When it comes to rebuttal against all the various attacks against the Biblical teaching on issues related to gender, sexual morality and marriage, there is no shortage of Christian responses. Folks like Drs. Robert Gagnon, Michael Brown, James White, Albert Mohler, etc. have provided the Christians with no shortage of scholarly and popular level apologetic work against the onslaught that is coming against the Bible from the “Christian” QUILTBAG mafia.
In reality though, the type of rhetoric that one runs into on Facebook is pretty simplistic; it’s not the stuff that Gagnon and Brown are responding too. Those guys are writing stuff that engages the arguments from writings like James Brownson’s book Bible, Gender, Sexuality.
Though many of the popular arguments come from guys like Brownson, not a whole lot of people you’ll be talking to will have actually read guys like Brownson. In the internet game of telephone, once the ideas pass from person to person they’re often changed, watered-down, or simply misunderstood.
I was recently tagged into a Facebook interaction where a rather large load of long-standing Christian friends were passionately engaging the topic. A fellow had commented on how 1 Cor. 6:9-10 and 1 Tim. 1:8-11 clearly articulated that homosexual practice is sin. Then someone posted this “tear-down” response:
“…those passages don’t really refer to homosexuality. The ancient Greek word for same gender sexual relations, paiderasste, isn’t used in either verse. Instead, Paul made up his own word, arsenokoitai (arsen = adult male, koitai = bed) for the 1 Cor one, and it isn’t used anywhere else in the Bible and rarely in other ancient Greek texts, all of which reference sexual acts between both men and women (Aristides of Athens in 138 CE, Eusebius in 340 CE, and Patriarch John IV of Constantinople in the 700s CE). This word has been a real problem for translators and scholars and has roughly 2 dozen different attempted meanings, including, but not limited to, pederasty, masturbation, effeminate, and adultery. Paul was likely referencing an earlier Scripture about men sleeping with people that weren’t their wives (temple prostitution). The understanding of this word has changed over time and REMAINS very problematic.The Timothy reference is likewise vague, as the word used is a very common one, malakoi, which means “soft”. I couldn’t even begin to tell you what this has to do with homosexuality. Some scholars speculate it might have something to do with masturbation. Maybe it has to do with soft-faced young boys of the institutionalized pederasty of the Greeks. You have been the victim of a translator with an agenda, my friend.”
Some of the readers were shaken up at the thought that their Bible was unreliably translated over and against every shred of historical evidence. Apparently the Alexandrian cult (for those who know about such secret societies) is also anti-gay. I was tagged into the thread by a friend and asked to respond. Here’s my response. I hope it’s helpful to others who face these same questions regularly:
Let’s look at some individual arguments:
1. Paul would have used “paiderasste” rather than “arsenokoites” if he was talking about homosexuality.
Not for a second.
Paul speaks Greek but he’s a Jew. That’s rather important to this all. He’s not speaking or writing from some sort of pagan mindset (and the Jews regarded the Greeks as pagans, not some form of “religiously neutral” people). Paul was a prophet of God, writing by the Spirit of God. The Spirit of God invented all languages and didn’t bow to Greek social convention with terminology. The Spirit wrote in harmony with what he had previously wrote (which is important to remember).
Another thing that is important to remember is that Paul, and the other committed Jews of his day, were conversant with their scriptures and held them in rather high regard (i.e. they believed that their writings were actually the oracles of God himself, written down by God himself, via his prophets). When it came to pagan philosophy and theology, the explicitly rejected all of it as foolishness. Paul did invent a word (arsenokoites), but that word would have had an obvious meaning to every Jew that heard it for a very simple reason:
Leviticus 18:22, in the Septuagint (the Greek translation of the Old Testament that Jesus and his apostles’ read), reads καὶ μετὰ ἄρσενος οὐ κοιμηθήσῃ κοίτην γυναικός· βδέλυγμα γάρ ἐστιν.
I’ll transliterate it to help make the point – kai meta arsenos ou koimethesei koiten gunaikos bdelugma gar estin.
The word “arsenos” (man) and “koiten” (bed) can be easily seen in Leviticus 18:22, even if you don’t know Greek (look for yourself – https://www.academic-bible.com/…/c1fcad2f0717ef6fa5267…/ or there’s a parallel here: http://www.ellopos.net/…/gree…/septuagint/chapter.asp…)
The Jews knew that arsen and koiten appeared together in Leviticus 18:22 and also in Leviticus 20:13.
The terms “arsen” and “koiten” also appear together in 2 other passages in the Greek OT: Numbers 31:17-18 and Judges 21:11-12. Both passages are similar in that the term is used to differentiate between virgins and non-virgins; the differentiation is made as those who have and have not “known man (arsen) by lying with him in a bed (koiten)”.
The usage of arsen + koiten together in the OT was both rare and uniformly sexual, in the sense of sharing the “marriage bed”, in nature. Once a woman had been in that bed with a man, she was (by definition) no longer a virgin.
So, when Paul (a Pharisee of Pharisees who had committed the Old Testament to memory) puts “arsen” & “koiten” together to create the word “arsenokoites”, the Jews would have clearly understood what he was getting at. He was manufacturing a word to describe an action that was (basically) based on the two explicit condemnations of that action in the Old Testament.
In other words, Paul didn’t define the term because Leviticus already did. No Jew would have been confused. Only modern “scholars” who are desperate to chuck the Bible out the window, claim some form of ambiguity.
Scholars might claim to be confused on the meaning of arsenokoites, but then again, there are “scholars” out there who think just about anything. Not all scholars are created equal…
…and not all are honest.
The ones who try to make a case that Christians can willfully embrace sin are liars (1 John 3:4-6).
2. Arsenokoites is rare in Ancient Greek literature, and all of the occurrences of it are in “reference sexual acts between both men and women.”
Well, this is just blatantly irrelevant.
The Bible decides what the Bible means by the terms it uses, not some pagan writers who come centuries later. The inscripturated writings of the Apostle Paul (you know, prophet of Yahweh), aren’t redefined because someone a century after him doesn’t understand what he meant.
Beyond that, this is also false.
“When the Greeks made laws they did not perceive that by their laws they condemn their gods. For if their laws are righteous, their gods are unrighteous, since they transgressed the law in killing one another, and practising sorcery, and committing adultery, and in robbing and stealing, and in lying with males, and by their other practises as well.”
I don’t know where to find a free copy of the Greek text online, but here’s another translation: http://www.tertullian.org/fathers/aristides_02_trans.htm.
The context is a sin list, and in the original the term is likely just tossed out there, without definition. That assumes that it’s using a previously established definition.
That would suggest that the usage of the term is in harmony with the previous uses of the term in the Bible (1 Cor. 6:9 & 1 Tim. 1:10) as well as outside the bible (Sibylline Oracles 2:70-78, the Epistle of Ignatius to the Tarsians [which is a citation of 1 Cor. 6:9], The Epistle of Polycarp to the Philippians [again, a citation of 1 Cor. 6:9], the Acts of John 36, Clement of Alexandria’s Instructor 3.11 [again, citation of 1 Cor. 6:9]).
For only $140/yr, you can subscribe to the Thesaurus Linguae Graecae and look all that stuff up for yourself (https://stephanus.tlg.uci.edu/index.php). I’ve provided the citation locations for those who want to look up whatever free English translation is available, and those citations show a pretty clear pattern.
The uniform usage of the term in the early church was homosexuality (as in two guys lying in bed and attempting to do what husbands and wives do when they’re in bed) since a majority of the usages of the term were simply citation of 1 Cor. 6:9 or 1 Tim. 1:10. There was neither confusion nor reinterpretation of the terms in those passages, at least as seen over the first few hundred years of the church.
3. Was Paul “likely referencing an earlier Scripture about men sleeping with people that weren’t their wives”?
Not even close.
Daniel A. Helminiak or John Boswell, whichever suggested this argument originally (I forget), was simply making stuff up. Making blanket statements about what Paul was likely talking about, while ignoring the Jewish context of Paul’s writing and the Jewish scriptures that underlay his worldview, is called “using your imagination.”
I’ve already explained this in point 1. Paul (the Pharisee, trained by Gamaliel and writing by the Holy Spirit) was clearly and inescapably referencing the two prohibitions in Leviticus.
***Note that I didn’t include in the original post***
The Greek word for “men sleeping with people that weren’t their wives” is either moicheia (if the men were married) or porneia (if the men weren’t married). Paul would definitely not have manufactured a term when there was a perfectly good Greek term available that communicated the specific nuance he wanted to get across. Moicheia appears in the writings of Paul in Gal. 5:19 (though other derivatives of the term appear in Rom. 2:22, 7:3, 13:9) and porneia appears 10x in his writing (a word study of porneia appears here). Paul was familiar with the terminology needed to communicate the idea of “men sleeping with people that weren’t their wives” and used it in other places. As a rule of thumb, it’s a good idea to assume that the inspired writers of Scripture were not idiots.
4. “The understanding of this word (arsenokoites) has changed over time and REMAINS very problematic.”
Again, no. The fact that some folks claims something is misunderstood doesn’t make it so.
The fact that a billion Muslims (and thousands of Muslim “scholars”) claim that Jesus didn’t actually die on the cross doesn’t make it so.
This is simply untrue and revisionist history based on the work of a handful of pro-homosexual scholars who are suspiciously ignorant about the Bible and willfully (if not gleefully) misrepresenting history.
The meaning of arsenokoites is laid out in Scripture and Scripture hasn’t changed one iota.
5. The word used in Timothy is “malakoi” and this means “soft”.
That’s absolutely not true.
Malakos doesn’t appear in 1 Timothy at all. The word in 1 Timothy is arsenokoites, just like in 1 Cor. 6:9
Malakos appears in 1 Corinthians 6:9, and seeing that it’s paired with arsenokoites, and follows after “pornos” (which refers to sexual activity outside of marriage) and “moichos” (which refers to sexual activity in violation of marriage), it is clearly in a sexual context.
Some people claim to not know what the word means, but that’s more likely because some people have a rather myopic agenda when it comes to this stuff; the conclusion necessarily precedes the facts.
It’s also not a common word in the Bible at all. It only appears elsewhere in Matt. 11:8 and Luke 7:25, both of which are talking about soft and luxurious garments.
The idea is straight-forward. Someone who is “malakos” is the submissive partner in a homosexual relationship, where as the one who is “arsenokoites” is the dominant partner.
That’s why the ESV translates both terms together as the single category of “men who practice homosexuality.”
So out of the 5 arguments that were examined, none are left standing after some light scrutiny.
I know that many readers are highly disinterested in technical discussion like this…but this is the level of the debate now. Your churches will have a handful of “intellectuals” in them that are dropping Greek and history references, quoting Boswell and Brownson, and generally painting themselves as humble thinkers who are wanting the church to embrace the truth and general ethos of the teaching of Christ. Unless you or your pastor know how to respond to them, your church will be overturned by those workmen of Satan (2 Tim. 2:24-26) who arrogantly “delude you with plausible arguments” (Col. 2:4).
I know that there are a few dozen other questions, but I was only addressing the post that I was asked to engage. I’ve previously written on the term Arsenokoites, but here I’ve provided a little more information.
I hope that it is helpful.
Until Next Time,
Lyndon “And Such Were Some Of You” Unger