Matthew 8:5-13; Luke 7:1-10
And when Jesus was entered into Capernaum, there came unto him a centurion, beseeching him,
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NOW when he had ended all his sayings in the audience of the people, he entered into Capernaum.
The Greek word used in Matthew to refer to the servant of the centurion is pais (Strongs 3816). At that time pais had three possible meanings depending on the context. It could mean A. son or boy, B. servant, or C. a male lover (K.J. Dover, Greek Homosexuality, page 16; Bernard Sergent, Homosexuality in Greek Myth, page 10.)
In Luke 7:2, two other Greek words were used to describe the one who was sick. It says this pais was the centurion’s entimos duolos. (Strongs 1784, 1401) The word duolos is a generic term for slave, and was never used in ancient Greek to describe a son or boy, so the pais could not have been “A”. The word entimos means honored (also dear, precious), so this was an honored slave. But because he was also pais, he could not be a pais and an entimos duolos and be a servant, so the three terms together rule out “B” as well, which leaves only that he was the centurion’s male lover.
The lovers were usually younger than the masters, often teenagers. In ancient times, commercial transactions were the predominant means of forming relationships. Under the law, the wife was viewed as the property of the husband, with a status just above a slave. In Jesus’ day, a boy or a girl was considered marriageable in their early teens. It was not uncommon for an older man to marry a young girl.
A gay man who wanted a male spouse achieved this the same way, purchasing someone to serve that purpose. A servant purchased to serve this purpose was often called a pais.
To further support this view in Matt. 8:9, in the course of expressing his faith in Jesus’ power to heal by simply speaking, the centurion says, “When I tell my slave to do something, he does it.” (Parallel to his faith, he’s also expressing his understanding that Jesus has the authority to issue a remote verbal command that must be carried out.) When speaking of his slaves, the centurion uses the word duolos. But when speaking of the one he is asking Jesus to heal, he makes a distinction and uses only pais.
In the Gospels, we have many examples of people seeking healing for themselves or for family members. But this story is the only example of someone seeking healing for a slave. It’s even more remarkable by the fact that this was a proud Roman centurion who was humbling himself and pleading with a Jewish rabbi to heal his slave.
It is true that Jesus healed and ministered to the righteous and to the sinners during his ministry. When remembering the account of the harlot brought before Jesus, and He said ‘he that is without sin, cast the first stone’ and one by one they dispersed. He asked the woman where her accusers were, and she answered that she had none. He answered “Neither do I condemn you, go and sin no more.”
As the centurion made his way to Jesus, he probably worried about the possibility that Jesus, like other Jewish rabbis, would take a dim view of his homosexual relationship. He could have simply used the word duolos. But he probably decided that if Jesus was able to heal his lover, he was also able to see through any half-truths. In response to his honesty, without hesitation, Jesus said, “Then I will come and heal him.” The centurion said there is no need, that Jesus’ word is sufficient. Instead of Jesus saying ‘he is healed, go and sin no more’ similar to the harlot, He said, “I have not found faith this great anywhere in Israel.” He is held up as an example of the type of faith others should aspire to.
Further, He says, “I tell you, many will come from the east and the west to find seat in the kingdom of heaven, while the heirs will be thrown into outer darkness.”