‘Jesus Said Nothing about…’

I don’t have any hard facts on when this tack became plausible or on how pervasive it is (no doubt the bifurcation of Jesus and Paul is somehow a factor), but it seems lately that the claim that Jesus himself did not overtly express concern about a particular spiritual or ethical issue in the Gospels constitutes an argument to the effect that Christian believers need not concern themselves with that issue.  This can be (and has been) used in the case of homosexuality, for example: Jesus apparently did not feel the need to address the matter; therefore (so the logic runs), Christian believers are not obliged to take a hard line on whether such conduct is sinful.

Whether the issue at hand is homosexuality or something else, there are at least two significant problems with this approach to dealing with hot-button spiritual and ethical quandaries in our day.  First, it proceeds on a warping of the analogy of Scripture, or the commitment to allowing clearer passages of Scripture to help in interpreting more difficult ones.  The analogy of Scripture is useful when one text genuinely boggles the mind of even the most careful reader and other relevant texts can be invoked to establish parameters within which the difficult text should be understood.  However, in the case of things like homosexuality, the importance of well-ordered doctrinal formulation, the importance of church polity (all things about which, allegedly, Jesus was not terribly concerned), there are texts that come at these topics in a reasonably straightforward fashion (Rom. 1:26-27; 1 Cor. 6:9; 1 Tim. 6:3; 2 Tim. 4:3 ; Titus 1:9; 2:1; Jude 3; Acts 14:23; 1 Tim. 3:1-13; Heb. 13:17; Jas. 5:14; 1 Pet. 5:1-5).  Moreover, instead of employing particularly lucid texts in those cases to help in wrestling with difficult passages, the ‘Jesus said nothing about…’ argument actually attempts to use mere silence as the lens through which to view passages concerning homosexuality, etc.  In other words, a move with some resemblance to the use of the analogia Scripturae actually lacks both of the conditions for using the analogy: unclear texts and clearer ones that shed light on those that are unclear.

Second, the ‘Jesus said nothing about…’ approach fundamentally misunderstands Jesus’ identity.  That is, it presupposes a Nestorian Christology in which the earthly Jesus of the Gospels is one person, while the lordly divine Son is another person.  Only with a Nestorian Christology in hand can someone argue that Jesus had nothing to say about homosexuality or the exigency of doctrine.  For only if Jesus and God the Son are believed to be two different hypostases can one exclude Jesus from the work of God in overseeing the production of Holy Scripture wherein God speaks through Paul, for example, to convey the true character of homosexual behavior and the importance of doctrinal acumen among church leaders.  If one wishes to maintain Jesus’ (again, apparent) silence about such matters but still repudiate Nestorianism, they would have to disenfranchise the Son from the divine act of ‘breathing out’ the Scriptures (2 Tim. 3:16-17) and thereby run afoul of that venerable theological axiom opera Dei ad extra sunt indivisa (‘the outward works of God are undivided’).

What are some other thoughts on this line of argument and its implications for hermeneutics, Christology, etc.?

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3 thoughts on “‘Jesus Said Nothing about…’

  1. Still, there might be a very, very significant difference between “breathing out” scripture, and breathing “in.”

    What do you make of the fairly common reading of the Bible, to the effect that Jesus was updating, even countermanding, some of God’s “law,” with the “new” (covenant and so forth)?

    In many of these cases where the Bible/NT does not directly address a specific issue, a very, very close, even deconstructive reading of scripture seems required.

  2. Due to Jesus’ preoccupation with the “new,” and his countermanding of even elements of the Ten Commandments (the prohibition against working on a Sabbath for example)? It becomes more difficult to regard the Old Testament and even Pauline parts of the New, as part of the same old, unified God. And in that case? The problem arises: which if any parts of the Bible are more authoritative?

    In that situation, many suggest it is the sayings of Jesus himself that should hold primacy; the new scriptures, sayings, that Jesus breathed “out.”

    Regarding homosexuality specifically? Many passages in both OT and NT, are less clearly against it than one might think: passages that might seem anti-gay, might be more specifically against sex with angels.

    While then too? There is a curious and strong androgynous, and anti- male/female marriage tradition, in the Bible and the Church: angels are neither “male nor female” it seems, and we are to be like them in Heaven, not marrying for example. While God himself, or the kingdom, is like a “bride” coming down to the groom (or vice-versa?). Then too? the main “marriage” in the Bible, is not the marriage conservative love: “a marriage between a man and woman.” But is the “marriage of the lamb,” with God himself. Which, if God is a man, and the believer is a man, would be a rather male/male marriage.

    Acknowledging some of these strange sexual ambiguities in the Bible itself, priests traditionally did not marry. But were in effect, like nuns, “married to” the Church; or to an organization, an insitution.

    Jesus himself? Told us that there is neither male nor female, in Heaven.

    So we seem destined for … if not homosexuality, then androgyny?

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