Homosexuality in the Christian Scriptures
The "clobber passages"

1 Timothy 1:9-10

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Text of 1 Timothy 1:9-10:

The King James Version (KJV) of the Bible translates verse 9 and 10 as:

"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."

The emphasized term translates the Greek word "arsenokoitai."

The ambiguous term "arsenokoitai:"

The original Greek word "arsenokoitai" was apparently created by Paul when he wrote 1 Corinthians about 55 CE. No record remains of any writer using the term before that time.

The word is often translated in English versions of the Bible as "homosexual." That is, a men or women who is sexually attracted only to persons of the same sex. Some theologians are fairly certain that this is not the meaning that Paul wanted to convey, since the idea of a homosexual sexual orientation only surfaced in the 19th century after the start of the scientific study of human sexuality. Also, "arsen" in Greek means "man." Thus, it is most unlikely that "arsenokoitai" could refer to both male gays and lesbians.

Various commentators have suggested that "arsenokoitai" means masturbators, pimps, prostitutes, boy sex slaves, male prostitutes, or abusive pedophiles. See a more detailed study of "arsenokoitai."

Interpretations that Bible translators have used:

This passage and 1 Corinthians 6:9 -- another anti-homosexual "clobber passage" -- both contain the Greek phrase "arsenokoitai," This has been translated in diverse ways:

bullet As noted above:
bullet "them that defile themselves with mankind," King James Version, 21st Century King James Version, Tyndale's New Testament, & Rheims New Testament.
bullet "those who are immoral with...boys," The Jerusalem Bible.
bullet "practicing homosexuals" New American Bible.
bullet Bible translations which expand the Greek text to include females: As noted above,"Arseno" in Greek means "male." Thus the original Greek word "arsenokoitai," obviously refers to some activity by males, not females. However, it seems that many Bible translators could not resist the urge to make the term more inclusive by condemning lesbians as well as male gays. These are obviously inaccurate translations which have done incalculable harm to lesbians:
bullet "homosexuals" New American Standard Bible, New Living Translation, The Living Bible, Schonfield's The Authentic New Testament, Holman Christian Standard Bible, & Plain English Bible. This is an ambiguous term.
bullet Religious conservatives often define "homosexual" as a person who engages in sexual activity with persons of the same sex.
bullet Most religious liberals, therapists, gays, lesbians, etc. define "homosexual" as a male or female person whose sexual attraction is directed solely to members of the same sex. They may be celibate or sexually active.
bullet "those practicing homosexuality," Today's New International Version. This is a notable improvement over using the word "homosexual" by itself, because it excludes celibate persons with a homosexual orientation. However, it still implies that the passage condemns sexually active lesbians.
bullet "people...who live as homosexuals," Contemporary English Version.
bullet "...people...who have sexual relations with people of the same sex..." New Century Version.
bullet Bible translations which greatly expand the original Greek text: Some Bible versions translate "arsenokoitai" with a generic term that covers a multitude of unusual sexual activities that are frowned upon by the majority:
bullet "perverts" New International Version, New English Bible, & Revised English Bible.
bullet "sexual perverts," Today's English Version & Modern Language Bible.
bullet "sexually immoral," The New Testament and Psalms -- An inclusive version.
bullet "sexually perverted," Phillips Modern English.
bullet "sin against nature," The New Testament (Ronald Knox).
bullet "sodomites" Revised Standard Version, Young's Literal Translation, & New Revised Standard Version. "Sodomite" used to refer to residents of the city of Sodom. More recently, it has been used in legislation to criminalize a wide variety of sexual activities.
bullet Other Bible versions:
bullet "men who lie with males," New World Translation. This is slightly ambiguous, because it is not obvious who is doing what to whom.
bullet "...men who sin sexually....with other men..." An American Translation. There are many forms of sexual sin.
bullet "men who practice homosexuality," English Standard Version. If the term is going to be interpreted as referring to homosexuals, this seems to be the best translation, because it limits itself to homosexual males who are sexually active.

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Typical meanings given to 1 Timothy 1:9-10:

bullet Conservatives: Paul is repeating here his condemnation of all homosexual activity which he first wrote of in 1 Corinthians 6:9.
bullet Liberals: The book of 1 Timothy was one of the series of "Pastoral Letters" written by an unknown author perhaps half a century or more after Paul's death, and falsely attributed to Paul. The text would appear to have no relationship to homosexuality in the modern sense of the term: consensual sexual activities by persons of the same sex.

Author and date of 1 Timothy:

As usual, liberal and conservative theologians differ greatly:


bullet Liberals generally believe that this Epistle was not written by St. Paul, but was composed by an anonymous author who was a student of Paul's theology and wrote as a follower of Paul. If done in modern times, this would be considered a forgery. However, it was routine practice in Palestine during the first and second century CE.
bullet Conservatives generally believe that 1 Timothy was written by Paul. 1 Timothy 1:1 actually states this. For almost all of its history, the Christian church has taught that Paul wrote 1 Timothy.

Date written:

bullet Liberals suggest that the Epistle was written circa 100 to 150 CE by an unknown author, up to 85 years after St. Paul's execution by the Roman Empire.
bullet Conservatives generally believe that it was written at a much earlier date. The Schofield Reference Bible says that Paul wrote the Epistle in 65 CE, during the interval between his two imprisonments by the Roman government.

Related essay in this website:

bullet Meanings of the Greek word "arsenokoitai" (1 Corinthians 6 & 1 Timothy 1)

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Copyright 1996 to 2011 by Ontario Consultants on Religious Tolerance
Latest update: 2011-SEP-19
Author: B.A. Robinson

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