Persons of the male sex who had been castrated; kings and court officials regarded them as ideally suitable to serve as guards of the royal harems. Whether the defect was by accident or malevolence, eunuchs were excluded from the Israelite assembly (Deut. 23: 1); but they are not treated contemptuously in the OT (Isa. 56: 4–5); indeed the eunuch Ebed‐melech the Ethiopian rescued Jeremiah from his water dungeon (Jer. 38: 10). And in the NT another Ethiopian eunuch was baptized by Philip (Acts 8: 38).

Jesus said that some might become eunuchs for the sake of the kingdom of God (Matt. 19: 12), i.e. might be called to celibacy. But Origen (185–254 CE), one of the greatest thinkers of the early Church, took the words literally and mutilated himself—or so it was alleged by the historian Eusebius: but, later in life, Origen, who regarded allegory as one form of scripture interpretation, rejected a literal meaning of Matt. 19: 12.