Could the story of David and Goliath be a romance tale of two homosexual men disagreeing with each other?

Ben Witherington the Third: Queer reading of David and Goliath?
Ben Witherington the Third: Queer reading of David and Goliath?

An important, objective queer reading of the David and Goliath narrative is developing in a rather unlikely venue: Ben Witherington the Third’s The Bible And Culture blog.

I have long wondered whether the battle between David and Goliath, which positions David “under Saul” and has David wearing Saul’s clothes (cf. the homoerotic 1 Sam 18.1-3), is a displacement of some earlier account in which David battled Saul himself for possession of the Israelite crown. For the final form of 1-2 Samuel rather overdetermines its defence of David’s innocence in wresting the crown from Saul, while still acknowledging David’s alliance with Israel’s enemies the Philistines when Saul and his heir are killed in battle by those very Philistines. Moreover, Saul, like Goliath, is described as being head and shoulders taller than any of his contemporaries (1 Sam 9.2), a height which is probably identical with that of Goliath in LXX 1 Sam 17.4 (4-and-a-half cubits, or 6 3/4 feet tall). Why would Saul have been afraid of someone his own height, and why would Saul have sent the shorter David against Goliath? It doesn’t make much sense – unless the fight was originally between David and Saul!

The discussion on Ben Witherington the Third’s blog is taking place between commenter “BW16” and other commenters. It follows Ben Witherington the Third’s reproduction of Robert Gagnon’s response to Jennifer Knust, on the topic of the Bible and homosexuality. Gagnon, dubbed an “academic turned ayatollah” by Jean-Fabrice Nardelli, is particularly inflamed by the topic of homosexuality, and has devoted much of his time and thought to the subject.

BW16’s original focus was on homoerotic elements in the story of Jesus fishing for male disciples in Galilee.  However, BW16’s queer reading was challenged by commenter Dan Wells, who asked:

Could the story of David and Goliath be a romance tale of two homosexual men disagreeing with each other?
Dan Wells

Dan Wells’ question appears to be, shall we say, tongue in cheek. But BW16 takes him seriously, and provides this insightful response regarding the story of David and Goliath:

I had never thought about the story of David and Goliath as a feud between lovers before but I am definitely interested in teasing out your reading a bit. Usually interpreters suggest there was something going on between David and Jonathan, but I much prefer your suggestion. In the ancient world, war often had phallic connotations and the Israelites regularly showed disdain towards the Philistines for being an uncircumcised race (eg: 1 Sam 31.4). As such, there is something to be said for David’s peculiar action of cutting off Goliath’s “head.” It is almost as if David intends it as a symbolic act of castration. What might Goliath have done to deserve such an emasculating death? Was this a fitting punishment for a previous personal incident that the text is silent about?

A fascinating exchange is developing between these two men. Have a read here.


20 thoughts on “Could the story of David and Goliath be a romance tale of two homosexual men disagreeing with each other?

  1. Sir,

    I have been reading Ol’ Dirty Gagnon’s website, how he deals with homosexuality and the advice to those who have managed to come out of homosexuality to the world of having sexual intercourse with one woman (if one is a man) or with one man (if one is a woman). However, my curiosity was aroused by your comment that Eazy-G was “particularly inflamed by the topic of homosexuality, and has devoted much of his time and thought to the subject.” I therefore looked at his responses to concerned emailers ( As a Bible Scholar yourself, please could you explain whether the following responses by Gag-Dogg are ambiguous:
    “My expertise is primarily on the biblical side”
    “a 76-minute video on Paul and sexual orientation theory”
    “bad homosexual practice”
    “the Old Testament witness on homosexual practice”
    “reach out to persons who engage in homosexual practice”
    “Don’t make it your ultimate goal to be accepted by the “LGBT” community. The rich young ruler went away saddened by Jesus’ stiff demand.”

    I would also like to know if you have “a video on Jesus and Sex”. If not, you might want to visit the MC Gagnon responses to emails and click the link. I’m afraid to do so.


    • O.G. – Original Gagster – in the house, yo!

      Ambiguous? This is how we Bible Scholars prefer to explain it, with reference to a new theory you may have heard of, called “post-modernism”. Applying “post-modernism”, we would say that Gagnon’s text is permeated by a pervasive polysemy which ironically – and very subversively – undermines the very heteronormative binary oppositions which he appears to support. Or, as the young urban youth might say, Gagnon is a gender-bending muthafucker.

      As for your queery about Jesus and Sex, I’m afraid that merely mentioning “Jesus” and “Sex” in the same sentence indicates that you are possessed by a demon. And by demons, I mean the souls of Giants whose bodies were destroyed in Noah’s Great Flood in 2349 BC, and who have wandered the Earth ever since, looking to enter into the bodies of men. That’s serious stuff you’ve got yourself into (or, rather, that has got into you).


      • I see. I’m not gay or anything but I wondered what that horny beast was doing to me last night. Its polysemy was even more pervasive than Gagnon’s.

        I’m off to email Gagnon to explore the meaning of all this.


  2. Sir,
    another question, if I may.

    There is also a letter by concerned parents whose son is homosexual and visits a church with a lesbian pastor. They ask for Gagnon’s prayers, read his Christian writings and trust God to get through to him. The son has got himself involved in things like this: “He is [over 40] yrs. old–calls several times a day and keeps close contact with us”.

    In light of this, it is, of course, little wonder that Gagnon’s “heart goes out…regarding your son”. Yet, I am puzzled by the following comment by Gagnon: “He is only a year younger than I am”. Please can you tell me at what age it becomes weirder to be a homosexual and whether there are any known cases of homosexuals over 50 years old?

    With Stiff Demand,



    • The answer here, once more, lies with Jesus. Or rather, in not lying with Jesus. For in his wisdom, did not our Lord and Saviour limit his earthly ministry to no more than one year (perfectly reconcilable with the three years of the Fourth Evangelist)? In dying at 33 years of age (or 31), was He not aware of the temptation that might have faced men living in such close quarters for a prolonged period, and did not wish to tempt his brethren beyond that with which they were able to cope? Blessings, etc.


  3. Once and for all, let it be said that Gagnon is an inaccurate and poor student of Biblical homosexuality : he is far too opinionated and self-indulging for someone who would have us believe in his impeccable judgement (whence my jibe at his status as an ayatollah), has no grasp whasoever of the major ancient Near Eastern languages apart from Masoretic Hebrew, never consults scholarly literature in other tongues (German and French Bible studies simply do not exist for him), and he is ridiculously parochial in his selection of primary and secondary sources (they are principally American, and wherever possible come from the Evangelical right). Just consult any piece of his which appears on his website ; you will discover that he is all rhetoric and blistering, with virtually nothing in guise of scientific apparatus. I would have been loathe to expose him for what he is (see S. Ackerman, When Heroes Love. The Ambiguity of Eros in the Stories of Gilgamesh and David [2005], 16-17 ; J. E. Miller, ‘A Response to Robert Gagnon on ‘The Old Testament and Homosexuality’’, Zeitschrift für die Alttestamentliche Wissenschaft 119, 2007, 86-89) had he been decent enough not to charge his opponents with gross dishonesty. So let us not mince words any longer.

    Jean-Fabrice Nardelli


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