Could you please give me a clear definition of the Greek words malakoi and arsenokoites? I have been unable to find a definition that is not either religious or gay biased. In some translations, it appears that malakoi are homosexuals, and in others it almost seems like pedophiles. I understand that the acts of homosexuality are wrong, but I'm also looking at the personality aspect and other things that make up "gayness." It would seem that the sinful act of homosexuality has more to do with sex outside of marriage than with the personality issues. -- Larissa Gardner (Norfolk, VA)

Good questions. First off, every translation has a bias. That means that no matter how we translate it, someone may be offended. The issue is not whether the translation is "religious" (how, after all, can a translation of scripture not be religious?).

1 Cor 6:9 is the passage of concern (unlike Rom 1:26-27, where both male and female homosexuality are in view). Let's read the passage: Or 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 effeminate [malakoi], nor homosexuals [arsenokoîtai], nor thieves, nor the covetous, nor drunkards, nor revilers, nor swindlers, will inherit the kingdom of God.

Malakós (the singular of malakoí) means "soft, fancy, luxurious," when speaking of things. Of a male it connotes effeminacy or homosexuality, namely the male who allows himself to be penetrated, the passive partner. In the ancient world, male-on-male rape was a means of humiliation and subjugation, as it continues to be in various wartime contexts even in modern times. While the ancients might or might not have looked down on all acts of male homosexuality, they did regard being penetrated as shameful.

Arsenokoités, on the other hand, refers to the sexual conduct of the leader in the relationship. Etymologically, it combines arsen (male) with koítē (bed, and by extension, the marital relationship, as in the derivative coitus). The apostle Paul may have coined the word arsenokoités, based on a phrase in Leviticus 18:22 and 20:13. Paul's OT was the Greek OT. The word is thus not so much a neologism (the jury's out anyway) as it is an obvious reference to a passage on sin that would have been familiar with anyone who read (or was read) the Greek OT.

Finally, you are right to distinguish personality from sinful behavior per se. I hope I have fairly addressed your question about the Greek words. If you want more, watch the Same-sex & the Bible by Jeff Weima of Calvin Seminary. And be sure to visit Strength in Weakness.