Same-Sex Relationships: 1 Corinthians and 1 Timothy Revisited

My paper on 1 Corinthians and 1 Timothy was discussed on a Facebook group recently. One of the contributors made some interesting points about it, and I want to address them here.

I have read your article, and if I could sum up your thesis in one sentence, it would be, “1 Cor. 6:9-10 is vague and we cannot know with any confidence what it means; thus it is irrelevant to us.” It appears you are effectively marginalizing the Apostle Paul’s teachings on morality.

This is not an accurate summary of my position. The words malakos and arsenokoites, which are used in 1 Corinthians 6:9-10, are essentially impossible to translate. We cannot know what they mean. This does not mean that they are irrelevant to us, and I am certainly not marginalising Paul’s teachings. In the paper I look at Christ’s teachings as well, and use them to understand how Paul and Christ teach us to behave.

Furthermore, you’ve read a meaning of arsenokoites from the 6th century back into Paul’s writings. The interval of time is not much less than that between ourselves and Geoffrey Chaucer! The alleged dearth of data from the first and second centuries does not make this anachronism any more reasonable.

I haven’t done this. The oldest use of arsenokoites where we can use the context to deduce the meaning is from the Sixth Century. I made it clear in the paper that the meaning of words can and does change with time. Depending on John the Faster for an understanding of what Paul meant when he used arsenokoites is most certainly overstating the case. It is worth repeating what I said in the article:  if we confine ourselves to extant documents from the first and second centuries, we do not have enough evidence to do anything other than guess what arsenokoites means.

The dearth of data from the First and Second Centuries is not alleged. In the paper I referred to a list of all known references to arsenokoites and related words. It is clear from that list that there is no useful data about the meaning of arsenokoites from the first and second centuries.

Furthermore, how can you enter into an extensive discussion of the meaning of NT Greek words without making reference to a standard lexicon (such as BDAG)?

My paper was based on primary sources – the actual extant uses of arsenokoites from antiquity. Lexicons are secondary sources, and are merely distillations of primary sources. They cannot contain any information that was not present in the primary sources themselves.

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