Dr.Manfred Brock and Dr. William Hertzog, II
at the American Baptist Assembly in Greenlake,Wisconsin

Part Three - Manfred Brauch
The Exclusiveness of the Gospel
I Corinthians 6:2-11; I Timony 1:10

A. Context and Flow of Argument

I want to begin discussion and reflection on I Corinthian 6:9-11 andI Timothy 1:10 with consideration of the context and flow of Paul's argument,particularly in I Corinthians. The passage of First Corinthian's 6:9, whichcontains the words that have generally and historically been understoodto refer in some way to homosexual persons or behavior: malakoiand arsenokoitai is part of Paul's extended critique of CorinthianChristians' attitudes and actions which are incompatible with the factthat they are dwelling places of God's spirit, (3:16-17) throughout thisletter, there are indications that the Corinthian Christians believed themselvesto have achieved a spiritually exalted place, which made bodily acts, includingthose held to be immoral in both Greek and Jewish teachings, irrelevant.

The more immediate context consists of the strong condemnation of acase of incest and the Corinthians arrogant affirmation of it, 5:13. Asevere rebuke against taking the internal grievances to a court of lawfor adjudication, 6:1-8, and an unqualified rejection of an apparentlylibertine openness to and participation in prostitution. In light of someCorinthian Christians' participation in heathen temple ceremonies, chapters8 through 10, the prostitution referred to in 6:12 through 20 may be templeprostitution, but that is by no means certain.

In the midst of this series of judgments, Paul confronts them with thisrhetorical question: "Do you not know that wrong doers, literally,the unrighteous, will not inherit the kingdom of God? 6:9. And then givesan illustrative list of the kind of persons and their practices which hehas in mind: fornicators, idolatrists, adulterists, thieves, malakoi,arsenokoitai, the greedy, drunkards, revilers, robbers."

The behaviors cataloged in this vice list were formerly practiced bysome of the Corinthians says Paul 6:11, but within the context of theirnew life in Christ, they have been washed, sanctified, justified, thatis, they have been placed in a new relationships with God through Christand that new reality is incompatible with their former ways of life.

Paul's judgment of the practices and attitudes which are unacceptableto God concludes with an exhortation to glorify God in their bodies, sincethey now belong to God, 6:19 through 20. This forceful conclusion, withits emphasis on the totality of their being, including the physical dimensionsof life, as subject to the lordship of Christ, demonstrates clearly thatfor Paul, contrary to the Corinthians libertine spirituality, how weuse our bodies, and particularly in the area of sexuality, is of criticalsignificance.

2. The terms malakoi and aresenokoitai

Though there is clearly a measure of uncertainty about the precise connotationof these terms, particularly in isolation from one another, they're usedby Paul in juxtaposition here, their inclusion in a context where majorattention is given to sexual sins, and their use and meaning in other HellenisticJewish texts, provides a strong basis for interpreting them as designationsof same-sex relations.

The basic meaning of the term malakoi is soft, but it appearsin Hellenistic sex as a pejorative epithet for the passive partners, mostlyyoung boys or young men in homosexual activity. In Greek society, youngmen often sold themselves as mistresses for the sexual pleasure of oldermen. Hence, some interpreters translate the term as male prostitute. NewRevised Standard Version, New International Version. Though pedarasty wasclearly the most common form of homosexual activity in the Greek worldof Paul, the view that Paul's judgment against homosexual behavior is restrictedto this particular form, that is, the use and/or misuse of boys or youngmen for the selfish pleasure of older men, is untenable I believe, forseveral reasons:

  1. There is no evidence to support the claim that same sex relations betweenconsenting adults was unknown in the world of Paul. Even in pedarasty,given the likely ages of between 17 and 12 and 17, according to some scholars,the presence of mutuality and consent and pleasure for both parties, cannotsimply be ruled out of court.
  2. Paul's description of male-to-male homosexual behavior in Romans 1seems to me to be all inclusive. It is based on mutual passion and desire.
  3. The inclusion in Romans 1:26, a female, same sex practice, as I andothers understand it, in the depiction of homosexual behavior as againstnature, that is contrary to God's design, points to the existence of homosexualin the ancient world beyond its most prevalent form, pederasty. It wouldhave been both unnecessary and incomprehensible for Paul to name it ifin fact it was no known to exist. Sex between females was almost everywherecondemns, though clearly not in a vast amount of literature and the Patristicinterpreters of Romans 1:26 uniformly interpret this text as a rejectionof female same-sex relations.
  4. The juxtaposition of the term asenocoiti with malocoi clearly expandsPaul's view beyond a limitation to pedarasty, particularly in light ofPaul's Jewish context. To that term we now turn.

The compound word arsenokoitaiis not found outside the new testamentprior to its use by Paul here and then in the Pastorals. It consists oftwo words, literally male and sleeping with or intercourse. The latterwas common vulgar, four-letter slang for sexual intercourse. As a compound,it could possibly either mean males who have sex and designate male prostitutesof all sorts, or those who have sex with males and designate homosexualmen. In light of the term's ambiguity and because of its juxtapositionwith malacoi, it has been argued by Scrugs and others that it refers tothe active, older partner in a pederast relationship.

Such a limitation of the meaning of this term can, however, I believe,not be maintained in view of the linguistic evidence from Paul's Jewishcontext, as well as the fact that in First Timothy 1:10 the term arsenokoitaiis used by itself and can therefore not be limited to a designation ofthe necessary older partner in a pederast relationship. It has been shownby numerous studies, that the compound word, arsenokoitai, is atranslation, perhaps coined by Paul himself, of the Hebrew term, mishkavzakur, literally, lying with a male derived directly from Leviticus18:22 and 20:13 and used in Rabbinic texts to refer to homosexual intercourse.Such a connection between Paul's term, the Hebrew Leviticus text and theRabbinic interpretation of that text, is confirmed by the Septuagint Greektranslation rendering of Leviticus 18:22 and 20:13 as follows:

The point is that arsenokoitai and coiten, both in the text ofLeviticus 18:22 and 20:13 are used together in those two lines in the languagewith a man do not lie as one lies with a woman, or, whoever lies with aman as one lies with a woman, a cenois coiten. This background for Paul'scompound word seems all too obvious and needs to be acknowledged I believeas the most appropriate determinant of Paul's meaning. Paul'suse of this term, whether or not originally coined by him, presupposesand reaffirms the judgment of the Levitical holiness code and all of Judaismand early Christianity, that same sex relations are seen as contrary toGod's will.

The inclusion of the same compound word, in First Timothy 1:10, in thelist of vices, which includes everything from lying to murdering one'sown parents, behaviors in that text are characterized as "contraryto the sound teaching that conforms to the glorious gospel," makesit absolutely clear that for both Paul and the early Christians, homosexualbehavior was understood to be morally wrong and that wrongness hadnothing to do with ritual purity codes and thus outdated and irrelevant.Well, then, this wrongness was determined by the good news of God'screative transforming power in Christ which sought to restore all of ourhuman brokenness, towards that image of God in and for which we are createdas male and female.

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