Monday, January 12, 2009

The Case for Malakoi

To understand Malakos, we must understand what “softness” would have meant in a First century world. David E Fredrickson states that softness extends well beyond the passive role in a male/male sexual activity. He states that “even men who are too interested in having sex with women, their wives included, were deemed soft” (219). But the term extends beyond the sexual realm and into more generally evils of excess or greed and lack of self control (Freickson 219). The association of Malakos with lack of self-control has a long history in ancient moral philosophy. Aristotle observed that “men are self-restrained and enduring, and unrestrained and soft (malako,j) in regard to Pleasures and Pains” (Freickson 220). Fredrickson states that the correct background for interpreting malakoi in our current language should be terms like “greedy ones” and “carouses” (220).  It is more like the idle rich or "those who wear soft clothes."

Holly E. Hearon makes a similar case by stating that in moral discourse those who are morally weak, those who enjoy the trappings of luxury and live decadently is what Paul is hoping to convey with his use of malako,j (613). She uses the word “metro-sexual” as a figurative translation to our current context (613). The problem with using the term metro-sexual is that the term is just as subject to a change in meaning and puts the readers back into the same problem as we started out with. Metro-sexual is a trendy word and its use is outdated in current American culture. Future readers of the Bible would try to put metro and sexual together and be utterly confused. Instead, I propose a word that will stand the test of time yet still speak to our context and communicate a lack of self control. The simplest way to translate malako,j would simply be “excess” as it encompasses the meaning in all forms, not just sexual. Excess gets at the heart of those who enjoy luxury and live decadently and are morally weak (Hearon 613)

1 comment:

Anglican Boy said...

The excess translation makes sense in why you didn't like Fireproof and why you did like Fight Club. I'm getting it!