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1 Corinthians Chapter 6

1 Corinthians 6:9 - 10 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, Nor thieves, nor covetous, nor drunkards, nor revilers, nor extortioners, shall inherit the kingdom of God.

Problematic Translations:

Arsenokoites, which is translated as homosexual in some translations of this passage, is a very problematic word. The range of meanings is very diverse, so we are left trying to make an educated guess as to the exact meaning. Problems understanding the precise meaning of the word arsenokoites is complicated by the fact that the word is only used twice in the New Testament. We have very few records of this word being used in secular documents, so we are left guessing some about the meaning.

Ann Nyland, who translated The Source New Testament, has expertise in New Testament Greek and in ancient, secular Greek. She does not translate the Greek word arsenokoites, because she feels there is "no ready English translation." Nyland, in footnotes to her translation, states a verb form of the word appears in the Sibylline Oraclest is used in the context of extortion and murder. She says that one way a sixth century astrologer used the term is to describe those who rape women.

A case can be made that the Greek word arsenikoites is a reference to the worship of other gods. During the New Testament era, the city of Ephesus enjoyed the reputation of having male prostitutes serving the in temples dedicated to other gods. The second edition of Tyndale's New Bible Commentary notes that the some people believe the Greek word arsenikoites, which some Bible translations say is homosexual, might be "restricted" to male prostitutes. Leon Morris, in the Tyndale New Testament Commentary on 1 Corinthians observes, “The inclusion of idolaters may point us to the immorality of much heathen worship of the day.” When commenting on immorality and unchastity, Charles Errdman, in his commentary on 1 Corinthians indicates, “The practice of impurity formed a feature of idolatrous worship.”

There are a wide range of translations of this verse. Biblical linguists see enough differences in meaning that one needs to be very cautious when applying this passage to gay people. Given the fact that one expert in ancient Greek feels there is no real English translation for one of the words that is translated as homosexual in some versions of the Bible, this passage should not be used to condemn gays or bisexuals. A few of the different translations include:

Good News Bible - Surely you know that the wicked will not possess God's Kingdom. Do not fool yourselves; people who are immoral or who worship idols or are adulterers or homosexual perverts or who steal or are greedy or are drunkards or who slander others or are thieves---none of these will possess God's Kingdom.

Moffatt Bible - What! do you not know that the wicked will not inherit the Realm of God? Make no mistake about it; neither the immoral nor idolaters nor adulterers not catamites nor sodomites nor thieves nor the lustful nor the drunken nor the abusive nor robbers will inherit the Realm of God. 

New Revised Standard Version - Do you not know that wrongdoers will not inherit the kingdom of God? Do not be deceived! Fornicators, idolaters, adulterers, male prostitutes, sodomites, thieves, the greedy, drunkards, revilers, robbers - none of these will inherit the kingdom of God.

Theme is Idol Worship, Not Homosexuality:

There are strong overtones of idol worship in the themes of this passage. One of the groups of people criticized in this passage is adulterers. Easton's Bible Dictionary indicates that idol worship and apostasy are spoken of as "adultery spiritually" and refers people to passages such as Jeremiah 3:6, 8-9 and Revelation 2:22. According to the Easton's Bible Dictionary an apostate congregation is an adulteress and informs us that in some Biblical passages some Jews are called "an adulterous generation". Another group attacked in this passage are fornicators. Easton's Bible Dictionary says fornication "frequently" refers to either "forsaking" God or "following" idols. Before the appearance of any words that are translated as homosexual, three words with strong association with the worship of other gods appear in the passage. The theme of worshipping other gods continues in the last portion of this chapter.

1 Corinthians 6:15-20 Know ye not that your bodies are the members of Christ? shall I then take the members of Christ, and make them the members of an harlot? God forbid. What? know ye not that he which is joined to an harlot is one body? for two, saith he, shall be one flesh. But he that is joined unto the Lord is one spirit. Flee fornication. Every sin that a man doeth is without the body; but he that committeth fornication sinneth against his own body. What? know ye not that your body is the temple of the Holy Ghost which is in you, which ye have of God, and ye are not your own? For ye are bought with a price: therefore glorify God in your body, and in your spirit, which are God's.

The well-known Bible commentator Matthew Henry comments that Corinth was "famous" for the sin of fornication. Corinth's fame may have been due to the importance of the goddess of love Aphrodite. Some Bible commentators, such as William Barclay, believe there were 1,000 prostitutes for Aphrodite in the city. Barclay notes that in the ancient world Corinth was widely associated with debauchery. The Catholic Study Bible comments that the word prostitute used in this portion of 1 Corinthians 6 may be a reference "specifically to religious prostitution."

A Christian's body is in union with the Holy Spirit. A physical and sexual union with a temple prostitute was an act of worship to another god. These verses could be making the point that the physical bodies Christians belong to God, because the Spirit resides in the Christian. When a person has sex with a temple prostitute, which was often the case with either fornication or adultery, a person has made a spiritual union with another god. The Christian cannot be in union with both God and another god at the same time.

Given the strong theme in 1 Corinthians 6 of worshipping other gods, there is a very good possibility that this chapter is not addressing individual sexual sins and homosexuality. The chapter appears to be looking at the bigger issue of sex as an act of worship of other gods and as an act of spiritual union with other gods.

Gay Christians do not express their love for each other as an act of worship to idols. Because gay Christians are not worshipping idols, this text does not appear to condemn gay Christians.

Application for Queer Community:

Reflect for a moment on the notes mentioned by Blbical commentators. The Catholic Study Bible indicates these verses may be in reference to religious prostitution or as a symbol of any sexual relationship that conflicts with Christ’s claim over us. These verses are a call to gay and straight Christians to maintain only relationships that strengthen their relationships with God. Any relationships, be they sexual or non-sexual, that weaken our bonds with Christ should be terminated. Relationships at work that harm our connection with God need to be changed. And relationships with abusive churches, with churches that threaten the relationships gay Christians have with God are to be abandoned.


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