Arsenokotai: What is the bible really saying?

So in recent months, the discussion of biblical translation accuracy when discussing homosexuality has come into question over two greek words used: arsenokotai and malakoi. The claim being made is that homosexual acts are not seen as sinful in the eyes of God as the term homosexual was only added to the English translations of the bible in 1946. But is this a true claim and what are the implications of the translation? I want to discuss the intricacies of biblical translation of the original term arsenokotai specifically, as malakoi is more specifically a term that is used to discuss male temple prostitution in the context of the time. I want to talk about where Christians have gone terribly wrong in their response to the bible’s stance and engage with the question of same-sex attraction within Christianity. But you as the reader, regardless of belief or sexuality, will have to stick with me until the end to get the whole picture of God’s stance on this subject and how Christians are called to respond to God’s stance.

I hate to break it to you, but the term arsenokotai changes nothing about the biblical stance.

The only thing that has changed is that Christians now have no justification for homophobia, but realistically, they never had a biblical justification for homophobia in the first place, as we are instructed not to fear people but to love and live in service to both people and most importantly God. It’s also super important to note that the bible tells us that flesh and blood (people) are not what we as Christians are battling against in this life but we have emnity with spiritual forces of evil rather than beings that occupy the material world (Ephesians 6:12). This already leads us to the conclusion that the LGBTQIA+ community or any other community are not our foes but the people that we desire to offer Jesus to. However, we don’t totally live to please any human being, but God first and foremost.

The new argument is currently that Paul is referring solely to the pedarasty (which was a predatory form of relationship that was acceptable and the norm within the private-political sphere of Greco-Roman society); from this argument there is a conclusion that monogamous same-sex adult relationships are permitted within the bible. And this is argument is partially true when pulling up the context of the writings; it was indeed condemning the practice of Greco-Roman men gaining sexual favours from young boys in exchange for education and experience that would lead to social mobility and effective integration into Greco-Roman society. In today’s world, that is grooming, and wrong. However, it cannot solely be referring to the grooming practices of the pedarasty as the term arsenokotai directly translates into a man (koiten) bedding with men as with women (arsenos). The bible up until 1946 (and in some translations today) mentions men “lying with men as with women” in place of the term homosexual because there was no English term back then to describe same-sex attraction, suggesting that the biblical stance is pretty much similar. Plus, all biblical translation have a 99%> accuracy to the original biblical manuscripts, so nothing has really changed.

However, using the English term homosexual doesn’t really capture what the original text is trying to say, as the original manuscript now makes clear that it is not same-sex attracted individuals themselves that cannot approach God, but the practice of same-sex sexual practices from Christians that God punishes, as homosexuality is a state of being sexually attracted to the same sex, whereas same-sex sexual practices like “lying with men as with women” are a state of doing. Plus, this narrative aligns with the call for sexual purity in both heterosexual and homosexual Christians, as heterosexual Christians are also called to abstain from sexual practices that do not please God. But notice that I said this applies to Christians, as God’s expectation of sexual purity is conditional to an individual actually choosing to follow Him, but I’ll go into that in more depth below.

The issue is not with the biblical stance on homosexuality but with the response of some “Christian” groups to the biblical stance on homosexuality.

It’s quite obvious to everyone who doesn’t live under a rock that Christians are seen as homophobic. But what not many people know is that homophobic Christians are the result of not reading the bible properly; the implications of not reading the bible with the Spirit of God as our guide is that the Christian lacks nuance and fails to see the full picture of God’s stance on the topic. So then, scripture is wrongly applied and we get what I like to call America (I know, that place scares me too.) Some “Christians” have taken God’s instruction to sexual purity and made it mandatory for everyone, when only those who choose to follow God are obliged to it. I spoke about this briefly in my blog article “Minus the Wings Please” where I discussed how ungodly and controlling methods such as conversion therapy are and how forcing people to “act Godly” is not our job but we are called to show people the goodness of becoming people of God (the link can be found here to that: https://pepperpress.co.uk/?p=1287 ).

Whilst there is a difference between ceremonial, civil and moral laws (Jewish ceremonial and civil laws no longer apply under the new covenant of grace, whereas the moral laws still do and we are as non-Jewish Christians obliged to our state’s civil laws) we see some “Christians” abusing the grace extended to us in Christ and neglecting moral laws, whilst condemning unbelievers who do the same. In order to satisfy self-righteousness and justify their hatred, some “Christians” also cherry-pick parts of the bible and condemn homosexual acts but are also walking in sexual impurity or other forms of sin that God dislikes, and if they don’t repent (renew their mind and denounce such sin) you’ll find those “Christians” in the lake of fire with unbelievers. Even amongst Christians those who claim to be without sin are lying to themselves, so we have to confess our sins to be cleansed by God in His grace (1 John 1). It’s important that we hold to biblical accuracy in practice but unbelievers are not held to biblical standards because trying to please God as an unbeliever is futile (Romans 8:8). They are not born again of the Spirit as they have not accepted God, so God doesn’t expect sexual purity or any other form of devotion from them. Also, salvation does not come from our deeds but purely from accepting what Christ has already done and living in response to that truth. Therefore, our devotion is nothing more than evidence of our authentic love and reverence for Christ, but this doesn’t erase the high importance of purity for the Christian as the standard.

What happens if a member of the LGBTQIA+ community wants to follow Jesus Christ?

We need to trust that God, who is all powerful, is able to transform people and stop trying to do it ourselves. In fact, we need to stop thinking that we even know what sort of transformation God desires of each and every person. If an individual from the LGBTQIA+ community wanted to follow God, God himself would direct them into Godliness as he knows what pleases Him best (plus, we know that God the Holy Spirit lives in and guides every believer into Godliness), but in all cases there would be an element of sacrifice as every Christian drops their desires to an extent to follow God (Matthew 16:24) and it might not even look like becoming straight, but we do know that an individual pursuing Christ would need to in all cases regardless of sexuality, gender, race, class, age etc. give up some things to follow God, so following God is a choice that that individual can only make in response to hearing the Gospel and deciding that it is far more valuable than their desires and current beliefs. So, let’s just stop playing God full stop and focus on sharing the gospel, which is what truly matters.

And what is this gospel that any individual should be hearing from Christians?

To be specific, the gospel (good news) is that Jesus Christ was crucified and died as a punishment for humanity’s sins, which we were all due to die for. The death was more than just a physical death but a spiritual death, defined as permanent separation from God (Hence why Jesus at the end of His life says “My God, My God, Why have you forsaken me?” (Mark 15:34) both fulfilling prophecy and showing that He had actually taken our place in spiritual death). He then rose again and ascended to Heaven, creating a pathway for us to do the same after physical death, which is why He is referred to as the firstborn of the dead (Colossians 1:18). In believing in Jesus, we are able to approach God but we also have an eternity with Him as Jesus does. In response to this message, Christians become the body of Christ, meaning we are a group of people who do the physical work that Jesus Christ would be doing if He were still here as His “body” (John 13:13-15), led to have different functions as different parts of His body, but the same goal to achieve (Romans 12:4-5). We also are the church, which is referred to as His “bride” (Revelations 19:7); it symbolises how in death we will be with Him as a bride is to a groom, except that by this time we would’ve already died and rose, so it will be an eternal union as death cannot interfere anymore). The implications of this for the Christian is that they look to His sacrifice to be saved, but follow His instructions to be sanctified (made pure). He is the one that we live for and listen to.

As well as providing clarity on the biblical stance, this article also serves as an apology to the LGBTQIA+ community.

On behalf of the global church, I am so sorry about how “Christians” have treated the LGBTQIA+ community, with many of us doing the worst possible job of correctly applying scripture or even knowing it for that matter, which has led to an obsession with enforcing heterosexuality rather than an obsession with seeing the Kingdom of God expand and offering you a relationship with Jesus Christ through the gospel. It is so important that both Christians and unbelievers understand that the aim of Christians is not to turn the whole world straight or to enforce sexual purity, but to lead the world to God, who is the best person to tell you what he requires of you in your relationship with Him.

And if you never choose to follow Jesus Christ it indeed will hurt God, but the love that God has for you (demonstrated on the cross) and desire that God has for you to accept the truth of the cross will never die. And for that reason, we Christians as representatives of God and followers of God will also love you regardless of the choice that you make, but will desire deeply that you step into a relationship with our Heavenly Father and know the truth of Jesus’ death and resurrection. I’m sorry about “Christians” who stop loving you because you’ve chosen not to accept the message of the cross, or those don’t actually attempt to love you in the first place with the message of the cross but resort straight to harassment and condemnation as if either actions are appropriate ways to engage with you at all. But this is no reflection of the nature of God, or His desire for you to approach Him, and should you desire to approach Him, just know that he will transform your heart, and I’m not referring to the black and white idea of sexuality, but in all aspects of life. I pray that you are able to rise above the gross misconduct of “Christians” and find life in Jesus Christ.

-Pepper

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