The Apostle Paul and Homosexuality—Answering Homosexual Objections (Part 1)

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Paul on homosexuality

Objection #1: The apostle Paul was only referring to exploitative homosexual relationships when he referred to the word arsenokoitai(es).

When reading the apostle Paul's words about homosexuality, modern "gay apologists" assert either ambiguity or alternative meanings for the original Greek word found in the biblical text. Instead of arsenokoites (plural, arsenokoitai), they claim that a much better and clearer Greek term was available for Paul's usage if he had actually intended to condemn nonexploitative, monogamous homosexual relationships.

However, there is absolutely no scholarly agreement regarding the identification of this elusive "better" Greek word. The suggested alternatives are all over the map, and there is nothing even remotely close to a consensus—even among liberal scholars. Some contend that the apostle Paul should have utilized paiderasste to more precisely indicate consensual same-sex activity between adult males. However, this term more accurately refers to adult male relationships with minor-aged boys, as can easily be seen by considering the very close Greek relative paiderastía, which is translated into English as pederasty.

Others argue for terms such as arrenomanes or maiandros, which were both extremely obscure terms during antiquity. Arrenomanes occurs in only two ancient Greek writings (Cat.Cod.Astr. 8(2).43 and v.1 in Heph.Astr.1.1) and maiandros appears in just one ancient Greek manuscript (Hdn.Epim. 83). Arrenomanes and maiandros are also literally interpreted as "mad after males/men," and each could actually be argued to have the more specific meaning of sex-crazed, promiscuous homosexuals.

As for the Greek words which were commonly employed during the first century to describe sodomy (arrenomixiaandrobateoandrobates), each of them are definitely too general and imprecise. They can be broadly understood to mean sexual activities that are either oral, anal or animal in nature.

If the apostle Paul had utilized the word androkoites, the issue of ambiguity would have been even more pronounced since andros can be translated as either man or mankind. And, of course, "mankind" includes both males and females. So, when the apostle Paul chose the linguistic stem arsen(os), the result was much greater clarity and certainty. This distinct Greek term can only be properly translated as male.

Each of the aforementioned alternative terms exhibit greater ambiguity and/or are less descriptive of nonexploitative, monogamous homosexual relationships. Therefore, Arsenokoitai(es) unquestionably represents the best option at the apostle Paul's disposal. It also makes profoundly much more sense for Paul to choose a word derived from the Septuagint, a source that would have certainly been more familiar and accessible to him and his scriptural audience. As Dr. Robert Gagnon flatly told me in a recent telephone interview, "There is no better word!"

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