12 January 2011

ARG: Jonathan loved David- My name in the bible

This is extremely long, but it is well worth it, I promise. I owe this post to the labors of other scholars but have added my little bits. A few Sundays ago in Gospel Doctrine, we were reading in Samuel about Jonathan and David. If you aren't familiar with the story, I encourage you to reference it. Many scholars argue that the relationship between Jonathan and David was more than just a platonic relationship. "That's blasphemous!" you might think. Well, perhaps. I do not know what the correct answer is, but I thought I'd share reasons why many believe this was an intimate homosexual relationship. These scriptures go on and on about the love these two righteous men had for each other. You can decide for yourself of course.

Now, one reason I am so interested in this story is because of my name. Guess what my middle name is? David. Jonathan David Adamson (son of Adam). Don't worry... I'm not claiming that all this was written in the stars, I am just pointing out one reason it peaked my interest. Anyway, on to the scriptures:
"...the soul of Jonathan was knit with the soul of David, and Jonathan loved him as his own soul"
1 Sam. 18:1
In Genesis 2:7, as written in the original Hebrew,  it describes how God blew the spirit into the body of Adam that God had formed from earth, so that Adam became a living soul. This means that "soul", in the ancient Israelite times, represents a combination of body and spirit. Thus the the interpretation can be argued that the two men appear to have loved each other both physically and emotionally.
"And Saul took him that day, and would let him go no more home to his father's house."
 1 Sam. 18:2
David left his parent's home and moved to Saul's where he would be with Jonathan. This is a strong indication that the relationship was extremely close. It echoes the passage marriage passage in Genesis 2:24: "Therefore shall a man leave his father and his mother, and shall cleave unto his wife: and they shall be one flesh."
"Then Jonathan and David made a covenant, because he loved him as his own soul. And Jonathan stripped himself of the robe that was upon him, and gave it to David, and his garments, even to his sword, and to his bow, and to his girdle."
1 Sam. 18:3-4
Whoa there... so the made a covenant with each other because of their intense love for each other? And then Jonathan stripped?? Since people in those days did not wear underwear, Jonathan stripped himself naked in front of David. That would be considered extremely unusual behavior (then and now) unless their relationship was sexual in nature.
"And Michal Saul’s daughter loved David: and they told Saul, and the thing pleased him. And Saul said, I will give him her, that she may be a snare to him, and that the hand of the Philistines may be against him. Wherefore Saul said to David, Thou shalt this day be my son in law in the one of the twain."
1 Sam. 18:20-21
Saul's belief was that David would be so distracted by a wife that he would not be an effective fighter and would be killed by the Philistines. He offered first his daughter Merab, but that was rejected, presumably by her. Then he offered Michal. There is an interesting phrase used at the end of verse 21. It would seem that David's first opportunity to be a son-in-law was with the older daughter Merab, and his second was with the younger daughter Michal. The KJV preserves the original text in its clearest form; it implies that David would become Saul's son-in-law through "one of the twain." "Twain" means "two", so the verse seems to refer to one of Saul's two daughters. Unfortunately, this is a mistranslation. The underlined phrase "the one of" does not exist in the Hebrew original. The words are shown in italics in the King James Version; this is an admission by the translators that they made the words up (that's what words in italics means in the KJV). Thus, if the KJV translators had been truly honest, they would have written:
"Thou shalt this day be my son-in-law, in the twain."
In modern English, this might be written: "Today, you are son-in-law with two of my children" That would refer to both his son Jonathan and his daughter Michal. Since the first daughter rejected the proposal, the Hebrew original would appear to recognize David and Jonathan's homosexual relationship as equivalent to David and Michal's heterosexual marriage. Saul may have approved or disapproved of the same-sex relationship; but at least he appears to have recognized it. Once again, the KJV (the translation the Mormon church believes is most correct) highlight their re-writing of the Hebrew original by placing the three words in italics.
"Then Saul’s anger was kindled against Jonathan, and he said unto him, Thou son of the perverse rebellious woman, do not I know that thou hast chosen the son of Jesse to thine own confusion, and unto the confusion of thy mother’s nakedness? "
1 Sam 20:30
The "choosing" (bahar), in this case, may indicate a permanent choice and firm relationship, and the mention of "nakedness" (erwa) could be interpreted to convey a negative sexual nuance, giving the impression that Saul saw something indecent in Jonathan's and David's relationship. But if you know the story, Saul was the evil one and Jonathan and David were righteous.
"...David arose out of a place toward the south, and fell on his face to the ground, and bowed himself three times: and they kissed one another, and wept one with another, until David exceeded."
1 Sam 20:41
Some translators could not handle the thought of two adult men kissing, so in other versions of the bible they mistranslated the passage by saying that the two men shook hands! This is somewhat less than honest. The original Hebrew text says that they kissed each other and wept together until David became great. The word which means "great" in this passage is "gadal" in the original Hebrew. The same word is used elsewhere in the Hebrew Scriptures to refer to King Solomon being greater than all other kings. Now, I am not saying I agree, but some theologians even interpret "gadal" in this verse as indicating that David had an erection. I am not enough of a linguist to really try that one on for size.
"I am distressed for thee, my brother Jonathan: very pleasant hast thou been unto me: thy love to me was wonderful, passing the love of women."
2 Sam 1:26
Powerful stuff huh? Ask yourself, would a straight man ever think of his love for any man greater than that of a woman? No lets look at their society. In the society of ancient Israel, it was not considered proper for a man and woman to have a platonic relationship. Men and women rarely spoke to each other in public. Since David's only relationships with women would have been sexual in nature, then he must be referring to sexual love here. It would not make sense in this verse to compare platonic love for a man with sexual love for a woman; they are two completely different phenomena. It would appear that David is referring to his sexual love for Jonathan.

Some also point out that the relationship between the two men is addressed with the same words and emphasis as other love relationships in the Hebrew Testament, whether heterosexual or between God and people ('ahava').

Jonathan was willing to betray his father, family, wealth, and traditions for David. Is there any person you would be willing to do that for that is unrelated to you besides your romantic love interest?

This is one of three stories that scholars believe may reference homosexual relationships in the bible. The others are Daniel and Ashpenaz as well as Ruth and Naomi. Really quickly I want to just point out a couple things about this last relationship for my lesbian sisters:

Did you know that one vow commonly used at heterosexual marriages is one that was exchanged between these two women?
"And Ruth said, Intreat me not to leave thee, or to return from following after thee: for whither thou goest, I will go; and where thou lodgest, I will lodge: thy people shall be my people, and thy God my God: Where thou diest, will I die, and there will I be buried: the Lord do so to me, and more also, if ought but death part thee and me."
Ruth 1:16-17
Beautiful isn't it? I would love to meet Ruth. And ironic that this passage is used in so many heterosexual marriages of our day. Ruth 1:14, referring to the relationship between Ruth and Naomi, mentions that "Ruth clave onto her." The Hebrew word translated here as "clave" is identical to that used in the description of a heterosexual marriage in Genesis 2:24 referenced above.

Now, while it is obvious that this same-sex friendship was very deep, there is no language in the scriptures to suggest it may have been a sexually active relationship as there seems to be for the story of Jonathan and David, but nevertheless, I think the language is very strong indeed... especially in a volume that hardly references women.

Take from this post what you will. What do you feel/think when you read about these relationships? What does the language suggest to you? Perhaps all you can take from this is that there is just as much reason to believe that the bible speaks well of homosexual relationships as their is reason to believe it speaks against it. And I suppose that can only help us realize how ignorant we really are... and how little we understand. Thank the heavens that it is God's job to judge and not our own.


Anonymous said...

I, too, have always loved the story of Jonathan and David and have always felt it meant more than mere friends. It is a very tender and loving story. As is the story of Ruth and Naomi. And, I have always felt about that story the same as I have about Jonathan and David.

I hope you know I meant no disrespect to your full name when I called you Jon. It was only meant as a term of endearment. I had a wonderful friend while living in England whose son was named Jonathan. He was an amazing child. At 6 years old, he was crushing my tush at chess! He loved the drums, like I do, so I gave him a pair of my drumsticks. That made us best pals for life, I think. :) He is a grown man, now, and is also gay. His parents have a very difficult time with that, which is sad- in essences, they have turned their backs on him. He is a wonderful human being and I love the heck out of him.

I am going to reference this post on my blog, if alright with you?

Thank you!

As always, love and respect.

Clive Durham said...

There is some discussion among scholars that Jesus' relationship with John was more than platonic. At the last supper, "There was at table one of his disciples, the one dear to Jesus, resting his head on Jesus' breast..." This was followed by another incident that occurred a few hours later just prior to Christ's arrest as recorded in Mark 14:51-52. This young man is believed by many to be the same John, Christ's beloved:

And there followed him (Jesus) a certain young man, having a linen cloth cast about his naked body; and the young men laid hold on him: 52 And he left the linen cloth, and fled from them naked.

Given Christ's failure to condemn homosexuality or for that matter, address the issue, these scriptures at least give pause for reflection.

El Genio said...

Jonathan and David's story gives me hope.

The story of Daniel and Ashpenaz has personal relevance to me, I'll have to look that one up.

Jonathan Adamson said...

@Duck- Of course I didn't take offense to you referring to me as "Jon." No worries. I'm sorry to hear about the other Jonathan's parents... but I'm glad he has someone like you :)

@Clive- I've heard that argument about Christ before. I'm not sure that I am convinced thus far, but I do think that his silence on the issue is at least noteworthy. If homosexuality was such an evil thing, why did he not address it?

@El Genio- Let me know what you find about Daniel and Ashpenaz, I'd be interested in hearing.

Steven Lester said...

Thanks for reminding me about that story in the Scriptures as it could be interpreted in the light of a gay relationship. I think that I will always consider that story in this light from now on.

Relationships between men, I'm told, were more intense back in the day within ancient societies, even as they are in the middle east today. There, I am told, men kiss each other all the time and that is considered just an expression of endearment, whereas if it ever happens in the West people naturally assume the two are just gay. Who can know for sure? All we have are clues to guess at.

I have a friend who lives in Utah and is a member of the Church with whom I disagree about being gay. We've known each other for 30 years. He tries to be neutral on the subject and he knows now that I am gay, but the hardest thing for him to accept is that his youngest son is probably gay, too. He has acknowledged that he has felt the attraction in the past, but I'm pretty sure he is much more hetero than gay, although even as I say that I suddenly realize that I have never seen him actually kiss his wife, who is very kind, although he is the father of 6 children. He and I just had a strong exchange about the subject and I tried my best to prove that there is actually no objective reason to believe that God or Jesus ever condemned the being as opposed to the act. I've haven't heard from him since (several weeks), although he is very busy man.

This is why I generally eschew friendship.

Sometimes I wonder why, given that the old law was swallowed up by the Atonement, the Church even includes the Old Testament in the list of Scriptures at all. It is an interesting study into the life and time of the Jewish People, but a poor window into the mind and person of God, which Jesus showed clearly. Why do we even refer to it to prove anything? The Book of Mormon is so much more clear and includes interpretations far more realistic to what the Incarnation has revealed than hardly anything the Old Testament says. I already know that nobody is going to agree with me, though.

It has been a long time since I read it, but are women including anywhere in the B of M as principles? I don't think so, but being old, my memory is always suspect.

Anonymous said...

@ Steven: in response to your wondering about women in the Book of Mormon and principles.

There are five women listed in the Book of Mormon by name: Eve, Mary, Sariah, Abish and Isabel.

Eve was with Adam; Mary, the mother of the Savior; Sariah, the wife of Lehi and mother of Nephi, among others; Abish, a Lamanite woman converted to the gospel (who called everyone to see a miracle, which almost backfired with everyone getting angry)and Isabel, the harlot, who took Alma the younger's son, Corianton, "away" from his missionary labors. There is also "the daughter of Jared" (much like Isabel, who flirted and made people fall in love with her, did what her father told her, to get what he wanted), but she is not named.

And, yes, in my humble opinion, there are principles surrounding all five women.

Trev said...

These are indeed interesting ideas, and good for reflection if nothing else. However, I am taking evidence only found from English translations of the Bible out of historical context with LOTS of salt. If you have any references to actual scholarly investigations of this--and I don't doubt there are--you should post them with it. This is the kind of thing that tends to get repeated a lot and take on significance of its own, I feel like.

Boris said...

Thank you, Jonathon, not only for your Biblical research, but also your own very personal interpretation of what it all means. As I've said or implied before, I believe you were well named! I truly hope you have or will soon find your own "David," and together embark on an heroic life against great opposition and hostility. You are a beautiful human being, and the GA have more to fear from you than you have to fear from them!

Jonathan Adamson said...

@Trev- Real quick, here are some references you can look into:

Martti Nissinen, Kirsi Stjerna, Homoeroticism in the Biblical World

Rocke, Michael. 1996. Forbidden Friendships: Homosexuality and Male Culture in Renaissance Florence.

Boswell, John. Same-sex Unions in Premodern Europe.

Halperin, David M. One Hundred Years of Homosexuality.

Martti Nissinen, Homoeroticism in the Biblical World

When Heroes Love:. The Ambiguity of Eros in the Stories of Gilgamesh and David

Homosexuality and Liminality in the Gilgamesh and Samuel

By no means have I done deep research into this. I'm sure there are other, better sources out there as well.

@Boris- Having gone through this process and learning of the biblical characters, my name has taken on a considerable about of personal meaning to me. Both names are from my grandfathers (John and David) which already made it meaningful. Thanks for all your kindness.

sara said...

Try also Daniel Boyarin as a reference.

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