Unconditional Love

    May 2000

    Paul's Condemnations
    "Not . . . Homosexuality in General, nor Even Pederasty in General"
    By Robin Scroggs

    In these passages from his book The New Testament and Homosexuality, Robin Scroggs argues that St. Paul's condemnations of homosexuality refer only to a particularly degrading form of pederasty. 

    The passage below seeks to uncover the meaning of two disputed terms in 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 malakoi, nor arsenokoitai, nor thieves, nor the greedy, nor drunkards, nor revilers, nor robbers will inherit the kingdom of God."

    Malakos. This word has been sufficiently examined above and there a twofold conclusion was drawn. First, the word, literally meaning soft and by extension "effeminate," in now way ever assumed a technical status referring to pederastic relations or person. Second, by association, however, the word occurs in several texts pointing in pejorative ways to the "call-boy," the youth who consciously imitated feminine styles and ways and who walked the thin line between passive homosexual activity for pleasure and that for pay. Used in association with another more explicit term or within a context of pederasty, it would clearly point to such a person and always in a negative way. That is, in sexual contexts it is never a neutral term.

    Malakos would, thus, carry a weight in a catalog of vices which terms more neutral in the vocabulary of sexuality would not. Furthermore, it would refer to a specific dimension of pederasty which, as we have seen, neither proponent nor opponent of pederasty ever defended. It is not pederasty as such which is pointed to by malakos but only a specific and detested form of it. . . .

    If the malakos points to the effeminate call-boy, then the arsenokoitês in this context must be the active partner who keeps the malakos as a "mistress" or who hires him on occasion to satisfy his sexual desires. No more than malakos is to be equated with the youth in general, the erômenos [beloved], can arsenokoitês be equated with the adult in general, the erastês [lover]. A very specific dimension of pederasty is being denounced with these two terms. Seen in this way, the list shares the disapproval of this form of pederasty in agreement with the entire literature of the Greco-Roman world on the topic!1

    Scroggs examines the use of arsenokoitês and related words in 1 Timothy 1:9-10 and decides that the same condemnation is to be found in that passage. He concludes:

    I thus draw the conclusion that the vice list in 1 Timothy is not condemnatory of homosexuality in general, nor even pederasty in general, but that specific form of pederasty which consisted of the enslaving of boys or youths for sexual purposes, and the use of these boys by adult males. Perhaps the effeminate call-boy is also included in the condemnation, but I see no way of making a judgment on the matter. . . .

    The two vice lists [1 Corinthians 6:9-10 and 1 Timothy 1:9-10] attack very specific forms of pederasty, forms which were opposed by serious minded pagan authors: the adult use of male prostitutes, especially the borderline instances of effeminate free males who let themselves be used sexually. Pederasty in general, much less homosexuality in general, is not included in these indictments.

    1. This is also the specific dimension of pederasty that Philo attacks so vehemently. E.g., Special Laws III.37-39; Contemplative Life 59-62.

    The above passages are reprinted from Robin Scroggs, The New Testament and Homosexuality: Contextual Background for Contemporary Debate (Philadelphia: Fortress Press, 1983), 106, 108, 120-121.

    Previous IndexHOMEDisclaimer

    © 1983 Fortress Press
    Readers wishing to publish or post copyrighted material from this site must contact UnconditionalLove for permission.