How can pais mean male lover when Jesus is called a pais in Matthew 12:18?

by An Interested Reader

That’s a good question. The Greek word pais carries a range of meanings depending on the context in which it is used. Pais can refer to an infant, a child, a boy, a girl, a servant, a slave, an attendant, a King’s attendant, a minister or a male lover.

When we see the word pais in the Greek New Testament, context determines when it means child, servant, girl, boy or a male lover. Words do not always mean the same thing. The fact that the Greek word pais sometimes means same sex lover does not indicate it always carries that meaning.

The context of Matthew 12:18 does not indicate that Jesus is a same sex lover. The context indicates Jesus is the servant of Jehovah, based on the fact that Matthew is quoting Isaiah 42:1-3, where Isaiah says: Behold, my servant."

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The Gay Centurion

Were the centurion and pais
a gay couple?

Do you know about
the Roman marriage ban?

Was the centurion
really gay?

Is this another
gay centurion story?

Original question:

“If "pais" means a male lover, why was this same word used in Matthew 12:18 when referring to Jesus? I looked at Strong's Concordance and noticed that the exact same word, "pais", is used in both verses (the other verse being the one you refer to about the Centurion).”

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Comments for How can pais mean male lover when Jesus is called a pais in Matthew 12:18?

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Jun 13, 2013
on the male male interaction
by: Anonymous

You place the context of leviticus 20 within that of relating to Molech and so a man lying with a man is to you, not detestable. NIV Leviticus 20:13. Deception is a serious thing. My emotions can be twisted. I must accept what the word of God says and please Him.

Rick's comment: God placed Leviticus 20 in the context of Molech and goat idols and worshiping false gods.

1. Lev 17:7 and goat idols, part 1

2. Lev 17:7 and goat idols, part 2

3. Lev 17:7 establishes context

As a christian how can anal sex with a male be described as loving and committed. Love must involve please God.

Rick's comment: You assume that anal sex is a gay thing. In reality, anal sex was invented by heterosexuals who for thousands of years, have used anal sex as a primitive method of birth control. And about 34% of gay men do not engage in anal sex.

Are you okay with gay men who do not engage in anal sex?

Two men can never produce children. Sperms are haploid. Put 46 of them in a female cell and they will make death or cancer. How can you justify this male male relationship as normal?

Rick's comment: The "two men cannot produce children" argument? You would not prohibit sterile heterosexuals from marrying yet they cannot produce children.

You would not prevent elderly heterosexuals from marrying yet they cannot produce children. "Two men cannot produce children" is not a serious argument. If you really believed producing children was so important that it must be a requirement for marriage, you would be consistent in applying that logic to sterile and/or elderly heterosexuals.

If the world practiced male male and female female sex relationships, it will be heading for death. Think again.

Rick's comment: 95% of humanity is heterosexual and they continue to reproduce. The human race is not in any danger of dying out - there are more than 7 billion people on earth right now. And many gays and lesbians have biological children. Again, your argument doesn't sound serious or thoughtful.

What were the words Malakos and arsenokoites in the literature used for? Blessings on you!

Rick's comment: These links and the text links on these pages explain the meaning of malakoi and arsenokoitai.

What does malakoi mean?

What does arsenokoitai mean?

What words could Paul have used if he intended to condemn homosexuals?

Jan 12, 2014
I don't understand
by: Not understanding....

So, it's means male lover because YOU say it does? That makes no sense. Your arguments are paper thin here. The fact that the meaning means a servant and you're twisting it to mean what YOU want it to mean is ridiculous. Good luck with that though.

Rick's comment: Please read the article again. You completely missed the point. Pais, in some usages, does mean male lover, not because I say it does, but because that is how the word was used by Greek speaking people for 500 years before Jesus came and for hundreds of years after Jesus came.

I think you will enjoy discovering truths you don't know IF you'll take the time to click on the Links at the bottom of the article on which you commented. Many thanks.

Dec 02, 2015
What if?
by: Jeanne

If "pais" is used as "servant" when referring to Jesus, then "pais" can mean "servant" for the centurion soldier too. How could it be a "male lover"? I can be simply an "attendant" or "slave" right? He might be a good master/owner so he ask Jesus to heal his "pais".

Rick's comment: Hi Jeanne - I encourage you to read the article again and click on the links and read that information. The Greek words, pais, and doulos, are contrasted in these stories. That emphasizes that pais is different than doulos.

What must I do to be saved?

Dec 19, 2015
Try again.
by: Christian Kipp

A couple of issues here. 1. God condemns homosexuality in the Old Testament numerous times. If you believe that Jesus is God (I personally do not, but this conversation is in reference to Trinitarian Christianity), and that Jesus has existed since before creation (Gospel of John), then Jesus/God has condemned homosexuality many times, even making the violation punishable by death.

2. The Greek word doulos unequivocally means "slave", not servant. Yes, it has been mistranslated numerous times in almost every English translation, but if you study the Greek, there is no room for interpretation. Simply because the pais was used IN CERTAIN PARTS OF GREECE to mean a gay lover simple common sense (one being the context, two being that it is never translated as such anywhere in the Bible, and three being that neither the speakers, nor the writers of this text were Greek) would demand that the common usage (not an obscure one) would be used in the translation. Good try, but try again.

Rick's comment: Hi Christian - You wrote: "God condemns homosexuality in the Old Testament numerous times." That is a commonly held opinion which is unsupported by biblical facts.

Your assertions about doulos and pais miss the point. Matthew, Luke and the Holy Spirit intentionally use pais to describe the sick servant, to differentiate him from the other servants.

God as the ultimate Author of scripture, inserts pais into the text. If pais had the same meaning as doulos, just another servant, there is no reason to use pais in these passages.

Dec 19, 2015
by: alex gonzales

I wonder if the word pais in greek is the same as fag in old english?

Rick's comment: Hi Alex - I encourage you to Google that.

Jan 30, 2016
The logical implication of the use of 'pais'
by: Al from UK

The Bible appears at first sight to take a negative line on homosexuality, but the following thought occurred to me...

It is a fact that it was common in Roman society for sexual relations to exist between a male master and his young male slave. I understand that the Latin word ‘puer’ (boy) was used to describe a male slave in this context, and the equivalent Greek word is ‘pais’. I also understand that it was the case that this practice was prevalent within the Roman army.

Now let us suppose that the Centurion referred to in Matthew and Luke was not in any kind of sexual relationship with his ‘pais’. This thought may please those Christians who are riding on the ‘anti-gay’ bandwagon. But even if this is the case, there is a problem (or not, depending on our point of view). If we apply logic to these passages of Scripture we arrive at a rather strange situation. We know from Luke that the Centurion was someone who "loved the Jewish nation" and, because of this, had built a synagogue for the Jews. Now clearly someone who loves the Jewish nation would have a considerable knowledge of the Jewish Law – the Torah – without which the Jewish nation made no sense at all. It is only right to assume that this Centurion would have been thoroughly conversant with the laws concerning sexuality in the Torah. Let us also suppose that the Torah prohibits all homoerotic behaviour.

So let’s imagine the situation. We have this Centurion, who, according to Jesus, had great faith and we also know that he loved the Jewish nation. We assume that he was not what we would call ‘gay’, and we assume that he knew that the Torah forbade all forms of homosexual behaviour. He is desperate for his servant to be healed.

Now we know from Luke that the ill servant was actually a ‘doulos’, because Luke uses that word to describe him. We know from Matthew that the centurion acknowledged that he had ‘douloi’, because he used that word to describe those he commanded to do his will. So why therefore did this Centurion NOT use the word ‘doulos’ to describe the ill servant, but rather used the more controversial word ‘pais’? Of course, ‘pais’ can mean servant, but given the connotation of this word in certain contexts – especially within Roman society (i.e. the use of the equivalent Latin word ‘puer’) – would it not have been wiser for the Centurion to use the much safer word ‘doulos’ in order that no one should have any suspicions about his relationship with this young man?

The Centurion is desperate for the help of a Jewish teacher (Jesus) and if it is the case that the Torah forbids all homoerotic activity (and the Centurion would have known this, if it were true), then why would he endanger his own position by encouraging people to think that he was in a sexual relationship with his servant? Why use a controversial word in such a situation?

This question has to be answered. It makes no difference whether the Centurion was in a sexual relationship with his servant or not. This is actually irrelevant. What is relevant is the Centurion’s deliberate (and seemingly unnecessary) use of a word, which would naturally cause others to think he was possibly – perhaps even probably - in such a sexual relationship.

Perhaps he was naïve? I don’t think so. He was, by his own admission, a man of authority in a powerful and sophisticated society. Perhaps he really was ignorant of the Jewish Law? Again, I don’t think so, because Jesus acknowledged his great faith – and Jesus often linked faith with understanding of the will of God (hence His reaction to the faith of the Syro-Phoenician woman, whose faith was based on an understanding of the relationship between her people and the Jews).

The only logical explanation is that the Centurion, who was knowledgeable about the Torah, saw no danger in using the word ‘pais’, because he saw no contradiction between the sexual behaviour of a master and a young male slave and the injunctions in the Jewish Law (even if he himself perhaps did not engage in such behaviour).

Of course, someone might argue that he saw no danger in the use of the word ‘pais’, because this word did not carry a sexual connotation. That seems at first like the most plausible explanation, but it ignores historical reality and the recorded and widespread use of this word. It would be like a man whose ‘platonic’ best (male) friend was seriously ill, and he went to a Christian evangelical / fundamentalist healing service to intercede on behalf of "my partner" or even "my boyfriend"! Why use such terminology, when you know it would just arouse unnecessary suspicions? To say that "partner" and even "boyfriend" can have innocent meanings misses the point entirely.

My conclusion is that there is rather more to the story of the Centurion and his servant than meets the eye.

Feb 01, 2016
by: bishop

I completely agree with the last commenter. It seemed strange to me that the centurion felt unworthy for Christ to come under his roof. So he sent friends to meet Christ and before that the Jewish elders vouched for this man. Yet no one ever needed to vouch for anyone to be healed by Christ. I'm a bishop in the church, heterosexual and while I understand homosexuality is unnatural but find no occasion for bigotry or prejudice. I cannot deny the text and moreover the context which in and of itself tells that this is not just another simple healing.

Jun 10, 2016
Healing his servant did not Condone homosexuality.
by: Robert

I will be real quick and simple. Like you said in the article we cannot be sure completly whether he was gay or not. But it could be very likely. I can agree with that. I know that many soldiers spent long durations away from thier wives and so it was common to have sexual partners in the army.
Anyway, the point being, the scriptures say that Jesus hung out with Sinners!Luke 15. He said the sick need a doctor not the healthy. Luke 5:31 He came to save those who are lost. When he forgave the adulturess he told her to go and sin no more. John 8. The fact that he blessed her in No Way condoned her actions! When he healed the paralized man in Luke 5 he said your sins our forgiven. He did not condone anything by his blessing of healing! It even says he healed all who were sick in Matthew 12. This comes directly after saying that a man will go after one sheep that has fallen into a pit and so will God go after lost and fallen man. It is his love that draws us to Him to be delivered FROM our sin. His unconditional love does not condone sinfulness, what ever it may be, but cleanses us from it!

Jun 29, 2017
Not Condemning does not mean Condoning.
by: Duggob

Thank the last commentator for his clear explanation on rendering this argument regarding "Pais" irrelevant to the fact that whether the Centurion was gay or not, has no effect on homosexuals as vile and unfit to be Christians.

Rick's comment: Hi Duggob - Thanks for proving once again that the Brentlinger Axiom is true - The more vile the comment, the more ignorant the commenter is about what the Bible says in context.

Nov 02, 2017
Answering to Robert
by: Christopher

Except this is a case where Jesus DOESN'T say "Sin no more" and he sends the centurion back to his Pias. If that's not condoning their relationship I don't know what does.

Jan 01, 2018
"unfit to be Christians"?
by: Sarah

I feel like anyone who is willing to utter the phrase "unfit to be Christians" about ANYBODY has a sadly lacking understanding of the gospel. :'(

Oct 26, 2018
Are you saying? God did not...
by: Christopher Abela

As others rightly pointed out it is clear in numerous scriptures that sleeping with same sex as one sleeps with opposite sex is forbidden in OT and NT.

You however interject and say NO WAY and try to link Leviticus 20 forbidding homosexuality with the worship of false Gods in Leviticus 17. However the context in Leviticus 20 is about forbidden marriages and sexual practices and not about idolatry. So your argument in defence of the scriptural prohibitions is void.

Rick's comment: Hi Christopher - This link explains Leviticus 18:22 and 20:13 in context.

As regards to the centurion's servant... even if he was really a homosexual lover (which is very debatable) ... why would Jesus not heal him? Jesus healed everyone, the Bible says... but all have sinned, the Bible says. The Bible also says Jesus came for the sinner! In our times some people who are healed by God would be considered the worse sinners - a point in case is an Indian old woman who started a business leading thousands of young street girls into prostitution. God reaches out to sinners in many ways. So even if the servant who was healed was somehow a sexual lover of the Centurion, this would prove nothing against the clear scriptures where practicing homosexuals are called to repent along with other practicing sin.

Rick's comment: Many people are so intent on condemning gays that they ignore context. I hope you will accept your personal responsibility to learn to interpret scripture in context.

Did Jesus heal a gay centurion?

Apr 10, 2019
Thank you Rick
by: Bobbi L

As a straight women who has researched the Bible, Christianity, and ancient Israelites, I wanted to thank you.

I am sorry that so many who claim to be of faith are ignorant of it's history, and the actual scriptures, or the context of words and their meaning from a period so long ago.

Just know you have at least one woman who supports your efforts to educate others.

I am an atheist, but I do find this very fascinating.

Rick's comment: Hi Bobbi L - Thank you Bobbi, for your kind words. You are a blessing! Have you ever taken the Good Person Test?

Are you a good person?

Jul 05, 2022
Why did Jesus say he had faith?
by: SchonClematis

I'm only 17, so I don't doubt there will be many errors in my argument. But what if Jesus was so amazed at the man's faith because the man came up to him and asked, "can you heal my boyfriend?" People these days would be like, "Jesus wouldn't save me, because I'm gay." But that's not true.

It's like the woman who touched Jesus' garment in order to save herself. Jesus commended her for her great faith, because she knew he would be able to save her.

The centurion said it himself he wasn't worthy to have Jesus under his roof, he knew the relations he had with his pais were wrong. But he also knew that Jesus had the power to save his pais. Jesus blessed him because he had faith that Jesus could save anyone.

Now, here me out, I am not anti-gay. I love the friends I have that are LGBTQ. But I also love my God and my religion, and I have to stand up for it when I feel like it is being attacked. I hope this comment helps.

Jul 17, 2022
Strong's Greek 3816. pais = 8 - 14 years old
by: Tabea

The term pais is used for an 8 to 14 year old boy servant. An even younger boy - 7 years and younger is called Strong's Greek 3813. paidion = a young child, properly, a child under training; the diminutive form of 3816 /país ("child"). 3813 /paidíon ("a little child in training") implies a younger child (perhaps seven years old or younger). Some scholars apply 3816 (país) to a son or daughter up to the age of "complete adulthood" in Scripture).

Nothing to to with gay paedophilia. It was also normal that families sent their boys to better off families for an apprenticeship, to learn better manners and form connections.

German chieftains, for example, who wanted peace and Roman benefits/trade goods gave their sons to be trained and educated in Rome to live far better lives than they would've in Germany. So, if one of those sons died far away from home in Roman custody, there would have been trouble and hostility.

The centurion most likely didn't feel worthy of Jesus' help, because the Romans had "beef" with the Jews back then... (please google: "Jewish–Roman wars")

Rick's comment: Hi Tabea - Thanks for your comment. Did you bother to read the many Links on the page about which you're commenting?

Are you a good person?

Mar 03, 2023
Romans 1:26
by: Loraine

Your site is rather complex going into history and traditions. Romans 1 is very clear that God does not agree with same sex relationships.

I say this out of love for you not to ridicule and it is so dangerous to lead others astray in the belief that God will tolerate sin when he paid so painfully to bear our sins.

We all sin but be not deceived as there are those who he states will not see His kingdom. God bless x

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