Archive for the ‘Apostle Paul’ Category
However, questions remain regarding the source of Paul’s term. As Mendell points out, anyone wishing to explain Paul’s meaning must answer three questions: First, where does he get the word? Second, why does he use such an arcane word? Third, if the word is as ambiguous as Boswell claims, how can Paul expect that he will be understood?
The evidence suggests that Paul coined the term, based on the juxtaposition of the two words arsenos and koiten in the LXX of Leviticus 20: 13 (cf. similar phraseology in 18: 22). We cannot prove this supposition, but style, practice, familiarity with the LXX, and literary context make this theory very plausible.
Scholars have long pointed out words that seem to originate with Paul. Some 179 words found in his writings are seen nowhere else in pre-Christian Greek literature. Of these, eighty nine occur only one time. For example, in 1 Timothy 1: 3 and 6: 3 he uses the term heterodidaskaleo, “to teach a different doctrine,” which cannot be found in any extant writing from an earlier period. Only Ignatius is known to have used it later, in “To Polycarp” 3: 1. If he also coined arsenokoitai, then Paul likely designed two new terms within seven verses to advance his argument (1 Timothy 1: 3, 10).
In addition, Paul displays considerable dependence upon the LXX. He quotes more frequently from the LXX than from the Hebrew Old Testament. When E.E. Ellis classified Old Testament quotations in Paul’s writings, he identified the LXX as the source for fourteen and the Hebrew Scripture as the source for four. Obviously Paul was familiar with, and preferred to use, the LXX.
The New Testament particularly draws on Leviticus 18-20. The structure and content of these chapters mark them as special. Often identified as the Holiness Code, these chapters — unlike the remainder of Leviticus — are universal in scope. In this respect, they are on par with the treaty form of the Ten Commandments of Exodus 20 and Deuteronomy 5. The Jews held Leviticus 19 to be a summary of Torah, making it a central chapter in the Pentateuch. This sense was carried over to the writers of the New Testament. Christ, Paul, Peter, and James cited the section. “You shall love your neighbor as yourself” is Leviticus 19: 18. Paul alludes to 19: 19 in 2 Corinthians 6: 14 to illustrate why believers must not become unequally yoked with unbelievers. Here he uses heterozygountes, another word found nowhere before him, though an adjectival form of heterozygeo occurs in the LXX at 19: 19. It seems likely that the LXX suggested the coinage to Paul.
Most important, an examination of both literary contexts where arsenokoitai occurs suggest that Paul is thinking of the Levitical “code of holiness.” First Corinthians 5-6 includes several allusions to Leviticus 18-20. The theme is moral separation to God, as in Leviticus. Topics include distinction from the Gentiles (5:1; cf. 6:1-6; Leviticus 18:3, 24-30; 20:23) and future inheritance (kleronomeo, 6:9, 20; Leviticus 20: 23-24). The law of loving your neighbor as yourself (Leviticus 19:18) is reflected in 6:8. Of the ten vices in 6:9-10, only drunkenness is not found in Leviticus 18-20.
In addition, the literary pattern of incest (1 Corinthians 5:1-13) followed by homosexuality (6:9-10) and prostitution (6:12-20) parallels the pattern of incest and homosexuality in Leviticus 18 and 20, which in turn reflects the account of incest and homosexuality committed by Ham in Genesis 9.
Further connections with Leviticus are found in Paul’s call for discipline of immoral persons — specifically the one who has committed incest. By implication, Paul includes all the others in the lists of vices, including homosexuals, in his mandate for church discipline (1 Corinthians 5:1-11; 6:9-10). If the church fails to exercise discipline, Paul will deliver the immoral person to Satan for destruction of the flesh. Paul’s intention is to save his spirit (5:5) and to remove the contamination from the church (5:6-8). The mode and goals of discipline strongly reflect the karat idea expressed in Leviticus 18:29, whereby immoral persons, including those guilty of incest and homsexuality, were to be delivered over to God for present and future judgment.
Surely, then, both malakoi and arsenokoitai are drawn from Leviticus 20: 13 and point respectively to passive and acive same-gender partners. Even the rabbis applied Leviticus 20: 13 to both active and passive sodomy. Philo used malakia of effeminacy and said that the same penalty applied to active and passive sodomy. Leviticus suggested to Paul the use of two terms. The Leviticus passage holds both partners responsible; both have done a detestable act and are to be put to death. Leviticus 20: 13 records the penalty. The list itself offers parallels to the summation of Leviticus 20: 23-24 (cf. 18:29-30).
The same observations can be made about the literary context of 1 Timothy 1: 10. Paul deals with perversions of teaching regarding the Mosaic Law (1:3-8), moves to legislation in general (1:9-10), and ends with the gospel (1:11).
Paul introduces the list of 1 Timothy in a deliberate way, by affirming that law is made not for the righteous but for the unrighteous in three ways: (1) the lawless and rebellious; (2) the ungodly and sinners; and (3) the unholy and profane (1:9). Such groupings correspond to legal or civil, religious and moral aspects of ethical life. Paul affirms that his list of vices, including homosexuality, reflects legal, religious, and moral concerns. In a biblical worldview, one cannot divorce civil (legal) concerns from the religious (impure) and moral (ethical).
This literary feature reinforces our observation that the Levitical code is carried over to the new era, so that even purity (religious) rules have ongoing, universal import for both the Christian and the non-Christian.
With the Law of Moses dominant, it is not surprising that the list of specific vices corresponds to the fifth through the ninth commandments, in order. The tenth commandment deals with inward desire, which law cannot proscribe. Since the list uses both single terms and doublets to refer to the Ten Commandments, in an alternating pattern of 2, 1, 2, 1, 2, andrapodistais (“slave traders”) would seem to represent the eighth commandment, rather than that accompanying the preceding arsenokoitai.
This point casts doubt on Scrogg’s narrow sexual definition of andrapodistais (“slave-dealers who procure boys as prostitutes”). Similarly, unlikely is Countryman’s idea of linking prostitution with “stealers of men” (male prostitutes who were “legacy hunters who used sexual attraction as bait”) or “slave traders.” Countryman must have arsenokoitai refer to prostitution or a similar offense, rather than to homosexuality. If the latter is the meaning, Paul would be invoking the Levitical purity rule against homosexual acts, and Countryman’s whole system of distinguishing the temporary purity rules from ongoing moral principles would be in jeopardy. According to the arrangement of the list, and the biblical and cultural meaning of arsenokoitai, however, it is a surer translation to view pornois and arsenokoitai as representing the seventh commandment and “slave traders” as alone representing the eight commandment.
The fact that Paul was addressing Christians in the city of Ephesus is significant to this whole discussion. From Ephesus Paul wrote to the Corinthians, eight to ten years later he directed his epistle to Timothy there. Homosexuals are explicitly linked to Ephesus. Philostratus claims that Apollonius of Tyana found the city full of homosexuals in the second half of the first century A.D. — the era in which Paul writes.
In the lists of 1 Corinthians and 1 Timothy, sexual sins are considered less serious than idolatry and murder but more wicked than property crimes. Within the sexual vices, the order is probably one of ascending sinfulness. Homosexuality is the worst, coming after prostitution or immorality, adultery, and effeminacy. The listing of homosexuality after effeminacy in 1 Corinthians reinforces the idea that the words together describe the passive and active partners in homosexuality. The rarity of the terms suggests this idea as well, as does the dual culpability of the partners, as stipulated in Leviticus. Again, the implications for the various revisionist interpretations are self-evident.
A Word with Clear Meaning
The preceding discussion of the literary structure of the contexts of the two passages justifies the claim that Paul coined arsenokoitai from Leviticus 20: 13. In light of the evidence, including the fact that no use of the term exists before Paul, it is strange that modern interpreters such as Countryman, Edwards, and Scroggs never consider the possibility that Paul himself coined the term from Leviticus 20. Of course, to have Paul so directly invoke the term and concept from Leviticus destroys the system of Countryman and Edwards, who restrict the Bible’s comment on homosexuality to temporal purity codes — a cultic worldview no longer in effect. This finding also contradicts all who refuse to find condemnation of adult mutuality in arsenokoitai. Mutuality must be included in its force in Leviticus 18 and 20. Leviticus condemns the behavior, whatever the motivation.
Two of Mendell’s questions remain. Why does Paul coin such a term? How does Paul expect his readers to understand the term?
Paul seeks to demonstrate the relation of believers to the Law of Moses. He wants to show which parts of the law of Exodus 20 and Leviticus 18-20 are universal moral standards, in contrast to those ceremonial and purity laws that are limited to Israel. These are the essential ethical elements in a biblical worldview. First Corinthians speaks to people who are acquainted with Judaism; note references to “Satan” and the penalty of being cut off (5:5), the “day of the Lord” (5:5), “leaven” (5:6-8), “Passover” (5:7), and judging angels (6:3). Deuteronomy 17:7 is quoted in 5: 13. Since Leviticus 18-20 became central to the Day of Atonement, which provided cleansing of the Sanctuary, the Holy of Holies, and the community, it would be natural for Paul to refer to this section of Leviticus (cf. Leviticus 16 and 23). In 1 Timothy 1, one of the main points is the topic of the believer’s relationship to law. Law has a role to play if it is used properly. This is an important point in light of the contemporary legal aspects surrounding homosexuality.
By coining a term, Paul makes reference to homosexuality explicit, within a Jewish and Christian worldview. Other terms were too general (such as porneia) or reflected Greek forms of homosexual behavior (pederasty). By coining a term, Paul both narrowly defines what he means and propounds a theological construct that homosexuality is sin. Paul denounces it as sin because it violates God’s law, it defiles the community and sanctuary, it places one’s position in the community and the afterlife in jeopardy, and needs to be atoned for by the sacrifice of the Day of Atonement — Christ. A biblical worldview is wrapped up in the term. That Paul coins a term reinforces the uniqueness of biblical morality.
Moreover, Paul assumes even among gentile readers a degree of knowledge of the Levitical system and the law. The contexts of 1 Corinthians 5-6 and 1 Timothy 1 refer directly or make allusion to Jewish law and culture.
Finally, how can Paul expect his Greek readers to understand the term? From the lexical evidence it is clear that compounds involving arseno- and arreno- and koite abound. The Greeks were adept at forming new compounds. Therefore, Paul coined a word which he knew would bring quick recognition.
The meaning of arsenokoitai is also aided by its place in both lists. It is tied closely to adultery — a concern of moral principle and not just purity codes limited to Israel. As Thomas Schmidt observes, “Every sexual act that the Bible calls sin is essentially a violation of marriage, whether existing or potential.” In 1 Corinthians 6:9-10, arsenokoitai with malakoi comes after adultery, and in 1 Timothy 1:10, arsenokoitai with pornois takes the place of adultery. So Paul refers to homosexuality as a “supplement ot, or a substitution for, adultery. ” Paul uses these terms to focus on the commandment not to commit adultery, which helps his readers understand the term and realize its moral force.
The word arsenokoitai is general, reflecting the passage in Leviticus 20: 13. Paul did not use androkoites (“male having sex with a male”), which would not have encompassed the prohibition of pederasty. Paul’s term expresses gender but not gender and maturity; he condemns “males who lie with males of any age.” It is also in accord with the three-fold use of arsen- in Romans 1: 27, where Paul condemns same-gender sexual behavior among men.
This also explains why the word did not catch on with the secular world after Paul. Gentiles would not appreciate the biblical context of Old Testament moral legislation — its worldview. Paul was ahead of his time in coining this word, but he coined the word to contradict his time. Perhaps for the same reason, the terms sodomites and sodomy are fading now from general secular usage. The biblical terminology is losing ground in our increasingly secular and anti-Christian society. No other explanation makes sense but that Paul himself coined a new term, derived from the LXX at Leviticus 20: 13.
De Young, J. B. (2000). Homosexuality: Contemporary Claims Examined in Light of the Bible and Other Ancient Literature and Law. Grand Rapids: Kregel Publications