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Wednesday 10 November 2010

Was "Jesus" gay? ...and so what if he was!

Posted in: Features
By Craig Young - 25th November 2005

Naked 'messiah' in hot steamy initiation gay sex with studly 'disciple' shock horror probe! Or, to put it more bluntly, was Jesus of Nazareth gay? And so what if he was?

I might as well acknowledge that I'm sceptical about the existence of a single historical figure named Jesus of Nazareth, given the paucity of independent historical verification beyond the work of Philo Josephus, a Jewish historian who wrote after Titus sacked Jerusalem c79 CE. As the Jesus Seminar argues, it may be the case that current Christian mythology is based on distortion and synthesis of the lives and teachings of several Hellenic-Roman or Jewish religious figures in the first century CE.

But, for the purposes of this piece, let's assume that there was a coherent person who roughly corresponded to Jesus of Nazareth. Thirty years ago, Professor Morton Smith caused controversy within historical circles when he claimed that Clement of Alexandria (c150-215) had alleged the existence of a "Secret Gospel of Mark" that implied that 'Jesus' had had sacramental sexual initiation with Mark. Some have argued that Clement wasn't the author of the footnote, and that the reference may be a text from a breakaway gnostic sect that was fighting exclusion and censorship from emerging Catholic central authority. They conclude that it was probably wishful thinking on Morton's part.

Others disagree. Why not, they argue? Antonia Tripolitis has examined the period in question, which contained numerous other mystery and initiation-based religions, such as those of Mithras, Cybele, Isis and Demeter. From this perspective, it becomes plausible that one strand of what eventually became Christianity practiced sexual initiation rites. It's as likely as anything else, but how is it relevant to us two millenia later?

Some advocates of gay spirituality argue so, and have claimed 'Jesus' as one of us, a gay holy teacher or shaman. While I stand in solidarity with those brave souls who struggle for lesbian/gay ordination within Christian denominations, I have to ask, is the above equivalent to the old canard about angel size and pinheads? We have more pressing concerns than two hypothetical individuals doing the deed in Gethsemane forest two millenia ago, if indeed they ever existed.


Rob Crotty: The Jesus Question: The Historical Search: Blackburn: HarperCollins Religious: 1996.

Stephen Carlson: Gospel Hoax: Morton Smith's Invention of the Secret Gospel of Mark: Waco: Baylor University Press: 2005.

Marvin Meyer: Secret Gospels: Essays on Thomas and the Secret Gospel of Mark: Harrisburg: Trinity International Press: 2003.

Will Roscoe: Jesus and the Shamanic Tradition of Same-Sex Love: San Franscisco: Suspect Thoughts Press: 2004.

Morton Smith: Secret Gospel: The Discovery and Interpretation of the Secret Gospel According to Mark: New York: Harper and Row: 1973.

Craig Young - 25th November 2005

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