May 7, 2013

Cultural Crossroad XI: Malakoi and the Arsenokoitai

The Malakoi and the Arsenokoitai
(The Effeminate and The Abusers of Themselves With Mankind)

1 Corinthians 6:9-11 - Or do you not know that the unrighteous will not inherit the kingdom of God? Do not be deceived; neither fornicators, nor idolaters, nor adulterers, nor effeminate, nor homosexuals, nor thieves, nor the covetous, nor drunkards, nor revilers, nor swindlers, will inherit the kingdom of God. Such were some of you; but you were washed, but you were sanctified, but you were justified in the name of the Lord Jesus Christ and in the Spirit of our God.  
The verse we zero-in on here is verse 9 and its, “nor effeminate, nor homosexuals.” To understand this passage fully we must understand the entire passage from verse 9 to 11 in correct contexts including historical, and cultural. We must first note that homosexuals are not singled out by Paul here. In this passage in 1 Corinthians, fornicators, idolaters, adulterers, effeminates,  homosexuals, thieves, the covetous, drunkards, revilers, and swindlers are all grouped together because they are all equally viewed the same. They are all sinners that will not inherit the Kingdom, unless they seek repentance. Along with the other sins mentioned in the 1 Corinthians 6 passage, homosexuality was widespread in the time of the Old and New Testaments. A simple understanding of this passage implies that fact. Additionally, a perusal of the Oxford Classical Dictionary’s entry on homosexual behavior will lead one to the same conclusion (Halperin 720-723). As is the case today, it probably was not unusual to see a homosexual convert to Christianity. We need only read the passage understand the context Paul wrote it in. He wrote this list of sins to the Gentile world in Corinth. It was a list of sins that would've been prevalent in a people coming from that culture to become part of the Church.
We also see something else in this passage. We see an expectation when Paul says, (v.11) “Such were some of you." Paul is stating that these people that converted and became part of the church Paul was writing to at Corinth had previously been one of the types of sinners listed: a thief, an adulterer, an effeminate, a homosexual, etc. It is probably that some of them still were (hence the need to write the letter). What else can be learned from this passage? The word in verse 11: ἦτε "you were", it is past tense. It was expected that if you had come into the church as the sinner committing the sins listed you were to change and not be committing those sins now because you had been washed, sanctified, and justified in the name of the Lord Jesus Christ (Nestle et al 449-450).
It also needs to be clearly understood that these people were allowed into the church in their previous sinful conditions with the expectations that they would change and become sanctified (more holy) by stopping these sins or at least fighting them through the power of Holy Spirit that resided within them, not openly accepting the sins or openly flaunting them (Witherington 166). What is also curious is the use of aorist passives in this passage or past actions done to the believer: You were washed, you were sanctified and you were justified. These things were done to believers in the past by someone else (God). All these things had happened at a definitive point in the past: The believer’s conversion. We therefore see God’s grace all over this passage working in a sinner’s life to bring them closer to God (Kistemaker 190). It therefore stands to reason that it would be their sins that would keep them distant from God, not anything God would do.
Greek Word Study

When we delve into a Greek word study of this passage, this is when things really start to open up in terms of our understanding of Paul’s intent. The sexual sin words and in particular the homosexual references are particularly interesting, πόρνοι/pornoi/fornicators, μοιχοὶ/moichoi/adulterers, and two word/phrases distinctly referring to homosexuality: μαλακοὶ/malakoi/effeminates, ἀρσενοκοῖται /arsenokoitai / homosexuals are mentioned side-by-side or adjacent one another and this is not an accident as they were viewed as closely related or even connected. (Brown-Vol.2  569-570, Harder 659, Nestle et al 449-450, Rienecker et al 402).

The Sins Don't Get You Into the Kingdom

The word "fornicators" πόρνοι /pornos/pornoi is a person who prostitutes his body to another. The word "adulterer” μοιχοὶ / moichoi is where this verse gets real thought-provoking. It means a male porno/paramour/mistress/lover; or figuratively it means apostate. The implication being that this entire passage (v6-11) is leaning towards a sexually apostate audience or intent (Rienecker et al 402). Although some might say this is only oppressive sexuality, not homosexuality, the entirety of this passage speaks of things that will not make it into the Kingdom and by implication; any of the things on this list are considered apostasy or falling away from the faith and endangering one’s salvation. In other words they are not getting closer to God performing these sins (adultery, homosexuality, stealing), they are getting farther away from Him. It is a matter of obedience versus disobedience and what people feel about this is irrelevant. Just like Romans, this Epistle to the Corinthians is a theological treatise on what God thinks is proper, not man. This is especially evident in 1 Corinthians because if one reads the first two chapters what they see is Paul systematically undoing humanity’s idea of wisdom and extolling the merits of God’s wisdom.
It must be clearly noted that the next two words are then used in isolation from pornos earlier by the word εἰδωλολάτραι / eidololatrai/ idolators. Paul then reverts back to another pair of sexual references that should be seen as being together not just grammatically but also in real life (Witherington 166). The word "effeminate" μαλακοὶ/malakoi is an adjective but is referring to males as it is a nominative masculine case ending. As such it would mean (in its 1st century context) a catamite-effeminate or male soft-one (Harrison-Vol. 3 999, Rienecker et al 402). So what is a catamite? A catamite is the younger, passive partner in a relationship between a man and a boy (Evans 288). Usage of this word can also include the effeminate passive partner in a homosexual relationship (Evans 288, Halperin 720-721).
The word that is translated homosexual in modern English translations is  ἀρσενοκοῖται/arsenokoitai. It is also a nominative masculine noun. It means a male who lies with a male as with a female (in a bed) (Brown 569-570- Vol.2, Evans 288). Even if the grammatical default for Greek is male when addressing a group which is what Paul is doing in Corinth, Paul made no disambiguation here so it had to have been intentional. He states male (effeminate) to male (homosexual). As a masculine noun, this passage has referred to the arsenokoitai as nominative 1st person plural that are men and they are associated with other men or "soft ones"/catamites. This is a clear allusion to homosexuality and/or even pedophilia since catamites were often young boys (Evans 288). It is also interesting to note that cognates of ἀρσενοκοῖται/arsenokoitai are used in the Septuagint in Leviticus 18:22 and 20:13 in the form of ἀρσενοs/arsenos/male and κοῖτεν/koiten/bed (Brown-Vol.2  569-570). In Leviticus the practice of homosexuality is clearly condemned. Paul used this compound term for a reason. It is to reiterate the forbidden nature of the homosexual act (Evans 288) and to also show the continuity of the Old and New Testaments. This thereby shows the unwavering and immutability of God’s truths and attitude towards sexual immorality of this form.
Cultural Support
The effeminate partner more than likely refers to young men who sold themselves to old men as "mistresses." It also probably refers to young cult prostitutes who took a passive role on pagan alters (Halperin 721). This type of practice was so rampant that Roman Emperor Nero was known to have castrated a boy named Sporus. Nero then married him and lived with him as his wife in his palace (Champlin 146-147). To castrate a male is to effectively arrest puberty by removing the testicles. Thereby the young boy maintains his androgynous or effeminate attributes staying a catamite in perpetuity.
It can see from 1 Corinthians 6:9-11 that Paul understood that homosexuals of Corinth had come into the church. He understood their former practices which he denounced on the basis that they were sins that were not compatible with a Christian’s new life and worldview. From the text we can also determine that Paul also knew that there was a passive effeminate male and an active masculine male in a homosexual relationship. What Paul wrote about concerning homosexuality and sexual immorality in 1 Corinthians 6:9-11 he soundly denounced not only directly in the text but also through his use of Greek cognates that are linked to Leviticus 18 and 20. There is no equivocation in this passage regardless of what modern linguistic experts have intended by intentional or unintentional misreading.

Sexually Immoral Then, Sexually Immoral Now
This passage shows that Paul and the early Christians did indeed understand the homosexual community (DeYoung 205, White et al-Kindle location 1355-1356). The authorial intent of 1 Corinthians 6 is clearly referring to the sexually immoral as unrighteousness ἄδικος/adikos wicked, sinful and it is stated directly in the text.  They are then categorically condemned if they do not turn from their sinful ways. It is also interesting to observe that obedient Christians, having understood homosexuality, still accepted homosexuals and other people committing sexual immorality into the church but subsequently condemned it. They expected a change to non-sinful behavior once a person converted or chances are they had not really converted.
From the homosexual view, as noted in the section on Genesis 19, John Boswell believes the word ἀρσενοκοῖται refers to male prostitutes but even he acknowledges its application to homosexuality as being understandable (Boswell-Kindle location 2915-2922).
Boswell then asserts that this is a myth(s) popularized during the early centuries of the Christianity. Boswell also says there was no word in classical Hebrew or Greek for homosexual and that arsenokoitai in Greek and kadëshim in Hebrew were not descriptions of gay people. Instead they were merely designations for prostitutes (Boswell-Kindle location 3009-3013). This assertion seems to be invalidated by the fact that nowhere in this passage are prostitutes (temple or otherwise) mentioned either directly or indirectly (DeYoung 53). Although there may be lingering ambiguities about the word arsenokoitai, it has been shown in the conservative viewpoint and translation that Paul was indeed speaking about male on male sex acts. This view is further bolstered by Paul’s choice of Greek cognates that are similar to the terms used in Leviticus (Septuagint). Therefore there is an association to the punishments and other connotations found there also. These are the same Leviticus passages that have been affirmed by the likes of Boswell as referring to homosexuals in an overtly negative manner (Boswell-Kindle Location 2796).
Dr. Helminiak is less tactful in his criticism of the Bible itself and more blatant in his advocacy of homosexuality.  He bluntly states that the “men lying with men” does not provide” a satisfactory translation of ἀρσενοs / ἀρσενοκοῖται (Helminiak 114). He further states that the meaning has changed between the time the Bible was written and our time. This is improper hermeneutics. The words can only mean what they originally meant when the author wrote them. What the text means stays the same, the applications change. He also says that in Leviticus “men lying with men” is condemned but then goes on to say that because of the context of Leviticus which he claims is ritual impurity, the condemnation does not apply to early Christianity and most of the contemporary world because of the abrogation of ceremonial law (Helminiak 114). This again is a miscategorization or misunderstanding of law in Leviticus. He has grouped in the moral law of homosexuality which has not been abrogated by Christ with ceremonial laws that have. He then appears to contradict himself in his own conclusion when he states:
“Whether we take arsenokoitai to refer to male-male sex or not, the conclusion is the same. These texts intend no blanket condemnation of homosexuality, nor even homogenitality” (Helminaik 115)
This statement is made after admitting that male on male sexuality was indeed condemned as sin in Leviticus passages. If this is true then it would only be by abrogation of a mischaracterized ceremonial law that would it become annulled in Christ. It would follow then that it is still a denounced sin that one would need to seek forgiveness through Christ for -- even if his own hermeneutic was correct.

No comments:

Related Posts Plugin for WordPress, Blogger...
Related Posts Plugin for WordPress, Blogger...