Wednesday, October 24, 2007

Homo Santos: St Longinus the Centurion

A number of unnamed figures in the New Testament have been given names - for instance the women who wiped the face of Christ as he went to be crucified is known as "Veronica". The centurion of Matthew 27, who utter the words "truly this is the son of God", has long been celebrated as the martyr Longinus in both Orthodox and Roman churches. For this entry I am conflating him with the Roman soldier of Matthew 8:5-13/Luke 7:1-10 who approaches Jesus so that this "servant" might be cured. I think that this was done in the past, but am still searching for more information.

As Fr. Johh O'Neill has pointed out recently, there are several aspects to this story which might lend it to a gay reading. In the first place it seems somewhat odd that a centurion would be so caring about a slave, caring enough to risk ridicule by approaching a Jewish miracle worker for help. The underlying Greek text intensifies this suspicion of a possible homosexual relationship. Tom Horner, author of David Loved Jonathan: Homosexuality in Biblical Times, points out that in Matthew, the earlier account and directed to a Greek-speaking Jewish audience, the word for servant is "pais" - which means "boy", but can also mean "servant", and, given the rather greater than average concern for a servant demonstrated by the centurion, can also mean "lover". The word "pederasty" for instance derives from "pais". Luke, who was writing in a much more Greek milieu changes the word "pais" to the much more neutral "doulos" ("servant" or "slave"), presumably aware of its homosexual implications to any reader with a Greek cultural background. Jesus, clearly, does not condemn the centurion in this story of faith.

One interesting point here is that at every Catholic mass the communicants say the words of this centurion immediately before communion - the modern English slightly distorts the Latin - " Lord I am not worthy to receive you under my roof, but only say the word and my soul shall be cleansed".


And when Jesus was entered into Capernaum, there came unto him a centurion, beseeching him, Mat 8:6 And saying, Lord, my servant lieth at home sick of the palsy, grievously tormented. Mat 8:7 And Jesus saith unto him, I will come and heal him. Mat 8:8 The centurion answered and said, Lord, I am not worthy that thou shouldest come under my roof: but speak the word only, and my servant shall be healed. Mat 8:9 For I am a man under authority, having soldiers under me: and I say to this man, Go, and he goeth; and to another, Come, and he cometh; and to my servant, Do this, and he doeth it. Mat 8:10 When Jesus heard it, he marvelled, and said to them that followed, Verily I say unto you, I have not found so great faith, no, not in Israel. Mat 8:11 And I say unto you, That many shall come from the east and west, and shall sit down with Abraham, and Isaac, and Jacob, in the kingdom of heaven. Mat 8:12 But the children of the kingdom shall be cast out into outer darkness: there shall be weeping and gnashing of teeth. Mat 8:13 And Jesus said unto the centurion, Go thy way; and as thou hast believed, so be it done unto thee. And his servant was healed in the selfsame hour.


Luke 7:1 Now when he had ended all his sayings in the audience of the people, he entered into Capernaum. Luke 7:2 And a certain centurion's servant, who was dear unto him, was sick, and ready to die. Luke 7:3 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. Luke 7:4 And when they came to Jesus, they besought him instantly, saying, That he was worthy for whom he should do this: Luke 7:5 For he loveth our nation, and he hath built us a synagogue. Luke 7:6 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: Luke 7:7 Wherefore neither thought I myself worthy to come unto thee: but say in a word, and my servant shall be healed. Luke 7:8 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.
Luke 7:9 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. Luke 7:10 And they that were sent, returning to the house, found the servant whole that had been sick.

-Calendar of Gay Saints


Culture Shiok! Singapore OFW said...

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Check out my post and may I have your comment please?

Anonymous said...

Again, i luv this kind of post! The conversion of longinus is acted out annually in the Moriones festival in Marinduque (province of my father). After he has speared jesus and his blind eye was cured, the person playing this just change his mask, hehehe, and the live reenactment ends with his beheading! :)