Give me the wit to know what I am doing,
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.
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.
A few years ago I read the novel Ender’s Game. It is a good, if somewhat odd, book about a child soldier in the year 2070.
There is a movie based on the book, which is currently on general release in the UK. I’m not going to see the movie.
Why? Because Orson Scott Card, the author of Ender’s Game, is a homophobe. He isn’t just a run-of-the-mill homophobe either. He’s quite an extreme one. Up until recently he was on the board of the National Organisation for Marriage, a US body that opposes same-sex marriage, and he has said that same-sex marriage marks the end of democracy in America.
Even though it turns out that the money that Orson Scott Card will make from the film will not be affected by the number of people who see the film, I’m still not going to see it. My reasons for not seeing the film are not primarily economic. I don’t want to see the film because I don’t want to be associated with Orson Scott Card and his deeply offensive views, even indirectly by seeing a film based on one of his books.
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.
— SerotoninJunkie (@serotoninjunkie) August 27, 2013
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 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.
A few weeks ago I was in a Catholic holy shop that sold various things like Bibles, prayer cards, and religious statues and ornaments. I wasn’t buying anything, I was just there with Michael as he was browsing.
A week or two after that I was in a comic book store. I didn’t go in for anything in particular – I’m not a comic book store kind of guy – but I did browse for a bit. It struck me that the comic book store was similar to the holy shop. It sold books and magazines that people revere (in some senses at least) and had statues and ornaments that featured characters and scenes from those revered texts. In both shops, patrons bought these statues to decorate their homes with objects that had meaning to them.
Although I’m not massively into religious iconography, and I’m really not into comic book paraphernalia, I don’t think there is anything wrong with any of this. How people choose to spend their money and decorate their homes is entirely up to them. Indeed, seeing the parallel between religious and secular icons has helped me understand why people would want, say, a statue of Iron Man. The role that an icon of the Virgin Mary plays in the life of a Catholic is somewhat similar to the role a picture of C3PO plays in the life of an avid Star Wars fan.
I am a lightweight sci-fi fan and I do follow some of the relevant forums. Recently I saw another parallel between sci-fi and Christianity. Sometimes the discussions about sci-fi are full of passion. There are theories that hang on precise interpretation of particular words and phrases, put forward by fans who are convinced that they understood every last detail. There are theological ideas that hang on precise interpretation of particular words and phrases, put forward by Christians who are convinced they understand every last detail. Once again, I don’t see anything wrong with this.
Where it does get weird, and where I do have a problem is where fundamentalists (be they Christian or Scifientologist) encounter other fundamentalists with incompatible theories (or, to a lesser extent liberals like me who don’t feel they have to understand every last detail). That never ends well. In those circumstances people just can’t agree to differ, and things get nasty. I have sometimes wondered if people get into heated arguments because they like arguing (as in fighting not discussing) or maybe because the need to ‘win’ arguments for some reason or other. If you are that kind of person and you are Christian you can find your need to fight in religious forums, and if you are an atheist or agnostic you can have heated arguments over sci-fi or comic books or whatever. For some people arguments over Start Trek occupy the same function as arguments over the book of Habbakuk. Once again, the role that Christianity has in the lives of some is somewhat similar to the role that sci-fi plays in the life of its fans.
Neither is right, neither is necessary, neither is terribly much fun for me to be involved in. However, by and large, the religious arguments do have one advantage over the sci-fi ones. The participants in the former usually believe they are dealing with some form of objective truth. Participants in the latter should know it is just fiction.
There are six passages traditionally used to say you can’t be gay and Christian: Genesis 19, Leviticus 18:22, Leviticus 20:13, Romans 1, 1 Corinthians 6:9-10, and 1 Timothy 1:9-10.
Genesis 19 is about gang rape. Anyone who says this has anything to say about consensual relationships has bigger problems than Biblical interpretation.
Leviticus is part of the Law of Moses, which is not binding on Christians. In any case the verses use an obscure Hebrew idiom that is rather unclear (as can been seen in the KJV translation).
Romans 1 26 and 27 does speak about same-sex relationships in a negative light, but then again verses 25 and 25 speak about opposite-sex relationships in an equally negative light. Nobody believes that Romans 1 teaches you can’t be straight and Christian.
1 Corinthians 6:9-10 and 1 Timothy 1:9-10 use an obscure Greek word, arsenokoites, which is also used to refer to heterosexual sin. 1 Corinthians 6:9-10 also uses the word malakos, which is not a sexual term. If these passages were supposed to be about same-sex relationships, the writer could have used a lot of other, more common, terms.
A few weeks ago, a friend of mine, PA Maglochlainn, died. PA fought to make the world a better place, and while he wasn’t old when he died, he wasn’t a young man either.
Today would have been Ryan White’s 41st birthday, but Ryan died in 1990, at the age of 18. Ryan was a haemophiliac, and he became HIV positive as a result of an infected blood treatment. He was diagnosed in December 1984, the same months as his 13th birthday. In the days before effective drug treatment, an HIV infection meant developing AIDS. He faced awful prejudice as a result; even though he posed no threat to his teachers or classmates he was not allowed to return to school.
A lesser man may have moved to another part of the country, where nobody knew him and he could live in secrecy. Ryan and his mother didn’t do that. They mounted a legal battle to allow him to go back to his school. As a result, he became widely known, appearing in the media, talking about his illness and his life. He put a human face on what was a shockingly anonymous disease. Even though he was ill, he fought the prejudice that he had faced.
Ryan, you were fighting for people living with HIV and their families at an age when most guys are still too young to shave. You fought for Michael, and you fought for me, and you didn’t even know us.