The Greek word(s) for "homosexual?"

Ben Crick ben.crick at
Sat Oct 3 10:00:12 EDT 1998

 Dear Kyle:

 On Sat  3 Oct 98 (00:27:26), you <spiffy at> wrote:
> In 1 Corinthians 6:9, we find the two Greek words, ARSENOKOITAI and
> MALAKOI, which may or may not deal with the practice of homosexuality.
> Have their definitions been established from extra-biblical literature?
> It would seem as though MALAKOS is in clear reference to a passive male
> homosexual as used in 1 Corinthians 6:9. In Polycarp's Epistle to the
> Philippians, he calls it a lust. And the only times MALAKOS is used in
> conjunction with lust in Greek texts, it refers to a passive male
> homosexual. Can anyone verify this?

 The only clear reference I have here is Plato, /Gorgias/, 494E; but
 unfortunately I only have the English to hand:

 "And what if the scratching is not confined to the head?  Is not such a
 man like a *catamite*; and will Callicles deny that the life of a catamite
 is terrible, foul, miserable?"

 If the catamite were a beautiful youth who was a slave, then he would
 have a miserable life indeed, being daily abused by his owner. Even though
 homosexual relations were accepted as normal in the sophisticated Greek
 society in this period, no 'consenting adult' would envy the plight of
 the teenage male catamite slave with his "soft" and "effeminate" body.

 Could someone with the Greek text confirm MALAKOS as Plato's word for
 'catamite' here? 

> Very rarely is ARSENOKOITHS found outside the Bible. Is it possible
> that Paul made up this word? If so, what does it mean, and how is it
> used in Greek literature? I have often heard that it is used in
> reference to male temple prostitutes (or sometimes pederasts), but I
> have been unable to find any example in Greek texts where this is true.

 ARSENOKOITHS appears to be a euphemism either coined by Paul, or else
 one in common use in Corinth. Compare the modern sodomites' hijacking of
 the word 'gay' as a euphemism for their characteristic abomination. BAGD
 lists only three occurrences of the word outside the NT.  Dionysius of
 Halicarnassus, /Antiquities/ VII.2, equates ARSENOKOITAI with PAIDERASTAI.
 Dio. Hal. was a 1st-century BC writer 'au fait' with the 'in-words' of
 Greek and Corinthian society. It was all part of KORINQIEZASQAI, being a
 Corinthian, doing what Corinthians do.

 It is composed of two elements, ARSHN / ARSEN 'male' and KOITH 'bed' (cf
 our English word 'cot'). It requires no great stretch of the imagination
 to understand what these male bedfellows are doing together. BAGD lists
 KOITH is a euphemism for sexual intercourse, sexual excesses, and seminal
 emission (s.v. KOITH).

 Revd Ben Crick, BA CF
 <ben.crick at>
 232 Canterbury Road, Birchington, Kent, CT7 9TD (UK)

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