May 14, 2015

The Bible and Homosexuality XI: The Corinthian Homosexuals

In continuation of the last post I conclude the examination of the 1 Corinthians 6 passage where Paul addresses sins of people that will not inherit the Kingdom of Heaven (because of said sins).

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).

John 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.

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