Here Jesus refers to "eunuchs who have been so from birth." This terminology ("born eunuchs") was used in the ancient world to refer to homosexual men. Jesus indicates that being a "born eunuch" is a gift from God.
Some Christians confidently assert that God did not create homosexual people "that way." This is important because they realize if God did create gays "that way," rejecting them would be tantamount to rejecting Gods work in creation. In pressing their creation order argument, some Christians are fond of saying, "God made Adam and Eve, not Adam and Steve!" To bolster their position, they often cite Jesus words in Matthew 19:4-5, where he responds to a question about whether divorce is permissible:
Jesus answered, Have you not read that the One who made them at the beginning made them male and female, and said, For this reason a man shall leave his father and mother and be joined to his wife and the two shall become one flesh? Therefore, what God has joined together, let no one separate.
From these words, some Christians draw the conclusion that heterosexuality is the creation norm and, thus, heterosexual marriage is the only legitimate way for people to form romantic relationships. Ironically, Jesus own words in this very same passage refute these conclusions.
As the dialogue continues, Jesus disciples are disturbed by his strict teaching on divorce. The disciples say that if divorce is not a ready option, perhaps it would be best for a man not to marry a woman. Jesus responds:
Not everyone can accept this teaching, but only those to whom it is given. For there are eunuchs who have been so from birth, and there are eunuchs who have been made eunuchs by others, and there are eunuchs who have made themselves eunuchs for the sake of the kingdom of heaven. Let anyone accept this who can. (Matthew 19:11-12)
Here Jesus identifies three classes of men who should not marry women. Taking his categories in reverse order, first, there are those who have made themselves eunuchs for the kingdom of heaven, i.e., those who foreswear marriage to better serve God. Second, he mentions those who have been made eunuchs by others, an apparent reference to castrated males. But Jesus mentions a third category eunuchs who were born that way. Some might argue that Jesus was referring to males born without testicles, but this would be extremely rare. Moreover, this interpretation ignores how the term born eunuchs was used in other literature of the time.
In the ancient world, including ancient Jewish culture (as reflected in the Talmud), natural or born eunuchs were not associated with missing testicles. Rather, they were associated with stereotypically effeminate characteristics and behavior (just like modern gay men), and were thought by Rabbi Eliezer to be subject to cure (just like modern gays). Moreover, as we have also seen, eunuchs were commonly associated with homosexual desire. (For a complete discussion of the term "born eunuch" and the connection with homosexuality, see The Early Church Welcomed a Gay Man.) As a reasonably informed person of his time, Jesus would have been aware of this common view of eunuchs. Yet he very matter-of-factly asserts that some people are simply born that way. The implication of his statement is profound God created gay people the way they are! Jesus says so.
Unlike Rabbi Eliezer, Jesus feels no need to cure these born eunuchs. He speaks no words of condemnation. Rather he lists people born gay alongside another honored class (eunuchs for the kingdom), and accepts them as a natural part of Gods creation order.
Thus, when Matthew 19 is read as a whole, we see Jesus teaches that most people are created for heterosexual marriage. (We too accept this as Gods predominant creation paradigm.) But, unlike some modern Christians, Jesus does not see this as the only honorable way to live. He acknowledges that some human beings have been created by God to follow a less common, but equally legitimate path. There are some who have been eunuchs from birth made that way by God.
This text is an excerpt from The Children are Free: Reexamining Biblical Evidence on Same-sex Relationships and reproduced on this website with the permission of the author.