Advocates of same-sex relationships, same-sex marriage, and same-sex sex make some of the most illogical, unhistorical, and non-theological claims imaginable. Two arguments I am seeing more often these days is the claim that the concept of homosexual did not exist when the Bible was written, and a related claim that the word “homosexual” did not appear in Bible translations until 1946.
- Claim: Some English – and Spanish, and Chinese, and Russian etc. – translations of the Bible include the word homosexual. That’s incorrect because the word homosexual is nowhere in the original Hebrew or the original Greek. (Answer: The word homosexual (a person who engages in sex with someone of the same sex) accurately describes the biblical description of people who engage in sex with someone of the same sex.)
- Claim: The word homosexual didn’t exist when the Bible was written. (Answer: The description of what the word “homosexual” means is found in the Bible.)
- Claim: The word ‘homosexual’ did not appear in any translation of the Christian Bible until 1946. Answer: Bible translations have gotten better over time. The use of the word ‘homosexual’ instead of ‘sodomite,’ as some translations translate the Greek, accurately describes the biblical prohibitions found in Leviticus 18:22 and 20:13 and referenced by Paul in 1 Corinthians 6:9 and 1 Timothy 1:10. Matt Slick writes: “Therefore, it is easy to see why the word “homosexual” was not used until later English translations. Once a more accurate English word existed, it was matched to the corresponding Greek word.”)
“The term ‘homosexuality’ . . . was first published (anonymously) by Karl Maria Kertbeny (1824-1882) in 1869, but was used by him the year before in correspondence with [Karl Heinrich] Ulrichs (1825-1895). Ulrichs never used ‘homosexual,’ preferring Urning [a male who desires men sexually] and the positive connotations it had for him. By the turn of the century both terms – and others beside (contrary sexual, homogenic, invert, sexual intermediate, similisexual) – were used for this phenomenon; by the mid-1900s ‘homosexual’ had become the commonly used term.” ((Hubert Kennedy, “Karl Heinrichs Ulrichs, First theorist of Homosexuality,” Science and Homosexualities, ed. Vernon A. Rosario (New York: Routledge, 1997), 30.))
Whether it’s Ulrichs’ Urning, “a male who desires men sexually,” or Karl-Maria Kertbeny’s coining of the word “homosexual”1 both words describe same-sex sexuality, the same acts that are described in several places in the Bible.
Leviticus 18:22 and 20:13 describe same (homo) sexuality accurately: “You shall not lie with a male as one lies with a female” and “if there is a man who lies with a male as those who lie with a woman, both of them have committed a detestable act.”
What better word describes same-sex sexuality than homo (same) sexuality? It doesn’t matter that the Bible, in either Hebrew or Greek, actually uses the word homosexual, the description of what the word homosexual means is evident. The word homosexual accurately depicts what is described in the two Leviticus passages.
Homosexuals certainly knew this since they replaced “homosexual” with “gay” to remove all sexual connotations from what they do. “Gay” was not always a designation for same-sex behavior. It was chosen as a euphemism to mask what homosexuals actually do — engaged in sex with people of the same sex.
Take a look at films from the 1930s and 1940s: The Gay Divorcee (1934) and The Gay Ranchero (1948). Neither film is about homosexuality. There’s the Christmas song “Have Yourself a Merry Little Christmas” (1943) that includes the line “make the Yule-tide gay.”
The opening theme song from the animated TV show The Flintstones has the line “we’ll have a gay old time.”
Then there’s this repeated line from from the song “When Johnny Comes Marching Home” (1863): “And we’ll all feel gay when Johnny comes marching home.”
We know that Paul used the Greek translation of the Hebrew Scriptures in 1 Corinthians 6:9 and 1 Timothy 1:10. The Greek word ἀρσενοκοῖται (arsenokoitai) is used in both passages. What does the word mean? Paul was referencing Leviticus 18:22 (“You shall not lie with a male as those who lie with a female; it is an abomination”) and 20:13 (“If there is a man who lies with a male as those who lie with a woman, both of them have committed a detestable act. . .”)
A male who lies with another male is engaged in same-sex sexuality, thus, homo (Greek for “same”) + sexuality = homosexuality. There’s no getting around what the passages from Leviticus are describing.
The Greek translation of Leviticus 20:13 (ἄρσενος κοίτην/arsenos koitēn) is nearly identical with the word Paul uses in 1 Corinthians 6:9 (ἀρσενοκοῖται/arsenokoitai).
The same Greek words, combined by Paul into a new word, are used to describe same-sex behavior, thus, homosexuality.
The following comes from the article “The word ‘homosexual’ didn’t appear in English Bibles until 1946” by Matt Slick published by Christian Apologetics and Research Ministry:
- ἀρσενοκοίτης arsenokoítēs; gen. arsenokoítou, masc. noun, from ársēn (730), a male, and koítē (2845), a bed. A man who lies in bed with another male, a homosexual (1 Cor. 6:9; 1 Tim. 1:10 [cf. Lev. 18:22; Rom. 1:27]). Zodhiates, S. (2000). The Complete Word Study Dictionary: New Testament (electronic ed.). Chattanooga, TN: AMG Publishers.
- 88.280 ἀρσενοκοίτης, ου m: a male partner in homosexual intercourse–‘homosexual.’ οὐκ οἴδατε ὅτι . . . οὔτε μοιχοὶ οὔτε μαλακοὶ οὔτε ἀρσενοκοῖται . . . βασιλείαν θεοῦ κληρονομήσουσιν ‘don’t you know that . . . no adulterers or homosexuals . . . will receive the kingdom of God’ 1 Cor 6:9–10. It is possible that ἀρσενοκοίτης in certain contexts refers to the active male partner in homosexual intercourse in contrast with μαλακόςb, the passive male partner (88.281).2
- ἀρσενοκοίτης (arsenokoitēs), ου (ou), ὁ (ho): n.masc.; ≡ Str 733–LN 88.280 male homosexual, one who takes the active male role in homosexual intercourse (1Co 6:9), specifically interpreted as male homosexual paedophilia (nab footnote); possibly a more generic term in first Timothy; sodomites (rsv, nrsv, nkjv), perverts (niv, neb, reb), practicing homosexuals (nab), homosexual (njb), (1Ti 1:10+), note: translations possibly use certain specific terms to infer or allow certain theologies.3
- ἀρσενοκοίτης, ου, ὁ an adult male who practices sexual intercourse with another adult male or a boy homosexual, sodomite, pederast.4
If 19th-century homosexual advocates can coin the word ‘homosexual’ to describe sex between people of the same sex, then why is it wrong for Bible translators to describe the same behavior in the same way using the same word?
- He also coined the term ‘heterosexual’: sexual relations between people of a “different” (hetero) sex, thus, a man and woman. [↩]
- Louw, J. P., & Nida, E. A. (1996). Greek-English Lexicon of the New Testament: Based on Semantic Domains (electronic ed. of the 2nd edition.). New York: United Bible Societies. [↩]
- Swanson, J. (1997). Dictionary of Biblical Languages with Semantic Domains: Greek (New Testament) (electronic ed.). Oak Harbor: Logos Research Systems, Inc. [↩]
- Friberg, T., Friberg, B., & Miller, N. F. (2000). Vol. 4: Analytical Lexicon of the Greek New Testament. Baker’s Greek New Testament Library. Grand Rapids, Mich.: Baker Books. [↩]