The Bible’s Mixed Message on Sexuality (?) Part 3

After a long weekend off and my traumatic Cabela’s socks episode, I wanted to get back to this post from called The Bible’s Surprisingly Mixed Message about Sexuality by Jennifer Wright Knust. The first two posts can be found here (1) and here (2).

Based on the writings of one Rabbi and one verse from a Gnostic gospel, as well as a passage from Paul taken wildly out of context, Knust concludes,

God’s original plan was sexual unity in one body, not two. The Genesis creation stories can support the notion that sexual intercourse is designed to reunite male and female into one body, but they can also suggest that God’s blessing was first placed on an undifferentiated body that didn’t have sex at all.

Heterosexual sex was therefore an afterthought designed to give back the man what he had lost.

As I’ve already written, this is highly suspect. But, of course, if heterosexual sex is just an afterthought (disregard that little bit about “Be fruitful and multiply”), then homosexual sex could be an equally valid afterthought. Now if only there was a place in the Bible where we could see God blessing two men engaging in a homosexual relationship…

Despite common misperceptions, biblical writers could also imagine same-sex intimacy as a source of blessing. For example, the seemingly intimate relationship between the Old Testament’s David and Jonathan, in which Jonathan loved David more than he loved women, may have been intended to justify David’s rise as king.

Jonathan, not David, was a king’s son. David was only a shepherd. Yet by becoming David’s “woman,” Jonathan voluntarily gave up his place for his beloved friend.

Thus, Jonathan “took great delight in David,” foiling King Saul’s attempts to arrange for David’s death (1 Samuel 19:1). Choosing David over his father, Jonathan makes a formal covenant with his friend, asking David to remain faithful to him and his descendants.

Sealing the covenant, David swears his devotion to Jonathan, “for he loved him as he loved his own life” (1 Samuel 20:17). When Jonathan is killed, King David composes a eulogy for him, praising his devotion: “greatly beloved were you to me; your love to me was wonderful, passing the love of women” (2 Samuel 1:26).

Yes, that’s right, David and Jonathan were gay. Because they loved each other. Which, as every knows, means they were having gay sex. Sorry to be sarcastic, but seriously, the jump from love to sex says more about the sexualization of relationships in our own culture than it does about the nature of the relationship between David and Jonathan. We are, after all, the culture that thinks Frodo and Sam were gay.

The Hebrew word found in this passage (ahobah) has a wide spectrum of meaning, much like our own English word “love”. According to Holliday’s Lexicon, the word can mean the love between a husband and wife, the love between friends or people in general, or God’s love for his people. In fact, when the Bible wants to talk about sex, it does so unabashedly, and usually with the language of “lying with”.

Sex often has very little to do with love, both in our own culture and in the culture in which the Bible was written. Though we like to talk about sex and love as though they are the same thing, they are not. Knust’s view here is a grasp at straws, and she anachronistically reads the views of our culture back into the pages of Scripture.

If David and Jonathan were gay, and if God had wanted us to know that they were and he approved of their homosexual relationship, then he would have made that clear. But the fact is, there is nothing about their story or the language that is used to lead us to believe any of what Knust postulates. The Bible does not use language that sexualizes their relationship. That liberal scholars like Knust sexualize their relationship says more about the liberal perspective of sexuality and relationships than it does about Jonathan and David.

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