LGBTQ + Rights And The Birth Of Christianity
LGBTQ + Rights And The Birth Of Christianity
(Remembering The Work Of Bishop John Shelby Spong)
One of the great challenges to Conservative Christianity, along with the problem of horrendous human and animal suffering, is the LGBTQ+ question. The problem is simple:
1. 1 LGBTQ+ is not a choice, like heterosexuality is not a choice
2. 2 Love and sexuality is one of the most important dimensions of a human being
3. 3 If LGBTQ relationships are an abomination to God, then God is Evil
We are going to see how a revaluation of values allows us to follow Jesus’ philosophy of Agape toward a birthing of LGBTQ+ rights in the Judeo Christian tradition
One of the most important ideas of Christ, according to Nietzsche, is not only having a value of the entity (in Achilles case, searching for glory), but Christ creatively bestowed value. Hence, Matthew says:
43 “You have heard that it was said, ‘You shall love your neighbor and hate your enemy.’ 44 But I say to you, Love your enemies and pray for those who persecute you, 45 so that you may be children of your Father in heaven; for he makes his sun rise on the evil and on the good, and sends rain on the righteous and on the unrighteous. 46 For if you love those who love you, what reward do you have? Do not even the tax collectors do the same? 47 And if you greet only your brothers and sisters, what more are you doing than others? Do not even the Gentiles do the same? 48 Be perfect, therefore, as your heavenly Father is perfect. (Matthew 5:43-48)
Then Jesus said, “Father, forgive them; for they do not know what they are doing.” (Luke 23:34)
In order to think this, let’s consider John Shelby Spong’s analysis of Paul’s sexuality, for surely Paul’s words on equality don’t fit with some seemingly homophobic claims. Spong begins that
Paul’s Secret Thorn:
Have you ever wondered what Paul’s deepest secret was? Surely he had one. If you listen to his words, an agony of spirit is easily recognized, perhaps even a deep strain of self-hatred. How else can we read these words: “I was once alive apart from the law, but when the commandment came, sin revived and I died. The very commandment which promised life proved to be death to me” (Rom. 7:9–10). He goes on to say of himself, “I am carnal, sold under sin. I do not understand my own actions. For I do not do what I want, but I do the very thing that I hate” (Rom. 7:14–15). Having thus indicted himself, he offers a rather self-serving explanation, which is little more than a feeble attempt at exoneration. “It is no longer I that do it,” he says, seeking a satisfying explanation, “but sin that dwells in me” (Rom. 7:20). Don’t blame me, he is arguing; blame sin! It is like saying, “It’s not my fault; the devil made me do it!”
Spong, John Shelby. Re-Claiming The Bible For A Non-Religious World (p. 235). HarperCollins Publishers. Kindle Edition.
What lies behind this? Spong continues that:
Next Paul offers what might be a clue: “Nothing good dwells within me, that is, in my flesh” (Rom. 7:18). What do you suppose it is that tortures Paul? It is clearly something inside him. Once Paul spoke of “fighting without and fear within” (II Cor. 7:5), but while he described the external threats, he never identified the “fear within.” Now he seems to locate that fear “in my flesh,” and clearly he believes that this fear has power over him to the point that he feels powerless against it. “I can will what is right,” he laments, “but I cannot do it” (Rom. 7:18). Once more he tries to find something outside himself to blame and so he repeats his previous idea: “If I do what I do not want [to do], it is no longer I that do it, but sin that dwells within me” (Rom. 7:20). Still writing introspectively he states, “I see in my members another law at war with the law of my mind and making me captive to the law of sin, which dwells in my members” (Rom. 7:23). The word translated as “member” is a strange word, at least as Paul uses it. The Greek word for “member” is melos, which literally means “bodily appendage”—like an arm or a leg. How could sin dwell in one’s arms and legs? How could one’s arms and legs be in warfare against one’s mind? Males, however, have another appendage, called euphemistically “the male organ.” While being an appendage, it is also a gland that does not always obey the mind of the person to whom it belongs. This gland is stimulated on some occasions when it is quite inconvenient. On other occasions, it is not stimulated when one desires it to be. If that were not so, there would be no market for Viagra or Cialis! Since Paul is constantly suggesting that evil, or sin, dwells in his flesh, can we not conclude that whatever disturbs him so deeply is somehow connected to his sexuality? It seems apparent that such a connection is real, for he concludes this series of self-accusatory phrases with an outburst that demands some explanation: “Wretched man that I am, who will deliver me from this body of death?” (Rom. 7:34, italics added). Elsewhere in Paul’s epistles he says, “What return did you get for the things of which you are now ashamed? The end of those things is death” (Rom. 6:21). Paul seems to feel that his life is lived under the sentence of death. He has a deep-seated sense of shame. Paul also reveals that he has a hidden aspect to his life. He calls himself an imposter “who yearns to be” true, one who is “unknown,” and one who “though dying yearns to be alive” (II Cor. 6:8–10).
Spong, John Shelby. Re-Claiming The Bible For A Non-Religious World (p. 236). HarperCollins Publishers. Kindle Edition.
Spong further interprets Paul’s suggestion to remain single,
Another autobiographical detail appears in his epistles when Paul counsels those who are not married “to remain as I am”—that is, single (I Cor. 7:8). So we know that Paul was not married. He also counseled those who could not control their sexual desires to marry, since as he stated, “It is better to marry than to be aflame with passion” (I Cor. 7:9). Paul, however, never sought to alleviate his internal pressures by following his own advice. Paul actually seemed to have negativity toward women. Women do not like him to this day, especially women priests. He warned his readers against even touching a woman, yet he seemed to have a peculiar attraction for a woman’s hair, about which he made overt references (I Cor. 11:6, 14, 15).
Spong, John Shelby. Re-Claiming The Bible For A Non-Religious World (pp. 237-238). HarperCollins Publishers. Kindle Edition.
How deeply did Paul’s thorn go? Spong suggests
Paul also shared with his readers that he possessed a “thorn in his flesh,” which he never defined, but which he prayed for God to take away (II Cor. 12:7–9). It appears that the removal of this thorn was beyond God’s power, which meant that it was a given and not the result of Paul’s doing. It was of Paul’s very being. There is finally one other revealing passage in the Pauline corpus that, for me, pulls this investigation together. In the first chapter of Romans, a text frequently cited to uphold the deep prejudice in the Christian church against homosexuality, Paul suggests that homosexuality is actually a punishment inflicted by God on those who do not worship God properly (1:21–27). In other words, Paul argues that God, as a punishment for not paying attention to the intimate details of worship, confuses human sexuality so that men are attracted to men and women to women. It was and is a strange argument, but one perhaps understandable to a religious person who feels driven to obey every jot and tittle of the law.
Spong, John Shelby. Re-Claiming The Bible For A Non-Religious World (p. 238). HarperCollins Publishers. Kindle Edition.
Rounding up the argument, Spong suggests
Paul was a zealot who tried with all his might to worship God properly. He bound the desires that he found natural within himself, but nonetheless deeply troubling and intensely negative, so tightly inside the laws of the Jews that he was able, at least partially, to suppress those desires. This was the internal pressure that caused Paul to view his body quite negatively. The promise of death, said the Torah, was the end result of the sin that Paul appears to have felt sure lived in his uncontrollable “member.” … Was his thorn in the flesh his deeply repressed homosexuality? Other theories have been offered: malaria, epilepsy, a chronic eye disease, diabetes, perhaps even an abusive and distorting childhood sexual experience. None, however, fits the details we know of Paul’s life so totally as the suggestion that he was a gay man.
Spong, John Shelby. Re-Claiming The Bible For A Non-Religious World (p. 240). HarperCollins Publishers. Kindle Edition.
Unfolding this, there have been interesting studies in recent years offering the possibility that Paul’s epistles inspired the gospels. Considering this, if a repressed homosexual theme in Paul was a pattern that shaped the portrayal of Jesus, it actually makes sense of a lot of odd passages, such as the one where Jesus recommends castrating yourself. For instance, if Jesus was secretly understood as a gay man struggling against his own inclinations, it would make sense of the following passage:
12 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.” (Matthew 19:12)
Moreover, why would Jesus put such puritanical restrictions on marriage/divorce, but then trivialize marriage by arguing that people neither marry nor are given in marriage at the resurrection, but people are rather like angels in heaven? It’ almost as if he was unconsciously making heterosexual marriage an unpleasant burden to enter into. Jesus certainly saw marriage as an institution created by God, but there are some oddities in his approach. Moreover, why is Jesus so callous to the family unit:
Jesus in Luke says: 26 “Whoever comes to me and does not hate father and mother, wife and children, brothers and sisters, yes, and even life itself, cannot be my disciple (Luke 14:26).
Similarly, Matthew says
34 “Do not think that I have come to bring peace to the earth; I have not come to bring peace, but a sword.
35 For I have come to set a man against his father,
and a daughter against her mother,
and a daughter-in-law against her mother-in-law;
36 and one’s foes will be members of one’s own household.
37 Whoever loves father or mother more than me is not worthy of me; and whoever loves son or daughter more than me is not worthy of me; 38 and whoever does not take up the cross and follow me is not worthy of me. 39 Those who find their life will lose it, and those who lose their life for my sake will find it. (Matthew 10:34-39).
Jesus seems to deify in purity the marriage unit and trivialize it at the same time, like Paul demonizing homosexuality while being powerfully pulled in that direction.
Two key pieces of evidence that have been traditionally used to argue for Jesus’ homosexuality is the naked young man in Mark, who later appears in Jesus’ tomb fully clothed. The argument is that it is symbolic of pederasty. I don’t think that’s exactly right, but rather to outsiders who saw Jesus and his followers traveling around with these young men they thought it was sexual, but it was not. Matthew and Luke use a similar rhetorical device having outsiders calling Jesus a glutton and a drunk. The young man is perceived as guilty as the naked Adam, but after the cross he is seen righteously clothed in God’s eyes. The evil in pederasty is not the young man’s homosexual desires, but the way the older partner is using them for their beauty and youth. An outsider may blame the youth, but this would be like blaming an assault victim for dressing too provocatively. I don’t believe Paul or Jesus ever acted on their bi/homosexuality, but Mark seems to present a seed where a philosophical distinction being made between homosexuality as such being wrong, vs certain kinds of homosexuality being wrong (pederasty).
The other key piece of evidence is the disciple who Jesus loved portrayed in The Gospel of John. The Gospel of John makes references to the disciple whom Jesus loved (John 13:23, 19:26, 21:7–20), a phrase which does not occur in the Synoptic Gospels. In the text, this beloved disciple is present at the crucifixion of Jesus, with Jesus' mother, Mary.
Writer and theologian Robert Gagnon has argued that the Greek word translated as "loved" is agape (used, for example, in John 3:16; "for God so loved the world"), rather than the Greek word referring to sexual love, eros. On the other hand, Theodore W. Jennings Jr. notes that "eros does not occur either in the New Testament or in the Septuagint" and that these use agape to refer to "the love of a husband for his wife or even to the illicit loves of inordinate desire", including throughout the Song of Solomon. See https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Sexuality_of_Jesus
I think the symbolism here is the same: Jesus had a male companion he would very much like to be in a romantic relationship with, but couldn’t.
The relationship between Christ and John was certainly interpreted by some as being of a physical erotic nature as early as the 16th century (albeit in a heretical context) - documented, for example, in the trial for blasphemy of Christopher Marlowe, who was accused of claiming that "St. John the Evangelist was bedfellow to Christ and leaned always in his bosom, that he used him as the sinners of Sodoma". In accusing Marlowe of the "sinful nature" of homosexual acts, James I of England inevitably invited comparisons to his own erotic relationship with the Duke of Buckingham which he also compared to that of the Beloved Disciple. Finally, Francesco Calcagno, a friar of Venice faced trial and was executed in 1550 for claiming that "St. John was Christ's catamite". See https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Disciple_whom_Jesus_loved
The gospel of Mark ends with the angelically clothed young man, the longer ending not original to the gospel. Some scholars suppose there originally was a longer ending that was lost, since the post mortem Jesus appearance accounts we’ve known since before Paul’s time. I think, to the contrary, the time of Jesus’s predicted apocalypse/end of the age that Jesus prophesied had come and gone, and so perhaps needed to be reinterpreted to be in the future. If that’s the case, maybe Mark has in mind a future where people won’t be judged negatively for their homosexuality, since like the young homosexual/bisexual man they are fully clothed in God’s eyes. But the youth is innocent since the older person is abusing a place of power and authority in the same way it would be wrong for a high school or university teacher to sleep with his student. Imagine what a horrific day of judgment it would have been for the ancient pagans if God really thought homosexuality was an abomination! So the question of homosexuality was even greater in a supposed imminent end of age context.
ACHILLES AND PATROCLUS
Achilles and Patroclus were represented as homosexual lovers as early as Aeschylus and then Plato. Like Jesus and John undergoing humiliating deaths, I am reminded of the humiliating death at the hands of Achilles.
In Plato's Symposium, written c. 385 BC, the speaker Phaedrus holds up Achilles and Patroclus as an example of divinely approved lovers. Phaedrus argues that Aeschylus erred in claiming Achilles was the erastes because Achilles was more beautiful and youthful than Patroclus (characteristics of the eromenos) as well as more noble and skilled in battle (characteristics of the erastes). Instead, Phaedrus suggests that Achilles is the eromenos whose reverence of his erastes, Patroclus, was so great that he would be willing to die to avenge him. See https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Achilles_and_Patroclus
Just as Achilles avenged Patroclus, Jesus can be seen like avenging John the Baptist by defeating sin that lay behind the guilt of incestuous Herod. Just as the self-hating gay Paul raged against homosexuality, Jesus turns marriage into a puritan trap which he had no interest of with a woman for himself. And, recall the erotic scene where the woman washes Jesus’ feet with her hair, which isn’t erotic at all because Jesus has no erotic interest in women.
What is fascinating about Achilles is that at a certain point he seems to renounce the honor system of his culture and adopt an ethic of individual human worth and dignity. Markos comments that
This is not something Achilles believes, or at least it is not something he believed in the past. If taken to its extreme, a statement like this could fracture the very foundation of the meeds of honor system. If honor is the same for the brave man as for the weakling, then why fight? Why accumulate meeds of honor if all possess the same honor regardless of their deeds or of their courage? Does Achilles realize what he is saying? Yet he does not stop here. Later in the meeting, he boldly-and, from the point of view of his microcosm, nonsensically-exclaims:
“For not worth the value of my life are all the possessions they fable were won for Ilion, that strong-founded citadel, in the old days when there was peace, before the coming of the sons of the Achaians. (1X.400-403)”
We cannot, Achilles seems to be saying, put a price tag on a human life. Yes, we agree from our modern vantage point, of course this is true-forgetting getting that it was most certainly not true in Achilles' day.
But there is more. In answer to Phoinix's warning that if he does not take the gifts, his honor will be lessened, Achilles replies:
“Phoinix my father, aged, illustrious, such honour is a thing I need not. I think I am honoured already in Zeus' ordinance which will hold me here beside my curved ships as long as life's wind stays in my breast, as long as my knees have their spring beneath me. (IX.607-10)”
Louis Markos. From Achilles to Christ: Why Christians Should Read the Pagan Classics (Kindle Locations 740-741). Kindle Edition.
Consider what this means:
We cannot, Achilles seems to be saying, put a price tag on a human life. Yes, we agree from our modern vantage point, of course this is true-forgetting getting that it was most certainly not true in Achilles' day.
Louis Markos. From Achilles to Christ: Why Christians Should Read the Pagan Classics (Kindle Locations 735-736). Kindle Edition.
It is perhaps here, in the temporary position of human dignity, that we see the possibility of a greater future. Markos comments that
Are we listening here to a first-century Christian or to a mighty warrior who has killed a thousand men and watched his honor grow with the accumulation cumulation of each new trophy? Achilles should not be saying these things; he should not even be thinking them. If it is true that we all have honor and worth merely because we are alive, then the whole heroic code and the meeds of honor system on which it rests is an illusion, a will-o'-the-wisp. Achilles has no name for the new ethic he is tentatively proposing, but I like to call it the fellowship of life.
Louis Markos. From Achilles to Christ: Why Christians Should Read the Pagan Classics (Kindle Locations 741-744). Kindle Edition.
But tragedy looms. Instead of an Achilles who will be the inception for a world of universal human rights, everything falls apart:
Instead of fighting himself, Achilles agrees to let his best friend, Patroclus, wear his armor and fight in his place. As if possessed by the very spirit of Achilles, Patroclus turns the tide of battle against the terrified Trojans and almost takes the city single-handedly, but despite the armor, he is no Achilles. Before the wall of Troy, he meets and is killed by Hektor. When the news reaches Achilles, he is filled with rage and returns to the battlefield, no longer a man concerned with the innate dignity of every human man being, but a murderous animal intent on wholesale slaughter. As for his new ethic, his fellowship of life, Achilles rejects it completely, blaming it for the death of his beloved friend. And so is lost to the world an idea-that that life has intrinsic value apart from one's status or accomplishments-that that could have revolutionized the ancient world. Hektor's pleas avail him nothing. Once Achilles kills him, he strips his body naked, ties the heels of the corpse to his chariot, and drags it round and round the walls of Troy. It is a terrible act, one that stuns even the gods into silence. It is made even more horrible by the fact that Hektor's family is forced to watch this pitiless display from their vantage point on the watchtower.
Louis Markos. From Achilles to Christ: Why Christians Should Read the Pagan Classics (Kindle Locations 821-823). Kindle Edition.
We see the humiliating death of decapitated John the Baptist in contrast to that of Hektor, and again to the humiliating death of Jesus. Just as Achilles is the story of a tragic reaction to the death of Patroclus, forgetting his world transforming message, Jesus was even more empowered by the death of the baptizer to realize God’s plan and destroy the root cause: sin.
ORESTES AND PYLADES
If the life of john the Baptist and Jesus has been shaped in the story in the form of Elijah and Elisha, the death of the baptizer also reflects pagan imagery. So Spong points out Mark says “The beginning of the gospel of Jesus Christ ; as it is written in the prophets.” Mark immediately interprets John the Baptist as a forerunner of the Messiah (a la Elijah in II Kings 1:8). Mark then clothes John similar to Elijah (Mark 1:6. II Kings 1:8.) He then says John ate locusts and wild honey, the food of the wilderness in which Elijah lived (and so on and so on). In a peer reviewed article Price points out in view of parallels elsewhere between John and Jesus on the one hand and Elijah and Elisha on the other, some (Miller, p. 48) also see in the Jordan baptism and the endowment with the spirit a repetition of 2 Kings 2, where, near the Jordan, Elijah bequeaths a double portion of his own miracle-working spirit to Elisha, who henceforth functions as his successor and superior. Regarding the Baptizers death, Price writes,
Usually scholars allow some core of historical reporting to underlie the story of the Baptizer’s death (though any reading of Mark must be harmonized with some difficulty with Josephus), recognizing just a bit of biblical embellishment to the narrative. For instance, it is apparent to all that Herod Antipas’ words to his step-daughter, “Whatever you ask of me I will give it to you, up to half my kingdom,” comes from Esther 5:3. Herod’s painting himself into the corner of having to order the execution of his favorite prophet may come from Darius’ bamboozlement in the case of Daniel (Daniel 6:6-15) (Miller, p. 178). But it is possible that the whole tale comes from literary sources.
MacDonald (pp. 80-81, 176) shows how the story of John’s martyrdom matches in all essentials the Odyssey’s story of the murder of Agamemnon (3:254-308: 4:512-547; 11:404-434), even to the point that both are told in the form of an analepsis or flashback. Herodias, like Queen Clytemnestra, left her husband, preferring his cousin: Antipas in the one case, Aegisthus in the other. This tryst was threatened, in Clytemnestra’s case, by the return of her husband from the Trojan War, in Herodias’, by the denunciations of John. In both cases, the wicked adulteress plots the death of the nuisance. Aegisthus hosted a banquet to celebrate Agamemnon’s return, just as Herod hosted a feast. During the festivities Agamemnon is slain, sprawling amid the dinner plates, and the Baptizer is beheaded, his head displayed on a serving platter. Homer foreshadows danger awaiting the returning Odysseus with the story of Agamemnon’s murder, while Mark anticipates Jesus’ own martyrdom with that of John. The only outstanding difference, of course, is that in Mark’s version, the role of Agamemnon has been split between Herodias’ rightful husband (Philip according to Mark; another Herod according to Josephus) and John the Baptizer.
So, the supposed great holy man John suffers a humiliating death, like Jesus in Mark. If the vicarious penal substitution interpretation of the cross is right, which I don't think it is, why would John's death not serve just as well as Jesus to pay the sin debt? Was John not holy enough? Rather, we clearly, we have 2 humiliating deaths of great prophets, but only Jesus is understood as suffering horrifically on purpose to get people to realize their hidden vileness and repent, making possible fair judgment by God at the end of the age. This interpretation is not the standard conservative Christian reading of Mark, but fits in exactly with the more common reading of Luke. Hence, Ehrman says:
It is easy to see Luke’s own distinctive view by considering what he has to say in the book of Acts, where the apostles give a number of speeches in order to convert others to the faith. What is striking is that in none of these instances (look, e.g., in chapters 3, 4, 13), do the apostles indicate that Jesus’ death brings atonement for sins. It is not that Jesus’ death is unimportant. It’s extremely important for Luke. But not as an atonement. Instead, Jesus death is what makes people realize their guilt before God (since he died even though he was innocent). Once people recognize their guilt, they turn to God in repentance, and then he forgives their sins.
Jesus’ death for Luke, in other words, drives people to repentance, and it is this repentance that brings salvation. see https://ehrmanblog.org/did-luke-have-a-doctrine-of-the-atonement-mailbag-september-24-2017/
In Greek understanding, everything turns in the distinction between physis kryptesthai philei (being loves to hide) and aletheia (un-hidden/dis-closed). For instance, the high point in the Oedipus drama comes when it is dis-closed to Oedipus that he has fulfilled the prophesy and killed his father and married his mother. The way Jesus’ death dis-closes the hidden vileness of the crowd is thus a literary type. For example, Markos points out in Philoctetes:
Philoctetes has a dual effect on Neoptolemus that pulls him in two opposing directions. On the one hand, Philoctetes draws out depths of courage and integrity that Neoptolemus never knew he possessed; at one point, Philoctetes even allows the young man to hold the bow. On the other hand, as Hamlet does for his mother Gertrude, Philoctetes tetes turns the mirror upon this deceiver-in-training that he might see the depth of the villainy into which he has fallen. Neoptolemus is horrified. "All is disgust," he cries, "when one leaves his own nature / and does things that misfit it" (902-3). In the end Neoptolemus does steal the bow from Philoctetes, but then in a fit of remorse he returns it to him. His experiences, however, have matured him, and he prevents Philoctetes from using his bow to kill Odysseus. Instead he begs Philoctetes to come with him to Troy, where he may not only help the Greeks defeat their enemy but be healed of his wound by the sons of Asclepius. Though Neoptolemus speaks well in an ennobled rhetoric purged of the deceit of Odysseus, Philoctetes stubbornly refuses his request.
Louis Markos. From Achilles to Christ: Why Christians Should Read the Pagan Classics (Kindle Locations 1936-1940). Kindle Edition.
According to Greek myth, the conclusion of the story of the murder of Agamemnon explained above is the revenge of his son Orestes with the help of his close friends Pylades:
When he grew up, Orestes visited Delphi and asked the oracle of Apollo what he should do to avenge his father's murder. The oracle replied that Orestes must kill his mother and her lover. So Orestes and his friend Pylades went to Mycenae disguised as messengers, and they met secretly with Electra to plan the murders. Then with the help of Electra and Pylades, Orestes killed Aegisthus and Clytemnestra, despite her pleas that a son should not kill his own mother. In the version of the story told by Aeschylus, Orestes sought refuge from the Furies at Delphi, home of the oracle that had ordered him to avenge his father's death. Through the oracle, Apollo instructed Orestes to go to Athens and present his case to the Areopagus, an ancient court of elders. During the trial that followed, Orestes received the support of Apollo as well as that of the goddess Athena, who cast the deciding vote in his favor. The angry Furies were eventually calmed, and they stopped pursuing Orestes. As Aeschylus tells it, the punishment ended there, but according to Euripides, in order to escape the persecutions of the Erinyes, Orestes was ordered by Apollo to go to Tauris, carry off the statue of Artemis which had fallen from heaven, and to bring it to Athens. He went to Tauris with Pylades, and the pair were at once imprisoned by the people, among whom the custom was to sacrifice all Greek strangers to Artemis. The priestess of Artemis, whose duty it was to perform the sacrifice, was Orestes' sister Iphigenia. She offered to release him if he would carry home a letter from her to Greece; he refused to go, but bids Pylades to take the letter while he stays to be slain. After a conflict of mutual affection, Pylades at last yielded, but the letter brought about the recognition of brother and sister, and all three escaped together, carrying with them the image of Artemis. The relationship between Orestes and Pylades has been presented by some authors of the Roman era as romantic or homoerotic. A dialogue entitled Erotes ("Affairs of the Heart") and attributed to Lucian compares the merits and advantages of heterosexuality and homoeroticism, and Orestes and Pylades are presented as the principal representatives of homoerotic friendship. See: https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Pylades
Of interest here is that we have a culture of sacrifice where Orestes and Pylades are willing to die themselves for the other, but in a moment of recognition all go free. We similarly see John the Baptist willing to die for his holy righteous journey, as is Jesus willing to die for humanity. Like Jesus who was guilty in the eyes of man but righteous in the mind of God, messianic Orestes rightfully avenged his father, but was paradoxically guilty/not guilty of matricide:
Orestes appears also to be a dramatic prototype for all persons whose crime is mitigated by extenuating circumstances. These legends belong to an age when higher ideas of law and of social duty were being established; the implacable blood-feud of primitive society gives place to a fair trial, and in Athens, when the votes of the judges are evenly divided, mercy prevails. See http://www.hellenicaworld.com/Greece/Mythology/en/Orestes.html
We perhaps see an echo of Jesus desperately petitioning God for guidance in Gethsemane with Pylades counselling Orestes:
As an adult, Orestes returns to Mycenae/Argos to avenge the murder of Agamemnon. With the assistance of his friend Pylades, Orestes kills his mother Clytemnestra and her lover Aegisthus. While Pylades seems to be a very minor character, he is arguably the most vital piece of Orestes' plan to avenge his father. In The Libation Bearers, the second play of Aeschylus' trilogy The Oresteia, Pylades speaks only once. His lines come at the moment Orestes begins to falter and second-guess his decision to kill his mother. It is Pylades who convinces Orestes to follow through with his plan for revenge and carry out the murder. The significance of Pylades' lines has invited speculation into whether or not he might represent something more than human next to Orestes; he might play the role of divine encouragement or fate. See http://www.artandpopularculture.com/Pylades
It wasn’t homosexuality per se that was the problem, but pederastry, and apparently it was looked on like the boy was at fault, like some think women need to cover up so as to not arouse men’s desires. So in the eyes of society the naked young man in Mark was guilty as the naked Adam. But when the cross manifests our violence, we see pederasty is objectively wrong because youth aren’t capable of making such decisions and so we see the youth is innocent, no longer naked and angelically cloathed in the tomb. This image is consistent with the idea that Jesus was accused of being guilty of pederastry as other opponents accused him of being a glutton and a drunk (see Matthew 11:19, Luke 7:34). One commentator writes:
There are glories that survive amongst the literary remains of classical antiquity, but also shameful things, like the defense of paederasty offered by many eloquent voices. Some of these people made it clear that, in their opinion, only beardless youth could be loveable; in other words, the beloved would naturally age out of the relationship and require to be replaced.
But Lucian's advocate for homosexuality in the dialogue 'Amores' makes it clear he is envisioning a life-long relationship: ". . .worship Heavenly Love and keep your emotions constant from boyhood to old age." (Lucian, or pseudo-Lucian, Amores, Chapter 49).
For instance, Phaedrus in Plato's Symposium remarks:
For I know not any greater blessing to a young man who is beginning in life than a virtuous lover, or to a lover than a beloved youth. For the principle, I say, neither kindred, nor honor, nor wealth, nor any motive is able to implant so well as love. Of what am I speaking? Of the sense of honor and dishonor, without which neither states nor individuals ever do any good or great work… And if there were only some way of contriving that a state or an army should be made up of lovers and their loves, they would be the very best governors of their own city, abstaining from all dishonor and emulating one another in honor; and it is scarcely an exaggeration to say that when fighting at each other’s side, although a mere handful, they would overcome the world
That God raised Jesus from the dead vindicated him. He had not slept with the young boy and remained celibate. Analogously to the Jewish God, Zeus knows she is right, knows that he must allow low Sarpedon [his son] to die, but that knowledge does not lessen the pain of his grief if anything, it increases it. When he realizes he cannot hold back the death of Sarpedon, Homer tells us, in what is perhaps the single most moving line in the epic, "the father of gods and men ... wept tears of blood that fell to the ground, for the sake / of his beloved son" (XVI.458-60). Jesus had not been involved in pederasty, he was just a profoundly gay man abstaining as per God’s law. The clothed young man in the tomb represented a homosexuality separated off from the evils of pederasty. Nietzsche was a great critic of the judging Christ, but one thing he respected Jesus for was Jesus's ability to create his own values (eg, love of enemy), rather than just needing to pursue satiety like glory seeking Achilles. A positive Jewish homosexuality seed had been planted.
It’s fascinating to consider a deeply repressed homosexual Paul and Jesus, one demonizing homosexuality and the other demonizing and making holy marriage at the same time. This is precisely the demonizing theme we see in Dionysus lore. Markos writes:
A skirmish ensued in which Dionysus's female revelers defeated spear-bearing village men even though they carried only ivy-twined staffs. Pentheus swears that he will call out his army and attack the Bacchae, whereupon Dionysus gives him a final warning: "If I were you / I would offer him [Dionysus] a sacrifice, not rage / and kick against necessity, a man defying / god" (793-96). The actual metaphor used in Greek is "kick against the goads" or "kick against the pricks"-exactly the same metaphor Christ uses when he reveals himself to Saul of Tarsus on the road to Damascus (Acts 26:14). Both Pentheus and Saul are like stubborn, intractable oxen whose master attempts to beat them on with a goad-a long stick with a pointy end. In a futile act of resistance, the ox kicks back against the goad, cutting open its hooves and making its unavoidable work even more difficult and painful. Unfortunately, unlike St. Paul, Pentheus refuses to cease his persecution of Dionysus and his followers, so the god is forced to enact his judgment. In a moment of deep psychological insight, Euripides has Dionysus turn to the raging Pentheus as he is calling out his troops and ask him seductively if he would like to see the scantily clad and uninhibited Bacchae in their revels. Pentheus, like a twisted, pharisaical censor who spends inordinate time viewing the pornography he would abolish, gives in to his suppressed pressed voyeurism and agrees.
Louis Markos. From Achilles to Christ: Why Christians Should Read the Pagan Classics (Kindle Locations 2171-2173). Kindle Edition.
What I'm trying to argue above is that the naked young man (Mark 14:51–52) is seen by opponents as guilty as the naked Adam (i) in following supposedly sinful Jesus and (ii) sexual deviancy, but is exonerated from both, appearing fully clothed in the tomb (Mark 16: 5-7).
If you enjoyed this blog post, please do check out my other two articles in this trilogy published for free by The Secular Web:
1. A Critique Of The Penal Substitution Interpretation Of The Cross Of Christ https://infidels.org/library/modern/a-critique-of-the-penal-substitution-interpretation-of-the-cross-of-christ/
2. The Justified Lie Of The Johannine Jesus In Its Greco Roman Jewish Context https://infidels.org/library/modern/john-macdonald-justified-lie/