In Matthew 19 we begin with Jesus speaking to the Pharisees on the subject of marriage, and why men marry women and whether divorce is acceptable. After putting forth is thoughts on divorce and marriage, in Matthew 19:11 Jesus says that this does not apply to some people, and in Matthew 19:12 Jesus lists three different types of eunuchs for whom it does not apply:
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. (King James Version)
The Jewish moral tradition at the time considered being a eunuch an abomination or an offense to nature. (Hester) Self or religious castration was also performed by some ancient sects which were in opposition to Christianity (worship of Cybelle, Attis, or the Mater Deum). Some of these priests, called galli, wore female garb and took on effeminate behaviors and manners. This was reputedly very troubling to Augustine, and led to the exclusion of many eunuchs from the temples. (Hester) Some believe that Jesus is showing solidarity with the eunuchs via his own celibacy, and that he makes no judgment against the eunuchs in Matthew (or elsewhere). This was actually a revolutionary instruction.
If this the intent of Jesus, then Christians should embrace full inclusion for post-operative transsexuals. Others dismiss this train of thought, and claim that all Jesus is doing is pointing out is that there are three different types of eunuch who are not impacted by marriage – and by extension, Jesus is saying that eunuchs should not be allowed to marry (or divorce), although the last sentence of Matthew 19:12 is interpreted by others as providing an “escape clause.” Keep in mind as well that there is also no direct or implied evidence that any of the eunuchs listed by Jesus wished to change their gender.
Still others claim that when Jesus says that some have made themselves eunuchs for the kingdom of heaven’s sake, he was only speaking metaphorically – about chastity, not physical castration. (Childs) It it also not given whether the motivation for castration, or the divide between metaphorical and physical, makes any difference from the standpoint of sin. Therefore, the best which we can conclude on the subject of eunuchs is that the New Testament and Jesus do not make any prohibition against them nor condemnation of them. And when Matthew 19:12 is read with the knowledge of the acceptance of the Ethiopian eunuch in Acts 8:26-40, one can only conclude that Jesus, and therefore by extension Christians, should not be opposed to surgical treatment for transsexuals.
Return to Religion, Faith, and the Transgender Person
Childs, James M. “Transsexualism: Some Theological and Ethical Perspectives” Dialog: A Journal of Theology 48.1 (Spring, 2009): 30-31.
Hester, J. David. “Eunuchs and the postgender Jesus: Matthew 19.12 and transgressive sexualities.” Journal for the Study of the New Testament 28.1 (2005): 13-40.
Pingback: The Bible and Transgender Persons Part 9: Jesus Makes a List of Eunuchs | Transas City