As I was driving to Dallas today on I-30, a billboard caught my eye on the north side of 30:
I decided to look up the verse. When the verse was severely inconclusive, I went to the website. Here is the defense they offer for their interpretation of this passage:
The Greek word that the Roman centurion uses in this passage to describe the sick man – pais – is the same word used in ancient Greek to refer to a same-gender partner…
In the original language, the importance of this story for gay, lesbian, and bisexual Christians is much clearer. The Greek word used in Matthew’s account to refer to the servant of the centurion is pais. In the language of the time, pais had three possible meanings depending upon the context in which it was used. It could mean “son or boy;” it could mean “servant,” or it could mean a particular type of servant — one who was “his master’s male lover.” Often these lovers were younger than their masters, even teenagers.
It is true that “pais” can refer to homosexual lovers, but this defense better suits NAMBLA (North American Man-Boy Love Association) than it does advocates for homosexual marriage. See, the Greek word “pais” helps form the modern word “pederast,” or “pedophile.” The word pederast comes from “pais” (boy) and “erastes” (sexual love). Now it is true that “pais” could refer to a servant, but this generally meant one of two things: (1) a young male servant (a child or teenager) or (2) a sex-slave. Given Christ’s teachings on marriage and sexual immorality, it’s hard to fathom He would condone the act of slavery for the purpose of sex.
Luke 7 gives us a better idea of this servant’s role. The servant is listed as “valuable” or “precious” to the master. Now, the “Why Would We” website says this is evidence that the boy was actually the master’s lover. The problem is that most of the evidence supporting such an interpretation is via eisegesis (reading modern biases into an ancient text). It takes modern understandings of homosexuality and words such as “precious” and “important” and applies it to the ancient world. It refuses to take the ancient world as it was. It sees the concern of the Centurion as one of a lover, rather than what it was; a professional soldier who needed a male he trusted to see to his affairs at home while the soldier was gone. With such a slave incapacitated, the Centurion would have likewise been incapacitated.
On top of all that, it wasn’t uncommon in the ancient world for slaves to be treated as part of the family. Honored slaves were sometimes adopted as sons, so it’s not unfathomable to believe that the Centurion viewed this slave as a son.
Regardless, if “Why Would We” really wants to use “pais” as a defense of their interpretation, then they have to, by extension, allow for pedophilia since that’s what “pais” refers to when applied to a sexual context.