The Greek word(s) for "homosexual?"

jtownsle at jtownsle at
Sat Oct 3 05:24:20 EDT 1998


I don't think it is clear at all that malakos refers to the passive male
homosexual.  I don't think there
is any reference in the Greek literature where malakos clearly refers to a
homosexual person.  It is
many times used in reference to known heterosexuals in sexual contexts.
It could easily be
translated as morally weak or lacking self-control.

Arsenokoites is similarly not supported being translated as the active
partner in a homosexual act.
There is much evidence that arsenokoites refers to a dominant homosexual
act, but one that is
aggresive and degrading, not simply the "active partner."  Take The
Apology of Aristides 9 and 13.
Zeus subdues and sexually takes Ganymede, and thus we learn that Greed
gods act with moixia
and arsenokoites.  Then again in Hippolytus' Refutatio 5 we see that the
Satan figure Naas subdues
and sexually takes Adam, thus bringing arsenokoites into the world.  In
both of these two instances
the person who commits arsenokoites is a sexual predator, powerful and
unloving. This says
nothing about non-subjugating homosexual relationships.

See also Dale Martin's analysis of arsenokoites in Biblical Ethics and
Homosexuality ed. Robert
Brawley, 1996, Westminster Press.  He shows that in all of the lists in
which arsenokoites appears,
it always appears in between the "economic" or "injustice sins" (thief,
greedy, slave-trader, perjeror)
and the sexual sins (fornication and adultery).  This is an incomplete
analysis, and tells us little,
unless we had extra-list passages to guide our understanding.  We see in
the Sibylline Oracle 2
and the Acts of John 36 that arsenokoites is found in lists having nothing
to do with sex.  However
we have strong reason to believe arsenokoites is a sexually oriented sin
because of its placement in
the other lists (which can be found in plethora in Thesaurus Lingua
Grecae), and the prior two
passages mentioned above.  It is most likely that arsenokoites is some
kind of homosexual
predatory sin, which can take on meanings of slave-trading, homosexual
rapist (as seen in the
Sodom and Gommorah story), etc.  A supporting source is Peterson in Studia
Patristica 20, 1989,
283-88.  Boswell's translation of homosexual prostitute has little
foundation, and has been critiqued
very well in numerous sources.

Jeramy Townsley
Indiana University

On Sat, 3 Oct 1998, Kyle Dillon 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?
> 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.
> (I apologize if this topic has already been discussed/resolved in previous threads on this list.)
> Kyle Dillon

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