Rethinking the Gay Centurion: Sexual Exceptionalism, National Exceptionalism in Readings of Matthew 8:5-13//Luke 7:1-10

Christopher B. Zeichmann


Some recent publications suggest that Matt. 8:5-13//Luke 7:1-10 features a couple that engaged in same-sex intercourse: a centurion and his slave. This article examines the subtexts of sexual exceptionalism present in arguments both for and against this reading, as well as their collusions with narratives constitutive of western colonialism. Operative in interpretations both favouring and opposing a homosexual subtext is the assumption that Jesus’ Judaism was somehow unique with respect to sexual mores. For opponents of the LGBT interpretation, this exceptionalism manifests in a homogeneous Judaism that was exempt from the practice of same-sex intercourse; in that Jesus’ Jewishness is not in doubt, nor should his disdain for male-male intercourse be questioned. For proponents of the LGBT interpretation, Jesus emerges as unique with respect to his repressive Jewish context, evident in his attitude of liberal tolerance. I examine these readings through the optic of Jasbir Puar’s work on homonormative nationalism (i.e., “homonationalism”) and conclude that the logic of these readings is inseparable from the demands of neoliberal imperialism.


Centurion; Matthew; Luke

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Bible and Critical Theory: ISSN 1832-3391