Powerful men and women, in ancient times and even today, all had to have extravagant things like palaces, homes, vehicles, jets, jewelry. And they had to parade themselves around like they were gods.
When Jesus – the “…KING OF KINGS, LORD OF LORDS” (Rev 19:16) – went to Jerusalem…
The Triumphal Entry
1 And when they drew nigh unto Jerusalem, and were come to Bethphage, unto the mount of Olives, then sent Jesus two disciples,
“Bethphage” – the name means “house of figs” and pertains to the Triumphal Entry.
2 Saying unto them, Go into the village over against you, and straightway ye shall find an ass tied, and a colt with her: loose them, and bring them unto me.
“An ass” – the donkey was symbolic of humility, peace and Davidic royalty.
3 And if any man say ought unto you, ye shall say, The Lord hath need of them; and straightway he will send them.
4 All this was done, that it might be fulfilled which was spoken by the prophet, saying,
5 Tell ye the daughter of Sion, Behold, thy King cometh unto thee, meek, and sitting upon an ass, and a colt the foal of an ass.
6 And the disciples went, and did as Jesus commanded them,
7 And brought the ass, and the colt, and put on them their clothes, and they set him thereon.
“Brought the ass, and the colt” – According to Mark and Luke Jesus rode the colt. Typically, a mother donkey followed her offspring closely. Matthew mentions two animals, while the other Gospels have only one.
8 And a very great multitude spread their garments in the way; others cut down branches from the trees, and strawed them in the way.
“Spread their garments in the way” – an act of royal homage (see 2 Kgs 9:13).
“Branches” – these were readily available in nearby fields. John identifies the branches as palm branches (Jn 12:13), which apparently came from Jericho, since they are not native to Jerusalem.
9 And the multitudes that went before, and that followed, cried, saying, Hosanna to the Son of David: Blessed is he that cometh in the name of the Lord; Hosanna in the highest.
These are three separate quotations, not necessarily spoken at the same time.
“Hosanna” –both prayer and praise.
“In the highest” – that is, may those in heaven sing “Hosanna” (see Ps 148:1-2; Lk 2:14).
10 And when he was come into Jerusalem, all the city was moved, saying, Who is this?
11 And the multitude said, This is Jesus the prophet of Nazareth of Galilee.
12 And Jesus went into the temple of God, and cast out all them that sold and bought in the temple, and overthrew the tables of the moneychangers, and the seats of them that sold doves,
13 And said unto them, It is written, My house shall be called the house of prayer; but ye have made it a den of thieves.
14 And the blind and the lame came to him in the temple; and he healed them.
15 And when the chief priests and scribes saw the wonderful things that he did, and the children crying in the temple, and saying, Hosanna to the Son of David; they were sore displeased,
16 And said unto him, Hearest thou what these say? And Jesus saith unto them, Yea; have ye never read, Out of the mouth of babes and sucklings thou hast perfected praise?
17 And he left them, and went out of the city into Bethany; and he lodged there.
“Bethany” – a village on the eastern slope of the mount of Olives, about 2wo miles from Jerusalem and the final station on the road from Jericho to Jerusalem.
18 Now in the morning as he returned into the city, he hungered.
19 And when he saw a fig tree in the way, he came to it, and found nothing thereon, but leaves only, and said unto it, Let no fruit grow on thee henceforward forever. And presently the fig tree withered away.
20 And when the disciples saw it, they marveled, saying, How soon is the fig tree withered away!
21 Jesus answered and said unto them, Verily I say unto you, If ye have faith, and doubt not, ye shall not only do this which is done to the fig tree, but also if ye shall say unto this mountain, Be thou removed, and be thou cast into the sea; it shall be done.
22 And all things, whatsoever ye shall ask in prayer, believing, ye shall receive.
23 And when he was come into the temple, the chief priests and the elders of the people came unto him as he was teaching, and said, By what authority doest thou these things? and who gave thee this authority?
24 And Jesus answered and said unto them, I also will ask you one thing, which if ye tell me, I in likewise will tell you by what authority I do these things.
25 The baptism of John, whence was it? from heaven, or of men? And they reasoned with themselves, saying, If we shall say, From heaven; he will say unto us, Why did ye not then believe him?
26 But if we shall say, Of men; we fear the people; for all hold John as a prophet.
27 And they answered Jesus, and said, We cannot tell. And he said unto them, Neither tell I you by what authority I do these things.
28 But what think ye? A certain man had two sons; and he came to the first, and said, Son, go work today in my vineyard.
29 He answered and said, I will not: but afterward he repented, and went.
30 And he came to the second, and said likewise. And he answered and said, I go, sir: and went not.
31 Whether of them twain did the will of his father? They say unto him, The first. Jesus saith unto them, Verily I say unto you, That the publicans and the harlots go into the kingdom of God before you.
32 For John came unto you in the way of righteousness, and ye believed him not: but the publicans and the harlots believed him: and ye, when ye had seen it, repented not afterward, that ye might believe him.
33 Hear another parable: There was a certain householder, which planted a vineyard, and hedged it round about, and digged a winepress in it, and built a tower, and let it out to husbandmen, and went into a far country:
“Tower’ – for guarding the vineyard, especially when the grapes ripened and for shelter. The rabbis specified that it was to be a raised wooden platform, 15 feet high and 6 feet square.
34 And when the time of the fruit drew near, he sent his servants to the husbandmen, that they might receive the fruits of it.
35 And the husbandmen took his servants, and beat one, and killed another, and stoned another.
21:35-37 – the husbandmen are the Jews, or their leaders. The servants represent the Old Testament prophets, many of whom were killed. The son represents Christ, who was condemned to death by the religious leaders.
“They will reverence my son” – the owner stands for God, even though He knew what they would do to His son.
36 Again, he sent other servants more than the first: and they did unto them likewise.
37 But last of all he sent unto them his son, saying, They will reverence my son.
38 But when the husbandmen saw the son, they said among themselves, This is the heir; come, let us kill him, and let us seize on his inheritance.
39 And they caught him, and cast him out of the vineyard, and slew him.
40 When the lord therefore of the vineyard cometh, what will he do unto those husbandmen?
41 They say unto him, He will miserably destroy those wicked men, and will let out his vineyard unto other husbandmen, which shall render him the fruits in their seasons.
“Other husbandman” – gentiles, to whom Paul turned when the Jews for the most part, rejected the gospel (Acts 13:46, 18:6). By the second century the church was composed almost entirely of Gentiles.
42 Jesus saith unto them, Did ye never read in the scriptures, The stone which the builders rejected, the same is become the head of the corner: this is the Lord’s doing, and it is marvelous in our eyes?
43 Therefore say I unto you, The kingdom of God shall be taken from you, and given to a nation bringing forth the fruits thereof.
44 And whosoever shall fall on this stone shall be broken: but on whomsoever it shall fall, it will grind him to powder.
45 And when the chief priests and Pharisees had heard his parables, they perceived that he spake of them.
46 But when they sought to lay hands on him, they feared the multitude, because they took him for a prophet.
A eunuch is a man who may have been castrated, typically early enough in his life for this change to have major hormonal consequences. Less commonly, in translations of ancient texts, “eunuch” may refer to a man who is not castrated but who is impotent, celibate, or otherwise not inclined to marry and procreate. Most eunuchs who are castrated before puberty are asexual.
Castration was typically carried out on the soon-to-be eunuch without his consent in order that he might perform a specific social function; this was common in many societies. The earliest records for intentional castration to produce eunuchs are from the Sumerian city of Lagash in the 21st century B.C.
Over the millennia since, they have performed a wide variety of functions in many different cultures: courtiers or equivalent domestics, treble singers, religious specialists, government officials and guardians of women or harem servants.
Eunuchs would probably be servants or slaves who, because of their function, had been castrated, usually in order to make them reliable servants of a royal court where physical access to the ruler could wield great influence.
Seemingly lowly domestic functions—such as making the ruler’s bed, bathing him, cutting his hair, carrying him in his litter, or even relaying messages—could in theory give a eunuch “the ruler’s ear” and impart de facto power on the formally humble but trusted servant.
In Latin, the words eunuchus, spado, and castratus were used to denote eunuchs.
Ten Fascinating Eunuchs in the World
Most of the men on this list were, understandably, castrated against their will. Thomas ‘Boston’ Corbett is an exception. Having lost his wife in childbirth the widowed Corbett found himself tempted by prostitutes.
To avoid committing sin he took a pair of scissors and removed his testicles. Showing a level of fortitude and stoicism he then went to a prayer meeting and had dinner before seeking a doctor to treat his wounds.
Corbett’s fame rests not on his self-castration however but on his pursuit and killing of John Wilkes Booth, the assassin of President Lincoln.
When Booth was surrounded while hiding in a barn by soldiers Corbett found he could see Booth through a hole in the wall. He shot and killed Booth, against orders that he be taken alive.
After this Corbett returned to his former profession of hat making. Some have suggested that, as with so many hatters, the mercury used in his job led to the bouts of madness which he suffered.
Judar was born in Spain in the 16th century. As a baby he was taken by Muslim slavers. Castrated, as was fashionable for servants at the time, he was sold into the service of the Moroccan Sultan.
There was a long history of Christian children being able to serve Muslim rulers; the Janissaries of the Ottoman empire are a well-known example.
Judar rose to the rank of Pasha in the sultan’s service and was put in command of an army. He led the Moroccan invasion of the Songhai empire in sub-Saharan Africa. At the time the Songhai was the largest empire in Africa.
This he achieved with relative ease and captured the capital of the empire, though the arduous journey across the desert had taken its toll on his own troops. The Songhai Emperor offered a tribute to the Moroccans in an attempt to get them to return home and give him back his empire.
Judar was inclined to accept, but the Sultan refused. Judar was replaced as commander and later executed in a power struggle with a new sultan.
Pothinus was the most powerful person in Egypt of the 1st century B.C. He has been cast as a villain by the Roman sources that mention him, but there was a cultural bias against eunuch in the Roman world.
It is Pothinus who is blamed for turning the Pharaoh Ptolemy XIII against his sister and, later, wife Cleopatra. When Pompey the Great was defeated by Caesar he fled to Egypt. On arrival he was beheaded, many believing this to be on Pothinus’ command.
When Caesar himself arrived in Egypt Pothinus openly mocked him. Caesar was known to tolerate mockery, having forgiven the poet Catullus for some scurrilous verses, but when Pothinus was implicated in a plot to have Caesar murdered Caesar acted first. Pothinus was executed and Cleopatra set on the throne.
The Emperor Nero had a wife called Sabina. While pregnant with his child Nero kicked her in the stomach until she died. Later repenting of his murderous outburst Nero did the only thing he could to bring his wife back.
He found a pretty boy called Sporus who he thought resembled his dead wife and had him castrated. Sporus was then married to Nero, whom he now called Sabina, in a lavish ceremony in Greece and dressed in the style of an empress.
When Nero was murdered Sporus was wooed by the commander of the guard’s regiment. When the commander was murdered he started a relationship with Otho, who was emperor for three months. When Otho was murdered Sporus had less luck with the Emperor Vitellius.
Vitellius wanted to parade the notorious Sporus before the plebs for their amusement. Unwilling to take part in this entertainment Sporus committed suicide.
Some historians believe he was still under twenty years old when he died.
Narses was a eunuch who served at the court of Justinian the Great, Byzantine Emperor. Nothing is known of Narses’ youth, how he came to be castrated, nor how he rose to the high position of Chamberlain.
When the Nika riots, the most destructive sports riot in history, broke out Narses was the person sent to bribe the crowds into submission. This help he gave to Justinian led to Narses’ advancement to power in the army.
Justinian’s dream was to re-conquer Italy and especially Rome. When his general Belisarius lost his trust the mission was turned over to Narses.
Despite having never commanded in a battle Narses won several stunning victories and completed the conquest.
He was over seventy when he started his career as a general. He outlived Justinian but fell from favor with his successor and was recalled to the east.
The Chinese imperial system was generally run by large numbers of eunuchs. The emperors favored eunuchs for several reasons. With no hope of starting their own dynasty a eunuch could be trusted not to try to supplant the emperor.
Eunuchs were taken from their own families while young and so owed loyalty only to their master. Cai Lun was one of the grand eunuchs under Emperor He (79-106A.D.). The Chinese bureaucracy of the time required vast amounts of paperwork.
Unfortunately paper was not widely used at the time, so the paperwork was done on pieces of expensive silk or slivers of bamboo. Cai Lun saw the advantages of paper and created a system for a widespread production of it.
His name was so associated with paper that he is often credited with inventing paper, though he merely popularized it. He found fame and fortune for his championing of paper.
Unfortunately when the emperor died his successor wanted to be free from the old, powerful eunuchs. Cai Lun committed suicide before he could be imprisoned.
The castrati were prized singers who maintained a high pitched voice into adulthood through the somewhat extreme practice of castration. Since women were not permitted to sing in certain settings, the Vatican for example, to achieve higher notes castrati were needed.
Many boys were castrated by parents hoping their sons would become famous singers, only to find that their voices were not good enough.
The practice died out as women became more able to appear in public. The last of the castrati was Alessandro Moreschi.
Origen (184-253A.D.) was one of the early church fathers. After his father was martyred for his Christian beliefs the young Origen travelled to receive further learning in philosophy and theology.
He seems to have taken what Jesus said seriously:
For there are some eunuchs, which were so born from their mother’s womb: and there are some eunuchs, which were made eunuchs of men: and there be eunuchs, which have made themselves eunuchs for the kingdom of heaven’s sake. He that is able to receive it, let him receive it (Matt 19:12).
Taking this as a literal command he castrated himself.
This story of Origen’s self-castration has been told since antiquity but some modern historian’s doubt its truth.
Of all the eunuchs on this list Peter Abelard (1079-1142 A.D.) is the only one renowned for being one of the great lovers of history. His relationship with Heloise was one of the most famous of the middle ages.
Abelard was a famous logician and teacher. When Heloise needed a teacher her uncle sent for Abelard. Being of an amorous disposition he began an affair with his young pupil. She gave birth to a son and the two married.
Heloise’s uncle was not pleased by this turn of events. With several friends he broke into Abelard’s chamber and castrated him. Heloise was sent to a nunnery and Abelard to a monastery.
The two wrote letters to each other for the rest of their lives. It is these love letters which are read far more often than Abelard’s philosophy today.
The two were reunited after death in a tomb in Pere Lachaise cemetery in Paris.
Admiral Zheng He
Zheng He, another of the Chinese Imperial eunuchs, has become famous in the west thanks to the popularity of the book 1421 by Gavin Menzies. This book explains, alongside less accepted theories, how Zheng He led several great fleets of exploration around Asia and Africa.
The ships of Zheng He’s fleet were the largest in the world at the time, and the largest wooden ships ever constructed. His mission was to spread Chinese influence and bring home tribute from the lands he visited.
In seven voyages he visited hundreds of kingdoms. A change of emperor put an end to these expeditions when the new emperor decided to end all communication with the world outside China. Zheng He did not live to see this change of policy however, as he died on the return from the final voyage.
Eunuchs were used for many things, including for sex. Most, if not all, powerful rulers had at least one Eunuch, even Cleopatra did.
…He rode in on a donkey.