Homosexuality As it Is Commonly MISREPRESENTED
In The New Testament - PT 1
By: Rev. Charles Burnett-Morrow
There is so much misunderstanding surrounding the Bible as it relates to the issue of homosexuality. For this reason, and in an effort to help those of you really, genuinely struggling with issues of Biblical interpretation, I have written a series of small articles dealing with various issues, Biblical passages, etc. These articles are presented in a fairly casual manner so as to make reading them more enjoyable. I encourage you to also read the many articles in our "Articles & Studies" feature.
Understanding the term "homosexual"
The truth is there is not a single word in ancient Biblical writings that can be interpreted or translated correctly as "homosexual." The two terms that are commonly used to supposedly mean "homosexual" are in the Greek, "Malakos" (which the King James Version translates as "effeminate") and "Arsenokoites" (which the KJV translates as "abusers of themselves with mankind.")
So great is the differences of opinion as to how these words may be properly translated that one may look at several translations and find a wide variety of interpretations. Many of these differ greatly from one another. This disharmony alone is proof that these terms are yet open to debate and proper translation.
For example, here is a sample of the many different ways that various translations interpret the term "Malakos," which by the way, in the original Greek is literally translated as "SOFT." The same Greek word is found in both I Corinthians 6:9 as well as in I Timothy 1:10. And yet, Biblical translators have taken great liberties in translating the same exact term in a variety of different ways...
Effeminate (KJV) Men who act and behave in a less than masculine manner? So it appears the woman are exempt in this matter as effeminate can only be applied to men.
Male Prostitutes (NIV) (Not even close to saying, "Effeminate.")Homosexuals (Living Bible) (WHICH, by the way, is a paraphrase of Scripture created by a man who has had NO Biblical training or knowledge of Biblical languages. He did this paraphrase to make reading the Bible easier for his own children.)
Abusers (Interlinear Bible) How general is this? Abusers in what way? What kind of abusers, and what kind of abuse? And what has this to do with even remotely suggesting homosexuals? Abusers may speak of those who abuse their spouses, children, animals, servants, or slaves. It may also be enlarged to mean sexual abuse: rape, incest, molestation, etc. Things which we (so-called "homosexual perverts" who embrace the Gospel of Jesus Christ) believe to constitute Biblical fornication and inappropriate, unacceptable, unbiblical, unchristian conduct.
Sexual Perverts (Revised) Perverts? In what way? How do you define perverts? Cannot one be a heterosexual pervert?
Effeminate (J.B. Phillips) Phillips chooses to play it safe, and sticks with the same term as the KJV.
Those who participate in homosexuality (Amplified) What is the difference between a homosexual and one who participates in homosexuality? Well, one who participates in homosexuality may imply that they are not naturally inclined toward homosexual attractions, but for whatever reasons simply choose to indulge in homosexual activity, for instance prisoners in incarceration.
Homosexual perversion (New English Bible) How does homosexual perversion differ from heterosexual perversion? Is heterosexual perversion acceptable, whereas homosexual "perversion is not?
Homosexuals (explained in footnotes as "catamites.") (New KJV) A daring leap, when several other versions can only come to a variety of conclusions ranging from "effeminate," "Male prostitutes," "abusers," to "sexual perverts," or "sensualists," etc.
Effeminate (New American Standard Bible) Same as the KJV.
Sensualists (Barclay) Those who seek sensual pleasures may be heterosexual or homosexual. This term can also imply individuals who seek to peak their senses through the use of illicit drugs, alcohol, nicotine, or narcotics.
Homosexual perverts (Good News) Again I must ask, How does homosexual perversion differ from heterosexual perversion? Is heterosexual perversion acceptable, whereas homosexual "perversion is not?
Effeminate (St Joseph Catholic Edition) Same as the KJV.
See how some have taken the liberties of using the modern term "Homosexual" to describe a broad group of people whom the Bible itself NEVER employed any one given term or phrase to describe? Interestingly enough, there are only two places in the entire Bible where the two Greek terms I have used here are even employed by Biblical writers. And in the case of the term "arsenokoites," Paul himself coined this term as it did not exist in his day and does not appear again in Greek literature of any kind for many centuries. Paul literally brought two terms together, which are literally translated, "lift, and couch." It was assumed by Paul that his readers would have full understanding of his use of this compound word, just as we today would expect that readers would understand my use of the terms "Reaganomics" or "lady-killer." We understand these terms within the context of our times. Even so, when Paul used to the two terms translated literally "lift" and "couch" together, it was assumed by Him that within the context of his day people would understand clearly what he was speaking of. If we today had an equally clear understanding, then we would not have more than a dozen Bible translations differing in opinion as to it's clear definition.
The truth of the matter is many Biblical translators were biased in their work of translating Scripture. They read into certain phrases those things that they wanted to see or felt needed to be addressed or included. To ignore this reality is to do the Word of God a great disservice. For in so doing we assume and suggest that God is condemning under one common blanket condemnation a variety of people. In reality, the writer was speaking of a very specific type of person or people. Careful examination of the terms employed here clearly help us to see that Paul was speaking of individual who were engaged in sexual practice in direct association with idolatry and religious prostitution. The NIV comes closest to admitting this. If "effeminacy" in and of itself were a sin that keeps one from ever entering heaven, many a gentle, compassionate, and highly sensitive man who may be married and even have children would be barred from heaven simply because they are not macho or masculine by some arbitrary definition of manhood. It is obvious that the term "effeminate" does not properly represent the Greek word "malakos" which is translated as "soft."
The truth is that in the context of Biblical times, when a word spoke of one as being "soft," it often implied that they lived a soft, sumptuous, and/or opulent lifestyle. In Matthew 11:8 Jesus said, "But what did you go out to see? A man dressed in soft clothing. Behold, those who wear soft clothing are in kings' palaces."
Did not the Lord say plainly that it was easier for a camel to pass through the eye of a needle than for a rich man to enter into the kingdom of God? So you see, when we look at this matter in full context of Scripture, not merely pulling it out of context and trying to make it say something that it does not, we see that the greater likelihood is that Paul here is including the rich and sumptuous living among those who would not inherit the kingdom of our God. We must learn to carefully read and consider Scripture in the context of it's times.
There was a time in English history some five hundred years ago when the word "awful" had a very positive connotation. The Bible tells us in Psalm 47 that our God is "terrible." And yet today, less than half a millennium later, these terms have turned about face and now bear a very negative connotation. In King James time, the terms "awful" and "terrible" both meant very positive things, speaking of inspiring awe or striking fear into the heart of one's enemy. Today if we said God is "awful," we would be saying that He is bad or unfair and unjust.
Homosexuality As it Is Commonly MISREPRESENTED In The New Testament - PT 2
We started by looking at the term “malakos” (soft) and “arsenokoites” (lift-couch). I gave one example of a more probable definition for the term “malakos” or soft. In the course of my writing on this subject matter, I will frequently refer to things written by my friend and fellow minister, as well as author, Rev Samuel Kader who wrote a book, “Openly Gay, Openly Christian” How the Bible Really Is Gay Friendly. (Available online at Barnes & Nobel, as well as at local book retailers nationwide)
In Sam’s book, he speaks of another possible definition for the term “malakos;” cowardly and spineless in the face of great tribulation and even the threat of death, as many early church members were. No matter what definition one chooses to embrace, this one fact remains certain, THERE IS NO SPECIFIC EVIDENCE WHATSOEVER THAT PAUL WAS WRITING IN REFERENCE TO ANY FORM OF HOMOSEXUAL OR HOMOSEXUAL ACTIVITY. To make that leap one must literally put words in the mouth of God’s holy apostle, and I am one who believes that to do such a thing is a most grievous of sins.
Moving on to the second term we started looking at yesterday, “arsenokoites.” Again, the literal definition is “lift-couch.” Once again taking into account the practices and atmosphere of the times in which this was written, it can clearly be seen that Paul spoke of those who used sexual activity as a means of elevating themselves or securing some blessing. In Paul’s time many cults existed which employed temple prostitutes. These individuals offered themselves to any who came to them for their services in exchange for the promise of blessing, fertility, prosperity, etc. Many of them were actual priests and priestesses in their religion. Sexual activity was commonly engaged in and/or required if an individual embracing these false gods were to have any hope of attaining that which they needed from the gods. The God of Israel made it clear that his people and priests were never to engage in such lewd and lascivious behavior. Israel frequently degenerated to a state where they did indeed employ these same beliefs and practices, but such conduct was flatly rejected by the God of heaven as filthy and a gross misuse and abuse of priestly status and authority. Even today there are men who occupy positions of religious leadership who use their position as a means of enticing and seducing young boys and girls into performing sexual acts for them, all with the promise that in so doing these children are securing the blessings of God. It’s in nearly every newspaper today!
Paul’s use of the term “lift-couch” may, in my mind at least, best be compared to the modern concept of a “casting couch.” We have all heard it said that many a young starlet has gone off to Hollywood to find fame and fortune, only to discover while there that the best parts would only be made available to them if they were to sleep with, or at least perform some sexual favor for, the director or some other prominent figure in a given motion picture. The concept of sleeping with or performing sexual favors for an individual in an effort to obtain special treatment or preferred status is not at all new to humanity. It certainly wasn’t new to Paul. It was a daily occurrence in many temples and within many false religions, as I’m sure it too was commonly engaged in by many non-Christians who believed that such exploitive use of power, position, or authority was perfectly acceptable. As born again children of God, we know that to physically, sexually exploit another in exchange for our favor or assistance is completely inconsistent with Christian teaching and principle. It is, in my mind, much more sensible that Paul would be speaking of such practices, as well as those who engaged in such practices when he wrote of “arsenokoites” or “lift-couch.”
In the writings of Jerome, an early church father, he clearly interprets and translates Paul’s newly coined phrase as “temple prostitute.” Historically, Jerome was certainly much closer on the timetable to the actual life and times of Paul.
Once again, let us use a table provided in Sam Kader’s book to look at the many differing translations offered for the term “arsenokoites.”
KJV - Abusers of themselves with mankind
NIV - Male Prostitutes
Living Bible - Homosexuals (Again, bear in mind, this paraphrase of the Bible is so full of inaccuracies in so many areas of doctrine agreed upon by the majority of Fundamental, Evangelical churches that it should not even be taken seriously in terms of sincere study and careful research!)
Interlinear Bible - Homosexuals
Revised - Sexual perverts/I Tim. 1:10 sodomites
J.B. Phillips - Pervert I Tim 1:10 Sexually uncontrolled or perverts
Amplified - Those who abuse themselves with men
New English Bible - Perverts
New KJV - Sodomites (explained as male homosexuals in footnotes)
NAS - Homosexuals
Barclay - Homosexuals
Good News - Sexual perverts - I Tim. 1:10
St Joseph New Catholic Edition - Sodomites
Now bear in mind, according to the Living, Amplified, New English, New King James, and Good News Bibles; the term “malakos” (soft) was to be translated as homosexual. Now we have the NIV, Living, Interlinear, NKJV, NAS, and Barclay claiming that Paul’s personally coined compound word, “arsenokoites” or “lift-couch” is to be translated in one way or another as homosexual. Those above who have alluded to perversion can in no wise honestly claim to link perversion with homosexuality per se. One can be perverted within the context of a heterosexual orientation just as quickly as one may be perverted in a homosexual context.
The New KJV uses the term “sodomite,” but then goes on within the footnotes to more carefully explain that in their definition a “Sodomite” is a male homosexual. The St. Joseph New Catholic Edition also employs the term “Sodomites.”
The very use by these translations of the term “sodomite” is laughable as it assumes a certain type of behavior to be ascribed to individuals coming from or behaving like those who lived in Sodom. Therefore, you must first have some misinformed notion of the nature of the people of Sodom and her sister cities before you will ever be able to ascribe to this term the definition they clearly intend to infer. If I decide within my writing to use the term New Yorker in a negative connotation every time I speak of an individual who is rude, obnoxious, loud, or lacking social graces, I may create the impression that all New Yorkers behave like this. However, the truth remains that while certain stereotypes may carry the day in any given society, the stereotypes ascribed to that group of people may or may not be accurate, however, the only individuals who will ever know the truth are those who have had the experience of being in New York and around New Yorkers. In this same way the term “sodomite” implies and assumes a homosexual connotation whether the evidence supports this implication or not.