August 29, 2010
"born that way"? Says who?
As I pondered the comments to an earlier post about transsexualism and added one of my own, I remembered a snarky remark I heard yesterday about the religious aspect of the issue. A man making a speech cited Jesus Christ as being in support of his view that transsexualism is wrong. I thought that was odd, because the closest Jesus ever came to the subject was in his puzzling mention of eunuchs during what seems like a condemnation of divorce:
3 Some Pharisees came to him to test him. They asked, "Is it lawful for a man to divorce his wife for any and every reason?" 4 "Haven't you read," he replied, "that at the beginning the Creator 'made them male and female,'[a] 5 and said, 'For this reason a man will leave his father and mother and be united to his wife, and the two will become one flesh'[a]? 6 So they are no longer two, but one. Therefore what God has joined together, let man not separate."In the ancient world, there were plenty of man-made eunuchs, and I guess Jesus considered them incapable of marriage (and probably not bound by whatever restrictions might be placed on divorce). But what can he have meant by those who are "eunuchs because they were born that way"?
This has generated a lot of debate, and predictably, it has been postulated that Jesus might have been referencing exclusively homosexual men, or possibly intersexed people. The "third sex," perhaps? Hermaphroditism is hardly modern, and many ancient definitions of "eunuch" were broad enough to include a variety of categories considered less than fully male.
So, the meaning would probably depend on the typical and commonly understood usage of the word "eunuch" in his day. Being no biblical scholar, I can't offer any kind of authoritative opinion.
But I think it's interesting that Jesus would say that people who were "born that way" are not subject to what he was saying about marriage and divorce. Born what way? Born without actual testicles? (That is such a rare medical condition that it seems unlikely as an interpretation.) Perhaps he meant born with an innate inability to consummate marriage. Was Jesus saying it was possible to be born with intact male genitalia yet unable to consummate marriage? Because of something occurring before birth?
The King James Version does not say "born that way," but puts it a little differently:
But he said unto them, All [men] cannot receive this saying, save [they] to whom it is given.It's hard to know exactly what is meant. And while it's not a major point, I'm hardly seeing the strong condemnation of transsexuals or intersexed persons said to emanate from Jesus.
I guess these things are always subject to interpretation.
(Especially the comparison of divorce to adultery!)
posted by Eric on 08.29.10 at 01:55 PM
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