“Effeminate” and “abusers of themselves with mankind” doesn’t refer to homosexuality

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This week, I’m teaching the Gospel Doctrine lesson on 1 Corinthians 1–6. While I was preparing my lesson, I came across 1 Corinthians 6:9, a popular scripture among Christians who oppose homosexuality (or more specifically, anything that isn’t heteronormative):

Know ye not that the unrighteous shall not inherit the kingdom of God? Be not deceived: neither fornicators, nor idolaters, nor adulterers, nor effeminate, nor abusers of themselves with mankind,

Specifically, those who use this scripture to justify their opposition to homosexuality, point out the mention of “effeminate” and “abusers of themselves with mankind.”

The problem with this interpretation is that it’s inaccurate.

What we translate as “effeminate” was in the Greek version malakoi. This word is more accurately translated as softness or moral weakness. Likewise, what we translate as “abusers of themselves with mankind” is arsenokoitai in the Greek, which more accurately describes something like shrine prostitution.

This is one of the problems with using modern cultural paradigms to understand ancient ones.

29 thoughts on ““Effeminate” and “abusers of themselves with mankind” doesn’t refer to homosexuality

  1. Honest Question: how do you reconcile this with what the LDS KJV footnotes say about these verses?

  2. I think we like to pick same sex transgressors and demonize them so that we can feel better about ourselves. The average ward likely has far more heterosexual transgressions than homosexual transgressions. By focusing on the exceptions we lose sight of the more common problems.

    As we read such scriptures as 1 Cor 6:9 the question in our minds should be, “How am I doing in relation to the law of chastity?” And we need to be honest with ourselves.

    Most divorces in the church do not meet the Savior’s standard in…
    Matthew 5:32 But I say unto you, That whosoever shall put away his wife, saving for the cause of fornication, causeth her to commit adultery: and whosoever shall marry her that is divorced committeth adultery.

    Surely there are times when divorce is necessary, but are we making it too easy? Do those who use pornography see the exploitation of women and children as moral problem? Are my thoughts clean and pure? Do my sexual thoughts involve my spouse? Am I too cozy with my opposite sex coworkers? Are my TV watching habits above reproach? Do I view women as equal human beings or something less? Do I enjoy and share vulgar jokes? Do I perpetuate rape culture, even if in subtle ways? Does the music I listen to promote living the law of chastity?

    By focusing on one brand of sexual sin as unusually wicked we are likely to cause pain to those who struggle and who need our love and support. We know nothing about the origins of gay inclinations so it is wise to tread lightly.

    I agree that we need to be careful about projecting modern values and problems onto the ancient world, I have heard some very poor interpretations of 1st century Palestinian society and politics this year.

    I always like to try a couple of modern Bible translations for some of these difficult New Testament passages and see if they help me get a better sense of the original intent. Based on your response above you didn’t find a modern translation helpful in this case.

    Just a side note on “effeminate”. I am not saying Jesus was gay but in the gospels he often acts in ways that counter the prevailing male norms of his day. Jesus was not weak but he also wasn’t a macho rugged male either. He associated with women, defended them to men, and genuinely saw them as individuals of value.

    1. Thanks for your comments. Sorry for the late reply. It’s been so hectic for me lately. :)

      I agree about the demonization of homosexuality. I don’t know we as a society have such an inclination to categorize sins, giving some more weight than others. Further to your questions, why, for example, are we less inclined to speak out against judging and hypocrisy and more inclined to speak out on sex sins?

      Great thoughts in your last paragraph. :)

      1. Kim you are obviiously in denial. YOu are misrepresenting the Holy Bible. EFFEMINATE means a male acting like a female. The Bible says that lifestyle is not acceptable in HEAVEN. I google and came up with these lies that you are posting. If you are drama major stick to drama and keep trying to be a theologian.

        1. Wait. You’re saying I’m misrepresenting the Bible because I bring in the original Greek words to provide more context? I don’t understand. What exactly am I denying?

          1. Let the Bible explain the Bible. Kim you are misrepresenting the Bible by not using the correct scripture on homosexuality.
            In fact below sounds something like your rational
            Romans 1:25-32
            25   Who changed the truth of God into a lie, and worshipped and served the creature more than the Creator, who is blessed for ever. Amen.
            26   For this cause God gave them up unto vile affections: for even their women did change the natural use into that which is against nature:
            27   And likewise also the men, leaving the natural use of the woman, burned in their lust one toward another; men with men working that which is unseemly, and receiving in themselves that recompence of their error which was meet.
            28   And even as they did not like to retain God in their knowledge, God gave them over to a reprobate mind, to do those things which are not convenient;
            29   Being filled with all unrighteousness, fornication, wickedness, covetousness, maliciousness; full of envy, murder, debate, deceit, malignity; whisperers,
            30   Backbiters, haters of God, despiteful, proud, boasters, inventors of evil things, disobedient to parents,
            31   Without understanding, covenantbreakers, without natural affection, implacable, unmerciful:
            32   Who knowing the judgment of God, that they which commit such things are worthy of death, not only do the same, but have pleasure in them that do them.

          2. Let the Bible explain the Bible? Really? So, if the Bible has been mistranslated, we should just rely on the mistranslated Bible to clarify what that mistranslation was? How does that even make sense?

            We have the same problem with Romans 1:27 as we do with the 1 Corinthians scripture: a misunderstanding of meaning. Your including this scripture, Arthur, is a classic example of prooftexting. Here is an excellent treatment of the cultural background surrounding the language of Romans 1:27:

            http://www.gaychristian101.com/does-romans-12627-condemn-homosexuals.html

            Be sure to check out the additional links the author uses throughout his text. (Don’t just take his word for it.)

            Of course Strong’s G733 offers an interpretation contrary to mine—that was the point I was making in my post.

        2. You are correct because in my KJV in Greek number 733 it says…..arsenokoites is also from number
          730 & 2845 means a sodomite:- abuser of self with mankind

        1. Arthur Jackson preach it my man. Kim Slever the bible also says whosoever added or take away from the books of life the plagues will be added to you. Kim you will be cast in the lake for your misrepresenting the bible period you are nothing more than a false prophet the word is right by itself. Homosexuality and lesbians are wrong and I’m mighty afraid that they will be cast into the lake.

          1. Seriously? The entire Bible was added to and taken away. The Bible didn’t exist when what is now Deut 4:2 and Rev. 22:18–19 were written. The Bible we know now was organized together centuries after John wrote The Book of Revelation.

            And it’s not me who’s doing the misinterpreting, Eriq.

    1. Not sure it’s something I believe per se, at least not in the same way I believe, for example, in God. I find the contextual information compelling, and of the Christian sources I’ve read discussing this issue, none of them have addressed the points raised by the other at that link.

  3. I don’t think that interpretation (the article provided) jives completely with the teachings of the Church of Jesus Christ. It seems the author is going to great lengths to create an interpretation that matches his views. Of course I’m no scriptorian, but scripture should be plain to the understanding.

    1. Of course it doesn’t jive completely with the conventional LDS interpretations of those scriptures. The LDS church is similar to other Christian churches in their approach to LGBT issues.

      1. Be fruitful and multiply. Homosexuality can’t

        If I am dead and Christ now lives in me Gal 2:20 I am no longer the addict or whoremonger etc. instead I take up my cross daily and follow Him.

        1. Yet dozens of species practice homosexuality. Sexuality isn’t always about procreating. If it were, all the straight, childless couples would be condemned.

  4. https://www.blueletterbible.org/lang/lexicon/lexImage.cfm?tv=1482806660
    Your under strong delusion Greek lexicon G733 says just the opposite of what you cite. You’re either under demonic influence are you are carnally minded justifying your actions by twisting a definition to suit yourself.

    Abusers of mankind in the Greek means homosexuality howbeit male lies with a man as though it was a female.
    Henceforth, it applies to women with women as seen in Romans 1

  5. I LOVE truth! Thanks so much for your thoughts and for putting them out there! I know that I’m greatly colored by the times and society in which I live. Homosexuality, greed, racism, sexism all bother me but the love Jesus taught and towing a straight line are beautiful and logical paths in my mind to happiness. Every other way (I think I’ve tried them all, at least in my mind) ends in conflict, confusion and ultimate sadness. One of the most pernicious false beliefs is that the mad rush to heap up treasures and amusement is the way to find happiness. Thanks again for your thoughts.

  6. Those living in sin will tell any lie to justify their sin. You aren’t being a hero to anyone by lying to them to save their feelings. I had a roommate who spoke Greek and he said arsenokotai refers to homosexuals

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