To begin our understanding of the passages found in 1 Corinthians and 1 Timothy let’s first take a minute to understand the author.
The Apostle Paul was blessed by God in two areas of his life, which gave him the special ability, along with Holy Spirit’s inspiration, to write so much of the New Testament. If we understand these two specifics about Paul, we can then divide the word rightly.
First, Paul was a well-travelled missionary to the Gentile world. While Paul was in the city of Corinth, he wrote to the church in Rome. While he was in Ephesus, Paul wrote to the church in Corinth and to his spiritual son Timothy. Each of these Gentile cities were known for their fertility cults, and so the pagan religious practices of the people in these cities would have been widely known and observed by Paul.
Secondly Paul was a trained scholar in the Old Testament Law and Prophets. Paul was trained by the very best teacher, Gamaliel (Acts 5:34, Acts 22:3). Because of this training, Paul would have been very familiar with the law and especially the Holiness Code found in the book of Leviticus. What we will discover is that Paul referred to Leviticus 18:22 and 20:13 in both 1 Corinthians 6:9 and 1 Timothy 1:10.
|Key Words and phrases||Key Scriptures|
|1 Corinthians 6:9-10 and 1 Timothy 1:9-11|
Modern translations have taken license in these passaged translating two different words carelessly into one word, homosexual and thus condemning loving relationships between LGBTIQ persons. The assumptions about the texts are made because there is no full knowledge of what the meaning is of these two words in the original Greek.
To whom written: The church in Corinth
Purpose: To identify problems in the Corinthian church, to offer solutions, and to teach the believers how to live for Christ in a corrupt society. Many new believers were just blending in with the culture and its practices of worship. Paul explains that those who follow this sort of worship of pagan gods will not inherit the Kingdom of God.
Date written: About A.D. 55, near the end of Paul’s three-year ministry in Ephesus, during
his third missionary journey
Setting: Corinth was a major cosmopolitan city, a seaport and major trade centre – the most important city in Achaia. It was also filled with idolatry and immorality. The church was largely made up of Gentiles. Paul established this church on his second missionary journey. This letter was in response to the problems, pressures and struggle faced by the church in a pagan society.
Scripture: “9 Don’t you not know that the wicked will not inherit the kingdom of God? Do not be deceived: Neither the sexually immoral (pornos) nor idolaters nor adulterers nor male prostitutes (malakos) nor homosexual offenders (arsenokoites) 10 nor thieves nor the greedy nor drunkards nor slanderers nor swindlers will inherit the Kingdom of God.” 1 Corinthians 6: 9-10 (NIV)
To whom written: Timothy
Purpose: To give encouragement and instruction to Timothy, a young leader.
Date written: About A.D. 64, from Rome, probably just prior to Paul’s final imprisonment in Rome
Setting: Timothy was one of Paul’s closest companions. Paul had sent Timothy to the church at Ephesus to counter the false teaching that had arisen there (1 Timothy 1:3,4). Timothy served for a time as Pastor of the church at Ephesus. Paul hoped to visit Timothy (3:14, 15; 4:13), but in the meantime, he wrote this letter to give Timothy practical advice about the ministry. Paul guides and advises Timothy on the challenges he faces so that the church can conduct itself in a rightful manner. Paul also talks pointedly about the conduct of a minister and how Timothy has to be careful so that his youthfulness doesn’t become a liability.
Scripture: “9 We also know that law is made not for the righteous but for lawbreakers and rebels, the ungodly and sinful, the unholy and irreligious; for those who kill their fathers and mothers, for murderers, 10for adulterers and perverts (arsenokoites), for slave traders (andrapodistes) and liars and perjurers-and for whatever else is contrary to sound doctrine 11that conforms to the glorious gospel of the blessed God, which he entrusted to me.”
1 Timothy 1:9-11 (NIV)
The table below will assist with understanding the key terms in the original language and will give us a clearer understanding of what Paul is trying to convey.
|English word||Greek word||Meaning in Greek|
|1. Soft, soft to the touch
2. Is used of clothing twice
3. Metaphor in a bad sense of:
– of a catamite
– a male who has sex with a male
– male prostitute
– male who submits his body to unnatural lewdness
| 1. A Male
1. A place for laying down, resting, sleeping in a bed, couch
2. Marriage bed of
3. Cohabitation, whether lawful or unlawful
a) sexual intercourse
|Sexually immoral/sexual sin
|1. A man who prostitutes his body to another’s lust for hire
2. A male prostitute
A man who indulges in unlawful sexual intercourse
|A person who enslaves others|
There are two Greek words in these scriptures which biblical scholars have had great difficulty in understanding. The first Greek word is malakos, which is only used by Paul in 1 Corinthians 6:9. This word is translated in 1 Corinthians 6:9 as “male prostitute” in the NIV Bible while the same word is translated as “fine” or “soft” elsewhere in the New Testament.
The second Greek word is Arsenokoites, which is used by Paul in 1 Corinthians 6:9 and 1 Timothy 1:10. This word is translated in the NIV Bible as homosexual offender in 1 Corinthians 6:9 and in 1 Timothy 1:10 is translated as pervert.
The NIV Bible has translated malakos in 1 Corinthians 6:9 as “male prostitute” while the KJV Bible used “effeminate”. It has been thought then that the term “malakos” is a reference to an effeminate male prostitute or to one who serves as the male receptive partner.
Malakos can simply mean effeminate. Martti Nissinen in Homoeroticism in The Biblical World states as well that malakos stresses femineity while adding that “a homosexual connotation may come from effeminacy, because the man who submits to the passive sexual role takes the position of a woman and represents moral values associated with woman-mostly in a negative sense.”
This understanding agrees with Boswell, in Christianity, Social Tolerance and Homosexuality who is adamant that malakos is not related to homosexual orientation since heterosexual males were also called this term by ancient writers. So it seems clear that malakos was at times used to refer to males who were effeminate, whether they were heterosexual or homosexual. And, the term apparently was also used at times to mean males who took the passive role, whether heterosexual or homosexual.
If we look at the other definitions of the word malakos we see the word “Catamites”
Catamites were boys or young men who were kept for the purposes of prostitution, a practice not uncommon in the Greco-Roman world. In Greek mythology this was the function of Ganymede, the “cupbearer of the gods,” whose Latin name was Catamus.
It was a common practice in Paul’s time that men would have these slave “pet” boys whom they would sexually exploited. These desired boys were normally prepubescent.
The word malakos is found elsewhere in the New Testament and it is also used quite frequently in extra-biblical writings of the New Testament era with a basic meaning of soft or fine and in a moral sense it indicates a moral weakness as in one who lacks self-control.
Jesus himself mentioned malakos in his description of what John the Baptist was not like. In Matthew 11:7-9 (and Luke 7:25) we see that Jesus used the word malakos twice in reference to clothing.
“7 As John’s disciples were leaving, Jesus began to speak to the crowd about John: “What did you go out into the desert to see? A reed swayed by the wind? 8 If not, what did you go out to see? A man dressed in fine clothes? No, those who wear fine clothes are in kings’ palaces. 9 Then what did you go out to see? A prophet? Yes, I tell you, and more than a prophet.”
It could be that Jesus was simply describing the clothing of those in King’s palaces as fine and soft. It is also possible that Jesus simply had in mind that men in King’s palaces are effeminate.
But I think it’s more likely that Jesus was using a double play on words when he specifically used the word malakos to describe the opposite characteristics of John the Baptist as a prophet and worshipper of God.
We see in the verses that in Jesus asking three rhetorical questions, the answer is always negative until the third time when he declares John the Baptist a Prophet. The message that Jesus is communicating here is that John the Baptist is a prophet of God. In contrast, Jesus provides two descriptions of those who are not prophets and not worshipers of Yahweh God.
The first rhetorical question speaks of a “reed swayed by the wind” which may be a metaphorical representation of pagan priests and pagan prostitutes. Historically, the pagan fertility cults that came out of the Near East were located in the desert. It is interesting that 1 Kings 14:15 makes mention of God striking Israel “like a reed swaying in the water” because of her idolatrous behaviour.
“15 And the LORD will strike Israel, so that it will be like a reed swaying in the water. He will uproot Israel from this good land that he gave to their ancestors and scatter them beyond the Euphrates River, because they aroused the LORD’s anger by making Asherah poles.”
Remember that the worship of the goddess Asherah by the Canaanites is linked to the cult of Ishtar. The priests were male transvestite eunuch priests, who took on the powers of the goddess. It is possible that in alluding to a “reed swaying by the wind”, Jesus is juxtaposing these cultic priests as opposites to God’s anointed prophet.
In the second rhetorical question Jesus speaks about those who wore malakos clothing in King’s palaces. This could be a reference to the eunuchs who served in King’s palaces. There were three known eunuchs who served in King Herod’s palace during Jesus’ early life. It is certain that Jesus would have heard about Herod’s high-ranking eunuchs.
Therefore, is seems to me that the malakos people that Jesus is alluding to in the desert and in King’s palaces are man-mad eunuchs. The two known roles common to man-made eunuchs was serving in the cultic religions and serving pagan kings. Jesus was familiar with natural born eunuchs and man-made eunuchs according to Matthew 19:12.
“12 For there are eunuchs who were born that way, and there are eunuchs who have been made eunuchs by others—and there are those who choose to live like eunuchs for the sake of the kingdom of heaven. The one who can accept this should accept it.”
It seems then that his discussion of the authenticity of John the Baptist as a prophet of God is set against these man-made eunuchs, which implies that they would not have been worshiping or serving Yahweh God.
Paul is the one who coined this Greek word. It is not used elsewhere in the Bible and it is also not found in literature prior to being used in Paul’s writings. It is two Greek words put together in arsen which means man or male and koite which means bed.
Many scholars today believe that Paul coined the term Arsenokoites as a deriviate of the Septuaginst’s Greek translation of Leviticus 18:22 and 20:13. Paul would have preached in Greek during his missionary journeys using the Greek translation of the OT, known as the Septuagint.
Comparisions of the Septuagint’s translation of the phrase “male who lies with a male as with a woman” from Leviticus 18:22 and 20:13.
Leviticus 18:22 – “kai meta arsenos ou koimethese koiten gynaikos”
Leviticus 20:13 – “kai hos an koimethe meta arsenos koiten gynaikos”
As you can see, the two Greek words arsen and koite are closely placed together in these verses and this is especially true of Leviticus 20:13. It seems clear that the etymology of the word Arsenokoites is rooted in the pagan idolatrous practices referred to in Leviticus 18:22 and 20:13.
In using Arsenokoites, Paul would have meant the same thing in 1 Corinthians 6:9 and 1 Timothy 1:10 that the Leviticus verses condemn, namely that male worshipers who lay with cultic priests as part of the fertility cult worship practices are condemned.
Paul was teaching the churches in Corinth and in Ephesus that these people would not inherit the kingdom of God. Why? Because they were involved in pagan worship practices, which have no part in a life with Christ.
Basically the Apostle Paul saw idolatry taking place in the New Testament times so he reached back and took Leviticus 18:22 and 20:13 and put two words together in these verses. Paul coined the word arsenokoites in order to tell the Greek-speaking Gentiles that they were not living according to sound doctrine and they would not inherit the kingdom of God if they were involved in these idolatrous practices.
Paul encountered the same fertility cult religions during his travels that are addressed in Leviticus 18:22 and 20:13 and as a result he wrote this word in a letter to the church in Corinth. The city of Corinth was a major city in Greece about 50 miles from Athens. There were two main gods worshiped in Corinth: Poseidon and Aphrodite. The goddess Aphrodite was a goddess of love and was also referred to as Cybele, Astarte and Ishtar. The temple of Aphrodite featured 1,000 female slaves who served as prostitutes.
Aphrodite was another name for the Syrian goddess named Cybele. This deity was both male and female and was depicted with bearded face and full breasts. The cult taught that worshipers must hide their sex. It appeased the goddess if worshipers physically effaced their sex. It didn’t matter if the goddess was known as Aphrodite, Cybele, Astarte or Ishtar because all of the worshipers of this deity engaged in erotic beatings, sadomasochism, same sex orgies and for the males, in castration.
The priests who served these goddesses such as Aphrodite, Cybele, Hecate, Artemis, Astarte and Ishtar were castrated and/or transvestites. In the cult of Cybele, the initiates mourned Cybele’s androgynous lover Attis. They would re-enact his death every March, according to mythology, where in the midst of exstatic music, they would strike themselves with sharp stones and after castrating themselves, put on woman’s clothing. This had nothing to do with gender or sexual orientation, this was done as a form of pagan worship.
What about Ephesus?
Paul wrote to Timothy his son who was the pastor of the church in Ephesus. The main goddess worshipped in Ephesus according to Acts 10:27 is Diane of the Ephesians”. Another name for Diane was Artemis as mentioned before, a priest of the pagan godesses. Although the goddess was worshipped in 33 places in the known world at that time, her chief location was in Ephesus.
In 1 Timothy we are introduced to two additional words
9 We also know that law is made not for the righteous but for [lawbreakers and rebels]1, [the ungodly and sinful] 2, [the unholy and irreligious] 3; [for those who kill their fathers or mothers, for murderers] 4, 10 for adulterers (pornos) and perverts (arsenokoites), for slave traders (andrpodistes) and [liars and perjurers] 5—and for whatever else is contrary to the sound doctrine.
“pornoi” -male prostitute.
“slave traders” – Greek word “andrapodistes”(G405) refers to a person who enslaves others.
Thus, suggests a translation: “It is as if Paul were saying, ‘male prostitutes, men who sleep with them, and slave dealers who procure them’.”
The word Arsenokoites later took on other meanings. Although the Apostle Paul coined the word it’s usage evolved over the next two to three hundred years into a description of people who exploited others for sexual purposes
Although Arsenokoites originally described male worshipers who paid for sex with priests or prostitutes in the temple, it later came to describe those who paid for sex with prostitutes, whether male or female, outside of the cultic worship experience.
It seems that both of these words used by Paul in his letter to the church at Corinth and to his spiritual son Timothy are related to cultic worship for the most part and most certainly related to prostitution and the exploitation of people.
So, are these two Greek words God’s condemnation of homosexuality or of anal sex? No, it is not. Once again, these two Greek words cannot be understood outside of the pagan cultic religious practices that Paul was addressing. Also if the assessment is correct of Jesus’ comments on malakos persons, then they are a condemnation of man-made eunuchs or castration per se as a form of worship. So, these Greek words and these two clobber passages in 1 Corinthians 6:9 and 1 Timothy 1:10 are not refereeing to homosexuals or homosexual orientation.