I Corinthians 6:9 & Timothy 1:10

Paul’s reference to malakoi and arsenokoitai

Evangelical New Testament scholar Gordon D. Fee of Regent College says that these two terms are “difficult.” The Fundamentalist Journal admits: “These words are difficult to translate.” Of arsenokoitai, Fee says: “This is its first appearance in preserved literature, and subsequent authors are reluctant to use it, especially when describing homosexual activity.” Scroggs explains that “Paul is thinking only about pederasty, … There was no other form of male homosexuality in the Greco-Roman world which could come to mind.” Ancient sources indicate that the malakoi were “effeminate call boys.” Though Paul seems to have coined arsenokoitai it refers, perhaps, to the call boys’ customers, although nobody knows for sure. Paul’s main point, however, is clear: Christians who slander and sue each other in pagan courts are just as shameful as robbers, drunkards, the greedy, and the malakoi and arsenokoitai (whatever they were). The other kind of pederasty in Paul’s day was that of the slave “pet boys” who were sexually exploited by adult male owners. The desired boys were prepubescent or at least without beards so that they seemed like females. These men had wives for dowries, procreation and the rearing of heirs. They had “pet boys” for sex — hardly the picture of gay relationships today.

The Bible is an empty closet. It has nothing specific to say about homosexuality as such. But the Bible has plenty to say about God’s grace to all people and God’s call to justice and mercy. Jesus summarized God’s law in these words of scripture: “You shall love the Lord your God with all your heart and with all your soul and with all your mind… [and] you shall love your neighbor as yourself.” (Matthew 22:37-39).

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