A CAREFUL VIEW OF SCRIPTURE with Regard to LGBT Questions
I Corinthians 6:9-11
I Corinthians 6:9-11
The letter to the Corinthians was written by Paul to a seaport city that had all the problems of a high traffic area. There was a temple of priestesses (prostitutes) in the city. The church had multiple problems including people bragging about who had baptized them, people claiming different leaders .. Paul ... Apollos ... and so forth ... people bragging about their particular giftings... people getting drunk when they gathered as a church for the Lord's supper... a man sleeping with his father's wife ...pride over the man sleeping with his fathers wife ... law suits in courts between believers ... endless talking during church meetings including speaking out of turn in tongues and in interpretation ... women yelling out questions to their husbands in the church meetings ... and concerns over what one could eat depending on whether it was offered to idols or not. Yet Paul addresses them as saints and patiently walks through all these various issues in this ... his first known letter to them.
So lets start with the passage in question...
9 Or don’t you know that the unrighteous will not inherit God’s Kingdom? Don’t be deceived. Neither the sexually immoral, nor idolaters, nor adulterers, nor male prostitutes, nor homosexuals, 10 nor thieves, nor covetous, nor drunkards, nor slanderers, nor extortionists, will inherit God’s Kingdom. 11 Such were some of you, but you were washed. But you were sanctified. But you were justified in the name of the Lord Jesus, and in the Spirit of our God.
Before we touch on the words in question (which in this version are translated as male prostitutes and homosexuals) lets look at what else is in the passage and ask some pastoral questions.
Paul mentions adulterers as being those who will not inherit God's kingdom. In other words ... they are going to the other place ... hell. But how does one define adulterers? Do we use Christ's definition with regard to lusting after a married person in one's heart (ref)? Do we use Christ's definition of someone who has divorced and remarried (Matthew 19 and see this web page). Note that this is also Paul's definition both in this letter (ref) and in the letter to the Romans (ref). Do we use the definition that the church had for about 1900 plus years until their view changed around the mid 20th century (actually ... not all of the church's view changed)? If we take Paul in context both from this letter and the letter to the Romans then we would have to conclude that this definition includes those who have divorced and remarried while their ex-spouse is still living. So this is a major question here ... And its a question related directly to heterosexual sexual morality in marriage... divorce... and remarriage. Zooming out a bit ... we find that scripture in the New Testament never affirms remarriage after divorce.
While we consider this lets also consider what being a drunkard means since Paul calls drunkards out as those who will not inherit the kingdom. Is Paul referring to the unrepentant drunkard? Is a drunkard the same as an alcoholic? Alcoholism is a major addiction with many people suffering relapses. How much repentance is enough repentance?
We might also consider the prohibition on slanderers. On this page I shared how some in the church are slandering lgbt folks. How will God judge them? Will these folks not inherit the kingdom? These are some of the questions I wrestled with as I continued to follow God's leading. The reality is that none of us are doing everything perfectly. So ... again ... I hold tightly to my Nazarene beliefs about grace, sin, and holiness ... and I leave judgement to God.
So lets continue to look at this passage. We will explore various possibilities as to what Paul meant ... remembering that ... again .. it owuld need to make sense to the hearers of that time and culture.
Word study: Arsenokoites and Malachos
Paul uses two distinct words for what is translated as male prostitutes (malachos) and homosexuals(arsenokoite). Note: the word "homosexual" is not a correct translation since such a word did not exist in the time this was written. Also, as we will see in our word study, this passage addresses males only. The KJV interprets this same word (arsenokoite) as abusers of themselves with mankind (whatever that means). The KJV interprets malachos as effeminate. And other translations interpret these words differently down through the years. So we will explore some of this here.
Please go to blueletterbible.org to see this passage with Strongs concordance numbers and definitions.
Arsenokoites is a compound word whose usage was rather limited in Paul's time frame. In fact Paul may have made up this word (depending on which resource you believe). It is possible that Paul made this compound word from the Greek Septuagint (Greek translation of the Old Testament) ...specifically Leviticus 20:13. Specifically the word "arseno" means "male" ... and the word "koite" means "bed". In the Leviticus 20 passage that we studied earlier it might read something like this: men should not bed men as they would bed women. (Note .. the precise translation of this passage varies depending on what reference you use. I am approximating the more traditional one.) However, if this is what Paul was doing it is important to note that compound words are not the sum of their parts. For example lets use the term "green house". If you put these two words together you get the compound word "greenhouse". But a greenhouse is not a house that is green. A greenhouse is a place to grow plants. Similarly... 'greenhouse effect' is not an effect that makes all the houses in a town green ... rather it refers to a concept of global warming due to heat being contained by pollution. These are the problems one runs into when we try discern the meaning of a compound word by looking at the definitions of the individual words.
Malakos means soft per the Strongs concordance. For example; Jesus says of John the Baptist (link) that he did not come wearing malakos (soft) robes. It can also mean ... catamite ... a boy kept for homosexual relations with a man ... a male who submits his body to unnatural lewdness ...or... a male prostitute.. see below for more information...
Catamite defined (one possible definition of Malakos ... see above)
A catamite is a pubescent boy who was the intimate companion of a young man in ancient Greece and Rome, usually in a pederastic relationship. He would typically be the passive partner in the relationship. This was a Greek practice that was also picked up by Romans. Not to get too explicit but the passive partner was the receiver and the active partner was the penetrator. In the culture of the day for an adult male to be the passive partner was thought to be wrong/demeaning (ref) .... however for a young boy to be the passive partner was not thought to be demeaning because he was not a man yet.
The Apostle Paul - AD 55 - Greek - malakoi Wycliffe - 1380 - neische Wycliffe - 1388 - letchouris ayen kinde Tyndale - 1526 - weaklinges Martin Luther - 1534 - weichlinge Coverdale - 1535 - weaklinges Matthews - 1537 - weaklinges Great Bible - 1539 - weaklynges Swedish Version - 1541 - weaklingar Geneva Bible - 1560 - wantons Bishops Bible - 1568 - weaklinges Valera Spanish - 1602 - effeminados Rheims-Douay - 1609 - effeminat King James Version - 1611 - effeminate Portuguese - 1690 - efeminados Daniel Mace New Testament - 1729 - the effeminate Darby - 1884 - those who make women of themselves Darby French - 1885 - effemines Young’s Literal - 1898 - effeminate ASV - 1901 - effeminate Weymouth - 1903 - any who are guilty of unnatural crime Louis Segund French - 1910 - effemines Moffat - 1913 - catamites (boys who have sex with men) Lamsa Translation - 1933 - men who lie down with males New American - 1941 - sodomites Revised Standard - 1952 - sexual perverts Amplified - 1958 - those who participate in homosexuality NASB - 1963 - effeminate New American Bible - 1970 - boy prostitutes New English - 1970 - guilty of homosexual perversion NIV - 1973 - male prostitutes NKJV - 1979 - homosexuals JW-NWT - 1984 - men kept for unnatural purposes New Century - 1987 - male prostitutes Green’s Interlinear - 1986 - abusers NRSV - 1989 - male prostitutes Bible In Basic English - 1994 - one who is less than a man CEV - 1995 - pervert NLT - 1996 - male prostitute Complete Jewish Bible - 1998 - active or passive homosexuality International Standard Version - 2000 - male prostitutes The Message - 2002 - those who use and abuse each other World English Bible - 2005 - male prostitutes God’s Word Translation - 2006 - homosexuals The NET Bible - 2006 - passive homosexual partners It is interesting to note how many different ways this word has been translated. Some of the definitions come directly from Greek concordance and dictionaries. Others however .. make assumptions about the words. It is also evident that cultural bias affects the later translations of it. For example ... in context ... it very specifically addresses male same sex sex. There is no reason to have it address female same sex relationships ... to do so reflects personal bias by taking the verses out of the cultural context (Re: we see the world "homosexuals" in later versions.)
Frrst of all, we really cannot use this passage to condemn anyone unless we would want to also condemn remarried people, alcoholics, gossipers, and so forth. It is evident from the multiple translations over the years that the interpretation of this passage varies due to cultural influence. Due to this fact it is difficult to form an unbiased opinion regarding what this passage means.
Based on the principle that the first step in biblical interpretation is to determine what the passage meant to the original audience ... and on the fact that the later version of the NIV refers to this as active and passive partners (see footnote which ignores the pederasty implications of this verse) .... and based on the fact that The Pastoral Perspectives on Homosexuality Paper of my denomination's General Superintendents interprets this as active and passive partners .... I personally suspect that this is about pederasty. This was a Roman / Greek practice that they would likely have been familiar with. It would be rightly condemned then and now. Let me go a bit further on this. I have heard some claim that lgbt folks are a threat to children. (they are not) Yes there are certain obscure groups out there that have a fascination with this. However, a well known organization ... PFLAG ... Parents Family and Friends of Lesbians and Gays condemns such a practice and will not affiliate with an such group that promotes this.(See their policy statement)
As I have alluded to at the end of other interpretation papers on this website.... Whether this passage applies to our modern understanding of homosexuality or not ... I think it goes without saying that the Jewish and Christian culture of the day was not in agreement with gay sex or gay marriage. So the negating of this or any other passage that traditionally was/is regarded as being against gay sex /gay marriage does not fully answer the question of the morality of gay sex/ gay marriage for today. It may be one way to open the door to the question but it does not ... in itself... provide the answer. There are other scriptures and overarching principles to look at.
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I believe that what I have written on this website is within the boundaries of the theology and beliefs of my denomination. However, homosexuality is a very complex topic with varied viewpoints. Since this is the case, it should be understood that the views expressed by myself and other Christians on this website and in our blog and / or forums (if we have them) may not necessarily reflect the official position of my / their respective denominations. Additionally, when / if I reference various web resources it should not be assumed to be an endorsement of the entirety of that resource.