The Greek word(s) for "homosexual?"

Kyle Dillon spiffy at
Sat Oct 3 11:50:16 EDT 1998

-----Original Message-----
From: jtownsle at <jtownsle at>
To: Kyle Dillon <spiffy at>
Cc: Biblical Greek <b-greek at>
Date: Saturday, October 03, 1998 2:24 AM
Subject: Re: The Greek word(s) for "homosexual?"

>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.

I have heard this interpretation of the word several times. Let me again
clarify that Polycarp considered the term MALAKOS a "lust," not just a
generalized reference to loose morals. It would seems as if MALAKOS in 1
Corinthians would be understood by the church at Corinth more specifically
as a a sensual desire to be sought after.

There are several instances in Greek literature where "malakos" refers to a
passive male homosexual. Read Dionysius Halicarnassus Book VII, 2, 4 (among
many others):

"At that time, the tyrant of Cumae was Aristodemos, the son of Aristocrates,
a man, not of the common men in birth, who was called Malakos (effeminate)
by his townsmen. In time, he held a nickname more notable than his original
name. He was called Malakos either because as a child, he was effeminate and
suffered that which is fitting for women, as some narrate, or because he was
tame by nature and was soft in temperament, as others write."

>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.

You may be right; I cannot find any instance in Greek literature where the
passive partner of the ARSENOKOITHS is consenting (it is either found in a
list of vices, or is found in a context that implies human violation).
However, all of your above examples also coinside with the interpretation
that ARSENOKOITHS could refer to any active male homosexual. Etymologically,
it seems that the term derived from the Septuagint translation of Leviticus
20:13, where we find ARSEN (male) and KOITHS (bed) adjacent in the text. But
your view is definitely valid, unless we find a text in which the passive
partner to ARSENOKOITHS is consenting. (But I might also argue that in 1
Corinthians 6:9, it is being semantically paired with MALAKOS, and thus
refers to a mutually consenting act.)

>Jeramy Townsley
>Indiana University

Kyle Dillon

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