This is my third post in my three-part series on the Bible. The first week, I wrote about tips for understanding Scripture. Last week, I dug a little deeper on one of those points, and I talked about why we as Christians aren’t held to every law in the Old Testament. This week, I’ll be talking about how things to keep in mind about the claim “Jesus never said ____.”
One of the most common arguments for homosexuality I hear from non-Christians (or Christians who don’t fully subscribe, knowingly or not, to the teachings contained in the Bible) is “Jesus never said anything about homosexuality.” I am going to explain why Jesus not saying something is insufficient justification for the permissibility of an act.
- We don’t have a record of everything Jesus said. Scripture is Divinely inspired, and praise God for the richness of its contents, but every single word Christ uttered during His time on Earth isn’t written in Scripture. In fact, Scripture mentions it’s own limits in John 21:25.
There are also many other things that Jesus did, but if these were to be described individually, I do not think the whole world would contain the books that would be written.
- Scripture does not contain the direct quotes of Jesus. First of all, Jesus spoke Aramaic. Though the numerous translations do give us a good idea of the meaning, they are still not the direct quotes. Secondly, we need to consider how biographies were recorded at the time. Followers of rabbis were really, really good at maintaining the tradition of what their teachers said, but the culture of the time did not necessitate direct quotes. Instead, they focused on capturing the meaning of the message. Again, they were very skilled at doing this, but that doesn’t mean we have a word-for-word quote from Jesus Himself. We know what Jesus meant, but we don’t know the exact words He used to express it.
- Jesus’s public ministry was relatively short. It was approximately three years, and He didn’t share everything that was necessary to being a Christian. He used that time to focus on his mission of salvation and to address sins that were especially prevalent at the time.
- Jesus may not have spoken about homosexuality, but there are numerous examples of him describing marriage and using his relationship with the Church as a model. Rather than saying “marriage between two men is wrong,” he said, “marriage is between a man and a woman.” A more simplistic example is that a teacher might tell her students to be kind to each other. Rather than listing all the specific ways to be unkind (hitting, calling each other names, getting in each other’s personal space, etc.), she describes a model of good behavior (using our words, listening, sharing, etc.).
- There are a huge amount of things that Jesus didn’t say were sins but that we understand as sinful because of his teachings. A few examples are incest, bestiality, pornography, and cannibalism.
- Jesus’s intent was not to create a new religion; instead, he was building off of and fulfilling Judaism. Christ’s mission wasn’t to list every sin in the book; His mission was our salvation. I talked about the Old Testament in a different post, but basically, not everything got chucked out the window when the Messiah came. A good image Trent Horn gives are two rules we might have been given as a child: don’t drink the chemicals under the sink and hold our parent’s hand when crossing the street. When we are adults, the don’t drink the chemicals rule still applies, but we no longer need to hold our parent’s hand when crossing the street. We have achieved a new level of maturity so while the underlying intent – be safe crossing the street – still applies, the specific rule of holding hands is no longer necessary because we know what to do. In the same way, the spiritual maturity has developed with the revelation of Christ. While the same morality still applies, the rules (or consequences) that express that have developed.
- If you are a Christian, you believe in one Trinitarian God who is three divine persons in one. This means that one person in the Trinity cannot contradict what another person in the Trinity says. Gods the Son holds the moral truth proclaimed by God the Father. Even if a moral teaching isn’t explicitly stated by Christ, it still holds true if God the Father commanded it.
- The apostles (and today’s Catholic bishops) carried on (and still carry) the revelation of Christ. As Christ’s followers, they possess special insight into God’s will. They are also filled with the Holy Spirit which enables them to accurately and effectively proclaim Christ’s truth. We must respect what they say.
As Christians, if we just rely on the words Jesus spoke in the Bible, we are missing the fullness of the Divinely revealed Truth found in the Bible. What Jesus said is absolutely important and necessary to follow, but there is so much more to His words on face value alone. Our relationship started before the Word became flesh and continues on long past His Resurrection. We must look at all that God has revealed to us in all of Sacred Scripture and Sacred Tradition to truly live our callings as Christians.