

      Beware words such as tradition, denomination and dogma, because destruction is written throughout them. The Holy Spirit should be our only guide to the interpretation of what we are to believe. He is our judge and guide, not the traditions of man.

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      • Marc says:

        What is your criteria for determining traditions of man vs guidance of the Holy Spirit? We have a multitude of Christian sects that claim to be guided by the Holy Spirit in their interpretations of the Bible, yet they disagree on some very important issues.

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        • Chas says:

          The fact that various denominations of Christianity disagree on certain crucial issues tells us that they could definitely not have been guided by the Holy Spirit. Would God disagree with Himself? This is also the most powerful argument against scripture being the Word of God, or even the inspired word of God, because it contains very many contradictions and some factual errors. Again would God err, or contradict Himself? His true words would be perfect, as He is perfect.

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          • Marc says:

            You are on the right track Chas. The Church is the pillar and ground of the truth (1 Timothy 3:15). Find the Church and you have found the criteria for truth.

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          • Chas says:

            Marc, surely that should read ‘find God and you have found the criterion for truth!’

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          • Marc says:

            Chas, I agree with you that finding God is finding the criterion of truth. I believe that God reveals Himself to us most fully in His Church (see Matthew 16:15-19). The Church in heaven fulfills this revelation and is the ultimate destination for those who will inherit eternal life. The question is whether there is an earthly manifestation of this one holy catholic and apostolic Church that Jesus Christ commanded His Apostles to help build.

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          • Chas says:

            Marc. It is interesting that you have chosen Matthew 16:15-18 with which to try to examine the authority of the early church:

            Matthew 16:15-18 “But what about you?” he asked. “Who do you say I am?” Simon Peter answered, “You are the Christ, the Son of the living God.” Jesus replied, “Blessed are you, Simon son of Jonah, for this was not revealed to you by man, but by my Father in Heaven, and I tell you that you are Peter, and on this rock I will build my church, and the gates of Hades will not overcome it.

            The word church is only used in one other place in the Gospels:
            Matthew 18:15-17 If your brother sins against you, go and show him his fault, just between the two of you. If he listens to you, you have won your brother over. But if he will not listen, take one or two others along, so that ‘every matter may be established by the testimony of two or three witnesses.’ If he refuses to listen to them, tell it to the church; and if he refuses to listen even to the church, treat him as you would a pagan or a tax collector.
            The first is one of the clearest examples in the Gospels of words being added much later in an attempt to lay claim to authority on behalf of the early church. The second shows Jesus being unforgiving (Is he no quoted elsewhere as telling Peter to forgive 70 x 7 times?) rather than forgiving. (Note that his attitude to tax collectors appeared to have been much kinder than that to Pharisees, scribes and teachers of the law). This feels as though it came straight from a Paul epistle rather than a Gospel, so it is almost certainly also added much later by the early Roman church. Also, the first passage is the only place where the word Hades is used in the Gospels, again suggesting a likely different authorship.

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          • Marc says:

            To forgive is not to condone or approve of sinful behavior. The Church is likened to a hospital for sinners. A person who rejects the diagnosis of their own sins and refuses the treatments available in the Church to be healed of their sins, is better served to live outside of the Church until they are ready to accept the diagnosis and treatment. Jesus told the forgiven sinner to go and strive not to sin again.

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    • Marc, thank you for saying you don’t think I would intentionally mislead anyone.

      You are correct. If I am ever misleading, it is never intentional, and I know I don’t have all the answers; everyone is mistaken in something. This is why I never tell readers what they should think because each person should evaluate for themselves.

      I have high regard for the Church Fathers, and I particularly like some of the perspectives of such Fathers as Irenaeus and Tertullian. But I don’t consider them authoritative in their understanding.

      The difficulty I have with the Councils being authoritative is that they were filled with politics and were not unanimous. And the dissenters were often excluded from the Church. I am sure they did the best they could, but I cannot accept all their conclusions as my own simply because they were (somewhat) early and won the debate.

      Regarding Satan, demons, and spiritual warfare, I think fear of Satan and demons is a very harmful aspect of the baggage many believers carry. Much of what we think we know about such things comes from speculative literature and is not even supported by the Bible.

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      • Marc says:

        Tim,
        Your pride is working against you my friend. You have to acknowledge that you are subject to the authority of the Church (1 Timothy 3:15).

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        • Marc, the ‘church’ described in 1 Timothy is the community of all who follow Jesus. The organized institutional church of bishops had not even developed when this was written in a letter from one person to another.

          The writer was giving encouragement and instruction to a friend; he was not making a doctrinal pronouncement.

          I do believe the church is the foundation of truth about Jesus. I have no difficulty with those who see this as an argument for Church tradition, but I do not read it in that way.

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        • I think that even if Timothy was the leader of the church at Ephesus, and even if he was called a bishop, he did not represent the hierarchical institution of ‘Bishops’ that developed later.

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          • Marc says:

            Tim, You are correct in expressing concern about what happened after the Church and State got involved with each other. The Holy Orders of bishops, presbyters, and deacons established by the Apostles were certainly tested, but they have remained intact as our Lord said they would.

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  9. Marc says:

    There is no definitive human resource available to interpret all Scriptures correctly. What we do have is the boundaries of Holy Apostolic Tradition in the Church to guide us away from clear errors in interpretation (see 1 Timothy 3:15). There is a great deal of room for various opinions within these boundaries.

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    • Are the Church Fathers and the Councils not human resources?

      In regard to the topic at hand, I am unsure what inferences you want me to take from 1 Timothy 3:15:

      Although I hope to come to you soon, I am writing you these instructions so that, if I am delayed, you will know how people ought to conduct themselves in God’s household, which is the church of the living God, the pillar and foundation of the truth.

      It seems to be a personal statement from the writer to the recipient regarding a particular situation.

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      • Marc says:

        Because the Church Fathers and Councils decided what the Canon of Scripture would be, you cannot have it both ways. If you accept the Canon of Scripture, you must accept the authority of the Church that defined it.

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        • Chas says:

          But were those church fathers and councils were being guided by God when they defined that canon of scripture? Their motives for choosing those particular books was to support their own ideologies and views on how a church ought to be run. In doing so, they wanted minimize any resistance to the authority that they had given themselves.

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          • Marc says:

            The first council of Jerusalem in c.AD. 50 was called to settle the issue of whether a gentile had to become a Jew before becoming a Christian. The Apostles believed that this conciliar process was guided by the Holy Spirit, and reflected God’s will. This conciliar governance guided by the Holy Spirit has been the standard operating procedure in the most ancient Christian tradition ever sense. Those who decide to disagree with the conciliar government, place themselves outside of the one, holy, catholic, and apostolic Church. They have chosen the papal model of following an individual rather than the collegial councils of the ancient Faith.

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        • Marc, you raise an important issue here.

          Of course I understand you to mean the cannon of the New Testament, as the Church did not establish the cannon of the Old Testament–the Jews did that.

          It is not often mentioned how much our understanding of the Cannon influences how we interpret the New Testament. If we consider that the Cannon is the ‘Official Word of God’, then we often assume that all books are equal in authority. We then read the Bible in a flatter manner and miss a lot of the nuance in the various writings that make up the New Testament.

          However, what I see in early Church history is that books and letters were written for single congregations, single individuals, or small regional groups of believers where the writer was known.

          Some of these writings were especially valued by that church or small group of churches and began to be read regularly in the church. As believers visited with other believers, some of these writings were shared until a few of them became widespread in popularity.

          As I am sure you are aware, certain Church Fathers began to make lists of popular books that were accepted by the majority of churches and those that were questioned; these lists varied. In the third century, Origin listed the disputed books as: Hebrews, 2 Peter, 2 and 3 John, James, Jude, Barnabas, Shepherd of Hermas, the Didache, and the Gospel according to the Hebrews.

          The bishops don’t seem to have an idea of a formal cannon until Marcion established an unsatisfactory one about 140 CE.

          That the Cannon we have today contains books that came to be generally revered by the churches does not mean that the books are infallible or that the Council of Carthage that finally recognized them in 397 is infallible.

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          • Marc says:

            In our culture where printed material is common and literacy rates are high we often make false assumptions about the early Church. For centuries the Gospel was conveyed by Eucharistic centered worship and visual icons more than with written texts. Among the Old Testament writings, those that reveled Jesus Christ were given priority. As the writings of early Church leaders became available, they were also given a priority. In Orthodox Churches today only the four written Gospels are placed on the Church altar as a reflection of their priority. Many of the early Church writing that you have cited are still read and considered a part of Holy Tradition even though they were not given the priority of being included in the New Testament Canon. Christians who follow the Protestant concept of Sola Scriptural have fostered the sectarian divisions that have shattered the prospect of recovering the unity of the early Church.

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          • I realize, Marc, that books other than the ones in the New Testament are still of value. They give us insight into what some of the earliest believers thought and practiced; I enjoy reading them myself from time to time; we call them the Apostolic Fathers.

            You are right that the reformers relied heavily on sola scriptura as an alternative to the Roman Catholic magisterium. Though I benefit from both the Bible and tradition, I am not ‘sola’ either one of them.

            Just as widespread literacy and the availability of books has increased access to the Bible and theology for those beyond the educated clergy, so has it given opportunity for individuals to read, understand, and form conclusions directly from the Bible and from history.

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  10. Lana says:

    Good to see people discussing it here in the comments. 🙂

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    • Yes Lana, I like good discussion. It provides new insights and helps us understand each other better.

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      • Lana says:

        That’s how I feel. Seems like a lot of people are not willing to talk about this.

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        • Lana, you are right. For those of us who were raised to condemn gays as sinner, and have struggled with the issue and changed our minds, it is often difficult to discuss our new conclusions publicly.

          We might lose friends and family over it, or at least strain some of our relationships. I am quite sure you experienced this on other issues you struggled with and came to different conclusions than you were taught. Yet you talk about them boldly–that is one reason I love your blog so much.

          I think I have readers who support gays at some level but aren’t free to say so publicly, and I imagine I have lost readers who are no longer able to accept me with these views. However, it is important to share these perspectives for believers to consider and to let gay people know, believers and unbelievers, that not all believers condemn and reject them.

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          • Lana says:

            I agree. I’ve just lately gotten where I am able to talk about it. But this also goes the other direction.. A lot of progressives are not willing to dialogue with those they label “bigots.” This is unfortunate to me because it’s becoming just as snobby as the ideas we were trying to leave behind.

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          • Wow, Lana, you are so right! We must have dialog, or at least be open to it.

            Ultra-conservative believers are not our enemies; they are our brothers and sisters. The recent World Vision crisis caused me great pain as some conservative acted, in my opinion, with hate and spite. But the hurt deepened as some progressive bloggers declared that they were DONE with evangelicals.

            How can we be done with evangelicals–even the bigoted ones? Are we not all children of the same Father? Are we not all followers of the same Jesus?

            I know you did not necessarily imply all that I said, but thank you so much for your words of reconciliation.

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  11. joe says:

    Esbee, I am somewhat disturbed by your comment that “those who want sex with(or marry) children and animals is just another lifestyle choice, as their reasons are exactly the same as gays.”
    Actually there is a vast difference here and the comparison is neither accurate nor fair.

    For most people, gay or straight, the idea of marrying a child is of interest only insofar as they can help prevent such repugnant and criminal behavior. A child, by definition, is not capable of functioning as an adult and needs a parent, not a marriage partner and I have never met a gay person who had any romantic interest in a child. Yes, responsible and well balanced gay men/women can and do love kids and many make good parents but the love they have for children is familial love and it’s a bit offensive to read what appears to be a suggestion that marriage for loving same sex couples will lead down that old “slippery slope” and we will then have men marrying children.

    If you seriously believe that gay folks have a sexual interest in children you might want to check out the data which shows that the majority of sex crimes against children are committed by straight males, most of them married men.

    As for the suggestion of bestiality, I can’t even begin to tell you how that hurts. Yes, I grew up with a wonderful dog and, like a lot of boys, I loved my dog but that’s where it stopped.When I fell in love it was with a wonderful man that I would want to marry.Oh, if that were possible!

    You have every right to speak up and express yourself but I do hope you think about how
    people who are excluded from the table are hurt by flawed comparisons.

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    • esbee says:

      I do get that there is a difference between 2 consenting adults and those who cannot consent.
      All I am doing is quoting what those who want sex with animals or children are stating and noticing it is EXACTLY the same reasons for their attraction as the gays state—that they cannot help who they love because that is how they are born. I am not defending them in anyway. They are despicable in what they desire YET before gays came out, how did society historically feel and treat gays? They thought about gays EXACTLY how we now feel about those who want sex with children/animals. (that they are sinful, despicable, unlawful.) Those two other groups, dealing with emotions and feelings that are outside the social norm, identify closely with the gays because and are closely watching the progress of the gays, and waiting, hoping, praying for THEIR chance to come out of their closet and be considered just another life style.

      20 years ago a town stupidly allowed a fringe group of anarchists to TWICE hold a parade in their town (in the interest of being fair). Anarchists do not believe in any kind of law/rule/value system and or that you can make your own rules or law…so when one of them was hit with a tool of some kind by a man defending his sister who was scared when the anarchists were hitting their car with arms and hands as they angrily paraded down the street, that anarchist immediately called for the police to protect him…yet by his “own” value system of no rules/laws was wanting to take advantage of another’s value system that he, by parading, said he did not accept or support, but wanted the benefit of that value system.

      Many things are not mentioned in the bible or if they are, give sparse info that leaves to much speculation. Some things should just be taken by faith or left on the shelf until further light is given. Some things may not matter at all, but it is an individual walk, stumble, run, fall, get up again, run away, fight, give-in walk with God through Jesus. And I know of only 2 main commands that I must follow, and I fail miserably on the first, that Jesus gave as He went back to heaven, Love God and love others.

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