If you’ve ever been involved in a debate about homosexuality and the Bible, chances are you’ve probably heard the claim that Jesus never said anything about the issue. What’s implied in this claim is that unless Jesus specifically mentions a topic, we can’t really know what his position on the subject may be. Who can say, with any degree of certainty, that Jesus considered homosexual practices sinful if he never said so himself?
There are a number of things wrong with this line of argument. The most obvious issue is the fact that there are many matters Jesus did not specifically mention, such as rape and incest. Are we really left in doubt as to whether or not Jesus considered these things sinful?
Search the Gospels and take note of how many times Jesus uses the term ‘idolatry.’ You will not find a single occurrence, and yet the sinfulness of idolatry was a major aspect of Jesus’ teaching.
Similarly, the Apostle Paul makes no mention of the virgin birth. Should we then conclude that Paul’s silence is an indication of doubt, disbelief, or outright rejection? Of course not. Just because Jesus (or Paul) never directly mentions a particular issue, it does not mean that they were apathetic towards or approving of that issue.
As Dr Voddie Baucham has said, “If our new Christian ethic is ‘only if Jesus talked about it specifically,’ then homosexuality is the least of our problems.”
But the question remains: Was Jesus really silent on the issue? Is it true that Jesus never said anything about homosexuality? Although Jesus does not specifically use the word “homosexuality,” it’s imperative to understand that the failure to use a term does not indicate a failure to teach on a topic. After all, you won’t find the word “Trinity” in the Bible, and yet Christians have embraced it as biblically orthodox for two millennia.
So, why is it a myth that Jesus never said anything about homosexuality? Here are four reasons why:
1. Jesus is the God of the Old Testament.
Although Jesus’ birth takes place in the New Testament, we cannot divorce Him from the rest of the Scriptures. Modern Bibles often place Jesus’ words in red letters. This can sometimes lead people to incorrectly assume that Jesus words are more important than the rest of the Bible. This is not the case. The Apostle Paul tells us that “all Scripture is breathed out by God” (2 Tim. 3:16). All the red letters, and all the black letters.
The Bible is God’s Word, and we cannot disconnect Jesus from that Word. This includes the Old Testament. Why? Because Christians affirm the Trinity. That is to say, Jesus is a member of the Godhead. As Dr Baucham put it, “Jesus existed eternally in perfect union with the Father and the Spirit, which means, when rocks and fire and brimstone were coming down on Sodom and Gomorrah, Jesus was not absent, nor was He in disagreement.”
What the God of the Old Testament believes is what the God of the New Testament believes, because they are the same. “Jesus Christ is the same yesterday and today and forever” (Heb. 13:8).
2. Jesus affirms the authority of the Old Testament.
Throughout the Gospels, every time that Jesus appealed to the divine origin and authority of the Old Testament, He was affirming the divine origin and authority of what the Old Testament said. In other words, when Jesus referred to the Old Testament as the unbreakable word and commandment of God, He was, in fact, attesting to the truthfulness of everything contained within (Jn. 10:35; Matt. 5:18; 15:3; Mk. 7:13).
What this means is that every time Jesus affirmed the authority and truth of the Old Testament, he affirmed everything the Old Testament had to say about homosexuality. Hence, we see that at various times, Jesus referred to the Sodom episode knowing full well what it was all about (Matt. 10:14-16; 11:23-25; Lk. 10:11-13; 17:28-32).
3. Jesus said the only appropriate context for sex is marriage.
Jesus may not have used the term “homosexuality,” but he certainly was not silent on the issue of sexual immorality. In fact, Jesus explicitly rejects all forms of sexual immorality by using the categorical term porneia. At the time, the word porneia, and the concept of sexual immorality did not exist in a vacuum, devoid of meaning and with no obvious attachment to any sexual practice in particular.
For Jesus, and his listeners, the word had a clear definition, and that definition was derived from the Old Testament—in particular, the porneia code in Leviticus 18. To put it simply, porneia is “every kind of extramarital, unlawful, unnatural sexual intercourse.”
So, if we find that Jesus has explicitly prohibited porneia, and if porneia includes homosexuality, then we have a strong statement by Jesus on the issue.
Jesus condemned porneia because sex has a proper context. For Jesus, every expression of sex outside of that proper context falls into the category of “sexual immorality” or porneia. So, what is the appropriate context for sex, according to Jesus? Marriage.
4. Jesus’ definition of marriage is limited to man and woman.
In Matthew 19:5, Jesus grounds his definition of marriage in creation. Quoting from Genesis 2, Jesus outlines God’s original intention in marriage: “A man shall leave his father and his mother and hold fast to his wife, and the two shall become one flesh.”
According to Jesus, marriage is defined as the union of man and woman. What this means is that unless there is both a man and a woman involved, there is no marriage. Jesus’ own words simply won’t allow for it.
So, where does that leave us? If marriage is the only appropriate context for sex, and according to Jesus’ own definition, same-sex couples cannot qualify for marriage, then every other form of sex falls under the prohibited category of porneia. In other words, Jesus’ words disqualify any other context for sex, apart from the union of one man and one woman. Note this also equally rules out premarital sex between heterosexual couples.
In sum, Jesus is the God of the Old Testament. Jesus affirmed all the Old Testament as God’s authoritative Word. Jesus rejects sexual immorality as defined by the Law. Jesus defines marriage as the exclusive union of one man and one woman.
So, did Jesus ever say anything about homosexuality? You decide.