November 21, 2012

Answering Anti-Gay Bible Literalists Part Three- The New Testament

After exploring the Old Testament, we are as yet to find a single scripture condemning homosexual love and loving same-sex unions. This lack of condemnation is even more glaring in the New Testament, which at the time of its penning was done in the context of a Greco-Roman culture where same-sex behaviors were prevalent, well known with clear vocabulary to describe every single kind that existed.
Here are some of the many common terms used both in Paul’s time and the time of Christ.

Pais or paidika - the younger, subordinate or enslaved male lover of an older man
Erestes - an older/dominant male lover

Eronemous - a younger/passive male lover

Euryproktoi- a common term for anal sex and/or men who dressed as women (what we would call a drag queen today)

Hetairistriai- a woman who loves women     

Kinaidos- an effeminate man and/or a man who preferred other men

Even though they describe roles and behaviors, they would have been at least a very close reference to homosexuals and most homosexual relationships as we know it today. Now here is the clincher. NONE of these terms or any of the commonly used terms appear in the original Greek scriptures, with the exception of one, "pais".

Christ Heals A Centurion’s “Pais”
Roman centurions, officials, merchants and their permissive sexual culture would have surrounded Judea at the time Jesus was supposed to be alive. He would have known about a vast array of same-sex activities, everything from sex slavery, temple prostitution, men who dressed as women, women who followed the cult of Sappho and more. Yet on this matter, he was absolutely silent.

Indeed, the story (Matthew 8:5-13 & Luke 7:1-10) of the Roman centurion who approached him and begged him to heal his male servant whom he uncharacteristically (knowing Roman disregard for their slaves and servants), loved very much, is rather curious. The Greek word used for servant is “pais” which was also a common term for the subordinate, younger male in same-sex arrangements.

In order to understand Greek expressions used in the bible, we can refer to Greek literature using the same expressions to get a cultural idiomatic understanding of what words meant.

In The History of the Peloponnesian War, written by Thucydides (445-400 BC) he refers to the same sex lover of Pausanias, King of Sparta as his pais.
The Athenian poet, Aeschines (390-314 BC) in his referendums against a rival politician Timarchos accused him of being the paidika or pais, of older influential Greek men for his own advancement. The common Greek term paidika (younger male lover) is derived from the root pais.

 According to Roman Law, many centurions on active duty were forbidden from marrying. Only generals and commanders high in the ranks were allowed that privilege. So it was a common practice for many to take male servants or younger soldiers as lovers.

Romans viewed the Jews with contempt. So that pais had to be particularly beloved for his Roman master to go against all convention and actually stoop to beg a Jewish, vagabond of a radical prophet to heal him. And the most important part of this is that Jesus healed him, no questions, no condemnations.

Marriage Is Demoted And Divorce Is Forbidden

Both the Apostle Paul and Christ considered marriage a secondary option, not a priority or sacrament.

The Jewish people have always been marriage and procreation focused. They saw it not only as a means to overwhelm and conquer their enemies but as a Divine mandate. Hence, every man was expected to marry, sometimes more than once and even marry his widowed sister-in-law if her husband died before she had any children. Every couple was expected to breed as many children as possible. This was especially true of any man called a Rabbi. Therefore for Jesus to be unmarried at 33 was the subject of much condemnation among his detractors who sought to entrap him in Matthew 19.

Jesus offers a sophisticated response referring to made eunuchs, born eunuchs and eunuchs who choose to be so and forego marriage for the sake of the Kingdom. He finishes by saying marriage is for those who can receive it, it is not a mandate for all.

The demotion of marriage as a priority was also reinforced by Paul, who in 1 Corinthians 7:1-29 basically outlined his preference for people to remain as he was, single. Marriage was a last resort to avoid engaging in fornication, a term derived from Latin fornix or archway under which prostitutes plied their “wares” to satisfy those who had no other outlet for their lust.

The only outlet for unmarried people overcome with lust was to engage the services of a prostitute who plied their trade in brothels and under archways called fornix, which is were we get the word "fornication".
Many Christians use Christ and Paul’s reference to marriage involving only men and women as a means to show gay unions are unbiblical. However, they are basically making the argument that just because something is not mentioned (due to cultural and historical ignorance of the concept), it means it is wrong. That would make contraception wrong, open heart surgery wrong, space travel wrong because the bible does not specifically mention these things and so does not specifically endorse any of those things, which is a ridiculous argument to take.

Contrary to the claims of organizations such as NOM, it is DIVORCE, not gay marriage or parenting that actually poses the greatest harm to children. Studies by several child welfare and child psychology bodies have shown that children from divorced homes are more likely to drop out of school, have no respect for authority, more likely to suffer from depression, drug abuse and more likely to have premature sex, grow up in poverty and less likely to choose marriage as adults. Christians in America have the highest rate of divorce for reasons such as irreconcilable differences, abuse, unhappiness, financial problems, criminal activity, change in values, none of which are viable reasons for divorce according to the bible.

What the bible DOES say about marriage, most Christians ignore. First by placing so much emphasis on marriage and procreation, even making it a sacrament of the faith, they are ignoring that it is given a lower rank than remaining a eunuch by choice.  Second by being permissive of divorce, which is forbidden for any reason save adultery by Christ himself in Mark 10:11, Luke 16:18 and Matthew 5:32, it shows a certain level of hypocrisy in their efforts to “defend marriage”, especially since they have the highest rate of divorce and multiple re-marriages, which means they are living in a permanent state of adultery.

Paul Condemns Roman Paganism
I remember back in my days studying the bible within a staunch evangelical sect that was intensely anti-gay, Romans Chapter 1 verses 26 and 27 was the lynchpin scripture to condemn gay people. It was particularly favored because on the surface and with a bit of extrapolation it appeared to refer to lesbians too. It also referred to acting contrary to or going against nature, which supported the whole, “homosexuality is unnatural and so it could not be innate or created by God” argument.
Homosexual paring, courtship, mating and sexual behavior is actually pervasive in nature. It has been observed and well documented in over 500 species from dolphins to dragon flies and these studies have been peer reviewed and published in Science Daily, The New York Times or access National Geographic Online for a wealth of more information.

It was so drummed into my head that this scripture referred to gays and lesbians that although the actual meaning of the scripture was staring me right in the face I never even saw it. In large part because, like most Christians I did not understand what a homosexual is and was taught any kind of same-sex behavior was indicative of someone being a homosexual. It would have never dawned on me to ask, were the people Paul was referring to in Romans 1: 26 and 27, actually homosexuals- people with an innate orientation towards the same sex?
Clearly, the people referred to in Romans were not innately homosexual.  How do we know? Read the verses again, carefully. Note Paul said, “their women did changeand “likewise also the men, leaving the natural use of the woman,” So obviously these were people who in their usual, everyday life were opposite sex inclined.
Something caused them to change their behavior. In fact, Paul begins verse 26 with, “For this cause…” so the question is, "What was the cause?
All you have to do is read Romans Chapter 1 from the beginning for the backstory and the context about what caused people who were typically heterosexual in behavior to start acting contrary to their nature.

The Greek words used in Romans Chapter 1:26 and 27 translated as unnatural does not actually mean “against the laws of nature”. The original Greek physin and paraphysin actually refer more to acting in a manner uncustomary or unusual. You can find the same Greek term translated as “unnatural” used to describe men having long hair in 1 Corinthians 11:14.  A man having long hair was and still is not “against the laws of nature”, but in that time it was merely unusual or uncustomary for the Corinthians to which Paul was writing.

The backstory of verses 26 and 27 can be summarized thusly: There were people who once knew God but rejected God in favor of worshipping the creation instead. They made images out of birds and beasts and creeping things and began to engage in idolatry and pagan worship. Since this letter was addressed to the Romans, we can, through research of Roman culture understand exactly what kind of pagan worship Paul was referring to.
It was the worship of Gods such as Cybele and Saturn which would involve frenzied, intoxicated, orgiastic pagan rites within the temple. People would ingest hallucinogens and intoxicants and literally lose their minds and of course, act contrary to their nature. Lustful same-sex interactions during the orgies was not even the half of it. Some men would even go as far as to self-castrate, mutilate and murder others in their frenzied state of mind. Indeed if you read beyond the verses cherry picked for gay bashing, you will see Paul mention murders among other effects of the reprobate mind regressed to that of an animal in order to worship an animal God.
What does this....

Have to do with this?

If we are to be honest bible students, a scripture cannot mean something today that the writer did not intend when he wrote it back then. Keep in mind, that if Paul ever wanted to clearly and simply condemn gay and lesbian love in general, there were ample Greek terms to use. Instead, it is clear that Romans Chapter 1 is a condemnation of paganism.
The Original Weaklings And Rapists

The Greeks and Romans wrote extensively about same-sex love, romance and relationships and nowhere do the words "malakoi" or "arensokoites" ever appear in reference to consensual or loving same-sex relationships.
Now we come to what is perhaps the biggest example of semantic evolution in the bible, 1 Corinthians 6:9 which reads: "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."  Also see 1Timothy 1:10.

In some translations it actually translates the Greek words for effeminate (malakoi) and abusers of themselves with mankind (arsenokoites) as homosexual.
Now remember, the term homosexual and its definition was not invented until the 19th Century. This recent translation as “homosexual” only happened in 1958, with the Amplified Version. But did Paul mean to say homosexual when he wrote it? Bear in mind that if indeed Paul wanted to describe people whose behavior would closely parallel what we would associate with most gays and lesbians today, there were dozens of popular Greek terms to choose from.
Instead Paul used a Greek word malakoi, whose root and usage in Greek language never referred to anything remotely resembling homosexuality. Malakoi is a term that literally means soft ones. It comes from the Greek root malaka which is used in Matthew 11:8 and Luke 7:25 by Jesus to describe clothing of soft or luxurious quality.

The Greek word for effeminate as we would understand it today; a man who acts like a woman, is kinaidos not malakoi.

Once again, we must refer to contemporary Greek usage of the word malakoi to understand what it meant to the people Paul for whom was writing. We look to no other than Aristotle who when writing the Nicomachean Ethics, used malakos to describe lack of restraint and excessive enjoyment of bodily pleasures. I quote, “he who pursues the excesses of things pleasant, and shuns those of things painful, of hunger and thirst and heat and cold and all the objects of touch and taste... that men are called 'soft' [malakos] with regard to these pleasures...”
Another well-known commentator was Josephus, who in his Wars of The Jews and Antiquities Of The Jews, used malakos to describe men who appeared soft or weak through lack of courage in battle or who enjoyed too much luxury.
We see a pattern emerging of this word being associated with vain, materialistic, pleasure-obsessed, weak-minded, weak-willed, narcissistic, superficial men. Do some homosexuals fit this description? Certainly! But so do many heterosexual men and women too.

Many are unaware of how scripture changes over time to reflect changing cultural attitudes and popular prejudices. Here is the evolution of malakoi. From AD 55 to 1568 Bishops Bible (soft or weakling); From 1602 Valera Spanish Bible to Louis Segund French Bible in 1910 (effeminate); From 1913 Moffat Bible to Present Day Modern English Translations (some form of prostitution, homosexual sex and in some translations just homosexuality in general).
An honest bible student must ask themselves how much of this anachronistic application is based on popular trends and prejudices and how much is faithful interpretation of the original Greek and its historical idiomatic use. Is it honest to apply a meaning to a scripture that the writer did not mean when they wrote it?
The early church, which used the most faithful translation of the Greek, did not see any condemnation of true same-sex love in Paul's writings and as such, same-sex unions were often blessed by the church. It was not until The Theodosian Code, drawn up by Christian emperors in the fifth century, A.D. that same-sex marriage was made illegal.
This is even more apparent when we get to the word Paul made up- arsenokoites, a compound Greek word made up of men and beds. Which like most compound words (butterfly, ladykiller) do not always mean the combined definition of both words but can have an entirely different meaning. For example ladykiller does not mean “a lady who kills” or even “a killer of ladies” but “a man whom ladies find extremely charming”. Greek compound words are similar. Cyclops literally translates as round eye. But it actually means “a giant with one eye”. So to assume arsenokoites which translates literally as men beds, must mean “all men in beds” shows a lack of understanding idiomatic use of language.
The term has appeared a total of 56 times since Paul coined the expression and its subsequent use has nothing to do with men in love, men in beds or men in mutually consenting relationships. In appears first in the Sibylline Oracles in conjugated form: me arsenokoitein, me sukophantein, mete phoneuein, where the context was pedestry (rape and sexual exploitation of young boys by older men), anal rape of men or women, extortion, thievery and murder.
Early Christian commentator, Pseudo-Macarius Aegyptius in his Homiliae spirituales IV 4.22, when describing the Story of Sodom states, “….created the ultimate offense in their evil purpose against the angels, wishing to work arsenokoitia (anal rape) upon them.”

In the 6th Century, astrologer Rhetorius Aegyptius used the term “arsenokoites (of women) and rapists of women.” 

John the Faster, considered to be the Patriarch of Constantinople, uses the word arsenokoitia, to refer to a man violating members of his family with anal rape. “One must also ask about the perplexing, beguiling , and shadowy sin of incest, of which there are not just one or two varieties but a great many very different ones….Some even do it with their own mothers, and others with foster sisters or goddaughters. In fact, many men even commit the sin of arsenokoitia with their wives.” John the Faster, Penitential, about AD 575.

Fact is, the term arsenokoites only ever appears when speaking about forcible or exploitative sexual encounters involving men with men, boys and women.

In Summary:

Both Jesus and Paul lived at the height of Greco-Roman culture where same-sex behavior was pervasive. Yet none of the Greek terms commonly used at the time, terms that we would most clearly understand today as homosexual, homosexual sex and/or romance, drag queen, lesbian, if translated, appear in the New Testament.

Jesus healed a Centurion’s beloved pais.

Jesus and Paul’s admonishments on marriage and divorce are conveniently overlooked by the same anti-gay Christians.

Romans Chapter 1 refers to people falling into pagan worship, which we know from ancient history refers to the rites to Cybele and Saturn which resulted in many ill-effects, one of them being a frenzied orgiastic lust that caused people who were not even into that in everyday life, to engage in acts including but not limited to same-sex acts, that were unusual or uncustomary to them. It has nothing to do with homosexuality in general or committed same-sex relationships in particular.

1 Corinthians 6:9 refers to weak, vain, pleasure obsessed men of no substance or moral character, the historical use of the word malakoi and men who are pederasts, rapists, exploiters and murderers, which is how the word arsenokoites has always been used since Paul coined it. It has nothing to do with homosexuality in general or committed same-sex relationships in particular.

Do Not Be INFANTS In Your Understanding

Legalism is a burdensome load the spiritually immature carry and try to load up on others, completely forgetting the importance of grace and individual relationship with the Divine as you work out your OWN salvation.
When Paul was writing his letters, he often peppered them with disclaimers to not be infants in understanding 1 Corinthians 14:20; not to take his words to judge others and cause them to stumble Romans 14:13-14; to be fully persuaded in one’s own mind Romans 14:5; If you are unsure, fall back on the MOST IMPORTANT Commandment and it will cover anything he could not adequately address Romans 13:9-10. 

Paul did not want people slavishly following his words as commandments, like they were already doing with the Old Law. He had enough of a battle as it was to free early Christians from a shallow kind of legalism and literalism that blocked their understanding the meat of the message and most of all, grace.

“Before this faith came, we were held prisoners by the law, locked up until faith should be revealed. So the law was put in charge to lead us to Christ that we might be justified by faith. Now that faith has come, we are no longer under the supervision of the law.” Galatians 3:23-25

He already saw them using the scriptures (and the only scriptures that existed in Paul’s time was the Old Law, that is the scripture he was referring to in 2Tim 3:16, when he was writing his letters) to exclude uncircumcised, non-Sabbath observing, non-kosher following Gentiles, judge and nit-pick at each other’s behavior, attire, diet and enforce old ranking systems of class and gender.  He had to remind them in Galations 3:28, “There is neither Jew nor Greek; there is neither slave nor free; THERE IS NO MALE AND FEMALE; for you are all one in Christ Jesus.”

This is not the intended use of scripture

But perhaps the most radical thing Paul ever did write can be found in 1 Tim 1:4-6. “The Spirit clearly says that in later times some will abandon the faith and follow deceiving spirits and things taught by demons. Such teachings come through HYPOCRITICAL LIARS, whose consciences have been seared as with a hot iron. THEY FORBID PEOPLE TO MARRY and order them to abstain from certain foods, which God created to be received with thanksgiving by those who believe and who know the truth. FOR EVERYTHING GOD CREATED IS GOOD, AND NOTHING IS TO BE REJECTED IF IT IS RECEIVED WITH THANKSGIVING, because it is consecrated by the word of God and prayer. If you point these things out to the brothers, you will be a good minister of Christ Jesus, brought up in the truths of the faith and of the good teaching that you have followed.”

It was not as though Paul did not have precedent.

It was Christ himself who bypassed the Old Law if it did not serve the greater good, mercy and basic human needs. He and his disciples picked grain to eat and healed when it was the Sabbath (punishable by death), he allowed an unclean woman with menstrual flow to touch him (punishable by banishment) and when the sanctimonious Pharisees kicked up a fuss, he referred to the account of King David who when he and his soldiers were starving ate the consecrated bread in the temple (a capital offense) but as Matthew 12:7 shows, Jesus said of God, “If you had known what these words mean, 'I DESIRE MERCY, NOT SACRIFICE,' you would not have condemned the innocent.”

Anti-Gay Bible Literalists are modern day Pharisees. What they do today, bears striking resemblance to when the bible was used in an infantile, legalistic way to justify things like slavery, colonialism and unjust treatment of women. They demand that in order to follow Christ, gays and lesbians must live lonely celibate lives or force themselves to live a contradiction to keep up appearances, in constant turmoil over their innate orientation. Something they would never do themselves.
'I DESIRE MERCY, NOT SACRIFICE,' Be wary of those who try to make your spiritual life feel like this….

It is not hardship, pain, suffering and suppression that please Christ, but your happiness, freedom and how you use it to serve your fellowman. He said his yoke is supposed to be light and the load refreshing and nobody is supposed to be placing heavy burdens on your shoulders that they would not bear themselves. Do not be fooled! If your spiritual practice means denying yourself joy (and joy is a fruit of the spirit) that can be fulfilled well within the clear universal perimeters of, “Love your neighbor as yourself”, it has nothing to do with Christ.  Instead it has everything to do with shielding other people from the challenge of dealing with what they find personally discomforting; soothing their cultural prejudices and satisfying their ego’s need for an effigy of evil to beat and blame. It is not your spiritual duty to empty all your joy into their void. That is bottomless pit that only Divine grace and love can fill.
Instead of this!

 For more information please visit:,,  and the film, “For The Bible Tells Me So”


No comments: