MORE DETAILS ON
PAUL'S VIEWS --
CORINTHIANS AND TIMOTHY

Summary of this page

Some people use St. Paul’s views in his letters to
the Corinthians and to Timothy to say that
homosexuality and homosexuals are bad.

What do the Bible verses say?

    Or do you not know that wrongdoers will not
    inherit the kingdom of God? Do not be
    deceived: Neither the sexually immoral nor
    idolaters nor adulterers nor men who have
    sex with men nor thieves nor the greedy
    nor drunkards nor slanderers nor swindlers
    will inherit the kingdom of God.  1
    Corinthians 6:9-10 (NIV)

    We also know that the law is made not for
    the righteous but for lawbreakers and
    rebels, the ungodly and sinful, the unholy
    and irreligious; for those who kill their
    fathers or mothers, for murderers, for the
    sexually immoral, for men who have sex
    with men, for kidnappers and liars and
    perjurers.  1 Timothy 1:9-10


How do we know that these verses criticize
only penetrative intercourse between males
and not all male-male sex?

Both verses criticize males who have sex with
males. One Greek word (
arsenokoitai) used for
such people literally means
males-bed or male-
bedders
, i.e. males who go to bed with males for
sex.  The word almost certainly comes from the
Leviticus verses prohibiting men anally
penetrating men (having sex with a man as with a
woman) and therefore has a similar meaning
here.  A second Greek word (
malakoi), used in 1
Corinthians only, literally means
soft men and, in
this context, means men who are anally
penetrated by other men.

Therefore the two words used in 1 Corinthians
cover both the man who does the anal
penetration and the man who is penetrated.  In 1
Timothy only the man who penetrates is criticized.





What were the reasons for this criticism of
male-male penetrative sex?

The 2 main reasons for this criticism appear to be:

  • It was thought that God made men to
    sexually penetrate and women to be
    penetrated.  Therefore a penetrated man
    would be acting like a woman and this would
    be wrong.

  • Men penetrating men reminded people of
    the practice of strong or unruly men
    sometimes raping weaker men, as was
    attempted at Sodom and Gibeah.

More reasons for this criticism of male-male sex
are




What does the criticism of male-male
penetration mean for men who are attracted
to other men?

If a man is attracted to or loves other men without
having sex with them, the criticism of male-male
penetration is irrelevant.  The Bible has positive
stories of non-sexual same-sex attraction and
love, e.g. David and Jonathan.


What does the criticism of male-male
penetration mean for men who have sex
with other men?

The criticism of male-male penetration does not
apply today to  straight, bisexual and gay men
who have such penetrative sex  because it

applied only to the Greek-Roman culture in the
time of Pau
l.  For those who don’t accept this
culture
argument, the criticism of male-male
penetration does not apply when no one is
harmed, directly or indirectly, by the penetration.  
See how
this conclusion is reached.


What is the relationship of these verses to
other Bible verses?

Paul’s criticism of male-male penetration in 1
Corinthians and 1 Timothy repeats his similar
criticism of sex between males in Romans 1:27
(
shameful lusts and shameful acts and men were
inflamed with lust for one another
).  

It also reflects the prohibition of sex between
males (
don’t let another male penetrate you) in
Leviticus 18:22 and 20:13.  In each of these
cases, the criticism or prohibition refers only to
male-male penetration, not to other forms of sex
between males.




What does Paul mean?

In 1 Corinthians 6:9 and 1 Timothy 1:10, Paul
uses 2 Greek words to refer to males who have
sex with other males.  The words are
arsenokoitai and malakoi.

Arsenokoitai

Arsenokoitai is one of the Greek words used to
mean
men who have sex with men (or more
accurately
males who have sex with males) in 1
Corinthians 6:9 and 1 Timothy 1:10.  It refers to
the active or penetrating man in anal sex
between males.

Arsenokoitai literally means males-bed or male-
bedders
,  i.e. males who go to bed with males for
sex.  Paul appears to have created it by joining
the two words
arsenos (male) and koiten (bed or
sexual-lying) in the Septuagint Greek translation
of Leviticus 20:13, which prohibits the sexual
lying of a man with a male.  The Corinthian
Christians and Timothy would have easily
recognized the meaning of the word from its
constituent parts.  It seems that Paul intended
that
arsenokoitai cover all penetrating males who
have sex with males.

The Greek-English Lexicon of the New
Testament and Other Early Christian Literature

defines
arsenokoites as "a male who engages in
sexual activity with a person of his own sex,
pederast 1 Cor 6:9 …… of one who assumes the
dominant role in same-sex activity, opposite
malakoi …… 1 Tim 1:10; Pol 5:3"
. (3rd Edition, p
135).

Arsenokoitai refers only to males who actually
have penetrative intercourse with other males.  It
does not refer to males attracted to other males
without the sexual activity.  It covers any male
who has penetrative sex with another male,
whether homosexual, bisexual, or primarily
heterosexual but having occasional sex with men.

Malakoi

Malakoi is the other Greek word used to mean
men who have sex with men (or more accurately
males who have sex with males) in 1 Corinthians
6:9.  It probably refers to the passive or
penetrated person in anal sex between men.

The basic meaning of
malakoi, when applied to
people, is
soft men with a frequent consequent
meaning of
effeminate men i.e. men acting softly
or gently like women in various ways.  While it is
not clear what Paul really means by
malakoi, this
discussion
may help to clarify its meaning.

The conclusion of the discussion is that the case
for
malakoi meaning men who have passive sex
with other men
appears to be stronger than its
meaning
effeminate men, particularly because
Paul criticizes men who have sex with men
elsewhere in his letters (Romans 1:27) but does
not similarly criticize effeminate men.




False views or misconceptions about these
passages

Arsenokoitai should be translated as
“homosexuals”  (this is false)

There are three reasons why arsenokoitai should
not be translated as homosexuals (as appears in
TNIV, NASB, Holman, NLT, Net, NKJV)

1. The Third Edition of the
Greek-English
Lexicon of the New Testament and Other Early
Christian Literature
defines arsenokoites as "a
male who engages in sexual activity with a
person of his own sex, pederast 1 Cor 6:9 …… of
one who assumes the dominant role in same-sex
activity, opposite malakoi …… 1 Tim 1:10; Pol 5:
3"
. (page 135)  The references to practices
homosexuality
and sodomite in earlier editions of
the Lexicon have been removed.

2. While dictionaries usually define
homosexual
in terms of both same-sex orientation and same-
sex activity,
arsenokoitai refers only to the same-
sex activity.  Using
homosexuals incorrectly
covers those men of homosexual orientation who
do not partake of same-sex activity, i.e. those
who are celibate.  On the other hand, there are
also men who are bisexual or who are primarily
heterosexual but have occasional sex with men,
for example in prisons where there is no sexual
access to women, or in certain countries where
such sex is culturally allowed if the heterosexual
is the insertive partner.  Such men see
themselves as heterosexual or bisexual and
would strongly object to being called
homosexual.  Therefore they would (wrongly) not
see themselves as being covered by
arsenokoitai
if it is translated as homosexuals.

3. The word
homosexuals covers both same-sex
attracted males and same-sex attracted females.  
It is therefore inappropriate as a translation of
arsenokoitai, which specifically refers to males
only.


Malakoi should be translated as “male
prostitutes”  (this is false)

There are six reasons why malakoi should not be
translated as
male prostitutes (as appears in
TNIV, NLT, NCV, NRSV)

1. The Third Edition of the
Greek-English
Lexicon of the New Testament and Other Early
Christian Literature
(page 613) states that male
prostitutes
is too narrow a rendering of malakoi.

2. There are no known instances of
malakoi
being used to directly mean
male prostitutes in
ancient Greek or Greco-Roman times.

3. Paul’s writing style indicates that he would
have been more likely to use a direct word such
as
pornoi if he had meant to refer to male
prostitutes instead of using a word  (
malakoi)
with multiple meanings, none of which directly
refers to male prostitutes.  While Paul did indeed
use
pornoi earlier in the same verse, its
translated meaning of
the sexually immoral is
more general than
prostitutes.

4. The use of
male prostitutes (in the sense of
effeminate call-boy) was supported by Gordon
Fee (
The First Epistle to the Corinthians) and
Robin Scroggs (
The New Testament and
Homosexuality
).  Male prostitutes was Fee’s
best guess because malakos is immediately
followed by
arsenokoitai (244).  For Scroggs, the
use of
malakos would almost certainly conjure up
images of effeminate call-boys if the context
otherwise suggested some form of pederasty
(65), and
arsenokoitai provided this context
(108).  However as both authors recognized,
malakos was not a technical term used to
describe effeminate male prostitutes (Fee 244) or
pederastic people (Scroggs 64).  Further,
arsenokoitai does not mean just pederasts but all
males who have sex with males.  Accordingly,
neither author has made a convincing case for
the use of
male prostitutes as a translation of
malakoi.

5. Some people might misunderstand
male
prostitutes
to mean men who sell their sexual
services to women instead of the male-male sex
of Paul’s time.  Also, there is nothing in the
immediate context to indicate that the selling of
sexual services is involved.

6. It is possible that Paul may have used malakoi
as a euphemism for
pornoi because he used
pornoi earlier in the verse.  However, this seems
unlikely because the derivation would be
malakoi
s main meaning of
soft, then its associated
meaning of
effeminate men, a subset of whom
are men who have passive male-male sex, some
of whom may be male prostitutes.  The
association is very indirect.


Other interpretations

The Ontario Consultants on Religious Tolerance
give
excellent background accounts and
various interpretations
of 1 Corinthians 6:9 and
1 Timothy 1:10  


References

Greek-English Lexicon of the New Testament
and Other Early Christian Literature,
Third
Edition
, rev. and ed. by Frederick William Danker,
2000

Perseus Digital Library

Henry George Liddell & Robert Scott, A Greek-
English Lexicon, revised and augmented
throughout by Sir Henry Stuart Jones with the
assistance of Roderick McKenzie
, 1940

John H. Elliott, “No kingdom of God for softies?
or, what was Paul really saying? 1 Corinthians 6:
9-10 in context”,
Biblical Theology Bulletin,
Spring 2004.  This article is also
here.  It gives a
thorough look at the meanings of
malakoi and
arsenokoitai.

Dale B Martin, “Arsenokoites and Malakos:
Meanings and Consequences," in
Biblical Ethics
and Homosexuality: Listening to Scripture
, ed.
by Robert L. Brawley, 1996, pp. 117-36.

C T Lee,
Paul's Malakos: Its Evolution from
Classical Greece Through the Roman World
.  
This paper is
here.

J. B. DeYoung "The Source and NT Meaning of
Arsenokoitai, with Implications for Christian Ethics
and Ministry",
The Master's Seminary Journal  
3/2 (Fall 1992) pp. 191-215.  This article is also
here (pdf).  The article has good detailed
background but comes to the wrong conclusion
that
arsenokoitai should be translated broadly as
homosexuals.


go to home (www.gaysandslaves.com)
Author: Colin Smith