Vines: God and the Gay Christian, Part 5 (1 Cor 6:9-10)

We are considering one of the latest, and best reviewed, books supporting Christian gay marriage, Matthew Vines’ God and the Gay Christian: The Biblical Case in Support of Same-Sex Relationships.

This is just part 5, but already I’m sure the back and forth is getting more than a little tedious. I’m generally pretty patient with this sort of discussion, but I confess to feeling the tedium.

The problem is that so many arguments are made, and no matter how illogical or badly founded, it just takes a lot of words to lay out Vines’ argument and to then respond, agreeing or disagreeing.

Vine and all those who argue his position are entitled to a fair, open minded hearing. Moreover, I don’t mind doing the hard work of working through all the arguments. But there comes a point …

1 Cor 6:9-10

That is, there comes a point where arguments are being made that are just absurd — and it becomes a waste of everyone’s time. And this is the case regarding Vine’s interpretation of this important passage —

(1 Cor 6:9–10 ESV) 9 Or do you not know that the unrighteous will not inherit the kingdom of God? Do not be deceived: neither the sexually immoral, nor idolaters, nor adulterers, nor men who practice homosexuality [malakos and arsenokoitai], 10 nor thieves, nor the greedy, nor drunkards, nor revilers, nor swindlers will inherit the kingdom of God.

Vines argues,

In Greek, arsen means “male” and koites means “bed,” typically with a sexual connotation. Given the meaning of those words, some argue that arsenokoitai must mean “men who sleep with other men,” encompassing a condemnation of non-celibate gay men.

But the argument breaks down in two key places. First, the component parts of a word don’t necessarily tell us what it means. The English word understand, for instance, has nothing to do with either “standing” or being “under.” If a person learning English as a second language tried to figure out the meaning of understand only by considering its component parts, she would be led far astray.

Some non-affirming Christians seek to avoid this difficulty by connecting arsenokoitai to the prohibition of male same-sex intercourse found in Leviticus 20: 13. In the earliest Greek translation of that verse, the words arsenos koiten appear next to one another. So it’s possible that Paul coined the term arsenokoitai based on his familiarity with the Greek translation of Leviticus 20. If so, he likely was using the word to condemn some form of same-sex behavior.

(p. 123). Hmm …

If Paul coined the term (and this is the earliest recorded use of the word), then he expected to be understood. A word such as “understand” can change meanings over the centuries so that the roots of the word no longer give guidance for the definition. But when someone coins a new word, he expects to be understood.

Hence, the root words matter — often even defining the word — absent some evidence to the contrary — especially when it’s a newly coined word. The meaning gets disconnected from the root only after a long time — long enough for the word to be heard separate from its root words (as in “understand” — which goes back at least to Old English, long before even the KJV).

Paul’s new word borrows two key words from Lev 18:22 and 20:13. In fact, the two roots appear adjacent to each other in the same order in Lev 20:13 — meaning that arsenokoitai would sound to a Jewish listener very much like “love another” would sound to a Christian. We would know from just the two words which verse is being referenced and why.

(Lev 18:22 LXX1) καὶ μετὰ ἄρσενος [male] οὐ κοιμηθήσῃ κοίτην [have sex with] γυναικός· βδέλυγμα γάρ ἐστιν. 

(Lev 20:13 LXX1) καὶ ὃς ἂν κοιμηθῇ μετὰ ἄρσενος κοίτην [arsenos koiten] γυναικός, βδέλυγμα ἐποίησαν ἀμφότεροι· θανατούσθωσαν, ἔνοχοί εἰσιν. 

If this is not what the word means, how did Paul expect his readers to interpret his language?

Interestingly, Vines argues from the Sybilline Oracles, a Second Century document, and later lists of vices in other literature, that the word refers to economic injustice of an unspecified sort — although the root of the word means “to bed a male.” Let’s do be serious.

As Gordon Fee notes in his seminal commentary —

There is no question as to the meaning of the koitai part of the word; it is vulgar slang for “intercourse” (which probably accounts for its seldom being found in the literature).

Gordon D. Fee, The First Epistle to the Corinthians, The New International Commentary on the New Testament, (Grand Rapids, MI: Wm. B. Eerdmans Publishing Co., 1987), 244.

Again, if not homosexual behavior, just what does Paul mean? What’s a better alternative translation?

So Vines never comes up with an alternative definition, preferring to leave the meaning uncertain, and then he argues,

In so doing, [this translation] wrongly attributes to Paul a position on a hot-button issue he never faced: the question of lesbian, gay, bisexual, and transgender people.

(p. 128). I grant that Paul’s language in 1 Cor 6:9-10 does not reference anything but male-male homosexual conduct, but Rom 1 clearly deals with both male and female homosexual activity.

Paul never had to deal with men surgically changed into women or vice versa. But he certainly dealt with cross-dressing men, men who were castrated for the pleasure of their male lovers, bisexual men (very, very common in ancient Greece and Rome), and lesbians (well known to the Greeks, who invented the word).

How can Vines argue that Greek men were not exclusively hetero- or homosexual, preferring sex with both men and women, and then deny that Paul had to confront bisexuality?

And 14 of the first 15 Roman emperors were either homosexual or bisexual. Nero ruled during Paul’s lifetime, and he was famously married, more than once, to young boys who dressed up as women, even submitting to castration for the privilege of sleeping with the emperor.

Here’s one summary

In Nero, Tacitus tells the reader, tyrannical passion, the hubris of proclaimed divinity, the corruption of power, and “every filthy depraved act, licit or illicit” seemed to reach an imperial peak. He not only had a passion for “free-born boys” but also for quite literally marrying other men and even a boy, sometimes playing the part of the woman in the union and sometimes the man.

As Tacitus relates one incident (Grant’s translation): “Nero was already corrupted by every lust, natural and unnatural. But he now refuted any surmises that no further degradation was possible for him. For…he went through a formal wedding ceremony with one of the perverted gang called Pythagoras. The emperor, in the presence of witnesses, put on the bridal veil. Dowry, marriage bed, wedding torches, all were there. Indeed everything was public which even in a natural union is veiled by night.”

Such was only one instance. We also have from historian Seutonius, a contemporary of Tacitus, a report of Nero’s marriage to Doryphorus (who was himself married to another man, Sporus).

Martial, the first-century A.D. Roman poet, reports incidences of male-male marriage as kinds of perversions, but not uncommon perversions, speaking in one epigram (I.24) of a man who “played the bride yesterday.” In another (12.42) he says mockingly, “Bearded Callistratus gave himself in marriage to…Afer, in the manner in which a virgin usually gives herself in marriage to a male. The torches shone in front, the bridal veils covered his face, and wedding toasts were not absent, either. A dowry was also named. Does that not seem enough yet for you, Rome? Are you waiting for him to give birth?”

In Juvenal’s Second Satire (117), we hear of one Gracchus, “arraying himself in the flounces and train and veil of a bride,” now a “new-made bride reclining on the bosom of her husband.” Such seems to have been the usual way of male-male nuptials among the Romans, one of the men actually dressing up as a woman and playing the part of a woman.

The notoriously debauched emperor Elagabalus (ruled 218-222) married and then divorced five women. But he considered his male chariot driver to be his “husband,” and he also married one Zoticus, an athlete. Elagabalus loved to dress up as a queen, quite literally.

So, yes, Paul lived in a world in which bisexuality, the transgendered, and lesbianism were well known.

I should add this from the Wikipedia

Numerous examples of same sex unions among peers, not age-structured, are found in Ancient Greek writings. Famous Greek couples in same sex relationships include Harmodius and Aristogiton, Pelopidas and Epaminondas and Alexander and Bogoas. However in none of these same sex unions is the Greek word for “marriage” ever mentioned. The Romans appear to have been the first to perform same sex marriages.

At least two of the Roman Emperors were in same-sex unions; and in fact, thirteen out of the first fourteen Roman Emperors held to be bisexual or exclusively homosexual. 

 The first Roman emperor to have married a man was Nero, who is reported to have married two other men on different occasions. First with one of his freedman, Pythagoras, to whom Nero took the role of the bride, and later as a groom Nero married a young boy to replace his young teenage concubine whom he had killed named Sporus in a very public ceremony … with all the solemnities of matrimony, and lived with him as his spouse A friend gave the “bride” away “as required by law.” The marriage was celebrated separately in both Greece and Rome in extravagant public ceremonies. 

The Child Emperor Elagabalus referred to his chariot driver, a blond slave from Caria named Hierocles, as his husband. He also married an athlete named Zoticus in a lavish public ceremony in Rome amidst the rejoicings of the citizens.

And we should note —

In literature of the Imperial period, the Satyricon of Petronius is so permeated with the culture of male-male sexuality that in 18th-century European literary circles, his name became “a byword for homosexuality.” The poet Martial often derides women as sexual partners, and celebrates the charms of pueri.

Petronius was active at the same time Paul was. Martial was after Petronius but while some of the NT was not yet written.

The dating of  Nero’s marriages to males

I should note that Nero’s marriages to men are dated to about 10 years after the composition of Romans. However, those who recorded those weddings did not say that Nero was the first Roman to marry another man or that Nero was setting some sort of new precedent. In fact, there were celebrations across the Empire on account of Nero’s homosexual weddings — suggesting that he was likely the first emperor to wed a man but not the first Roman male.

The Wikipedia states,

Although in general the Romans regarded marriage as a heterosexual union for the purpose of producing children, in the early Imperial period some male couples were celebrating traditional marriage rites in the presence of friends. Same-sex weddings are reported by sources that mock them; the feelings of the participants are not recorded. Both Martial and Juvenal refer to marriage between men as something that occurs not infrequently, although they disapprove of it.

Just as is true today, the historians focus more on the emperors and kings rather than other Romans, even other aristocrats. If a homosexual wedding were so easily accepted by the mid-60s AD, then the practice had been around for a while. Certainly, the Roman men had indulged in homosexual sex long before then, likely for centuries, emulating the Greeks.

But let’s suppose that Nero’s same-sex weddings were the first of the kind, around the time of Paul’s death. Let’s further suppose that the Holy Spirit approves of same-sex weddings. Well, Paul wasn’t the only NT  author, and the NT canon would not be complete for decades, at least. So where are the writings adapting Paul’s position to the new sweep of history, with same-sex marriages being practiced by emperors and aristocrats? If the Holy Spirit found such marriages commendable, where’s the commendation?

Why did the Spirit not give us guidance on this new social construct so that we’d know the Spirit blesses same-sex unions — since they were all the rage in Imperial Rome long before the NT was complete?

Moreover, there were plenty of other uninspired Christian elders and bishops and scholars whose writings from the late First and Second Centuries are preserved, and yet there’s not a word of approval for the same-sex weddings — although in the late First Century, the church still had writers and prophets who were very active. Not a one says that Paul did not have these weddings in mind when he wrote Rom 1, and so same-sex weddings are permitted.

In fact, if anything, the early Christian condemnations of homosexual sex are more stringent than those found in the NT, despite the practice of same-sex marriage being available and having been available for many years.

Didache, A.D. 80 – 130

Commit no murder, adultery, sodomy, fornication, or theft. (Didache 2)

Justin Martyr, c. A.D. 155

When I was delighting in the doctrines of Plato, and heard the Christians slandered, and saw them fearless of death, and of all other-things which are counted fearful, perceived that it was impossible that they could be living in wickedness and pleasure. …
   And imitating Jupiter and the other gods in sodomy and shameless intercourse with woman, might we not bring as our apology the writings of Epicurus and the poets? But because we persuade men to avoid such instruction, and all who practise them and imitate such examples, as now in this discourse we have striven to persuade you, we are assailed in every kind of way.
   But we are not concerned, since we know that God is a just observer of all. But would that even now some one would mount a lofty rostrum, and shout with a tragic voice [i.e., loud like an actor in tragedies]: “Be ashamed, be ashamed, ye who charge the guiltless with those deeds which yourselves openly could commit, and ascribe things which apply to yourselves and to your gods to those who have not even the slightest sympathy with them. Be converted! Become wise!” (Second Apology 12)

Theophilus of Antioch, A.D. 168

Regarding lawless conduct, those who have blindly wandered into the choir of philosophy have, almost to a man, spoken with one voice. Certainly Plato—to mention him first who seems to have been the most respectable philosopher among them—expressly, as it were, legislates in his first book, entitled The Republic, that the wives of all be common, using the precedent of the son of Jupiter and the lawgiver of the Cretans, in order that under this pretext there might be an abundant offspring from the best persons, and that those who were worn with toil might be comforted by such intercourse. And Epicurus himself, too, as well as teaching atheism, teaches along with it incest with mothers and sisters, and this in transgression of the laws which forbid it. … these things the other laws of the Romans and Greeks also prohibit. Why, then, do Epicurus and the Stoics teach incest and sodomy, with which doctrines they have filled libraries, so that from boyhood this lawless intercourse is learned? (To Autolycus III:10:6)

Clement of Alexandria, c. A.D. 190

All honor to that king of the Scythians, whoever Anacharsis was, who shot one of his subjects with an arrow for imitating among the Scythians the mystery of the mother of the gods … beating a drum and sounding a cymbal strung from his neck like a priest of Cybele. [The king] condemned him as having become effeminate among the Greeks and a teacher of the disease of effeminacy to the rest of the Cythians. (Exhortation to the Heathen 2)

The fate of the Sodomites was judgment to those who had done wrong and instruction to those who hear. The Sodomites had fallen into uncleanness because of much luxury. They practiced adultery shamelessly and burned with insane love for boys.
   The All-seeing Word, whose notice cannot be escaped by those who commit impious acts, cast his eye on them. Nor did the sleepless Guard of Humanity observe their licentiousness in silence, but in order to deter us from imitating them and to train us in his own moderation, he fell on some sinners, so that lust would not go unavenged and break us loose from every restrain of fear. He ordered Sodom to be burned, pouring forth a little of the sagacious fire on licentiousness, lest lust, by not being punished, should throw the gates wide open for those that were rushing into voluptuousness.
   Thus, the righteous punishment of the Sodomites became to me an image of the salvation which is well calculated for men. For those who have not committed sins like those who were punished will never receive a punishment like them, either. By guarding against sinning, we guard against suffering. “For I would have you know,” says Jude, “that God, having once saved his people from the land of Egypt, afterwards destroyed those that did not believe. And the angels who did not keep their first estate, but left their own habitation, he has reserved in everlasting chains for the judgment of the great day, under the darkness of savage angels.”  … For punishments and threats are for this purpose, that we may abstain from sinning because we fear the penalty. (The Instructor III:8)

So I don’t buy the argument that Paul was unaware of gay marriage and therefore did not disapprove the practice. The practice was established very prominently while the NT was still being composed, and the Holy Spirit had ample opportunity to correct Paul’s declarations in light of the new gay marriage practices of Rome.

And we find no evidence at all that the early church approved gay marriage either in the inspired canon or the early uninspired writings. Indeed, as the Romans became more accepting of homosexual conduct — even gay marriage — the church became, if anything, stricter in its condemnation.

About Jay F Guin

My name is Jay Guin, and I’m a retired elder. I wrote The Holy Spirit and Revolutionary Grace about 18 years ago. I’ve spoken at the Pepperdine, Lipscomb, ACU, Harding, and Tulsa lectureships and at ElderLink. My wife’s name is Denise, and I have four sons, Chris, Jonathan, Tyler, and Philip. I have two grandchildren. And I practice law.
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38 Responses to Vines: God and the Gay Christian, Part 5 (1 Cor 6:9-10)

  1. laymond says:

    ” and the Holy Spirit had decades to inspire someone to say that same-sex marriage has God’s approval. ”
    Jay, the same time existed for the HS to say it is the “unforgivable sin” , but I don’t recall Paul or anyone else saying that. I believe Paul said “sin is sin” , I believe Jesus said “one sinner should not judge another’s sin” . If Jesus died for our sins, what sins were not included? When we spend our time deciding what is and is not sin, we use up time that could be better spent teaching the “gospel” that Jesus brought. Instead we use time teaching that people should not sin, I believe it was John that said “if we say we do not sin, we are a liar and the truth is not in us”. I believe Paul said he truly wanted to be sinless , but he was to weak. How come we tie a yoke around the neck of others that we ourselves cannot bear ? I believe everyone here knows sin when they see it, I also believe everyone here can not avoid sin.
    same-sex marriage may not have God’s approval , but it does have the supreme court of the United States approval, I believe Paul said obey the law of the land. I will never approve abortion on demand, nor same sex marriage because they are an abomination to me just as they are to God. But I will never condemn one to hell for something I know so little about. But they are both approved law. Seems a lawyer should know that.

  2. Dwight says:

    I am under the understanding that if God disapproves of something, then no matter what societal laws are made for it, it still doesn’t make it approved of by God. he fact is that God condemned homosexuality by death in the OT, the Jews understood this and condemned it as well. Jesus condemned it in his address of fornication and Paul condemned it in Romans. Same sex marriage is based on and results in and is homosexual in nature. God, Jesus and Paul, who was under the Holy Spiri, condemned it without caveats built in to argue that certain things could or would change the sin to not being sinful. Homosexuality was sinful by God’s standard, whether it was done out of love or was called “marriage”. The same with adultery, the same with bestiality, the same with incest, the same with all sexually immoral sins.

  3. Monty says:


    You made an interesting statement when you wrote, “To be willing to make changes, one must be convinced that the reward in changing is greater than the reward in staying the same.”

    While that is true, as it applies to the Gay Christian, it perhaps should read: To be willing to make changes, one must admit that ones’ behavior is wrong and that the reward in changing that wrong behavior is greater than the joy or pleasure one might receive from maintaining those wrong behaviors. This can be an extremely difficult thing to do, hence we all sin. We never get to a point where knowing the right thing means we never do the wrong thing. But as it applies to the Gay Christian, what hope is there in change if what you believe you are practicing is God ordained? There is no impetus for change because you don’t believe you are doing anything wrong. Even though the alcoholic or heroin addict owns up to their addiction problem, the change is(I would have to imagine) extremely difficult. And that’s even when you desire to do right. What if there is no desire to change(as in Gary’s case)based on feeling like you’ve won the day concerning scripture? That’s why Jay’s work here is invaluable because if scripture is wrangled and twisted and Gay Christianity is accepted by the church as the norm, then woe is us.

  4. Dwight says:

    Let’s get the terminology right as it should be Homosexual Christian and saying this makes about a much sense as saying Bestiality Christain or Incestual Christian or Adulterating Christian or Murdering Christian or Lying Christian. It is an oxymoronic statement, Those that argue for homosexuality, seemingly don’t or won’t place these other sins as equal, even when the scriptures did and does. For some reason homosexuality comes out justified, even when we can argue that one can be born with murdering tendencies or incestual tendencies or an affection towards animals, etc. Monty is right. Much of our change comes from knowing we are sinful and making the change to the things of God and it can be a hard change. If you believe you are in the right, because you have justified it, despite scripture saying otherwise, then you will never change. It has to spur from pleasing ourselves to pleasing God. We must all do this and some have bigger hurdles to overcome in some things than others and yet the hurdles must be overcome, because God awaits on the otherside.

  5. Dustin says:

    If gay married couples are working for God’s kingdom, who are we to stop their kingdom work because their sins? Should we stop their work until they are pure as other American Christians?

    Luke 9:49-50
    49 “Master,” said John, “we saw someone driving out demons in your name and we tried to stop him, because he is not one of us.”

    50 “Do not stop him,” Jesus said, “for whoever is not against you is for you.”

  6. Jay Guin says:


    We’ve not yet addressed the question of fellowship with those who disagree regarding the sinfulness of homosexual sexual activity. Just whether it’s sinful. I’ve promised a discussion on the fellowship question, and we’ll get there directly.

  7. Jay Guin says:


    Really have to disagree. Saying “homosexual Christian” does not imply sinfulness at all — no more than “heterosexual Christian” implies heterosexual fornication. Are all heterosexual Christians fornicators due to their sexual orientation?

    It’s only those homosexuals who are sexually active that are sinners — or else you’ve made it sinful for a gay person to be alive. If he or she is alive, he or she will be a homosexual Christian.

    It’s extremely important that we distinguish orientation from activity. And our language is extremely important as there’s a tendency among straight Christians to treat the orientation itself as sinful — which is untrue and not remotely supportable from scripture.

    I am certain that every church of any size has homosexual members who are struggling to live celibate lives to honor Jesus, and when we use language that treats them as sinners just for having the temptation we treat their efforts as valueless and declare that they have no hope of being accepted by their fellowship Christians for who they are: homosexuals who’ve given up a lot to honor Jesus. They should be encouraged and affirmed, not dismissed as beyond all hope.

    I mean, imagine that your youth minister decides to declare that “teenage Christians” are all fornicators by virtue of their age, and the preacher declares all teenagers damned on the false assumption that they are all intentional fornicators, without hope. I’m pretty sure you’d change churches and find yourself disgusted with such an attitude toward your son or daughter.

  8. laymond says:

    Heb 10:26 For if we sin wilfully after that we have received the knowledge of the truth, there remaineth no more sacrifice for sins,
    I like the book of Hebrews and the knowledge it distributes as much as any book in the bible, and believe the writer writes out of knowledge.
    If we know that what we are doing is a sin against God and we willfully continue to do defy God’s wishes we are in deep trouble. The catch here is if we know, and continue to defy. Just because someone tells you, you are wrong , don’t necessarily mean you are convinced you are wrong.

  9. Gary says:

    Jay, where do I start? To begin with, since you totally reject the church fathers on divorce and remarriage you don’t get to enlist them in support of your stance on homosexuality. But then you have steadfastly insisted on picking and choosing what suits your views in the Law of Moses so I guess you have established your own precedent for doing the same with the church fathers. As for me, it seems clear that if the church fathers were all wrong on divorce and remarriage they could just as easily have been wrong on homosexuality.

    Second, you ask why we have no commendation from the Holy Spirit in the NT on the new social construct of same-sex marriage. I can just as easily ask why we have no commendation from the Holy Spirit in the NT on our still relatively new social construct of slave holding being a grievous sin. Every ancient society practiced slavery to my knowledge and the NT accomodates slavery to the point that our Southern Christian forebears quoted prooftexts from the NT to justify their slaveholding. In much the same way conservatives (and again especially in the South) continue to quote NT prooftexts that supposedly restrict the freedom of gays to have a suitable and appropriate life companion as God originally intended and imprison them in celibacy under the threat of eternal condemnation or annihilation.

    The answer is that the NT was never intended to envision every acceptable new social construct to come. There is a huge difference in accepting the NT as the authoritative canon of Scripture for the church and trying to make it into a new and improved Law for Christians in the same way that the Law of Moses dictated almost every detail of Jewish life. We are not under any law today in Christ other than to love one another as Christ has loved us.

    More later.

  10. Monty says:


    I’m sure Jay will respond as he is most able to defend his views but your argument seems to be that if you don’t believe everything someone writes(as in the ECF’s) then you can’t appeal to or use anything they write. In other words they would have to be infallible on every subject or every argument in order to reference them. Surely you can see the fallacy of that view. Imagine not being able to quote C.S. Lewis on one topic because his arguments on another topic are deemed weaker. You may not like Jay using his own discretion as it relates to the matter at hand, but you are just dead wrong to impugn his motives in doing so,(which you seem to be doing in an indirect manner) which is all the argument you seem to be left with. Jay isn’t playing fair.

  11. Gary says:

    Jay, before I move on to my third point please remember what you said on One in Jesus not too long ago on the early church fathers and their views on divorce and remarriage. I didn’t look back to get the exact quote but this is pretty close: it wouldn’t be the first time that the church fathers were wrong.

    Third, of course Paul knew exactly what he meant when he used the word arsenokoites and, in all likelihood, his Corinthian readers knew exactly what he meant as well. That in no way means that we know almost two millennia later what he meant. You make a huge and irrational leap in your assumption. Please tell us just how many of the Corinthian Christians you believe were so familiar with the Septuagint that they would have known the meaning that you posit. Remember that they knew exactly what Paul meant. Yes they knew Greek and at least those of them who were literate could have read the Septuagint. But you really believe the Corinthians “in the pews” were that well versed in the Septuagint? We can read the Septuagint today but how many Christians have done so? For that matter how many preachers have read the Septuagint? Beside yourself how many folks in your congregation have read the Septuagint? Your assumption requires not only that the Corinthians had read the Septuagint but that they were well versed in it.

    By way of analogy, all of us of a certain age at least know exactly what the word ladykiller means. A doting aunt might say of a young nephew that he is really going to be a ladykiller some day. Can you imagine if our present internet was lost to the future folks in the future trying to figure out what ladykiller means. Is a ladykiller a woman who kills other people or a killer who chooses only or primarily ladies to kill? According to your reasoning compound words are easy to figure out. That’s just not the reality.

    Plus, one word, compound or otherwise, can have multiple meanings. Take the contemporary Greek word malakas (descended from malakos in 1 Corinthians 6:9). It describes practitioners of several sexual practices including masturbation. It can be used as a crude insult or as a term of friendship among heterosexual men. Without context no Greek today would know which meaning of malakas is the intended meaning. Arsenokoites could just as easily have had multiple meanings. We have no context for it in 1 Corinthians 6:9. Remember also that we don’t know that Paul coined the word in 1 Corinthians 6:9. He may have but he may also have used an existing Greek word so obscure that no prior use of it has survived.

    You will never be convincing on arsenokoites and malakos unless you can offer a better explanation than Dale Martin in his online essay “Arsenokoites and Malokos: Interpretations and Consequences.” Martin is not theorizing in that essay. He has done the spade work that lexicographers are supposed to do. He has tracked down every known use of arsenokoitai/arsenokoites for almost a millennium after the writing of 1 Corinthians. In every case except one where context is given arsenokoitai is always used in a context of exploitation and sex, usually but not always homosexuality. Arsenokoites also could be used in some heterosexual contexts. The one exception where arsenokoitai seems to have been used of homosexuality in general apart from a context of exploitation was in the third or fourth century.

    The standard conservative position that of course arsenokoitai and malakos refer to all homosexual couples sexually in any and every context is simply without merit unless you want to try to hang your hat on the single reference 200 years or more later. Dale Martin has shown that the emperor has no clothes. I for one am thankful that he is a product of Churches of Christ.

  12. Gary says:

    Fourth, Jay, you try to make same-sex marriages in the first century seem so common and well accepted that of course Paul had to have them in mind when he used the words arsenokoitai and malakos in 1 Corinthians 6:9. That just won’t fly Jay. Same-sex marriage was of course known in the Roman world but it was never generally accepted. Roman law was never rewritten to provide legal recognition of same-sex marriages so same-sex marriages had absolutely no legal standing in the Roman Empire. Same-sex marriages were also never accepted socially because of their revulsion towards men who were the submissive sexual partner. So a same-sex couple, married or unmarried, were social outcasts because one or both of them were routinely sexually penetrated.

    Intentionally or unintentionally, it is a bait-and-switch tactic to describe the acceptance of same-sex marriages in ancient Greece and then try to provide that as background for Paul in Romans and 1 Corinthians. Rome was obviously Roman and not Greek in its culture as was Corinth. Corinth was located in Greece but was so culturally Roman that its neighboring Greek cities considered it to be a foreign city in their midst. We know this today because of the discovery of the Argive Petition in the last decade. It likely dates to the same decade as Paul’s writing of Romans and 1 Corinthians. No account of the culture of Corinth is now credible without taking into account the Argive Petition. This means that much of what N.T. Wright has written on this subject has to be discarded. The inescapable conclusion is that to discuss homosexuality in ancient Greece and apply it to Paul’s writings is to mislead the reader. Sure they may well have known about the ancient Greek perspective on same-sex couples but there is no evidence that first century Romans and Greeks adopted it.

  13. Gary says:

    Monty, I’m not impugning Jay’s motives when I point out serious inconsistencies in his reasoning. I like Jay and think that Churches of Christ are blessed to have him as a leader. That doesn’t mean he is infallible in his reasoning or incapable of inconsistencies in his logic.

    That aside, Monty, how convincing do you think it is to totally reject the early church fathers on divorce and remarriage and then to quote them on homosexuality? Jay cannot quote a single church father who would support his understanding of divorce and remarriage from 1 Corinthians 7. It doesn’t take an Einstein to see the inconsistencies in this kind of selective use of the early church fathers. The same thing can be said of how conservatives selectively pick and choose what suits their agenda from the Law of Moses and ignore the rest. If the Law is binding today on us it’s all binding.

  14. Gary says:

    I realize that conservatives do not care for any analogies between their acceptance of divorce and remarriage for any and all reasons on the one hand and their complete rejection of homosexual love on the other hand. Nevertheless the analogies are there and everyone else sees them. It was widely publicized this week that the Kentucky clerk who is in custody for refusing to issue marriage licenses for same-sex couples has been divorced three times and is in her fourth marriage. (That’s a matter of public record.) This kind of conservative hypocrisy is not lost on the public. Heterosexual Christians can practice serial polygamy and become cultural heroes on the right but the sky will fall and our civilization will crumble if two people of the same sex love each other and want to have their relationship legally recognized in marriage? The present conservative position is just not credible and it is not tenable. I realize that most of you who follow this blog are heavily invested in your position on homosexuality but at some point you need to understand that to be liberal on divorce and remarriage and conservative on homosexuality is a losing proposition. You can’t have it both ways. If it is so important for heterosexuals to be able to have suitable and appropriate (and sexual) life companions that 1900 years of church tradition can be thrown out the window then the same is true of homosexuals.

  15. Richard constant says:

    I personally resent your accusations.
    Number one I was raised in Newport Beach I don’t even know if you know where that is a pretty progressive environment.
    I was married when I was 21 almost 22 to a drop dead gorgeous runner up for Miss teenage America IQ of 169 rated in kindergarten.
    That was around 1970 or so we stayed married for 6 years.
    and wind up with a divorce / adultery she found out how beautiful she was and went off the deep end.
    to make a long story short I round up being best friends with a first generation swedish girl or a woman another drop dead gorgeous woman. I love her I told her that I love her but I knew better than to marry her and we only engaged in sex one time and that was when I first met her I could go on and on about this.
    But I remain celibate for about 9 years.
    When I was about 35 or 36 I met I met another woman.
    I had custody of my two children she had custody of her daughter we were married she wanted more children and she was 26 years old and I was 37 we stayed married for 25 years.
    Things got financially extremely difficult in two thousand and eight and nine she started seeing another man.
    So I haven’t had any sex since 2010 and I actually could tell you the month.
    What I find so nice is how you pigeonhole people and if you think that I do it you’re absolutely wrong but one thing that I try not to do and if I do I know exactly what I’m doing like being drunk being a drunk.
    I get sick and tired and I’m sure everyone else does of this culture that says do what you want when you want to do it because it feels good.
    At this point in time your argument is with God your argument is with Jesus your argument is with Scripture that you fail to look at.
    You should start taking care of your own position before you take care of other people’s positions because most of the time there’s not going to be a push back.
    This is a push back to be sure.
    It would be so much easier to be what I would consider to be emotionally retarded.
    And not be able to love other people the way that I would like them to love me to say nothing of respect for God and the word that he brought forth through them the sacrificing of his son.
    I would go back into the closet if I were you and study a lot more before you start making accusations about other people.
    I don’t care if you’re gay I don’t care if you’re a drunk.
    I really don’t care if you’re a pedophile I talk to them too I’m not talking about nice people going to heaven we’re talking about faithful people going to heaven and faithful to what.
    Get a grip.

  16. Ty says:

    First, I would like to say, thank you for taking the Bible seriously, I have struggled to find anyone on the non-affirming side of the issue who does more than give a nod to the historical and critical work. That said, personally, I think you short-changed his lexicographical work. I find his point that this particular vice was not grouped unambiguously with sexual vices but with vices like theft (and thus probably implies both sexual and financial components) to be far more convincing than an argument that says, “that is what it means because the word looks like that.” Such compounds are not uncommon when dealing with criminals, for instance bald-knobber, dry-gulcher, ladybird, bug hunter and too many other terms for criminals to list were all once used in English to describe things locals would recognize that a glance at the compound words does not reveal. In this case, Paul knows Corinth and would able to use insider language like this to reference a situation with which they are already familiar. This is not to say that he did, only that Vines solution is not so outlandish as you seem to imply. Additionally, though it may be true that the ancients knew of gay-marriage, my reading of the issue in contemporary literature says that Roman society considered it to be a sign of insanity and irresponsibility and used it primarily as a way to discredit and slander those who participated.

    Finally, if you want a hand finding flaws in Vines I think the biggest weakness in his argument is his dismissive treatment of Leviticus, which discounts the value of the Hebrew Bible, not recognizing the meanings behind the laws as constitutive of the Christian faith rather than immersing himself in the culture in order to discover the likely implications of the various laws.

  17. Gary says:

    Richard Constant, are you responding to Jay, me or someone else? If you’re responding to me please tell me what accusations I’ve made against you. I don’t know you.

  18. Jay Guin says:


    Thanks for the note. I actually under-argued my position regarding 1 Cor 6:9-10.

    Regarding arsenokoites, Gordon Fee says that the koitai ending was vulgar slang for intercourse in the First Century. My guess is that it wasn’t considered vulgar when the Septuagint was translated. (There are several examples of KJV language that wasn’t vulgar when used but became vulgar later, such as several references to “piss.” Always entertaining when we ran into those verses in high school Bible class.)

    This means the word would have sounded to First Century ears something like “male screwer” (with “screw” unambiguously being a transitive verb for the sex act. English only has intransitive words for “have sex” other than vulgarities.). Immediately following malakos (“effeminate” or even “passive participant in homosexual sex”), it’s hard to see Paul being understood in any sense other than condemning male homosexuality — especially given that the phrase is taken straight from Lev 20:13.

    Further, not mentioned by Vines is this from Polycarp’s epistle to the Philippians —

    (Phili 5:3 AFL-E) In like manner also the younger men must be blameless in all things, caring for purity before everything and curbing themselves from every evil. For it is a good thing to refrain from lusts in the world, for every lust warreth against the Spirit, and neither whoremongers nor effeminate persons nor defilers of themselves with men (ἀρσενοκοῖται) shall inherit the kingdom of God, neither they that do untoward things. Wherefore it is right to abstain from all these things, submitting yourselves to the presbyters and deacons as to God and Christ. The (female) virgins must walk in a blameless and pure conscience.

    Polycarp is one of the apostolic fathers, writing in the early Second Century. He is plainly quoting 1 Cor 6:9-10, but notice that he only applies “whoremongers nor effeminate persons nor defilers of themselves with men (arsenokoites)” to young men. He applies other teachings to females. (“Virgin” is feminine in the Greek.) If arsenokoites refers to economic sin, why include it in a list of plainly sexual sins specific to males? Note Polycarp’s references to “lust” and “purity.” He is not speaking of economic issues.

    Polycarp, according to church history, knew the apostle John — so this is second generation material, and yet Vines makes no mention of the Polycarp text in his book — despite his very extensive research into much later texts.

    So, no, I’m not impressed by his lexicographical research. The more I study it, the less impressed I am.

  19. Larry Cheek says:

    As I understand your writings you seem to be promoting that all followers of Christ prior to approximately 1900 held to the concept that all homosexual conduct was sinful. But, in later times men have determined that the committed relationship is a relationship which God cannot deny because of your reference in Genesis. This is an exception to all beliefs taught by the authors of scripture. Not one of your references from history supports your position as position supported by God.

    It appears to me that Jesus was aware of and accused many of the Jewish Nation of similar practices. They did not teach and obey the law correctly, they created many deviations from the regulations which God had directed. Jesus words to them.
    Mat 23:15 ESV Woe to you, scribes and Pharisees, hypocrites! For you travel across sea and land to make a single proselyte, and when he becomes a proselyte, you make him twice as much a child of hell as yourselves.
    They were working soo hard to support their new doctrines with a numberless volume of supporters. Jesus condemned both the workers and their followers.

  20. Gary says:

    Does anyone know of a documented same-sex marriage in the Roman Empire that predates the marriage of Nero and Sporus in the A.D. 60’s? So far I can’t find one. I’m not sure yet but I’m starting to think that the marriage of Nero and Sporus may have been the first same-sex marriage in the Roman Empire. If so that significantly weakens the conservative assumption that Paul had same-sex marriages in mind when he wrote Romans and 1 Corinthians in the mid 50’s. That would make the conservative assumption an anachronism.

    Even if Nero’s same-sex marriages had occurred before the writing of Romans and 1 Corinthians they would still not be relevant to same-sex marriages today. If you haven’t already read the Wikipedia accounts of those marriages please do so. They were highly coercive relationships. Neither man was in any position to say no to Nero. Nero’s same-sex marriages actually bolster the view that homosexuality in the Roman Empire was overwhelmingly associated with pederasty, promiscuity, prostitution and coercion. Same-sex marriages of social equals in the Roman Empire were known but were rare. They also had no legal recognition or social acceptance due to the almost universal revulsion of men who allowed themselves to be sexually penetrated.

    If Paul chronologically could have had Nero in mind when he wrote about homosexuality in Romans and 1 Corinthians he would have had in mind something quite different from the committed same-sex relationships of social equals today.

  21. Gary says:

    I highly recommend “Problems with Greek Word Studies: Real Meaning,” an online article by Rhodes Davis. One of the common errors he deals with is “root fallacy,” trying to determine the meaning of a compound word by the meaning of the componet words. He notes how unreliable this is in English (pineapple, barfly and butterfly for example) and indicates that it is also unreliable in Koine Greek. He does not mention arsenokoitai or homosexuality but the implications are clear.

  22. Gary says:

    I have been honestly puzzled by Jay’s continuing insistence that arsenokoitai in 1 Corinthians 6 refers to the dominant homosexual partner in any and every context of homosexuality. I’ve tried to think this through to understand where Jay is coming from. It occurred to me yesterday that I have not given sufficient attention to Jay’s reliance on the perhaps likely possibility that Paul had in mind the Greek Septuagint version of the Torah in Leviticus 18 where the proscribed homosexuality is translated as arsenos koiten. I have to admit that that is indeed very close to arsenokoitai, the apparently newly coined word Paul uses in 1 Corinthians 6. I still don’t understand how the Corinthian Christians would have known about such a detail in the Septuagint and thus have understood what Paul meant if he was relying on the Septuagint. But I decided to study this further.

    What I have found is amazing to me. Robert Gagnon has been considered by gays to be their arch-enemy in the academic world. He has seemed to us to have an axe to grind against gays that goes beyond intellectual inquiry. I realize of course that conservatives don’t see Gagnon in that way. I’m just telling you how the gay community sees him. Gagnon wrote a tome espousing his very conservative understanding of homosexuality and Scripture. It is entitled The Bible and Homosexual Practice.

    Here is what is amazing. In discussing the prohibition of homosexuality in Leviticus Gagnon writes on p. 130 that “homosexual cult prostitution appears to have been the primary form in which homosexual intercourse was practiced in Israel….” This is astounding coming from Gagnon. I had come across this claim from a number of liberal sources but had never suggested it on One in Jesus because I wasn’t sure how credible it was. But if even Robert Gagnon made this conclusion it is most probably right. The signicance of course is that a prohibition of homosexual cult prostitution in ancient Israel (arsenos koiten in Leviticus 18) has no rational application to committed same-sex relationships today.

    But wait there’s more! We actually have a highly respected first century Jewish scholar who has left us his understanding of arsenos koiten in Leviticus 18. Philo around A.D. 35 writes in the Special Laws III, VII 40-42, that arsenos koiten in Leviticus referred to shrine prostitution.

    If both Philo and Robert Gagnon agree that what was specifically prohibited in Leviticus regarding homosexuality was cult shrine prostitution (prostitution as part of idol worship) then that is certainly good enough for me. The inescapable conclusion is that Paul in 1 Corinthians 6 would have been referring to homosexual prostitution when he (apparently) coins the new word arsenokoitai. There simply is no rational way to make a condemnation and prohibition of male prostitution apply to same-sex marriages today.

    The more I study this whole subject of homosexuality and Scripture the weaker I find the traditional and conservative arguments to be. I can’t account for conservative Christian intransigence on homosexuality today other than for the incredible hold that traditional interpretations of Scripture have on so many. Probably all of us knew salt-of-the-earth, faithful Church of Christ members who went to their graves believing that instrumental music in worship was a terrible sin. One of our Texas preachers in the 1960’s actually contended that musical instruments in worship were the abomination of desolation! Most of us here would agree now that not one word in Scripture prohibits the use of musical instruments in Christian worship. In much the same way I believe that given enough time even Churches of Christ will welcome gays in committed same-sex marriages.

  23. Jay Guin says:


    Regarding the passage from Philo, I only have in the English, but here it is. I note questions re the translation and underlying Greek that come to mind upon reading —

    (40) And I imagine that the cause of this is that among many nations there are actually rewards given for intemperance and effeminacy [malakos?]. At all events one may see men-women [effeminate men?] continually strutting through the market place at midday, and leading the processions in festivals; and, impious men as they are, having received by lot the charge of the temple, and beginning the sacred and initiating rites, and concerned even in the holy mysteries of Ceres [a fertility god].
    (41) And some of these persons have even carried their admiration of these delicate pleasures of youth so far that they have desired wholly to change their condition for that of women, and have castrated themselves and have clothed themselves in purple robes, like those who, having been the cause of great blessings to their native land, walk about attended by body-guards, pushing down every one whom they meet [speaking of eunuchs for the sake of homosexual sex].
    (42) But if there was a general indignation against those who venture to do such things, such as was felt by our lawgiver, and if such men were destroyed without any chance of escape as the common curse and pollution of their country, then many other persons would be warned and corrected by their example. For the punishments of those persons who have been already condemned cannot be averted by entreaty, and therefore cause no slight check to those persons who are ambitious of distinguishing themselves by the same pursuits.

    Charles Duke Yonge with Philo of Alexandria, The Works of Philo: Complete and Unabridged, (Peabody, MA: Hendrickson, 1995), 598.

    I don’t see an obvious translation of arsenokoites. How about sharing where that word is used in the Greek and your source? Who says that Philo uses arsenokoites here?

    I don’t see a reference to this passage in BDAG’s discussion of the word. Give me a text and some context. And if Philo used the word in AD 35, then Paul’s use in 1 Co 6:9-10 is not the first recorded use. So this is just not adding up. I can’t image BDAG skipping such a vital source.

    Meanwhile, BDAG does reference Polycarp’s use of the word, which seems to provide very clear support for the modern reading of the word.

  24. Jay Guin says:


    It is, of course, true that words do not always mean what their root words mean. Of course. But when someone coins a new word, they expect to be understood. Hence, “computer,” when coined, referred to a device for computing numbers. Computers now also provide music, video, 3D graphics, telephonic services, and lots of other things that the original word hardly comprehends, but when the word was coined, it was understood based on its root. The article you cite does not address newly coined words. (And the article does insist that modern English translations are very reliable — hence, arguing against Vines’ efforts.)

    Given the Lev 20:13 source, the obvious implications of the roots, and Polycarp’s unambiguous use of the word, all the sources that are close to Paul’s time fit the modern interpretation.

    Meanwhile, those who wish to ambiguate the term fail to come up with an alternative meaning, merely suggesting that it might refer to economic injustice of some unspecified sort based on the use of the word centuries after Paul. Well, as we readers of the KJV know, words do indeed change meaning over time; so reading a very uncertain definition from centuries later back into the original coinage is a particularly suspect approach, esp. given that we have plenty of evidence for the word’s meaning at the time Paul used it.

    And, again, Vines makes no mention of the Polycarp text even though it’s cited in BDAG and it took me about 2 minutes to find it in Lightfoot’s Apostolic Fathers Greek text. Unfortunately, I don’t have the Greek for Philo or the Ante-Nicene Fathers.

    I have also not much argued the 1 Tim 1:10 usage of the word —

    (1Ti 1:8-11 ESV) Now we know that the law is good, if one uses it lawfully, 9 understanding this, that the law is not laid down for the just but for the lawless and disobedient, for the ungodly and sinners, for the unholy and profane, for those who strike their fathers and mothers, for murderers, 10 the sexually immoral, men who practice homosexuality, enslavers, liars, perjurers, and whatever else is contrary to sound doctrine, 11 in accordance with the gospel of the glory of the blessed God with which I have been entrusted.

    “Men who practice homosexuality” is arsenokoites. It’s used immediately after “the sexually immoral,” suggesting that it, too, is about sexual sin. More importantly, read the CONTEXT. Paul is giving a list of sins condemned by the TORAH that are STILL SIN. Hence, when he used a coined word based on Lev 20:13, it’s truly specious to suggest that the word doesn’t reference the Law of Moses.

    And this answers the equally specious argument that the Law of Moses no longer offers any guidance as to morality. Here, Paul very specifically find his moral guidance in the Law. Now, we can have a great time arguing HOW he reaches his conclusions, but in fact, he says that arsenokoites is sin for Christians because the Law says so. Therefore, that’s the conclusion we should also draw. The only question open is HOW, not WHETHER. Paul has answered that one for us.

    But then comes what seems to be a sequence of elaborations of the second table of the Ten Commandments: dishonoring parents, murder, adultery, theft, perjury. Today the most controversial of these is the putting of homosexual practice (v. 10; the term almost certainly comes from Lev 18:22; 20:13) under the prohibition of adultery; the teaching is consistent with Paul’s views expressed earlier in Rom 1:26–27; 1 Cor 6:9–10.

    James D.G. Dunn, “The Letters to Timothy and the Letter to Titus,” in 2 Corinthians-Philemon (vol. 11 of NIB, Accordance electronic ed. Nashville: Abingdon Press, 2000), n.p.

    Dunn is, of course, one the premier Pauline scholars today.

    The list describes extreme lawbreakers: it is given in four pairs, followed by a series of six individual terms, and concluded with a general catch-all category. There is a striking correspondence to the Decalogue from the reference to “killing fathers and mothers” through to “liars and perjurers.” The first three pairs of sinners have also been thought to reflect the earlier parts of the Decalogue, but the precision of these connections is not quite so compelling, and correspondence is rather to be found in the impression of opposition to God that these early vices collectively produce, and in the sequential listing, evident in the Decalogue, of sins against God followed by those perpetrated against fellow humans. The list echoes the Decalogue in such a way that the relationship is close enough not to be missed and broad enough to appeal to the Hellenistic ear of the church that would have overheard this letter. Calling on the Decalogue at this point makes perfect sense since as the core of the Torah it establishes the essential criteria for making sin against God and people known (cf. Rom 7:7)—the appropriate use of the law that Paul has in mind. …

    Verse 10 continues the list with two terms that refer to sexual sin. The first term, “the sexually immoral,” is more general, being used to describe those who commit adultery and fornication (that is, unsanctioned sexual activity outside of marriage). More specific is the term that the TNIV translates as “those practicing homosexuality.” It denotes, unequivocally, the activity of male homosexuality, and the view of this practice adopted in this text corresponds to that of Paul elsewhere (Rom 1:27). In terms of correspondence to the Decalogue (to the degree that this is intended), the connection would be found in the command covering adultery (Exod 20:14; Deut 5:18). But the expansion in Lev 18:22 and 20:13, which may be more closely related, regards male homosexuality as a deviation from the Mosaic moral code. Contemporary arguments that advocate the legitimacy of homosexuality cannot resort successfully to the biblical texts and etymology. The exegesis of these passages is not in question, and the fate of the current debate about homosexuality will rest on hermeneutics.

    Philip H. Towner, The Letters to Timothy and Titus, The New International Commentary on the New Testament, (Grand Rapids, MI: Wm. B. Eerdmans Publishing Co., 2006), 124–128.

    When I began reading the so-called homosexual affirming arguments from scripture, I was very open to persuasion. It struck me as entirely possible that the translations reflected modern anti-homosexual bias. But the more I study the question, the more persuaded I am that the English translations have it right.

    PS — I reject that language of “affirming” to be used for arguing that the Bible approves gay marriage. Whatever the Bible in fact teaches is affirming. We can’t enter the discussion branding one side with positive, feel-good language, such as “affirming,” and claim to have entered the discussion without bias. I would argue that reading against the biblical evidence and in favor of gay marriage does a great disservice to gay Christians and is the furthest thing from affirming.

  25. Gary says:

    Jay, I’m continuing to study this entire subject so if I have cited Philo erroneously I apologize. It is very important to me to be accurate. After reading a little more this point does seem confusing. Even some who argue the conservative side of the question present Philo as having identified arsenos koiten as shrine prostitution by males. I will study this further but for now I will withdraw the point about Philo.

    More broadly, however, I do think there is a genuine uncertainty about exactly what the meaning of arsenokoitai was. Even Gordon Fee on p. 244 of his 1987 commentary on 1 Corinthians concedes that arsenokoitai was rarely used “especially when describing homosexual behavior.” Also Gagnon’s concession that the primary context for homosexuality in ancient Israel was cult shrine prostitution is highly significant. If the Leviticus prohibitions are about cult shrine prostitution they are irrelevant to our discussion today and Paul’s basing arsenokoitai on arsenos koiten in Leviticus would make 1 Corinthians 6:9,10 irrelevant today as well to the question of gay marriage.

    I also see as a huge obstacle to the conservative position that the Law was given to the Jews and was never intended to be applied to the Gentiles. I just cannot see how it is at all valid to pick one sexual prohibition regarding homosexuality (and exactly what that one is in detail is disputed by scholars) from the Law and ignore so many others as apparently irrelevant for today.

  26. Jay Guin says:


    Thanks for the Fee citation. Here’s the text in context —

    What makes “male prostitute” (in the sense of “effeminate call-boy”) the best guess is that it is immediately followed by a word that does seem to refer to male homosexuality, especially to the active partner. This word (arsenokoitai), however, is also difficult. This is its first appearance in preserved literature, and subsequent authors are reluctant to use it, especially when describing homosexual activity. The word is a compound of “male” and “intercourse.” There is no question as to the meaning of the koitai part of the word; it is vulgar slang for “intercourse” (which probably accounts for its seldom being found in the literature). What is not certain is whether “male” is subject (= “males who have intercourse”; thus a word for male prostitutes of all kinds) or object (= “intercourse with males”; therefore male homosexual). In light of these ambiguities, Boswell has argued that neither word can be certainly made to denote homosexuality. His argument, however, seems to be a case of “divide and conquer.” What may be true of the words individually is one thing. But here they are not individual; they appear side by side in a vice list that is heavily weighted toward sexual sins. Although one cannot be certain, it is very likely that the NIV is moving toward a proper understanding by translating “male prostitute” and “homosexual offender,” with the proviso that “male prostitute” most likely denotes a consenting homosexual youth. For Paul’s attitude toward homosexuality in general one need refer only to his own Jewish background with its abhorrence of such, plus his description of such activity (Rom. 1:26–27).

    Gordon D. Fee, The First Epistle to the Corinthians, The New International Commentary on the New Testament, (Grand Rapids, MI: Wm. B. Eerdmans Publishing Co., 1987), 244.

    Granted that Fee sees some uncertainty, but he is also quite clear that, however read, Paul in condemning homosexual conduct in general. This is a 1987 work.

    It was only later that the commentators noticed the source of the word in Lev 20:13 — not mentioned by Fee. That recognition impacted the scholarly consensus dramatically. This observation finds its way into BDAG —

    • ἀρσενοκοίτης, ου, ὁ (ἄρσην ‘male’ + κοίτη ‘bed’; Bardesanes 719 fgm. 3b 10, 25 p. 653 Jac. [in Eus., PE 6, 10, 25]; Anth. Pal. 9, 686, 5 and Cat. Cod. Astr. VIII/4 p. 196, 6 and 8 have the sp. ἀρρενοκοίτης; Theoph. Ant. 1, 2 [p. 60, 27]; in a vice list—ἀρσενοκοιτεῖν SibOr 2, 73; AcJ 36 [Aa II/1, 169]; cp. the association of ἄρσην and κοίτη Lev 20:13, s. Soph. Lex.: ἀ.= ὁ μετὰ ἄρσενος κοιμώμενος κοίτην γυναικείαν=‘one who has intercourse w. a man as w. a woman’; cp. the formation of μητροκοίτης [μήτηρ + κοίτη] ‘one who has intercourse w. his mother’ Hipponax 15, 2 Diehl3 [=Degani 20, 2]) a male who engages in sexual activity w. a pers. of his own sex, pederast 1 Cor 6:9 (on the impropriety of RSV’s ‘homosexuals’ [altered to ‘sodomites’ NRSV] s. WPetersen, VigChr 40, ’86, 187-91; cp. DWright, ibid. 41, ’87, 396-98; REB’s rendering of μαλακοὶ οὔτε ἀρσενοκοῖται w. the single term ‘sexual pervert’ is lexically unacceptable), of one who assumes the dominant role in same-sex activity, opp. μαλακός (difft. DMartin, in Biblical Ethics and Homosexuality, ed. RBrawley, ’96, 117-36); 1 Ti 1:10; Pol 5:3. Cp. Ro 1:27. Romans forbade pederasty w. free boys in the Lex Scantinia, pre-Cicero (JBremmer, Arethusa 13, ’80, 288 and notes); Paul’s strictures against same-sex activity cannot be satisfactorily explained on the basis of alleged temple prostitution (on its rarity, but w. some evidence concerning women used for sacred prostitution at Corinth s. LWoodbury, TAPA 108, ’78, 290f, esp. note 18 [lit.]), or limited to contract w. boys for homoerotic service (s. Wright, VigChr 38, ’84, 125-53). For condemnation of the practice in the Euphrates region s. the ref. to Bardesanes above.—RBurton, The Book of the Thousand Nights and a Night, 1934, vol. 6, 3748-82, lit. reff. and anthropological data relating to a variety of Mediterranean cultures; DBailey, Homosexuality and the Western Christian Tradition, ’55; KDover, Greek Homosexuality ’78; RScroggs, The NT and Homosexuality ’83; JBoswell, Christianity, Social Tolerance, and Homosexuality ’80; JBremmer, Greek Pederasty, in JBremmer, ed. From Sappho to de Sade2 ’91, 1-14; ECantarella, Bisexuality in the Ancient World ’92.—Pauly-W. 8, 1333f; 1459-68. DELG s.v. ἄρσην. M-M.

    And so later commentaries see less uncertainty due to the lexicographical work summarized in the latest ed. of BDAG. Hence,

    Hence, the 2010 Pillar commentary says,

    Paul’s opposition to homosexuality seems to derive from Leviticus 18:22 and 20:13, which represent absolute bans.87 There is a strong case for concluding that with the second word Paul employed a new term which was fashioned on the very basis of the Levitical prohibitions (18:22; 20:13).88 The only other occurrence of the word which is possibly contemporary with Paul (it may be a Christian interpolation) is Sibylline Oracles 2:73. The relevant section of the Sibyllines is closely related to Pseudo-Phocylides (suggesting its Jewish origin), which is itself heavily indebted to Leviticus.89 Paul’s opposition to homosexuality was not because he had not thought about the subject.90 Neither is it the whole story to say that he had simply taken it over from a conventional list of vices from Hellenistic authors, whether Jewish or secular (the view of Scroggs). Paul opposed homosexuality because it is marked as a vice in the Torah and was stressed as a vice by Jews.91 That Paul had in fact given some thought to the subject can be seen from Romans 1:26-27, where he condemns both male and female same-sex conduct, the condemnation of which, prior to Paul, can only be found in Plato and Pseudo-Phocylides (according to Scroggs92).93

    Roy E. Ciampa and Brian S. Rosner, The First Letter to the Corinthians (PNTC; Accordance electronic ed. Grand Rapids: Eerdmans, 2010), n.p.

    The footnotes give links to scholarly articles pro and con on the subject. It seems clear that it was David F. Wright who first brought out the Lev 20:13 reference in 1986 (evidently not seen by Fee in time for publication of him commentary in 1987).

  27. Gary says:

    Jay, thanks for providing the larger context for Fee’s statement. I know of course that Fee takes a conservative position on homosexuality. Before I had to drastically downsize my library I had a well marked up copy of his 1 Corinthians commentary. I understand that he did not know in 1987 about Paul’s apparently having in mind arsenos koiten in the Septuagint translation of Leviticus when he seems to have coined arsenokoitai in 1 Corinthians 6.

    What surprises me still however is Fee writing that authors after the mid 50’s when Paul coins arsenokoitai in 1 Corinthians 6 “are reluctant to use it, especially when describing homosexual activity.” Fee also writes that we cannot be certain of the meaning of malakos and arsenokoitai although he leans heavily towards seeing them as a pair with malakos referring to a youth including youth who were prostitutes and arsenokoites referring to the older, dominant sexual partner or client. How Fee gets from there to seeing malakos and arsenokoites as applying to committed same-sex relationships of adults today is still a mystery to me. His own admissions still leave the realm of malakos and arsenokoitai in 1 Corinthians 6 as being either or both pederasty or prostitution. His mentioning that arsenokoitai is not often used in Greek literature subsequent to Paul is in agreement with Dale Martin who finds less than 80 occurrences of arsenokoitai/arsenokoites over almost a thousand year period.

    All in all Fee’s specifics don’t seem to support the application of malakos and arsenokoitai to same-sex marriages and relationships today. I know you disagree but there is a big jump it seems to me in the reasoning of conservatives that I’m not able to follow.

  28. Dwight says:

    Jay, I can be a heterosexual and not act on it and in fact I can be a heterosexual and homosexual and be called Bi-sexual and not act on it. The truth is that there were no designations as heterosexual/straight or homosexual in the scriptures, you just simply acted on what you desired and were judged on the action. The people of Sodom weren’t called homosexuals, but rather those that comitted homosexuality. Sodom and sodomites became associated with people who practiced homosexuality. Adam and Eve were not known as non-central treeist, as opposed to central of the garden treeist and weren’t known as central of the garden treeist after they partook of the tree in the middle of the garden. Much of our terminology and jargons don’t really help us when we get into the scriptures and really sometimes obscures the facts. Now you were called an adulterer if you committed the act of adultery, but not before, even though you might have been thinking about it. Which kind of goes back to my point of homosexual Christian or bestiality Christian…they are oxymorons, as those that would wish to be known as that would have acted on that. Otherwise they would just be Christian and would have put away evil thoughts and primarily evil actions, even when the evil thoughts creep in. I have had trouble with porn and have a hard time with it, but it doesn’t control my life and I control, ultimately, what I do and what I see. It might creep in, but I can replace it with something Godly. I will not be defined by my impusles.

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