The Usage of the Word 'Homosexual' in Paul's Writings (1a) The Word 'Arsenkoites'
Steven Long August 26 2012

The hot topic issue in both the political arena and the religious circles today seems to be the issue of homosexuality–or at least gay marriage. Both sides have expressed the issue as clearly and concisely as possible and there have certainly been name-bashing from both ends. Now, this blog is mainly dedicated to issues involving the straying of orthodox theology of mainstream evangelicalism, so you might be wondering why I would write on the issue of homosexuality and gay marriage.

Simply stated, it is because many professing Christians seem to have given in to the idea that Jesus was all love, non-judgmental, and never condemned anyone. This idea has spilled over into the pulpits and consequently, into the pews.

Speaking with a friend lately, I was challenged by a statement he made. This friend stated,

"Paul uses a never before seen word that in its next known appearance seems to mean prostitute. The other NT usage carries different meanings depending on the perspective of the reader; some scholars think it applied to those who left heterosexual relationships for homosexual ones".

My curiosity was peeked. I had heard the argument that the word was never seen or known before. But the next statement was new to me. And since I have a wealth of resources at my disposal, particularly regarding the original languages (Hebrew, Aramaic, Greek) I decided to delve into this subject and explore it a little further. This post will be longer than usual; I normally like to keep things short and concise, but this is a topic that is important and must be examined carefully. So please bear with me as I do my best to tackle this subject.

I am going to approach the main arguments for gay marriage and homosexuality under four different blog posts with the first being divided into two parts: (1a) The word arsenkoites and its meaning, and (1b)the etymology of arsenkoites and its logical inferences. (2) Only the Old Testament speaks clearly against homosexuality. The actual word only refers to pedophilia and has nothing to do with consenting or loving relationships . (3) The authority of Scripture on the subject of homosexuality.

The Word 'Homosexual'

The actual word 'homosexual' and its forms only appears twice in the entire New Testament (ESV version). Both occurrences appear in Paul's letters and so it will not be hard to trace the word and determine how Paul uses it. The two times it is seen is in 1Corinthians 6:9 and 1Timothy 1:10. I have presented them in both English and the Greek for comparison.

1Corinthians 6:9 (ESV)–  Or do you not know that the unrighteous will not inherit the kingdom of God? Do not be deceived: neither the sexually immoral, nor idolaters, nor adulterers, nor men who practice homosexuality

1Corinthians 6:9 (NA27) – Ἢ οὐκ οἴδατε ὅτι ἄδικοι θεοῦ βασιλείαν οὐ κληρονομήσουσιν; μὴ πλανᾶσθε· οὔτε πόρνοι οὔτε εἰδωλολάτραι οὔτε μοιχοὶ οὔτε μαλακοὶ οὔτε ἀρσενοκοῖται

1Timothy 1:10 (ESV) – the sexually immoral, men who practice homosexuality, enslavers, liars, perjurers, and whatever else is contrary to sound doctrine

1Timothy 1:10 (NA27) – πόρνοις ἀρσενοκοίταις ἀνδραποδισταῖς ψεύσταις ἐπιόρκοις, καὶ εἴ τι ἕτερον τῇ ὑγιαινούσῃ διδασκαλίᾳ ἀντίκειται

The Greek words in bold are the English words rendered as 'homosexual.' You will note that 1Corinthians 6:9 has two bold words. Both of these words refer to acts of sexual intercourse between two males. The first word indicates the male passive partner whereas the second references the male initiator or dominant role. Several dictionaries and lexicons affirm this:

ἀρσενοκοίτης (arsenokoitēs), ου (ou), ὁ (ho): n.masc.; ≡ Str 733—LN 88.280 male homosexual, one who takes the active male role in homosexual intercourse (1Co 6:9), specifically interpreted as male homosexual paedophilia (NAB footnote); possibly a more generic term in first Timothy; sodomites (RSV, NRSV, NKJV), perverts (NIV, NEB, REB), practicing homosexuals (NAB), homosexual (NJB), (1Ti 1:10+), note: translations possibly use certain specific terms to infer or allow certain theologies (Emphasis mine)1

ἀρσενοκοίτης, ου m: a male partner in homosexual intercourse—‘homosexual.’ οὐκ οἴδατε ὅτι … οὔτε μοιχοὶ οὔτε μαλακοὶ οὔτε ἀρσενοκοῖται … βασιλείαν θεοῦ κληρονομήσουσιν ‘don’t you know that … no adulterers or homosexuals … will receive the kingdom of God’ 1 Cor 6:9–10. It is possible that ἀρσενοκοίτης in certain contexts refers to the active male partner in homosexual intercourse in contrast with μαλακόςb, the passive male partner (Emphasis mine) 2

ἀρσενο-κοίτης, (κοίτη) lying with men, N.T.
ΑΡΣΗΝ, ὁ, ἡ, ἄρσεν, τό, gen. ἄρσενος; older form of ἄρρην: Ion. ἔρσην:—male, Lat. mas, Il., etc.; ἄρρην, ὁ, or ἄρρεν, τό, the male, Aesch.; οἱ ἄρσενες the male sex, Thuc.
2. masculine, strong, Eur.: metaph. mighty, κτύπος ἄρσην πόντου Soph.
3. of the gender of nouns, masculine, ὀνόματα3

Likewise, the word μαλακός is affirmed by these lexicons as 'effiminate, soft,' indicating a more passive role in sexual intercourse.

Paul condemns both of these actions in 1Corinthians 6:9. This is clearly seen in the fact that both words are used as the subject of the negation of the word κληρονομήσουσιν, which is the future indicative 'they shall not inherit.' In fact, he precludes the statement by telling his Corinthian audience, "Do not be deceived; neither...will inherit the Kingdom of God. Note, that Paul uses that phrase twice, once at the beginning of the phrase, and then at the end to solidify that what he has said is sure and true.

In the next post we will tackle the etymology of the word and conclude some logical inferences from how it is used in the New Testament.

Standing for Truth,

1. Dictionary of Biblical Languages Swanson, James (Electronic Edition, Logos Bible Software)
2. Greek-English Lexicon Based on Semantic Domains, Louw, Johannes, Nida, Eugene v.1, p. 771
3. An Intermediate Greek-English Lexion Liddell, Henry, p. 120