From dusty-sandal epic to zany comedy, these LGBTI characters from the Bible deserve some movie magic.
Ruth and Naomi
Starring: Lupita Nyong’o (Ruth) and Oprah Winfrey (Naomi)
Premise: At a time of famine, a mother who has lost her sons finds love, strength and hope in the unlikeliest place.
Plot: Naomi and her family flee to Moab to find food. Her husband and then her sons die. One of her daughters-in-law leaves, but the other, Ruth, refuses to go.
‘Don’t urge me to leave you or to turn back from you. Where you go I will go, and where you stay I will stay. Your people will be my people and your God my God. Where you die I will die, and there I will be buried. May the Lord deal with me, be it ever so severely, if even death separates you and me.’ (Ruth 1:16)
Together they travel to Bethlehem and build a new life.
David and Jonathan
Starring: Channing Tatum (David) and Zac Efron (Jonathan)
Premise: One was the lowly shepherd who slew the giant Goliath. The other was the Prince of the Israelites. Their love would rock a nation.
Plot: David kills Goliath and becomes a great warrior. Prince Jonathan, heir to King Saul, falls in love with him.
They make a ‘covenant’, a sworn, lifelong friendship agreement – more marriage than bromance.
‘Jonathan made a covenant with David because he loved him as himself. Jonathan took off the robe he was wearing and gave it to David, along with his tunic, and even his sword, his bow and his belt.’ (1 Samuel 18:4)
They make out: ‘They kissed each other and wept together’.
Saul tries to kill David, fearing he would take the crown. Jonathan repeatedly warns his lover, saving his life.
Saul and Jonathan die in battle. David becomes king and writes the ancient world’s gayest song of mourning:
‘I grieve for you, Jonathan my brother;
you were very dear to me.
Your love for me was wonderful,
more wonderful than that of women.’ (2 Samuel 1:17)
Daniel and Ashpanez
Starring: Jamie Bell (Daniel) and Dev Patel (Ashpanez)
Premise: Babylon. The greatest city on Earth. A slave finds love with his eunuch overlord. Together they will defy the king and win eternal glory.
Plot: King Nebuchanezzer overruns Jerusalem and brings Daniel to Babylon to be his slave.
‘Now God brought Daniel into favor and tender [physical] love with the prince of the eunuchs’, Ashpanez, the man whose job it was to train the slaves to serve the king. (Daniel 1:9)
When Daniel refuses to eat the food the king commands, Ashpanez helps him. Daniel becomes the most ribbed and powerful of the king’s servants and goes on to survive action sequences in a fiery furnace and den of lions.
Jesus and the Beloved Disciple
Starring: Jared Leto (Jesus) and Darren Criss (John)
Premise: The Greatest Love Story Never Told.
Plot: John is one of Jesus’ first disciples and is repeatedly called ‘The Beloved Disciple’. He is next to him at The Last Supper.
‘Now there was leaning on Jesus’ bosom one of his disciples, whom Jesus loved.’ (John 13:23)
At the crucifixion, Jesus tells his mother Mary that this ‘beloved disciple’ is ‘your son’ and tells him that she is ‘your mother’.
Later, he is one of the first to find Jesus’ tomb empty and is visited by Jesus after his death.
The Ethiopian Eunuch
Starring: Morgan Freeman
Premise: Judea. 31 AD. Around about teatime. And it doesn’t take much to save a eunuch.
Plot: An angel sends Philip to a desert road between Jerusalem and Gaza. He comes across a ‘born’ eunuch (gay man or possibly intersex person) who is the treasurer of the queen of the Ethiopians. (Acts 8:27)
When the Ethiopian Eunuch sees some water, he asks Philip to baptize him. But after they emerge from the water, Philip has simply disappeared…
The Centurion and his Lover
Category: Romantic comedy
Starring: Hugh Jackman (the centurion) and Russell Tovey (his lover)
Premise: Boy meets centurion. Centurion falls in love with boy. Boy falls sick. Centurion visits Jesus and asks for miracle.
Plot: Hugh Jackman stars as the beefy Roman Centurion who falls in love with his slave. But when the young man falls sick, nothing will stop him from finding a cure, even if it means humbling himself in front of a conquered Jew, Jesus.
‘Lord, my “pais” [servant or same-gender lover] lies at home paralyzed, suffering terribly… I do not deserve to have you come under my roof. But just say the word, and my servant will be healed.’ (Matthew 8:6)
Spoiler: They all live happily ever after.
There’s a more scholarly take on LGBTI characters in the Bible here.