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Was The Apostle Paul Gay?


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I was recently reading the book Rescuing The Bible From Fundamentalism by Bishop Spong and in one chapter, Spong suggests the possibility that Paul could have been a closeted gay man. He cites the verses where Paul talks about his uncontrollable members in Romans, which Spong believes is referring to Paul's sexual organs and other verses where Paul talks about his sins of the flesh he knows is wrong but he can't control. If we accept that members is referring to sexual organs, Spong goes onto suggest that why didn't Paul get married if he had uncontrollable sexual desires like he commands Christians to do in 1 Corinthians 7? Spong's explanation was that Paul was a closeted gay male and the thorn in the flesh is Paul's homosexuality. Some scholars believe the thorn in the flesh was some physical ailment Paul had, but Spong questions if it's a physical ailment, why does Paul refer to it as an attack from Satan? Do you think it's likely that Paul could have been a closeted gay and this explains why Paul was so fanatical as a believer or is Spong just reading a modern mindset into a first century writing?

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I've heard this argument before and it does make sense. However, it's too tough to tell based on a few vague terms in his letters.

 

Maybe that's why he sent John Mark away, he couldn't stand the temptation any longer... and why he had such a close relationship with Timothy... Paul did personally circumcise him.

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I too have heard this before, and, yes, some of Paul's writing seems like a self-loathing, closeted gay man, but the question is, was homosexuality such a big deal in Paul's time? From what I understand, it wasn't. Sex was sex.

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I've heard this also about Paul. Yes, he could have been gay and yes, Tapho is correct that there was no stigma to homosexuality, especially in Ancient Greece and Rome--it only became taboo in modern times, thanks mostly due to Christianity and lately, Islam. I think Paul was one of the most sexually depressed person in history and was afraid his penis held power over him, hence the reason he flogged himself to get his members in line.

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He cites the verses where Paul talks about his uncontrollable members in Romans, which Spong believes is referring to Paul's sexual organs and other verses where Paul talks about his sins of the flesh he knows is wrong but he can't control.

 

I would have to research the Greek and see if "member" can refer to a sexual organ and a "member" of the congregation at the same time. I had thought that this was an English euphemism for penis.

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I think people are looking too much into the Pauline writings (which is likely written by many people). I do not have a degree or a doctorate in psychology but what I get from the writings is that this Paul character is heavily misogynistic or possibly gynophobic--this is excluding his interactions with Thecla who was an ardent follower of his (but whenever she got in trouble he was never there to help her out).

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I was recently reading the book Rescuing The Bible From Fundamentalism by Bishop Spong and in one chapter, Spong suggests the possibility that Paul could have been a closeted gay man.

 

Maybe he was a gambler or a glutton? Gluttony is very Christlike!

 

Anyhoo...

 

Listening to Misquoting Jesus, Ehrman says that the first NT Canon was assembled by Marcion who was an ardent follower of Paul. I find Ehrman's explanation of Marcion's involvement in xtianity's development a compelling observation. It is clear that the first person to present their evidence is the one that makes a lasting impression.

 

Maybe Marcion was a gay man and maybe he used his canon to highlight his point of view by adding or changing a few key scripts. Somehow I doubt that though as there are much bigger themes to fight for. Still, likeminded people flock together.

 

Mongo

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There are actually a number of lines of thought on homosexuality during that time but as far as I know, in general, it was a problem if you were the one being penetrated (there were other considerations too but as I said this is simply a generalization). This was seem as effeminate and being the female, as a male, was wrong. Being the penetrator, on the other hand, was still masculine, and more acceptable.

 

mwc

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Personally while I think it possible that Romans 7 could be referring to Paul's being homosexual, I don't think the idea is compelling. I can personally relate to the experience of knowing mentally that I should/shouldn't do something but finding that I end up not doing/doing it anyway, which is presented in Romans 7, I do not however feel any urge to have sex with men.

 

So basically my take on whether or not Paul was a repressed gay man, or just a run of the mill straight homophobic zealot is pretty much unknowable at this point. At list based upon the data we have.

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I would have to research the Greek and see if "member" can refer to a sexual organ and a "member" of the congregation at the same time. I had thought that this was an English euphemism for penis.

Here's the quote from the book on page 110.
Paul also saw himself in some sense as a victim. It is not too harsh to say he loathed himself. His words reflected this self-loathing over and over again. "What return did you get," he said (of himself, I think), "for the things of which you are now ashamed? The end of those things is death" (Rom 6:21). Ashamed, deserving death- these are the self-revelatory admissions of Paul. Was it not of his own life that he wrote so passionately, "just as you once yielded your members to impurity and to greater and greater iniquity, so now yield your members to righteousness for sanctification" (Rom 6:19). Impurity, greater and greater inquity- these are harsh and revealing words.

 

What is a "member" of the body that Paul says has been yielded to iniquity? The Greek word translated "member" is melos (he quotes the Greek text here too, but I can't type it on my keyboard). It means a member, limb, part of the body." In the Epistle to the Corinthians Paul called the ear, nose, eye, hand, head, and feet members of the body (1 Cor 12:14). Then he referred to "our unpresentable parts," which, he suggested, are to be treated with a modesty "that our more presentable parts do not require" (1 Cor 12:24). But can one loathe the head, the hand, the foot, the ears? Are these "members" operating independently of the mind? Could Paul say of them "sin reigns in my members. With my mind I will one thing, with my body I do another?" Cannot the mind direct the feat, the eyes, the ears? The only organs that cannot finally be controlled by the will are the genitalia. Sexual arousal comes sometimes despite our best efforts. Sexual impotency comes sometimes despite our mental desire to respond.

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The only organs that cannot finally be controlled by the will are the genitalia. Sexual arousal comes sometimes despite our best efforts. Sexual impotency comes sometimes despite our mental desire to respond.

 

Thank you for that, and I'm convinced that Paul had a problem with his member. Does that necessarily mean he was gay?

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I would have to research the Greek and see if "member" can refer to a sexual organ and a "member" of the congregation at the same time. I had thought that this was an English euphemism for penis.

Here's the quote from the book on page 110.
Paul also saw himself in some sense as a victim. It is not too harsh to say he loathed himself. His words reflected this self-loathing over and over again. "What return did you get," he said (of himself, I think), "for the things of which you are now ashamed? The end of those things is death" (Rom 6:21). Ashamed, deserving death- these are the self-revelatory admissions of Paul. Was it not of his own life that he wrote so passionately, "just as you once yielded your members to impurity and to greater and greater iniquity, so now yield your members to righteousness for sanctification" (Rom 6:19). Impurity, greater and greater inquity- these are harsh and revealing words.

 

What is a "member" of the body that Paul says has been yielded to iniquity? The Greek word translated "member" is melos (he quotes the Greek text here too, but I can't type it on my keyboard). It means a member, limb, part of the body." In the Epistle to the Corinthians Paul called the ear, nose, eye, hand, head, and feet members of the body (1 Cor 12:14). Then he referred to "our unpresentable parts," which, he suggested, are to be treated with a modesty "that our more presentable parts do not require" (1 Cor 12:24). But can one loathe the head, the hand, the foot, the ears? Are these "members" operating independently of the mind? Could Paul say of them "sin reigns in my members. With my mind I will one thing, with my body I do another?" Cannot the mind direct the feat, the eyes, the ears? The only organs that cannot finally be controlled by the will are the genitalia. Sexual arousal comes sometimes despite our best efforts. Sexual impotency comes sometimes despite our mental desire to respond.

 

I wouldn't agree with this assessment. There are many situations in which we can will with our mind to do certain things yet we find something in us won't allow us too, whether it is sexual in nature or otherwise. Take new years resolutions for example. Second of all if you look into Christian doctrine it requires a heck of a lot more than mere chastity. It essentially requires that you as a person have to die. Jesus says "Whoever finds his life will lose it, and whoever loses his life for my sake will find it" Matthew 10:39, here the word used for life is not bios, your physical life, it's psuche, which can be literally translated soul. Throughout Paul's epistles he refers to the cross of Christ and us being crucified with him. In Galatians 2:19-20 Paul writes "I have been crucified with Christ; 20and it is no longer I who live, but it is Christ who lives in me." Anyway take on the bible that the inner life movement has, is that ultimately proper Christian living doesn't come down to just living morally and doing the right thing, it is that for proper Christian you as a person have to die and let God live through you, you should have no will of your own and you should only do the father's will. Under this mentality anything which you do separate from God is sinful, whether it be watching TV, posting on an internet forum, or having gay sex. If this theology is at all close to Paul's then it would be hardly surprising that he would have the experience that even though he wanted with his mind to follow and submit to God absolutely he continually found that he as a person just didn't want to die.

 

:edit added italics to what I was referencing

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Under this mentality anything which you do separate from God is sinful, whether it be watching TV, posting on an internet forum, or having gay sex. If this theology is at all close to Paul's then it would be hardly surprising that he would have the experience that even though he wanted with his mind to follow and submit to God absolutely he continually found that he as a person just didn't want to die.

The original question was "Is Paul Gay" and it seemed to me to revolve around whether "member" could mean both a member of a congregation AND a penis. I'm satisfied that "member" could also represent a penis.

 

While that, in and of itself, does not establish whether Paul was gay, it does support other information that, taken as a whole, indicates that he was gay.

 

Quite frankly, I don't really care about the issue. By denying his sexuality, whether hetero or homo, he was going against Nature.

 

And that's a sin.

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The original question was "Is Paul Gay" and it seemed to me to revolve around whether "member" could mean both a member of a congregation AND a penis. I'm satisfied that "member" could also represent a penis.

 

While that, in and of itself, does not establish whether Paul was gay, it does support other information that, taken as a whole, indicates that he was gay.

 

Quite frankly, I don't really care about the issue. By denying his sexuality, whether hetero or homo, he was going against Nature.

 

And that's a sin.

 

I was referring mainly to this statement of Spong

Cannot the mind direct the feat, the eyes, the ears? The only organs that cannot finally be controlled by the will are the genitalia. Sexual arousal comes sometimes despite our best efforts. Sexual impotency comes sometimes despite our mental desire to respond.

 

He is suggesting that because of this members must be referring to his penis. I don't support this view. First of all Paul uses the word members not member, is he a hermaphrodite, does he have diphallia (two penises), No, then why didn't he just say my member. I would reason because he isn't talking about his member. He's talking about a general desire to do good, which he constantly finds he can't measure up to. This an experience felt by many people, whether gay or straight, who find themselves trying to live up to an impossible standard of morality. As further evidence many Christians that I know empathized with these verses, I have no reason to believe that they were all gay. I empathized with these verses, never in conjunction with a desire to have sex with men.

 

Other than that what evidence is there to suggest that he was gay. He had a thorn in the flesh, he had a young male traveling companion, he was misogynistic. None of these things mean he was gay. All of them are at best circumstantial, as all of these things could very easily describe a straight person in the ancient near east just as easily as any gay one.

 

You might as well say that he secretly visited prostitutes, was dressed up in the 1st century equivalent of a diaper, and had them treat him like a baby. After all this fetish might be his thorn in the flesh. It could be that in his mind he knew that these desires were wrong but his flesh was weak against it.

 

Basically, as I see it the only thing which the Paul is gay argument has over the resurrection arguments given by Christians is that Paul being gay is actually possible. They both suffer from the fact that neither of them have any real supporting evidence, just selective interpretations.

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  • 2 weeks later...

Paul also seemed to have much disdain for women (he was a real prick IMO), further supporting the idea that he wasn't interested in females "in that way".

 

Do I have a book for you; it totally and completely "justifies" Paul's teachings (translation: Makes up a whole shitload of excuses) regarding women.

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This article on cracked sums up my feelings about Paul's sexuality

 

It sounds like we're splitting hairs, but it's a great example of the kind of problem people run into when they decide to play amateur psychologist and "diagnose" the people around them. Remember, the guy who's spouting a particularly venomous anti-gay diatribe may be covering up for his own confused homosexuality, and may deserve only your pity. But there's a very good chance that he's simply a dick.

 

Maybe Paul's hatred of homosexuality, and disdain for women stemmed from the fact that he was secretly gay. But maybe, just maybe, it stemmed from the fact that he grew up steeped in a culture in which homosexuals were considered worthy of being stoned to death and women were looked upon as being chattel, that and he could just be a dick.

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Maybe Paul's hatred of homosexuality, and disdain for women stemmed from the fact that he was secretly gay. But maybe, just maybe, it stemmed from the fact that he grew up steeped in a culture in which homosexuals were considered worthy of being stoned to death and women were looked upon as being chattel, that and he could just be a dick.

Also, there are other scholars like Bart D Ehrman and Macrus Borg who would argue that the sexist verses attributed to Paul in the authentic Pauline letters were added in by later scribes and Paul was actually more ahead of his time in his views on women than most people have given him credit for.
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Do I have a book for you; it totally and completely "justifies" Paul's teachings (translation: Makes up a whole shitload of excuses) regarding women.

 

It's amazing the excuses xtians will make up with to justify statements in the bible. And then they have the gall to tell us that we are the ones who "don't understand" the bible because we don't have the "discernmnent" of the Holy Spirit whispering excuse-laden interpretations in our ears. :49:

 

What I don't quite get, Wiley, is why those of us with "questionable" belief more often than not read and study the Bible more thoroughly than those who claim to "Live in the Word", yet, somehow, they deem the authority to tell us we are not capable of discernible thought in regard to the Bible. :shrug:

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What I don't quite get, Wiley, is why those of us with "questionable" belief more often than not read and study the Bible more thoroughly than those who claim to "Live in the Word", yet, somehow, they deem the authority to tell us we are not capable of discernible thought in regard to the Bible. :shrug:

What I don't get is why is it that some Christians will say you don't have to be an expert to spread the gospel, but if an expert knows more about the bible than they do and isn't saved, then suddenly it's something to be mocked.
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What I don't quite get, Wiley, is why those of us with "questionable" belief more often than not read and study the Bible more thoroughly than those who claim to "Live in the Word", yet, somehow, they deem the authority to tell us we are not capable of discernible thought in regard to the Bible. :shrug:

What I don't get is why is it that some Christians will say you don't have to be an expert to spread the gospel, but if an expert knows more about the bible than they do and isn't saved, then suddenly it's something to be mocked.

 

Yeah, I've gotten that one, too. When someone uses the bible to make some bullshit argument, and I counter with text from that very book, then I'm anti-Christian.

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What I don't quite get, Wiley, is why those of us with "questionable" belief more often than not read and study the Bible more thoroughly than those who claim to "Live in the Word", yet, somehow, they deem the authority to tell us we are not capable of discernible thought in regard to the Bible. :shrug:

What I don't get is why is it that some Christians will say you don't have to be an expert to spread the gospel, but if an expert knows more about the bible than they do and isn't saved, then suddenly it's something to be mocked.

 

Because their spiritual. When they read the bible there touching God. Whereas you when you read the bible your just touching dead letters with your fancy learning.

 

1 Cor 2:6Howbeit we speak wisdom among them that are perfect: yet not the wisdom of this world, nor of the princes of this world, that come to nought:

 

7But we speak the wisdom of God in a mystery, even the hidden wisdom, which God ordained before the world unto our glory:

 

14But the natural man receiveth not the things of the Spirit of God: for they are foolishness unto him: neither can he know them, because they are spiritually discerned.

 

To answer your question because the Christian mindset is trained with it's brand of Christian faith as being 100% truth. All other information which is received is interpreted against this undeniable fact. Anything which contradicts their faith is worldly wisdom, from Satan and even looking into it is to risk taking you away from God. The wisdom which they seek to use is from the Spirit of God, and how do they know something came from God, well one of best indicators is that it agrees with their brand of faith.

 

This style of thinking is insidious, and once you've bought into it, is extremely difficult to break out off.

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Also, there are other scholars like Bart D Ehrman and Macrus Borg who would argue that the sexist verses attributed to Paul in the authentic Pauline letters were added in by later scribes and Paul was actually more ahead of his time in his views on women than most people have given him credit for.

 

This is also something I've heard. But it actually also serves to highlight what I think is another good point about whether or not Paul was gay or not. How do you know how much of the stuff which leads people to believe he was gay was penned by him and how much was penned by various scribes.

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Yeah, I've gotten that one, too. When someone uses the bible to make some bullshit argument, and I counter with text from that very book, then I'm anti-Christian.

 

Well technically you are. Anti-Christian I mean. Cause if you look at it, aren't you countering their Christian argument. The fact that your using the bible just makes it more insidious.

 

The fact that the bible contradicts itself, or doesn't bear out their version of Christianity is neither here nor there. In fact theyed prefer you not bring it up.

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Guest Wayne Buchanan

I do not believe that Paul had homosexual struggles. He did speak about his "uncontrollable members", and I fulling agree that this could be (and I believe is) referring to his sexual organ. However, the commandment not to commit adultery is I think what is foremost on Paul's mind. Heterosexual sex outside of marriage is considered adultery, and Jesus added that adultery is committed when one even looks on a person of the opposite sex with lust. This is what I believe Paul is struggling with. Paul was never married. He said he wished that all men could be single like he is in order to devote themselves more fully to God.

 

You also have to consider that Paul calls homosexuality an abomination, and he contends that no one who practices it will have a place in heaven. Of course, this does not mean that he condemns those that struggle with those thoughts, so I suppose that argument could be made that he is struggling with them, so he would not be condemning himself. I think that is a weak argument, though.

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