Are You In or Out? I Corinthians and I Timothy

The two verses from I Corinthians and I Timothy are the two most difficult to interpret when researching what the Bible says about homosexuality.  The challenge lay in that the words we need to examine are contained in lists , not framed within much context.  Context makes words easier to decipher.  Usage of the words in others contemporary writings of the times can contribute to understanding  or the actual meaning of  a word .  Typically, when looking at verses, I try to examine context, original  language and culture.  Not so easy to do here though.  The two Greek words used in I Corinthians and I Timothy are “arsenokoitai” and “malakoi”,  and the former appears to be a word coined by the author, Paul.

Placing these Books of the Bible on a time line and giving some background of intent and message is a good start.  I Corinthians was written in about 54-55 AD by Paul to the Church in Corinth, a Greek city where the residents  were proud of their knowledge, grossly immoral and suffering division.  Paul greets them, says their church congregation need cleansing, declares his wisdom is from God, describes the traits of followers,  states the immorality and litigation issues occurring and then we arrive at:

“Do you not know that the wicked will not inherit the kingdom of God? Do not be deceived: Neither the sexually immoral nor idolaters nor adulterers  nor male prostitutes (“malakoi/malakos”) nor homosexual offenders (“arsenokoitai”) nor thieves nor the greedy nor drunkards nor slanderers nor swindlers will inherit the kingdom of God.  And that is what some of you were. But you were washed, you were sanctified, you were justified in the name of the Lord Jesus Christ and by the Spirit of our God.”  I Corinthians 6:9-11

Because I intend to look at the verses in tandem, let’s place I Timothy alongside I Corinthians.  I Timothy was also written by Paul in about 63 – 67 AD ;  Paul advises young Timothy in his work as a pastor. Paul greets him and begins direct counsel of dealing with legalistic teachers.  The teachers of the Law emphasized non-essentials rather than love,  they stirred up strife and used the Law on the righteous as well as on the rebellious. Then Paul follows with the purpose of the Law:

“We also know that law is made not for the righteous but for lawbreakers and rebels, the ungodly and sinful, the unholy and irreligious; for those who kill their fathers or mothers, for murderers, for adulterers and perverts (“arsenokoitai”), for slave traders and liars and perjurers—and for whatever else is contrary to the sound doctrine that conforms to the glorious gospel of the blessed God, which he entrusted to me.” I Timothy 1:9-11

Going directly to the Strong’s Concordance (1890) for definitions of the two words in question:

  • “malakoi/malakos”  means:  of uncertain affinity, soft, that is fine clothing, figuratively a catamite, effeminate, soft
  • “arsenokoitai” is abuser (defiler)  of self with mankind, a sodomite

Each word has a wildly extreme translation in the various modern Bible versions.  How do we know which is most accurate?

“Malakoi” is translated in modern Bibles as:

  • effeminate  (NASB)
  • men who practice homosexuality  (ESV)
  • male prostitute  (NIV)
  • pervert  (CEV)
  • homosexual  (NKJV)

That is quite a  range in the translations in modern Bibles of   the word “malakoi” in I Corinthians; it moves  from “effeminate” to “homosexual” to “those that practice homosexuality.”   This may be splitting hairs to some, but if you are a  gay man and use the NKJV, you are seemingly not an inheritor of the Kingdom of God because you are a homosexual.   If you are wise enough to carry your proof text from the NIV, you are not banned from the Kingdom of God, provided that you are not a male prostitute.  But does the verse really say any homosexual/effeminate person/male prostitute/pervert/man who practices homosexuality cannot enter the Kingdom of Heaven? We will return to that question after the word “arsenokoitai” is deciphered.

“Arsenokoitai” is translated in modern Bibles as:

  • sodomites  (NKJV)
  • men who practice homosexuality
  • homosexuals  (NASB)
  • men who have sexual relations with other men  (ESV)
  • one who behaves like a homosexual
  • those who practice homosexuality
  • those who participate in homosexuality
  • sodomites
  • people who have sexual relations with people of the same sex
  • people who live as homosexuals
  • those who abuse themselves with men
  • perverts  (NIV)

Again, a wide range, but this time it appears to be associated in all modern translations with some form of same sex sex.  I Timothy states that the Law , when properly used , was made to condemn lawbreakers. Included in that list of lawbreakers, we see in modern translations, homosexuals/perverts/people who have sexual relations with people of the same sex and  men who have sexual relations with men.  Again, not clear or fair.  If a lesbian uses an ESB in which only men are under the law, she is not.  If she uses an NASB , she is listed as a homosexual and is under the Law.  And if she is very clever and uses the NKJV or the ESV, she will naturally, via her orientation, avoid both sex with men and anal sex which are lawbreaking acts. She would therefore be exempt from the condemnation.

Can you see how this could become a game of which version and translation of the Bible to carry?  I cannot imagine God letting us into heaven  or not based on the Bible version we park on our bedside table.  And, He is not so unfair as to allow women to have sex with women, yet ban men from having sex with men.  Is that pretty clear to see?  There is too much ambiguity here to say we KNOW which  version of the modern Bible is correct and what translations has it right. We would also need to dictate the Bible translation used in our congregations if we seek to ensure binding law over the GLBT community.

Let me show you this seemingly silly exercise:

  • want to ensure that gay men and women are not in the Kingdom of  Heaven?  You’ll need to use a NKJV
  • want to  allow only celibate gay men and sexual or non-sexual women?  Pick up a NCV or an NLT
  • want to allow only lesbians and disallow gay men in your church?  Hand out an ESV

Could God possibly be this frivolous with our eternal souls and spirits? Could He really be making men and women not subject to the same God-eyes?  Something else is surely at work here.  At this point of my study, I always want to see if I can pass the test as a heterosexual woman that I would seek to place on GLBT Christians.  If I don’t want restrictive rules held over me, do I dare hold another person’s spirit captive?  After all, the bondage I hold others in, impacts my stand before God.  Grace to others, grace to me.

Back to the verses before I continue with “arsenokoitai” and “malakoi”. Looking  again at I Corinthians,  and  completely ignoring GLBT people, but applying it to only me  and other heterosexual disciples:

“Do you not know that the wicked will not inherit the kingdom of God? Do not be deceived: Neither the sexually immoral nor idolaters nor adulterers  nor male prostitutes  nor homosexual offenders nor thieves nor the greedy nor drunkards nor slanderers nor swindlers will inherit the kingdom of God.  And that is what some of you were. But you were washed, you were sanctified, you were justified in the name of the Lord Jesus Christ and by the Spirit of our God.”  I Corinthians 6:9-11

I am going to personalize this: “Kathy, don’t you know that the unrighteous will not go Heaven?  Don’t be fooled.  There will be no one who is sexually immoral, no people that do not put God  first , no one that has committed adultery, no gay people, no one has taken another’s property away either secretly or openly, no people who drink to get drunk, no one who slanders,  spreads gossip, takes another’s good name away or those who cheat people.  They will not be in Heaven.  You were like that.  But, you were washed in My blood, you were set apart for Me, you were made holy and clean through Jesus and by the filling of the Holy Spirit.”

Do you see this? Forget about looking at this pro- or anti- gay. What is I Corinthians 6: 9-11 saying?  It says I was pretty bad, I have done everything on that do-not-do-list —all of them. BUT, but, but ,but . . . I have been washed, sanctified and justified and I am righteous.  It does not mean that I still do not do those things; it means that now I live a different life.  As I  grow in Him, people should see more fruit. Does it mean that any of those offenses are unpardonable for me or someone wanting to follow God?  No.  For me, it only means these  are indicators that I am still doing some old behaviors.  In the future, as a new creation in Him, will I be accused of slander?  Probably. Will I get drunk? Oh, probably. Will I gossip? As much as I would like to say no, I probably will.  I think the adultery thing  is done with, but how many people in the pews in churches on any Sunday were/are involved in that one? The point is that those that are not righteous will not see the Kingdom of Heaven.  I have not forgotten that the words “nor homosexual offenders” appear in these verses.   The Greek word “arsenokoitai” will be examined shortly.

The only thing righteousness is dependent upon is Jesus. That’s it. It is not about and never will be about what I do and do not do once I surrender. It is not about and  will never be about what a GLBT Christian does or does not do once they surrender.  I know this one is  a hard thing to grasp — that a GLBT Christian can actually be righteous before God. We have so longed believed that  I Corinthians says they cannot.  I will get back to the words “arsenokoitai” and “malakoi”.  I just think it so important to see how we  heterosexual believers each measure up against these verses that we lay on the backs of others.  If you are not currently guilty of any of these infractions, gold star to you. Even that is not what will get you the Heaven punch card; it is still only the Blood.

Ah, but that is only one verse. How will I do, how will you do, when I Timothy is applied to  eternal destiny and souls?  I Timothy 1:9-11 says:

“We also know that law is made not for the righteous but for lawbreakers and rebels, the ungodly and sinful, the unholy and irreligious; for those who kill their fathers or mothers, for murderers, for adulterers and perverts, for slave traders and liars and perjurers—and for whatever else is contrary to the sound doctrine that conforms to the glorious gospel of the blessed God, which he entrusted to me.” I Timothy 1:9-11

Again, I am shifting my eyes off GLBT people and especially GLBT Christians and looking in the mirror:  “Kathy, you know the Law was not made for those stand in righteousness before Me.  It was made for people who do not know Me, so that they can see who they are before Me.  They break My commandments.  I tell them to have no god before Me nor to  serve any idols and they are ungodly and sinful. I tell them to not blaspheme Me and  to honor My day and they are unholy and irreligious.  I tell them to honor their parents and not kill and they murder their parents.  I tell them  not  to commit adultery or steal and they are prostitutes and abusers of others  and themselves and sex slave traders. I tell them to not lie and they lie further, they lie against each other.  They do all actions against the Law and against the gospel of God.”

This one I feel solid in. Not because I am so clean, but because it is not about me; I am on the other side of the measuring stick as I was in I Corinthians. I am righteous already in Jesus. The Law no longer holds me in bondage.  Will I still mess up? Of course I will.  But the Law no longer condemns me; it is there to condemn those without God; it is to show them to fear God.  To iterate, if a person professes Jesus, accepts Him as Savior and is declared righteous by God, are they subject to the Law?  No. Does this exemption apply to my GLBT Christian brothers and sisters as well? Yes.  No one else  gets to be Holy Spirit Junior.  If a person accepts Jesus and you see Holy Spirit fruit in their lives, love for others and obedience to God,  you can take your evangelism elsewhere, they are in right standing with Him. The Law does not apply to GLBT believers because they too, just like me, and other believers, are no longer classified as “the wicked.” They too are now  righteous.

Having applied the verses to me and then to GLBT Christians, I still want to know what these two words mean. Again, context is minimal because these are lists that they appear in. I am well aware of the other verses used to denounce the possibility of  homosexual people being Christians.  I covered those verses in articles on Genesis 19, Leviticus and Deuteronomy and Romans 1.  I also encourage you to read Request to Those Who Have Used Romans 1 Against Gay People.

If you need to go back and review the many translations of “malakoi”,  do take a glance again.  The range is :  “effeminate ” to “a man who practices homosexuality”.  The word in Strong’s Concordance is  translated:  “effeminate, soft one or a catamite ( a boy prostitute)” , yet,  we see “homosexual” or “male prostitute” in most modern Bible translations. Is your mind saying some variation of:  “Okay, what is going on here?”  I think the above argument eliminated  our GLBT Christian brothers and sisters from being condemned by the Law; once they  do the same “Jesus is Lord” submission, they too are deemed righteous.  I am excused, they are excused.  We are all standing in Him and in righteousness. This next observation of the verse is not about we followers.  But still, who are the “malakoi”? Are they gay men, gay women, both?  This is so interesting and so repulsive to me.  The word “malakoi” first appeared in Paul’s writing in about 55 AD.  Church writings, literary writings and  Old Bibles translated “malakoi”, written by  Paul  (leave this as uncertain meaning  for now) to “weaklings” to  “the effeminate” to “those who make women of themselves” to ‘”those guilty of unnatural crimes” to ‘boy prostitutes” and then, 1933 rolls around, and it suddenly becomes “men who lie down with men”.  In 1952, “malakoi” becomes “sexual perverts”.  Then, a very unfortunate translation is made  in 1958  and “malakoi” is written as “those who participate in homosexuality”.  The switch is completed in 1979  to “homosexuals”  and , game on against GLBT people.  What was that about? Did cultural bias infiltrate the Word of God to place man’s discomfort and disgust on a group of people they personally did not like or feared or even hated?  What other reason is there? In the last fifty years, the translation of “malakoi” in the modern Bibles has become “homosexual.”

We often proudly say God is the same yesterday, today and tomorrow. And, yes , He is. It is so hard to resist being a bit snarky here, but did someone get the John Smith enlightenment or Mohammad recitation in 1979 personally  from God?  Did God tell them He had made a mistake and that He really meant “homosexuals” when the Holy Spirit inspired Paul to write “malakoi”?  This is serious word switching. Think about recent history in the US at least.  All kinds of movements were happening in the late 60’s /early 70’s.  Vietnam War protests,  the hippies, the Jesus Movement, Civil Rights, Women’s Rights and the Stonewall Rebellion in 1969. Track with me here. We as a church and a society , were quite comfortable with all the GLBT people in the closet. We did not have to deal with them. It was hush, hush, rumors, whispers, finger pointing , mocking and giggling.  Then they start demanding to have their place in society.  They  no longer wanted to hide and be fearful of discovery of their orientation.   Everyone was rushing to the table to be heard and it was their turn too.  Sex went from being whispered about in the 50’s/early 60’s  and bang, crash , it all comes tumbling out.  That must have felt very threatening to people.  Especially with all these gay people  in the pile.  I very much believe the shift in the words in the Bible was rooted in fear.  I have no evidence of it; I do see a pattern of translation that was broken in the 1960’s to 1970’s. The word “malakoi” started its drift from “male prostitute” to “homosexual”.  Would I be pleased if the words  “heterosexual woman” were now translated to prostitute?  No, I would not.  I am not a prostitute , I am a woman attracted to men.  My GBLT friends are not male/female prostitutes, they are people attracted to the same sex. Again, it does not matter how uncomfortable any individual is with this, this is God’s Book , God’s rules, God’s Kingdom.

I want to bring this examination  to exhaustion by looking at the word “arsenokoitai”.  Hang in there with me. I do know this is long, but may I just say, there are about 18 million people in the US alone that may be GLBT.   For the most part, we, the church tell them “go away”.  Sometimes we  soften the message and add  “until you are straight or repent of you sexual sin”.   To me, this is a huge group of humanity  and worth the time.  I would hope that more of us straight Christians would be willing  to invest ourselves, spirits, minds and hearts to make sure that we are sure  that we are sure that these verses do indeed restrict GLBT people from churches and  from heaven.  The destiny of GLBT Christians should be a non-issue at this point, they belong with me under the Blood, they belong with you under the Blood.  But, I have been doing this for five years and  am only now beginning to see loosening of our death grip on the New Testament Torah.  So, just a bit more . . .

Recall,  “arsenokoitai” from  the list above.  It  translates the range of “pervert” to “men who have sex with men”  to “homosexuals”.  The word seems to have been coined by Paul and actually means “man bedder” , that’s it. Does it mean a man that beds another man , or does it mean a man that beds a woman of a woman that beds a man?   I am technically a man bedder.  So, how is this word used historically? That might give us a clue.  Unfortunately, the word is not defined for over 600 years of usage after Paul wrote it. It just stood as part of the list and was repeated over and over. People must have understood what  “arsenokoitai ” meant.  It did not mean “homosexual” because in writings where homosexuals were spoken of, “arsenokotai” was not the word used. Just as the word “malakoi” took the trek down the revisionist road, so did “arsenokoitai.”  In 1525, it  was translated to “abusers of themselves with mankind”   then, though time to “liers with mankind”  to “given to unnatural vices” in 1951. In 1958, “arsenokoitai”  was translated to “sodomite” .    And then finally, in  1963 , in the  NASB, it was written as “homosexual”.   In 1967, in the Catholic Bible,  “arsenokoitai ” was changed from “masturbator” (the no-no of previous times) and debuted as “homosexual”.   Just let that sink in.  It once translated as “abusers of themselves with mankind” and now it had become “homosexual”.    “Abusers of themselves with mankind” is not the same as “homosexual” no matter how biased you may be.  Personal biases are not of God.  I hope we can move beyond them.  As uncomfortable as we may feel with any group of “others”, personal biases are not love. They are not reflective of Jesus.

So,  which of these many, many translations of “arsenokoitai” is best?  “Arsenokoitai” appears in I Timothy 1:9 as a list, a  grouped list:

  • lawbreakers and rebels
  • unholy and irreligious
  • killers of fathers and mothers
  • liars and perjurers
  • adulterers/whoremonger in the KJV  “pornos” , “arsenokotai” and slave traders.  “arsenokoitai”  had previously been  translated as “abusers of themselves with mankind”

The grouping in question is : “pornos”, “arsenokoitai” and men-stealers.  “Pornos” is best translated as “prostitute” because the word itself is associated with money, so “prostitute” is more accurate than adulterer. The grouping is : prostitute, man-stealer (also slave trader in some translations) and “arsenokoitai”.  What would a person in a mutual   loving , relationship with another person be doing in this list? I don’t think any person in a mutual relationship belongs in this groupnor do I think they are intended to be lumped into that  grouping.  Here is abusive sex and  money.  I don’t know exactly “arsenokoitai” means, the point is, nobody does.  I can guess.  The group may be: male prostitute,  sex customer, and sex trader. It could also be : male prostitute, sexual addict, sex trader.  And,  it could mean something else. The point is, we are not sure. Paul indicates it has something to to with male to male sex, servitude and abuse.  It has nothing to do with women, ( because “arsen” means man), therefore, the word “homosexual” is not a good translation at all because that would refer to both  gay men and women .  (Once again, women get a pass on the potential condemnation and that does not seem a God-way-of-doing-things.)

If it is about male to male sex and abuse, that is not equivalent  to same sex, committed , monogamous relationships. I will save my insights and opinions on marriage  and civil unions for another post. This one is about I Corinthians and I Timothy. We  lay the burden on the backs of others and do not lift a finger to help them. We lift a finger to condemn them; Jesus talked about this.  It is time to openly dialogue about this in churches.  I see that GLBT Christians have an equal place at the cross,  equal mercy, equal love, equal acceptance that I enjoy, that you enjoy.  How about the GLBT community not in the church?  Well, they have the same  access to to the  cross that heterosexual non-Christians have. It comes down to the Jesus question for both groups, straight or gay.

This next statement is  a bold one  to make, but I believe it after having spent five years of interaction in the GLBT Christian community. I think the revival in the Church that we are all hoping for and praying for will come from the GLBT Christian community.  These persecuted, yes persecuted Christians,  understand grace , mercy and justice .  Unless you have been in a position personally to witness it, you cannot evaluate their authenticity.    Get around them, go to church services with them.  Do life with them. See what kind of parents and friends they are. They are Jesus followers too.  Profession, fruits, obedience and changed lives.  Even when the bulk of the church will not acknowledge their position in Christ, they maintain it.  They are discounted, invalidated and told they are an oxymoron, and yet, they stand in Him.  They are rejected and scorned by the GLBT community at large for being “traitors” and  for siding with the enemy, the church, the very group that reviles their community, and they remain steadfast in the gap.

They are my brothers and sisters in Christ, in community, in relationship and they are equal to me in every way. They have enriched my life to understand God, faith, endurance and grace more deeply and   . . . they sure are fun to be around!  Are you mumbling or even roaring “heretic” yet?  I anticipate that.  A “heretic” is one who wants to change the belief  system.  I don’t want to change it to something new; I want  to see the meanings of these two words put back closer to the original when there was no biased inequality before the cross; the way I truly think God intended it to be.  Whosoever really does mean whosoever.  Please  look with seriousness at the  prejudice that has sneaked in to the church, and let revival come to the people of God, all the people of God.

Blessings and peace to you, Kathy

RELATED POSTS:

MUST READ:::

“Dear Church, | Ten Insights on the glbt Christian Dialogue”

“Was Sodom Really Destroyed Because it Was a Gay City?”
“Hello, I’m a Detestable Abomination | Looking at Leviticus & Deuteronomy”
“Romans 1:26-32 | To Whom Was This Directed?”
‘Request to Those Who Have Used Romans as Anti-Gay License”
“Words on My Heart”

No part of this original work may be quoted in part without permission. Entire article with author name, Kathy Baldock, must be linked or appear with text.  www.canyonwalkerconnections.com


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