Answering the Gay Question: New Testament Style

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In the past few blogs, I’ve covered Old Testament verses that Christians often use to condemn homosexuality and I’ve covered Romans chapter one. Today I will deal with more verses in the New Testament.

The next hammer verse that Christians often use to say homosexuality is a sin is 1 Corinthians 6:9-10.  9 Do you not know that the wicked will not inherit the kingdom of God? Do not be deceived: Neither the sexually immoral nor idolaters nor adulterers nor male prostitutes nor homosexual offenders 10 nor thieves nor the greedy nor drunkards nor slanderers nor swindlers will inherit the kingdom of God. (NIV)

There are several things in this verse that I find interesting.  First is that the word for prostitutes and the word for homosexual offenders are the same word (arsenokoites, ar-sen-ok-oy’-tace).  I opened up my Greek Bible to check this and there is only one word.   It’s not that Paul repeats the word, but we do.  It seems that the translator figured the one word meant the phrase neither “male prostitutes nor homosexual offenders”.  However, why would we translate one word into two meanings and add a “nor” in there?  That confuses the heck out of me.  Yes, I am aware that one Greek word can mean a simple sentence, but it should not have two meanings.

Secondly the translation of this word is tricky.  According to my Bible computer program it translates it as sodomite.  Paul would have known that the Hebrew word for Sodomite Qadesh, (feminine Qedheshah) finds its route word in Qadash.  Qadash is the Hebrew word for Holy.  So why is sodomite and holy connected?  Is this possibly a Temple prostitute?

Thirdly, this word is also literally translated “man-bed”.  It is a compound word.  What does “man-bed” mean?  Not to you, but to the people of the first century.  We could easily say that a man-bed means homosexuality, after all what else could a “man-bed” mean?  However compound words don’t necessarily mean the two separate meanings.  For instance, mandate; is that about a man’s date?  Manhole; is that a man’s hole, or a hole in a man?  Manhood; is that a man who wears a hooded shirt?  Or a man who lives in the hood?  Mankind; is that a nice guy?  I think you get the point.

Like Romans chapter one, no one really seems to know.  Professor Jennifer Knust, a professor of Religion at Boston University says that word is “notoriously hard to translate.”  If professors of religion with PhD’s have a hard time with it then we should be careful what we say it means.

Fourth problem or question for this word is that Paul also never uses common words of the day for homosexual.  He could have used any of the following and it would not be questioned.  However, he did not.

  1. arrenomanesmeaning mad after men or boy crazy
  2. dihetaristriai – a synonym referencing lesbian sexuality, meaning essentially the same thing as hetairistriai, tribad, tribades, from: Love Between Women: Early Christian Responses to Female Homoeroticism, Brooton, Bernadette, p. 23.
  3. erastes – a sometimes older man who loves a sometimes younger male
  4. eromenos – a sometimes younger male who loves an older male
  5. euryproktoi – men who dress as women, also a vulgar reference to anal penetration
  6. frictrix – Latin word referring to a lewd woman and sometimes used to refer to a lesbian. Tertullian, 160-220 AD, translated tribas (a masculine woman) as frictrix.
  7. hetairistriai – women who are attracted to other women, used by Plato’s character Aristophanes, in The Symposium. May also refer to hyper-masculine women, from Lucian’s Dialogue of the Courtesans, cited by Brooten, p. 52.
  8. kinaidos – a word for effeminate, κίναιδος or kínaidoi (cinaedus in its Latinized form), a man “whose most salient feature was a supposedly feminine love of being sexually penetrated by other men.” Winkler, John J., 1990, The Constraints of Desire: The Anthropology of Sex and Gender in Ancient Greece, New York: Routledge.Although some scholars, like Dr. Robert Gagnon, understand kinaidoi to mean the passive partner in a male couple, Davidson argues that kinaidoi refers to a man insatiable and unrestrained in his sexual appetites instead of merely effeminate or passive. Davidson, J. 1997. Courtesans & Fishcakes: The Consuming Passions of Classical Athens, New York, p. 167-182.
  9. lakkoproktoi – a lewd and vulgar reference to anal penetration
  10. lesbiai – a synonym referencing lesbian sexuality, meaning essentially the same thing as dihetaristriai, hetairistriai, tribad, tribades, from: Love Between Women: Early Christian Responses to Female Homoeroticism, Brooton, Bernadette, p. 23.
  11. paiderasste – sexual behavior between males
  12. paiderastes or paiderastïs – παιδεραστής derived from the Greek word pais, παῖς a boy, meaning lover of boys
  13. paidomanes – a male mad for boys or boy crazy
  14. paidophthoros – a Greek word meaning corrupter of boys
  15. pathikos – the passive penetrated partner in a male couple
  16. tribades – an ancient Latin word indicating the active female partner of a lesbian pair, sometimes interpreted to mean a pseudo-male, referencing genital contact between women. Rashi defines it as “rubbing in a sexual manner.”
  17. tribas – the active partner in a lesbian relationship, who takes the male role

Instead, we translate arsenokoites, ar-sen-ok-oy’-tace here in Corinthians and later in 1 Timothy to be homosexuals when it was not at all a commonly used or definite word for that.  We must question why we translate it as a homosexual.  It might simply be a pervert, sexual abuser, prostitute, or something we have no clue about.

Like Romans 1, I am not willing call something a sin that is very unclear.  Nor am I willing to deny someone their rights or love based on a word that is unclear and neither should the church.  In fact, the more research that I do, the more I find that homosexuality is just as normal as heterosexuality and should be accepted in the same way.

My next blog I will take a look at the definition of “Biblical” marriage.

Some recommended reading:

Unprotected Texts          by Jennifer Wright Knust

http://www.gaychristian101.com/what-words-could-paul-have-used-if-he-intended-to-condemn-homosexuality.html

Living in Sin:  by Bishop Spong

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