Archive for the ‘ New Testament ’ Category

No General Homosexual Prohibition in the Bible

Rev Earl Thames, in his letter to the Editor, states that Jesus Wasn’t Mum on Homosexuality (http://jamaica-gleaner.com/gleaner/20120121/cleisure/cleisure2.html) in response to Henry Morgan’s letter, Jesus Mum on Gays, So Why Aren’t We? (http://jamaica-gleaner.com/gleaner/20120118/letters/letters8.html). I decided to write a response and submit it. It seems the papers don’t like my writings so I haven’t been published in awhile, if they decide to publish me this time, I’ll be sure to tell you.

 

Below is my response.

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In the debate over homosexuality, many read into Scripture what is not there, interpreting it to suit their message.

 

Rev. Thames and others assert that Christ referred to homosexuality generally, but the only way to justify such reference is to take Biblical passages out of context.

 

The sin of homosexuality referred to in Leviticus is not homosexuality in general as many would love us to blindly believe. The literal translation of the prohibition in Leviticus states: ‘And with a male you shall not lay lyings of a woman. It is an abomination’, the statement seems to condemn all forms of male same sex intercourse. This is where reading Scripture in context comes in play. The verses in Leviticus where written at a time when the children of Israel were in danger of falling to idolatry from the cultures of Egypt and Canaan.

Within the context that the ‘homosexual’ prohibition in Leviticus was written, it was in the idolatrous culture of Egypt and/or Canaan for men to have sexual intercourse with male priests as an act of worship. Women did not play part in this type of cultic worship practice, which explains why they are not mentioned.

 

Fornication, be it homosexual or heterosexual forms part of sexual immorality. However not all homosexuals are fornicators; committed monogamous relationships, which do not require the sanction of a state/country law, but are acceptable in God’s sight exist between homosexuals.

 

The condemnation of homosexuality in Romans 1:26-27 again refer to the practice within the context of idolatry. Furthermore verse 25 tells us why God did what He did in verse 26, yet it is often excluded from the quotation of the Romans prohibition.

 

The prohibitions against homosexuality do not operate in a vacuum, nor are they general. In almost all instances it is within the context of idolatry. Homosexuals are not condemned because they are homosexuals; rather, they like heterosexuals are sinners until they come into the fold of God.

 

It is time the Christian church stop misinterpreting and misrepresenting the Word of God and using it to keep persons out of the Kingdom of God, in Jeremiah 23: 1 and 2 we are told; “Woe to the shepherds who are destroying and scattering the sheep of my pasture!”“…Because you have scattered my flock and driven them away and have not bestowed care on them, I will bestow punishment on you for the evil you have done”.

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What really was the sin of Sodom?

This was written by a friend of mine, and I’m posting this for her.

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Christian or not (especially in a Jamaican context), we’ve heard repeatedly that homosexuality is wrong because God destroy Sodom and Gomorrah (hence the term Sodomite). But is that really the honest interpretation we should get out of the story of Sodom and Gomorrah?

Many persons believe that the cities were destroyed because of an attempt by the men to have sex with two apparently male angels.

Pastor Romell D. Weekly, in his article Why Did God Really Destroy Sodom & Gomorrah?[1], tells us that Genesis 19 tells us the circumstances surrounding the destruction of Sodom and Gomorrah, but not actually why God decided to destroy the cities.

I’ve noticed that with many passages of Scripture that have been misinterpreted it’s usually because people chose to read only the passage that directly speaks to the point they’re trying to prove. Having said that, let us look at the passages before the recording in Genesis 19. Genesis 18 tells us why God decided to destroy the cities.

Genesis 18:16-33

New International Version (NIV)

 

16 When the men got up to leave, they looked down toward Sodom, and Abraham walked along with them to see them on their way. 17 Then the LORD said, “Shall I hide from Abraham what I am about to do? 18 Abraham will surely become a great and powerful nation, and all nations on earth will be blessed through him.[a] 19 For I have chosen him, so that he will direct his children and his household after him to keep the way of the LORD by doing what is right and just, so that the LORD will bring about for Abraham what he has promised him.”

20 Then the LORD said, “The outcry against Sodom and Gomorrah is so great and their sin so grievous21 that I will go down and see if what they have done is as bad as the outcry that has reached me. If not, I will know.”

22 The men turned away and went toward Sodom, but Abraham remained standing before the LORD.[b]23 Then Abraham approached him and said: “Will you sweep away the righteous with the wicked? 24What if there are fifty righteous people in the city? Will you really sweep it away and not spare[c] the place for the sake of the fifty righteous people in it? 25 Far be it from you to do such a thing—to kill the righteous with the wicked, treating the righteous and the wicked alike. Far be it from you! Will not the Judge of all the earth do right?”

26 The LORD said, “If I find fifty righteous people in the city of Sodom, I will spare the whole place for their sake.”

27 Then Abraham spoke up again: “Now that I have been so bold as to speak to the Lord, though I am nothing but dust and ashes, 28 what if the number of the righteous is five less than fifty? Will you destroy the whole city for lack of five people?”

“If I find forty-five there,” he said, “I will not destroy it.”

29 Once again he spoke to him, “What if only forty are found there?”

He said, “For the sake of forty, I will not do it.”

30 Then he said, “May the Lord not be angry, but let me speak. What if only thirty can be found there?”

He answered, “I will not do it if I find thirty there.”

31 Abraham said, “Now that I have been so bold as to speak to the Lord, what if only twenty can be found there?”

He said, “For the sake of twenty, I will not destroy it.”

32 Then he said, “May the Lord not be angry, but let me speak just once more. What if only ten can be found there?”

He answered, “For the sake of ten, I will not destroy it.”

33 When the LORD had finished speaking with Abraham, he left, and Abraham returned home.

Note that nowhere in the passage it is stated that the outcry against Sodom and Gomorrah was because of homosexuality. Instead if we turn to Ezekiel 16 we are told what the sin of the cities was.

EZEKIEL 16:49-50

New International Version (NIV)

49 “‘Now this was the sin of your sister Sodom: She and her daughters were arrogant, overfed and unconcerned; they did not help the poor and needy. 50 They were haughty and did detestable things before me. Therefore I did away with them as you have seen.

Through the prophet Ezekiel, God tells us that the sins of Sodom were:

  1. Arrogance
  2. Gluttony
  3. Haughtiness
  4. Not helping (unconcerned with) the poor and needy
  5. Abundance of idleness
  6. Committing detestable things

God gave us the sins which led to his decision to destroy the cities.

Now, the 6th sin; committing detestable things is ambiguous and can be the cause for the assumption of homosexuality. But this is erroneous. Jumping to conclusions and forcing one interpretation on an ambiguous text does not honour the word of God.

We need to look in other places in Scripture for guidance on how to work with this ambiguous sin; this is following the principle that Scripture interprets Scripture.

Pastor Weekly states that in Jude we find a qualification of the term ‘detestable things’ (NIV) or ‘abomination’ (KJV)

JUDE 1:7

New International Version (NIV)

7 In a similar way, Sodom and Gomorrah and the surrounding towns gave themselves up to sexual immorality and perversion. They serve as an example of those who suffer the punishment of eternal fire.

 

King James Version (KJV)

 7Even as Sodom and Gomorrah, and the cities about them in like manner, giving themselves over to fornication, and going after strange flesh, are set forth for an example, suffering the vengeance of eternal fire.

It is in this passage that we get the first distinct mention that one of the sins of Sodom and Gomorrah is of a sexual nature. Pastor Weekly goes on to say:

It says that they gave themselves over to fornication, and pursued “strange flesh”. “Fornication” in this passage is the word ekporneuo, which is derived from the word porneuo, which is an umbrella term that is often translated “prostitute”, but which refers more simply to sexual immorality, in general. Think of how we might call a person a “whore” today because he/she is sexually promiscuous, not necessarily because he/she sells the body sexually

They went after “strange flesh”. Once again, we have a fairly generic, ambiguous term that people associate with homosexuality. But why do they associate it with homosexuality? Does the verse indicate homosexual activity? No. It’s associated with homosexuality because that’s how people interpret the intentions of the townsmen in the destruction narrative (Gen. 19). The problem is that that interpretation is grossly inaccurate—a conclusion explained in detail in another study.

So we now begin to question what does Scripture mean by the term ‘strange flesh’? In the same passage of Jude we find that explanation.

JUDE 1:6-9

New International Version (NIV)

6 And the angels who did not keep their positions of authority but abandoned their proper dwelling—these he has kept in darkness, bound with everlasting chains for judgment on the great Day. 7 In a similar way, Sodom and Gomorrah and the surrounding towns gave themselves up to sexual immorality and perversion. They serve as an example of those who suffer the punishment of eternal fire.

 8 In the very same way, on the strength of their dreams these ungodly people pollute their own bodies, reject authority and heap abuse on celestial beings. 9 But even the archangel Michael, when he was disputing with the devil about the body of Moses, did not himself dare to condemn him for slander but said, “The Lord rebuke you!”

Each verse deals with interaction between angels and humans. Reading Jude 1:7 in context, can we really come to an interpretation that verse 7 refers to homosexuals?

Pastor Weekly concludes:

the “strange flesh” that the Sodomites were pursuing sexually wasn’t strange in that it belonged to other men. It was strange in that it belong to another (an other) created kind—that of angels. And before we make the mistake of believing that angels don’t have flesh since they are spiritual entities, let’s remember a few things.

  1. 1.     The angels who sinned in the days of Noah certainly had flesh, in that they were able to copulate and have hybrid children with human women.
  2. 2.     The apostle Paul specifically tells us that angels are able to take human form and interact with humans (Heb. 13:2).
  3. 3.     There are multiple examples in Scripture of angels taking human form, including those of Noah’s day (Point 1), those mentioned by Paul (Point 2), and those who visited Abraham in Gen. 18 (the same ones who later carried out God’s judgment against Sodom and Gomorrah in ch. 19).

To be certain we’re clear Pastor Weekly points out that:

Bestiality was the sexual sin of the Sodomites, not homosexuality. God destroyed them for precisely the same reason He destroyed the world during the days of Noah. They were a wicked people and they committed abomination (Ez. 16:49-50), pursuing sexual activity with angel-beings (beings of another created kind). Interestingly, these very two ingredients were contained within the culture of Noah’s day.

“There were giants in the earth in those days; and also after that, when the sons of God came in unto the daughters of men, and they bare children to them, the same became mighty men which were of old, men of renown.  [5]  And GOD saw that the wickedness of man was great in the earth, and that every imagination of the thoughts of his heart was only evil continually.”

Genesis 6:4-5

Notice that the giants (Hebrew: Nephilim) were not simply genetic anomalies. They were the hybrid offspring of human women and angels. Yet, verse 4 expressly states that these Nephilim were in the earth “in those days, and also after that…” If they were in the earth after the time of the Flood, that means that these human/angel liasons did not end with the destruction of the old world. Even post-Flood, there were times when angels and humans copulated and had hybrid offspring.

Two aprocryphal books—though not considered inspired by most Protestant Christians—indicate that giants (Nephilim) were in Sodom prior to its destruction (Ecclesiasticus 16:7-9, Book of Jubilees 20:5). If this was the case, it certainly correlates with Jude’s accusation that they pursued angelic flesh, as well as Ezekiel’s prophetic word that they “committed abomination” before God.

So, in concluding lets go over the list God gave regarding the sins of Sodom and Gomorrah.

  1. Arrogance
  2. Gluttony
  3. Haughtiness
  4. Not helping (unconcerned with) the poor and needy
  5. Abundance of idleness
  6. Committing detestable things

Nowhere in this list is homosexuality specifically mentioned, and upon looking at the passages that give light to the context of the one ambiguity there is still no mention of homosexuality.

The notion that the destruction story of Sodom and Gomorrah pertains to homosexuality, is an erroneous one, imposed upon the Biblical text by persons jumping to conclusion by reading the Bible at face value rather than actually studying Scripture, and by persons imposing their interpretation on the text.


[1] Why Did God Really Destroy Sodom & Gomorrah?

(http://gaychristianfellowship.com/articles.php?aid=1011)

When A Woman Talks Back

Institutional Christianity has shown little respect for the spiritual insights and leadership of women. What about Jesus? What was his attitude toward women?

 

Today’s scripture: Matthew 15:21-28

 

 

 

Listen to the sermon here: http://lifejourneychurch.cc/audio/2011/LifeJourneyChurch-2011-10-09.mp3 (downloadable file)

or watch it http://lifejourneychurch.cc/video/2011/2011-10-09/LaunchPresentation.html

 

 

Authentic Spiritual Living pt.4

Faith In What?

You hear it said all the time: “You’ve just got to have faith!”

But faith in what? What kind of outcomes can a person of faith reasonably expect? And when does faith become mere wishful thinking?

This Sunday we’ll ask some tough questions about a subject that often gets treated superficially.

 

Scripture: Hebrews 11: 1-3, 5-8, 13-16

Listen to the sermon here:

http://jesusmcc.org/audio/2010/JesusMCC-2010-02-14.mp3

(Will download an mp3 file to your computer)

 

 

 

Jamaican Christians And Homosexuality- Response

The In Focus section of the Sunday Gleaner, carried a column wrttiten by Martin Henry entitled : Jamaican Christians And Homosexuality (read it here: http://jamaica-gleaner.com/gleaner/20110918/focus/focus4.html); which seemed to be an article invoking fear and preaching doom and destruction.  He referred to a few well know ‘clobber passages’ including Genesis 2, Leviticus 18 & 20 and Romans 1.  Below is my response to his column, it was also sent to the Gleaner (columns & editor), hopefully it will be published.

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I dare speak for the LGBT Jamaican community, however I must first start by saying shame on you Martin Henry, not shame on you for giving us your opinion, rather shame on you for using fear, deep fear to push what may seem to very many as ‘your agenda’.

You see Mr. Henry; you started right off with the fear that Jamaicans and our churches will be forced to accept homosexuality as normal and have no objections. I disagree; LGBT Jamaicans are calling for the respect of their rights. It is my firm belief that those who oppose homosexuality should be allowed to do so, at the same time those who have differing views should also be allowed to voice those, without threat of physical harm, and/or other forms of discrimination.

There is no dispute that God created male and female; however you seem to be indicating an exclusive plan which is not supported by scripture. You tell us that, ‘the scribe having narrated the creation of woman from a rib of man concluded, “Therefore shall a man leave his father and mother and be joined to his wife and they shall become one flesh.” Jesus clearly had no intention of disturbing that order’, are you therefore saying that it is not God’s plan that anyone remain single? Must we then conclude the prophets Elijah and Elisha, the apostles John and Paul, and even Jesus himself, lived outside of God’s plan? I highly doubt that, the majority of the text simply describes the circumstances surrounding the first marriage, with no judgment being expressed or implied about the diversity of marital forms that would follow.

Sodom and Gomorrah was condemned to destruction before the angels went to the city (Genesis 18:20), this erroneous interpretation that the city was destroyed because of homosexuality is wrong, Ezekiel 16:49-52 tells us what those sins were.

The Old Testament prohibits male same-sex sexual activity, and occurs within the context of idol worship. Only one passage in the New Testament refers to both female and male same-sex sexual activity, again it is referred to within the context of idol worship. The other New Testament passages when read in its context and without the biased interpretation rather than translation of the original words, will give us a much better understanding of what exactly is being condemned contrary to the popular belief that they expressly prohibit and condemn homosexuality.

In countries where state and church are separate, it never ceases to amaze me that churches receive special treatment and special provisions to trample over the rights of those who do not ascribe to the tenets of Christianity, while they cry foul and doom and strike fear into the hearts of many, as LGBT Jamaicans attempt to have their basic human rights respected. Let me reiterate I believe that all should be able to state their disapproval of homosexuality and use the Bible or their holy scripture to advocate such. However, how intolerant and bigoted it is to believe that only your view must be allowed to be heard and seen?

Let’s wrap this up: 1 Corinthians and 1 Timothy clearly say homosexuality is wrong!?

We’ve reached the last of the clobber passage. We will now take a look at those that include some of the previous passages; such as those that refer to Sodom and Gomorrah, and the Romans passages. The passages covered in the following article, taken from the Gay Christian Fellowship’s website, covers 1 Corinthians and 1 Timothy. Most Christians will tell you that scripture validates scripture and so also, rely on these passages. It is important that you read keenly so you can see exactly what it is the Bible says.

The article can be read at the following website: http://gaychristianfellowship.com/articles.php?aid=1019&cid=6

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The vice lists of the apostle Paul are two passages most commonly used by opponents of affirming theology in their condemnation of homosexuality. At face value, most English translations certainly seem to back up their assertion that homosexuality is condemned in Scripture; but as we have seen with the previous examinations in this series, face value has too often led to misinterpretations and misapplications of Scripture. So, let’s reexamine these vice lists in detail and determine whether or not Paul is, in fact, condemning homosexuality (as an orientation) and/or same-sex sexual activity.

“Know ye not that the unrighteous shall not inherit the kingdom of God? Be not deceived: neither fornicators, nor idolaters, nor adulterers, nor effeminate [malakoi], nor abusers of themselves with mankind[arsenokoitai],  [10]  Nor thieves, nor covetous, nor drunkards, nor revilers, nor extortioners, shall inherit the kingdom of God.”

1Corinthians 6:9-10

 

“Knowing this, that the law is not made for a righteous man, but for the lawless and disobedient, for the ungodly and for sinners, for unholy and profane, for murderers of fathers and murderers of mothers, for manslayers,  [10]  For whoremongers, for them that defile themselves with mankind [arsenokoitais], for menstealers, for liars, for perjured persons, and if there be any other thing that is contrary to sound doctrine”

1Timothy 1:9-10

In this installment, we’re going to examine two passages in conjunction with one another. As with Lev. 18:22 and 20:13, these passages so closely mirror one another that it makes sense to consider them together.

As you can see, there are two terms present that are often used by Christians to condemn homosexuals and/or homosexuality—malakoi in 1Co. 6, and arsenokoitai(s) in both passages. While it’s to the entire Church’s benefit to ensure that the traditional translation and interpretation of these terms is accurate, it’s especially important for those who have same-sex sexual attractions to know precisely what Paul, under the inspiration of the Holy Spirit, is condemning here. Consequently, we will reexamine the traditional translations and interpretations to see if, in fact, they are consistent with Paul’s intentions.

What Does arsenokoitai(s) Mean?

Because arsenokoitai(s) is used in both passages, we’ll begin there. It’s important to note right out of the starting gate that arsenokoitai is an exceedingly uncommon term. In fact, many scholars believe that Paul coined the term because there’s no evidence in any ancient documents that the term was used before Paul’s usage.

Let’s start by examining how the most common English translations render this obscure term.

NOTE: Place your mouse pointer over the Bible version abbreviation for the full version name.

Version Translation (1Co. 6:9) Translation (1Ti. 1:10)
KJV abusers of themselves with mankind them that defile themselves with mankind
NKJV sodomites sodomites
NIV homosexual offenders perverts
NASB homosexuals homosexuals
AMP those who participate in homosexuality those who abuse themselves with men
NLT those who… practice homosexuality people… who practice homosexuality
CEV one who… behaves like a homosexual people… who live as homosexuals
NCV men who have sexual relations with other men people… who have sexual relations with people of the same sex
HCS homosexuals homosexuals
ESV combined with malakoi as “men who practice homosexuality” (footnotes as “the passive and active partners in consenual homosexual acts”) men who practice homosexuality
YLT sodomites sodomites

Arsenokoitai(s) – Identifying the Problem

For the most part, this word has been translated consistently from one version to another, and from one passage to another; but there are a few very important exceptions. Before considering them, it’s important to note that these two passages are the only places in the Bible where arsonokoitai(s) is used. So, the fact that these exceptions exist is quite telling in relation to how sure the translators were in deriving the accurate translation of this word.

The New International Version translates arsenokoitai(s) as “homosexual offenders” in 1Co. 6:9, but as the very general term, “perverts”, in 1Ti. 1:10. Now, I’m sure that some Christians are content to consider these terms synonyms; but such a conclusion does not suffice a serious student of Scripture. I was recently told by a friend who worked in a hospital of a young girl who was brought in, pregnant with the child of her grandfather. This filthy man certainly qualifies as a pervert, so is that the type of person Paul was condemning; and if so, should the word have been translated as pervert in 1Co. 6:9, as well, rather than as “homosexual offenders”? Which interpretation is correct; and with such a serious inconsistency, why should we trust either NIV translation?

The Amplified Bible provides a similar inconsistency. It translates arsenokoitai(s) as both “those who participate in homosexuality”, as well as “those who abuse themselves with men”. But, how is the reader to know what kind of “abuse” Paul is referring to? Don’t female prostitutes abuse themselves with men? As with the NIV, we’re left to wonder which translation is accurate, and what basis we have to believe either one.

Also, the New Century Version has a gender ambiguity between the two passages. In one, only male-male sex is condemned (similar to what we saw in Lev. 18:22 and 20:13). In the other, all same-sex sexual activity is condemned. Now, this may not seem like a pertinent distinction to the casual reader; but to someone who is after the truth, and especially to someone to whom these condemnations would apply, I think the ambiguity is, at the very least, just cause for a deeper examination.

A final problem with the way these translations render our term is that from one translation to another, they can’t seem to agree on whether those with a same-sex sexual orientation (homosexuals) are being condemned, or only those who engage in same-sex sexual activity. Once again, we see a distinction that, quite regrettably, wouldn’t concern many Christians, but which is more than concerning for those of us who are gay, and for those of us (despite sexual orientation) who do not want to unjustly terrorize or condemn people for being who they are. While such a considerationshould apply to every Christian, it’s an unfortunate reality that it most certainly does not.

The most disappointing part of this is the fact that the vast majority of Christians have no idea what the Greek term actually is, or where else it was used in Scripture. All they know is what’s printed on the pages of their Bibles. They’re trusting that what they’re reading is accurate; and as we can see, that’s not always the case. Even when a single word is translated only twice in the entire Bible, the translation isn’t always consistent. Yet, we’re told to simply trust the “scholars” because they know the biblical language better than we.

Rather than putting my confidence in man, I’ll take God’s advice. I’ll “study to shew [myself] approved”, so that I can “rightly [divide] the word of truth” (2Ti. 2:15). I strongly encourage you to do the same.

Arsenokoitai(s) – Finding the Correct Translation

Determining the correct translation of arsenokoitai(s) is not as easy as it may seem. One might choose to simply play a numbers game, and conclude that since the majority of common translations render the word “homosexuals”, we should do the same. But, that doesn’t suffice me. Having seen the damage that majority rule has done to the Church time and time again throughout history, I’m inclined to rid myself of the translations offered in the text, and try to construct the proper translation from the ground up. It’s certainly better than putting my trust in scholars who have already demonstrated that they weren’t as absolutely sure about the meaning of this term as so many Christians, by default, believe.

PLEASE NOTE: My intention here is not to besmirch the work done by linguistic and biblical scholars in the translation of these various Bible versions. I don’t doubt that they worked very hard to provide a translation that was, if nothing else, more than adequate for instruction in the things of God. My intention is only to point out the undeniable inconsistencies and inaccuracies in these translations, not to call into question the credentials or intentions of those who served on the translation committees.

The first thing that should be considered with regard to this word’s meaning is that arsenokoitai is a compound word. Paul combines the Greek word for male (arsen) with the word bed (koitus), which is often used as a euphemism for sex, as the verb form of “bed” is used in English. So, the constituent words of arsenokoitai can be translated as meaning “those who have sex with men” or “men who have sex”. Most likely, what is meant is those who have sex with men, male-bedders, as it were.

PLEASE NOTE: The meaning of a compound word cannot always be derived by examining the meaning of its constituent words. For example, a hallmark is not a mark in a hall. A butterfly is not a stick of butter that flies. A ladykiller is not a person who kills ladies, nor a lady who kills people.

But, we have to derive a more precise meaning for this term; because even if male-bedder is an accurate generic simplification of this term, it’s not specific enough to be helpful in interpreting Paul’s intended target. For example, heterosexual wives are male-bedders. Is it Paul’s intention to condemn them, as well? It’s obvious that a more precise meaning must be derived. What type of male bedder is being condemned?

Under most circumstances, the context of a difficult word would give us enough clues to ascertain its meaning. It’s a lesson we learned in reading class. Now, at first glance, we might get a little discouraged when looking at the context of arsenokoitai(s) in these two passages because both passages contain seemingly arbitrary lists of sinful activities. However, let’s not form that conclusion too quickly.

In 1Timothy, Paul grouped the terms in his vice list in such a way as to provide just enough clues to derive the target of “male-bedders” with absolute precision and certainty—and we’d better thank God for this, otherwise we’d have to relegate ourselves to a “best guess”, as so many of our English translations erroneously did.

Think about grouping like this… When I’m preparing to go grocery shopping, I often group my items together so that when I’m in the store, I can find what I’m looking for more quickly. I group all of the dairy products together, all of the meats, all of the vegetables, etc. That way, I don’t have to search my list when I arrive in a particular section of the store, nor do I have to keep going back and forth when I come across another product that I forget to get while I was in a particular section.

Paul uses this very same tactic when addressing his vices in 1Ti. 1:9-10. By examining these groups, we can discern the proper meaning of arsenokoitai(s) once and for all.

“Knowing this, that the law is not made for a righteous man, but for the lawless and disobedient, for the ungodly and for sinners, for unholy and profane, for murderers of fathers and murderers of mothers, for manslayers,  [10]  For whoremongers, for them that defile themselves with mankind [arsenokoitais], for menstealers, for liars, for perjured persons, and if there be any other thing that is contrary to sound doctrine”

1Timothy 1:9-10

Grouping Analysis
Terms Type of Group
lawless and disobedient synonyms for lawbreakers
ungodly and sinners synonyms for people who transgress God’s word
unholy and profane synonyms for the sacrilegious; those who dishonor the sacred
murderers of fathers/mothers, and manslayers related terms; types of killers
whoremongers [pornois],
male-bedders [arsenokoitais], and
menstealers [andropodistais]
(we’ll examine the connection below)
liars and perjured persons synonyms for people who speak untruths


As you can see, Paul clearly grouped his terms together. Consequently, the question we have to ask ourselves is: What do whores, “male-bedders”, and menstealers have in common? If we can answer this question, we can be fairly certain that we’ve found the definition of arsenokoitais.

Obviously, since we don’t know what type of male-bedders are being condemned—nor do we even know for certain that arsenokoitai(s) can be properly broken apart into its constituent words—we need to focus on finding the link between whores and menstealers first. Then, we’ll be in a better position to discover the role that male-bedders play in this group.

The word translated “menstealers” in the KJV, andropodistais, is translated in other common translations as kidnappers and slave traders. So, we’re basically looking at people who forcibly exploit others, usually for financial gain. Now, the fact that whores (prostitutes) are being condemned in this group indicates that the type of exploitation being spoken of here is sexual exploitation.

So, we have Paul condemning both prostitutes, and those who exploit them for financial gain. Considering modern prostitution, it takes only a small awareness of the industry to quickly identify those who exploit prostitutes. We call them pimps.

Seeing that Paul is, indeed, condemning the participants in a prostitution ring—considering that he condemned both the prostitutes, as well as those who profit from their exploitation—we have to ask one more simple question: Who is the third player in a prostitution ring? Quite obviously, the industry would not exist if it were not for one of its more important players—the customer! So, in this 3-player group in which prostitution is condemned, Paul condemns the prostitutes (pornois), the pimps (andropodistais), and those who “bed” the prostitutes—the customers (arsenokoitais).

Some believe that male-male prostitution, specifically, is what’s actually being condemned here. This is certainly possible when we consider the culture Paul lived in. Pederasty—the sometimes forced sexual relationship between an older and a younger person—most often took a male-on-male form in ancient Greco-Roman culture. So, it’s perfectly consistent with the cultural environment to conclude that Paul was condemning male-male pederastic prostitution. The inconsistency comes into play once we take it upon ourselves to translate and/or interpret this passage as in any way condemning homosexuality in general. Such a leap would be as abusive of the text as seeing a condemnation of opposite-sex prostitution and translating or interpreting it as a condemnation of heterosexuality!

What Does malakoi Mean?

As with arsenokoitai(s), the first thing we need to do is determine whether a reexamination of the meaning of malakoi is justified. Is there sufficient cause to question the translation of this term? To answer this question, we’ll do the same thing we did with arsenokoitai(s)—compare the ways our modern English translations render this term.

Version Translation
KJV effeminate
NKJV homosexuals (footnoted as “catamites”)
NIV male prostitutes
NASB effeminate (footnoted as “effeminate by perversion”)
AMP combined with arsenokoitai as “those who participate in homosexuality”
NLT male prostitutes
CEV pervert
NCV male prostitutes
HCS male prostitutes
ESV combined with arsenokoitai as “men who practice homosexuality” (footnoted as “the passive and active partners in consenual homosexual acts”)
YLT effeminate


It doesn’t take long to realize that a reexamination the translation of malakoi is more than called for. Contrary to what many people would have us believe, it’s exceedingly obvious that the translators were not sure of the proper translation of this term within this context.

Out of the 11 translations considered, 4 completely different terms are used:

  1. effeminate (KJV, NASB, YLT)
  2. some variation of homosexuals, either by orientation or activity (NKJV, AMP, ESV)
  3. male prostitutes (NIV, NLT, NCV, HCS)
  4. perverts (CEV)

Excuse my candor, but this is absolutely ridiculous. These translations are all over the place. In just 11 translations, the word was translated in four completely different ways. That’s an average of a different translation for every two Bible versions. If we made a distinction between the condemnation of “homosexuals” and the condemnation of “homosexual activity” we’d have to add yet another variant translation. If there were ever evidence that a word’s translation requires reexamination, this is it!

Unlike arsenokoitaismalakoi was used elsewhere in Scripture, which allows us to take into consideration its usage in a non-list context. In Matt. 11:8 and Luke 7:25, it (malakois) was used to describe John the Baptist’s clothing. It was translated as “soft” in these verses.

The root word, malakos, actually means soft or feminine. Think of its usage in the gospels as referring to soft apparel, which may seem feminine, like silk. From this perspective, “effeminate” is a fairly accurate rendering of the term in 1Co. 6, in a literal sense. Still, it doesn’t really convey the specific way in which Paul used it. For example, was he intending to condemn anything soft, like the aforementioned clothing worn by John the Baptist? As we had to do with male-bedder, we have to try to identify the specific type of femininity that is being condemned here; for example, all women are, by definition, feminine in one way or another, and we certainly don’t want to think Paul was condemningthem.

Now, we saw in the 1Ti. 1 vice list that Paul grouped his terms together. While there’s no evidence that he did the same in 1Co. 6, the fact that malakoi appears in conjunction with arsenokoitai may lead us to the proper translation of the word.

In fact, it does! Considering that arsenokoitai(s) refers to the customers of prostitutes, it makes perfect sense that Paul would also condemn the prostitutes themselves whenever he condemns their customers. Indeed, as was the case in 1Co. 6, it makes sense that he would condemn the prostitutesbefore he condemned their customers.

Think about modern styles of speech. If I was pastoring a church and condemning certain behavior in a particular sermon, I wouldn’t say, “The customers of prostitutes, and also prostitutes are in sin.” What I would say is, “Prostitutes and their customers are in sin.” The primary subject in such a consideration is the prostitute. Their customers are an extension of them; so it makes sense that in both 1Co. 6 and 1Ti. 1, Paul would condemn prostitutes before he’d condemn their customers—and that’s exactly what he did.

Unlike the English translations’ renderings of arsenokoitai(s) (in which every single translation got it wrong), 7 versions got the translation of malakoi correct (even if not precise), including the KJV, NASB, and YLT (which correctly, albeit imprecisely rendered the term “effeminate”), as well as the NIV, NLT, NCV, and HCS (which more accurately rendered the term “male prostitutes”).

Now, if you’re thinking through this information critically, your next question is likely, Why would Paul refer to male prostitutes by calling them feminine? The answer is found in the type of male-male prostitution Paul was likely condemning—pederasty. The prostitutes were always younger boys, even prepubescent. They would certainly be considered feminine, not only in that they would take the submissive role sexually, but also in that their prepubescent skin was smooth and “soft” (malakos), their voices higher, and their mannerisms not markedly macho.

The Conclusion of the Matter…

Without a doubt, the terms often translated as having something to do with homosexuality, malakoiand arsenokoitai(s), actually have nothing to do with it (in any general sense). To the contrary, what is condemned in these passages is pederastic prostitution, which, although male-male in nature, cannot be seen as in any way analogous to homosexuality in general. Paul was condemning behavior that was familiar to himself and to his readers, and it’s exceedingly unfortunate that our modern English translations have not faithfully preserved his words.

Often hailed as one of the smoking guns of antigay theology, these two Pauline vice lists are an ever-present reminder of the dire need to engage in study before making a theological pronouncement. What’s so sad is that the lists in and of themselves are actually fairly straight-forward. Rather than Paul’s words being the problem, it’s the translation of his words that has held the Church captive to ignorance for so long. But, in the words of Jesus Christ, “You shall know the truth, and the truth shall make you free!”

Authentic Spiritual Living pt.3

What Goes Round Comes Round

At least that’s what they say. . .

Violence breeds violence; anger breeds anger; evil breeds evil. Round and round we go — angry, upset, stressed!

But it doesn’t have to be that way. Discover the power that lies within you to break the vicious cycle.

Scripture: Matthew 5:43-48

Listen to the sermon here:

http://jesusmcc.org/audio/2010/JesusMCC-2010-02-07.mp3

Watch the sermon here:

http://jesusmcc.org/video/2010/2010-02-07/LaunchPresentation.html