Statement of the Celtic Christian Church
Homosexuality and Same-Sex Relationships
The Celtic Christian Church exists for one reason only: to serve and help its members in living
their Christian life. It makes no distinction between its members who are homosexual and those
who are heterosexual. All are equally children of God, and the Church welcomes and serves
them all equally and without distinction.
However, homosexuality remains a very divisive issue in today's world. In order to guide its
members in their relations with homosexual persons, and also to inform persons interested in the Church about its position on such persons, the following statement has been prepared. Its
intention is to clarify this issue and its various aspects, to indicate on what the Church bases its
position on homosexual persons, and to spell out its policy in their regard.
The statement will begin with a brief consideration of natural law. It is very important here not
to limit this law to the physical, but to consider it in regard to the total human person. It will
then consider what scientific research has determined concerning homosexuality. This will be
useful in understanding the nature of homosexuality. The statement will continue with a careful
exegesis of the relevant passages in Sacred Scripture. This in turn will provide essential
guidelines to human conduct in this area. It will then consider what Tradition contributes to
those guidelines. The statement will then conclude with the Church's policy on homosexuality.
References to homosexual persons throughout this document will designate only those who have a so-called "homosexual orientation," meaning those individuals who intrinsically and
involuntarily sustain an exclusive and consistent emotional, psychological and sexual attraction
to persons of the same sex.
Natural law can best be described as the complex of universally binding moral principles that
can be discerned by human reason alone. Applied to human sexuality, this law examines the
way in which the human body, male and female, operates and the purpose of that activity, the
creation of new life, and it concludes that to act in any way contrary to that is against the way
the body is made and therefore against that law of nature. This position, which has been called
"physicalist," is easily seen to be behind the prohibitions against artificial birth control,
masturbation, premarital sex, and so on, and obviously any gay and lesbian sexual activity.
That extreme position considers only the body, and not the whole human person. What should
one say, from a biological point of view, when a person feels attracted to persons of the same
sex? What is in fact "natural" for that person? Scientific research will help to illuminate this
matter (see below).
Further, from a psychological point of view, it is part of the human personality to desire intimate
and committed relationships with other persons. No longer described as an individual defined
by his or her separateness, the human person is seen today as a being-in-relation, realizing the
fullness of personality within and by means of those relationships. In this way the human
person is in the image and likeness of God, who is absolute-being-in-relation through the mutual
indwelling of the three divine persons. Once again one must ask what is "natural" for the human
In recent decades there has been a major paradigm shift in the human sciences' approach to
sexuality. Older models of human sexuality described sex in terms of instinctual drive, whereas
contemporary psychology understands sexuality in the context of relationship and attachment.
Sex is seen as a vehicle of intimacy in adult relations, nurturing the human bond, celebrating
identity and relationship. Human beings are the only species that engages in sexual behavior
primarily for the development of attachment, and only secondarily for procreation.
Data from the human sciences and from the clinical experiences of clinicians over five decades
overwhelmingly support the assertion that homosexuality is a positive variant of human
sexuality. Estimates of prevalence vary between 2% and 5% of adults in America and Europe.
Empirical studies have repeatedly demonstrated that there is no correlation between
homosexuality and psychopathology.
Significant evidence is accumulating that homosexuality may well be largely biologically
determined. Genetic studies find significantly higher concordance rates of homosexuality
between identical twins than among fraternal twins, and a higher incidence of homosexuality
among first-degree relations. Biological studies indicate that relative exposure to androgen
hormones in prenatal development may be determinate in homosexual variance.
Contemporary psychoanalysis and developmental psychology assert that sexual-object choice is
formed very early, between the ages of three and five, before volitional choice is a possibility.
Homosexual men and women report that their sexual orientation is given, not chosen.
In sum, contemporary scientific research indicates that homosexuality may well be biologically
The same question must therefore be asked again: what is "natural" for homosexual
persons? What rules of conduct should apply to them? As Christians, we seek such rules first
of all in Sacred Scripture.
There are several passages in Sacred Scripture that address homosexual conduct. A
fundamentalist approach takes such passages verbatim and makes absolute rules of conduct for
today out of them. Such an approach is simplistic and takes no account of two extremely
important facts: the biblical texts were written within totally different cultural contexts, and they were written between two and four thousand years ago. It follows that a serious effort is
required to understand exactly what a text is saying and what it means within its own cultural
It is then necessary to ask how those Biblical passages, which are texts of the past, can be
meaningful, relevant, perhaps even normative and authoritative, for people living today and in
the future. To answer this question it is important, first, to realize that the cultural contexts
mentioned above are often sinful and oppressive (the example of Lot, in the first text to be
examined below, is a good case in point). The limitations and the sinfulness of this historical
world behind the Biblical texts mean that those texts cannot automatically be made normative
for the world of today. Second, it is important to discern the alternative world the texts are
projecting. This world both corrects the evils of the former world and presents the message God
is giving us for the building up of his Kingdom. Thus the projected world of God's Kingdom
becomes normative for us today.
The following exegesis of the Scriptural texts on homosexuality will attempt to do what has just
been outlined, so that we may determine exactly what it is that God is telling us by means of his
Genesis 19:1-11 - The Sin of Sodom
Two angels of God appear to Lot in the evening. Lot, not recognizing them, offers them the
hospitality of his house. Then the men of the city come to his house and say to him: "Where are
the men who came to you tonight? Bring them out to us, so that we may know them." Lot
refuses, and instead offers them his two virgin daughters, for them to do with as they will, as
long as they do not touch the men to whom he has offered hospitality.
The word "to know" as used here clearly has sexual implications, meaning "to have sexual
intercourse with." The total passage, however, is not about sexual ethics. Rather it concerns
inhospitality to strangers, intensified by a most grotesque form of sexually abusive behavior:
gang rape. The motivation for wanting to "sodomize" the visitors was to humiliate them by
treating them like women, whose social status was limited to that of being merely the "property"
of men. In marriage, a woman was "redeemed" (literally, "purchased") by her husband whose
property she now became. Defeated soldiers too were often raped by their victors, not merely to
denigrate them, but also to demonstrate that they were now the "property" of their aggressors,
reduced to the subservient social status of women. In view of this pervasive cultural perception,
ancient Israelite society maintained a covenantal code of "sacred Hospitality" that was extended
to strangers, widows and orphans because of the fact that these three classes of people were the
most vulnerable to poverty, abuse and harm. Lot honors this sacred code of hospitality with the
two strangers, and because of that he is regarded as righteous.
But we do not today consider Lot "righteous" in being willing to give up his two daughters to
the men of Sodom. Had they been raped and survived the brutality, they would have forever
remained social outcasts and unmarriageable for having lost their virginity beforehand. This is
an example of the sinful and oppressive world often found behind a biblical text, and we cannot
therefore consider such a text as normative for us today. If we did we would consider Lot's
willingness to offer his daughters to the mob as ethically acceptable today. Rather it is the
world the Bible projects that is normative for us today, and this world is one of respect and care
for all persons.
Genesis 19:1-11, taken in its proper historical context, cannot be cited as a sanction against
homosexuality. The text is, rather, a clear and unequivocal condemnation of abusive and
denigrating behavior toward other human persons, which in this case takes the form of
attempted gang rape.
Leviticus 18:22 and 20:13 - The Holiness Code
These two texts, found in close proximity to one another, read as follows: "You shall not lie
with a male as with a woman; it is an abomination" (Lev 18:22). "If a man lies with a male as
with a woman, both of them have committed an abomination; they shall be put to death; their
blood is upon them" (Lev 20:13).
These two texts present a clear prohibition of male homogenital activity. However, neither here
nor anywhere else in the Bible, with the exception of Romans 1:26-27, discussed below, is there
any condemnation of lesbian sexual activity. And perhaps more telling is the fact that in the two
prohibitions quoted above the reference to male-male sexual activity compares one man lying
with another to lying with a woman. Once again, these texts betray the idea that for a man to
engage in homosexual activity is to be denigrated to the socially inferior status of a woman. The
entrenched patriarchalism found in much of the Bible is in evidence here, and it must be taken
into consideration in interpreting these and similar texts within their historical and cultural
The two prohibitions in question are found in a section of Leviticus that has been labeled the
"Holiness Code," a series of moral, cultic and humanitarian laws and prohibitions extending
from Chapter 17 through Chapter 26. It seems to have been an originally independent legal
document dating to the end of the Israelite monarchal period (around the sixth century BCE)
which was later edited by one of the compositional traditions of the Pentateuch, the Priestly
tradition, and incorporated into the larger corpus of what we now know as Leviticus. Another
product of the same era, the prophetic literature of Ezekiel, emphasizes "holiness" as one of
God's quintessential attributes, and it seems to have had a significant influence on the Holiness
Code, which exhibits the same theological presuppositions. These are well expressed in
Leviticus 19:2: "Speak to all the congregation of the people of Israel and say to them: You shall
be holy, for I the Lord your God am holy," and similar texts (Lev 20:26, 21:8, etc.).
Under the Priestly influence, this Holiness Code was eventually related to the concept of ritual
purity. One must be holy, in fact, in order to engage worthily in rituals of worship. In order to
obtain the purity necessary for rituals of worship, one had to accomplish certain acts, such as
washing one's hands, or avoid certain actions, such as eating the flesh of animals considered
unclean. But this reality continued to evolve. God also makes moral demands on his people, as
in the Ten Commandments. And so, posterior to the writing and editing of the Holiness Code,
ritual purity was gradually transformed into ethical purity. Avoiding what was ritually impure
became avoiding sin; ritual purity developed into purity of conscience.
The Holiness Code in itself was concerned with just that: the holiness of God, and subsequently
that of the People of God. In the Holiness Code Israel is being instructed to set itself apart from
the surrounding nations, to be pure and holy before God. This means that Israel was to refrain
from ritual behaviors and social practices that would be tantamount to an observance of the
statutes of alien gods and their people: "The Lord spoke to Moses, saying: Speak to the people
of Israel and say to them: I am the Lord your God. You shall not do as they do in the land of
Egypt, where you lived, and you shall not do as they do in the land of Canaan, to which I am
bringing you. You shall not follow their statutes. My ordinances you shall observe and my
statutes you shall keep, following them: I am the Lord your God" (Lev 18:1-4).
In close connection with the concept of "separateness," both of the injunctions under
consideration refer to the act of male sexual activity as an "abomination." In this context the
word "abomination" suggests that which is "unclean," that which makes one ritually impure.
The same Chapter 20 of Leviticus brings this out clearly, in a text which brings together the
various points that have been made: "I am the Lord your God; I have separated you from the
peoples. You shall therefore make a distinction between the clean animal and the unclean, and
between the unclean bird and the clean; you shall not bring abomination on yourselves by
animal or by bird or by anything with which the ground teems, which I have set apart for you to
hold unclean. You shall be holy to me; for I the Lord am holy, and I have separated you from
the other peoples to be mine" (Lev 20:24-26).
Understanding the texts in question in light of this passage makes it evident that the prohibitions against male, same-sex relations are not moral or ethical in nature, but rather religious and cultural. The references to them as "abominations," then, have nothing to do with the sexual
acts in themselves, but rather with their specific religious context within ancient Israelite culture, as acts of ritual impurity.
The Gospels, which most readily put us in touch with the traditions of Jesus' teachings, are silent
on the issue of homosexuality. In one sense this is not surprising. The Book of Leviticus, as
shown above, condemns homosexuality for reasons of ritual purity, and ritual purity is
something about which Jesus was very much unconcerned: "Do you not see that whatever goes
into the mouth enters the stomach, and goes out into the sewer? But what comes out of the
mouth proceeds from the heart, and this is what defiles. For out of the heart come evil
intentions, murder, adultery, fornication, theft, false witness, slander. These are what defiles a
person, but to eat with unwashed hands does not defile" (Matthew 15:17-20).
Once the reason for which homogenital acts were condemned in the Old Testament Holiness
Code (ritual purity) was rejected, it stands to reason that if the issue of homosexuality were of
particular concern to Jesus or the primitive church, we should expect to find in the Gospels
either an alternative reason for condemning it, or an attempt to demonstrate why these acts are
wrong in themselves. Neither is the case. However, there are New Testament texts outside of
the Gospels which are relevant to this issue, and these must be addressed in their own historical
and cultural context if they are to be properly understood and interpreted for the contemporary
church. It is to these texts that we now turn our attention.
Romans 1:26-27 - The Meaning of "Contrary to Nature"
These two verses read: "For this reason God gave them up to degrading passions. Their women
exchanged natural intercourse for unnatural (Greek, 'contrary to nature') and in the same way
also the men, giving up natural intercourse with women, were consumed with passion for one
another. Men committed shameless acts with men and received in their own persons the due
penalty for their error." In the larger passage of which these two verses are part, Paul is arguing
that God "gave up" the gentiles to "unnatural" passions for failing to recognize him in creation,
in which he has always been revealed (verses 20-22). The implications of this statement are
rooted in several beliefs about homosexuality commonly presupposed in ancient Greco-Roman
culture, which can be summarized as follows:
First, any persons who engaged in homosexual activity were intentionally overriding their
natural sexual desire for persons of the opposite sex. The contemporary category of "sexual
orientation" (coined only in the last century) had not been in any way conceived of in Paul’s
time. Nor was there any conception that biology, psychology or sociology played a role in
shaping and determining one’s sexual orientation. Paul’s own language in Romans 1:26, in
which he maintains that “women exchanged natural intercourse for unnatural…” and men were
said to be “giving up natural intercourse with women…” betrays this conceptual limitation.
Second, since homosexual acts were thought to be a willful denial of one’s natural sexual
desires, they were also commonly presumed to be intrinsically lustful.
Third, homosexual activity was presumed to require the partners to exchange their natural roles
as dominant/active (in the case of men) or submissive/passive (in the case of women), thereby
“giving up” the natural roles of men or women. As was noted earlier, this was the very reason
victorious soldiers would sometimes rape their enemy soldiers: in order to force them into the
submissive sexual role of women, thereby denigrating them as weak, effeminate, womanly.
Fourth, it was widely believed that homosexuality was a potential temptation for all people and
that to engage in it would render its participants sterile. Thus, there was an ongoing fear that
unbridled homosexual activity could lead to the extinction of the human race!
An examination of this broader social and cultural context concerning beliefs about
homosexuality makes it evident that Paul’s statements are neither unique nor particular to
Christianity. Rather, he is merely reiterating the presumed truths of his contemporary culture--
presumptions which, on virtually all levels of human advancement, have since been rendered
inadequate, untenable, and completely erroneous. In the matter of the ethical implications of
homosexual relationships in the contemporary church, Paul’s statements in Romans 1:26-27 are
inconclusive because the cultural assumptions upon which he bases them have been proven
false. In cases like this, careful exegesis is necessary to discern what is divinely inspired, and
therefore universally valid, and what is due to human ignorance or shortsightedness, and
therefore not universally valid.
Such careful exegesis is particularly important in understanding the term "contrary to nature" or
"unnatural" in verse 26. Was Paul using this term in a concrete sense, likely stemming from his
own Jewish background, in which the "nature" of a thing referred to its essential character and
identity? This is the meaning he intended in other parts of his writings (for example, Galatians
4:8, referring to entities "that by nature are not gods," and 1 Corinthians 11:14, asking, "Does
not nature itself teach you that if a man wears long hair, it is degrading to him?"). Thus it would
seem that if this is the meaning Paul had in mind, he was not making an ethical statement about
homosexual activity, as much as arguing that it was uncharacteristic or atypical for
heterosexuals to act in a homosexual manner. To act "unnaturally," according to this view, is to
act in a way that is inconsistent with what is expected. God himself, in Romans 11:24, is said to
act contrary to the divine nature in grafting the gentiles onto the olive tree that is Israel.
Or rather, was Paul using the term "contrary to nature" in the Stoic sense that was prevalent in
his day? This carried the abstract meaning of "nature and the laws of nature." If this is the
meaning Paul was giving to the term, it is consistent with the ancient Greco-Roman cultural
assumption that homosexuals were "naturally" heterosexuals who out of lust freely chose to give themselves over to homosexual relations. Modern science, on the contrary, has recognized the nature of "sexual orientation" and has thus confirmed the falsity of those ancient cultural
presuppositions. This in turn shows, once again, that a universally valid code of conduct cannot
be drawn from this text.
1 Corinthians 6:9 and 1 Timothy 1:10
Interpreting the Greek words "malakoi" and "arsenokoitai"
These two texts both raise the question of the best way in which to translate the two Greek
words noted above, both of which are important for this subject. The texts read as follows:
"Do you not know that wrongdoers will not inherit the kingdom of God? Do not be deceived!
Fornicators, idolaters, adulterers, male prostitutes (malakoi), sodomites (arsenokoitai), thieves,
the greedy, drunkards, revilers, robbers--none of these will inherit the kingdom of God" (1
"…the law is laid down not for the innocent but for the lawless and disobedient, for the godless
and sinful, for the unholy and profane, for those who kill their father or mother, for murderers,
fornicators, sodomites (arsenokoitai), slave traders, liars, perjurers, and whatever else is contrary to the sound teaching that conforms to the glorious gospel of the blessed God, which he
entrusted to me" (1 Timothy 1:9-11).
These Greek terms "malakoi" and "arsenokoitai," here translated as “male prostitutes” and
“sodomites” respectively, have undergone many and various translations in English Bibles--a
fact which, itself, lays bare the reality that each of these terms presents a very difficult problem
of interpretation. Among various interpretations we can locate renderings such as “adulterers
and homosexuals” and, combining both words into one description, “sexual perverts.” In other
English translations "malakoi" has been variously rendered as “catamites,” “the effeminate,”
“boy prostitutes,” “masturbators,” and even “sissies.” The term "arsenokoitai," on the other
hand, has seen translations including “homosexuals,” “sodomites,” “child molesters,”
“perverts,” “people of infamous habits,” and recently "practicing homosexuals." In view of this
ambiguity, we can conclude at least this much: that any attempt to interpret these texts as
expressive of a contemporary understanding of “homosexual orientation” cannot be
substantiated and is ultimately without warrant. The best that can be determined here is that
sexual activity which involves exploitation, inequality or abuse is ethically reprehensible,
regardless of the gender of its participants. These texts, once again, are simply incapable of
speaking to any contemporary understanding of sexual orientation and its ethical implications
for same-sex relations.
The Bible and Homosexuality
Homosexuality as a perceived orientation or variant of human sexuality has been understood
only recently. Its absence is therefore part of the historical limitations of the world behind the
biblical text. Conversely, the world projected by the Bible--the Kingdom of God--demands that
we surpass those historical limitations in working toward that Kingdom and determining just
what God is telling us to guide those efforts. To ignore the advances in the human sciences
regarding human sexuality inevitably results in an inadequate, and ultimately oppressive,
interpretation of the references to homosexuality in the Bible. This is not unique to the question
of homosexuality. A host of other practices, such as patriarchy, sexism, anti-Semitism, slavery,
and so on, have been defended by means of biblical texts. The same careful exegesis is
necessary to determine God's revealed word in such areas.
After Christ's death and resurrection, the apostles went out and preached his message. Many
persons accepted this message and formed communities of believers who lived their lives in
accordance with it. Eventually Christ's teaching was summarized in the written gospels. And
some of the apostles wrote letters to various communities of believers to present that message
and apply it to their circumstances. All of this is tradition.
More precisely, Tradition (with a capital "T") is the process of transmitting the life, teaching and
worship of the Church through which the message of Christ to the apostles is passed on to
succeeding generations. And tradition (with a small "t") is the content that is passed on in this
way. This comprises the whole life of the Church, all that it is and believes, all that contributes
to holiness of life within it. Sacred Scripture itself is part of that tradition, since an oral tradition
existed before it was written down; and conversely Scripture is the critical norm to which
tradition is subject as the centuries go on. Tradition is a living reality, not only a group of
statements on God and human life to be believed through faith. With Scripture included within
it, it is for us the fountain of God's revelation as this is applied to changing circumstances over
Christian tradition, all through the Middle Ages and down to the present, has been consistent in
its denunciation of homosexuality. It has judged all homosexual acts as both unnatural and
seriously sinful. The fundamental reason for this judgment is the natural law as described
above. Human sexuality is intended for procreation, and any use of this faculty outside of that
end is judged to be against nature.
Strict as this position is, however, other elements of the Christian tradition on this matter must
During the Middle Ages, throughout the Christian world and particularly in Europe, there were
Christian ceremonies solemnizing same-sex unions. These were at first only sets of prayers, but
by the time of the much fuller development of liturgical marriage ceremonies in the twelfth
century, they had become a complete office which included, among other elements, the lighting
of candles, the placing of both persons' hands on the Gospel, the joining of their right hands (the
basic symbol of marriage in Antiquity and in the Middle Ages), the Lord's Prayer, Eucharistic
communion, and a kiss. These were ceremonies of personal commitment, and they were
religious ceremonies, expressing a commitment that was blessed by a priest. After the Middle
Ages homosexuality came to be seen in an extremely negative way, and these same-sex unions
diminished in number, without ever disappearing completely.
Tradition, as noted above, is a living reality, and it must not be confused with a kind of
traditionalism which believes that all has already been revealed and that nothing can change. As
new developments occur and new discoveries are made, the Christian Church attempts to
understand them and to determine, in the context of its life and faith, what God is saying to us
through them. In the matter of homosexuality, scientific research is showing that this condition
is something a person is born with, not something a person chooses (see "Science" above). And
the human person is seen in modern times, not as an isolated and separate individual, but as a
being-in-relation, attaining the fullness of personality in and through those relationships (see
"Natural Law" above).
Those two facts--the existence of a tradition of same-sex unions blessed by a priest in a religious
ceremony within the negative "official" tradition on homosexuality, and the evolving concept of
homosexuality and of the human person itself--show that tradition, precisely because it is a
centuries-long lived reality, is not a simple source of divine revelation, any more than Sacred
Scripture; and that, like Scripture, it must be studied carefully to determine what God is telling
us through this channel of revelation.
The Celtic Christian Church and Homosexuality
All of the above considerations show that homosexuality is a complex and multi-faceted reality
and that one's approach or attitude to it, if this is to be Christian, must carefully consider all the
ways in which God speaks to us. In an attempt to do that, the Celtic Christian Church looks first
to Sacred Scripture.
When someone asked Jesus what the first of the commandments was, Jesus replied, "The first is,
'Hear, O Israel: the Lord our God, the Lord is one; you shall love the Lord your God with all
your heart, and with all your soul, and with all your strength.' The second is this, 'You shall love
your neighbor as yourself'" (Mark 12:29-31). When someone then asked Jesus who his
neighbor was, Jesus replied with the parable of the good Samaritan: it was the person who
showed mercy to a man who had been robbed and beaten by thieves who was that man's
neighbor (Luke 10:30-37). And Jesus repeated this basic message in other ways: If someone
wants to take your coat, give him your cloak as well (Matthew 5:40). If anyone forces you to go
one mile with him, go an extra mile (Matthew 5:41). Go after the sheep that is lost (Luke 15:4).
The message is clear: loving your neighbor, the second greatest commandment, means doing
good to that neighbor, and not harm. This is the very essence of the Christian life concerning
With this teaching in mind and considering the matter that was developed above, the Celtic
Christian Church relates to homosexual persons in the following ways.
No moral guilt whatever attaches to the fact of a homosexual orientation. All homosexual
persons have the same human dignity and human rights as heterosexual persons. They are to be
treated with respect and sensitivity, and are not to be subject to any kind of discrimination
because of their sexual orientation.
Homosexual persons need and want intimate human relationships, as do heterosexuals. It is
though such relationships, as described above, that human persons reach the full development of their personality. Such relationships between homosexual persons are to be honored and
supported, and the Church's ministry is present to help them become and be life-giving.
If a homosexual couple wishes to make a public commitment to each other, the Church blesses
such a desire and celebrates it by means of a marriage ceremony presided over by one of its
clergypersons. Since the Celtic Christian Church is a fully sacramental church, such a marriage is a sacrament. In accordance with what has been written above about the essential nature of relationships in a human life, it is such a relationship that is being celebrated in a same-gender union. It is love, and not sex, that most centrally defines Christian matrimony, whether heterosexual or homosexual.
If a gay or lesbian person believes that God is calling him or her to the priesthood, such a person
is welcome to seek entry into the Church's formation program for Holy Orders. The fact of a
homosexual orientation is not an impediment to Holy Orders. The Church ordains those
persons, men and women, heterosexuals and homosexuals, who in its judgment possess the
qualities required for priestly ministry and who complete the formation program for Holy
The Church's policy in regards to homosexual persons can perhaps best be expressed by saying
that it expects of homosexual persons the same thing that it expects of heterosexual persons, that is that they are doing their best to live their Christian lives seriously. There should be no need to go beyond that.
In continuing to look to Scripture for inspiration, this statement can perhaps well end by giving
the Bible's presentation of the beautiful and loving relationship between David, the future king,
and Jonathan, the son of the current king, Saul.
"When David had finished speaking to Saul [after killing Goliath], the soul of Jonathan was
bound to the soul of David, and Jonathan loved him as his own soul. Saul took him that day and
would not let him return to his father's house. Then Jonathan made a covenant with David,
because he loved him as his own soul. Jonathan stripped himself of the robe that he was
wearing, and gave it to David, and his armor, and even his sword and his bow and his belt"
(1Samuel 18:1-4). This deep friendship is referred to as a "sacred covenant" (1 Samuel 20:8).
Jonathan loved David "as he loved his own life" (1 Samuel 20:17).
Later, when David was hiding outside the city from the jealous wrath of Saul, Jonathan came to
him. "As soon as the boy [with whom Jonathan had come] had gone, David rose from beside
the stone heap and prostrated himself with his face to the ground. He bowed three times, and
they kissed each other, and wept with each other; David wept the more. Then Jonathan said to
David, 'Go in peace, since both of us have sworn in the name of the Lord, saying, "The Lord
shall be between me and you, and between my descendants and your descendants, forever."' He
got up and left; and Jonathan went into the city" (1 Samuel 20:41-42).
Finally, after a battle with the Philistines in which both Saul and Jonathan were killed, David
intoned this lamentation: "Saul and Jonathan, beloved and lovely! In life and in death they were
not divided, they were swifter than eagles, they were stronger than lions…. How the mighty
have fallen in the midst of the battle! Jonathan lies slain upon your high places. I am distressed
for you, my brother Jonathan; greatly beloved were you to me; your love to me was wonderful,
passing the love of women. How the mighty have fallen, and the weapons of war perished!" (2
Samuel 1:23, 25-27).
+Joseph A. Grenier, Presiding Bishop
+Katherine I. Kurtz
+Wilson J. Finnery
Revised April 2009