Re: Boswell (was Re: Lexicons)

On Sun, 11 Sep 1994, Greg Jordan wrote:
>On Thu, 8 Sep 1994, Stephen Carlson wrote:
>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 
>general comments.

Thank you for your comments; they do promote thought and rational discussion.
If your thesis is that 'arsenokoites' refers to male prostitutes in general
rather than active prosititutes, it still seems that is there is close to
zero textual basis for it unless you have more evidence than what Boswell
presented.  But I'll wait for your observations on Paul's views.

>> 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 

This is odd.  Although it might occasionally be used in reference to those
cheating with their wives with prostitutes, this does fit under its broadest
meaning of the sexually immoral.  Even so, 'pornos' is applied to unmarried
men [see Polycarp] and is distinguished from adultery [Hb13:4], so the
conclusion that the 'pornoi' are simply a species of an adulterer is simply

>              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 
>or later.

I will wait for your remarks, but until then, I remain skeptical.

>> 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.

Boswell's treatment of 'malakos' is a strawman:

    The word [malakos] is never used in Greek to designate gay people
    as a group or even in reference to homosexual generically . . . .
[Boswell at 107.]

Obviously, the use of 'malakos' to describe the boy partner of a pederast
does not designate gay people as a group, but that isn't the issue.  This
meaning fits in well with Polycarp's advice to young Christian men.  I stand
by my comment:

>> 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.

>                 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.

I agree that greed is a big problem among American Christians, witness
Jim Bakker, and that Paul may have had the sins of specific Corinthians
in mind:

    And such were some of you: but ye are washed, but ye are sanctified,
    but ye are justified in the name of the Lord Jesus, and by the Spirit
    of God.
[1Co6:11 (KJV)]

Given the prevalence of pederasty (man-boy love) in the Hellenistic world,
it is not surprising that former catamites would become members of the
church in Corinth.  It also shows that homosexual activity is not an
unforgivable sin.

>> 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.

"Extramarital" assumes Paul is only addressing married men.  Is Lv18:23
only directed to extramarital bestiality?

>> >> >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.

This contention of yours has been thrashed out on B-GREEK and B-HEBREW and
is very unconvincing.

>                                                      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.

Since there does not seem to be a law against Gentile prostitutes, per se,
then how are they lawbreakers?  Perhaps male prostitution violates the law
against homosexual activity [Lv18:22 20:13], but that is an argument for
the latter meaning for 'arsenokoites'.

>> >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'm confused.  'Koite' refers to male prostitution???

>> >                                                             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.

Sodom was destroyed for a multitude of sins, including inhospitality and
homosexuality.  To claim that it was destroyed for just one sin is an
example of a fallacious disjunctive ("either-or") reasoning.

>                                         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.

Jesus does refer to Sodom's inhospitality, but that shows that He merely
selected one sin out of many to illustrate His clever point.  

I found Boswell's use of Ezekiel 16:48-49 to be facile.  First, those verses
establish that there were more sins than inhospitality going on (pride,
gluttony, sloth).  Second, Boswell ignores Eze16:50 ("and commited
abomination before me").  Nowhere is inhospitality is described as an
abomination, but homosexual activity is [Lv18:22 20:13].  Then, of course,
Jude 7 indicates homosexual activity in Sodom.

>                                   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.

Judges 19, similar in construction to the story of Sodom, tells of a Levite
guest who offered up his own concubine to the men who wanted to "know" him.
Inhospitality does not explain the Levite's response.

>> >                                                                   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.

Huh?  Paul is calling the 'arsenokoitai' lawbreakers in 1 Timothy.  The
'arsenokoitai' are not lawbreakers merely for being pagan.  Are the
"murderers of fathers" [1Ti1:9] pagan by the same reasoning?

>> >> 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.

>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).

As I have argued, Paul's use of 'arsenokoites' was readily transparent to
those familiar with the Septuagint's translation of the Levitical laws.
Paul's letters were from a Christian to a Christian community.

Boswell's argument from silence is astonishingly poor.  Not only it is
methodologically weak (because of the term's rarity) but even his examples
of silence are not persuasive:

1.  Silence among Herodotus, Plato, Aristotle, and Plutarch is simply
not relevant.  [Boswell at 345.]  The first three are way too early to
use a term probably coined by Paul or someone within a Pauline community.
Plutarch, a Gentile, was certainly unfamiliar with Christian or Pauline

2.  Philo and Josephus are not helpful either.  [Boswell at 346].  There
is no Pauline (or Christian) influence upon their writings.  Josephus,
in fact, did not use characteristically Christian language to describe
the life of Jesus.  [See Meier's THE MARGINAL JEW.]

3.  Since Diadache 5:1-2 (The Teaching of the Twelve Apostles) is a list
of sins, with no literary dependence on 1Co6:9-10, it is hardly relevant
to the meaning of 'arsenokoites'.  After all, other lists of vices do not
are not exhaustive.  [Boswell at 346].

4.  Tatian's and Justin Martyr's use of the more common Hellenistic terms
is not surprising considering the polemical and apolegetical character (i.e., 
written for non-Christians to read) of their works.  Of course, they chose
a less obscure term.  [Boswell at 346].

5.  Boswell's use of Eusebius's silence ("yet nowhere does he the word which
supposedly means 'homosexual' in Paul's writings" [Boswell at 346]), is
misleading because Eusebius did use the verbal form of 'arsenokoites' which
hinted at homosexual behavior.  [Boswell at 351].  Also Eusebius is too late.

6.  Clement of Alexandria is more interesting [Boswell at 346]; however, he
had a penchant for provocative language against homosexuality, likening it
the behavior of a hyena for example, so it is not surprising that he did not
use such a rare and euphemistic word.

7.  John Chrysostom (4th cen.) is really too late to be probative, but his
only use of the term is to distinguish it from male prostitutes (hEtairEkws).
[Boswell at 347-48, 351-52].

If this is "overwhelmingly decisive" evidence, I am not impressed.  The
fact that it is a rare term, euphemistic, apparantly coined within a small
Christian community to allude to the Levitical prohibition readily explains
why other Christian writers would use terms that were either more current
or provocative.  Furthermore, this word is used by Polycarp in relation to
the lusts of young men, but appears in other places though without much
context.  This is hardly a good argument from silence.

>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.  

This is not borne out by Polycarp's explicit failure to invoke the covetous
in quoting Paul but including three sexual sinners (pornoi, malakoi, and

>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).

Christianity has always had a problem with "carnal Christians," but the
existence of those who flout the teachings of the Church confirms rather
than denies those teachings.  (It may, however, be a criticism of their

>>     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.)
>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.

No, that's seeking after *pleasures* against nature, desiring to
"arsenokoitein."  The behavior itself is viewed as unnatural.

>                                       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.

This is bizarre.  Are they also "disobediant to parents" (v30) as well?
It is an error to interpret a collective statement about a group of people
as being applicable to every member.

>                                         I'll present my own observations 
>on Paul's views soon.

Good, I would love to read them.

Stephen Carlson
Stephen Carlson     :  Poetry speaks of aspirations,  : ICL, Inc.
scc@reston.icl.com  :  and songs chant the words.     : 11490 Commerce Park Dr.
(703) 648-3330      :                 Shujing 2:35    : Reston, VA  22091   USA

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