Re: Boswell (was Re: Lexicons)
On Tue, 6 Sep 1994, Stephen Carlson wrote:
> 9 . . . Be not deceived: neither fornicators [pornoi], nor
> idolaters, nor adulterers, nor effeminate [malakoi], nor
> abusers of themselves with mankind [arsenokoitai], 10 nor
> thieves, nor covetous, nor drunkards, nor revilers, nor
> extortioners, shall inherit the kingdom of God.
> [1Co6:9-10 (KJV)]
> 9 Knowing this, that the law is not made for the righteous
> man but for the lawless and disobedient, for the ungodly
> and for sinners, for unholy and profane, for murderers of
> fathers and for murderers of mothers, for manslayers, 10
> for whoremongers [pornois], for them that defile themselves
> with mankind [arsenokoitais], for menstealers, for liars,
> for perjured persons, and if there be any other thing that
> is contrary to sound doctrine.
> [1Ti1:9-10 (KJV)]
> Boswell first tries to plant the suggestion that 'arsenokoite:s' is about
> prostitution. He only makes the most minimal examination of its context,
> by noting that 'arsenokoite:s' appears next to 'pornos' meaning whore, or
> fornicator in 1Ti1:10, and that Paul talks about prostitution a lot.
> [Boswell at 341.] Whatever the initial strength of his point is, it must
> be attenuated by the fact that 'arsenokoite:s' follows 'malakos' in
> 1Co6:9, not 'pornos.' Since 'malakos' is commonly taken to mean a
> catamite, a pederast's boy partner, the juxtaposition of 'malakos' and
> 'arsenokoite:s' in 1Co6:9 better favors the conclusion that 'arsenokoite:s'
> means a homosexual, possibly the one who takes the "active" role.
You accuse Boswell of the weakness of determining definition of a word by
words proximate to it, and yet you use the same technique! Please be
consistent! Malakos is not "commonly taken to mean a catamite, a
pederast's boy partner." Both in earlier and later Greek it had many
meanings: mainly "coward, weakling", and also "masturbator." The latter
is its present Greek meaning, in fact, and was used as early as the time
> In addition, the Greek word 'pornos' itself has connotations of male
> prostitution, as in Xenophon for example. The use of 'pornos' in the
> masculine plural would encompass both male and female prostitutes. While
> 'pornos' is commonly generalized in the New Testament to all sexually
> immoral people, the context of 1Co6:9 suggests that prostitution is
> covered by 'pornos' not 'arsenokoite:s'. Paul probably was keying off of
> the first item in his list when he illustrated it with an example a man
> going to a prostitute [1Co6:15-16]. Thus, while it true that 'pornos' in
> both lists does bring in a context of prostitution, it actually cuts
> against Boswell's analysis. Paul does not repeat any other vice in the
> list, so it is quite unlikely that he was being redundant in this case.
The normal meaning of pornos is whore-monger, a man who frequents (mainly
female) prostitutes. For example, Deuteronomy 23:18 renders qadesh
(usually taken to mean male temple prostitute) as "porneuOn [apo huiOn
IsraEl]" - not pornos. You say Paul does not repeat any other vice in
this list. I assume you mean 1 Cor. 6:9-10. Well, kleptai and harpages
are nearly synonomous. We might *assume* Paul meant, say, highway
robbery by one and con-artistry by the other, but that is just an
assumption. As usual, we have to guess that when Paul uses a vague
general term he has something very specific in mind, regardless of the
normal meaning of the word in Greek. This is all part of Paul's
irritating style of indirectness and allusiveness.
> >From the 1 Corinthians passage one can no more conclude that the 'arseno-
> koitai' are male prostitutes than that the idolators, or even the
> drunkards and revilers are. The 1 Timothy passage is more interesting--
> the 'arsenokoitai' are law breakers. The Mosaic law certainly prohibited
> active homosexuality [Lv18:22 and 20:13] but is less clear about
> prostitution. Dt23:17 seems, as most commentators agree, to be more about
> temple cult prostitution than prostitution per se, and Lv19:29 is not
> about male prostitution but pandering one's daughters. Therefore, the
> immediate context of the New Testament attestations of 'arsenokoite:s'
> better suggests an engager in homosexual activity than Boswell's denotation
> of an active sexual agent of any orientation.
Nice to know you're not reading my criticism of Lev. 18:22. I fail, on
my part, to follow your logic here. When homosexuality *seems* to be
condemned in the OT, it is only condemned as active prostitution. Notice
that Moses does not make it unlawful to *frequent* a male prostitute,
only to *be* one and give one's earnings to the temple. This only
provides further support for my argument that the Hebrews tolerated
homosexual behavior among men who were not married, just as many cultures
and societies do: for example, the Romans (check out Catullus, for example).
> In any event, Boswell never mentioned the most obvious source for
> compound word, 'arsenokoit:es' in the first place: Lv20:13. The
> Septuagint translates that verse, which imposed the death penalty for
> acts of homosexuality, as follows:
> "Kai hos an koime:the: meta ARSENOS KOITE:N gunaikos, bdelugma
> epoie:san amphoteroi; thanatousthwsan, enoichoi eisin"
> [Lv20:13 (LXX) (emphasis added), see Boswell at 100 n.28]
> Not only are both parts of the compound used in the Septuagint
> translation, but they are juxtaposed in the exact same order. Paul has
> simply used (or even coined) a word that strongly alludes to the Levitical
> verse. Moreover, this is not a technique unknown to Paul. In 2Co6:14,
> Paul coopted the compound 'heterozugountes' which normally meant
> "mismatched" in the Greek world to allude to Lv19:19 and all of its
> connotations in being "unequally yoked." [See Bauer, Gingrich & Arndt's]
> Similarly, Paul probably used 'arsenokoite:s' to pick up both the
> genericity of the the activity (a man lying with a man as with a woman)
> and its accompanying moral condemnation.
I guess you missed out on my list of arseno- compounds relating,
apparently, to homosexuality, from Liddell and Scott. If you look at the
references, you will see that even Manetho centuries before Christ was
using a similar compound, from arrenomik-. This makes it very unlikely
that Paul coined a word, or even that Jews of Paul's day used this word
with the meaning of the supposed referent of the phrase in Leviticus LXX.
> dismisses For example, he dismisses Polycarp's Epistle to the Philipians
> (PPhp) (early 2d cen.) by asserting that it provides no context.
> [Boswell at 350 n.42]. Some additional information, however, can still
> be gleaned from the passage. After setting out the high moral standards
> of the deacons [PPhp 5:2], Polycarp says that "[l]ikewise also let the
> younger men be blameless in all things," and avoid "every lust." [v3]
> Then Polycarp quotes from 1Co6:9 three kinds of people who will not enter
> the Kingdom of God: the fornicators [pornoi], the effeminate [malakoi],
> and the sodomites [arsenokoitai]. Polycarp clearly tailored Paul's list
> for his concern of young unmarried men, because he omitted adulterers
> from the list. If Polycarp understood 'arsenokoitai' to refer to male
> prostitutes, it makes little sense that he would ignore two main reasons
> for engaging in it: the religious reasons, for which the idolaters would
> also be appropriate, or perhaps for money, for which the covetous would
> also be mentioned. As scanty as the Patristic evidence is, it nonetheless
> tends to refute Boswell's interpretation of the term 'arsenokoite:s'.
Again, I fail to follow your reasoning. Polycarp's usage could easily
reflect male prostitution: you seem to be using the old argument from
silence (Polycarp's) that you supposedly find dreadful in Boswell.
> The rest of Boswell's analysis is a discussion of the later Byzantine
> usage of the term. From a methodological standpoint, this evidence is
> not all that probative, because words can change meaning over time. In
> fact, this appears to be the case: after the word dropped out of use for
> some time, it was brought back to mean "anal intercourse," similar to the
> sense development of the English word "sodomy." This later meaning makes
> more sense if the term originally related to homosexuality rather than
Not at all: look at Revelations 22:15 where we see "exO hoi kunes kai hoi
pharmakoi kai hoi pornoi kai hoi phoneis kai hoi eidOlolatrai kai pas
philOn kai poiOn pseudos." Does John have something against canines?
No: here are the male temple prostitutes again from Deuteronomy 23:19
"allagma kunos", with amazing longevity. D. Greenberg makes an excellent
suggestion that "dog" might refer to the position a male or female temple
prostitute would take in order to have anal intercourse, and thus avoid
pregnancy (in the case of the female): that is, crouching on all fours.
All this shows how Christians (and their Jewish ancestors) had a special
interest in condemning homosexual/anal heterosexual prostitution, which
would be absurd if there were already a blanket prohibition against
homosexual behavior of any kind.
> Often the evidence about a word's meaning in a certain context is not
> conclusive but merely indicative. When the best and strongest evidence
> consistently points to the same conclusion, however, we can become more
> confident. In this case, the immediate context of the word
> 'arsenokoite:s', all throughout the New Testament, its Septuagint
> parallels, and its usage among the Apostolic Fathers, like Polycarp, all
> point to a meaning of a homosexual and not a male prostitute. Boswell's
> general argument, apart from a facile consideration of the context,
> relies too much on the argument from silence and an egregious
> etymological analysis. Whatever one thinks of the residual uncertainty
> in concluding that 'arsenokoite:s' means a homosexual, one can say that
> this sense is *much* more probable than Boswell's.
> Stephen Carlson
> Stephen Carlson : Poetry speaks of aspirations, : ICL, Inc.
> firstname.lastname@example.org : and songs chant the words. : 11490 Commerce Park Dr.
> (703) 648-3330 : Shujing 2:35 : Reston, VA 22091 USA
Well, you're not the only one who's lining up to take a crack at Boswell:
every contemporary scholar in the field is taking up a position on
Boswell as part of their training. I myself find some incongruities in
Boswell's argument, and I'm not entirely convinced on every point.
However, this just goes to prove, IMHO, how ground-breaking Boswell's
questions and attempted answers are. Retreating to old assumptions will
never be so easy again.