I have a friend who is much smarter than me. With his permission, I am publishing part of a paper that he has researched. I hope that those who have an open mind find it fascinating, as I do:
by Reverend William E Wilson
Intricacies of Language
I have studied many languages over the years. These include Spanish, German, Italian, Welsh, Navajo,
Greek and Hebrew. I speak and read these languages at varying degrees of competence. Currently I
translate 16th and 17th century Northern Italian fencing manuscripts. I can tell you with some surety that
the translator will always be biased in heir translation. Their cultural morays and personal biases will
affect the words they use in their translation. This has happened over the years with the New
Neil R. Lightfoot wrote a book called How We Got the Bible and in this book lays out where especially
the New Testament comes from, the dates of the various original manuscripts that are in existence and
in regards to translation said: “however, we should keep in mind that the version, because they are
translations, are necessarily secondary in rank as witnesses to the text. Something is always lost by way
of translation.” (p 65)
Specifically in regard to English translations he said “Eventually the Vulgate was made the official
Bible of the Roman Catholic Church, and so it remains today. The result is that the Roman Catholic
Bible in English is a translation of a translation and is not a translation from the original languages.” (p
Compounding the issue is the fact that Paul made up words in Greek that were not used by anyone else
which makes translation difficult. This will be discussed in more detail later.
The Scriptures in Question
I will address three scriptural references from the New Testament that are used to condemn
homosexuality. I will treat each one separately. They include:
1 Tim 1:9-10
1 Cor 6:9-10
For this study I will use the Greek-English Interlinear New Testament and also the King James
versions of the Bible.
Before addressing the writings of Paul, I should note that Jesus never addressed homosexuality. In a
number of places in the Gospels Jesus mentioned sins of the spirit but he rarely mentioned sins of the
body and he was completely silent on the topic of homosexuality. As Christians should we listen more
to the words of Jesus than Paul? And what did Paul really say or mean?
I believe the most telling scripture that we may examine to get to the core of the matter is found in 1st
1 Timothy 1:9-10
King James Translation
"Knowing this, that the law is not made for a righteous man, but for the lawless and disobedient, for the
ungodly and for sinners, for unholy and profane, for murderers of fathers and murderers of mothers, for
manslayers, for whoremongers, for them that defile themselves with mankind, for menstealers, for liars,
for perjured persons, and if there be any other thing that is contrary to sound doctrine."
“This means understanding that the law is laid down not for the innocent but for the lawless and
disobedient, for the godless and sinful, for the unholy and profane, for those who kill their father or
mother, for murderers, fornicators, sodomites, slave traders, liars, perjurers, and whatever else is
contrary to the sound teaching . . .”
In looking at these verses in context we are able to see that Paul is setting up classes of behaviors that
are contrary to the law. These classes are
godless and sinful
unholy and profane
murderers of parents or others
those taking part in sex sins involving slavery
liars and perjurers
The section on sex sins involving slavery is stated as “for whoremongers, for them that defile
themselves with mankind, for menstealers”. Looking above at the translation offered after the Greek
passage we see that it is translated as fornicators, sodomites and slave traders. Depending on the
translator a different translation or even meaning may be intoned. When looking at the Scriptures, it is
important in my estimation, to not only look at the translation but also at the original. Without being
able to read and study the original it is very hard to understand what the author meant by what they
wrote. Since at least the time of Jesus, the Jews have maintained their scriptures in the original
language (Hebrew) and have maintained their commentary on the Tanakh and Torah since the early
rabbinical period that dates to just after the time of Jesus. Just prior to the time of Jesus, Hillel, one of
the most famous of the rabbis, lived in Jerusalem and taught and expounded on the Torah. Jesus taught
in a similar vein to Hillel and would have heard not only the written Torah but also the Oral Torah
which later became the rabbinical writings. Being able to work in the original tongue allows us to delve
into the intricacies of the vocabulary used.
The Greek terms for the sex sins are pornois, arsenokoitais and andropodistais. The first word pornois
is based off of the word to sell. General consensus is that this refers to a male prostitute. The second
word, arsenokoitais is a word that was created by Paul. It consists of two words arsen and koitas. Arsen
means male and koitas means bed and the exact meaning of the word is not known. However, a
definition may be determined and most definitely is not homosexual. The last word is andropodistais
and means slave trader. If we take these in context, we may see that the section deals with those that
prostitute their bodies or who do the same with others.
Arsenokoitai should not be translated as homosexual. This is a 19th century and later term and shows
the bias of the translator. And the word is a joining of words in two different languages, Greek and
Latin. This term has been applied to not only males but also to females and the original Greek
specifically applies to males and not to females.
1 Corinthians 6:9-10
King James translation
"Know ye not that the unrighteous shall not inherit the kingdom of God? Be not deceived: neither
fornicators, nor idolaters, nor adulterers, nor effeminate, nor abusers of themselves with mankind, Nor
thieves, nor covetous, nor drunkards, nor revilers, nor extortioners, shall inherit the kingdom of God."
9 ἢ οὐκ οἴδατε ὅτι ἄδικοι θεοῦ βασιλείαν οὐ κληρονοµήσουσιν; µὴ πλανᾶσθε· οὔτε πόρνοι οὔτε
εἰδωλολάτραι οὔτε µοιχοὶ οὔτε µαλακοὶ οὔτε ἀρσενοκοῖται 10 οὔτε κλέπται οὔτε πλεονέκται, οὐ
µέθυσοι, οὐ λοίδοροι, οὐχ ἅρπαγες βασιλείαν θεοῦ κληρονοµήσουσιν.
“Do you not know that wrongdoers will not inherit the kingdom of God? Do not be deceived!
Fornicators, idolaters, adulterers, male prostitutes, sodomites, thieves, the greedy, drunkards, revilers,
robbers – none of these will inherit the kingdom of God.”
Like the quote from 1 Timothy, this scripture refers to “arsenokoitai”. Unlike 1 Timothy this scripture
is not set up in pairs or triplets of like behaviors. If Paul had meant to refer to homosexuals (or
specifically to male-male sexual liaisons) he would have used the standard term for the time –
paiderasste. This was the term for male same sex relationships.
So what did Paul mean? It is very difficult to say. But reading these scriptures in context and looking
carefully at the meanings of the words involved we may make a best guess and this is not homosexual.
“For this cause God gave them up unto vile affections: for even their women did change the natural use
into that which is against nature: And likewise also the men, leaving the natural use of the woman,
burned in their lust one toward another; men with men working that which is unseemly, and receiving
in themselves that recompense of their error which was meet."
“διὰ τοῦτο παρέδωκεν αὐτοὺς ὁ θεὸς εἰς πάθη τιµίας· αἵ τε γὰρ θήλειαι αὐτῶν µετήλλαξαν τὴν
φυσικὴν χρῆσιν εἰς τὴν παρὰ φύσιν, ὁµοίως τε καὶ οἱ ἄρσενες φέντες τὴν φυσικὴν χρῆσιν τῆς θηλείας
ἐξεκαύθησαν ἐν τῇ ὀρέξει αὐτῶν εἰς λλήλους, ἄρσενες ἐν ἄρσεσιν τὴν σχηµοσύνην κατεργαζόµενοι
καὶ τὴν ντιµισθίαν ἣν ἔδει τῆς πλάνης αὐτῶν ἐν ἑαυτοῖς πολαµβάνοντες.”
“For this reason God gave them up to degrading passions. Their women exchanged natural intercourse
for unnatural, and in the same way also the men, giving up natural intercourse with women, were
consumed with passion for one another.”
As stated by Dr. R.S. Truluck, "Paul's writings have been taken out of context and twisted to punish and
oppress every identifiable minority in the world: Jews, children, women, blacks, slaves, politicians,
divorced people, convicts, pro choice people, lesbians, gays, bisexuals, transsexuals, religious
reformers, the mentally ill, and the list could go on and on. Paul is often difficult and confusing to
understand. A lot of Paul's writing is very difficult to translate. Since most of his letters were written
in response to news from other people, reading Paul can be like listening to one side of a telephone
conversation. We know, or think we know, what Paul is saying, but we have to guess what the other
side has said." "The six Bible passages used to condemn homosexuals," at:
Paul wrote this letter to the Romans who were immersed in Roman culture (see verse 7). The whole of
chapter 1 is an exhortation against idolatrous religious worship and rituals. Verses 26 and 27 are part of
this. Today many religious leaders take these verses on their own out of context. If we take these
verses in context it is a diatribe against Christians who have reverted to pagan practices including
heterosexuals engaging in ritual homosexual behavior. This does not attack homosexuals who may be
in monogamous homosexual relationships.
Looking Back to the “Old Testament”
First I would state that the Old Testament is best studied and viewed within the context of the history of
Israel and the Jewish people. I personally believe that Christianity is removed far enough from Judaism
that the Jewish scripture (Torah and Tanakh) should be minimally used by Christian communities
especially if these communities believe that Jesus fulfilled the Law.
"You shall not lie with a male as those who lie with a female; it is an abomination."
"If a man lies with a male as those who lie with a woman, both of them have committed an
abomination and they shall surely be put to death."
These two passages are used by Christians to condemn homosexual behavior. However, these passages
when read in context cannot be taken out of the context that they were written in. Leviticus is the Law
as given to the Israelites. One portion of the Law may not be taken without the whole of the Law.
Leviticus 11 talks about food restrictions. If Christians condemn homosexuals they should also
condemn Red Lobster for serving shellfish. Leviticus 23 details the prohibition of doing any type of
work on the Sabbath. Leviticus 19 prohibits mixing breeds and also prohibits cutting specific types of
hair on a man's head. These are just a few examples. All the laws given in Leviticus are demanded
equally. None may be left out. It is either all or nothing.
The warning is given in Leviticus 26:14-16 that "If you do not obey me and do not carry out all of these
commandments, if instead, you reject my statutes, and if your soul abhors my ordinances so as not to
carry out all my commandments ...I, in turn, will do this to you: I will appoint over you a sudden terror,
consumption and fever that shall waste away the eyes and cause the soul to pine away; also, you shall
sow your seed uselessly, for your enemies shall eat it up." This is just a sample of the punishments that
the Lord would deliver if any of the Laws were broken.
Using Leviticus to condemn homosexuals is ludicrous and hypocritical.
What did Jesus say about homosexuality?
Outwardly no. He definitely did not condemn. But what many do not know, he did condone. But the
question that English speakers will ask is how?
We all know from Sunday School the story of the Centurion who comes to Jesus asking that his
"servant" be healed. The term this Centurion uses is translated typically as servant in English.
"Lord," he said, "my servant lies at home paralyzed and in terrible suffering." (Matthew 8:6 NIV)
The word in Greek translated into English is pais. This term may mean son or boy, servant, or a special
type of servant - a male lover. At this time in history Men would often buy a male slave as a lover. This
may seem bad in our modern minds but at that time it was a respected practice. And Jesus would have
known of this practice.
When talking of other slaves the Centurion uses the standard term doulos. In Luke's account the servant
was the Centurion's entimos doulos or honored slave. So it was not a son. And in Matthew where the
Centurion directly talks to Jesus he uses the term pais in talking of his servant.
Can you imagine a Roman officer stooping to speaking with a Jewish Rabbi who he knew should
denounce gay relationships? And what did Jesus say? He said he would come and heal him. There was
no denouncing the "sin." Jesus did not discriminate. And if Jesus did not discriminate, why should we?
In conclusion I would state that it is crucial to look at the original language that scripture was written
in. It is also crucial to look at the social setting and most important to not take scripture out of context.
As was stated earlier the Bible has been used to persecute and condemn many types of people. Instead
of using the Bible to condemn it should be used to uplift. How the Bible is translated may also foment
this type of behavior. If we try and determine the actual intent of the authors and not take English
translations of the Tanakh and New Testament texts at “face value”, we may walk away from our
studies with a very different view on many topics.