1 Corinthians

This passage is a real classic. When the details on this matter to you, you find that different Bibles give quite a different impression depending on how they translate it. Here is the relevant section from the NIV translation, where I have marked in bold the section that is most relevant –

Or do you not know that wrongdoers will not inherit the kingdom of God? Do not be deceived: Neither the sexually immoral nor idolaters nor adulterers nor men who have sex with men[a] 10 nor thieves nor the greedy nor drunkards nor slanderers nor swindlers will inherit the kingdom of God. 11 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.

On the other hand, the NASB words it as follows –

Or do you not know that the unrighteous will not inherit the kingdom of God? Do not be deceived; neither fornicators, nor idolaters, nor adulterers, nor [f]effeminate, nor homosexuals, 10 nor thieves, nor the covetous, nor drunkards, nor revilers, nor swindlers, will inherit the kingdom of God. 11 Such were some of you; but you were washed, but you were sanctified, but you were justified in the name of the Lord Jesus Christ and in the Spirit of our God.

So as you can see, some Bible translations use the word ‘homosexual’ in this passage and some dont. And some Bible translations portray the point as being made about males, whereas the word ‘homosexual’ used in other translations, tends to be understood to some degree as also referring to female couples. Personally, I agree with those who say that the NIV translates it more accurately, by not using the word ‘homosexual’ and by emphasising the masculine nature of the wording in the original Greek of the manuscripts.


So as you can see there is ambiguity when translating across languages and across millennia. This is of course true for a variety of elements in the text. EG we also see above that one translation uses the word ‘greedy’ while the other uses the word ‘covetous’, which to my mind, means something similar, yet clearly different. Gay activists exploit the ambiguity that arises from translating the element on sexuality, and tend to seek to portray the situation as translators not knowing what they are translating. But as in the example of ‘greedy’ verses ‘covetous’, there is broad agreement by professional translators about the general meaning. It’s more the finer details that are widely debated.

One of the things that the broad church and the world in general has learnt over the past 100 years or so, is that for men, same-sex attraction cannot be eradicated. Reduced, maybe. But not eradicated no matter how much prayer and fasting and casting out of demons is undertaken. For women though, same-sex attraction can pass. And if same-sex attraction cannot be eradicated for men, this does have a bearing on how we interpret verse 11, above. For a long time, I think Christians have interpreted verse 11 to mean that a homosexual can loose their same-sex attractions and become entirely straight. Is that what St Paul meant, when he wrote verse 11? I dont know for sure, but I doubt it, because we just dont see that happen for your average same-sex attracted sincere Christian man. So maybe Paul simply meant that such men, just stop engaging in gay sex, even though they possibly continue to experience the attractions.

Lets consider more of the details. The NASB translation is more “word for word”. The word that they have translated as ‘homosexuals’, is in the original manuscripts, the Greek word ‘arsenokoites’. It’s a compound word comprised of a part meaning ‘man’ and a part meaning ‘bed’ and carrying a sexual connotation. It doesnt take much imagination, to make conclusions about what it would mean to go to bed with a man, when the connotation is sexual. Gay activists often imply that it’s an anachronism to use the word ‘homosexual’ in the Bible, because the word didnt exist until the 19th century. My response to that is that if a contemporary word describes something that would have existed back then, then it’s not an anachronism.

Or are they saying that there were no same-sex attracted people in Biblical times? Gay activists will often claim that the meaning of the Greek word ‘arsenokoites’ is unclear, but that’s not the sense if you look up a dictionary of the Greek (eg http://www.biblestudytools.com/lexicons/greek/kjv/arsenokoites.html). In fact Dr Michael Brown wrote in Can You Be Gay and Christian that “… every major dictionary of New Testament Greek or Classical Greek understood Paul’s vocabulary (in particular the word arsenokoitēs) to refer to men engaging in homosexual acts…” Brown adds that “many of these lexicographers were anything but fundamentalists and were simply experts in Greek…”

The word that the NASB has translated as ‘effeminate’ is ‘malakoi’ in the original Greek. This word is generally defined in dictionaries as having a broad meaning, from ‘soft’ to ‘lazy’, ‘luxurious’ and ‘feminine’. When the NIV translators saw this word located next to ‘arsenokoites’, they have apparently concluded that the one word illustrates a feminine male and the other word illustrates a more dominant male associated with the other male in a sexual pair, so they have translated both words to comprise a single phrase. In contrast, the NASB have translated each word individually, but they still obviously believe there is same-sex eroticism indicated.

As they do for Romans 1, some gay activists claim that 1 Corinthians 6:9 is not referring to loving gay relationships, but to exploitative sex, perhaps pederasty. But guess what? there is reason to believe that the Greek word ‘arsenokoites’ was invented based on the Hebrew wording used in Leviticus. And in Leviticus, it clearly says “man with man” (not “man with boy” or “man with teenager”), IE the case for ‘arsenokoites’ only meaning exploitative sex, is not strong. It’s also worth noting that St Paul made similar statements in Ephesians chapter 5, where he also stated that amongst Christians there must not be even a hint of sexual immorality, and in Galatians 5, where he said much the same and declared orgies to be sinful too. So it seems clear that Paul’s sexual ethics were not simply about oppression and exploitation, as some claim.

At the end of the day, the claim that we dont know what 1 Corinthians is referring to, in regards to ‘arsenokoites’ is an exaggeration. It’s fairly clear that it’s referring to sex between males in general.


Some Scripture quotations taken from the NASB.




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