Was Jesus Christ gay? Don Imus thinks it's a possibility.
On Wednesday, conservative pundit Kirsten Powers phoned into Imus' radio show to discuss Bill O'Reilly's fight with Laura Ingraham over his "thump the Bible" comment. The conversation then turned to the use of biblical texts in societal arguments, such as the gay marriage issue.
Imus posited that hundreds of gospels were written and said one of them even suggests Jesus was gay.
"You know there's a Gospel of Judas floating around," he said. “There were hundreds of gospels written, only four made it into the book. There was the Gospel of Thomas, Mary had a gospel, they all had a gospel. But Judas... there’s some indication there that Jesus may have been gay.”
"Oh come on!" Powers responded, adding, "That's ridiculous."
The Gospel of Judas was believed to be written by Gnostics in the 3rd century. It paints Judas, one of Jesus' closest friends and 12 Apostles, as a hero. (Conversely, the Bible describes Judas as a traitor who betrayed Jesus by identifying him with a kiss in exchange for 30 pieces of silver.)
It is unclear why Imus said the Gospel of Judas might portray Jesus as a gay man, since finding a correlation in the text would be a highly subjective conclusion.
James Martin, a Jesuit priest and author of Together on Retreat: Meeting Jesus in Prayer, says he's certain the Gospel of Judas does not hint at Jesus' sexuality.
"There's nothing in the Gospel of Judas, or any of the four accepted gospels, that shows in any way that Jesus was gay," he told The Huffington Post in a telephone interview. "He enjoyed the friendship of both men and women. And was affectionate toward them and showed emotion and wept over the death of Lazarus, so we know he was a loving person. As a human, [Jesus] had full human sexuality and like any human being he had sexual desires, but he was unmarried and celibate. And that is all we know about his sexuality."
The Gospel of Judas was written long after the last gospel, bringing its legitimacy into question, he said.
"There's actually much more in the Gospels about Jesus' affection for John," Martin, who is currently working on a book about Jesus of Nazareth, added. "In the so-called Gospel of Judas, there's only fragmentary stuff. There's really nothing that indicates that [Jesus was gay]. It's really hard to draw conclusions based on the different Greek words used for 'love.'"
In addition, Greg Carey, a professor of New Testament at Lancaster Theological Seminary in Pennsylvania, told HuffPost that scholars don't take the Gospel of Judas as a serious source for reconstructing what Jesus did or said.
However, Imus isn't the first to broach the topic of Jesus' sexuality.
In 1967, the Rev. Hugh Montefiore gave a lecture at Somerville College, Oxford, during which he suggested Jesus could have been gay. Similarly, Paul Oestreicher, an Anglican preist, wrote a column for the Guardian last April about Jesus' close relationship with John the Baptist.
Bishop Gene Robinson, the first openly gay bishop in the U.S. Episcopal Church, discussed a similar notion in December with "Daily Show" host Jon Stewart.
"Here’s a guy who -- in a culture that virtually demanded marriage -- was a single guy, spent most of his time with twelve men, singled out three of them for leadership and one of them is known in the Bible as ‘the one whom Jesus loved,’” he said. "Now I’m not saying Jesus was gay, but let’s be careful to rope this guy in for a husband, wife and 2.2 children model for family. He knew about families of choice, and so do LGBT people."