To be a Christian is to follow Jesus. The way he lived, spoke, acted defines how his followers should live, speak, and act. Thus, the sexuality of Jesus is a crucial topic. Did Jesus sleep around? For if he did then suddenly the orthodox position on sex and marriage becomes untenable. If Jesus had sexual relations outside of wedlock and with people of the same sex, then why can’t we?
This is precisely what Queer theologians argue. They go further than Dan Brown in the Da Vinci Code that fictionally claims that Jesus was married, and instead propose that Jesus had sexual relations with both men and women. Marcella Althaus-Reid in The Queer God states that Mary Magdalene and Lazarus were Jesus’ closeted lovers. 1 The Queer theologian Dale Martin argues that if you employ ‘gay imagination’ then many of Jesus encounters become homoerotic. 2 The ‘beloved disciple’ rests on Jesus breast, while Jesus flirts outrageously with Simon Peter in John 21 when he asks him three times ‘do you love me?’. These encounters and more paint a picture of a Jesus who is; out, proud, queer and sexually active. And so, the Queer theologians argue, if Jesus was queer in his relationships, so too can be his followers?
But is this true? Did Jesus really sleep around? Andy Angel in Intimate Jesus examines each claim one by one and demonstrates convincingly why Jesus’ so-called lovers are not sexual relationships. Mary Magdalene only ever refers to Jesus as ‘Lord’ or ‘teacher’, never more intimately. 3 Jesus does say that he loves Lazarus, but the words for love used are agapa𝑜̅ and phile𝑜̅. These words do not denote sexual love; in fact, they are the same words used to describe the love between God the Father and God the Son. 4 On top of this, Angel claims one must choose to read Jesus’ interactions with Peter through a sexual lens, the text itself implies nothing of the sort. 5 Queer theologians make much of Jesus sexual conquests, yet Scripture seems to imply the opposite.
Queer theologians make much of Jesus sexual conquests, yet Scripture seems to imply the opposite.
So, Jesus did not sleep around. Is this because Jesus did not have much of sex drive? Was he just not that bothered about sex? I have a hunch that most Christians think this. Often only the negative side of sex is spoken about. We hear way more sermons about how it is something to be avoided, rather than how it is a good gift given by our Creator. So, when we think of Jesus, we think that he probably did not think much about sex as sex is so worldly. But this is not only a wholly negative view of sex, but also a wrong view of the incarnation.
Now here we must be careful. Scripture only gives us a few glimpses into Jesus’ internal world so we must not to claim as truth things we are never told. However, there are some things we do know. When the Son of God came to earth, he did not come as an angelic being removed from human experiences but became like us. John’s Gospel tells us that ‘The Word became flesh.’ (John 1: 14). When God made Adam, he made him as a sexual being. Thus, it makes sense that when Jesus comes as the second Adam (1 Corinthians 15:45), he comes as a sexual being.
There is a difference though between the first Adam and the second, between humanity and the Son of God, between us and Jesus. God made everything good, including our sexuality. But when Adam and Eve ate from the tree, humanity fell. We who should have been glorious image-bearers of God, have become ruins. Everything has been corrupted, including our sexuality. We are now sexually broken people. Instead of wanting to have a wonderful and life-giving sexual relationship with one other person of the opposite sex, we use our real and fictional sexual partners to fulfil our lusts and desires. Sex is no longer used for the good it was intended for, but for our own selfish means and ends. In short, our sexualities have been ruined by our sin. This is how Jesus is different from us. He, like us, is a sexual being. But he, unlike us, has not been ruined by sin. He has been tempted, but he never gave into that temptation (Hebrews 4:15). Jesus is righteous in all that he does, which means he has a righteous sexuality.
A righteous sexuality is one that is holy, pure, and perfect. Jesus never did anything wrong sexually, in thought or deed. He did not look at a man or woman and mentally undress them. He did not take any of his disciples to bed. He did not sexually pursue a married person. He would not have slept his way through college. He would not have used his phone, laptop or TV as vehicles to access porn and satisfy his urges. He would not have tallied up one-night stands and bragged about his conquests. Jesus had a righteous sexuality. This does not just mean that he did not do wrong things, this also means there are some things he did do. Jesus was and is patiently waiting for marriage. Jesus is the bridegroom (Luke 5: 34-5), and we his Church are the bride (Revelation 21:9-10). Jesus waits for his bride.
Jesus is intimate, close, personal, and friendly with men and women, yet at no point does he ever have a sexual relationship with any of them.
This image of a sexually righteous Jesus is seen throughout the Gospels. Jesus is intimate, close, personal, and friendly with men and women, yet at no point does he ever have a sexual relationship with any of them. And it is not like Jesus was without an opportunity! When he met the Samaritan woman at the well in John 4, he and she are alone together. He does not flirt with her or try and take her to bed. Neither does he use his divine power to make her do whatever he wishes. No! Instead of trying to fulfil his own sexual desires, he lays down his sex drive, and serves her. Instead of trying to sleep with her, he tells her about the water of eternal life. Jesus’ sexuality is marked by other person-centered sacrificial love. 6
Did Jesus sleep around? No. Queer theologians may want Jesus to be as sexually active as we are, but that is not the reality. Instead, we meet in Scripture a man who is sexually righteous. But this is the best news in the world! If Jesus failed like us, if he sinned like us, if he were sexually broken, then how could he be our perfect and fully obedient sacrifice? It is because he is fully man and yet sinless that his death can pay our price and bring about our forgiveness. But more than that, because he was sexually righteous, we who follow him are united with him and we gain his sexual righteousness. No longer are we sexually broken people, no longer do our past mistakes define us, no longer must we hang our head in shame. Now we are clothed with the sexual righteousness of Jesus we can stand with our heads held high, for we have been forgiven of our past mistakes and are sexually whole people.
- Marcella Althaus-Reid, The Queer God (Routledge, 2003), p.58.
- Dale Martin, Sex and the Single Saviour (Westminster John Knox, 2006), pp.99-100.
- Andrew R. Angel, Intimate Jesus: The Sexuality of God Incarnate (SPCK, 2017), p.87.
- Angel, Intimate, p.92.
- Angel, Intimate, p.93.
- Angel, Intimate, p.59.