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General All-Purpose Quick Prayer of Thanks

Lord,

Thank you for all that you are doing for me,

Amen

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My Favourite Translation of 1 Corinthians 6:9-10

My favourite translation of 1 Corinthians 6:9-10 is from The Message.

Don’t you realize that this is not the way to live? Unjust people who don’t care about God will not be joining in his kingdom. Those who use and abuse each other, use and abuse sex, use and abuse the earth and everything in it, don’t qualify as citizens in God’s kingdom.

Translating the vice lists in Paul’s letters is hard. Even if we know exactly what a particular word means in the context of the 1st Century (and we often don’t) it isn’t clear how to understand a 1st Century sin in a 21st Century context. For practical purposes, the vice lists shouldn’t be understood as lists of specific prohibitions, but rather as general guidelines on how to behave. I think The Message translates this vice list perfectly. It covers the general meanings of the terms, and it is in harmony with the types of behaviour that mean we do qualify as citizens in God’s kingdom.

My Least Favourite Translation of 1 Corinthians 6:9-10

I think my least favourite translation of 1 Corinthians 6:9-10 is the New King James translation:

 Do you not know that the unrighteous will not inherit the kingdom of God? Do not be deceived. Neither fornicators, nor idolaters, nor adulterers, nor homosexuals, nor sodomites, nor thieves, nor covetous, nor drunkards, nor revilers, nor extortioners will inherit the kingdom of God.

Neither homosexuals nor sodomites will inherit the kingdom of God?  I’m not sure I know what the difference between a homosexual and a sodomite is…

For more about the translation of 1 Corinthians 6:9-10, see Same-Sex Relationships: 1 Corinthians and 1 Timothy, and Same-Sex Relationships: 1 Corinthians and 1 Timothy Revisited.

The Sun Passes It’s D’oh! Levels!

Miley Cyrus’ performance at the recent MTV awards has been criticised because of its suggestive nature.  The Sun, a major British newspaper had this to say:

Miley’s Performance may well go down in history as the moment pop became too porn.

Put your clothes back on ladies, and learn to sing.

The Sun, 27 August 2013, page 7, Northern Irish Edition

The Sun helpfully illustrated their article with a picture of Miley during her act.

However, The Sun is still The Sun, and today’s paper had a photo of topless woman on page three. This photo wasn’t connected with any news story, and just had a small amount of accompanying text, advertising their website and iPad app where additional, similar, images were available.

Surely if Miley Cirus’ performance was ’too porn’ then The Sun’s Page 3 is also ’too porn’? The Sun can’t have it both ways. It should either condemn Miley Cirus and stop its Page Three photographs, or it should support Miley Cirus for expressing herself in the same way as its models do. Personally I think The Sun should lead the way by moving into the 21st Century and leaving Page 3 in history. Until then, The Sun can proudly report that it has a D’oh! Level in hypocrisy to go with the one it has in sexism.

Thanks to @SerotoninJunkie, who first spotted this on Twitter, and to No More Page 3, a campaign to end Page Three.

Same-Sex Relationships: 1 Corinthians and 1 Timothy Revisited

My paper on 1 Corinthians and 1 Timothy was discussed on a Facebook group recently. One of the contributors made some interesting points about it, and I want to address them here.

I have read your article, and if I could sum up your thesis in one sentence, it would be, “1 Cor. 6:9-10 is vague and we cannot know with any confidence what it means; thus it is irrelevant to us.” It appears you are effectively marginalizing the Apostle Paul’s teachings on morality.

This is not an accurate summary of my position. The words malakos and arsenokoites, which are used in 1 Corinthians 6:9-10, are essentially impossible to translate. We cannot know what they mean. This does not mean that they are irrelevant to us, and I am certainly not marginalising Paul’s teachings. In the paper I look at Christ’s teachings as well, and use them to understand how Paul and Christ teach us to behave.

Furthermore, you’ve read a meaning of arsenokoites from the 6th century back into Paul’s writings. The interval of time is not much less than that between ourselves and Geoffrey Chaucer! The alleged dearth of data from the first and second centuries does not make this anachronism any more reasonable.

I haven’t done this. The oldest use of arsenokoites where we can use the context to deduce the meaning is from the Sixth Century. I made it clear in the paper that the meaning of words can and does change with time. Depending on John the Faster for an understanding of what Paul meant when he used arsenokoites is most certainly overstating the case. It is worth repeating what I said in the article:  if we confine ourselves to extant documents from the first and second centuries, we do not have enough evidence to do anything other than guess what arsenokoites means.

The dearth of data from the First and Second Centuries is not alleged. In the paper I referred to a list of all known references to arsenokoites and related words. It is clear from that list that there is no useful data about the meaning of arsenokoites from the first and second centuries.

Furthermore, how can you enter into an extensive discussion of the meaning of NT Greek words without making reference to a standard lexicon (such as BDAG)?

My paper was based on primary sources – the actual extant uses of arsenokoites from antiquity. Lexicons are secondary sources, and are merely distillations of primary sources. They cannot contain any information that was not present in the primary sources themselves.

I am a Fundamentalist

I am a Christian fundamentalist.

This may come as a surprise to you if you have read anything else on this blog. It will come as a surprise to you if you have ever actually met me in person.

It was a bit of a shock to me when I realised, to be honest.

I came to this realisation on the street one day when I was talking to some street preachers who had pressed some of their leaflets into my hand. They started to tell me that it was wrong to be gay (although they probably used the word ‘homosexual’). In the course of this discussion I said the thing that made me realise I am a fundamentalist.

“What does the Bible say? I base my belief of what is right and wrong on that.”

That is a statement that many self-described fundamentalists seem to think belongs to them. It is their shibboleth, their unique selling point. As the discussion continued I did something else profoundly fundamentalist. I quoted passages of scripture, chapter and verse, and talked about what they mean. Again, that is something that many self-described fundamentalists think is something that belongs to them, and them alone. If that is the case then I am a fundamentalist.

Of course, that isn’t the case. It isn’t just the self-described fundamentalist Christians who base their belief of what is right and wrong on the Bible. Lots of Christians do. In fact, I’ve never met a Christian who doesn’t. Many fundamentalists describe themselves as “Bible-believing Christians”, which carries the unfortunate implication that other Christians do not believe it. The truth of the matter is that all Christians are “Bible-believing Christians”. Not all Christians believe that the Bible teaches the same thing – witness the plethora of denominations – but they all believe the Bible.