The Mystery and
I Cor. 6:9 and I Tim. 1:9
(...it is all a matter of words...)
(article contributed by Patrick)
"... Neither the "porniea" [original Greek], nor idolaters, nor adulterers, nor "malakoi"[original Greek], nor "arsenokoitai" [original Greek], nor thieves, nor the greedy, nor drunkards, nor slanderers, nor swindlers will inherit the kingdom of God."
"We also know that the law is made not for good men but for lawbreakers and rebels, the ungodly and sinful, the unholy and irreligious; for those who kill their fathers and mothers, for murderers, for male prostitutes and "arsenokoitai", for slave traders and liars and perjurers."
1. The confusion of the
Translators were extremely confused as to what "arsenokoitai" meant. I have a real problem with translators who insist on translating the obscure word, "arsenokoitai", as "homosexuals" since there is such a lack of lexical data supporting that translation. Besides the word "homosexual" did not exist until the 20th century!
Before going any further let's look at what some scholars had to say:
"I believe it [arsenokoitai] explicitly relates to homosexuality." -- A. Mohler
"It [malakoi] can have a meaning that's not carnal. But the way it's used -- it's embedded in the same context with adultery -- it's pretty clear what the meaning is...A hallmark of Evangelicals is that we take a literal, normal, face-value interpretation of the Bible. Some people attempt to keep some form of Christianity and hold on to homosexuality, too. It leads to strange interpretations of the Bible."-- T. Crater
"In short, it is unclear whether the issue [the meaning of arsenokoitai and malakoi] is homosexuality alone..." -- Walter Wink
John Boswell ["Christianity, Soical Tolerance, and Homosexuality", pg. 334], who was a Greek & Hebrew language scholar and Historian from Yale University, felt that arsenokoitai may have meant "male prostitutes capable of the active role with either men or women"
"One cannot be absolutely certain that the two key words in I Corinthians 6:9 are meant as references to male homosexual behavior." -- Victor Paul Furnish, a Professor of New Testament from Perkins School of Theology, Dallas.
"I sat amazed as I heard the Bible being invoked in ways that were wholly inappropriate to any canons of biblical scholarship. Perhaps something snapped in me...for better or worse I decided somebody needed to provide resources that would give both clarity and honesty." -- Robbin Scroggs.
Robbin Scroggs feels that arsenokoitai refers to a man who uses the services of "call-boys", and that malakoi refers to those "call-boys". In his book, "The New Testament and Homosexuality", Scroggs writes, "If the malakos points to the effeminate call-boy, then the arsenokoites in this context must be the active partner who keeps the malakos as a 'mistress' or who hires him on occasion to satisfy his sexual desires. No more than molakos is to be equated with the youth in general, the eromenos, can arsenokoites be equated with the adult in general, the erastes" (pg. 108).
The Jerusalem Bible, German 1968,
agrees with Scroggs, translating arsenokoitai as "child
molesters". Of course, fundamentalists ignore that bible
translation [as well as Phillips (1958), Jerusalem Bible (French
-1955), The Latin Vulgate, (405), etc., of which reject the
homosexual interpretation] while accepting the NIV (which is
unclear since it has the translation "homosexual
Note: The Dutch NBG translation of 1951 uses the word "schandjongens" ("maleprostitutes" in English) for malakoi and "knapenschenders" ("boy-molesters" in English) for arsenokotai.
Rembert Truluck is a Doctor of
Theology from Southern Baptist Theological Seminary, Louisville,
KY, 1968. He was a Southern Baptist Pastor from 1953 to 1973, and
a Professor of Religion at Baptist College of Charleston, SC,
from1973 to 1981. Truluck is well learned in Hebrew and Greek. In
his article "The Six Bible Passages Used To Condemn
Homosexuals", Dr. Truluck writes, "The Greek word
[arsenokoitai] translated "homosexual" does not mean
homosexual! The word is obscure and uncertain."
Dr. Truluck personally wrote a letter to me, in responce to mine, in which he writes: ".... [arsenokoitai] was never translated as "homosexual" until 1946, and was a bad mistake then."
Jeramy Townsley says that "It seems clear that arsenokoites [arsenokoitai] does not refer to mutually respecting gay relationships..." Learned in Greek and Hebrew, Jeramy received a MA. in philosophy/theology from Lincoln Christian College Seminary.
".... The term appears only in contexts dealing with greed, prostitution, adultery, idolatry, and lack of self control. Although it is a rare term, its use is probably best connected with those male prostitutes who are clearly condemned in the Old Testament, and who would fit in with those temptations which drew Paul's audience toward idolatry and greed, whether they were tempted to become such prostitutes or take advantage of their services.
3. Wishful thinking
It is abundantly clear from the evidence of later Christian usage that the term arsenokoites changed meaning from its original use by Paul: it eventually came to refer to anything from child molesting to anal intercourse with one's wife. This semantic drift probably occurred because Paul's warnings were so successful that the phenomenon he addressed actually disappeared from prominence in Christian-controlled areas of late antiquity/early medieval times. After the fall of paganism, temple prostitutes would have become a thing of the past, and male prostitutes, always probably fewer in number than female prostitutes, probably dwindled to extreme rarity. Later Christians, not readily seeing the meaning of arsenokoitai, would then have inserted a meaning they wished to see there, a practice not exactly unheard of in Christian circles.
Reading arsenokoitai 'homosexuals'
is an example of eisegesis. Homophobes who want to find
condemnations of homosexuals in the Bible are capable of reading
their prejudice into any given passage, just as their
predecessors were capable of finding abundant encouragement for
anti-Semitism and racism in the Bible.
...... At Judgment Day I don't think we will be held accountable for not harrassing those we thought were sinners; we will be held accountable for acting fairly and responsibly towards those who depended our actions." -- Gregory Jordan
4. The meaning of
"In short: the allegation that the New Testament condemns homosexuality is not just poor but lazy and inexcusable scholarship. An attempt by some scholars to interpret I Cor 6:9 by taking malakos to mean the passive partner and arsenokoites the active partner is based on circular reasoning. The meaning of arsenokoites is problematic. There is no evidence that malakos was ever considered as a technical term for a passive partner. (There are other terms for passive and active partner in Greek. They never appear in the NT). Malakos' general meaning of effeminate is independent of sexual position or object. To define malakos arsenokoites is to define something already clear by something that is obscure." --- Deirdre Good, General Theological Seminary.
This is a mess, as is illustrated
by the variety of translations of the word. So how do we find out
what Paul meant? There are two ways to figure out what a word
means. One is the etymological approach, which is a false method.
The meaning of a word is not determined by its derivation, but by
its usage. The meanings of words can change dramatically over
short periods of time (even periods as short as 50 years!). Some
contend that Paul coined the word from the Septuagint. I will
discuss that later.
So the best thing to do would be to examine the uses of the word. It is found 73 times outside of Paul's letter.
In almost every one of these occurrences the word appears in a vice list so it is impossible to tell what they mean. The few times it does not appear in a vice list give us a better insight.
In the Apology of Arisites 13, Fragmenta 12,9-13.5.4 "arsenokoitai" refers to the sins of the Greek Gods. In the context it appears to be referring to the time Zeus abducted and raped a boy named Ganymede.
In Apology of Aristides, written 100 years after 1Corinthians, the word appears to be used for molestation of boys by men. Interestingly enough, Luther translated the word as "Knabenschaender" which meant "child abusers".
Another occurrence is in an ancient legend where the Snake in the Garden of Eden becomes a satanic being named Naas. Naas uses several tactics (including sexually pleasuring both Adam and Eve) to gain power over and destroy Adam and Eve. Naas is said to have "had Adam like a boy". Naas' sins were called arsenokoitai. This suggests arsenoskoitai refers to a male using superior power or position to take sexual advantage of another.
There is simply no justification
for translating arsenoskoitai as "homosexuals". Jeramy
Townsley sums it up well by saying:
"... neither arsenokoitai nor malakoi are justifiably translated as "any homosexual behavior" (or more specifically, the active and passive partners in anal homosexual intercourse, as is the common interpration by contemporary Christian anti-gay writers) in any other Greek literature, which makes one question why they are translated that way here."
When early, Greek-speaking homophobic Christians (John Chrysostom and Clemet of Alexandria) condemned homosexuality, they did not use arsenokoitai, even when discussing Cor 6:9 and Tim. 1:10. Arguments from silence are generally weak, but had the word meant homosexuals, Chrysostom and Clemet would of most likely condemned homosexuals when they commented on Cor. 6:9 or Tim. 1:10. But they did not. This combined with the above discussion of the occurrences of the word, I feel, provide some serious problems for traditionalists.
5. Temple Prostitution in
Canaan (Leviticus 18:22)
Temple prostitution played also a vital role in the Canaanite religion of worshipping Molech in the OT. In the Canaanite religion, the fertility of the land depended upon Molech having sex with the love goddess Astoroth. The Canaanites, imitated this through prostitution in their worship rituals. The prostitute would play the part of Astoroth, while the customer/worshipper played the part of Molech.
However, the prostitutes playing Astoroth's role were not females, but instead were males... they would dress up as women, wearing elaborate Goddess vestments and Goddess masks on their faces. The customers/ worshippers were also males- Those males would lie with a male as if a female.
It seems almost too simple. For those who wish for further proof that Leviticus 18:22 and 20:13 forbid lying with one of Molech's temple prostitutes I have put together the following arguments:
A. CONEXT: Leviticus 18:2-5 says that practices following, including obviously the "homosexual" acts in 18:22, were part of "the doings... of Canaan". Also see 19:26-29.
So the "homosexual" acts in Leviticus 18:22. 20:13 were part of Canaanite rituals. Funny thing is, the only form of homosexuality used by the Canaanites in their rituals was that of transvestitic temple prostitution.
The end of chapter 20 says that those practices were labeled as "abomination" because they were the idolatrous practices of the Canaanites.
B. THE DEATH PENALTY AND DEUTERONOMY: If you make a list of crimes in Leviticus in which the punishment is death, you will notice that all the death penalty crimes are repeated once again in the Old Testament, especially in Deuteronomy.
But homosexuality is not repeated there (nor anywhere else in the Old Testament), even though ALL of the other death penalty crimes are. However, Deuteronomy does mention male temple prostitution, and calls it toevah.
Here is the list:
Leviticus 20:3-5: Child sacrifice. This is repeated in 2Kings 16:3 and Deuteronomy 12:31.
Leviticus 20:6: Mediums and wizards. This is included in Deuteronomy's 'no other gods', 5:7 et al.
Leviticus 20:9: Cursing one's parents. This is repeated in Deuteronomy 27:16.
Leviticus 20:10: Adultery. Repeated in Deuteronomy 5:18, 22:22.
Leviticus 20:11: Incest with father's wife. Repeated in Deuteronomy 20:20.
Leviticus 20:12 Incest with child's spouse. Repeated in Deuteronomy 20:23.
Leviticus 20:13: Allegedly homosexuality in general. Not repeated anywhere else in the Old Testament.
Leviticus 20:14: Incest: both daughter and mother. Repeated in Deuteronomy 20:23.
Leviticus 20:15: Man committing bestiality. Repeated in Deuteronomy 20:21.
Leviticus 20:16: woman commiting bestiality. Repeated in Deuteronomy 20:21
"Seven out of nine are repeated precisely in Deuteronomy - down to the details of which degree of consanguinity is involved in acts of incest. 20:12 (incest with a daughter-in-law) is not repeated precisely, but the same degree of consanguinity is forbidden in Deut. 20:23. Necromancy is not specifically forbidden again in Deuteronomy, but it is attested in a number of places outside of Leviticus 18/20, notably in I Samuel 14:32-35, which refers to the death penalty associated with the practice." -- Royce Beuhler
C. LESBIANS: If the author was referring to homosexuality in general, then why isn't there a mention of lesbians? The transvestitic temple prostitution rituals did NOT involve females, so it would make sense for him not to mention lesbians if he did have [Molech's] temple prostitution in mind.
When the author prohibited bestiality he said "if a woman lies down with a beast" AND ALSO SAYS "if a man lies down with a beast". When the author mentioned bestiality he mentioned both human genders... why wouldn't he do the same in 18:22/20:13 if he meant homosexuality in general?
Furthermore, "Both men and women are forbidden to commit adultery, or incest with a parent, or incest with a parent-in-law. But, at least if the prosecution's theory is true, only males are forbidden to have sex with their own gender. If we assume the traditional theory, both of these silences are unexpected, and both break the pattern of the way the Bible treats equally serious sins. The silences present a puzzle.
On the defense theory, however, there are no curious silences to be explained. If what Leviticus 18/20 forbids is a specific idolatrous practice, then:
1. it is a practice which is also specifically forbidden in Deuteronomy, just like all the other capital crimes, and
2. the cult which indulged in the practice had males coupling with males, but not males coupling with females.
The data fit the defense theory like a glove; try to slip the same data onto the prosecution's theory, and these two unseemly holes, these two embarrassing silences, stick out like missing thumbs." -- Royce Buehler
Oh boy it certainly doesn't look good for the anti-homosexual crowd right now, but there is still one more argument:
D. ECHOES: "For they [Judah] also built for themselves high places, and pillars, and Asherim on every high hill and under every green tree; and there were also male cult prostitutes [qadeshim] in the land. They did according to all the abominations [plural of toevah] of the nations which the LORD drove out before the people of Israel." -- 1 Kings 14:23-24
According to fundamentalists, Leviticus 18:22/20:13 prohibit homosexuality in general. If that were the case then one would expect the author of Kings to echo the themes of Deuteronomy 23 when the topic of temple prostitution came up.
But that isn't what happens. Instead, when the subject of temple prostitution comes up, the author of Kings echoes the specific themes of Leviticus 18:27-28: he calls the practices toevah and echoes the phrase "did all of the abominations/toevah", and said those practices were the practices of the former inhabitants who were driven out of the land for engaging in them.
The fact that temple prostitution made the author of Kings allude to Leviticus INSTEAD of Deuteronomy is quite strange, UNLESS he viewed the Leviticus passages as also referring to cult prostitution.
So Leviticus 18:22/ 20:13 are talking about a specific form of prostitution which involves males lying with males as if they are females. This fits in perfectly with the Canaanite prostitution rituals.
In Corinthians "arsenokoitai" comes after "malakoi". Scholars do not know what Paul meant with this word. He could have meant boy-prostitutes.
There was a word Paul could of used had he wanted to refer to homosexuals. That word is homophilia which he did not use.
In conclusion it is highly unlikely that Paul had homosexuals in general in mind.
Religious prostitutes impacted Israel greatly (Deut. 23:17-18; I Ki 14:22-24, 15:11-13, 22:45-46; 2 Ki 23:4-7) !
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