1 Cor 6:9 & 1 Tim 1:10

05 Mar

[Part #9 in a series looking at the what the Bible says about homosexuality.]

We are nearing the end of my study of “the 7 references” in the Bible to homosexuality. Today, I want to consider two Pauline texts — 1 Corinthians 6:9 and 1 Timothy 1:10.  To do that, I have pasted a copy of Mel White’s writing on these two passages — not because I necessarily agree with everything White says, but because I think he outlines the interpretive and language/translation issues well.

Monday, I will be posting about “the 8th & 9th References” (you will have to wait to see what they are) and then next Friday I will briefly look at some other passages that provide some principles that are important to consider. Finally, a week from Monday (I think that will be March 15th — the Ides of March) I will post my own conclusions from this study.

In the meantime… here is what Mel White writes about 1 Corinthians 6:9 and 1 Timothy 1:10…



by Mel White

Now what do the writings of Paul in 1 Corinthians 6:9 and 1 Timothy 1:10 say, first, about God, and then about homosexuality? These are the last two places in the Bible that seem to refer to same-sex behavior. We can combine them because they are so similar.

Paul is exasperated. The Christians in Ephesus and Corinth are fighting among themselves. (Sound familiar?) In Corinth they’re even suing one another in secular courts. Paul shouts across the distance, “You are breaking God’s heart by the way you are treating one another.”

Like any good writer, Paul anticipates their first question: “Well, how are we supposed to treat one another?” Paul answers, “You know very well how to treat one another from the Jewish law written on tablets of stone.”

The Jewish law was created by God to help regulate human behavior. To remind the churches in Corinth and Ephesus how God wants us to treat one another, Paul recites examples from the Jewish law first. Don’t kill one another. Don’t sleep with a person who is married to someone else. Don’t lie or cheat or steal. The list goes on to include admonitions against fornication, idolatry, whoremongering, perjury, drunkenness, revelry, and extortion. He also includes “malokois” and“arsenokoitai.”

Here’s where the confusion begins. What’s a malokois? What’s an arsenokoitai? Actually, those two Greek words have confused scholars to this very day. We’ll say more about them later, when we ask what the texts say about sex. But first let’s see what the texts say about God.

After quoting from the Jewish law, Paul reminds the Christians in Corinth that they are under a new law: the law of Jesus, a law of love that requires us to do more than just avoid murder, adultery, lying, cheating, and stealing. Paul tells them what God wants is not strict adherence to a list of laws, but a pure heart, a good conscience, and a faith that isn’t phony.

That’s the lesson we all need to learn from these texts. God doesn’t want us squabbling over who is “in” and who is “out.” God wants us to love one another. It’s God’s task to judge us. It is NOT our task to judge one another.

So what do these two texts say about homosexuality? Are gays and lesbians on that list of sinners in the Jewish law that Paul quotes to make an entirely different point?

Greek scholars say that in first century the Greek word malaokois probably meant “effeminate call boys.” The New Revised Standard Version says “male prostitutes.”

As for arsenokoitai, Greek scholars don’t know exactly what it means — and the fact that we don’t know is a big part of this tragic debate. Some scholars believe Paul was coining a name to refer to the customers of “the effeminate call boys.” We might call them “dirty old men.” Others translate the word as “sodomites,” but never explain what that means.

In 1958, for the first time in history, a person translating that mysterious Greek word into English decided it meant homosexuals, even though there is, in fact, no such word in Greek or Hebrew. But that translator made the decision for all of us that placed the word homosexual in the English-language Bible for the very first time.

In the past, people used Paul’s writings to support slavery, segregation, and apartheid. People still use Paul’s writings to oppress women and limit their role in the home, in church, and in society.

Now we have to ask ourselves, “Is it happening again?” Is a word in Greek that has no clear definition being used to reflect society’s prejudice and condemn God’s gay children?

We all need to look more closely at that mysterious Greek word arsenokoitai in its original context. I find most convincing the argument from history that Paul is condemning the married men who hired hairless young boys (malakois) for sexual pleasure just as they hired smooth-skinned young girls for that purpose.

Responsible homosexuals would join Paul in condemning anyone who uses children for sex, just as we would join anyone else in condemning the threatened gang rape in Sodom or the behavior of the sex-crazed priests and priestesses in Rome. So, once again, I am convinced that this passage says a lot about God, but nothing about homosexuality as we understand it today.

1 Comment

Posted by on March 5, 2010 in Bible, Bible & Homosexuality, Uncategorized


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One response to “1 Cor 6:9 & 1 Tim 1:10

  1. Nancy

    March 5, 2010 at 5:00 pm

    <p>What is the Holy Spirit saying?</p><p>THE AIM OF GOOD TEACHING IS LOVE</p><p>Instead of using their teaching to make people more loving, false teachers focused their pupils on meaningless theological speculation. While the Law and vice/virtue lists cannot make us holy, they do a good job of pointing out where we lack love. This vice list (one of 23 in the New Testament) gives examples of behaviors that lack love -behaviors that do not come from a ?pure heart, a good conscience, or a sincere faith?.</p><p>Why do ?arsenokoitai? people lack love? Nobody knows where this word came from. It literally means ?man-beds?. The more common Greek word for homosexual is ?paiderasste?; for some reason the author of I Timothy (and Paul in Corinthians) chose this rare word instead. There is all manner of speculation what it means. </p><p>While we do not know exactly what a arsenokoitai is, we do know it is not motivated by love. We also know that the motive for gay marriage is the intent to sacrifice and care for someone else for the rest of their lives. Plus, it doesn?t hurt anybody (as these vices do). As we have mentioned before, the author of I Timothy was unaware of an unchangeable gay sexual orientation and the institution of gay marriage. So some forms of homosexuality are unloving and harmful (apparently arsenokoitai) but gay marriage is a loving and a beneficial social arrangement.</p><p>It?s interesting that various forms of sexual impurity and idolatry are pet sins in the epistles but Jesus was most critical of cold hearts, lack of mercy, being judgmental and unaware of one?s own sin, pride, self-indulgence, greed, status seeking, anger and , yes, lust. I like Jesus? lists better because they are more attitudinal but I think everybody is basically saying the same thing.</p>



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