Paul could have used other words

Objection: If Paul had wanted to make it clear that he was referring

to homosexual acts, there are other words he could have used.

Why did Paul use obscure, hard-to-interpret words when he could have used any one of a number of other words (e.g. paiderasste) that would have been readily understood? This suggests Paul had some meaning other than homosexual acts in mind. www.gaychristian101.com, for example  lists 17 other words that could have been used. The argument there is that the terms Paul did use (arsenokoites ), based on Leviticus 20:13, refer to temple prostitution. If Paul had wanted to refer to homosexual acts, he would have used one of the following 17 words.

Response

We have already dealt with the suggestion that Leviticus 20:13 refers only to ritual impurity or temple prostitution. Of the alternative words suggested, two (frictrix and tribades) are Latin words. Since the New Testament was written in Greek it is clear why Paul did not use them. Two others (euryproktoi and lakkoproktoi) the author describes as “lewd” or “vulgar”. Again, the reason for Paul not using such words is obvious. Several (erastes, eromenos, paiderasste, paiderastes/paiderastïs, paidomanes, paidophthoros) are related to pederasty (men having sex with boys). It will be seen that several of those start with “paid”, derived from “pais” meaning “child”. The reason Paul did not use any of these is that, contrary to what is often asserted, he wasn’t limiting his meaning to pederasty. He used a much more general term incorporating all homosexual acts. The website defines arrenomanes as “mad after men/boy crazy” and hetairistriai as women attracted to women.. They therefore describes an orientation but Paul didn’t address the orientation. He said that the actions were wrong whether a person was oriented that way or not. Hetairistriai, dihetaristriai, tribas, tribades and lesbiai are all said to be roughly equivalent and to refer to lesbian sexuality. Tribas refers to the partner in a lesbian relationship who takes the male role. It is true that Paul does refer to lesbianism once (Romans 1:26) but there he refers to women who exchange natural relations for unnatural ones. His meaning is very clear because he then says, “In the same way the men also abandoned natural relations with women and were inflamed with lust for one another - men with men”. Arsenokoites is not used in this passage so any suggestion that Paul is referring to temple prostitution is irrelevant. That leaves two words, kinaidos and pathikos, both said to refer to the passive male. Paul did not need those as he used another word, malakos with the same meaning. So, one wonders what the point is. Paul was very clear what he was referring to (especially in Romans 1). In 1 Corinthians 6 and 1 Timothy 1, he used a word that specifically reflected the Levitical prohibition. In all instances he did not restrict the forbidden behaviour to a particular type of homosexuality but condemned all instances of men having sex with men and women with women.

Related pages

Have the New Testament words been mistranslated?
© 2017 Peter Cheyne
A Christian’s Guide To Homosexuality
Truth In Love
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Paul could have used

other words

Objection: If Paul had wanted to make it clear

that he was referring to homosexual acts,

there are other words he could have used.

Why did Paul use obscure, hard-to-interpret words when he could have used any one of a number of other words (e.g. paiderasste) that would have been readily understood? This suggests Paul had some meaning other than homosexual acts in mind. www.gaychristian101.com, for example  lists 17 other words that could have been used. The argument there is that the terms Paul did use (arsenokoites ), based on Leviticus 20:13, refer to temple prostitution. If Paul had wanted to refer to homosexual acts, he would have used one of the following 17 words.

Response

We have already dealt with the suggestion that Leviticus 20:13 refers only to ritual impurity or temple prostitution. Of the alternative words suggested, two (frictrix and tribades) are Latin words. Since the New Testament was written in Greek it is clear why Paul did not use them. Two others (euryproktoi and lakkoproktoi) the author describes as “lewd” or “vulgar”. Again, the reason for Paul not using such words is obvious. Several (erastes, eromenos, paiderasste, paiderastes/paiderastïs, paidomanes, paidophthoros) are related to pederasty (men having sex with boys). It will be seen that several of those start with “paid”, derived from “pais” meaning “child”. The reason Paul did not use any of these is that, contrary to what is often asserted, he wasn’t limiting his meaning to pederasty. He used a much more general term incorporating all homosexual acts. The website defines arrenomanes as “mad after men/boy crazy” and hetairistriai as women attracted to women.. They therefore describes an orientation but Paul didn’t address the orientation. He said that the actions were wrong whether a person was oriented that way or not. Hetairistriai, dihetaristriai, tribas, tribades and lesbiai are all said to be roughly equivalent and to refer to lesbian sexuality. Tribas refers to the partner in a lesbian relationship who takes the male role. It is true that Paul does refer to lesbianism once (Romans 1:26) but there he refers to women who exchange natural relations for unnatural ones. His meaning is very clear because he then says, “In the same way the men also abandoned natural relations with women and were inflamed with lust for one another - men with men”. Arsenokoites is not used in this passage so any suggestion that Paul is referring to temple prostitution is irrelevant. That leaves two words, kinaidos and pathikos, both said to refer to the passive male. Paul did not need those as he used another word, malakos with the same meaning. So, one wonders what the point is. Paul was very clear what he was referring to (especially in Romans 1). In 1 Corinthians 6 and 1 Timothy 1, he used a word that specifically reflected the Levitical prohibition. In all instances he did not restrict the forbidden behaviour to a particular type of homosexuality but condemned all instances of men having sex with men and women with women.

Related pages

Have the New Testament words been mistranslated?
© Peter Cheyne 2017.
A Christian’s Guide To Homosexuality
Truth In Love
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