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Clobber texts against gays: 1 Corinthians 6:9-10; 1 Timothy 1:9-10

July 26, 2015

1 Corinthians 6:9-10: “Know ye not that the unrighteous shall not inherit the kingdom of God? Be not deceived: neither fornicators, nor idolaters, nor adulterers, nor effeminate [makakoi], nor abusers of themselves with mankind [arsenokoitai] Nor thieves, nor covetous, nor drunkards, nor revilers, nor extortioners, shall inherit the kingdom of God.” (King James Version)

One of Radio3’s Choral Evensongs in June 2016 had the 2nd lesson from 1 Cor. 6 (the Pillar Lectionary which is supposed to be user friendly for visitors but clearly isn’t). It lists those who ‘can never inherit the kingdom of God’ and includes fornicators, idolators, homosexuals.

The reader paused before ‘homosexual’ and then omitted it. You could hear the awkwardness in her voice.

That raised some issues:

straightforwardly, surely she rehearsed it before going live – but she sounded surprised and perturbed as if she hadn’t seen this bit before

couldn’t the precentor have chosen a different translation? The RSV is very much a product of its translators – other versions, and revisions of the RSV later that 1951) have a more nuanced translation from the ambiguous Greek – malakoi μαλακοὶ, arsenokoitai ἀρσενοκοῖται

this passage has caused a lot of hurt and still does – I applaud the reader for her sentiment – but in the light of our ‘conversations’ across the Anglican Communion maybe we should let Holy Scripture offend us rather than brush things under the carpet.

cf. Text of 1 Timothy 1:9-10 (KJV) :

“Knowing this, that the law is not made for a righteous man, but for the lawless and disobedient, for the ungodly and for sinners, for unholy and profane, for murderers of fathers and murderers of mothers, for manslayers, For whoremongers, for them that defile themselves with mankind, for menstealers, for liars, for perjured persons, and if there be any other thing that is contrary to sound doctrine.

The emphasized term translates the Greek word “arsenokoitai.”


the word-pair “arsen” and “koitai” is found 37 other times in the Greek Old Testament without any possibility of meaning gay sex.

No other pairs are found in Paul’s vice-list in 1 Corinthians so it is odd that people like Gagnon see reference to active and passive homosexuals.

To translate malakoi as the latter because it is inconsistent with Jesus’s use of the term, which talks of ‘men in soft raiment who live in king’s houses’ – the idle rich who probably exploit others.

Some translate it as ‘effeminate’ but the Greeks used that term for men who were promiscuous with women. (Male to male sex was regarded as more ‘manly’) It also means ‘self-indulgent’

the way in which arsen and koites relates to Leviticus 18:22 and 20:13 is not because they are paired in the verse as a word, but rather in close proximity. However, the word “koites” is not used in either Leviticus 18:22 nor 20:13, but rather it’s singular form as “koitai” or bed. Let me show you: “You shall not lie with a male (arsen) as you lie (koitai) with a female; it is an abomination.” “If there is a man who lies with a male (arsen) as those who lie (koitai) with a female, both of them have committed a detestable act; they shall surely be put to death. Their blood shall be upon them.”

the word “lie with” (Hebrew- miskab) in these verses is commonly just meaning “bed.”

there are no Hebrew words used in this verse for “as with” (a female). Although the Hebrew words exist and could have been used, there is no actual comparative language in the text to say that a man is lying with a man like a man would lie with a woman.

it could be that these Leviticus verses are referring to forced or coerced sex and/or male prostitution which was performed for the sake of idol worship during these times.

The other term, arsenokoitai may mean people who exploit others, male or female, for sexual purposes, those who kidnap young males and sell them as sexual slaves. In the Sibylline Oracles, it refers variously to acts of economic injustice and exploitation, accepting gifts which come from unjust deeds, betraying confidential information and oppressing the poor. Elsewhere are listed abortion, exposure of infants, ‘loosing the girdle’ of a maid for intercourse but no mention of homosexuality.

arsen (male) and koites (beds.) If we put them together we have male-beds.

NOT males-bed (2 men in a bed) but male-beds (1 man in multiple beds.)

a male prostitute (man in many beds) rather than a male having sexual intercourse with a second male.

When the words arsen and koitai in close proximity:

“Now therefore, kill every male (arsen) among the little ones, and kill every woman who has known man by lying (koitai) with him.” (Numbers 31:17)

“But all the young girls who have not known man (arsen) by lying (koitai) with him keep alive for yourselves.” (Numbers 31:18)

“This is what you shall do: every male (arsen) and every woman that has lain (koitai) with a male (arsen) you shall devote to destruction.” (Judges 21:11)

“And they found among the inhabitants of Jabesh-gilead 400 young virgins who had not known a man (arsen) by lying (koitai) with him, and they brought them to the camp.” (Judges 21:12)

If we were to derive meaning of arsenokoites from these verses alone, perhaps one would somehow connect it to killing women who weren’t virgins

Translation history

in 1946 “homosexuals” (the Revised Standard Version), when it is actually several words that they brought together as one. The original Greek was “oute (nor) malakos oute (nor) arsenokoites.” The literal meanings which were condensed into the word homosexuality were “soft” (malakos) and the separate words “man, beds” (arsenokoites).

the New Revised Standard Version (makers of the Revised Standard Version) who started this trend of using “homosexuals,” recanted in their newer version in 1996, changing it back to its original translation which was “male prostitutes.”


For 1,900 years, malakos and arsenokoites were not translated as “homosexuals.”

Malakos is used in the New Testament in Matthew 11:8 and Luke 7:25 by Jesus to describe “soft” clothing.

It is used only one other time in 1 Corinthians 1:9, and the very first English translation (Wycliffe – 1380) uses the phrase “lechers against kind” which describes a person who has an excessive indulgence in sexual activity.

Tyndale 1525 “weaklings” which describes a person of weak or of “soft” stature, either mentally or physically. If it is speaking as mentally weak or soft, it may be talking about those who are passive in action to God’s plan or lazy people. If physically weak or soft, it could describe not a literally “out of shape” person, but one that has prepubescent characteristics. Because God does not seem to judge people on their physical attributes but their heart, it would seem that this physical description would be accompanied by an immoral action.

lechers” “effeminate” (King James-1611)

“any who are guilty of an unnatural crime” (Weymouth – 1903),

“catamites”-boys who have sex with men, i.e child molestation (Moffat – 1913)

“Sodomites” (New American – 1941)

“homosexual offenders” (Revised Standard Version – 1946)

“those who participate in homosexuality” (Amplified – 1958)

“boy prostitutes” (New American Bible – 1970)

“male prostitutes” (NIV – 1973)

“abusers” (Green’s Interlinear – 1986)

“men kept for unnatural purposes” (Jehovah’s Witnesses New World Testament – 1984)

“male prostitutes” (New Revised Standard Version – 1996)

“one who is less than a man” (Bible In Basic English – 1994)

“those who use and abuse each other” (The Message – 2002)

there are so many translations for malakos that it makes it nearly impossible to know what it means, especially since it is only seen 3 times in the entire Bible.

Two out of three times, we know that it simply means “soft.” In those two verses spoken from Jesus, they have not changed through time, therefore the original definition is someone who is “soft” in 1 Corinthians 1:9.

If in a mental sense, passive in action to God’s plan or lazy person may be a better fit. If in a physical sense, then “effeminate” may not be too off course.

Remember that not all gay males are effeminate (nor lesbians),

but all prepubescent boys are “soft” and could be seen as effeminate.

Because an immoral action must be accompanied with this descriptor, it could likely be discussing boy prostitution (child molestation) and possibly homosexual male prostitution since this was common in Biblical times, especially in the shrines.

Abusive paedophiles: Many would consider “malakoi”the word preceding “arsenokoitai,” in 1 Corinthians — to refer to a catamite: a boy or young male who engaged in sexual activities with men. Such boys were often slaves, owned by rich men as sex partners. The second term might then refer to the men who engaged in sex with the catamites. That is, they were abusive pedophiles or hebephiles. The New American Bible contains a footnote which reads:

“The Greek word translated as ‘boy prostitutes’ [in 1 Cor. 6:9] designated catamites, i.e. boys or young men who were kept for purposes of prostitution, a practice not uncommon in the Greco-Roman world….The term translated ‘practicing homosexuals’ refers to adult males who indulged in homosexual practices with such boys.”

In their footnote, the translators recognize that the term refers to abusive male pedophiles, but apparently cannot resist the temptation to attack all homosexuals — both gays and lesbians, non-abusive and abusive.

Harper’s Bible Commentary (1998) states that the passage refers to: “… both the effeminate male prostitute and his partner who hires him to satisfy sexual needs. The two terms used here for homosexuality… specify a special form of pederasty that was generally disapproved of in Greco-Roman and Jewish Literature.”

In Modern Greek, ‘malaka’ means ‘wanker’ to read that back into 1 Corinthians and tell a bunch of schoolboys that wankers won’t get to heaven.


coined by the Apostle Paul and is only mentioned 2 times in the Bible.

A compound meaning “man (arsen), bed (koitai).”

Many theologians argue that arsenokoites clearly means homosexual because “the words are taken directly from Leviticus 18:22 and Leviticus 20:13”

But the word-pair “arsen” and “koitai” is found 37 other times in the Greek Old Testament without any possibility of meaning gay sex.

arsenokoites has the “man” as singular and “beds” as plural, it could very well mean “a man in many beds,” i.e. male prostitute.

Male prostitutes in Pagan temples: One source states that the Septuagint (an ancient, pre-Christian translation of the Old Testament into Greek made between the 3rd and 1st century BCE) translated the Hebrew “quadesh” in I Kings 14:24, 15:12 and 22:46 into a Greek word somewhat similar to “arsenokoitai.” This passage referred to “male temple prostitutes” — people who engaged in ritual sex in Pagan temples. 1 Some leaders in the early Christian church also thought 1 Corinthians was referring to temple prostitutes. Some authorities believe that it simply means male prostitutes with female customers – a practice which appears to have been a common practice in the Roman empire.

Pimp: Another source refers to other writings, written later than 1 Corinthians, which contains the word “arsenokoitai:” This includes the Sibylline Oracles 2.70-77, Acts of John, and Theophilus of Antioch’s Ad Autolycum. The source suggests that the term refers “to some kind of economic exploitation by means of sex (but not necessarily homosexual sex).” Probably “pimp” or “man living off of the avails of prostitution” would be the closest English translations. It is worth noting that “Much Greek homosexual erotic literature has survived, none of it contains the word arsenokoitai.”

Masturbators. At the time of Martin Luther, “arsenokoitai” was universally interpreted as masturbator. But by the 20th century, masturbation had become a more generally accepted behavior. So, new translations abandoned references to masturbators and switched the attack to homosexuals. The last religious writing in English that interpreted 1 Corinthians 6:9 as referring to masturbation is believed to be the [Roman] Catholic Encyclopedia of 1967.

Wycliffe Version (1380) “they that do lechery with men.” – could describe people who are excessively sexual and promiscuous, which does not describe all homosexual or heterosexual men.

In the 15th and 16th centuries, arsenokoites was widely accepted as a prohibition against masturbation because arsen is singular for “man,” not plural for “men” which would have been arsesin or arsenes (arsesinokoites/arsenesokoites).

So if there is sexual meaning, then it implies one man.

King James Version (1611) “abusers of themselves with mankind”

sexually immoral,” The New Testament and Psalms — An inclusive version.perverted,” Phillips Modern English.

sin against nature,” The New Testament (Ronald Knox).

“sexual perverts” and “sodomites” Revised Standard Version (1946) In 1951 this was reduced to ‘homosexuals’

those who are immoral with…boys,” The Jerusalem Bible.

practicing homosexuals” New American Bible

…people…who have sexual relations with people of the same sex…” New Century Version.

“homosexual offenders” New International Version (1973).

The Contemporary English Version and Common English Bible translation has decided to add even more to this by saying “those who behave like a homosexual” and “both participants in same-sex intercourse.”

When looking at other non-Biblical Greek documents that have since used the word, it has been mentioned 76 times without definition.

the Greek manuscripts of Patriarch of Constantinople, John the Faster: “Some do it with their own mothers and foster sisters or goddaughters. In fact, many men even commit arsenokoites with their wives!” (575 AD) – it clearly is not speaking of having same-sex intercourse.

the Aramaic equivalent to Arsenokoites and Malakos

Although our New Testament is in Greek, it would not be unlikely that Paul knew Aramaic (the language of Jesus.) Some even believe that Paul spoke Aramaic and had his letters translated into Greek, as many unique Aramaic idioms and concepts are found throughout his writings. If this was the case, it would explain why Paul created so many Greek terms, as there may not have been a proper Greek way to express his Aramaic words fully. Even if this is not the case, the Aramaic word equivalent to arsenokoites (shach-bay am dich-re – שכבי עם דכרא) still provides a symbolic connection to shrine prostitution. Likewise, the Aramaic equivalent to malakos (m’khab-le – מחבלא) supports the link between children kept as slave prostitutes

αρσενοκοιται arsenokoites – שכבי עם דכרא shach-bay am dich-re
ש Shin- Two [two people]
כ Kaph- Bend allow [bending in submission to allow]
ב Beth- Temple, in [insertion at the temple]
י Yudh- Work, worship [worker for pagan worship]
ע E- Know [to “know” each other]
ם Mim- Chaos, mighty, blood [which causes blood]
ד Dalath- Entrance [often performed at the entrance of the temple]
כ Kaph- Bend allow [bending in submission to allow]
ר Resh- Man [a male]
א Alaph- Power [for power]

So taken as a whole, shach-bay am dich-re (שכבי עם דכרא) echoes shrine/temple prostitution, as the prostitute in the temple bends over to allow the worshiper to enter him which causes blood and was done for power.

μαλακοι malakos – מחבלא m’khab-le
The Aramaic word is m’khab-le (מחבלא) and the Biblical context in Aramaic Scripture refers to “corrupted children.”
Here are the letter meanings in the Aramaic equivalent to malakos – m’khab-le (מחבלא):
מ Mim- chaos, mighty, blood [in chaos]
ח Heth- outside the tent walls (tent=family), divide [separates child from the family]
ב Beth- temple, in [in the temple]
ל Lamad- bind, teach [bind them against their will to teach them]
א Alaph- power [done for power]
So m’khab-ble (מחבלא) all together with the letters tells a story. In chaos, the mighty (strong men) separates the child from the family, takes them in the temple and binds them against their will to teach them the act of child prostitution. This was an act done for power.

1 Tima pattern in verse 9 and 10

 They are composed up of pairs or triads of related groups of people:

  • The lawless & disobedient: two near synonyms
  • The ungodly & sinners: also two near synonyms
  • The unholy & profane: two synonyms
  • The murderers of fathers & murderers of mothers & manslayers: three kinds of murderers
  • Whoremongers & “arsenokoitai” & menstealers
  • Liars & perjurers etc.: again, two near synonyms.

From the repeated pairs or triads made up of synonyms or near synonyms, one might expect that whoremongers, “malakoi arsenokoitai,” and menstealers are interconnected with a common theme — just like the other pairs and triads in the list.

  • In the original Greek, the first of the three words is “pornov.” An online Greek lexicon 5 notes that this is Strong’s Number 4205, and was derived from the Greek word “pernemi” which means to sell. Its meanings are:
    • A man who prostitutes his body to another’s lust for hire.
    • A male prostitute.
    • A man who indulges in unlawful sexual intercourse, a fornicator.
  • The second term is “arsenokoitai” which has not been given a Strong Number because it is a made-up word that is almost never found in the Greek language other than in 1 Timothy and 1 Corinthians.
  • The last of the three words is “andrapodistes,” the stem of the word andrapodistai. It is Strong’s Number 405 which means:
    • A slave-dealer, kidnapper, man-stealer — one who unjustly reduces free men to slavery or who steals the slaves of others and sells them.

If we assume that the three words refer to a common theme, as the other five groups are, then we have to look for some sense which the words have in common. Cannon suggests:

  • “pornoi” refers to an enslaved male prostitute.
  • “arsenokoitai” refers to a man who forces sex on an enslaved male prostitute
  • “andrapodistes” refers to a person who kidnaps and enslaves people.

The common theme is slavery. Cannon suggests a translation: “It is as if Paul were saying, ‘male prostitutes, men who sleep with them, and slave dealers who procure them’.” That is, all three words deal with slavery. They are unrelated to homosexual behavior in the modern sense of the term i.e. consensual sex between persons of the same sex.

  • A boy sex slave: An alternative interpretation, following Canon’s analysis, could be:
  • “pornoi” refers to an enslaved male prostitute.
  • “arsenokoitai” refers to a boy, generally a slave, who is kept by an adult male for sexual purposes.
  • “andrapodistes” refers to a person who enslaves others.

Again, the common theme is slavery.

Translating “arsenokoitai” as a boy who is kept as a sex slave has some support in at least two Bible translations:

  • a footnote in the New American Bible (NAB), interprets “arsenokoitai” as a ” boy prostitute.”
  • The Jerusalem Bible translates the triad in 1 Timothy as: “those who are immoral with women or with boys or with men.” (Emphasis ours). In 1 Corinthians 6:9 the same word “arsenokoitai” is translated as “catamite.”

“paiderasste” was the standard term at the time for males who had sex with males

washedCorinthians in context – the entire chapter

verses 1-8 instructs that a Christian believer or saint (Greek word, hagios) that has a legal dispute among another Christian believer (hagios) should present the lawsuit to a court of other Christian believers (hagios). It instructs that Christian believers (hagios) should not present the lawsuit to a court of unrighteous (adikos) nonbelievers.

In verses 9-10 it says “Or do you not know that the unrighteous (adikos) shall not inherit the kingdom of God?” After the vice list of those who fall under the category of adikos, it says “But this is what you were,” (before belief in Christ as adikos, you were condemned for these acts). Now as a believer or saint (hagios), “you were washed, you were sanctified (made righteous; freed from the punishment of sin; purified; renewed), you were justified in the name of Lord Jesus Christ and by the Spirit (life-giving Spirit) of our God.” Therefore, before belief in Christ, you were adikos (unrightious.) From the moment you became saved by Christ, you were made righteous and are a hagios (Christian believer/saint).

The wording suggests that the dominant power of Christ’s sanctification cancels out our unrighteousness as flawed human beings. You cannot be both righteous and unrighteous at the same time when you are covered completely by the blood of Jesus. It would be impossible to be both a believer and a nonbeliever simultaneously!

Therefore, once a Christian, you have been transformed from adikos to hagios as a gift of grace from God! (Read 1 Corinthians 1:30 and Romans 3:22-24 which describes how we are cleansed from our human flaws in the eyes of God and made righteous as believers in Christ.)

Paul was anxious to keep in the Roman Empire and to gain Gentile converts. So much so that he played down Jewish laws. So why would he condemn same-sex relationships when they were so common? That would be evangelistic suicide, a course upon which the bishops of the Church of England seem hell-bent today.

Several other texts are ambiguous. It is not clear whether 1 Cor. 6:9 and 1 Tim. 1:10 refer to the “passive” and “active” partners in homosexual relationships, or to homosexual and heterosexual male prostitutes. In short, it is unclear whether the issue is homosexuality alone, or promiscuity and “sex-for-hire.”

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From → Biblical, Sexuality

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