I finished John Boswell's Christianity, Social Tolerance, and Homosexuality. I said a couple of posts ago that I was not overly impressed by Boswell's interpretation of the biblical passages that appear to criticize homosexuality. The exception to that would be Boswell's interpretation of I Corinthians 6:9.
There are two Greek words in I Corinthians 6:9 that translators have applied to homosexuality. The first is malakos, and one of the meanings of that word is "soft". The second is arsenokoites, which is a combination of "man" and "bed". A common view is that the malakos is the passive party in the homosexual act, whereas the arsenokoites is the active party.
Boswell states that, within Greek, malakos
can have a range of meanings: "soft", "sick", "liquid", "cowardly",
"refined", "weak willed", "delicate", "gentle", "debauched",
"licentious", "loose", "wanting in self-control", "unrestrained", and
"wanton" (pages 106-107). According to Boswell, while malakos
is used to describe certain homosexuals, it is also used for other kinds
of people, and so there is no integral connection between malakos
and homosexuality. Boswell argues that the term is not used for
homosexuality in ancient literature. Boswell also notes that a
prominent Christian interpretation has been that malakos
pertains to masturbation (in which case, I say, there will be no men in
the Kingdom of God!). But Boswell appears to believe that Paul means
prostitution, since that is a concern of Paul in I Corinthians.
in I Corinthians 6:9, Boswell interprets it to mean a male prostitute,
one who sleeps with men and women. As I said, the word is a combination
of "man" and "bed". Boswell thinks that the point of the word is that
the man is having sex, not that one is having sex with a man. Boswell
states on page 344 that "In no words coined and generally written with
the form '[arseno-]' is the prefix demonstrably objective",
which means that the man is the subject when the prefix is used, not the
object. Boswell also looks at Greek and early Christian literature and
says that arsenokoites is never used for homosexuality, and
that even those discussing homosexuality do not use that word. Boswell
states on page 353: "The Carolingian theologian Hincmar of Reims was the
first medieval moralist to make use of I Corinthians 6:9 in writing
about homosexuality, and even he seems to have understood the Vulgate's
reference as involving prostitution as well."
I did not fact-check
Boswell, but I may do that sometime in the future. If I have a
criticism based on what I know now, I'd ask why Boswell thinks that I
Corinthians 6:9 uses two words for prostitute. Isn't that redundant?
But I did find Boswell's discussion of these Greek words to be the
clearest I've read from someone arguing that they do not relate to
(UPDATE: On pages 219-220 of Same-Sex Unions in Premodern Europe, Boswell cites scholarly critiques of his arguments regarding arsenokoites.
Boswell says that he did not consider the use of the word in Eusebius,
who connects it with Sodom. But Boswell goes on to refer to a time in
ancient literature when the word refers to a heterosexual encounter.
Boswell also says that fewer translators rendered the word as
"homosexuals" after Boswell's Christianity, Social Tolerance, and Homosexuality.)
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