May 13, 2015

The Bible and Homosexuality X: The Corinthian Effeminates

If a firestorm erupts over this series it will be here. What is at stake is the proper understanding of what words mean and who gets to define them. Proper hermeneutics or interpretation demands that the words can only mean what they meant to the original writer and his original intended audience. Anything else is revisionism. There are many though that wish to impose new meanings on old terms that do not mean what the original writers intended them to mean (or wanted them to mean). Worse yet, some even try to imply that words carry no true meaning at all. It is either a form of deconstruction of language (changing of terms) or postmodernism (words are meaningless). Regardless, both are a form of radical historicism/revisionism that try to minimize the moral affront that is sexual immorality by manipulation of word meanings.

What this passage really boils down to is what the words malakoi/μαλακοὶ and the arsenokoitai/ ἀρσενοκοῖται mean in the original Greek manuscripts and what we do with these terms today. Do they still apply or are they outdated misunderstood terms of antiquity? These two words are also known as “the effeminate and the abusers of themselves with mankind” in the King James Version. Today the modern English versions like the ESV, NIV and NASB just use the words effeminate and homosexual. Many pro-homosexual advocates will claim this is an improper translation of the original Greek text so I will examine the language along with the context of the culture of Corinth in the first century to draw out what Paul is really saying in 1 Corinthians. Due to the critical examination and the length this post, I will be divided in to two parts.

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 or "you were", it is imperfect (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 (past tense) 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. Sins like homosexuality.

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).

Sins That 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 homosexual 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).

[Concluded in Next Post]

No comments:

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