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Cor. 6:9 and Tim 1:10: The original word in Greek was "arsenokoitai."

The Latin Vulgate, (year 405), translates it as "masculorum concubitores";

Wyclif (1508) tranlates it as "synne of Sodom";

the Geneva Bible (1560) translates it as "bouggerers";

Bishops Bible (1586) translates it as "liers with mankinde";

King James Authorized Version (1611) translates it as "abusers of themselves with mankind";

Darby (1890) translates it as "abuse themselves with men";

Louis Segond (1910) translates it as "les infames";

Goodspeed Bible (1951) translates it as "given to unnatural vice";

Jerusalem Bible (French) (1955) translates it as "people with infamous habits";

Phillips (1958) translates it as "pervert";

the Amplified Version (1958) translates it as "those who participate in homosexuality";

the Jerusalem Bible (German) (1968) translates it as "child molesters"

the Jerusalem Bible (English) (1968) translates it as "sodomites";

the Revised Standard Version (1971) translates it as "sexual perverts."

One translation says "people with infamous habits" while another says "child molesters".

Arsenokoitai is a combination of "man" (arseno) and "bedder" (koitai). A literal translation is "man-bedder". The question is whether or not the word refers to those who bed men, or men who bed. Or, does it refer to something else? For example, look at the title "Lady-killer." Does it mean someone who kills ladies? Or a lady who kills? As we know, that title was actually given to men who were so good looking and charming that women found them hard to resist.

From this approach, it is impossible to know what Paul meant.

Another method of trying to figure out what Paul meant was to look at context. However, the word appears in a vice list, so there is no context to work with.

So we are stuck with a compound word with multiple possible definitions, first-time use, without context. That is very far from "clear."

In the end, the definitions of words and phrases depends on their usage. The word arsenokoitai is found 73 times outside of Paul's letters (although scholars doubt that Paul wrote 1 Timothy). In almost every one of these occurrences the word appears in a vice list (as it does in 1. Cor. and 1 Tim.) so it is impossible to definitely determine definition. In the few times it does not appear in vice lists it is clearly not used to refer to homosexuality but rather molestation, slavery, and even heterosexual behavior. (See Miner & Tyler, 2002; Townsley, 2002; and Brawley, 1996) The closest use of the word to Paul's time was 100 years after Corinthians was written. In this usage the word was used to refer to men who molest boys (McNeil, 1993).

Some contend that Paul coined the word from the LXX of Leviticus. I hope so, that would make things much easier. As we saw, Leviticus discussed sacred prostitution so if Paul coined the word from that, then Paul likewise condemned sacred prostitution and not homosexuality.

Finally, we know from archaeological records that there were in fact several words in Paul's time used to refer to homosexuals (Miner and Connoley). If Paul had intented to refer to gays would it not have made more sense to use one of these words than to resort to the vague word arsenokoitai?


Jeramy Townsley (homepage: at

Rembert Truluck (homepage: at or write to P.O. Box 24062, Oakland, CA 94623

Greg Jordan ( at


Posts: 4 | Posted: 12:19 PM on May 9, 2003 | IP
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