Jesus has to have existed
To the editor:
In his letter (MG, August 17), David M. Keranen asks a few rhetorical questions about Jesus and homosexuality. A rhetorical question generally is “a question asked in order to make a point rather than to get an answer.” This response corrects the points was trying to make, by answering those questions.
First, Mr. Keranen asks, “But was Jesus himself possibly gay?” As evidence for this possibility, Mr. Keranen points to several passages in the Gospel of John about “the disciple whom Jesus loved,” implying that Jesus had some sexual relationship with the disciple. But John’s gospel was translated from Greek, and Greek has several words for “love.” For this purpose, John’s gospel used “agape,” which is the love of the soul, a selfless love for humanity. If sexual love was intended, then “eros,” love of the body (as in the word “erotic”), would have been used instead. (As an aside, English’s lack of a similar vocabulary for love might help explain why our society has confused sex and lust with authentic love.)
Next, Mr. Keranen asks, “Also, if homosexuality is such a “sin,” as present day fundamentalists believe, why is it that Jesus never commented on it?” First, the premise of the question is not entirely true. Jesus listed “murder, adultery, sexual immorality, theft, false testimony, slander. These are what defile a person . . .” (Matt. 15:19-20). In Jesus’s day–and until only relatively recently–it was commonly understood that sodomy and other homosexual acts are immoral. Jesus also said that “But at the beginning of creation God ‘made them male and female.’ ‘For this reason a man will leave his father and mother and be united to his wife, and the two will become one flesh.’ So they are no longer two, but one flesh” (Mark 10:6-8). Jesus thereby rejected the concept of gay “marriage.” Jesus may not have used the word “homosexuality,” but he certainly commented on it (similarly, he never used the word “trinity,” but his discussions on the Father and the Holy Spirit outline the concept).
To answer Mr. Keranen’s reformulated question (why didn’t Jesus comment on homosexuality much), it was well-known that homosexuality was sinful, as mentioned above. Jesus did not come to simply recite the Mosaic law; he came to raise the bar, to call us to be perfect as God is perfect (see Matt. 5:21-48).
Finally, Mr. Keranen asks, “Did Jesus actually exist?” and points to an apparent lack of evidence, implying that he didn’t. He says that “there’s little written about him outside the religious writings in the Bible.” First, he should not be so quick to dismiss the evidentiary strength of the Bible. The Bible is a composition of separate letters written by multiple sources that was not assembled by the Catholic Church until the fourth century A.D. In his first letter to the Corinthians, St. Paul wrote that after his resurrection, Jesus “appeared to more than five hundred of the brothers and sisters at the same time” (1 Cor. 15:6). That is, he wrote to his contemporaries, claiming to have five hundred witnesses for Jesus’s resurrection. If Jesus hadn’t even existed, Paul would have been pretty foolish for making such a bold claim.
Second, Mr. Keranen ignores the very spread of Christianity as proof of Jesus’s existence. Nearly all of Jesus’s apostles underwent horrible deaths for spreading his teaching. We have their bones and know that they existed. If Jesus didn’t exist, it would not make sense for them to have suffered so much for a lie. Think of all the cults that disappeared shortly after their founders’ deaths (Branch Davidians, Heaven’s Gate, etc.). But even after violent persecution in its first few centuries, the Catholic Church remains, the oldest institution in existence today. How could this have happened if Jesus didn’t exist (my own rhetorical question)?