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What Does the Bible Say About..Arsenokoites?

I've received so many notes on this subject, I thought that I would just post my general thoughts on this subject.

Often I am asked how I believe what I believe in being a both a gay and a Christian and if I believe according to the Bible my lifestyle is wrong...well, here are my thoughts on the subject. I've collected these thoughts after researched both ends of the spectrum - not necessarily from inner turmoil I have endured. Read on if you care to read on and please keep in mind, I'm not requesting your agreement or disagreement: They are my thoughts and beliefs.

Many people struggle with the Bible and homosexuality. We're taught that some verses of the Bible condemn gays and lesbians, but think of this when someone voices a verse of the Bible to you: It's like driving a car blindfolded; you don't know where you came from or where you're going or even who you just ran over!

First, let me say the word "homosexual" did not come into existence until the 20th century. There was no word "homosexual" or equivalent to it in ancient Greek times.

Next, I'll point out some holes in the verses people quote from the Bible regarding homosexuality:

Leviticus 18:20 states, "Do not lie with a man as with a woman; that is detestable. If a man lies with a man as one lies with a woman, both of them have done what is detestable. They must be put to death; their blood will be on their own hands."

Taking those two sentences from Leviticus is what I talked about when I said the thing about being blindfolded and driving a car.

When reading the ENTIRE book of Leviticus, it can be noted that this book in the Bible is concerned with giving huge chunks of the Law; observed today by Orthodox Jews. It is concerned with stating what behaviour and moral codes separate out the Jewish people from the surrounding nations and is very clear in prohibiting behaviour which was part of the worship of fertility gods and goddesses.

I find it quite interesting that so many people choose to take one verse without reading the ENTIRE book of Leviticus! I mean, the questions around this text for us today are quite interesting. Firstly, there are very few Christians who take this book seriously. If we are to obey these two passages then we should obey all which the book condemns: Cutting men's hair, eating meat with blood in it (e.g.: rare steak), eating rabbit or certain kinds of seafood (like mussels or shell fish), sexual intercourse during menstruation, cross breeding cattle, and wearing garments made out of more than one material. If we are quite happy to do all of the above, then why on earth should we not be happy being lesbian or gay?

Another hole: Turn your Bible to the book of Corinthians (written by St. Paul). Very confusing, but one thing is clear in reading the ENTIRE book of Corinthians: Paul describes young men who worked in the Temples of the Fertility Gods popular in the ancient world. Their function was to play the part of the god whilst the worshipper/client had sex with them. This was supposed to ensure a good harvest and was seen as a form of worship! Obviously Paul would not recommend such interesting worship services to those who were committed to following the life and example of Jesus.

He uses the word (arsenokoitai) appearing in 1 Cor 6:9-10 and 1 Tim 1:9-10. Many think it just means homosexual men. Translated in Greek, it means a harlot, you know, a sacred prostitute!!

Okay, turn to the book of Romans, also written by St. Paul. "Because of this God gave them over to shameful lusts. Even their women exchanged natural relations for unnatural ones. In the same way the men also abandoned natural relations with women and were inflamed with lust for one another. Men committed indecent acts with other men and received in themselves the due penalty for their perversion." (Romans 1:26-27)

Much has been written on what Paul might have meant here and many folk go to great lengths to show that Paul did not mean homosexuality. I DISAGREEE. I think that this is intellectually dishonest. It is obvious that Paul thinks that lesbian and gay sex is unnatural. It is also obvious from reading other writings that he thinks that having women preach in church, or to be ministers is wrong, (because it was a woman who led Adam astray in the first place) and that they will only be saved by childbirth (1 Tim 2:9-15). Paul states in his first letter to the Corinthian church (11:14) that it is unnatural for men to have long hair! In this last passage Paul uses the same Greek words (para phusin) as he does when condemning lesbians and gays.

If one wishes us to follow Paul's words about lesbians and gays then they will also have to condemn men with long hair, women ministers, and state that women will only get to heaven if they have babies (I think someone should tell Mother Teresa!). Until the main Christian churches start preaching Paul properly, I see no reason why we can't say that he was biased by the prevailing sexism and homophobia of his background and his words should be taken with a pinch of salt (albeit a very large one!).

Now, I could go on and on. It's all a matter of interpretation and semantics from ancient Greek to modern day English and what MAN has wanted us to believe.


I understand that you are not seeking my agreement or disagreement. There are some things, though, that I feel I must reply to.

First of all, I do agree with you in part. You say that the word "homosexual" didn't come into existence until the 20th century. I agree, even so much as to say that the concept of a person "being" a homosexual is also very new. Until the 19th or 20th centuries the concept was not of one who was a homosexual but of one who performed homosexual acts. In other words, the idea of being "born a homosexual" is a new concept. Previously it wasn't who you were but what you did. The ancients did not have a specific word for it until Paul apparently coined one (more on that later).

You ask why Christians don't follow other parts of the book of Leviticus, such as wearing garments of mixed threads, and say that the prohibitions in Leviticus referred to the worship practices of fertility gods and goddesses. The objections to those ideas are twofold. First, Judaism opposes homosexual acts in any context based on the laws in Leviticus. Second, Christians are not bound by the Law of Moses which was given just to the Jews, and so are not bound by these other laws (eating shellfish, cross breeding, etc.) either. If it was only in the Law of Moses that the prohibitions against homosexual acts occurred then I would not be bound by the prohibition.

That brings us to Paul's use of the apparently coined word, arsenokoites (or it's form arsenokoitai). You say that the translation of the Greek is a harlot or temple prostitute. Nowhere is it ever properly translated that way. The Greek word was apparently coined by Paul, because we have no record of its use before he used it in 1 Corinthians or 1 Timothy. The literal meaning of the Greek word is a man who has sexual relations (koites) with another man (arsenio). So it's literal meaning, and the one clearly intended by Paul when he (probably) invented the word, is one who engages in homosexual acts. There is no other way the word can honestly be understood. So when he condemns people who do that in these passages, no reputable scholar of Greek would think that he is condemning anything other than homosexual acts (specifically in this case between men).

I can understand that if you agree that Paul was condemning homosexual acts in Romans 1 you would be better off to discredit Paul. However, in doing so you misrepresent his teaching a couple of times. First you say that he teaches that women can be saved "only" by childbirth. Never in that passage (1 Timothy 2) does he say they can be saved only in that way. He says that women can be saved by childbirth. Exactly what that means I am not sure, but he doesn't say that is the only way. He doesn't even condemn women teaching. After all, one of his co-workers, Priscilla, was instrumental in converting another of his companions, Apollos. (Acts 18:26) He simply says that women should keep silence in the assembly of the church.

One does not have to condemn men with long hair, as you say, if they condemn homosexuality. First of all, it is much harder to define what is long hair in a man (to his waist? To the middle of the back?) than it is to define a homosexual act. Secondly, Paul concludes that passage in 1 Corinthians 11 by saying that he will not condemn any woman for praying uncovered or any man for having long hair. "But if anyone wants to be contentious, we have no such custom, neither do the churches of God." (1 Corinthians 11:16)

You also refer to the "prevailing sexism and homophobia of his background." This is contradictory to your earlier comments. If Leviticus is not talking about homosexual acts per se, Paul has no prevailing homophobia. Any such would be because the Jews also knew Leviticus to be speaking against homosexual acts. As far as a prevailing sexism, being a Jew he was probably less sexist than any of the Greek or Roman scholars of his day.

There may be, almost certainly is, some semantic misinterpretation. However, there is none when one interprets arsenokoites as referring to a man having sexual relations with a man. Even you agree that there is none in Paul's comments in Romans 1.