Thursday 11 October 2007


It was GILL who started it! The other day, when I was speculating on what to call my newly civil-partnered partner, she commented: "At the risk of introducing a cliché into your search for what to call each other, don't forget that well known truism: 'The Greeks have a word for it'!"

Well, yes, I thought, that's about as true as a truism gets, so what is that word that would have been used by Plato (right)?

And thus began a quest that led me into fascinating, unforeseen territory...

The words (there are more than one) are various and usually come (like the people to whom they refer, in couples): εραστης, the desirer, and ερομενος, the desired...

Or lover and beloved...

Which information led me - in the way Googling so often does - to a discussion about the story of Jesus healing the Centurion's Servant in the New Testament Gospels of both Matthew (Chapter 8: 5-13) and Luke (Chapter 7: 1-10) and famously painted by Veronése...

Here's Luke's version...
1 Now when he had ended all his sayings in the audience of the people, he entered into Capernaum. 2 And a certain centurion's servant, who was dear unto him, was sick, and ready to die. 3 And when he heard of Jesus, he sent unto him the elders of the Jews, beseeching him that he would come and heal his servant.

4 And when they came to Jesus, they besought him instantly, saying, That he was worthy for whom he should do this: 5 For he loveth our nation, and he hath built us a synagogue.

6 Then Jesus went with them. And when he was now not far from the house, the centurion sent friends to him, saying unto him, Lord, trouble not thyself: for I am not worthy that thou shouldest enter under my roof: 7 Wherefore neither thought I myself worthy to come unto thee: but say in a word, and my servant shall be healed. 8 For I also am a man set under authority, having under me soldiers, and I say unto one, Go, and he goeth; and to another, Come, and he cometh; and to my servant, Do this, and he doeth it.

When Jesus heard these things, he marvelled at him, and turned him about, and said unto the people that followed him, I say unto you, I have not found so great faith, no, not in Israel. 10 And they that were sent, returning to the house, found the servant whole that had been sick.
The (possibly) significant phrase is "a certain centurion's servant, who was dear unto him", since the Greek word used by Luke to describe the servant was pais...

Now, according to The New Testament Greek Lexicon, pais means either "a child, boy or girl" or "a servant, slave, a king's attendant or minister".

However, if you accept the arguments set out on the web-pages of gaychristian101, supported by (doubtless selective) quotations from cited authorities, the word pais has another, additional, meaning...
According to Sir Kenneth Dover ('Noted Philologist and Greek scholar'):

"The pais in a homosexual relationship was often a youth who had attained full height..."

"The Greeks often used the word paidika in the sense of 'eromenos'..." [Meaning: "the boy you are in love with..."]
Paidika is the diminutive of pais.

"The junior partner in homosexual eros is called pais (or, of course, paidika) even when he has reached adult height and hair has begun to grow on his face..."

And from Robert Gagnon, Pittsburg Theological Seminary ('Noted Evangelical Scholar and Leading Anti-gay Apologist'):

"...boy (pais) could be used of any junior partner in a homosexual relationship, even one who was full grown."
There's extra back-up (if you'll pardon the expression) from a bunch of Ancient Greeks and, I might add, some fetching photos of real-life Centurions (left)!! But, were Luke and Matthew really recounting the story of how Jesus healed the homosexual lover of a Roman Centurion?

Who knows? But it is clearly it is important to those many Christian homosexuals who are struggling to square their religious beliefs with their experiences of intolerance or hostility within the church.

After all, if true, it suggests that Jesus might have met and helped someone who was open about having a gay lover --- and that would be a notion guaranteed to raise the blood pressure of any red-neck fundamentalist!

Certainly, enough people are so exercised about the question - one way or the other - as to be discussing it on something in the region 9,880 Internet pages!

Anyway, as we celebrate our First Anniversary --- ONE WEEK! --- I don't think I'll be calling David my pais, but I do quite like my Beloved or, maybe, my Dearly Beloved - or, perhaps, just my DB for short --- which, of course, neatly embodies both our initials!


Anonymous said...

Funny things languages... In old-fashioned French, "un pais (or pays) à moi" means a guy from my part of the country". (pays meaning country, and paysan meaning peasant of course) And as an extension, in Belgium "mon pais" (with the appropriate Brussels accent!) means my mate, my buddy...
Don't you just love linguistists?!

Boll Weavil said...

He could, of course be, the 'DLF' Mr B !
Re the website justifying homosexuality in religion, I find it difficult to take these things seiously. The church is full of people trying to justify whatever they want to do and turning selected pieces of scripture to their own purposes. Surely, the idea is that once you have read the words of Christ, you know instinctively what he would have accepted and what he wouldn't.My interpretation of his beliefs based on what we know of his opinions in other areas is that he would have rejected all bigotry and intolerance and supported the perpetuation of love wherever it was found.These views coincide with my own, thus I follow him without recourse to dogma for justification.

Anonymous said...

What a "fashion" centurion, perhaps his helmet is not the right for his ranking... but this is only anecdotal...

I am fascinating with this post, I always think that this chapter of Luke (in the catholic mass we repeat the phrase of the centurion: "for I am not worthy that thou shouldest enter under my roof...") was a little strange, a roman officer, a master worried about his servant... this is not the "official" attitude in the antique roman society.

But we must be cautious about the meaning of the words and the intention of the writer. In other chapters we can read that Jesus have “brothers”, but many philologists and theologist, experts, say that the hebrew word describe not only brothers but all kind of family...

It`s very difficult believe that Jesus, or his apostles could admit in th gospel thr homosexuality, he doesn`t admit the greedc, but he go with Zaqueo, taking a meal in his home (this cause of course a scandal). Jesus talk with everyone, he forgive every one, the prostitute, the adulteress, all , in fact he helped a roman officer, an enemy of the jews.

I suppouse that all the considerations from the Church (the Church I know) to this theory of the word pais could be no more than this theological prescription of the forgiveness. The centurion put his faith in Jesus, “order me because you are know my superior, I recognise you as my hight ranking superior”, and as the woman who touch a piece of the tunic of Jesus, Jesus admit that her faith, and faith is always love, save him and save his “pais” or his servant.

I hope not be very long and boring and I hope not be misunderstand. The gospel have, as I see, many interpretations, and many things that could be discuss, the doctrine is clear only for the people who teach it, but I am not a woman of doctrines, the cahotlic cathecism for me it is only a very long (sometimes exasperating) rules, not very practical sometimes, but, I admit that, rules anyway, are rules you can accepted or not.

Now I will recommend this post to a friend of mine (an specialist of holy scriptures, academic director of a catholic seminary, a good man, but, after all, a priest.) Of course he will have his “professional” view.

Brian Sibley said...

GILL comments...

Wow! I am humbled that a somewhat flippant comment has opened up such a serious and intellectual discussion.

My own feeling? "God is love" always seemed to me an inclusive statement.

St. Paul on the other hand was a misogynist homophobe, who, unlike the Divine, was a man of and for his time, we should not be ruled by him.

There will never be agreement on translation of particular words in ancient texts, and mankind will always seek to obscure truth by these arguments; they are about as useful as calculating how many angels can fit on the point of a pin, a debate which raged for sometime I understand.

I'll settle for love however expressed!


Anonymous said...

That DB includes both of your initials is lovely, but it is also the standard abbreviation for database, and may be misheard as "Debbie", as in, "I'm going home to my Debbie."

Then again, just as CP is open to misunderstanding, DB might suggest a combination of dyslexia and BD.

Beloved is a lovely word, though.