Wednesday, January 14, 2009

The Case for Arsenokoites

The translation of the word avrsenokoi,thj is more difficult. The term is a notorious problem because no occurrence of term before Paul has been discovered (Freickson 220). The two parts “arsen” and “koites” literally means “male bed” (“Arsenokoites”) (Willam F. Orr and James Arthur Walther 202). This has led modern interpreters to claim it means “men who have sex with men” (Martin 39). Dale Martin points out that this approach makes the error of defining a word by its assumed etymology and the etymology of a word is its history, not its meaning (Martin 39). There is also an err to assume that only males would be in a male bed, where a variety of people would be found in a male’s bed in the 1st century from his wife, to a slave, to a prostitute. To understand the term we must at how the term was used post-Paul but pre-1946, as this is the first instance the term homosexuality was used in the Bible (Gomes 148).

From this approach we learn that arsenokoites is treated as an example of unjust, violent behavior of a person lacking self control (Freickson 221).Here Paul is pick up on the thread of Greek and Jewish cultures and weaving them together not only to condemn pederasty but on all other unjust acts (Crompton). Vice lists like Paul’s often included violent, exploitive love of boys in association with other unjust acts such as adultery, theft, slander and avarice (Freickson 221).

With the translations of malakoi and arsenokoites as “excess” and “exploitation”, we now have a fuller understanding on the moral flaws Paul was trying to get at. These flaws are not specifically homosexual activity nor are they sexual activity in general, but a bigger blanket statement on the shortcomings of the church in Corinth. I will now look at how this understanding fits into the overall interpretation of 1 Corinthians.

1 comment:

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