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Friday, September 28, 2012

A Biblical Parallel

Here, let me give you a verse right from the Bible:

ος αν κοιμηθή μετά άρσενος κοίτην γυναικός βδέλυγμα εποίησαν αμφότεροι θανάτω θανατούσθωσαν ένοχοί εισιν

Well, I don't know about you, but that seems abundantly clear, right? What? No?!? Okay, maybe not. That is a Greek text from the Septuagint. You know the Septuagint, right? Well, Paul did. The Septuagint was the Greek translation of the Hebrew Bible at the time that Paul lived. When Paul quoted Old Testament passages in his writings, his Greek-speaking readers could look them up in that book.

Now, before I explain that odd stuff, I'd like to put down another verse.

μη πλανάσθε ούτε πόρνοι ούτε ειδωλολάτραι ούτε μοιχοί ούτε μαλακοί ούτε αρσενοκοίται ούτε κλέπται ούτε πλεονέκται ούτε μέθυσοι ου λοίδοροι ουχ άρπαγες βασιλείαν θεού κληρονομήσουσιν

Now that one is from the Greek New Testament. Clear? Well, no, not if you don't read Greek. And I don't. So let's see if we can figure anything out. Here, let me take it out of the Greek lettering and into English transliteration:
kai ov an koimhqh meta arsenov koithn gunaikov bdelugma epoihsan amfoteroi qanatousqwsan enoxoi eisin

ouk oidate oti adikoi qeou basileian ou klhronomhsousin? mh planasqe; oute pornoi oute eidwlolatrai oute moixoi oute malakoi oute arsenokoitai oute kleptai oute pleonektai, ou mequsoi, ou loidoroi, oux arpagev basileian qeou klhronomhsousin.
There we go! No, wait. That's still not it. But let's look at what we might see anyway. Oh, look! There's kleptai; close enough to "klepto" to mean "thief", isn't it? Yeah, okay, but this still isn't getting us anywhere.

There is an interesting link between the two. Notice in the first one the phrase, άρσενος κοίτην, or arsenov koithn. Now look at the second one. There you'll see αρσενοκοίται or arsenokoitai. Now that's interesting.

Ummm, yeah, Stan, sure. (Humor him.)

Stay with me. Notice that the two are nearly identical. They are certainly of the same roots. In fact, they are similar enough to be synonyms. Since the second passage is from Paul, was he quoting from the first passage?

Well, let me reveal where all this is going. In the New American Standard version of the Bible, we read in 1 Cor 6, "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" (1 Cor 6:9-10). From those who would like to deny that this is what we read in this passage, you will read that "homosexuals" is not in the text. In fact, it's an obscure word. It is used twice in Scripture (here and in 1 Tim 1:10). And most of the best scholars believe that Paul himself gave the first known usage of the term. What does it mean? The King James translates it "abusers of themselves with mankind". Young's Literal Translation uses the term "sodomites". Interestingly, the ESV eliminates "effeminate" and translates both terms as "men who practice homosexuality". (Think about why it is that the latest translation, the ESV, felt the need to put it that way.) The word is a compound word. The first part, arseno, references males (men), and the second, koitai, is a reference to the bed ... specifically, the marriage bed. (That is, it typically has sexual connotations.) Indeed, it is the root of the English word, "coitus". But, hey, what does that prove? So what does it mean?!

If Paul was a Pharisee Bible scholar, well educated and well informed on the Greek Septuagint, it would appear that Paul coined a term straight from the Greek Old Testament for this passage. And what was that verse from the Old Testament?
If there is a man who lies with a male as those who lie with a woman, both of them have committed a detestable act; they shall surely be put to death. Their bloodguiltiness is upon them (Lev 20:13).
In that verse, the text translated "a man who lies with a male" is arsenov koithn. Hmm!

From the GLBTQ Encyclopedia on St. Paul, they say on the subject
The word is a verbal noun, and its earliest attestation is in this verse of Paul's. It is a compound of arsen = "male" and koités = "a man who lies with (or beds)." And so we have, describing Oedipus, metrokoités, "a man who lies with his mother," doulokoités, "a man who lies with maidservants or female slaves," polykoités, "a man who lies with many," and onokoités, "a man who lies with donkeys," said of Christians in a graffito from Carthage of about 195.

Arsenokoitai are therefore "men who lie with males," and the Vulgate's masculorum concubitores (where masculorum is an objective genitive), renders the Greek exactly to mean "men who lie with males," "men who sleep with males," "men who have sex with males."
In fact, that source indicates that the source for the term comes from both Leviticus 18:22 and Leviticus 20:13. Hmmm!

Is there really a question about what Paul meant when he used the term? Is there really a need to harangue "too-conservative Bible translators" for concluding that Paul meant exactly what it meant in Paul's own Bible? Is that really a stretch? Or is it just too clear to tolerate?

6 comments:

Marshall Art said...

Oh, Stan. That's just your hunch. No matter how well you dissect and translate and prove through the use of Scripture what is clear to any honest person, that's just your hunch.

Stan said...

Just a hunch. A hunch that the GLBTQ Encyclopedia seems to agree with. Isn't that odd? (It's what they call in the legal profession "evidence from a hostile witness" -- some of the best kind.)

Dan said...

Oh that's easy Stan, you just change to something that suits your modern fancy There, done. See how easy that was. Just one of the wonderous advantages of living in a day of create-your-own reality.

Marshall Art said...

Indeed, Stan. Robert Gagnon often refers to the work of a Biblical scholar who happens to be a lesbian and insists there is no Biblical justification for the behavior in any way. Another "hostile witness" to be sure.

Marv said...

According to Strong's Concordance in e-Sword, "koitē" is used four times in the KJV. (In the NT; the Greek concordance does not cover the LXX.) Twice it is translated "bed", once as "chambering," and once as "conceived." Chambering is lewd behavior, and one of the times it is translated as "bed," it has the qualifier "marriage." (i. e., "marriage bed")

The primary meaning is a place to lie down, sleep. Sexual connotations are secondary or metaphorical.

The four NT uses of "koitē" are Luke 11:7, Hebrews 13:4, Romans 9:10, 13:13. (Plus, of course, the two times it is used as part of the compound word coined by Paul, 1 Timothy 1:10 and 1 Corinthians 6:9.)

A literal translation of Leviticus 18:22 is something like this: "You shall not lie with a man in the bed of a woman. It is disgusting." Of course, "lie with" is used as a metaphor for sexual intercourse often enough that we can say it is used that way in this verse, based on the context. But the overall context is a list of forbidden practices used as part of pagan religious worship, both in Egypt and in Canaan. Also, it specifically applies to the Children of Israel and any stranger who lives among them in Canaan. We Gentiles would be bound by the Noahide commandments, not the Mosaic law, if it were not for the instructions given to the Gentiles by the Council in Jerusalem, recorded in Acts 15:5-31. All four things Gentiles are instructed to not do are related to pagan idol worship. (That is what the Zondervan Illustrated Bible Background Commentary says.)

If we follow Jesus' teaching about the two greatest commandments (Matthew 22:37-39) we will not do those things prohibited in Acts 15, and we will obey the spirit of the law of Moses, not the letter - and we certainly will not live by the mistranslated, out-of-context "interpretations" of anything found in the Bible.

Stan said...

Excellent! You've arrived at the answer. The Church throughout its entire history has been totally and completely wrong ... on one of the very, very few things on which they all agreed. The translators have all been wrong, both past and present, all languages (Latin to English and everything else in between). Indeed, even the GLBTQ Encyclopedia (what would be termed a "hostile witness" in a court of law) is wrong, wrong, wrong. The text and the context is clear. It's about idolatry!

So, taking, for instance, the Leviticus 18 passage, we can clearly see that incest, child sacrifice, and bestiality (the context of the "you shall not lie with a male as with a female" text) are all perfectly moral actions in God's view just as long as you aren't religious in your incest or bestiality. Oh, wait ... that can't be right, can it? Well, you and a few others have assured us it's so, so it must be! And when the Council of Jerusalem forbids Christians of engaging in sexual immorality, that cannot mean homosexual sexual immorality because that is only in terms of religious practices. Except, of course, it's not. And Romans and 1 Corinthians and 1 Timothy all post-date the Jerusalem council and have always been understood to refer to homosexual behavior, not pagan idol worship.

Claiming that "it means bed" (and even admitting that it refers to "lewd behavior") and arguing that it can only be related to pagan idol worship without any supporting structure or context is not an argument supporting the claim that all of Christendom has always been wrong, the translators have all failed, and the context doesn't support it. That's just poor argumentation.