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The relationship between King David and Jonathan, son of King Saul, is often cited as an example of male romantic friendship; for example, Faderman uses 2 Samuel on the title page of her book: "Your love was wonderful to me, passing the love of women." Entreat me not to leave you or to return from following you; for where you go I will go, and where you lodge I will lodge; your people shall be my people, and your God my God; where you die I will die, and there will I be buried.While some authors, notably John Boswell, have claimed that ecclesiastical practice in earlier ages blessed "same sex unions", the accurate interpretation of these relationships rests on a proper understanding of the mores and values of the participants, including both the parties receiving the rite in question and the clergy officiating at it.

Boswell himself concedes that past relationships are ambiguous; when describing Greek and Roman attitudes, Boswell states that "[A] consensual physical aspect would have been utterly irrelevant to placing the relationship in a meaningful taxonomy." Given the centrality of Boswell's "new" evidence, therefore, it is best to begin by describing his documents and their import.

These documents are liturgies for an ecclesiastical ritual called adelphopoiesis or, in simple English, the "creation of a brother." Whatever these texts are, they are not texts for marriage ceremonies.

Most of these do not explicitly state the sexual or nonsexual nature of relationships; the fact that homosexuality was taboo in Western European cultures at the time means that some sexual relationships may be hidden, but at the same time the rareness of romantic friendship in modern times means that references to nonsexual relationships may be misinterpreted, as alleged by Faderman, Coontz, Anthony Rotundo, Douglas Bush, and others.

The content of Shakespeare's works has raised the question of whether he may have been bisexual.

Although it is difficult to state precisely what these ritualised relationships were, most historians who have studied them are fairly certain that they deal with a species of "ritualised kinship" that is covered by the term "brotherhood." (This type of "brotherhood" is similar to the ritualised agreements struck between members of the Mafia or other "men of honour" in our own society.) That explains why the texts on adelphopoiesis in the prayerbooks are embedded within sections dealing with other kinship-forming rituals, such as marriage and adoption.