Thursday, March 22, 2012

Was Paul Against Homosexuals?

The passage which is quoted that shows that the New Testament is hostile to homosexuals is 1 Corinthians 6.9. This reads as follows:
 
"Or do you not know that wrongdoers will not inherit the kingdom of God? Do not be deceived: Neither the sexually immoral nor idolaters nor adulterers nor men who have sex with men."
 
Get that context: Men who sleep with men are "wrongdoers"! A note in the New International Version reads "The words men who have sex with men translate two Greek words that refer to the passive and active participants in homosexual acts". The Wescott-Hort version of this reads:
 
"ἢ οὐκ οἴδατε ὅτι ἄδικοι θεοῦ βασιλείαν οὐ κληρονομήσουσιν; Μὴ πλανᾶσθε: οὔτε πόρνοι οὔτε εἰδωλολάτραι οὔτε μοιχοὶ οὔτε μαλακοὶ οὔτε ἀρσενοκοῖται"
 
The words that I underlined -- ουτε μαλακοι ουτε αρσενοκοιται::oute malakoi oute arsenokoitai -- literally mean "nor the soft (μαλακοι) nor men who lie with men (αρσενοκοιται)". The only other two times that the word "soft" occurs in the NT is at Luke 7.25 (But what did you go out to see? A man clothed in soft clothing [ἄνθρωπον ἐν μαλακοῖς ἱματίοις ἠμφιεσμένον]? Behold, those who are gorgeously dressed, and live delicately, are in kings' courts.) and the Synoptic parallel Matt 11.8 (But what did you go out to see? A man in soft clothing [ἐν μαλακοῖς ἠμφιεσμένον]? Behold, those who wear soft clothing (τὰ μαλακὰ) are in king's houses).
 
But there's a bit of an oddity here. At least, how it seems to me. It just so happens that μαλακός (malakos) sounds a bit familiar to, uh, μαλακία (malakia) which means to be a person who pleases themselves. The Synoptic evolution between Matt and Luke using this phrase might give it away. Why would Luke reinterpret Matt's people who wear soft clothing living in kings' houses to people who are gorgeously dressed and live delicately in kings courts? Was Luke comparing John the Baptist (who was wearing "soft clothing") which is a "good" thing, to people who live in the king's court, who are ostensibly better off than people living in the wilderness? Does this mean that Matt originally had a pun between soft and masturbate? As in, people who wear soft clothing compared to people who are self-gratifying?
 
So "the soft" is in male plural form so it probably implies "sissies" or "weak men" who are on the, uh, receiving end of the men who lie with men. On the other hand, Paul might be talking about people who masturbate instead of "soft" men. But the last word that Paul uses - αρσενοκοιται - most definitely means men who sleep with men.

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