Prospectus: David and Jonathan… Close and Not Gay?

1 Samuel 18-20 recounts the story and the relationship of David and Jonathan which has received much criticism over the relations dating back to early Christianity period. Yaron Peleg who works with the Classical and Semitics Department for George Washington University in Washington DC, summarized these criticisms nicely in the opening paragraph of his essay “Love at First Sight? David, Jonathan, and the Biblical Politics of Gender.” He states:

The notion that the relationship between Jonathan and David involved more than just friendship, that it was also sexual, is not new. The friendship between the two men gained exemplary status as a love story already in early Christianity.’ In our own time, the idea has long been part of the lay reading of the relationship between the two.- Within contemporary gay culture, David and Jonathan have been established as a proverbial royal couple; an inspiring example for a future acceptance and tolerance of gays in the Western world. In recent years, these popular notions have been augmented by more substantial biblical scholarship, which attempts to validate the homoeroticism of the ancient love story by employing gender or queer theories.

The research paper I will be writing will include discussions about the original text in Hebrew and analyze the relationship between David and Jonathan from a cultural perspective of the time when it was written. Markus Ehnder, a Scottish assyriologist, who wrote an article for the Westminster Theological Journal will be a main source I use, for in his article Observations on the Relationship between David and Jonathan and the Debate on Homosexuality, he analyzes the original Hebrew texts, and offers detailed explanation of the verbs used to describe the relationship between the two friends. Through this literary dissection of the story of David and Jonathan, I plan to focus my paper on the truth of the relationship through the literature and from thence make conclusions about the contrast in interpretations today from the American culture to more eastern cultures.

For example, Rainbow Alliance Open Faith, is an organization that has used the story of David and Jonathan to support their approval of homosexual relationships and marriage. On their website they have an article which states the following quotations about the relationship between David and Jonathan.

However, even though they are not strictly necessary, there *are* several passages that show approval of gay relationships. To mention just one, there is the love affair between David and Jonathan… Jonathan disrobed before David: 1 Samuel 18:4… 1 Samuel 20:30: Reference to the nakedness of one’s parents is one of the methods used in the Bible to refer to a sexual relationship.  Jonathan had chosen David as his lover… 1 Samuel 20:41: Here they are displaying a deep affection for one another, and showing an emotional attachment well beyond what would be shown by two heterosexuals in a similar situation.  They actually weep together because of their upcoming forced separation… As you can see, they were very much in love.  The Bible shows them kissing one another — not a normal activity for heterosexual men. To make sure you don’t miss the sexual aspect, the love is compared (favorably, by the way) with the love of a woman.  Their souls were knit together in love, and they made a covenant because of their love… David was obviously bisexual.  But with a preference for men, since he found his love for Jonathan to be wonderful, passing the love of women.  As a King he *had* to have a harem and produce heirs, no matter his sexual orientation, but his one true love was Jonathan.

The article concludes that the relationship between David and Jonathan is a homosexual one and from thence they argue that the scriptures are not abruptly opposing homosexual relationships. This is a great example of the types of teachings that modern reformed Christian churches are taking to help cope with the rising population of homosexuals in their congregations. Along with this acceptance of homosexuality that this twisted interpretation presents, it is also becoming detrimental for certain social circles who strictly oppose homosexual relationships to the extent that knowing two dudes who go anywhere’s alone together must be gay.

My argument in this paper will not focus on the morality of homosexuality but on the extremity of homosexuality in today’s culture. By analyzing the story of David and Jonathan and discussing how the text would have been viewed at the time it was written as well as how it is currently viewed. And why that might have changed. Men today who are not homosexual get criticized and battered and accused of homosexuality for less than manly actions.

It’s easy to look around and to notice the extremities of homosexual acceptance. On one hand we have ‘open-mind thinkers’ who are ‘not putting themselves in a box’ promoting homosexual relationships ‘if it works for them.’ On the other hand we have die hard heterosexuals who criticize homosexuality so intensely that they make mockery and an example of any man who doesn’t like sports, weights, or releasing of bodily gases – God forbid they tell another man they love them.

The sources I have found thus far: Spirit is Thicker than Blood – Jacob Chinitz, Will the Real Homosexual in the Bible Please Stand Up? – Uri Wernik, Love at First Sight? David, Jonathan, and the Biblical Politics of Gender – Peleg Yaron, and the sources listed above will help me to examine the REAL relationship between David and Jonathan from a literary angle and question why, mostly in men, that we have to be either all of nothing on the topic of homosexuality. What exactly has happened to our culture to where two men can no longer have a relationship that is meaningful, close, encouraging, growing, and not homosexual? It seems like today those kinds of relationships amongst same genders are left only for women and not viewed as questionable.


About Ashley Lee

I am going into my senior year of college at the University of Kentucky this fall as a Chemistry major. I took a job as a photographer for a day camp over the summer. But I'm studying Thai culture abroad in Bangkok this fall. My life is random. My life is good.
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3 Responses to Prospectus: David and Jonathan… Close and Not Gay?

  1. marysticklen says:

    I think this is a really interesting topic. The issue of morality of homosexuality is obviously a very heated topic today. I really like how instead of focusing on whether homosexuality is moral, you are focusing on how the text would have been viewed throughout history and in today’s society. However, you may have a hard time finding a lot of resources that don’t just focus on one side of the moral debate. It may also be interesting for you to compare how other cultures today besides our own would or have reacted to the view of this text being homosexual in nature.
    Overall, I think this is a very original and unique topic. You just need to be careful of the sources you use, but it looks like you’ve found some good ones this far.

  2. suzimills says:

    You have a great set of ideas. One thing that can be brought out is the lack of information provided by biblical text toward homosexuality. Silence indicates this was not a problem to be addressed. Homosexuality is extremely rare in Judism. The only time it is mentioned in the Old Testment is in reference to pagan religious practices.
    Using the original Hebrew language in your argument is also a good idea. The Hebrew language is specific in meaning, very black and white no gray areas.

    • Jesse says:

      the bible is not silent how many times does it have to mention it , it says its going to be one of the causes for god to torch the world also it even addresses women being lesbian as a sign of the end times ,,, thats not excactly silent

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