Was Paul Gay?

In 2 Corinthians 12:7, Paul said, “To keep me from becoming conceited, I was given a thorn in the flesh, a messenger of Satan.” What was that thorn, other than painful?

Early in my ministry, I was told that Paul might have had epilepsy, an eye disease, or some other physical impairment.

In the 1980s, I became involved in progressive Christianity. It gave me the freedom to think outside the box. The mystery of the thorn in the flesh took on an interesting new twist once I read other statements by Paul for clues.

In 2 Corinthians 12:8, Paul wrote that he had appealed to the Lord three times to make the thorn leave, but a messenger of Satan had placed it there. Clearly, that thorn was nasty.

In Romans 7:15, Paul said, “I do not understand my own actions. For I do not do what I want, but I do the very thing I hate.” What did he hate? The thorn?

Romans 7:23 might help us figure it out: “I see in my members another law at war with the law of my mind, making me captive to the law of sin that dwells in my members” (emphasis mine). In scripture, members often meant “appendages.” Men have two arms, two legs, and a penis, any of which could be called a member. What law of sin could dwell in a man’s arms and legs? That leaves us with one other choice.

In Romans 7:24, Paul denigrated himself: “Wretched man that I am! Who will rescue me from this body of death?”

Paul, as a strict Jew and Pharisee, obeyed every letter of the law. He knew that according to Leviticus 20:13, homosexuality was punishable by death.

I wonder if Paul had homosexual feelings and felt so guilty about this that he tried to escape from himself and prevent others from realizing that he was gay through his extensive missionary work. Many people try to cope with their problems by running away, either literally or through drugs.

In 1 Corinthians 7:8, Paul recommended that unwed people “stay unmarried, as I do.” Perhaps he thought that if lots of heterosexual men remained single, people wouldn’t question his own bachelorhood.

I also think that Paul was attracted to the Followers of the Way because Jesus deemphasized the law (Matthew 22:37–40) and emphasized the power of agape—unconditional love with lots of forgiveness.

Here’s the bottom line: I don’t care about Paul’s sexual orientation. Agape is unconditional. But I do care that churches and insecure men seem to be the biggest homophobes today. I wonder what they’d do if Paul came out of the closet. Would we see another crucifixion? Or would they rethink their homophobia?

Any thoughts?


Image courtesy of Fotografca from Pixabay

9 thoughts on “Was Paul Gay?”

  1. Thanks for sharing these insights. You framed them in a larger context effectively. Certainly an idea that warrants further exegesis and consideration.

    • Thank you Rick for reading my blogs and commenting. My objective is to be provocative so that people will have a chance to measure their thoughts with blogs.

  2. Not unless there is an epiphany. And then me thinks they would complain about the authenticity of the original Greek.

  3. I believe you have hit on the same solution I have. All those clues only add up to the one thing.

    At our last World Conference two years ago, my church passed a resolution to baptize gay people and even ordain them. We realize being gay is not a choice. It’s just another way of life.

    One of my dearest friends was gay. He was the nicest and kindest person I ever knew.

    • Regardless of whether it is a “choice” or not, it is still undoubtedly a sin to engage in homosexual acts. Scripture does not mince words in that regard.

      • Thanks Jim for your comment. Jesus tells me over and over he’s all about unconditional love, not judgment. Then, there’s s huge list of all the sins Jesus did according to his religious leaders; especially when it came to treating the outcasts of his time. Either one is into loving everyone or judging everyone. I find life is so much easier to accept people where they are. That has made it real easy for me to work in prisons, juvenile halls, with the homeless as a chaplain to an AIDS organization and on-and-on, if I just love them. The world has come so far since the NT was written (by fallible men) that I simple use it as a religious history of the past, not an ethics book for the 21st century.. I have no interest in what people do in their bedroom. I have a very strong interest in who each person is and how they treat their fellow humans. PeaceLoveJoyHopeKindness Bil

  4. I really enjoyed reading this Blog, Bil. I feel bad for Paul having to go through life fearing Divine retribution for being gay. I believe that agape not only means loving others and accepting others for who they are, but that it also means loving oneself and accepting yourself for who you are.


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