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PART 2 - Page 5 of 34
Difficult to Understand and Ambiguous Scriptures
The Problems with Bible Translations in General and With This Translation In Particular
1 Corinthians 6:9-10
malakoi and arsenokoitai
There is a huge disagreement about what these two words mean!
And yet they are
translated to mean "Homosexual",
a word that wasn't coined until the mid to late 19th century???
1 Corinthians 6:9-10
9Don’t you realize that those who do wrong will not inherit the
Kingdom of God? Don’t fool yourselves. Those who indulge in sexual sin, or
who worship idols, or commit adultery, or are male prostitutes (malakoi),
or practice homosexuality(arsenokoitai),
10or are thieves, or greedy people, or drunkards, or are abusive,
or cheat people—none of these will inherit the Kingdom of God. (New Living
(http://www.biblegateway.com/ is a great site to do research in the
The understanding of this passage of scripture as it relates to Paul’s teaching about men having sex with other men (sex between females is virtually ignored in the Bible) depends on the translation of 2 Greek words, “malakoi” and “arsenokoitai”. There has been and remains a great disparity and lack of consensus among Bible translations and commentaries as to what these two terms mean. In this text these words occur in a list of sinners of various kinds. It is hard to determine what these words mean in the way they are used because the words don’t have a context to help suggest a meaning except that it was someone doing something that was considered very wrong. They are just words in a list. (1)
“Malakoi” was a fairly common word (a plural adjective used as a noun) and it seems to have at least 3 possible meanings. The first meaning was “soft”, “fine” or “expensive” as used in Luke 7:25 and Matthew 11:8 when talking about a rich man’s clothes. The second was “effeminate” or “woman like”, but not necessarily in the “limp wrist (gay)” implication we give to those words today but with the idea of someone being “undisciplined”, “self-indulgent”, “decadent”, “lazy”, “easily influenced”, “without courage or stability” or “gentle in nature-like a woman”. The third being a young male prostitute or call-boy, a youth who consciously imitated feminine styles and ways and took on the passive role of a woman during sex for money. It appears that the third would be the most likely meaning as Robin Scroggs in The New Testament and Homosexuality points out on page 106, especially likely when found together with the word “arsenokoitai” and because it was found within a list of the worst possible sins. The practice of boy prostitution would have been known to Paul and it was universally detested in the Jewish community.
Now “arsenokoitai” is a word even more difficult to explain because this use in the Bible is the first recorded use of the word combined with the fact that it is found so rarely in other literature of the time and only in lists of vices. It only occurs in the Bible in this verse and in 1Timothy 1:10. The word is a compound of two parts, the first part meaning “male”, the second part “bed” or “beds”. But trying to put them together to come up with a meaning as many experts do is not necessarily reliable because language is not always logical. For example the word “lady-killer” in English means neither a lady who kills nor a person who kills ladies but a man who knows how to charm women. (2)
But to make a long and tedious analysis short the
evidence does seem to show that “arsenokoitai”
refers to male same-sex
behavior that is exploitative, lewd and wanton, where one man forces himself
sexually on another or takes advantage of and uses the services of boy
prostitutes, always in the active role as the penetrator (never the
Here for a really
good analysis of arsenokoitai (in a pdf file) in Justin R. Cannon's study entitled,
The Bible, Christianity & Homosexuality. So you don't have
to buy the book.
OK, but what do these 2 words have to do with two people of the
same sex living in a
committed, monogamous, loving relationship with the blessing of
A Woman Was Treated Little Better Than A Slave
I strongly believe that the meaning of words depends on the context in which they are used. So in order to truly understand how the lessons of the Bible can be applied to our lives in today’s world we must try to understand the world in which the Bible was written. Now in this case, both of these words are closely tied to a 1st century cultural context vastly different from our own. As an example of this huge cultural difference, in the strict patriarchies of Biblical times, men and women played far different roles than they do today, at least in what we call "Western nations". Women were rarely educated in ancient times (an intellectual conversation with a woman was not considered possible) and they were literally owned by, yes they were the property of their husbands (or their fathers before their marriage) and they had no real legal or political status. The wife was responsible for the household and usually stayed indoors with the slaves following her husband’s instructions. The husband was the public face of the family and it seems spent little time at home during the day or in conversations with his wife. Therefore if another man had sex with his wife, yes it was adultery, but in the sense that it was a form of stealing, an infringement of the husband's property rights. And this is only one example of these cultural context differences. The examples could go on and on seemingly forever.
Malakoi and Arsenokoitai Have Been Translated To Mean Many Different Things Over The Centuries
So recognizing these cultural context differences between modern and ancient times has added much to our understanding of how the teachings in the Bible should be understood and put to use in our lives. In this case all these differences have been taken into consideration plus the best investigative researchers from various scientific fields have been brought in to try and arrive at a definitive answer, but it all hasn’t seemed to help much and the wide disagreement continues on as to what these two words mean. The truth is that the precise meanings may never be known. The result is that scholars have been reduced to making educated guesses. John J. McNeill wrote in The Church and the Homosexual, "The variation in translations points to the fact that there is very little understanding of the precise meaning of Paul's [two] terms . . . Translations appear at times to be based on preconceptions rather than serious scholarship." (3) Click Here to go to page 11 on my website where I give another example of a translator's prejudice in the Fifth Reason, headed The Problems with Bible Translations. Another example of how strange translations can be: There are some people from Martin Luther’s time and even some now that believed then and believe now that “arsenokoitai” and/or “malakoi” refer to masturbators. Hum. In that case would that mean that most teenage boys are going straight to hell? Ha-ha.
The results of these educated guesses, which most likely includes the changing prejudices taken from the society in which these translators lived [note that as prejudices changed over the centuries, so have the Biblical translations for these two Greek words (4)], as I will talk about later, are reflected below in all the variety of different Biblical translations in English over the centuries up to the present for these two ancient Greek words in 1 Corinthians 6:9-10 - First “malakoi” and then “arsenokoitai” in the phrases below, but sometimes they are combined into one meaning:
To read about the other important
reason that the word homosexual should never appear in the Bible Click
In English: (original source: http://christiangays.com/articles/malakoi.shtml Subsequently permission was received from the author, Jeramy Townsley(http://www.jeramyt.org/), to use his chart in this presentation.
1 Corinthians 6:9-10
1 Corinthians 6:9-10
|Wyclif||1508||lecchouris||synne of Sodom|
|Tyndale||1525||weaklings||abusers of themselves
|Great Bible||1539||weaklynges||abusers of themselves
|Bishops Bible||1568||effeminate||liers with mankinde|
|Reims-Douai||1609||effeminate||liers with mankind|
|King James Authorized Version||1611||effeminate||abusers of themselves
|The Revised Version||1811||effeminate||abusers of themselves
|Darby||1890||those who make women
|American Standard Version||1901||effeminate||abusers of themselves
|Wesley's New Testament||1938||guilty of unnatural crime|
|Revised Standard Version||1946||homosexual-(1st use of word homosexual in the Holy Bible. This outrageous translation in Gary Lynn's opinion almost rises to the level of blasphemy because this text has been used as a sledgehammer against us causing unending harm including death in the name of God - Click Here to read more)|
|Goodspeed||1951||sensual||given to unnatural vice|
|Jerusalem Bible (French)||1955||effeminate||people with infamous
|The Amplified Version||1958||those who participate in
|New English||1961||homosexual perversion|
|New American Standard
|Today's English Version||1966||homosexual perverts|
|Jerusalem Bible (German)||1968||sissies||child molesters|
|Jerusalem Bible (English)||1968||Catamites||Sodomites|
|New American Catholic||1970||homosexual perverts||sodomites|
|Revised Standard Version||1971||sexual perverts|
|The Living Bible||1971||homosexuals|
|New International Version||1978||male prostitutes||homosexual offenders|
|New King James||1979||homosexuals||sodomites|
|New Jerusalem Bible||1985||self indulgent||sodomites|
|New American Catholic||1987||boy prostitutes||practicing homosexuals|
|Revised English Bible||1989||sexual pervert|
|New Revised Standard||1989||male prostitutes||sodomites|
|New Living Translation||1996||male prostitutes||homosexuals|
|Third Millennium Bible||1998||effeminate||abusers of themselves
Two observations from Gary Lynn:
1) As believers,
we take the Bible, though written down by humans, to be the divinely
inspired Word of God (at least in the Church of Christ (Christian Church),
the church I was raised in). We believe that this is the essential
information that God wanted us here on earth to know in order for us to lead
the best possible lives in this life and give us the best possible chance to
spend eternity with Him in the next. For example, we know exactly the
meaning of “You shall not murder" or "You shall not steal". There is no
doubt what God wants us to know in these 2 important commandments. So, if
these two words, “malakoi” and “arsenokoitai” are so critical for us to
understand in order to achieve the previously mentioned goals or rewards,
wouldn’t God with all His limitless powers, wisdom and foreknowledge have
made it possible for their meaning to be clear to either the lay reader or
the scholar today?
2) The Fundamentalists believe that all scripture is "God Breathed" in other words according to Grace Community Church's John MacArthur, "the Scriptures are breathed out by God, not breathed in. So they say that the Bible is the product of God breathing out His words so what He wanted written got written. In other words, the Scriptures are the product of divine breath assuring us that the sixty-six books of the Bible are the very words of God." So maybe all this lack of clarity on God's part in the case of malakoi” and “arsenokoitai” is a test for His People. Could He be testing us to see that when there is any clear doubt about what is written, that we turn to loving instead of judging?
I strongly disagree with the "God Breathed" point of view
because it says that the entire bible is inerrant or without error and that
is just wrong. My faith is in no way shaken because there are
human-induced errors in the Holy Bible. I express my views in more
detail Here on this subject.
DEFINITIONS (I put these definitions together using a variety of source material):
weakling = someone who is weak in body, character or mind.
liers with mankind = almost as vague as the original Greek word “arsenokoitai” itself, but thought by many to mean sodomite (see definition below) or men who lie down or sleep with other men to have sexual relations (as with a woman).
abusers of themselves with mankind = almost as vague as the original Greek word “arsenokoitai” itself, but thought by many to mean sodomite (see definition below) or men who lie down or sleep with other men to have sexual relations (as with a woman).
effeminate = having feminine qualities not typical of a man.
those who make women of themselves = probably means men who are effeminate or call-boys/male prostitutes.
guilty of unnatural crime = vague but could mean someone who is accused of or guilty of doing something sexually that is culturally forbidden in that society.
sensual = self-indulgent or deficient in moral, spiritual or intellectual qualities or interests.
given to unnatural vice = vague but could mean someone who does something sexually that is culturally forbidden in that society.
people with infamous habits = vague but could mean someone who does something sexually that is culturally forbidden in that society.
voluptuous persons = people who are self-indulgent or deficient in moral, spiritual or intellectual qualities or interests.
sexual pervert/pervert = one given to some form of sexual practice which is unnatural, unusual or considered wrong by the society in which they live.
sissies = street or slang term for men or boys considered effeminate which could include being timid or cowardly.
child molesters = adult men or women who touch or interact in any way with underage or minor boys or girls for the purpose of their sexual gratification.
sodomite = one who has anal or oral intercourse with a member of the same or opposite sex.
self-indulgent = excessive or unrestrained gratification of one’s own appetites, desires or whims.
partakers in homosexuality = a little vague but probably means a heterosexual or homosexual man or woman who takes part in same-sex sexual acts
homosexuals = men (gays) and women (lesbians) who are innately or naturally sexually attracted or oriented to members of their own sex.
practicing homosexuals = homosexuals who follow through with their homosexual orientation by actively looking for and entering into same sex relationships. They are not celibate or asexual.
catamite = a prepubescent or adolescent beardless boy kept by a pederast. These days this term is used when it is primarily a sexual relationship with little or no educational element involved.
pederast = an adult male lover of prepubescent or adolescent beardless boys or one who practices anal intercourse especially with a prepubescent or adolescent beardless boy. These days this term is used when it is primarily a sexual relationship with little or no educational element involved.
. . . . . . . .
. . . . .
(1) Scroggs, Robin, The New Testament and Homosexuality, Philadelphia: Fortress Press, 1983, page 103.
(2) Miner, Jeff (pastor of the Jesus Metropolitan Community Church in Indianapolis, Indiana), John Tyler Connoley (who recently completed a Masters in Biblical Studies at
Earlham School of Religion-A Quaker University) The Children are Free, Indianapolis, Indiana, Jesus Metropolitan Community Church, 2002, page 19.
(3) McNeill, John J., The Church and the Homosexual-Fourth Edition, Boston, Beacon Press, 1993, page 51.
(4) Helminiak, Daniel A., PH.D., What the Bible Really Says About Homosexuality, New Mexico Alamo Square Press, 2000, page 106-107: The Catholic Church's recent New American Bible invites cynicism. . . . . . . It translated arsenokoitai as "practicing homosexuals." How amazing! A first-century text would now seem to teach exactly what Roman Catholicism began teaching only in the mid-1970's: to be homosexual is not fault, but to engage in homogenital acts is wrong. The attempt to nuance the translation is certainly understandable and welcome. Still, this translation reads a whole new worldview into the original Greek text, for there was no elaborated awareness of sexual orientation in first-century Christianity. Even worse, "practicing homosexuals" - like "homosexuals" and " homosexual perverts" in those other translations - includes women as well as men. But as we shall see [as pointed out above], arsenokoitai certainly refers only to men. At the instigation of Dignity/USA, a support group for lesbian and gay Catholics and their friends, the editors of the New American Bible agreed to delete the term practicing homosexuals. In its place they substituted sodomites, which is hardly much better.
A Gay Teen Short Story ♂♂
Church is so confusing for Zack. His new pastor preaches nothing but hate and condemnation of gays and lesbians, but no matter how carefully he reads his Bible, he can’t find where it says God hates him. Will things change when Zach's boyfriend Billy suggests that they all go to his church instead? Click Here or on the icon to read the story.
Click for Page 6 - So What Exactly is the Bible Against?
below to go to:
The Anti-Gay Religious Right's Really Cruel and Idiotic Argument
Their Message to a Gay Person is: Be alone. Live alone. Die alone.
Click for Homosexuality is neither a Choice nor a Sin - Table of contents
Click for Gary Lynn's Home Page