Tuesday, March 17, 2009

Arseno-What? Malaka-Who? Looking at Pauline Theology

Moving into the Epistles...'cause the Gospels have nothing to say to this topic directly...we find ourselves looking at three verses that deal with same-sex relationships. Two are very similar to one another, so we'll look at those first. In both 1 Corinthians 6:9 and 1 Timothy 1:10 , homosexual behavior is specifically included in lists of wrongdoing.

In each of these two verses, the Greek word arsenokoitai is used. This has given conniptions to interpreters over the years, as it appears to be a word that Paul himself made up. The variance in translations of the word among the different Bibles is evidence of this. The King James renders it "abusers of themselves with mankind," and the New Revised Standard has it as "sodomites." The NIV folks can't seem to make up their minds, as in 1 Corinthians it is translated as meaning "homosexual offenders" and in 1 Timothy it is translated as "perverts."

As arsen means "man" and koitai means..well.."bedders," the most literal translation would be "man-bedders." Paul appears to have coined the phrase by combining two words that appear in the Greek Septuagint version of Leviticus 18. Although some progressive scholars have tried to suggest that this word doesn't refer to the love that dares not speak it's name, their arguments are not convincing. Paul is specifically referring to homosexual behavior here, using the Levitical codes as his clear inspiration.

In interpreting this passage, however, a more legitimate question is whether Paul is condemning any same-sex relationship, or--as some have claimed--a specific type of same-sex relationship. For that, we need to look more closely at 1 Corinthians 6:9.

Must it be chapter 6, verse 9? God's sense of humor sometimes surprises even me.

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