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Acts 8:26-38

And the angel of the Lord spake unto Philip, saying, Arise, and go toward the south unto the way that goeth down from Jerusalem unto Gaza, which is desert.
And he arose and went: and, behold, a man of Ethiopia, an eunuch of great authority under Candace queen of the Ethiopians, who had the charge of all her treasure, and had come to Jerusalem for worship,
Was returning and sitting in his chariot read Esaias the prophet.
Then the Spirit said unto Philip, Go near, and join thyself to this chariot.
And Philip ran thither to him, and heard him read the prophet Esaias, and said, Understandest thou what thou readest?
And he said, How can I, except some man should guide me? And he desired Philip that he would come up and sit with him.
The place of the scripture which he read was this, He was led as sheep to the slaughter: and like a lamb dumb before his shearer, so opened he not his mouth:
In his humiliation his judgement was taken away: and who shall declare his generation? For his life is taken from the earth.
And the eunuch answered Philip, and said, I pray thee, of whom speaketh the prophet this? Of himself, or of some other man?
Then Philip opened his mouth, and began at the same scripture, and preached unto him Jesus.
And as they went on their way, they came unto a certain water: and the eunuch said, See, here is water; what doth hinder me to be baptized?
And Philip said, If thou believest with all thine heart, thou mayest. And he answered and said, I believe that Jesus Christ is the Son of God.
And he commanded the chariot to stand still: and they went down both into the water, both Philip and the eunuch; and he baptized him.

At a time of great revival among the Samaritans, Philip packed up there and traveled to where God told him.

The Greek word in Acts is eunouchos, which means literally “guardian or keeper of the couch.” They were placed in positions of highest trust in royal palaces and wealthy households. Eunuchs served and guarded the women in these households. Because of their intimate access to the royal courts, eunuchs often rose to senior government positions. They had to be men who could be trusted not to have affairs with the women — otherwise it might confuse both the line of succession to the throne and inheritance rights. Although the ancients did not have the same clear concept of heterosexual and homosexual that we do today, these were men who, as now, had a reputation for being disinterested in women as objects of sexual attraction.

In some cases where the master wanted to be extra cautious, eunuchs were sometimes castrated. (Please refer to the 3 different kinds of eunuchs described by Jesus in Matthew 19:11,12) Ancient literature indicates that various types of eunuchs were recognized. There were “Manmade eunuchs,” meaning those who had been castrated. But there are also references to so-called “natural” or “born” eunuchs. An ancient Sumerian myth about the creation of eunuchs says they “do not satisfy the lap of women.” It says they were specifically created to resist the wiles of women. The book of Sirach, in the Old Testament Catholic Bible, says that embracing a girl makes a eunuch groan. (Sirach 30:20)

Instead, eunuchs were commonly associated in ancient culture with sexual interest in men. The Kama Sutra has an entire chapter on eunuchs seducing men. Quintus Curtius, an historian who wrote about Alexander the Great reported that Alexander’s palace included “herds of eunuchs, also accustomed to prostitute themselves [like women].” Quintus Curtius also reported that Alexander the Great fell deeply in love with a eunuch named Bagoas and they entered into a relationship of mutual love. This does not mean that all natural eunuchs were gay, but as a group, they were strongly associated with homosexual desire, at least in the popular mind.

When the Ethiopian introduced himself to Philip as a eunuch, Philip would have immediately known he was dealing with a man who was part of a class commonly associated with homosexual desire. Acts 8:32-33 says the Ethiopian was reading from Isaiah 53:7-8. This passage was already seen by early Christians as a prophecy about Jesus. Verse 3 “He was despised and rejected by others.” Verse 7 “He was oppressed and he was afflicted.” That might be a strange passage for someone to read just after worshipping in Jerusalem, but it makes sense if the eunuch himself had found himself despised and rejected by the religious leaders in Jerusalem.

Eunuchs were the sexual outcasts of Jewish religious society. By the first century Deuteronomy 23:1 was interpreted to mean anyone incapable of fathering children (either physically or by reason of what we today would call sexual orientation). They would have informed the Ethiopian eunuch when he arrived in Jerusalem that he could not enter even the outer court of the temple. He would have been assured by the ‘people of God’ that he could not become one of them.

While reading about another who had been despised and rejected, oppressed and afflicted, it was at that moment Philip, guided by the Holy Spirit, came and asked “Do you understand what you are reading?” He answered “How can I unless someone guides me?” (8:31) So Philip began with the scripture he was reading, and proclaimed to him the good news of Jesus. Then they came to some water and the eunuch said, “Look, here is some water! What is to prevent me from being baptized?” Philip responded, “If you believe with all your heart, you may.”

Whether the eunuch was gay or not, we do not know, but his sexual orientation was completely irrelevant to whether he could become a Christian.

If there were some authentic scriptural basis for excluding the Ethiopian eunuch because of the real possibility he was a homosexual, we can be sure that Philip, a man who followed God even when God led him into the wilderness, would have been quick to pursue it.