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Homosexual saints and the Bible

MINI CRITIQUE - Isagani Cruz (The Philippine Star) - February 24, 2016 - 9:00am

If you Google “homosexual saints” and/or “homosexuality Bible,” you will find some very interesting articles.

The most comprehensive is a lecture given by Terence Weldon in 2013, entitled “Some Very Queer Saints and Martyrs.”

The Weldon lecture starts with the Roman gay martyrs Sergius and Bacchus, who were considered saints until they were removed from the Catholic list of saints in 1969.

There was Saint Paulinus of Nola in the fourth century, a poet whose verse appears in “The Penguin Book of Homosexual Verse” (1987). His poems were addressed to a male lover named Ausonius. He was not the only gay poet-saint. There are apparently a number in the same book of poetry. (Unfortunately, I have not read that book.)

Saint Aelred of Rievaulx, before he became a monk, was the lover of a Scottish prince.

Then there were the lesbian nuns Saint Galla and Benedicta in the fifth century.

Hidden in plain sight, writes Weldon, is the Sistine Chapel, where Michelangelo’s homoerotic art is displayed for thousands of tourists to admire. Michelangelo painted the ceiling to comply with the wishes of the gay pope, Pope Julius II.

In an article entitled “Why Christians should embrace same-sex relationships,” Anthony Ashford writes: “In the same [Biblical] passages where gay sex is condemned and punished, so is eating shrimp, crop co-mingling, eating rabbit, wearing linen and wool at the same time, and eating raw meat. So if you’re gonna be a Biblical literalist, you might as well start sewing your own clothes and becoming a vegetarian.”

John and Catherine Shore, in an article entitled “Taking God at His Word: The Bible and Homosexuality” (excerpted from a book), point out that “homosexuality is briefly mentioned in only six or seven of the Bible’s 31,173 verses. The verses wherein homosexuality is mentioned are commonly known as the ‘clobber passages,’ since they are typically used by Christians to ‘clobber’ LGBT people. The fact that homosexuality is so rarely mentioned in the Bible should be an indication to us of the lack of importance ascribed it by the authors of the Bible.”

Incidentally, I usually cringe when someone takes a Bible passage literally, because of a very personal reason. I am prohibited by my nephrologist from eating food with salt. But the Bible clearly says that salt is a good thing. In fact, the followers of Jesus are supposed to be the salt of the earth (Matthew 5:13). But if salt is bad for my health (and for the health of millions of other people), then Christians are bad for humanity. That is totally unacceptable to me, a Catholic Christian.

Then there are all those silly things that St. Paul tells Christians to follow, such as “Women should remain silent in the churches” (1 Corinthians 14:34). If we took this literally, all the Catholic churches in the country (and in the world!) are committing sin by letting nuns and laywomen serve as lectors during Mass.

I am not even talking about the Old Testament, which the Pharisees kept quoting to Jesus and Jesus kept refuting. Except for the Psalms that I love, I read only the New Testament. Jesus did away with the Old Law, did He not? By the way, the stories of Onan and Sodom are in the Old Testament, which Jesus himself had problems with.

Anyway, as a literary critic by profession, I have real problems with reading the Bible. I am trained to read literary works in their original (which explains why I seldom write about literary texts I read in translation), but I have not read the Bible even in its earliest Latin translations.

Justin Cannon has, and in his article entitled “The Bible, Christianity and Homosexuality,” he writes this: “The English word ‘homosexual’ is a compound word made from the Greek word ‘homo,’ meaning ‘the same’, and the Latin term ‘sexualis,’ meaning ‘sex.’ The term ‘homosexual’ is of modern origin, and it wasn’t until about a hundred years ago that it was first used. There is no word in biblical Greek or Hebrew that is equivalent to the English word ‘homosexual.’ The 1946 Revised Standard Version (RSV) of the Bible was the first translation to use the word ‘homosexual.’”

Cannon adds in relation to the often quoted story of Sodom and Gomorrah: “There is no word in biblical Greek or Hebrew for ‘sodomy.’ A Sodomite was simply an inhabitant of Sodom, just as a Moabite was an inhabitant of Moab. Any translation of the New Testament making use of the words ‘sodomy’ or ‘sodomite’ are clear interpretations and not faithful translations.”

Are these articles right? It depends on whether you read the Bible in translation (remembering that the Italians say, “traduttore, traditore,” or “all translations betray the original texts”) or not. I can’t read Hebrew, Aramaic, or Greek, so I won’t venture an opinion, even if a lot of other people as ignorant as I am have no qualms expressing theirs.

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