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 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 2 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 of Paul’s time.  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 ie. 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, e.g. 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