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Wednesday, April 09, 2014

Did God Say ...?

One of the absolutely clearest texts in Scripture on the subject of the morality of sexual relations between two people of the same gender is found in 1 Corinthians. We can look at Leviticus 18:22 or 20:13 and see it clearly, but you'll obviously be faced with the objection, "But, that's Old Testament. Do you follow all the Old Testament law?" We can look at Sodom and Gomorrah (Gen 19). They'll tell you that it wasn't a matter of homosexual sin; they just failed to be hospitable. Now, trying to figure out how a lack of hospitality deserved such complete annihilation will be a little tough. And trying to explain how it was a lack of hospitality when the "big problem" appeared to be that the men of the town wanted to "know" the angels in Lot's house might be a problem. And how their desire to "know" someone might be satisfied by Lot offering his daughters is not so easy, either. And when Jude writes that Sodom and Gomorrah "indulged in sexual immorality and pursued unnatural desire" as the reason for their destruction (Jude 1:7), well it just doesn't seem like it's going to hold water. But they'll stick to their guns. So we look at the New Testament.
Or do you not know that the unrighteous will not inherit the kingdom of God? Do not be deceived: neither the sexually immoral, nor idolaters, nor adulterers, nor men who practice homosexuality, nor thieves, nor the greedy, nor drunkards, nor revilers, nor swindlers will inherit the kingdom of God (1 Cor 6:9-10).
Now, to the casual observer, this is pretty clear. First, it's clear that "the unrighteous will not inherit the kingdom of God". Not a question. I mean, when Paul asked it, he was asking a rhetorical question. "Don't you know this?" He explains "the unrighteous" in terms of a variety of sinful behaviors including "men who practice homosexuality".

Now, let's be clear on this at the outset. Paul is not saying that everyone who has ever committed one of these sins is "the unrighteous" and doomed to damnation. We know that because of the very next verse in which he says, "And such were some of you. But you were washed, you were sanctified, you were justified in the name of the Lord Jesus Christ and by the Spirit of our God" (1 Cor 6:11). So those who are washed, sanctified, justified cease to be identified as "the unrighteous" by virtue of being practitioners of these behaviors. Just as John claims that those who are born of God cannot make a practice of sin (1 John 3:9), genuine believers can sin (1 John 2:1) but do not make a practice of it. Just so we're clear.

But the argument is "You know that the word there isn't clear, right?" They will tell you that the modern translators are ... well ... wrong. It doesn't mean "homosexuals" or "men who commit homosexual acts" or any such thing. It means something ... else. What "else" it means may vary, but they're pretty sure it does not mean what the translators say it means. Some argue it refers to pederasty (homosexual relations between an adult male and a juvenile male). Others are quite sure it's a reference to temple prostitutes, not simply "loving sexual relations between the same sex." And they'll point to the problem that the word only appears twice in Scripture and almost never anywhere else and it's all too obscure for us to figure out.

There is an "encyclopedia of gay, lesbian, bisexual, transgender & queer culture" online. It is in favor of GLBTQ folk. (I still don't know the difference between "gay, lesbian, and transgender" and "queer".) As such, to those of my perspective, in matters of debate it would be classified as a "hostile witness". This encyclopedia includes a section on Paul (specifically as he addresses GLBTQ subjects). What do they say about Paul on homosexual behavior? Addressing the content of 1 Cor 6:9-10, they say:
The meanings of these Greek nouns have been the subject of lively debate, largely provoked by gay authors anxious to show that Paul and the early church had not intended to condemn homosexuality per se as harshly as has been traditionally supposed, but only a degraded type of pederasty associated with prostitution and child abuse.

Recent scholarship has shown conclusively that the traditional meanings assigned to these words stand.
They point, as I have, to the parallel of Paul's arsenokoitai in that passage, translated "homosexual" or "homosexual behavior" in modern translations, to the commands of Lev 18:22 and 20:13. They assert (as I do) that the word, apparently coined by Paul, is simply the Greek translation of "men who lie with men" as a reference to homosexual behavior. They conclude that "the traditional meanings assigned to these words stand." They further conclude:
The bad news from the Christian Bible is that it condemns same-sex desire and same-sex acts without qualification of age, gender, role, status, consent, or membership in an ethnic community.
Evidence from a hostile witness.

Look, the texts (the ones I've listed and more) are obvious. The meaning isn't unclear. Most people, whether they are in favor of or opposed to the view that homosexual behavior is a sin, admit that the Bible teaches it is so. Arguments that it doesn't fall short of dealing with either text or context. Now, we don't live in a Christian world, so I'm not suggesting that everyone ought to knuckle under and do what God says. I'm just suggesting that it might be something to think about because the Bible has made it pretty clear.


Glenn E. Chatfield said...

I did a post on various passages about homosexuality, and for 1 Cor. 6:9-10 I showed essentially the same thing you say:

The English Standard Version combines two terms from the Greek and interprets them as “men who practice homosexuality.” The NIV translates the passage as “male prostitutes nor homosexual offenders,” the NASB says, “nor effeminate, nor homosexuals,” NKJV says, “homosexuals, nor sodomites,” and the KJV says, “nor effeminate, nor abusers of themselves with mankind.”

With this many versions, let’s look at the original Greek to know exactly what was said here. The first word is arsenokoites. Where does this come from and what does it mean?

When looking at the Septuagint’s Greek translation of Lev. 18:22 we have the following:
meta arsenos ou koimethese koiten gunaikos. Arsenos means “male” and koiten means “to have sexual intercourse.”

Next, when looking at the Septuagint’s Greek for Lev. 20:13 we have this:
hos an koimethe meta arsenos koiten gunaikos.

Notice in both these passages the use of arsenos and koiten, and especially the latter passage where the two words are together. It becomes obvious where Paul got this word which means a man who has sexual relations with another man. He is referring back to the Levitical commands against homosexual behavior. It is this word which is translated as “homosexual offenders,” “homosexuals,” “sodomites,” and “abusers of themselves with mankind.” It’s meaning is “male bedder.”

What about the word translated as “male prostitutes,” “effeminate,” and “homosexuals?” This is the Greek word
malakoi, which literally means “soft ones.” Supposedly this refers to those who were usually a passive partner in homosexual relationships (or should we say, the one who plays the receptor?)

Nevertheless, both terms are used by Paul to describe those who practice homosexual behavior, and he states without equivocation that these people will not inherit the kingdom of God. Again, it is very plain that Paul is here saying that those who practice homosexual behavior are among the “unrighteous.”

There is nothing in any of these passages that allows for twisted interpretations to claim God permits homosexual relations as long as they are conducted in a committed relationship. The relations are not permitted at all.

Stan said...

We agree, Glenn. Too bad there are people calling themselves Christians who are letting the world decide what the Bible means.

Naum said...

These comments smack of theological arrogance.

It's not "letting the world" decide -- it's just to recognize how anachronistic it is to impose your cultural consciousness upon an age that would have no conception of a modern day same sex union.

Neil said...

I loved the "hostile witness" angle. Even the blind men of Sodom can see that one!

Stan said...

My cultural consciousness??? Really? You're applying yours, rewriting the content that has been understood as is since it was written, and I'm applying my cultural consciousness??? What is this ... a return to "irony"?

Nothing in the texts has anything to do with "modern day same-sex unions". The texts refer to same-sex sexual relations. If, for some reason, "modern day same-sex unions" have managed to avoid same-sex sexual relations, then I think we're all good with that. But claiming they couldn't have responded because they didn't know assumed God didn't know. And it's like saying, "A ban on the use of stones don't affect a wall-builder who wants to use stones because they didn't know you could use stones for that." Ridiculous.

Glenn E. Chatfield said...


You really think the times past had no concept of such unions? It's because they KNEW such unions were an abomination and they wouldn't have approved of them.

You deceive yourself by claiming such things were cultural bound. The trouble is, when it comes to the Leviticus passage God also condemns bestiality and adultery - I suppose you think those were also just part of the culture's beliefs and not valid for today? Paul included adultery in his list - is that also not valid for today.

You deceivers twist the Scripture because they point the finger at you and you can't accept the guilt you know belongs to you. You rebel against God pretending sexual perversion is okay as long as "love" is involved, but real love would do no harm to another, and homosexual behavior is not only spiritually harmful, but also medically and emotionally harmful.

Danny Wright said...

I looked at my concordance and I don't see anachronistic anywhere.

Naum said...

1. Yes, people knew of same sex unions, but the practice in ancient times was nothing akin to modern day same sex marriage. Because, well, let me draw out in successive points here…

2. First, there is the erroneous mapping of relationship/sexual ethic -- in Greco/Roman culture. Simply put, they didn't have the same Victorian notion you all seem to blindly apply. Marriage was for forging familial and economic ties, not because of love or compatibility.

3. The giant elephant in the room is how women were treated -- ponder this, that to engage in "homosexual" acts was considered less grievous than to be a woman. That ancients would believe same sex marriage ridiculous because one of the partners would have to be "the woman", a status lesser than engaging in same sex acts. Go read the writing of the age -- where it is expressed by nearly all authors how to be female is to be an "incomplete" human. And it's a theme present with ancient Jewish culture too.

4. The same sex "relationships" of that age were of a predatory nature -- youth exchanging sexual favors for privilege and opportunity. Or prostitution. Everything about Roman culture is predicated on reciprocity, quid pro quo exchanges -- something the early Christians flipped totally upside down in that they treated slave, master, male, female, Jew, Gentile, etc. as equal brothers and sisters in Christ, a theme constantly drummed by Paul not only in Corinthians but throughout the NT.

5. Ergo, a modern day same sex marriage where two individuals pledge to honor, cherish, serve, etc. each other would be unfathomable, inconceivable.

6. You have brought culture and tradition into it -- your very arguments are the same justification that was used by pro-slavery, anti-women-equality, against interracial marriage, etc. Go read some history with an open mind, and not just pluck out bits that support your preconceived notions.

7. If you do not see, it's because you choose not to see. Not trying to swing you the other way, just hoping that you'd at least listen with an open mind. But all I hear here is "The Bible says…". The Bible also says polygamy (in the OT) was sanctioned (David, Solomon, etc. had many wives and concubines, never repented, were never rebuked, and if you posed to somebody living in that age that polygamous behavior was wrong they would scoff at that), imposes death penalty for adultery, proscribes against tattoos (no NT passage overturns that), compulsory marriage for your dead brother's wife, death for sexual immorality, etc. So you do pick and choose, then justify it with an absolutist bent that honors Jesus not, in my view.

The letter kills but the Spirit gives life.

Stan said...

Oh, yeah, I forgot, you don't accept the Word of God when He defines marriage as the union of a man and a woman or the words of Jesus when He defines marriage as the union of a man and a woman (and anything else needs to be a "eunuch"), so you're operating from a different vocabulary.

My justification is made by the plain, straightforward, time-honored reading of Scripture. That, of course, is its own culture, it's true. It's the culture of the genuine Christian who does not defy God by saying, "Did God say ...?"

And you have yet to offer any possible answer as to the colossal failure of every single Greek translator and the monumental failure of the Holy Spirit to get this truth across until ... well, you arrived on the scene.

David said...

I'm still curios as to how anyone can EVER claim to not be applying their own cultural climate into their worldview. And the fact that claiming homosexuality is a sin is counter to our culture, how are we applying what our culture stay says? Aren't we now counter-culture on this point? We are constantly accused of blindly applying our culture to our Scripture, how are you any different? Based on today's culture we are actually stepping out of our culture to believe what we believe

Stan said...

David, you and I think of "culture" as the shared beliefs and values of the society in which we live and we are both confused when we are accused of speaking from our "culture" when what we're saying flies in the face of the shared beliefs and values of our current society. However, if "culture" is defined as "shared beliefs and values of group: the beliefs, customs, practices, and social behavior of a particular nation or people" and you identify yourself, for instance, with historical, biblical, orthodox Christianity (which will stand in contradiction to modern society every time), then it can be said you're injecting "culture" (the shared beliefs and values of genuine Christianity) into the discussion. However, as it turns out, given that version of "culture", everyone injects culture into the positions they take because everyone shares beliefs and values. On the other hand, when the accusation comes from someone who wants to identify themselves with Christianity, then it becomes a puzzler, doesn't it?

Glenn E. Chatfield said...


I'm sure you found all that revisionist history in the homosexual play-book