It’s been quite a while since I posted a BriRant. There were a couple reasons for this. First, I’m way too busy with my other blog – Friday Night Salt and Light. More importantly, it seemed to me that not many would be interested in the ravings of a Surly Old Curmudgeon. But, those considerations notwithstanding, I felt compelled to offer up a few thoughts on today’s “hot button” political issue in the USA – homosexuality. I apologize up front for the length of this BriRant. It’s a big subject, and there’s a lot of misinformation out there about it, so I wanted to be careful and thorough.
I recently attended a special screening of the new movie from Ray Comfort’s Living Waters Ministries – Audacity – at my church. There’s been a lot of talk surrounding this controversial film, from those enthusiastically in favor of the movie to those adamantly opposed. There aren’t many surprises regarding who falls into which of these camps. It’s also no surprise that there are few mediocre reactions – you either love it or you hate it. Unlike previous offerings from Living Waters like 180 and Evolution vs. God, which are essentially just video recordings of Ray Comfort’s evangelistic street interviews, Audacity is a scripted dramatization used as a wrapper for some of these interviews specifically covering the subject of homosexual practice. As a Bible-believing Christian, I naturally fall into the “those in favor” camp with regard to this movie, but that’s not the point of this BriRant.
The Audacity movie makes frequent reference to a particular biblical passage.
1 Corinthians 6:9-10[NKJV]
9Do you not know that the unrighteous will not inherit the kingdom of God? Do not be deceived. Neither fornicators, nor idolaters, nor adulterers, nor homosexuals, nor sodomites, 10nor thieves, nor covetous, nor drunkards, nor revilers, nor extortioners will inherit the kingdom of God.
In the film one of the homosexual men with whom the film’s protagonist interacts, points out that the English word “homosexual” didn’t even exist until the 19th century AD (NOT “CE” – now or ever!). This hadn’t occurred to me, so I decided to look into it. According to the Merriam-Webster online dictionary, the first known use of the word “homosexual” was in 1892, over two and a half centuries after the publication of the King James Version of the Holy Bible. In fact, in the film, the protagonist agrees that this is so. This brought some questions to my mind…
- What is the original Greek text of 1 Corinthians 6:9-10?
- How accurate are the King James Version (KJV) and the New King James Version (NKJV) used in the movie (and by me in my day-to-day studies) in their translations of this Greek into English?
- How do various modern English language translations of 1 Corinthians 6:9-10 compare to the KJV and NKJV?
The Greek word translated as “homosexuals” in the NKJV is μαλακός malakos. The KJV translates this word as “effeminate.” It is found four times in three verses of the New Testament. In three of these instances (Matthew 11:8 and Luke 7:25), both the KJV and NKJV translate the word as “soft.” These are sarcastic references by the Lord Jesus to John the Baptist’s clothing. But this meaning of μαλακός malakos is clearly not what is intended in 1 Corinthians 6:9. The context of this verse pertains to another meaning of the Greek word referring to effeminate males, particularly to catamites – that is to boys kept by pedophiles. To be perfectly frank, the word in this verse refers to men and boys who take the receptacle role in sexual acts with other men or boys.
The Greek word translated as “sodomites” in the NKJV rendering of 1 Corinthians 6:9 is ἀρσενοκοίτης arsenokoitēs. The KJV translates this word using the cumbersome phrase “abusers of themselves with mankind.” It is a compound word comprised of ἄῤῥην árrhēn – meaning man, male, or boy – and κοίτη koítē – meaning bed or couch (particularly the marriage bed) or (euphemistically) sexual intercourse. The compound word ἀρσενοκοίτης arsenokoitēs means “one who lies with a male as with a female, a sodomite” according to Thayer’s Greek Lexicon. This word is found only one other place in the New Testament…
1 Timothy 1:8-11[NKJV]
8But we know that the law is good if one uses it lawfully, 9knowing this: that the law is not made for a righteous person, but for the lawless and insubordinate, for the ungodly and for sinners, for the unholy and profane, for murderers of fathers and murderers of mothers, for manslayers, 10for fornicators, for sodomites[ἀρσενοκοίτης arsenokoitēs] , for kidnappers, for liars, for perjurers, and if there is any other thing that is contrary to sound doctrine, 11according to the glorious gospel of the blessed God which was committed to my trust.
The KJV and NKJV are clearly faithful to the original Greek in condemning the sin of homosexuality in both 1 Corinthians 6:9 and in 1 Timothy 1:10, although in 1 Timothy 1:10, the KJV uses the euphemistic phrase – “for them that defile themselves with mankind.” The latter passage even places the sin of homosexuality on even par with murdering one’s own mother or father!
But how do other modern English translations render 1 Corinthians 6:9?…
Don’t you realize that those who do wrong will not inherit the Kingdom of God? Don’t fool yourselves. Those who indulge in sexual sin, or who worship idols, or commit adultery, or are male prostitutes, or practice homosexuality, [New Living Translation]
Or do you not know that wrongdoers will not inherit the kingdom of God? Do not be deceived: Neither the sexually immoral nor idolaters nor adulterers nor men who have sex with men [New International Version]
Or do you not know that the unrighteous will not inherit the kingdom of God? Do not be deceived: neither the sexually immoral, nor idolaters, nor adulterers, nor men who practice homosexuality, [English Standard Version]
Don’t you know that the unrighteous will not inherit God’s kingdom? Do not be deceived: No sexually immoral people, idolaters, adulterers, or anyone practicing homosexuality, [Holman Christian Standard Bible]
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, nor homosexuals, [New American Standard Bible]
Do you not know that the unrighteous will not inherit the kingdom of God? Do not be deceived! The sexually immoral, idolaters, adulterers, passive homosexual partners, practicing homosexuals, [New English Translation]
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 sexual perverts, [Revised Standard Version]
Clearly the “mainstream” modern English translations all concur pretty closely that the two Greek words in question refer to male homosexual practices. But what of the less orthodox translations? One popular example – The Message – is a very loose paraphrase, and I certainly wouldn’t recommend it for any serious Bible scholarship, but since it is so hugely popular in today’s church, particularly in the USA, it should be mentioned in this analysis. It says…
Don’t you realize that this is not the way to live? Unjust people who don’t care about God will not be joining in his kingdom. Those who use and abuse each other, use and abuse sex, [1 Corinthians 6:9?, The Message]
Note that this paraphrase is often so divergent and “creative” it is very difficult to discern which of its words actually correlate to the original text of 1 Corinthians 6:9. Furthermore, the Message text itself is so vague (here in this verse and elsewhere), it is also difficult to discern what exactly the author (I purposely do not use the word “translator” here) is trying to say. Still, The Message doesn’t really have a discernible agenda per se (unless it’s to so water down the meaning of the Biblical text as to make it almost useless for any meaningful life application)!
What about a modern “translation” that clearly does have an agenda? The publishers of the Queen James Version set out from the beginning (by their own prideful admission) to right the perceived wrongs in all the previous translations with specific regard to the Biblical teaching on homosexuality. Here’s how the Queen James handles 1 Corinthians 6:9?
Know ye not that the unrighteous shall not inherit the kingdom of God? Be not deceived: neither fornicators, nor idolaters, nor adulterers, nor morally weak, nor promiscuous, [Queen James Version]
The intent here is clear – to draw a distinction between casual homosexual activity and “committed” homosexual relationships (to use the buzz phrase of our day). The Queen James rendering is so divergent from all the others (even The Message), as to make it suspect right off the bat. As Solomon wrote three millennia ago…
9That which has been is what will be,
That which is done is what will be done,
And there is nothing new under the sun.
10Is there anything of which it may be said,
“See, this is new”?
It has already been in ancient times before us.
Solomon’s protestation down the ages notwithstanding, the fact that the Queen James authors came up with a “translation” so clearly divergent from what has come before is not by itself grounds to reject it out of hand. Just because “we’ve always done it that way” doesn’t make previous scholarship correct. Still, any fair examination of the original Greek, and comparison of the Queen James rendering with those that have gone before, clearly indicts the Queen James authors for having inserted into their “translation” of this verse a prejudice and intent that the original by no means supports. There is no distinction drawn in the original text (and the will of God which it proclaims) between casual homosexual sexual practice, and so-called “committed” homosexual relations. God plainly calls homosexual practice sin here in 1 Corinthians 6:9 and elsewhere.
Such disingenuous scholarship in the Queen James authors’ handling of the original Greek, in service of advocating a proudly-admitted pre-determined agenda would be totally laughable if it were not for the seriousness of the subject at hand – the life and death issue of sin in God’s eyes. The use of “ye” instead of “you” and “Be not” instead of “Don’t be,” is a pitiful attempt to add some air of respectability to this despicable abuse of the text in a transparent attempt to make the painfully clear original conform to the foregone agenda of the authors (once again I purposely don’t use the word “translators”). The authors of this “translation” simply did a cut-and-paste of the work of previous Biblical scholars except for those passages like 1 Corinthians 6:9-11, 1 Timothy 1:10, Romans 1:26, and Leviticus 20:13 which they didn’t like because they speak so clearly against homosexuality. In these cases, they simply make something up, as here in 1 Corinthians 6:9. As we’ve seen, the original Greek words in 1 Corinthians 6:9 have nothing to do with moral weakness or promiscuity. On the contrary, they speak directly against the practice of sexual relations between men.
There is no doubt, then, that 1 Corinthians 6:9 contains a Biblical condemnation of homosexuality (particularly sex between men) as sin. Therefore, in the Audacity movie, Ray Comfort did well when he chose this text as an anchor for witnessing the Gospel of Jesus Christ to homosexuals. But here is where I take a slight exception with the film, not so much in its content, but in its emphasis. As with all Bible study, we need to consider any passage of scripture in its context – the passage at hand, the book it is found in, and God’s Word as a whole.
A few weeks ago, a co-worker asked me (knowing I am a Christian, but having little knowledge of the Gospel), “Do you dislike homosexuals?” I answered her quickly, “No, not at all,” then after a brief pause added, “just homosexuality.” The somewhat trite Christianese cliché is, “Hate the sin, but love the sinner.” Pat as this too-often repeated phrase is, it accurately reflects God’s own attitude toward sin. Our God is a righteous and just God. He is absolutely perfect and holy. He cannot and will not abide with the presence of sin. Yet God’s fondest desire is to share in fellowship with His beloved creation – mankind. Our sin breaks God’s heart, because it separates us from Him in His absolute holiness, condemning all who remain in their sin to the eternal separation from God which we call death.
This all begs the question, “What, exactly, is sin?” Thankfully, God provides us the answer in His Word – the Bible. One example of sin, which God clearly defines in 1 Corinthians 6:9 (and elsewhere) is homosexual practice – both between men, and between women. Those who would question this fact are not being intellectually honest with the Word God has given to us. This leaves them only two options; they can either purposely mistranslate the Word of God to match their own concepts of right and wrong (as the authors of the Queen James version have done), or they can simply deny that the Bible is God’s Word – given by God for the express purpose of revealing His will for our lives. This is what increasingly many cowardly Christian leaders are doing in the world today, particularly in the ostensibly “Christian” church of the so-called “developed” world. Rather than bucking the trend of inclusion, and the inherent loss of popularity and followers which standing firm by God’s Word would bring upon them, most Christians in the established church today are “cherry-picking” from the Bible to come up with feel-good doctrines of God’s eternal, infinite love with no mention of God’s coming righteous judgment on the sins of the world.
This brings us to the sub-title of the Audacity movie – Love Can’t Stay Silent. As Christians, we are called to witness the Gospel of Jesus Christ to the lost souls in the world around us. This is the “Good News” about the atoning death of Jesus on the cross, His resurrection on the third day, and His invitation to any who would call upon His Name to claim His salvation and receive the gift of eternal life in fellowship with Him. But that wonderful news begs the question – “What, exactly, did Jesus die and rise again to save mankind from?” The answer, of course, is sin. Sinful mankind has no hope of fellowship with God apart from knowing Jesus in repentance from our sins. Exactly what are the sins for which we must repent? God tells us precisely in His Word – the Bible. Sure enough, it’s right there in black and white. Homosexual practice is one of the sins which separates us from eternal life in Christ.
That’s where my slight disagreement with the Audacity movie comes in. Although homosexual sin is the focus of the movie (and of this BriRant), God makes no distinction between homosexual conduct and any of the other sins he delineates in His Word. In God’s eyes, all sin is abhorrent. Furthermore, no one is blameless of sin apart from Christ…
1 John 1:8-10[NKJV]
8If we say that we have no sin, we deceive ourselves, and the truth is not in us. 9If we confess our sins, He is faithful and just to forgive us our sins and to cleanse us from all unrighteousness. 10If we say that we have not sinned, we make Him a liar, and His word is not in us.
God doesn’t call out any particular sin as being especially egregious. In God’s eyes, the sin of coveting one’s neighbor’s wife is no less a crime than actually committing an adulterous act with her. Dishonoring one’s parents and using the Lord‘s name in vain are on an even par with murder. There are no compartments in Hell dividing those who commit “minor” sins like lying to their parents, from those who commit atrocities like the Nazi Holocaust. The Bible says that all who die in their sins apart from Christ will spend eternity in a torturous lake of fire totally isolated from God. Furthermore, the standard for following God’s law is utter perfection…
10For whoever shall keep the whole law, and yet stumble in one point, he is guilty of all. 11For He who said, “Do not commit adultery,” also said, “Do not murder.” Now if you do not commit adultery, but you do murder, you have become a transgressor of the law.
Therefore you shall be perfect, just as your Father in heaven is perfect.
Nor is there any way in our earthly lives under our own will to atone for our sins. Our good works here on earth will avail us nothing…
But we are all like an unclean thing,
And all our righteousnesses are like filthy rags;
We all fade as a leaf,
And our iniquities, like the wind,
Have taken us away.
Needless to say, the wholly unbiblical human invention of “Purgatory” where one may atone for one’s own sins through a finite time of suffering is a total fantasy. Those who are counting on it to save them, are condemned just as those who don’t acknowledge their sin at all. It would be easy, reading only these portions of God’s Word to be cast into utter desperation. Who, then can be saved? Our passage in 1 Corinthians 6 gives us a clue. Thankfully, by the power of God’s Spirit we can turn from our sins, struggle against them, be forgiven of them, and be cleansed from all unrighteousness by the atoning blood of the Lord Jesus Christ!
And such were some of you. But you were washed, but you were sanctified, but you were justified in the name of the Lord Jesus and by the Spirit of our God.
Jesus Himself proclaims this plainly…
16For God so loved the world that He gave His only begotten Son, that whoever believes in Him should not perish but have everlasting life. 17For God did not send His Son into the world to condemn the world, but that the world through Him might be saved. 18He who believes in Him is not condemned; but he who does not believe is condemned already, because he has not believed in the name of the only begotten Son of God.
Furthermore, the apostle Paul gives clear instruction how we must claim the cleansing, forgiveness, and salvation in Christ we just read about in 1 Corinthians 6:11
9that if you confess with your mouth the Lord Jesus and believe in your heart that God has raised Him from the dead, you will be saved. 10For with the heart one believes unto righteousness, and with the mouth confession is made unto salvation.
Before I close, I need to take just a moment to refute the idea that those caught up in homosexual sin have been “born that way,” and that God would not condemn someone for simply “being himself.” This is why I gave my colleague the answer I did when she asked me if I disliked homosexuals. As we saw above, all mankind has a natural tendency toward sin. I personally, have an inborn tendency toward gluttony, outbursts of anger, unforgiveness, and sexual lust for women other than my wonderful wife. Certainly, some people have an inborn weakness against alcohol or other addictive drugs. I think the science is still out with regard to an inborn homosexual nature, but like other sins, it is certainly possible that one might be born with a weakness against this particular sin. God recognizes our sinful nature, and stands ready to forgive us of our sins by the shed blood of Jesus Christ…
11For as the heavens are high above the earth,
So great is His mercy toward those who fear Him;
12As far as the east is from the west,
So far has He removed our transgressions from us.
13As a father pities his children,
So the LORD pities those who fear Him.
14For He knows our frame;
He remembers that we are dust.
Nevertheless, God clearly condemns the unrepentant practice of all these sins, homosexual practice included. We are called to struggle against our sinful nature, to call on the Lord for His help and strength in this struggle, and to fall on His infinite mercy and grace if we occasionally fall down into the sin that so easily ensnares us…
1 Corinthians 15:34[NKJV]
Awake to righteousness, and do not sin; for some do not have the knowledge of God. I speak this to your shame.
1 John 1:9[NKJV]
If we confess our sins, He is faithful and just to forgive us our sins and to cleanse us from all unrighteousness.