Two biblical experts — a theologian and a megachurch pastor — are dismissing a claim in a recent Gawker article that Jesus' comments in Matthew 19:11-12 likely address the fact that there weren't exclusively "binary gender systems in place" during Christ's time on Earth.
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"The words and concepts for transgender individuals don’t exactly appear in the Bible," Jennifer C. Martin wrote for Gawker. "While many fundamentalists take this to mean that God intended all people to be cisgender and heterosexual, that does not mean that there were only binary gender systems in place. In fact, in Matthew 19:11-12, Jesus addresses the subject directly."
Martin went on to argue that she believes Jesus was aware of people during his ministry who didn't identify by their biological sex and that he "encouraged those individuals to live in the way they felt most comfortable for the sake of the kingdom of heaven."
But two biblical experts who TheBlaze spoke with this week refuted this interpretation.
The verses in question read, "Jesus replied, 'Not everyone can accept this word, but only those to whom it has been given. For there are eunuchs who were born that way, and there are eunuchs who have been made eunuchs by others — and there are those who choose to live like eunuchs for the sake of the kingdom of heaven. The one who can accept this should accept it.'"
Author and theologian R.P. Nettelhorst said that the term "eunuch" in Bible times referred to "a man who had been castrated," and that he believes applying these New Testament verses to transgender issues is "a bit of a stretch."
A megachurch pastor, who asked not to be named, added further insight, noting that the preceding verses before 11 and 12 in Matthew 19 cover Jesus' views on marriage and divorce, stressing unfaithfulness as the only viable reason for ending marriage.
"[Jesus] is answering and responding to the idea of marriage, divorce, and whether singleness is better than marriage," the pastor said. "Jesus gives us different categories for 'people who are single vs married."
These scenarios, he said, in verses 11 and 12 had nothing at all to do with gender. Here are the three scenarios he presented:
- Eunuchs who were born this way: They are not married, because they are born with a physical reason they can't have sex, etc.
- Eunuchs who were mutilated by Rome, by brutality, etc., and aren't able to be married and enjoy sexual relations
- Others are "spiritual" eunuchs: Those who choose singleness, so they can better be faithful and serve God
In specifically assessing Martin's claim that Matthew 19:11-12 might be addressing gender issues, the pastor said that it is a classic example of taking scripture "out of context."
Nettelhorst added, though, that just because he believes Martin is wrong in her assessment of these scripture references doesn't mean that Christians should mistreat people who are gay or transgendered.
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"Just because Jesus’ words in Matthew 19:11-12 have little or nothing to do with the transgendered — and just because the author of the Gawker hit piece suffers from extreme self-righteousness, limited understanding of the biblical materials, and suffers from a maddening tendency to always assume the worst possible interpretation of someone’s words — doesn’t mean that the transgendered or gay should be hated," he said.
Nettelhorst stressed the importance of loving both God and others, condemning those who express hate toward members of these communities.
Martin certainly isn't the first person to question whether Matthew 19:11-12 is speaking about transgender issues, though that interpretation is heavily disputed. Conservative commentator and Blaze contributor Matt Walsh, who Martin was responding to when she wrote her original piece on the matter, responded with a similar sentiment in an open letter addressed to her on Thursday.
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