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  • Patti

1 Corinthians 6:9-10 and 1 Timothy 1:9-10

I nearly always take these two passages together since they are both listings of “vices” making it quite difficult to know for sure why certain items are listed and others are left out. Galatians 5 and Romans 1 have lists of vices, too, but don’t use the terms arsenokoitai or malakos like these two passages use. These two terms are not used anywhere else in the New Testament and have been translated differently over the years. In fact, it is only since 2011 that the NIV has used the term “homosexual”. Prior to 2011 it was translated as “pervert.” And there is evidence that the choice of the word homosexual was not an appropriate translation as desired by the committee. Kathy Baldock, author of Walking the Bridgeless Canyon, has a new book set to be released in early 2020 that addresses this translation error.

Arsenokoitai literally means “male-bedder”. Many think that Paul coined the term by using two words that are near each other in the Leviticus passages. But, what does he mean by it? Other translations are “buggerers”, “the brutal”, “abusers of themselves with mankind”. My Jewish Bible uses “sexually immoral- both heterosexual and homosexual” for Timothy’s list and in Corinthians the words are translated as “who engage in active or passive homosexuality”. Interesting thing is that the original words did not refer to women at all. Using the term “homosexuality” broadens the scope beyond males. Is that accurate translating?

I like what Colby Martin says when he explains that Paul listed all exploitative and transactional sexual acts of men rather than use the commonly known term of “paiderastia” or pederasty. Matthew Vines looks at a second century Christian text, “To Autolychus” which uses the term arsenokoitai next to thieves, plunderers and defrauders implying that the reference was to economic exploitation by sexual means. Both Corinthians’ order of “adulterers, effeminate, homosexuals, thieves” and Timothy’s order of “immoral men, homosexuals, kidnappers” demonstrate the same proximity. Is the message that these are all exploitative actions - basically pimping and prostitution?

Many affirming authors point out that these lists specify behaviors and not identities and don’t seem to describe the identity of a gay guy, lesbian gal, trans individual or any of the other queer identities that fall outside of heterosexuality. They conclude that the Bible does condemn exploitative behavior, both heterosexual and homosexual, but the Bible is quiet on the topic of loving, monogamous queer relationships.

Opponents who claim there is a clear directive toward heterosexuality base their claims on these passages which are, in many ways, passing references. Nothing like the constant references to greed, the evils of the love of money, and the sins of the tongue of gossip. Even the call to hospitality and to treating the stranger is found more frequently than any condemnation of same sex love. One author, Scott McQueen in his book Reasonable Doubt, mentions that if these admonitions against same sex behavior were so necessary, then why are there no examples or stories told of the people who disobeyed and were then stoned or struck down or even “rescued” from their sin?

Context is critical too, which I will discuss in the next blog

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