Eunuch



The Euphrates River near Haran.

In the NT, an Ethiopian is described as an eunuch (Acts 8:27-39), and a reference to eunuchs by Jesus is reported in Matthew 19:12.

Bibliography

Arndt, 323, 324; AIs, 121; K. A. Kitchen, Ancient Orient and Old Testament (1966), 165, 166.

International Standard Bible Encyclopedia (1915)

(caric; spadon; eunouchos):


But He would have His hearers recognize that there are exceptional cases where the rule does not hold. In speaking of the three classes of eunuchs (Mt 19:12), He made a distinction which was evidently well known to those whom He addressed, as was the metaphorical use of the word in application to the third class well understood by them (compare Lightfoot, Horae Hebrew et Talmud; Schottgen, Horae Hebrew, in the place cited.).

How Origen misunderstood and abused the teaching of this passage is well known (Euseb., HE, VI, 8), and his own pathetic comment on the passage shows that later he regretted having taken it thus literally and acted on it. His is not the only example of such a perverted interpretation (see Talmud, Shabbath 152a, and compare Midrash on Ec 10:7). The Council of Nicea, therefore, felt called on to deal with the danger as did the 2nd Council of Aries and the Apos Canons (circa 21). (Compare Bingham’s Ant, IV, 9.)

It is significant that Jesus expresses no condemnation of this horrible practice. It was in keeping with His far-reaching plan of instilling principles rather than dealing in denunciations (Joh 3:17; 8:11). It was by His positive teaching concerning purity that we are shown the lines along which we must move to reach the goal. There is a more excellent way of achieving mastery of the sexual passion. It is possible for men to attain as complete control of this strong instinct as if they were physically sexless, and the resultant victory is of infinitely more value than the negative, unmoral condition produced by self-emasculation. These "make themselves eunuchs" with a high and holy purpose, "for the kingdom of heaven’s sake"; and the interests created by that purpose are so absorbing that neither time nor opportunity is afforded to the "fleshly lusts, which war against the soul" (1Pe 2:11). They voluntarily forego marriage even, undertake virtual "eunuchism" because they are completely immersed in and engrossed by "the kingdom of heaven" (compare Joh 17:4; 1Co 7:29,33 f; 9:5 and see Bengel, Gnomon Novi Test. in the place cited and Clement of Alexandria., Strom., iii.1 ff).

See Marriage.

LITERATURE.

Driver," Deuteronomy," ICC, De 23:1; Commentary on Mt, in the place cited. by Morison and Broadus; Neander, Ch. Hist, II, 493; Wendt, The Teaching of Jesus, 72 ff; The Expositor, IV, vii (1893), 294 ff; Encyclopedia Brit, article "Eunuch."

George B. Eager