A Question I Was Asked:

In Matthew 19:11-12, Who Were the Eunuchs "Who Were Born That Way"?

In Matthew 19:11-12, who are the eunuchs "who were born that way"? After giving guidance on marriage, divorce, adultery etc., Jesus says, "not everyone can accept this word, but only those to whom it has been given." Meaning?

UK Apologetics Reply:

There are two questions here but I think I can answer both together. Okay, let us look at this:

4. "Haven't you read," he replied, "that at the beginning the Creator 'made them male and female,' 5. and said, 'For this reason a man will leave his father and mother and be united to his wife, and the two will become one flesh'? 6. So they are no longer two, but one flesh. Therefore what God has joined together, let no one separate." 7. "Why then," they asked, "did Moses command that a man give his wife a certificate of divorce and send her away?" 8. Jesus replied, "Moses permitted you to divorce your wives because your hearts were hard. But it was not this way from the beginning. 9. I tell you that anyone who divorces his wife, except for sexual immorality, and marries another woman commits adultery." 10. The disciples said to him, "If this is the situation between a husband and wife, it is better not to marry." 11. Jesus replied, "Not everyone can accept this word, but only those to whom it has been given. 12. For there are eunuchs who were born that way, and there are eunuchs who have been made eunuchs by others - and there are those who choose to live like eunuchs for the sake of the kingdom of heaven. The one who can accept this should accept it." (Matthew 19:4-12, NIV throughout).

Okay, first one should read this entire section (which I have quoted here). Then (verse 10), Jesus was responding to the disciple's point, that, with regard to the possible complications over divorce etc., it might be best not to marry. Immediately Jesus responds with, "Not everyone can accept this word, but only those to whom it has been given." In short, the unmarried state is not for all. So - "not everyone can accept this word, but only those to whom it has been given" - in this case - is tantamount to saying, 'the unmarried state is better' is not a saying, nor a recommendation, for everyone, only for those it is divinely intended for.' Not all can live in an unmarried state. But, one might naturally ask, who are these people? In the next verse our Lord proceeds to tell them, referring to three groups:

1. For there are eunuchs who were born that way.
There are certain people - both men and women - who are just not 'cut out' for marriage, I mean physically. In what way? They may be impotent (men) or barren (women), they may have a complete lack of sexual desire, they may be sexually incapable for a number of physical reasons. Certain men, for example, have 'klinefelder's syndrome,' in which they have an extra 'x' chromosome and are technically stuck half-way between being men and women (not their fault, the problem arises in the womb). Although it is believed that many such men do marry, they are either impotent or have a very poor chance of producing offspring.

2. ...and there are some eunuchs which have been made eunuchs by others.
These are men rendered incapable of masculinity by others, these people underwent operations in which the vital parts of their manhood were removed so they could serve in harems without suffering temptation. This happened back then but not today, this is the strongest, most obvious meaning of one being a "eunuch."

3. ...and there are eunuchs which have made themselves eunuchs for the kingdom of heaven's sake.
These are persons who, in order to do God's work better, deliberately choose this state. Such would include Paul (1 Corinthians 7:7) (although there is strong evidence he had once been married). Men who are able to do this do not have the strongest need of women, hence,
"all men cannot receive this saying, save they to whom it is given." So it was 'given' to Paul to be able to live a celibate life after his conversion, although there is evidence he once had a wife, since it seems that as a Jew he had once served on the Sanhedrin - not open to unmarried men.
People of a lower sex drive can have complete rule over this area of their lives. Frankly, many do not and the bottom line is 'it is better to marry than to burn.'

So, the eunuchs who were 'born that way' refers to more effeminate men. These things occur in the womb and such people should not be despised. This Scripture is interesting because it accepts the principle that some men are born who are plainly effeminate; this contrasts with the old fundamentalist idea that all men should be 100% men, and all women should be 100% women; that is plainly not so. Of course, nothing here speaks of later lifestyle choices, but enough is stated for us to say that men who are more effeminate should not be persecuted. Indeed, whereas under the old covenant men who had genital abnormalities were barred from the temple (Deteronomy 23:1), under the New Covenant eunuchs (including effeminate men) are welcomed as Christian converts. See Acts 8:26-40.

Robin A. Brace. May 17th, 2016.