Part 1 – Introduction From the Swedish – HBTQ: Homosexual. Bisexual, Transgender, Queer movement in Sweden 2012
It was an ordinary day (as if there are ordinary days for those who follow the Spirit’s leading), and the Holy Spirit tells Philip that he must go down to the desert road. There Philip is instructed to stay close to a chariot carrying an Ethiopian eunuch. “Go to that chariot and stay near it.” The eunuch was a believer and read aloud from the book of Isaiah the prophet. “Do you understand what you are reading?” Philip asked. The eunuch replied humbly that he needs guidance. Philip seizes the opportunity to tell the eunuch about Jesus and the good news. Then comes the question: “There is water here. Is there anything to prevent my being baptized?”
One might think that it’s a simple question, a rather innocent question. But for Philip, it must have been an incredibly loaded question. As though it wasn’t enough that the man was a heathen (and Peter had not yet received his vision to preach to the Gentiles), but this man was also a eunuch (i.e. probably neutered in order to work for the Ethiopian queen without having to be mistrusted). Eunuchs were castrated in order to be entrusted with positions of trust, to among other things, serve the harem and queens but not be seduced by them.
According to the Law of Moses eunuchs were unclean and were not to put their foot in the Lord’s sanctuary (Deuteronomy 23.1). The word used is ecclesia in the Septuagint (assembly), so it is quite clear that a eunuch was not welcome, not only in the physical temple, but also not in the Jewish community. A eunuch was a sexual deviant and pagan.
Furthermore, baptism was slowly being transformed from a rather common conversion ceremony to a sacred initiation ceremony (with the baptism traditionally celebrated on Easter Sunday in the early church. And baptism was solely for those who had gone through catechumen, the Christian teaching). When this shift in the significance of baptism occurred is not known, however, it’s assumed that is was largely because of the persecution that begins with the Jewish leaders and Stephen’s martyrdom, and is then continued by several Roman emperors.
It was probably not an easy decision for Philip to baptize this man; what will the brothers in Jerusalem say? What are Peter and James going to say? But presumably it was the instructive voice of God and the Holy Spirit who convinced Philip to baptize this marginalized man. The reason why this story appears in the Acts of the Apostles is enough to give a glimpse of the outrageous inclusion of heathens, and other and marginalized people through all of the early history of the Christian church.
Translation: Dr. Sven Ljungholm
London Former Officerhttp://www.olterman.se/blog/?series=hbtq-kyrka