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, 10 nor thieves, nor the greedy, nor drunkards, nor revilers, nor swindlers will inherit the kingdom of God. 11 And such were some of you. But you were washed, you were sanctified, you were justified in the name of the Lord Jesus Christ and by the Spirit of our God.
In his first letter to Corinth Paul people to turn away from their sinful lifestyles in order to revive the Kingdom of Heaven. What really stuck out to me in His list of sinful behaviors was the mention of homosexuality since it is such a hot topic in today’s society too. At first glace it seems as if the Paul is clearly condemning homosexuality, but as we all know every single word in the Bible was carefully chosen and has a deeper meaning.
Corinth was one of the most powerful cities in ancient Greece. It was a port city that was large, wealthy, and very old. It was most likely a hot spot for corruption, and Paul would know that.
To figure out what the intended meaning of Paul was in this passage I began to look at older translations of 1 Corinthians 6:9. Since I cannot read Greek or Hebrew I looked to the Tyndale Bible, which was the first Bible translated into English directly from the original Greek and Hebrew. This translation reads “9Do ye not remember how that the vnrighteous shall not inheret the kyngdome of God? Be not deceaved. For nether fornicators nether worshyppers of ymages nether whormongers nether weaklinges nether abusars of them selves with the mankynde“. The KJV, the next version published chronologically, states “9Know ye not that the unrighteous shall not inherit the kingdom of God? Be not deceived: neither fornicators, nor idolaters, nor adulterers, nor effeminate, nor abusers of themselves with mankind.” They both translated ἀρσενοκοῖται very similarly: abusers of themselves with mankind.
This chart shows the Greek version compared to one of the many English translations.
John Boswell gives this term a passive tense. “His argument is that the arseno- part of the word is adjectival, not the object of the koitai which refers to base sexual activity.” This leads him to believe this term actually means a male sexual person or male prostitute. ἀρσενοκοῖται would have been the most explicit word available to Paul to call a male prostitute. Boswell goes as far to say Paul probably wouldn’t have been against the “gay relationships,” just the prostitution.
James R. Edwards, a Professor of Theology at Whitworth University as well as a New Testament Scholar, says although this is the first time this term was used in Greek Literature there is no doubt of its’ meaning. In his “The Bible and the Practice of Homosexuality” Edwards states “A compound word, ἀρσενοκοῖται (arsenokoitai) means “(males) going to bed (or copulating) with males.”
So why wouldn’t they just use the word homosexuals instead of all this confusing mess? Come to find out, the term “homosexual” wasn’t introduced to the English language until the late 19th century. Even more specifically in the Bible until the year 1946 in the RSV. This word was inserted simply because there was now a word for it.
Overall, I do believe that the Bible as a whole is prone to be interpreted many ways. Any piece of literature can be used to prove any point. That being said, I think that there is enough evidence to say that ἀρσενοκοῖται at least has something to do with people of the same sex being affectionate towards each other.