Dan O. Via on ἀρσενοκοίτης
As I said earlier, the reason the SideB perspective on same-gender sex persists among Christians is because: (a.) Jesus’ teaching on marriage and divorce have long been seen as pointing Christians toward a heterosexual, monogamous standard for sexual behavior, and (b.) there are several strongly worded condemnations of same-gender sex in the Bible — both in the Old and New Testaments. It is difficult to arrive at an approving stance for a behavior condemned in the Scriptures.
On the Internet you can find several attempts to undermine the strength or relevance of the various Biblical condemnations of same gender sex. Some of these are fascinating but technical (see: Scripture and Homosexuality by Jeramy Townsley) and some more accessible (see: the widely viewed video by Matthew Vines: The Gay Debate: The Bible and Homosexuality). (And, you can find links to even more of this on my Sexuality page.)
One of the widely disputed issues is the translation of the Greek word ἀρσενοκοίτης, which appears in 1 Corinthians 6:9 and 1 Timothy 1:10. This has commonly been taken as a reference to males who engage in same gender sex.
Here are the passages in question. The words translating ἀρσενοκοίτης are noted in bold print. I have chosen to use the same translation for both, the older, commonly-used NIV (I apologize for the translators’ choice of wording):
“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.” 1 Corinthians 6:9-11 NIV.
“We know that the law is good if one uses it properly. 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.” 1Timothy 1:8-11 NIV
Sean over at his Initial Explorations blog is posting a series on the translation of ἀρσενοκοίτης. He is responding to the way he feels the issue is being commonly misrepresented on the Internet.
And he found an interesting quote from Dan O. Via about the translation of this word — a quote I hadn’t seen until this morning. What makes this quote significant is that it is found in an essay arguing a SideA Christian acceptance of gay marriage. So, this admission cannot be taken as being biased by the author’s desire to establish his point:
I believe that Hays is correct in holding that arsenokoitēs refers to a man who engages in same-sex intercourse (Hays 1997, 97). The term is a compound of the words for “male” (arsēn) and “bed” (koitē) and thus could naturally be taken to mean a man who goes to bed with other men. True the meaning of a compound word does not necessarily add up to the sum of its parts (Martin 119). But in this case I believe the evidence suggests that it does. In the Greek version of the two Leviticus passages that condemn male homosexuality (Lev 18:22; 20:13) a man is not to lie with a male as with a woman each text contains both the words arsēn and koitē. First Cor 6:9-10 simply classifies homosexuality as a moral sin that finally keeps one out of the kingdom of God.
— Dan O. Via and Robert A. J. Gagnon, Homosexuality and the Bible: Two Views. (Minneapolis: Fortress Press, 2003), 13.
There is very good reason to think that ἀρσενοκοίτης in 1 Corinthians 6 and 1 Timothy 1 is a reference to male same gender sex.
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