Re: Boswell (was Re: Lexicons)
I wanted to clarify that I am in now way defending Boswell's particular
thesis (although I agree with the basic surmise that Paul was concerned
only about male prostitution, not general homosexuality). I have not
studied his argument, or responses made to it, enough to make a
reasonable judgment. I merely injected my own observations on the New
Testament into your discussion of Boswell, perhaps in a way that was
confusing and unhelpful to you. Perhaps I should have left your post
entirely alone :)! But to mop things up, I will try to answer with
On Thu, 8 Sep 1994, Stephen Carlson wrote:
> 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.
Pornoi was a vague term in Koine just a "whore(-monger)" actually is in
English. My present conclusion would be that the New Testament seems to
use it for heterosexuals who cheat on their wives with prostitutes
(whoremongers), or more broadly, adulterers (in heterosexual
encounters). On the other hand, there is abundant evidence that Paul's
statements which are taken to refer to homosexuality in general
are always set in a context which concerns money. I will show this here
> 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.
Boswell's treatment of *malakos* (p. 106ff) is overwhelming evidence in
favor of not interpreting it as referring to homosexuality in any way
(except as a stereotype). I would doubt that "masturbator" was
necessarily it's original meaning, but then we are left with "weakling,
decadent, sissy" which hardly seems like something to deprive one of
eternal life, in a homosexual or a heterosexual man. Paul obviously
intends some specific meaning which is irrecoverable, from the lost
shared context. Compare "pleonektai" (1 Cor. 6:10): every greedy
person? In that case, almost every U.S. Christian is hell-bound.
What qualifies as greedy? Or "loidoroi": how much railing counts as
hell-bound railing? I never get the impression Paul is presenting an
ideal lifestyle, like Jesus often did. I rather think he had some
specific case in mind.
> 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
> Paul's writings:
> 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
> >of Socrates.
> 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."
Well, I don't think *assuming* that pornoi refers to male and female
prostitutes is an acceptable position. There would be no reason why Paul
might not specify a male prostitute, especially if pornoi was ambiguous.
He is being thorough, like Leviticus, in his listing of possible
extramarital encounters. He does not, like contemporary Christians,
resort to the "no sex outside of marriage" comment.
> > 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."
I'm not sure what Libertarianism has to do with this, but harpax referred
to quite violent snatching and grasping: it was used of rapacious birds,
grappling irons used in sea-battles, and kidnapping (L&S). Paul's
probably special meaning would have to be painstakingly reconstructed
from his context and other related writings. BAGD's harpazO and
harpagmos support this meaning.
> >> >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.
Lev. 18:22, 20:13 only prohibit adultery with a man. Deut. 23:17, as you
note, only forbids becoming a temple prostitute or giving one's earnings
to the temple of YHWH (as if YHWH were a pimp like the other gods). The
story of Judah and Tamar in Genesis shows how schizophrenic Hebrew
attitudes toward prostitution were: a whoremonger could have a whore
killed for doing what he asked her to do. This could be mere hypocrisy,
but it could also reflect that NON-ISRAELITE boys and girls were
acceptable as prostitutes, and that enjoying prostitution with them was
OK for Israelites, but that Israelites were not able to join such a
profession themselves or share in its pagan trappings.
> >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 disagree with Boswell's analysis of the word, but I agree that it
refers to male prostitution (thought not necessarily active).
> > 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).
The story of Sodom was not interpreted by early writers as a condemnation
of homosexuality, but of inhospitality. Jesus himself was of this
opinion (Matt. 10:14-15, Luke 10:10-12), and the best scholarship today
agrees. If you want to argue this tired old point, you're going to have
to bring out some fresh evidence. Lev. 18:22 and 20:13 are irrelevant as
general condemnations of homosexuality also, as I have shown. Judges 19
is a strange choice: I would think that your assumptions would make you
think that the brutally lustful gang rape and murder of a *woman* was
proof that *heterosexuality* should be condemned across the board. Not
that I would agree with such a short-sighted conclusion.
> > 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).
> 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.
Since only a pagan would *be* a prostitute, since it was unlawful for
Jews, they would have already been condemned to hell for being
idolaters. Paul's use of "anomois" (*without* the law/Torah) (1 Tim.
1:9) is a perfect word to describe pagans, from the Jewish standpoint.
Pagans would also have rejected Paul's instruction, anyway, so he is
obviously not *addressing* arsenokoitai in 1 Timothy.
> >> 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].
If Paul coined the term, how could he expect his letter-readers/hearers
to understand him? Especially when he doesn't lift a finger to define
it, as we have both aggravatedly noticed. The word IS rare. Boswell's
evidence that it was NEVER used by later Christian homophobes, even when
they were dealing with that very passage and subject, is almost
overwhelmingly decisive (Appendix One).
> >> 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-
> sexual lust.
The word Polycarp uses (which he borrows) for "lusts" is epithumiOn,
which could very much refer to monetary greed (e.g., in the LXX 10
Commandments, with epithum-). Young men might be tempted to become
prostitutes by offers of money or patronage made to them by older men.
Much of the early Christian concern was in fact, about pediphilia, not
homosexuality between consenting adults. Yet as Bosell notes, even
pediphilia was accepted among Christians and Christian leaders for a long
time (131-132). John Chrysostom especially mentions the "thousand
arguments" that he was answered with for his criticism of pederasty among
Christians: "If [the chaste or disapproving] happen to be insignificant,
they are beaten up; if they are powerful, they are mocked, laughed at,
refuted with a thousand arguments. ... The parents of the abused youths
bear this is silence and neither sequester their sons nor seek any remedy
for the evil." (pp. 362-3). Naturally I share in Chrysostom's
disapproval of child-molesting, and I assume he himself derived his
passion from the fact that in his youth he had been a victim. But
Chrysostom shows how rare his opinion was quite clearly. Child-molesting
is a *form* of heterosexuality and homosexuality, but it is by no means
their only expression. One thinks that if Chrysostom had been a woman, he
would have condemned the molesting of little girls just as severely.
> 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.
My conclusion is that by Paul's time the Pharisees had generalized OT
laws to prohibit frequenting, as well as being, prostitutes, for Jews.
The connection is one of ritual defilement: if a temple prostitute was
ritually defiled, then surely (?) having sex with her/him would make
*one's self* ritually defiled. We see Paul pulling this logic clearly in
1 Cor. 6:12-20. Prostitutes are almost subhumanly evil sources of
defilement. Christians are Christs's "members" (melE Xristos): that is,
his penises. If a Christian puts his penis in a prostitute, he unites
Christ (through his penis) with the prostitute, and thus defiles Christ.
The very fact that Paul would have to explain this is proof that he was
dealing with people who used to think, or might think, that frequenting a
prostitute was OK: Paul is apparently reflecting a Pharisaical broadening
of the OT laws.
> 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.
Wrong again. Even if this passage is genuine 4th century, Boswell
already conceded that by then homophobia was making a home in the
Christian church. If people sought to "arsenokoitein" para phusin, that
could certainly reflect prostitution. The Romans 1:27 passage clearly
indicates the people concerned "taking payment" ("antimisthian...
apolambanontes"): even if you interpret this as metaphorical, which
would be unnecessary, it would *still* indicate that the sin Paul had
in mind involved *idolaters* (Romans 1:23) and exchange of money
(Romans 1:27). This is exactly what one would expect from the
traditional law aimed *specifically* against pagan temple prostitutes.
> >> 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
> >> prostitution.
> >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.
I'm using Alfred Rahlf's 1 vol. ed. (1979) from the German Bible
Society. The verse numbering *is* different from the English, if that's
what you're using.
> > 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.]
I disagree with Boswell on this, since I see no distinction between
active and passive homosexuality being stigmatized until the closing-up
of late-antique morality, when the status of women dropped considerably
and passive anal intercourse by a male was considered an abandonment of
male prestige, and doing it to another male was considered a taking away
of that gender prestige: a double sin. Obviously, homophobia spread out
among different people at different times, but again, I do not see
evidence of it in Paul.
> >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.]
The fact that Philo had an idiosyncratic view of Scriptural meaning
should not be news to you or anyone else here. Philo's homophobia could
certainly be considered a carefully detailed proposal to Judaism, not a
restatement of long-standing Jewish opinion as reflected in the OT.
> >> 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.
I think I've already covered that here. I'll present my own observations
on Paul's views soon.