Thursday, August 7, 2008

Jesus Said It #01: He that is able to receive it, let him receive it.

This is the first post in the series: "Jesus Said It." In this series, I'm going to look into some of the things that Jesus taught, then I'm going to investigate the implications of his teachings. I'm limiting myself to the four gospels, and the Book of Revelations. I am including Revelations, because many Red Letter Bibles attribute Jesus as the speaker of many of the verses in that book.

This weeks passage comes from The Gospel of Matthew.
For there are some eunuchs, which were so born from their mother's womb: and there are some eunuchs, which were made eunuchs of men: and there be eunuchs, which have made themselves eunuchs for the kingdom of heaven's sake. He that is able to receive it, let him receive it. Matthew 19:12

I paraphrased this verse thus.
Some men are born without testes. Some men lose thier testes at the hands of other men. But, some men castrate themselves so that they can go to heaven. If you feel you should do this, do it.

The last phrase of this, "He that is able to receive it, let him receive it," has been misused many times by ministers to mean the Baptism of the Holy Spirit. As far as I know, this is the only place in The Bible that this phrase appears. Jesus is clearly not talking about the Holy Spirit here.

The three verses before this put the meaning in better context.
And I say unto you, Whosoever shall put away his wife, except it be for fornication, and shall marry another, committeth adultery: and whoso marrieth her which is put away doth commit adultery. His disciples say unto him, If the case of the man be so with his wife, it is not good to marry. But he said unto them, All men cannot receive this saying, save they to whom it is given. Matthew 19:9-11

Jesus may not be talking about a literal castration. The meaning of "eunuchs" here may be closer to "celebate men" than to gelding. Apologetic websites certainly claim this to be so. I'm sure that most Christians would agree. However, Jesus makes a point of mentioning those who are born without testes and men who are castrated, so assuming that Jesus is talking about men who purposefully castrate themselves is in line with the natural reading of this verse.

Of course, there are several examples of men who have mutilated themselves after reading this verse. Boston Corbett was the man who shot the man who killed Abraham Lincoln. He read this verse and took it literally. He was tempted by prostitutes, so he cut his genitals off with a pair of scissors. Immediately afterwards, he went to church, then went to the doctor after church, because the bleeding wouldn't stop. Origen was an early Christian leader who reportedly castrated himself as well.

Castration is also practised by cults, to keep the men in line. Heaven's Gate is probably the best example of this. Skoptism is another example.

This verse also demonstrates that sexuality was seen as something bad or dirty by Jesus. That it was a sin to even think about sex (Matthew 5:28). So, to avoid thinking about or having sex, castration may be an alternative (according to Jesus).

I do not believe that sexuality is a sin. Of course there are moral responsibilities. There is no excuse for cheating on your spouse (IMO). Sexual abuse is disgusting to me. It ruins the lives of many children. However, one should not feel guilty about the sexual experiences of early adulthood. As humans we have a sex drive. It is especially strong in a young adult. Looking back, I'm glad I wasn't very promiscuous. But, I'm not ashamed of the few experiences I had. I am mostly glad that I didn't take this verse literally.


More Christ Like said...

Leslie McFall has an interesting way to deal with the so-called exception clause in Matthew 19:9 that appears to allow for divorce and remarriage for marriage unfaithfulness.
He has written a 43 page paper that reviews the changes in the Greek made by Erasmus that effect the way Matthew 19:9 has been translated. I reviewed McFall's paper at Except For Fornication Clause of Matthew 19:9. I would love to hear some feedback on this position.

Robert Madewell said...

Thanks for commenting on my blog. Sorry, I didn’t see it until today.

The fornication clause has always been interesting to me. Mainly because, fornication and adultery are two different things in the bible. Keep in mind that Jesus is talking to the male gender. There is no recourse for a woman to divorce an unfaithful husband. Jesus was talking about a husband divorcing his wife because she fornicated.

Jesus specifically said fornication. It’s evident in your greek reference that fornication and adultery are two different words even in greek. I know for a fact that it’s the case in hebrew as well. So, what’s the difference between fornication and adultery? Adultery is when a married woman has sex with any man. It’s also adultery when any man has sex with a married woman. Fornication is when an unmarried woman has sex with any man (married or not). Also, when a man (married or not) has sex with an unmarried woman. Do you detect a bit of misogyny here? I do.

When Jesus said ‘except for fornication’ he wasn’t talking about the wife (a married woman) having sex with some guy other than her husband. In that case it would have been called adultery, not fornication. The husband wouldn’t have to divorce the wife in that case, because she’d be dead (stoned to death). What Jesus meant (IMO) is that the wife was not a virgin at the time of her wedding. In that case, divorce is ok according to Jesus.

I could be totally wrong, but I don’t think so.

I deal with that subject here also.