Board index Specific Bible verses, texts, and passages 1 Corinthians

1 Corinthians 6:9 - arsenokoites

Postby Regnus Numis » Thu Dec 07, 2017 2:16 pm

Does the Greek word "arsenokoites" in 1 Corinthians 6:9 refer to homosexuals or temple prostitutes?

I recently stumbled across this article ( building an extensive case towards the claim that arsenokoites was intended as a condemnation of shrine prostitution, and I'm interested in seeing a proper deconstruction of the article's arguments.
Regnus Numis

Re: 1 Corinthians 6:9 - arsenokoites

Postby Maestro » Thu Dec 07, 2017 2:23 pm

It literally means "manbedder" and was meant as "men who have sex with other men". The word "Malakoi" is used here just prior to "arsenokoites". That word literally means "squishy" and was used in context as "effeminate".

So "Malakoi arsenokoites" means "effeminate men who have sex with other men". No mention of prostitution, just the act of sex itself. Take from that what you will.

Re: 1 Corinthians 6:9 - arsenokoites

Postby jimwalton » Thu Dec 07, 2017 3:21 pm

As far as deconstructing the article's arguments, I'll share a few thoughts.

My research shows that the author's definition is askew. Through the years the definitions I have heard of the term ἀρσενοκοῖται are "A male homosexual; pederast (one that practices anal intercourse esp. with a boy); sodomite (one who practices copulation with a member of the same sex or with an animal); those who engage in homosexual acts; one who lies with a male as with a female." With the term μαλακοὶ, Paul is referring to the passive, "female" partner in a sexual exchange. With ἀρσενοκοῖται, Paul is speaking of the active, "male" partner in a sexual exchange. Richard Hays, in "The Moral Vision of the New Testament" (p. 382), says that though the term is used many times in ancient Greek writings, he agrees with the website that Paul was the first to use it, possibly the one to coin it. Therefore we cannot define Paul's usage by how later writers use it, for they may have changed it to suit their agendas. We have to interpret Paul by Paul. (If I make up a word, and someone 10 years from now takes my word and uses it differently, I can't be held accountable for that new definition.)

Second, Hays (along with the website) tells us that Robin Scroggs has shown that it is a translation of the Hebrew *mishkav zakur* ("lying with a male"), derived directly from Lev. 18.22 and 20.13 and used in rabbinic texts to refer to homosexual intercourse. "Thus, Paul's use of the term presupposes and reaffirms the holiness code's condemnation of homosexual acts. This is not a controversial point in Paul's argument; the letter gives no evidence that anyone at Corinth was arguing to the acceptance of same-sex erotic activity."

Third, though the website tries to align the term with cult prostitution, Jeff Olson (of RBC Ministries) says: "There is nothing in the surrounding context, however, that justifies limiting the meaning of these verses to homosexuality involved with pagan worship or to pederasty. Though such meaning is included, there is no evidence suggesting the reference is to these activities exclusively."

As far as Leviticus 18.22 & 20.13, there is also nothing in their contexts to suggest a specific tie with cult prostitution. Many Levitical guidelines concern immoral behavior, not simply ritual uncleanness. Homoerotic behavior, in Leviticus, is not in the same category as the cultic or cultural prohibitions regarding non-kosher foods and twining together two kinds of thread. Instead, the violation of sexual codes (adultery, incest homosexuality and bestiality) is placed on par with idolatry in the law code and calling for the sentence of death.

Though these words and concepts can be and are used when speaking of rituals, occult activity and ritual prostitution, they are also often used in physical and ethical contexts. Therefore the context of the usage must tell the tale, and there is nothing in the Levitical context to suggest he means only in ritual situations.

From these biblical scholars, the website study is off to a poor start.

J.I. Packer adds, "What is Paul saying about homosexuality? Answer: Those who claim to be Christ's should avoid the practice of same sex physical connection for orgasm, on the model of heterosexual intercourse. Paul's phrase, "men who practice homosexuality," covers two Greek words for the parties involved in these acts. The first, *arsenokoitai*, means literally "male bedders," which seems clear enough. The second, *malakoi*, is used in many connections to mean "unmanly," "womanish," and "effeminate," and here refers to males matching the woman's part in physical sex. In this context, in which Paul has used two terms for sexual misbehavior, there is really no room for doubt regarding what he has in mind. He must have known, as Christians today know, that some men are sexually drawn to men rather than women, but he is not speaking of inclinations, only of behavior, what has more recently been called acting out. His point is that Christians need to resist these urges, since acting them out cannot please God and will reveal lethal impenitence. Romans 1:26 shows that Paul would have spoken similarly about lesbian acting out if he had had reason to mention it here."

As far as Philo's writings, he never uses the word *arsenokoitai* when he is speaking of the temple prostitutes. Nor can we claim that Paul was tapping off of Philo's thoughts or writings. I'm not aware that Paul ever quoted Philo, though he otherwise referred to Greek philosophers and their teachings. Philo doesn't seem to be on Paul's radar.

I'm also not convinced about the paragraph about Paul's use of "idolatry" in 1 Cor. 6.11 as making the whole teaching about cultic impurity. The first term in the set, πόρνοι (*pornoi*), according to Sarah Ruden, expert in ancient Greek culture: "The steady meaning of this term in polytheistic literature is 'prostitution' or 'whoring.' To get a sense of what Paul means by porneia, which he applies even in cases where there is no payment for sex, we have to consider the ethical poverty of the Greek and Roman languages.

"The Greeks and Romans had many terms to show disgust for a woman who had more than one sexual partner; on the other hand, a man who was erotically rapacious would not be called names, as long as he followed just a few rules, the one against adultery (sex with another man’s wife) being the most important. Paul signaled a vast change in morals by indicating that both an unfaithful man and an unfaithful woman, with no distinction, behaved 'like whores.'

So Ruden is saying that πόρνοι (*pornoi*) is not about cultic practices but moral ones. She continues, "Porneia meant sex bought by the act and with no further obligation. A porne, or prostitute, was normally a slave. Some had to parade naked in public places. Greek vase paintings show men beating them, evidently for fun. This was the institution behind Paul’s word, and even when he isn’t writing about sex for hire, he is probably emphasizing brutality. For the polytheists, the essence of porneia was treating another human being as a thing. If I had been one of Paul’s typical early readers, whatever else I understood from his use of this word, I would have picked up that treating another human being as a thing was no longer OK."

I could write on, but this is already very long. The web article is long, and deconstructing each sentence would take more than space allows. As you can tell, I'm not in agreement with it.
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Re: 1 Corinthians 6:9 - arsenokoites

Postby Regnus Numis » Thu Dec 07, 2017 5:40 pm

> Romans 1:26 shows that Paul would have spoken similarly about lesbian acting out if he had had reason to mention it here."

Speaking of Romans 1:26 and lesbianism, how would you respond to this article (

> I could write on, but this is already very long. The web article is long, and deconstructing each sentence would take more than space allows. As you can tell, I'm not in agreement with it.

Fair enough. Since you seem very well-educated on the subject, have you ever considered starting your own blog?
Regnus Numis

Re: 1 Corinthians 6:9 - arsenokoites

Postby jimwalton » Fri Feb 02, 2018 2:50 am

Ugh. I have to read ANOTHER long article??? : )

I agree that Leviticus doesn't refer to lesbianism, and the Bible hardly speaks of it anywhere, if at all.

In Rom. 1.26, Paul is still speaking of "shameful lusts," and his sentence about women immediately follows, so we can consider this an illustration. Paul lived in a culture (Rome) where male slaves were often habitually raped by their owners and children raped by those in authority over them. Paul considered it depraved. "Exchange" is a repeated theme in chapter 1, and his main point is that the knowledge of God was being traded away for a variety of depravities. He even uses the "natural vs. unnatural" image several times. So what is his point here?

1\. These various forms of "things that should not be done" are seen to be manifestations (not provocations) of the wrath of God. Paul is not warning that God will pour out His wrath if they do such things, rather their doing of such things is an indicator that they have given God the finger.

2\. Paul's main point in chapters 1-3 is that we all as humans share the guilt of sin in whatever form it takes. None of us is innocent.

Paul seems to single out homosexual intercourse because it provides a particularly graphic illustration for his audience of the way in which human behavior distorts God's intentions. Hays says, "The fact is that Paul treats all homosexual activity as prima facie evidence of humanity's tragic confusion and alienation from God the Creator."

"God gave them over." He removed his protective restraints and let them follow the course of their own desires. They are punished by their own insistence on sin.

"Shameful lusts." πάθη ἀτιμίας. Disgraceful passions. That which brings shame (and Greco-Rome was an honor/shame culture). Browson, in "Bible Gender Sexuality," says: "Their same-sex eroticism is for Paul an extraordinarily powerful and excessive manifestation of lust, a raging riot of every form of evil. What Paul has in mind here is not the modern concept of homosexual orientation, but those overwhelmed by lust and a spirit of rebellion, pursuing ever more exotic, erotic, and unnatural forms of stimulation in the pursuit of pleasure. It represents the pinnacle of wanton self-indulgence at the expense of others."

"Even their women." The contrast between "women" (26) and "males" (27) shows that the "disgraceful passions" Paul is talking about are the sexual perversions of homosexual activity. Fitzmyer says, "Having exchanged a true God for a false one (1.25), pagans inevitable exchanged their true natural functions for perverted ones."

Brownson says, "This verse should be interpreted in an honor-shame cultural context. What we can see here is not simply the shaming of women, but also the shaming of the men in whose households these women reside. In an honor-shame culture, just about any kind of sexual impropriety on the part of females would be considered shaming the male head of household. Such shame is clearly what the writer has in mind here, particularly when we note that there is not a parallel reference to “their men” in the following verse. Whatever the “dishonorable passions” might be, the effect of this behavior is to bring shame, not only on the women themselves, but on the heads of their households as well. This suggests some kind of public disgrace, and not merely a private act. Again, the outrageous public sexual behavior of the women in the household of Gaius Caligula fits this description perfectly." He continues with an interesting observation: "So while the passage most likely is not about lesbianism, what emerges more clearly is the relationship between the female sexual misbehavior of 26 and the male sexual misbehavior of 27, creating some sort of analogy between the sexual misconduct of the two verses. What ahs been assumed is that what is analogous is that they both refer to same-sex eroticism, yet what is stated explicitly is something different. Both of these forms of sexual misbehavior are explicitly identified as “degrading” or “shameless.” The “dishonoring” of bodies is first introduced in v. 24, and then repeated again in the reference of “degrading passions” in 26 and “shameless behavior” in 27. The text makes it clear that at least one thing these behaviors have in common is that they all violate ancient Mediterranean understandings of honor and shame.

"For women, the honor-shame codes are violated by engaging in any kind of sexual impropriety, and violating such codes brings shame on both the woman and the head of the household in which she resides. For men, the relationship between honor, shame, and sexual impropriety is a bit more complicated. In the ancient world generally, men would lose honor if they violated the rights of another man by having sex with his wife or daughter. But for a man to have sex with his female slave or a female captured in war was not considered dishonorable; this was the man’s right. In the wider Greco-Roman culture, it was not even regarded as shameful for a man to make sexual use of male slaves, as long as the master was not himself penetrated. For a man to play the role of a woman and to be penetrated, however, was clearly a violation of honor: it was considered inherently degrading."

"Natural sexual relations." Hays says it refers to lesbian sexual relations. Brownson says it doesn't. It's a Stoic concept of "existing in harmony with the natural order of things." Paul seems to be referring to the natural function of sexual organs, ordained for sex between a man and a woman for the procreation of children. Fitzmyer says, "Any claim that Paul regards homosexual acts as merely peculiar and not morally reprehensible ignores the plain sense of the text, which places its explicit reference to homosexual activity in direct parallelism with the base mind and improper conduct which the vice list of 1.29-31 elaborates."

"For unnatural ones." παρὰ φύσιν: "Against nature." A few people have interpreted this as unnatural intercourse between women and men. Hays says, "By way of sharp contrast, in Romans 1 Paul portrays homosexual behavior as a 'sacrament,' so to speak, of the antireligion of human beings who refuse to honor God as Creator. When human beings engage in homosexual activity, they enact an outward and visible sign of an inward and spiritual reality: the rejection of the Creator’s design. Thus, Paul’s choice of homosexuality as an illustration of human depravity is not merely random: it serves his rhetorical purposes by providing a vivid image of humanity’s primal rejection of the sovereignty of God the Creator."

In other words, it's REALLY difficult to figure out what Paul means, given his cultural context and what his point was for the church. I have pages and pages of notes, some of which (as you can see) disagree with each other.

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