Paul (Saul) of Tarsus|
(? - June 29, 67) Cilicia - Turkey
Born as Saul in Tarsus, capital of Cilicia, probably around the beginning of the Christian Era, his father was a Pharisee and a Roman citizen. Paul was a converted Jew who zealously embraced Christianity. He traveled extensively preaching the new doctrine, in effect becoming the religion's first missionary. He founded churches at each stopover.
The apostle Paul was the most influential person in the spread of Christianity in its early stages, with the obvious exception of Jesus himself.
But Paul's writing had an even bigger effect. His many letters to his congregations now constitute the majority of the New Testament of the Bible. For better or worse, his instructions on living as a Christian were then, and are still today, closely followed by many Christian believers.
While Paul's impact on the world is clear, the issue of his sexuality is not. He was responsible for two of the three New Testament texts specifically interpreted in the modern period as condemnation of homosexuality, and for the only reference in the Bible taken to refer explicitly to lesbianism.
He was an intense, passionate man filled with tremendous self-loathing. Read some of his words:
"Nothing good dwells in me, that is, in my flesh.
I can will what is right, but I cannot do it."
- Romans 7:18.
"I pummel my body and subdue it lest after preaching to others
I myself should be disqualified."
- I Corinthians 9:27.
Regarding marriage, the bachelor Paul wrote:
"For it is better to marry
than be aflame with passion."
- I Corinthians 7:9.
In his book
Rescuing The Bible From Fundamentalism,
Bishop John Spong closely analyzes Paul's life and writings. Much of his fiery rhetoric, Spong believes, was Paul's method of dealing with his own homosexuality.
At first glance, the argument that St. Paul was homosexual seems absurd, as it may be. After all was not he the one who condemned gay people in Romans, and elsewhere?
There is considerable debate over those anti-gay "proof -texts", but whatever the conclusions, there is much, as Anglican Bishop of Newark John Spong has pointed out, which leads one to suspect Paul might have been "queer" in some way.
The fact he was never married, unusual for a Jew of his time, his companionship with a series of younger men, especially St. Timothy, his mention of an unnamed "thorn in the flesh", and, possibly, his disdain for some types of exploitative homosexual relationship in his period, all raise questions which cannot be answered it must be admitted, about his sexuality.
It should also be added that despite Paul's modern reputation for placing women lower than men, he also penned revolutionary words about the absolute equality of all believers in Christ, a complete destruction of prevailing social codes and norms that has only intermittently played out in full in Church history.
2 Cor 12:7-11
And lest I should be exalted above measure through the abundance of the revelations, there was given to me a thorn in the flesh, the messenger of Satan to buffet me, lest I should be exalted above measure. For this thing I besought the Lord thrice, that it might depart from me. And he said unto me, My grace is sufficient for thee: for my strength is made perfect in weakness. Most gladly therefore will I rather glory in my infirmities, that the power of Christ may rest upon me. Therefore I take pleasure in infirmities, in reproaches, in necessities, in persecutions, in distresses for Christ's sake: for when I am weak, then am I strong. I am become a fool in glorying; ye have compelled me: for I ought to have been commended of you: for in nothing am I behind the very chiefest apostles, though I be nothing.
For ye are all the children of God by faith in Christ Jesus. For as many of you as have been baptized into Christ have put on Christ. There is neither Jew nor Greek, there is neither bond nor free, there is neither male nor female: for ye are all one in Christ Jesus.