Thursday, November 29, 2007

If It's Not Actually in Scripture, We'll Find It Anyway

It's called eisegesis. It's the opposite of exegesis, the process of discovering the meaning of a Biblical text. An article in the U of Wisconsin/Oshkosh paper, the Advance-Titan, (below) is all about Erik Koepnick's reinterpretation of the story of Jesus healing the centurion's slave. Now we discover that the slave was the centurion's gay lover and ergo, Jesus is cool with homosexuality!

This all centers around his creative (or shall we shall destructive?) interpretation of the Greek word pais. It's funny how basic words get mangled in the gay theology machine.

In addition, it never seems to occur to Koepnick what a crime it would be for a homosexual centurion to make a slave into a "lover."

At least hat's off to the Advance-Titan's inclusion of Robert Gagnon's response to Koepnick's adventure in creative misinterpretation.

Oshkosh student seeks new significance in ancient text, personal faith

Kevin Kosterman of the Advance Titan

In the era of red states and blue states, where America’s cultural divide seems to be ever widening, homosexuality and religion could almost be considered polar opposites.
But for openly gay UW-Oshkosh religious studies major Erik Koepnick, these two worlds don’t just co-exist, they inspire him and drive him forward.
“I don’t think it’s a balance,” Koepnick said. “I think it’s all one and the same.”
Koepnick’s search for synergy has led him to spend more than a year researching the New Testament narrative “Healing the Centurion’s Slave.” His conclusion: Jesus knowingly healed a member of a same-sex partnership, passing no moral, social or theological judgment on the man’s sexual preference.
The actual passage accounts for just nine verses in the Gospel of Matthew — a mere drop in the Biblical ocean — but if Koepnick’s findings are correct, the implications are profound.
“Jesus never says anything about sexuality, but if there would be one place that he would say it, it would have been here,” he said. “If [denouncing homosexuality] was important enough to his ministry, he would have said that, and it would have been preserved with his story.”
Though details of the story vary by Gospel and translation — Koepnick said there are more than 250 English translations of the Bible — he said the parallels between the accounts in the Gospel of Matthew and the Gospel of Luke are striking. Because of these similarities and the story’s inclusion in the earlier Gospel Q, Koepnick concluded that the story originated from a strong oral tradition and was therefore true to historical Jesus.
According to the Scriptures, Jesus returned to Capernaum — following his Sermon on the Mount — when a centurion (Roman army officer) approached and implored Jesus to heal his ill slave. Jesus consented, but the centurion, being a Gentile, replied that he was not worthy to have Jesus come under his roof insisting instead that Jesus need simply say the word and the slave would be healed.
Jesus was so taken aback by the man’s faith that he immediately healed the slave.
Simple enough. But according to Koepnick’s research, there is much more to this story than the average miracle. The secrets, he said, lie in the details.
In the original New Testament, the Greek word “pais” is used to describe the ill person. “Pais,” Koepnick said, can be defined as “boy,” “girl,” “child,” “son,” “daughter,” “slave,” “handsome young man” and “beloved.” While he said most scholars agree that “pais” in this context refers to a slave, Koepnick asserts in his writings that clues in the hierarchy of Roman society present a more detailed definition of the word.
“Within slavery, every aspect of the slave’s personhood was controlled through ownership,” he wrote, “even sexuality.”
Koepnick furthered this claim with various historical records from the time in which “pais” specifically denotes a homosexual relationship. Homosexuality was a fairly common practice in the early Roman Empire, Koepnick said, especially in the ranks of the army where soldiers were not allowed to marry. It was likely, then, that the word “pais” was used to describe the centurion’s same-sex partner, he said.
Since Jesus was a citizen of that era and would therefore have been familiar with the language of the day, Koepnick argued, he would have been aware of the deeply affectionate sexual relationship between the two males.
“Yet he gave no commentary,” Koepnick wrote, “positive or negative, social or theological.”

Man on a mission

Erik Koepnick was raised religious, but he said there have been times that have tried his faith.
When Koepnick was in middle school, the American Baptist Convention of which he was a member began to allow gay members into one of its San Francisco congregations. Koepnick’s congregation voted to leave the American Baptist Convention rather than be affiliated with a denomination that allowed gay members.
“By that time I hadn’t really realized my sexual orientation,” he said, “but I knew that my religious orientation said that rejecting people from a church is not right.”
Koepnick said he came out to his roommate and family his freshman year of college and, after moving away from religion in high school, he was invited to join the Campus Crusade for Christ. But his newfound desire to understand where his own homosexuality fit with his religious ideology met with resistance.
“When I challenged my small group leader’s ideas, I was kind of shut out,” he said. “They moved the time of our small group Bible study and didn’t tell me. They stopped answering my e-mails and stuff like that. So I took the hint that this was not the place for me.”
Dr. Kathleen E. Corley, associate professor of religious studies at Oshkosh, was instrumental in encouraging Koepnick to pursue his research and securing a Student and Faculty Collaborative Research Grant. She said Koepnick’s research plays a pivotal role in harmonizing his identity with what he believes.
“It’s important for gays and lesbians in the Christian community who are looking for evidence of same-sex relationships in the Bible and looking for ways to use Biblical text to argue for gay liberation in the Church,” she said.
“I think there are Biblical passages that need to be dealt with in Christianity, obviously,” she said. “But they’re not impossible obstacles, and Erik has learned how to overcome those obstacles.”

‘The Lord is my shepherd’

Dr. Robert A.J. Gagnon, associate professor of New Testament at Pittsburgh Theological Seminary, has written extensively on sexuality in the Bible including “Healing the Centurion’s Slave” and disagreed with Koepnick’s conclusions.
Gagnon contended that all references to sexuality in Scriptures are predicated upon the notion of a male and female representing two sexual halves merged into a sexual whole.
“Every single piece of legal material, every law, every proverb, every narrative, every piece of poetry, every metaphor that has anything to do with human sexuality in both testaments, always presumes a male-female pre-requisite [that] is absolutely bedrock,” he said.
Though Biblical acknowledgement of homosexuality is scarce, Gagnon said the book views same-sex relations as a dishonoring of the sexual self as created by God. He said he believes homosexuality is such a great violation of human sexual ethics, it doesn’t need to be addressed.
“There’s no reason even to ask why this is such a big deal,” he said. “If it’s not a big deal, then incest is not a big deal; polyamory is not a big deal. We might as well get on with it in society and begin issuing marriage licenses to persons of these modes of behavior.”
While Koepnick acknowledged that the Bible makes references to homosexual acts being an abomination, he said the message of the book, with its various translations and often-vague language, could easily be manipulated to further political and social agendas.
“It’s also an abomination to have a cheeseburger because it’s cheese and meat,” he said. “It’s an abomination to wear poly-cotton blend because it’s the cloth of two fibers.
“If you disobey your parents, you will be taken to the town gate and stoned to death. [Homosexuality] is one place where people still pick and choose, ‘All these other laws don’t apply, but this one does.’”
Finding oneself while embroiled in the often-conflicting worlds of homosexuality and religion can be an onerous task, one that Koepnick said he is prepared to undertake.
Koepnick plans on attending the Chicago Theological Seminary after graduation to become a reverend [sic] in the United Church of Christ. Corley said although finding a congregation that will be accepting of his lifestyle may be somewhat difficult, she thinks Koepnick’s research has helped him connect with his own personal faith on a deeper level.
“He’s a creative person and he’s looking for himself in the past in a way that is affirming to himself and his own individuality as a gay person,” Corley said.
Like the Biblical centurion of his research, Koepnick said he is prepared to stand at the crossroads of being and belief with only his faith to offer.
“It’s a hard life,” he said. “People put you through [explitive deleted] that you don’t deserve. And a lot of people base that crap on religion, which is ridiculous.
“My theology is that God made me, and I think that’s a common theology for people. The Lord is my shepherd and he knows I’m gay.”

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