Shuck and Jive

Tuesday, June 22, 2010

Jesus and Marriage Equality

I tell you, in that night there shall be two men in one bed.

Two women shall be grinding together.

It is right there in the King James Bible.
Luke 17:34-36

According to a new book by Ronald Goetz, this is part of the same-sex triptych. (The third tych are the two men in the field. Sowing their oats?)

His book is called,
Jesus and Marriage Equality: The Same-Sex Triptych of Jesus.

Here is the blurb:

Most people believe that Jesus never talked about homosexuals. Ron Goetz has uncovered proof that not only did Jesus discuss three gay and lesbian couples, but he accepted their relationships as equal to heterosexual ones. Jesus mentions three couples in "The Same-Sex Triptych of Jesus" (Luke 17:34-36). Surprisingly, the King James Version is the best Bible to see the truth about the couples. Examining the Old Testament backgrounds of the three couples, Ron Goetz persuasively argues that Jesus accepted gay and lesbian unions as equal to those of heterosexual couples. "Jesus and Marriage Equality" promises to transform the debate over homosexuality and bring healing to a divided church.

I haven't read the book yet so I cannot comment on his argument. I am a tad skeptical about "proof." But compared to all the other nonsense about what modern people think Jesus (or "God" for that matter) thought (or thinks?) about gays and gay marriage, I am sure his argument is as valid (if not more so) than
homophobic proof texting.

And it's funnier. I never noticed those verses in that way before!

I tell you, in that night there shall be two men in one bed; the one shall be taken, and the other shall be left.Two women shall be grinding together; the one shall be taken, and the other left.Two men shall be in the field; the one shall be taken, and the other left.

I remember as a kid being scared crackers of those verses because I thought they were about the

You know, I am so glad to be done with fundamentalism. I don't care what anyone's Bible says, or their Qur'an or their Ouija board. You treat people fairly. And you don't lie about them. That is the "Word of God" for me.

Mr. Goetz's heart is in the right place. He has a heart for equality and decency. He wants a world in which people don't beat others over the head with their religious books. He wants a world in which people can be free to be who they are and to receive the same respect and rights and privileges as everyone else. And if they are religious, to be able to know that their deity of choice loves and accepts them.

In the end, no one can prove who Jesus was or what he thought or even if he existed. But if there ever was a guy who was "God on Earth" who lived a life as a human ought to live it, then he certainly would have "accepted gay and lesbian unions as equal to those of heterosexual couples," as Mr. Goetz states.

Thanks, Mr. Goetz, for adding to the fun. I hope your book sells millions and convinces church people to lighten up and lose the prejudice.


  1. "Two women shall eb grinding together".

    Oh Geez - now Williamson's gonna get all excited again.

  2. THANK YOU for posting about this book. I just saw this the other day and I am excited to read it.

  3. Do these verses mean that in each same-sex couple one member will be raptured and one won't? How does that get decided? Is it alphabetical? By age? Random? Do we get to vote one another off the island?

    I guess one of us gets rapturd and one of us gets to double his wardrobe. Win/win!

  4. What exegesis! This is hilarious! My head hurts from laughing.
    All of you should be reported, again.

  5. Well, you've given the plot away!
    Actually, you may have posted the whole book. How can it be any longer than about 3 or 4 pages.
    As you say, it's clearly written.
    Further discourse is unnecessary.

    Thanks, Brother Shuck!

  6. I have been thinking about this post. I searched a little bit on the internet and saw sizable discussion on this passage. It is not surprising that a straight guy like me missed it. Only the KJV retains "two men in a bed."

    I thought today about when I was a child that passages such the child Samuel, Jesus in the temple, the phrase from Isaiah, "A little child shall lead them", Jesus welcoming the children, etc. were important. As a kid, I grew up in a loving but fairly traditional household in which adults were important and children should be "seen and not heard." Passages in the Bible featuring children as valued made me feel valued even when I didn't feel such in life.

    This has proven to be true for all kinds of groups of people. Those not valued by the patriarchy and the dominant culture found characters and stories in the Bible that were "their stories."

    These are stories often overlooked by the dominant culture and dominant interpreters, particularly those with privilege and power.

    What Ron Goetz is doing is expressing publicly for a straight and tone deaf church, what has been known underground for gay and lesbian people. There are hints in the Bible through which gay and lesbian folks find value.

    David and Jonathon who share a love "surpassing that of a love to a woman." Is it not ironic that a common vow heard at weddings comes from a vow between two women, Ruth and Naomi? Jesus heals a centurion's slave (or is it his lover?) Jesus has a particular disciple "that he loves." Or Jesus and the young man in Secret Mark. And this passage that Ron Goetz illustrates. And others. Hints. Nuance. The love that dares not share its name.

    Of course there is no proof. Of course it appears to be grasping. But certainly no more grasping than those who want to find passages in the Bible to prove that "God", Jesus, or the biblical vision is against same-gender love.

    But more importantly, I think, these passages hint at something else. Jesus really did value same-gender love. Within the Bible, sometimes between the lines, you find that truth.

    For those who have been marginalized, it means a great deal.

  7. One of the things that it is very difficult for nice middle class people to accept is that most humans throughout history have not had their own rooms. Most people have lived in one or two roomed houses (huts or tents?) made out of mud bricks.

    Archeologically most houses dug up in Israel are a fairly standard two room house. This is from long before the time of Jesus but may have continued into the 1st Century as well.

    My point is that in most of the world throughout history when Mom and Dad had sex the kids heard it cause they were in the same room. If there happened to be enough light they saw it. It may have been the primary form of sex education through most of human history.

    Or consider the parable in which one man needs to borrow something from his neighbor at night and the neighbor responds "the door is locked and my children are in bed with me." If the kids are over 5 and someone announced that today the police and child welfare would show up immediately.

    My point isn't that the author's exegesis is necessarily wrong. Rather it is that we need to take into consideration the physical conditions and the mores of the culture. Examples: most probably the female disciples did not eat with the male disciples at the last supper because men and women didn't eat together in that culture. Also if you read the Exodus instructions from God about the Passover: "This is how you are to eat it: with your cloak tucked into your belt, your sandals on your feet and your staff in your hand. Eat it in haste; it is the LORD's Passover."

    Yet in Jesus' day the men are lying down. Why? Because that's the way free men ate in the culture at the time. I'm not sure if the Romans learned it from the Greeks or vice versa. And yes, men lay down two to a couch.

    Sociological studies of cultures (to the extent that we can get enough information to actually have any certainty) are vital in the understanding of any text or behavior.

    My favorite that hasn't been mentioned is that Abraham, while sending a slave off to get a wife for Isaac had the slave put his hand under Abraham's thigh. My best guess is that since the surrounding culture had fertility gods that Abraham took on a bit of culture and had the slave put his hand on Abraham's penis as a holy spot to swear an oath. And if it was a patriarchal culture (as it was) the likelihood that the male member would be considered (men being as we are) holy goes up dramatically. (LOL) I certainly can't prove this is true but it is my suspicion. Of course I could be wrong. We have way too little information about Middle Eastern culture at the time.

  8. @ Alan

    "I guess one of us gets rapturd and one of us gets to double his wardrobe. Win/win!"

    Better choose partners based on size then! It would be a real tragedy if the one left behind wore a size 40 waist pair of pants and his partner wore a size 30! Get left behind AND you don't get to double your wardrobe?

  9. I stand corrected. Two room houses were a standard house for a poor family in Jesus' day. I'm still trying to find archeological evidence for earlier periods.

  10. Susan, a lot of arguments can be mounted against the clear meaning of the text. Much of the book is devoted to responding to objections. I also needed to discuss "The Same-Sex Triptich of Jesus" in the context of Luke.

    I found some striking evidence in support of my thesis. For example, Luke 17:35 says, "Two women shall be grinding together." In the Hebrew Bible, the word "grind" is used as a euphemism for sex no less than three times--not something you're going to hear about in Sunday School!

    But you're right. On the face of it, it's a no-brainer!

  11. Alan, the Rapture element is key. Basically, Jesus uses six gays and lesbians to teach a lesson on God's judgment.

    The point of the lesson on judgment is precisely that sexual orientation has no relation to how God measures people. Six homosexuals, three get raptured and three don't.

    If sexual orientation mattered to God in terms of our acceptability, then all six gays and lesbians would have been treated the same.

  12. It is interesting that Bob feels the need to look elsewhere for explanations for two men sleeping together.

    I wonder if it occurs to him that, even if sleeping space is at a premium, some of those men might be sleeping together because they *want* to, not because they *have* to.

    So in that respect, I'd agree with you John, when you write, "Of course it appears to be grasping. But certainly no more grasping than those who want to find passages in the Bible to prove that "God", Jesus, or the biblical vision is against same-gender love."

  13. @Alan

    Maybe I didn't make myself clear. I was not arguing against the author's exegesis. After all, I haven't read the book! I was rather observing that we all claim to know a lot about the culture of Jesus' day when in fact our sources are limited in part because authors from a particular time and culture don't tend to explain their cultural habits. They and their readers already know what their cultural habits are so there is no need to explain. The authors weren't writing for us.

    Rather I was pointing out that we exegetes unconsciously lay the grid of our culture over that of the New Testament and every other document from a different culture and time. Only if we are very careful do we admit that we know a whole lot less than we think we know. Crossan tries to overcome this by using sociological studies from modern Mediterranean peasants which is a very good move. He doesn't, in my opinion, take the effect of time and science into sufficient account. Even if a modern Mediterranean peasant doesn't have electricity in his/her/their house they know that there are places where you can walk into a room, flip a switch, and have lights go on. And we writers in the 21st century aren't going to explain about wires and light switches or many of our words. Who knew in the 1990s that texting would be an issue while driving or at any other time. We didn't even use the word then. When we use it now we assume everyone knows what we mean. But 20 years from now we may not text anymore. Right now my phone allows me to speak to it and it converts my words into text.

    I gave the change in position (and I suspect clothing and sticks) during Passover as an example that cultures change for reasons that we can guess but can't be sure we understand. The 1st Century Jews were willing to change their behavior in relation to the Torah! They were lying down and probably didn't have staffs in their hands or sandals on their feet (Here I'm stretching the John passage but the text really doesn't say whether the disciples had sandals on or not.) My example of the two roomed house was intended to say that American and European exegetes don't have a "feel" for the culture because we don't live that way and don't have enough information to comment definitively on it either. All we really know is that families probably tended to sleep together in the same room. I make this statement on the basis of the parable I mentioned.

    Therefore we all know a lot less than we claim to know. I proposed an explanation about why Abraham had the slave put his hand underneath Abraham's thigh but in actuality I have no clue why and know of no exegete that can argue that he/she can know definitively why. We aren't even sure when Abraham lived and some argue that he never existed and that the text was written during the exile.

    So the author makes an argument based on an apocalyptic passage. Traditional exegetes will laugh and simply say he is wrong. He may well be correct. But we need to watch ourselves when we say a passage definitely means this or that when we know too little about the culture to say.

    This of course may lead to a minimalist exegesis. At the very least I think we all need a lot more humility when we say the text means this or that.

    I'm saying that the author prompted me by an argument that I had never heard to think about our tendencies in exegesis are based on less than sufficient information not because I think he's wrong but rather because he may be right. At the end of the day we all need to say "I think that's what it means but I could be wrong."

  14. At the end of the day we all need to say "I think that's what it means but I could be wrong."

    That is gracious of you, Bob, and I would agree. But the folks you hang with and say you agree with definitely do not have that view when it comes to the "biblical definition of marriage" or "God's view of sexuality" or what not.

    Your ethic would seem to me to allow then for ordination and for marriage rights.

  15. "At the very least I think we all need a lot more humility when we say the text means this or that."

    No question. And leaving our biases at the door is a good place to start.

    For example, John cites several examples that have been used in the Bible to suggest that some folks depicted therein may have not been completely straight. While I certainly understand why people might search out such examples, I find the entire exercise to be flawed as it depends on the assumption that people are straight unless proven otherwise. That is, we tend to think based on those few limited examples, "See, here are a couple gay people in the Bible!"

    Those couple examples are almost certainly not the only gay people depicted in the Bible. The Bible is almost certainly populated with hundreds of gay people, just in the long genealogies in the OT alone.

    "At the end of the day we all need to say "I think that's what it means but I could be wrong."

    I find it interesting that this is a message you think is important to tell the posters here on this blog, when I've never ever seen you dare to say such a thing on other blogs when your friends routinely say "God says..." or "The Bible says..."

    Really Bob, when it comes to humility and Biblical interpretation, you're preaching to the choir here. But I can tell you some other folks who might need to hear that sermon daily, if you dared preach it.

  16. @Ronald,

    Welcome! Thanks for the comment and for the book! I just ordered it.

    Do I need to wait for the book or can you tell me the passages where grinding is a euphemism for sex?

  17. @ Alan

    You may remember that I wrote a blog post about that and you warned me that I was going to get in trouble.

    Also, like I said the post got me to thinking. I'm still thinking. Give me some time, OK? I'll let you know (and post it on my own blog) if I change my mind.


    I want to know about the grinding too and if it carries over from Hebrew to Greek.

  18. Job 31:10:

    "...then let my wife grind for another."

    Grind is same verb in Numbers 11:8 and Exodus 32:20. In the Job passage it is a euphemism for doing the nasty:

    "If my heart has been enticed by a woman, and I have lain in wait at my neighbor's door; then let my wife grind for another, and let other men kneel over her."


  19. I always thought that "grind" meant exactly that. Its what you do to wheat in order to make flower in order to eat. A woman's job, for centuries if not thousands of years. Something the women in the village do together.

    Two men sharing a bed are doing just that. Sleeping in the same bed. Been known to happen.

    Of course I am the guy who thinks arsenokoitai means "slouch". A man who spends all day in bed.

    Context. The Bible is not about sex. Any more than it is about cosmology and evolution.

  20. It does mean exactly that except when it doesn;t. The biblical writers were good with puns and double entrendre. When Ruth uncovers Boaz' feet what is she uncovering? My straight-laced Hebrew professors taught me that one.

    Sure the Bible writes about sex. A lot of it in fact. Some of it beautiful and some ugly. Charles Darwin's evolutionary theory would be unfamiliar as it wasn't going to be discovered for a couple of millenia. But they did have a cosmology. It just isn't ours.

    I think what I hear you saying, Jodie, is that the truth of the Bible is not its views on sexuality, cosmology, and so forth so we shouldn't obsess over the non-starters.

  21. "I think what I hear you saying, Jodie, is that the truth of the Bible is not its views on sexuality, cosmology, and so forth so we shouldn't obsess over the non-starters."

    Something like that, yes.

  22. Of course what is a non-starter for someone is a major thing for another.

    Regarding equality struggles, the fundies continually claim that there is absolutely nothing positive about gay people in the Bible, so Ron's book is providing an alternative.

    It always comes down to power. Always. Those with power in order to keep it deny that truth.

    What Ron is doing is important.

  23. The three O.T. usages of "grind" as a euphemism for sex are Job 31:10, Judges 16:21, and Lamentations 5:13.

    The Talmud says that the word "grind" in Job and Judges refers to sex. You can confirm that here:

    Lamentations 5:13 occurs during the conquest of Jerusalem, and refers to male rape. The Douay Rhiems captures the spirit of the verse with, "They abused the young men indecently: and the children fell under the wood."

    The statement, "they abused the young men indecently" is translated in most Protestant Bibles, "They took young men to grind."

    In Jesus' day "grind" was a polite euphemism for sex. I dug up contemporary usages in Latin (Horace) and Classical Greek (Plutarch), too.

    The Horace usage dates from about 30 BCE, and the Plutarch usage from AD 90. Plutarch used "grind" as a euphemism for sex, in Greek, at the same time Luke was writing his gospel.

  24. The context is a crucial part of the argument, and is really obvious, except that it's not. Hidden in plain sight, as it were.

    In Luke 17:28-32 we have critical details of the Sodom account: Lot, Sodom, fire and brimstone, and Lot's wife. Immediately following this we have two men in one bed, two women grinding together, and two men in the field. It's called context, and it looks like this.

    (vs 28) Lot
    (vs 29) Sodom
    (vs 29) fire and brimstone
    (vs 32) Lot's wife
    (vs 34) in that night
    (vs 34) two men in one bed
    (vs 35) two women grinding together
    (vs 36) two men in the field

    I call this "Lukes Gay Apocalypse."

    There's nothing like it in the other synoptics. It is Luke's carefully crafted creation.