Gay and Lesbian People in History

Paul the Apostle

Paul the Apostle

Who in their right mind would ever think that St. Paul, Apostle to the Gentiles, writer of Epistles used by Christians to condemn gay people for centuries, might himself be gay?




Paul the Apostle - Michelangelo

GayHeroes.comHis character was torn apart
by inner conflicts. One trouble was that he suffered on occasion from what he describes as a "scolops", a "thorn" in the flesh, a disability of which he three times asked God to relieve him, without success. Certain Fathers of the Church and many subsequent writers thought it referred to sexual temptation.
The great Pauline scholar, Arthur Darby Nock, although unwilling to commit himself on the meaning of the particular phrase in question, has lent his authority to this interpretation of Paul's general attitude: "The point of difficulty for him perhaps lay in sexual desire, of which he speaks."
Paul's hostility to sex cannot be entirely attributed to his belief in the imminence of the Second Coming. His unmistakably pejorative attitude does raise insistent questions about his own tastes and practices.
Suppressed and frustrated sexual desire, then, may be the "thorn in the flesh" of which Paul complains.

-- Michael Grant
St. Paul, 1967
Charles Scribners Sons

< Sculpture of Paul by Michelangelo


John Shelby SpongJohn Shelby Spong is the Episcopal bishop of Newark. While many gay people's experience of churches has been negative in the extreme, Bishop Spong has been an amazing voice of loving, authoritative common sense, especially on sexual matters such as homosexuality, and biblical themes like the virginity of Mary. He writes of Paul:
"The war that went on between what he desired with his mind and what he desired with his body, his drivenness to a legalistic religion of control, his fear when that system was threatened, his attitude toward women, his refusal to seek marriage as an outlet for his passion -- nothing else accounts for this data as well as the possibility that Paul was gay."

"To me it is a beautiful idea that a homosexual male, scorned then as well as now, living with both the self-judgment and the social judgments that a fearful society has so often and unknowingly pronounced upon the very being of some of its citizens, could nonetheless, not in spite of this but because of this, be the one who would define grace for the Christian people. Grace was the love of God, an unconditional love, that loved Paul just as he was. A rigidly controlled gay male, I believe, taught the Christian church what the love of God means and what, therefore, Christ means as God's agent. Finally, it was a gay male, tortured and rejected, who came to understand what resurrection means as God's vindicating act."

There's no way that we'll ever know if Paul was really gay. But Bishop Spong, who is straight himself, married with three children, defends the scandalousness of this thesis by calling attention to other well-known scandals: that Jesus could be born apparently illegitimate, that he hung out with prostitutes and tax collectors, that the Messiah could be crucified like a common criminal, -- these "scandals" seem to be that way that God works.



Paul the Apostle - DurerRemember one thing about Paul:
he was just a guy, like you or me. Even saints are only human, and Paul was DEAD WRONG about some things. He was totally repressive of women and of sex. ("A man is better off having no relations with a woman." 1 Cor. 7:1. Hardly what most Christian churches preach today, though personally I can relate.) He accepted the validity of slavery. He was sure that the Messiah would return to end the world any day, which proved very awkward as the years kept rolling by and no Jesus. His brief writings against homosexuality seem to be condemnation of pagans who would not accept his religion (which is entirely unlike the religion Jesus preached).
But rather than dish Paul for his first-century foibles, we might better recall 1 Corinthians, Ch 13:

"Love is patient; love is kind. Love is not jealous, it does not put on airs, it is not snobbish. Love is never rude, it is not self-seeking, it is not prone to anger; neither does it brood over injuries. There is no limit to love's forbearance, to its trust, its hope, its power to endure. There are in the end three things that last: faith, hope, and love, and the greatest of these is love."

St. Paul by Albrecht Durer, who was also gay.... > > >


GayHeroes.comMore Spong on Paul:
"What is the Word of God for us underneath the words of Paul? It is that each of us, no matter how dark our shadows, or how condemned we are made to feel, are nonetheless the objects of the infinite and graceful love of God. Each of us is called to live in the wholeness of that love as one who has been embraced by the giver of infinite value. Accepting that divine valuation, we are to find the courage to be the self God has created us to be, the self we are inside the graceful gift of the righteousness of Christ."

Paul the Apostle - Michelangelo

Do you think Paul was gay?


And what about you??? Paul gave his life for a faith which knows neither Jew nor Greek, slave or freeman, male or female: all are one. What are you doing to spread the good news you hold in your heart? Fill out a HERO FORM and tell the world what you're up to. We'll post your story here at on our LEGENDS LIST for all to see. It's easy, it's fun, it's self-aggrandizing!
Fill out a HERO FORM! Don't MYTH your chance to be on the LEGENDS LIST! Click here to fill out a HERO FORM. Click here to check out the LEGENDS LIST.

Get yourself some Spong!
Your local library is a good place to start.

of gay pop songs!

with tunes like "I Like Mike" and "Cryin' Over Brian"

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Jay Spears
Date Last Modified: 7/20/2009

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