Re: Boswell (was Re: Lexicons)
On Wed, 7 Sep 1994, Greg Jordan wrote:
>On Tue, 6 Sep 1994, Stephen Carlson wrote:
>> 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
The only direct evidence Boswell gives for a meaning related to prostitution
is its juxtaposition next to 'pornoi' in 1 Timothy:
Indeed, if context is to be admitted as evidence, the juxtaposition
of "arsenokoitai" and "pornoi" in 1 Timothy suggests very strongly
that prostitution is what is at issue, in one case presumably (male)
heterosexual and in the other, homosexual . . . .
[Boswell at 341].
There are many things wrong with this analysis:
1. While there are many pairs of sinners in the 1 Timothy list, the
pairing off breaks down right before "pornoi": who do the "androphonois"
("manslayers" KJV) correspond to? and the "andrapodistais" ("menstealers")?
2. "Pornoi" in the New Testament usually is taken to mean "fornicators" or
"the sexually immoral." [See Bauer, Arndt, Gringrich & Danker's Lexicon
(BAGD)], so there is no necessary reason to conclude that prostitution is
what is at issue. Those two words together may well refer to both the
heterosexually and the homosexually immoral.
3. Your (and the KJV's) definition of "pornoi" as "whoremongers" might
suggest for "arsenokoitais" a meaning of clients of male prostitutes, not
the male prostitutes themselves.
4. "Arsenokoitai" is not juxtaposed with "pornoi" in 1Co6:9.
5. Its juxtaposition with "malakos" there might also suggest, if this
technique is valid, active versus passive homosexuality.
Thus, Boswell's juxtaposition technique is probably not elucidating, so no
conclusion can be made. And even if it is helpful to understand the
meaning, it better suggests homosexuality rather than male prostitution.
Unfortunately for Boswell, this is the only direct, contextual evidence
for his conclusion of "male prostitution." His indirect inference from
Moreover, prostitution is manifestly of greater concern to Saint
Paul than any sort of homosexual behavior: excluding the words in
question, there is only a single reference to homosexual acts in
Paul's writing, whereas the word "pornos" and its derivatives are
mentioned almost thirty times.
[Boswell at 341.]
This is hardly any evidence at all for the "male prostitution" meaning.
Paul is greatly concerned about justification, but no one would dare
suggest that this is what he is saying in this context. The immediate
context of a man going to a prostitute [1Co6:15-16] is merely an
illustration of the first item in the list ("pornoi"). Paul's concern
over gay versus straight sin (1 in 30 = 3.3%) seems right considering
the relative prevelance of homosexuality within society (also around 3%).
Perhaps, this is a good example for some Christian churches today who
are overly concerned about homosexuality.
Since this is his only evidence, other than merely asserting the conclusion,
for a meaning of male prostitution, Boswell's conclusion cannot be justified
on these grounds.
> 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
Both BAGD and Liddel, Scott & Jones's Lexicon (LSJ) give that meaning for
"malakos." Granted that it may mean a "coward or weakness" such a meaning
is odd in the context (not inheriting the kingdom of God) in light of the
Gospel. Neither BAGD nor LSJ give the meaning of "masturbator" for this
word, so, without a specific reference of an earlier usage, the Modern Greek
meaning is not probative of its significance in the mid first century.
>> 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.
I am not unreasonable in stating that "pornos" itself can refer to male
prostitutes. BAGD says Xenophon used it with this meaning. In addition,
Boswell writes that "pornos" is one of the "common Attic words for male
prostitute" [Boswell at 344 n.23.] Thus, it may well be the case that
Paul is generally talking about prostitution with "pornoi."
> 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.
BAGD says that "harpages" is better understood as a swindler. Paul's
list anticipates the fundamental Libertarian definition of coercion by
"force or fraud."
>> >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.
Actually, I wrote this before seeing your criticism of Lv18:22. Frankly,
I am unimpressed, largely for the same reasons Mr. David Moore has given
in a separate message. In any event, your analysis of "koite" is completely
contrary to Boswell's, so your point actually undercuts rather than
supports Boswell without special pleading.
> 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.
Homosexual activity [Gn19:5 Lv18:22 20:13 Judg19:22] is condemned apart
from any reference to prostitution, whether it be rape, propositioning,
sex, or adultery (as you suggest).
>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).
Since, as you say, that it is not unlawful for to be a male prostitute
who does donate to the temple, then the "arsenokoitais" in 1Ti6:10 cannot
be them. All the people in the 1Ti1:9-10 list are lawbreakers. However,
engagers in sexual activity (if that's what Lv18:22 means) are lawbreakers.
>> 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.
Since I quoted "arrenokoites," "arsenokoites," "arrenomanes," "arrenomiktes,"
"arsenomiktes," and "arsenobates" from LSJ, I haven't missed anything. How
does Manetho's use of "arrenomiktes" makes it unlikely that Paul coined the
word? Certainly, the existance of other "arseno-" compounded aided in the
coinage of "arsenokoites" from Lv20:13. Paul is apparently the first person
to ever use the term [see, e.g., Boswell at 341] and the related verb in
the Sybilline Oracles, "arsenokoitein," is probably of a later date. [See
Boswell at 341 n.17].
>> 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.
So if Polycarp is reflecting male prostitution, then male prostitution
involves "lust." This lust is not for idolatry or money, as I have shown,
so it must be homsexual lust. Therefore, Polycarp is condemning homo-
However, there is nothing in the context to suggest male prostitution. On
the other hand, it is addressing young, Christian men, who would not be
temple prostitutes at all.
The argument from silence is not particularly dreadful because Polycarp
is manipulating the list in 1Co6:9-10. So there is a reason why he
could have said idolators or the covetous but did not.
Boswell's dismissal of the contextual evidence from Eusebius strikes me
as sloppy at best and dishonest at worst: He buries the argument into
a footnote, makes a mild concession ("though somewhat ambiguous"), boldly
asserts the meaning he wishes it would say ("strongly implies an equation
. . . with 'gunaikes atimoi,' i.e., female prostitutes"), and presents
the word within a seven-line mass of untranslated, untransliterated Greek,
and then says it is of too late origin in any case. [Boswell at 350 n.43].
While this technique may intimidate the average reader, who does not know
Greek, the quotation actually has a very interesting clause:
hoi de exw toutwn rhembomenoi, tas para phusin he:donas meterkhontai,
arsenokoitein epize:tountes, . . .
But those who roam outside of these, they seek after pleasures against
nature, desiring to [do what the arsenokoitai do]. (Translation mine.)
Compare the similar phrase "para phusin" (against nature) in Rm1:26. The
connection between the arsenokoitai and the 'gunaikes atimoi' is far from
clear: "kai tis me: he:sukazwn alla rhembomenos, tois kate:gore:masi
koinwne:sei te:s atimou gunaikos." (and anyone who is not quiet but roams,
shares in the accusations of the shameless woman.) (Translation mine). The
roaming is referring to those "roaming the streets who accept the designs
of adultery, fornication, and theft" also in the passage.
>> 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.
This is hardly relevant to my point. The longevity of "kunos" in Dt23:18
[we have a different verse numbering] may be due to the vividness of its
usage. Arsenokoites, on the other hand, is not particularly vivid; it
is quite euphemistic and weak.
> 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.
This is interesting but it contradicts Boswell's conclusion that the male
prostitution is of an active, not passive, kind. [See Boswell at 340, 344.]
>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.
How do you square your statement with Boswell's "In his De legibus
specialibus Philo contrasts Mosaic prohibitions of homosexual acts
with their complete acceptance in Hellenistic society (3.37)"? [Boswell
at 350 n.44.]
>> 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.
>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.
I did credit Boswell's book as being "seminal," but being a great influence
does not necessarily mean being correct. I am curious to know what you
think are the incongruities in his argument.
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