Eunuchs – God’s Special Gay People?

The most fascinating and intriguing people in the Bible are “eunuchs.” They are mentioned with praise, trust, and honor. They are often interchanged with terms like “officer,” “captain,” “palace master,” and “chamberlains” in charge of the treasury or harems in a household. Jesus offers the best definition of “eunuch” in Matthew 19 when he is teaching about marriage and divorce. Evidently, there were many men in that time who did not take marriage seriously and took divorce too lightly. Jesus disciples asked him “if such is the case…it is better not to marry.” Jesus gave an interesting response: “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.” (vs.12)

From this definition, it seems like there are three different reasons for being described as a eunuch. First, those made so from birth. This would cover intersex persons, those who had physical characteristics of both males and females. Today, for example, one out of every 2,000 live births is an intersex child. In Biblical times, there was no medical knowledge or term for these conditions. However, they must have been seen as “special” persons as we shall see. Second, there were eunuchs who were castrated on purpose. This was a common punishment for those who committed a crime or captives from another country or army. I think it is safe to say these would not be the persons in charge of harems or trusted with the treasury of a household or country. Third, there were those who were eunuchs by their own choosing. This does not necessarily imply surgical castration, but even if they were surgically castrated, it does not mean that they were not interested in sex. Persons who have had their testicles removed can still be interested in sex; they just cannot procreate. In Biblical times, it certainly meant that they were not interested in marriage or sex with a woman. These could be the “special” persons who were put in charge of a harem or trusted with the wives of a household. In today’s world, a “gay” person would be a perfect choice for this position.

In Biblical times, there was no differentiation of biological sex, gender identity, and sexual orientation, therefore, intersex persons, transgender persons, and persons with a different sexual orientation could have been classified under the term “eunuch.”

In the native American cultures, every Indian nation had what is now termed “two-spirit” people, which encompasses the same grouping of persons as “eunuch” mentioned above in the Bible. These “two-spirit” people blended male/female, masculine/feminine, and gay/bisexual/straight. They dressed differently; they lived differently; they partnered differently. These “two-spirit” people were considered not only special but as having divine powers. When the Christian missionaries came to these Native American nations, they were appalled when they saw these “special” people and they called them the “Berdache,” a French term for “child molester,” and these “special” people became despised and alienated from their people.

I wonder if something similar happened when some Christians experienced gay, transgender, and intersex persons with their differences. Maybe we need to get back to the Bible and with Isaiah say: “For thus says the Lord: To the eunuchs…I will give…a name better than sons and daughters; I will give them an everlasting name that shall not be cut off” (56:4-5). As a Christian and as a member of the clergy, I certainly say this to my gay, lesbian, bisexual, and transgender brothers and sisters.

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