God and Homosexuality: Parts 6 and 7 – Pornoi, Arsenokoitai and Malakoi – 1 Cor 6 and 1 Tim 1

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.And such were some of you. But you were washed, but you were sanctified, but you were justified in the name of the Lord Jesus and by the Spirit of our God. (1 Cor 6:9-11 NKJV)

knowing this: that the law is not made for a righteous person, but for the lawless and insubordinate, for the ungodly and for sinners, for the unholy and profane, for murderers of fathers and murderers of mothers, for manslayers,for fornicators, for sodomites, for kidnappers, for liars, for perjurers, and if there is any other thing that is contrary to sound doctrine, (1Tim 1:9-10 NKJV)

Today we are looking at two passages together because they deal with the same concept and Greek words; malakoi and arsenokoitais.  Let’s start with the 1 Timothy passage.  Justin R. Cannon, an Episcopal Priest and the founder of  Inclusive Orthodoxy,  covered the topic so well I am going to simply share what he wrote in his article, The Bible, Christianity, and Homosexuality:

1 Timothy 1:8-10

“Now we know that the law is good, if any one uses it lawfully, understanding this, that the law is not laid down for the just but for the lawless and disobedient, for the ungodly and sinners, for the unholy and profane, for murderers of fathers and murderers of mothers, for manslayers, immoral persons, sodomites, kidnappers, liars, perjurers, and whatever else is contrary to sound doctrine…” (RSV)

Let us keep in mind that the word translated sodomites is the Greek word arsenokoitai. Our question right now should be, “What is this talking about?” In order to answer this question, we will begin by breaking up the phrase into its structural pairs. You will see these groupings reflected below in the English as well as the Greek. (The New Testament, by the way, was originally written in Greek) 

1 Timothy 1:9-10 (ENGLISH, RSV)

A: Lawless and


B: Ungodly and sinners    
C:   Unholy and profane    
D:  Murders of fathers  /  murders of mothers / manslayers
E:   Immoral persons  / sodomites / kidnappers
F:   Liars  /  perjurers  / and whatever else

As we see in the English there seems to be a relationship between the words in each rows A, B, C, D, and F. What about row E, though? What do “immoral persons, sodomites, and kidnappers” have in common? To answer this question we will need to explore the Greek. The three Greek words present in line E are: pornoi (pornoiV), arsenokoitai (arsenokoitaiV), and andrapodistai (andrapodistaiV).

Some commonly read Bible translations include King James Version (KJV), New International Version (NIV), New King James (NKJ), Revised Standard Version (RSV), and New English Bible (NEB). These words were, respectively, translated in the following manner:

  pornoi      arsenokoitai  andrapodistai
KJV:    them that defile  
  whoremonger  themselves with men-stealers    
NIV:  adulterers  perverts slave traders
NKJ: fornicators sodomites kidnappers
RSV: immoral persons  sodomites kidnappers
NEB: fornicators   sodomites kidnappers

As we see there is no clear-cut agreement as to what these words mean, though the above translations agree on the general sense of such words. To determine the precise meanings, a lexicon will be used. A lexicon is a scholarly dictionary used to determine the meaning of biblical words. A search through the online Greek lexicon available at searchgodsword.org gives the following information on the Greek term pornos, which is the stem of the word pornoi, the first of the three words:

Pornos derives from the verb pernemi meaning “to sell” and the following three definitions are given:

  1. a male who prostitutes his body to another’s lust for hire
  2. a male prostitute
  3. a male who indulges in unlawful sexual intercourse, a fornicator

Andrapodistes, the stem of the word Andrapodistai, the third word, returns the following definitions:

  1. slave-dealer, kidnapper, man-stealer
  2. of one who unjustly reduces free males to slavery
  3. of one who steals the slaves of others and sells them.

Arsenokoitai, as previously indicated, is made up of the Greek words for male (arseno-) and beds (koitai). In Greek, the word koitai, literally meaning beds, is commonly used as a euphemism for one who has sex. Arseno- is an adjectival prefix, thus literally we could translate this as “male bedder.”

We should now be able to derive an exact understanding of the word arsenokoitai based on the two words that surround it. We have, first of all, the enslaved male prostitute, the “male-bedder” (arsenokoitai), and the slave dealer. The New American Bible offers a footnote that might shed some light on the historical context of the time:

“The Greek word translated as boy prostitutes may refer to catamites, i.e. boys or young men who were kept for the purposes of prostitution, a practice not uncommon in the Greco-Roman world. In Greek mythology this was the function of Ganymede, the “cupbearer of the gods,” whose Latin name was Catamus…” (NAB)

There was a common practice in which men of Paul’s time would have slave “pet” boys whom they sexually exploited. These boys were prepubescent and without beards so they seemed like females. Today, this practice is referred to as pederasty. Regardless, however, the pornos is clearly a prostitute.

Keeping this in mind, let’s look back at what we have so far: the enslaved male prostitute, the “male-bedder” (arsenokoitai), and the slave dealer. This contextual dynamic leads one to understand arsenokoitai as being the one who sleeps with the prostitute, the man who literally lies on the bed with him. It is as if Paul were saying, “male prostitutes, men who sleep with them, and slave dealers who procure them…” Not only does the syntactical and historical context point to this understanding, but also the very literal sense of the word arsenokoitai itself.

If this translation of arsenokoitai is correct, it should also make logical sense where it is also used in 1 Corinthians 6:9, either confirming or refuting our understanding of this word.

1 Corinthians 6:9-10

“Do you not know that the unrighteous will not inherit the kingdom of God? Do not be deceived; neither the immoral, nor idolaters, nor adulterers, nor sexual perverts, nor thieves, nor the greedy, nor drunkards, nor revilers, nor robbers will inherit the kingdom of God.” (RSV)

The term translated “sexual perverts” in RSV is actually two different words. The first word is malakos, which is the singular form of the word malakoi, and the second term is arsenokoitai.

Some commonly read translations include…

  malakos   arsenokoitai
KJV: effeminate abusers of  themselves with
NIV: male prostitutes homosexual offenders
NKJ: homosexuals  sodomites


RSV1977:                                  sexual perverts
RSV1989: male prostitutes sodomites
Jerusalem Bible: catamites     sodomites

The term malakoi, as an adjective, literally means “soft.” In Matthew 11:8 it has been used as an adjective in reference to clothing. In this text, however, it is used as a noun and its meaning is debated. Does our understanding of arsenokoitai as revealed in 1 Timothy 1:10 as “men who sleep with male-prostitutes” make sense next to this word malakos which is translated by both NIV and RSV as male prostitutes? The Jerusalem Bible even translates the term malakos as catamites, those young soft prepubescent “pet” boys mentioned earlier. The syntactical and historical context of 1 Timothy 1:10 reveals the meaning of the word arsenokoitai as men who sleep with prostitutes, and the fact this also fits the context of 1 Corinthians 6:9 seems to confirm that we have found the meaning of these obscure words. It makes perfect sense that Paul would rebuke not only the prostitute, but also the “male-bedder” or the man who sleeps with that prostitute.

It is also worth noting that the second edition of Tyndale’s New Bible Commentary points out 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.” Charles Errdman, in his commentary on 1 Corinthians indicates, “The practice of impurity formed a feature of idolatrous worship.”

The Catholic Study Bible also indicates that 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. 

In conclusion I believe that these scriptures are best explained by Rev. Cannon’s work which would have the 1 Timothy read like this,

Now we know that the law is good, if any one uses it lawfully, understanding this, that the law is not laid down for the just but for the lawless and disobedient, for the ungodly and sinners, for the unholy and profane, for murderers of fathers and murderers of mothers, for manslayers, male prostitutes, men who sleep with them, and slave dealers who procure them, liars, perjurers, and whatever else is contrary to sound doctrine…”

And the 1 Corinthians passage read like this,

“Do you not know that the unrighteous will not inherit the kingdom of God? Do not be deceived; neither the immoral, nor idolaters, nor adulterers, nor male prostitutes or the men who sleep with them, nor thieves, nor the greedy, nor drunkards, nor revilers, nor robbers will inherit the kingdom of God.”

Other reading:
Malakoi is NEVER used in the Bible to Mean Homosexual
No Femmes? No Fairies?

23 thoughts on “God and Homosexuality: Parts 6 and 7 – Pornoi, Arsenokoitai and Malakoi – 1 Cor 6 and 1 Tim 1

  1. DeeAnna says:

    Okay Michelle.

    This will be the last comment I will leave for you on your blog. I will stop “bothering” you after this.

    It has become increasingly clearer to me that your intention, conscious or not, is to take each verse or passage that deals with homosexuality and examine them until you find what you wish to find.

    Here is my problem with that:

    1) Your argument is basically that the followers of the Law (Old Testament Jews) got it “wrong” when they believed that the Law taught that homosexuality was a sin.

    Or perhaps your argument is simply that they misinterpreted, and it was only meant to be a sin for the Jews, but never for the Gentiles. I refer back to Part 1 where you gave a history lesson regarding how the passages you referenced were really only for the Jews, and really only for a certain time, and really, maybe, we got the language wrong anyway. What you fail to take into account is that the Law may have been given to God’s chosen people, but it’s conviction applies to all peoples. Remember, the worshipers of Baal were not innocent simply because they were not “under the Law” as the Jews were. The Law was given to us through God’s chosen people, but never once was it meant to be only for them. God’s judgments and justice applied then (and still applies) to all people. One is not exempt simply because one does not accept it. So no, the prohibition on homosexuality wasn’t just for certain people at a certain time. We know this is not how the Law works.

    2) Then, the writers of the New Testament got the Old Testament “wrong,” and those silly little wrong doctrines about the sin of homosexuality crept their way into the NT too. Or perhaps you believe they knew homosexuality was not a sin, and again, it’s simply a matter of…

    3) The early Church misinterpreting the passages regarding homosexuality, and thus wrongly teaching it as a sin. Or maybe…

    4) The early Church didn’t get it wrong, and homosexuality wasn’t viewed as sinful then either. Maybe it’s just the last 1800 years or so of Church history that’s gone so horribly wrong. At some point, I think, you suspect that someone, somewhere got into all the Bibles, and all the teachers of the Bible, and convinced them that the wrong translations of the words should be used. Do you really think there is some mass conspiracy against homosexuals that’s been at work for the last several thousand years, Michelle? I hope not. It’s absurd. And IF it were even possible (it’s not), then we would have no Bible to trust. I mean, if they could change that little detail, how do we know they didn’t change more? Upon what could you possibly base your faith?

    Or maybe your argument is much more simple:

    The Jews got it wrong about homosexuality, so the Old Testament got it wrong. Then the New Testament got it wrong too, since it was also written by Jews who were heavily influenced by the Old Testament. Then the early Church got it wrong, because they based it upon the wrong-ness of both New and Old Testaments. Then the modern church continued to get it wrong, because no other precedent was ever set. No one, that is, until people like Cannon and Michelle Krabill.

    Problem with that theory, again, is that you cannot trust the Bible at all if this is what you believe. If the Jews got part of the Law wrong, and the wrong has traveled all the way through every translation in every language, we have NOTHING. Either the Bible is God-breathed and Holy or it is useless.

    I know you do not believe that the Bible IS God-breathed. You explained how you view the Scriptures before you started this journey on your blog. Your idea (if I understand correctly) is that the Scriptures were written by men inspired by the Holy Spirit. There is a very, very big difference between the ideas of being written BY men and being written THROUGH men. By believing what you believe about Scripture you open the door for you own “Holy Spirit guided” interpretations of the Scripture. You also open the door for your own “Holy Spirit guided” story. Since you believe that you are filled with the Spirit just as the authors of the Bible were, you believe your words and your story have just as much weight as theirs, no? That each piece of the human puzzle is just as important as the last. This is absurd. ABSURD. Your thoughts are not as “important” to theology because they are simply not the thoughts of God. This is not to say that you are not important, and that there is not a very good reason for your existence. He loves you as much as He loves Paul. But Paul, my dear, was not just relating a story, or stories, or giving his opinions on the matters of God. He has authority because he wrote part of the God-breathed Scriptures. The human part of the puzzle isn’t what’s important; The God part is the ONLY thing that matters.

    Darlin’, your theology is not built upon ANYTHING. I don’t understand how you don’t see that. I pray every day that your emotions and your will would be set aside so that the truth wouldn’t be so obscure to you. And also that you would stop thinking that truth and love are two different things. God is love; Jesus is truth- they are one and the same. You cannot seperate the Persons and you cannot worship love at the expense of truth. You simply end up without either.

    Did we get the language wrong?

    You argue this again and again, from parts 1 to 7. I submit to you that if we got the language regarding the sin of homosexuality wrong, we got it ALL wrong. If we have not a single trustworthy translation of the Bible, my dear, we are screwed. We don’t know who God is. We don’t know why we are here. We don’t know what Jesus means. We don’t know the Divine Actions, and thus we are left blind and alone. Do you realize that’s what life without the Holy Word of God is? And I do mean the Holy Word OF GOD. There are no holy words of man. We have no stories of our own by which we can be justified. None.

    If you start with a wrong premise, you end with a wrong conclusion. You don’t even understand what the Bible is. You don’t understand what your own faith is based upon, how could you teach others about that faith? You’re teaching the gospel of Michelle, and it is quite different from the true Gospel. Which is not to say that you don’t get parts right. You are correct that only sinners are saved. Gay, straight, whatever: We are ALL sinners and we are ALL in need of the Good News. I agree with you on so many points. But the parts where you discount the Bible? That makes me angry. I had hoped you misspoke when you referred to “clobber passages.” I know now that you did not.

    I just wanted to share with you the logic behind all of what you’re saying. I don’t know if you’ve ever thought it out this far. Just know, that if you conclude that “Christianity” is wrong about homosexuality, then you must conclude it is all wrong. You’ll have to start over. You’ll have to go through word by word, until you have a translation proven by Michelle. Then you’ll have your religion. If you can’t trust the Bible, and you can’t trust tradition, and you can’t trust history, then you literally have nothing. Seems absurd to me to claim to believe a religion if that were the case.

    And now I’m done. I promise, no comments from me, ever again.

    • Amaranth says:

      I’ve seen this “all or nothing” house of cards logic used all too often by Christians attempting to defend their particular interpretation of what the Bible says. Examples: “If evolution is true, then the entire Bible is false and God is a liar.” “If the events of Genesis didn’t take place exactly and literally as depicted, then the entire Bible is false and we have no basis for faith.” “Unless every single passage has been perfectly interpreted every single time by every single scholar to ever crack open a Bible, then you cannot trust any of it”.

      I find this a rather disrespectful view of the Bible, because it ignores the obvious fact that humans are the ones reading the words, and it removes all possibility of human error from the discussion. The Bible’s perfection does not mean people of faith are never going to misinterpret it, because *people* are imperfect. And when we try to pretend human interpretation and human bias and human error are magically erased by the *Bible’s* inerrant-ness, we end up with a theology that has no means to grow, an understanding of God and people that has no room to deepen and expand, and a religion that has little bearing upon real people and their actual problems and challenges.

      Sorry, but the “human part of the puzzle”, as you phrase it, is EXTREMELY important. God did not speak the Bible into existence in a void; it was given to struggling, imperfect people who had to then decide what it means for them and their lives. The Bible, God-breathed or not, is full of human stories and human foibles and human poems and…well, human-ness. If people have absolutely no bearing on the Bible and what it means, when why does every single story and letter and poem begin with who wrote it, who they wrote it to, and when they wrote it? If every single jot and letter of the Bible is God-inspired, then what other purpose would those place-and-time markers serve but to ground the writing in the human experience? *This* time, *this* place, to *this* people.

      The problem, as I see it, is this:

      You and others who hold to the “traditional” interpretation hear gay marriage supporters saying something like this: “These passages (which clearly condemn all homosexuality but we’re going to pretend they don’t) are not binding upon people now because certain passages only apply to certain time periods.”

      While what Michelle, Cannon, and others who have reached similar conclusions are actually saying is this: “These passages, which talk about sex between people of the same gender, are part of a larger narrative condemning idol worship and pagan religious practices of the time. Given this context, it is inconsistent to insist these passages condemn *all* homosexual behavior, just like it would be inconsistent to insist that passages condemning incest or rape are talking about *all* heterosexual behavior.”

      It’s not a question of whether these passages are “wrong” or “right”…it’s a question of whether they apply to a specific situation: loving monogamous homosexual couples who wish to get married.

      Looking at the context and concluding that certain verses don’t apply to certain situations is not the same as saying they don’t apply at all, ever, or that they don’t matter, or that the entire Bible is wrong. It would be silly to say that every single Bible verse automatically applies to every single possible situation by mere virtue of it being Scripture, so in that sense I suppose we *are* “picking and choosing” which verses to apply where. But just as you wouldn’t use a verse dealing with hair coverings or idols or widows to counsel a couple dealing with divorce, it doesn’t make sense to use a Bible verse dealing with the worship of pagan idols to condemn a same-sex couple that wishes to marry and start a family together. Not because those verses are “wrong”, but because they simply have nothing to do with situation at hand.

      • Amaranth, I agree with you at least partially. I agree that the webmaster is not simply arguing that “These passages … are not binding upon people now because certain passages only apply to certain time periods.” And yes, the webmaster’s argument does include the view that “These passages, which talk about sex between people of the same gender, are part of a larger narrative condemning idol worship and pagan religious practices of the time. Given this context, it is inconsistent to insist these passages condemn *all* homosexual behavior, just like it would be inconsistent to insist that passages condemning incest or rape are talking about *all* heterosexual behavior.” But in the case of Leviticus (https://wordofawoman.com/2012/03/06/homosexuality-and-god-part-1/), is the Biblical condemnation simply about sex during idol worship activities? No. Leviticus 18:8 begins with the words “Do not have sexual relations with your father’s wife” and the verse finishes with what may be reasoning as to why sex with your father’s wife is sinful. How does that verse finish? Does it finish with a rationale of “because idol worship is sinful”? No. Does it finish with a rationale of “because I am a jealous god and will not tolerate pagan practises”? No. The verse about not having sex with your father’s wife, finishes with the words “that would dishonor your father.” Leviticus 18:16 begins with the words “Do not have sexual relations with your brother’s wife”. And how does that verse finish? Does it finish with the words “because I hate idol worship”? No. After warning against sex with your brother’s wife, the verse states “that would dishonour your brother.” And the wording does not state “temple sex” or “ritualistic sex” would dishonour your brother, but just simply “sex” would do so. I dont know about you, but I get the sense that what is being presented as the principle in Leviticus 18 is that having sex with certain partners is dishonouring. If Leviticus 18 was simply opposing ritualistic sex practices, why are so many different potential partners mentioned rather than just ruling out sex in idol worship all together? And why is a man having sex with his wife not included in the blacklist, or do you think God permits idol sex worship if it’s between spouses?

  2. Thank you for this. Gay people, when not persecuted and hounded, can have loving relationships which enrich them as yours does with your husband. Christians should see that. I am glad that you are publicising this work. Why, do you think, do people insist on interpretations of these texts in the widest terms, to include all gay relationships? Why do people blog on how all gay relationships are sinful, when they are not themselves gay?

  3. Don Johnson says:

    You are getting into the words in the NT that are critical. Previous to reading your post, I have read that arsenokoites is the term for a male who acts like a male in a homosexual act and malakos is the term for a male who acts the female in a homosexual act; trying to avoid being too graphic. Such a definition would include the meanings you have given, but go beyond them also.

    Another aspect is that in the honor/shame culture of the time and place, a malakos was seen as someone engaging in shameful acts and an arsenokoitai was therefore someone who was shaming another. You mention this and I am not sure what difference, if any, it makes except that a believer should never do something to shame another.

  4. As far as I can see in the passage above, Cannon in fact acts arbitrarily while implying that he’s not, when he separates 1 Tim 1 into sections E and F. Sure, the sections prior to E and F are distinct according to the use of the word ‘for’, but this is not the case for sections E and F. In the NKJV, the word ‘for’ is actually inserted in-between every sin in the list beyond section D, whereas correspondingly in the NASB, the word ‘and’ is used instead. There is no apparent reason to group together the words pornoi, arsenokoitai and andrapodistai, as he does. However, having done so, he then decides that they come together to indicate meaning!
    It would seem to me that Cannon just doesnt want arsenokoitai to mean standard homosexual. If that’s what he wants to believe, then he’s entitled to do so. But his is not the only interpretation. There are other interpretations, eg as found here:

  5. Phil W. says:

    What bothers me the most is that since there is really no strong basis for translating the word arsenokoitai as homosexual, why do so many Christians still hang so heavily upon it? I struggle to see the correlation between the message of the gospel and the thinly veiled bigotry that many in the faith have.

    • Paul says:

      The majority within Churches would rather stick to what it has said is the word of God, rather than admit that not only have they misinterpreted the Bible but mistranslated it. To say they got it wrong would mean a great many Christians having to re-evaluate the Bible and review its integrity. How many crises of faith would that cause? How many angry Church members who may have cut off their own children because of what the Church has told them would there be? Gay rights have moved far too fast for the Church. The Church is always behind with societies views (e.g. slavery, women’s rights) but this time there are too many people still alive who have been so horrendously effected. They’re in danger of being caught with they’re pants down and shown for the Pharisees that they are. So it’s been turned into a religious crusade against ‘the evil’, a true test of faith by standing up to the gentiles who want to throw them to the secularist lions.

      Meanwhile kids like Kenneth Wieshuhner are driven to such despair, that they kill themselves within a month of open about the fact they have a pinterest page devoted to their dream wedding to Mr Right and having a crush on boy band member.

  6. Phil, just because the word arsenokoitai cant be translated with certainty, doesnt mean there isnt a reasonably strong basis for determining it’s meaning. The English word ‘day’ depending on context, cant always be translated to mean 24 hours (it can also be translated to mean ‘daytime’), but that uncertainty doesnt mean we abandon the possibility of understanding what people say about time.
    It’s incorrect to imply that the debate over whether the Bible condones homosexual sex, hangs simply on the word arsenokoitai though. This is explained in the link found in the post above yours.

  7. Paul, I see little link between Kenneth Wieshuhner’s suicide and what the Bible says about homosexuality. Unfortunately, human beings sometimes commit suicide, whether they are gay or straight. EricJames Borges, who was an intern for the GLBTQ*-affirming Trevor Project, still committed suicide, despite their support. In the case of Kenneth, his peers hounded him horrendously, despite the agreement of Christians both liberal and conservative that the Bible teaches that you should love your neighbour. This suggests that Kenneth’s death was in spite of what the Bible says, rather than because of it.

    • Paul says:

      I am not disputing that the persecution of Kenneth Wieshuhner is in spite of the Bible’s teaching to love your neighbour. This however does not stop many in the Church standing by whilst the opposite is done to homosexuals. In spite of what the Bible says, many use it to oppose the love of ones neighbour. One example is trying to validate opposition to the Day of Silence. Using Christianity as justification to suppress the reality that whilst you should always lover the sinner and not the sin, the majority choose to do the opposite.

      As for Eric James Borges, putting someone psychologically scarred into a support programme is never a guarantee that you can save them.

  8. True Paul. If Jesus returned today, I suggest his broad assessments would basically be that the conservatives didnt love enough, and the liberals didnt have enough faith in him.

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