Today I would like to look at the claims of the Indianapolis billboard mentioned yesterday. It says, “Jesus affirmed a gay couple,” and cited Matthew 8:5-13. On the Would Jesus Discriminate website, they explain each of their claims. This passage tells of the centurion who went to Jesus to ask him to heal his servant. The Lord spoke the word and the servant was healed. The website claims that the Greek word used for servant, pais, could either mean son or boy, servant, or the type of servant that is his master’s same-sex lover. It also claims that the fact that Jesus healed the servant means that he affirmed a same-sex relationship between these two men.
There are two problems with this argument. Firstly, the article sites two sources to support the argument that pais meant a servant as a homosexual lover. But one book is writing about language used in classical Greek literature, and the other is about Greek myth. The Classical Greek period dated from 490 to 323 B.C., and Greek myth was written down much earlier. The problem is that words change meaning over time. To claim a word from that long before Christ still meant the same thing at the time of his ministry and at the writing of the gospel accounts is a word study fallacy. Take a modern-day example, the word gay. A hundred years ago, gay meant happy. Today it can still mean that, but is not usually used in that way. It is not usually used to mean happy anymore because today the word more often connotates one who is homosexual. The word has changed in its usual meaning.
The second problem involves another word study fallacy. If we assume that the word pais didn’t change its meaning over four hundred years or so, still no evidence is given why it should be read in the way it is claimed to mean. When doing a word study, one must look at the context to determine the proper word meaning if there is more than one possibility. No reason is given as to why homosexual servant should be the favored meaning over boy or (normal) servant, especially because these are the usual meanings of the word. If you are going to use an unusual meaning for a word, there must be evidence from the context that that meaning is the one meant by the writer.