In A Nutshell
Thanks to events like the destruction of Sodom and Gomorrah, most of us assume the Bible is a pretty homophobic book. And reading through a modern translation, you’d be forgiven for thinking that was the case. Go back to the New Testament’s original Greek though, and you get a whole different story—such as the moment in both Matthew and Luke when Jesus heals a Roman centurion’s “pais.” Traditionally, “pais” has been translated as “servant.” However, a more accurate translation would be “young gay lover.”
The Whole Bushel
We’re used to thinking of the Bible as a book, but it really has more in common with a library. There are literally hundreds of different viewpoints crammed in there, many of which flatly contradict one another. That’s how you get books like Leviticus—which unequivocally condemns homosexuality—sitting alongside things like the New Testament scene where Jesus heals a gay man.
It’s true: In the “faith of the centurion” passages of both Matthew and Luke, Jesus is called upon to heal a centurion’s dying servant. However, the original Greek uses the word “pais” for “servant”—a word which can also mean “young gay lover.” And, in the context of a teenage boy and a powerful, older man, this is almost certainly what it does mean. In his book on Greek homosexuality, the world’s top scholar on Ancient Greek, Kenneth Dover, gave hundreds of ancient examples of “pais” being used in an erotic context—almost always featuring a man and a young boy. And there’s more to back him up than a single archaic word.
The Bible pretty explicitly states that the centurion begs on behalf of his “pais.” No matter how good or diligent the servant, this simply wouldn’t happen in the ancient world, for the exact same reason that none of the British aristocracy ever really ran off with their gardeners. Class simply forbids it. At the same time, we know for a fact that Roman soldiers had homoerotic relationships with adolescent boys—it’s a central plot point in Satyricon (one of only two partially surviving Roman novels).
So, if the “pais” is the centurion’s lover, then that means Jesus almost certainly healed a gay man. This, in turn, would mean that God’s not actually the homophobic hate-monger Fred Phelps and his ilk want you to think he is. In fact, this would be a pretty solid argument for Biblical-based tolerance . . . oh well. Still, it’s nice to dream, right?