By: Paul P. Jesep*/TRT Columnist-
There’s been much and growing speculation in recent years about Apostle Paul’s sexuality. Long identified — incorrectly — for wanting to ban women from the priesthood, it’s debated that when Paul lamented about an ailment he was talking about being gay. It’s a theory fueled in a growing number of books and articles very light on research.
Although it doesn’t matter what his sexuality might be, there is no biblical or historical evidence to even hint that Apostle Paul was gay.
He did complain about a personal struggle, but it’s impossible to determine what he meant. There is not enough information available. There is some circumstantial evidence that suggests he had a speech impediment and didn’t like public speaking. Yet even that’s speculative.
There’s another myth about Paul. He was hostile to women and didn’t want them to be leaders in the church. Paul wrote tailored letters about specific problems in certain places.
In one case, he wrote that women should be quiet in church. There are several ways that this can be credibly interpreted. One involves that women must be quiet if their heads are not covered. (Keeping the head covered is a sign of reverence.) Another is that if a woman is going to be a church leader she must work it out with her husband since the family was dependent on her contributions for its survival. The apostle also may have been directing his annoyance in one of his letters to a small group of women who were often very disruptive. These individuals needed to be silent during services.
There are five instances in which Paul acknowledges the role and importance of female leadership in the church. He identified these women as playing a key role in promoting Christ’s gospel to love God and unconditionally love one another as Jesus loved them.
In Romans 16:1-2 (Chapter 16, Verses 1 through 2) a woman named Phoebe served as deaconess in the church in Cenchrea. Paul respectfully mentions Priscilla and her husband Aquila (Acts 18:2 & 26; Romans 16:3, and I Corinthians 16:19) as first-rate co-pastors in Ephesus. He calls Euodia and Syntyche (Philippians 4:2-3) “true yokefellow” for their faithful work alongside him in advancing the gospel. He also identifies Junia (Romans 16:7) as someone who shared similar pastoral burdens.
Remember, just because someone says something and it’s frequently repeated doesn’t make it true. Do your own investigating. Most important be intellectually honest with the material and yourself.
Women do have a biblically sanctioned role as pastors in the church supported by Apostle Paul. Wanting to believe he was gay, however, is wishful thinking or poor research.
Regardless of your depth of faith or religious tradition — Jew, Baha’i, Muslim, Wiccan, Mormon, Buddhist, atheist, agnostic, humanist, Christian, or other — Apostle Paul shared some beautiful thoughts about love worth reflecting over:
Though I speak with the tongues of … angels, but have not love I have become … a clanging cymbal … And though I … understand all mysteries and all knowledge, and though I have all faith, so that I could remove mountains, but have not love, I am nothing.
And though I bestow all my goods to feed the poor … but have not love, it profits me nothing.
Love suffers long and is kind;
Love does not envy;
Love does not parade itself, is not puffed up;
Does not behave rudely, does not seek its own, is not provoked, thinks no evil;
Does not rejoice in iniquity, but rejoices in the truth;
Bears all things, believes all things, hopes all things, endures all things.
Love never fails.
* Paul is an author, attorney, and a seminary trained, ordained priest in greater Albany, N.Y. E-mail questions about faith to [email protected].