Date: Wed Nov 11 1998 - 11:17:26 EST


Sorry it's taken me a month to reply...

> I have heard this interpretation of the word several times. Let me
> again clarify that Polycarp considered the term MALAKOS a "lust," not
> just a generalized reference to loose morals. It would seem as if
> MALAKOS in 1 Corinthians would be understood by the church at Corinth
> more specifically as a sensual desire to be sought after.

I don't see how you get this from Polycarp (I'm assuming Epistle to the
Philipians 5:3). There doesn't seem to be textual evidence supporting
your contention. It sounds like you are saying that Polycarp is
saying that malakos is some kind of active passion for some kind of
activity--in this case being the passive partner in an homosexual act.
But this interpretation is unwarranted. We have a slew of "lists" that
refer to malakos, just like here in Polycarp, but without a context, you
have no basis for your claim. If Polycarp is using malakos in this
manner, then he is taking a usage that is not found in any extant Greek
text in which we have a context to properly judge the word.

> There are several instances in Greek literature where "malakos" refers
> to a passive male homosexual. Read Dionysius Halicarnassus Book VII, 2,
> 4 (among others):
> "At that time, the tyrant of Cumae was Aristodemos, the son of
> Aristocrates, a man, not of the common men in birth, who was called
> Malakos (effeminate)) by his townsmen. In time, he held a nickname more
> notable than his original name. He was called Malakos either because as
> a child, he was effeminate and suffered that which is fitting for women,
> as some narrate, or because he was tame by nature and was soft in
> temperament, as others write."

In this case I believe you are doing some eisegesis. It is clear from the
extant uses of malakos that it can refer to an effeminate or soft person,
women or men. In this passage from Dionysius, there is no indication that
what Malakos was suffering from was being "penetrated." Wouldn't it make
more sense from the Greek mindset that Malakos, as a man, was suffering
from the social stigma of being effeminate? Either way, you have no
basis for assuming that Malakos is being "penetrated" from this text. A
quick check on Perseus will easily show that malakos refers to effeminate
women or men, but not "gay men" in particular. It seems entirely
unreasonable to attribute 1 Co 6 to mean "a penetrated man" when there is
no other Greek text that says this. Nor would it seem just for God to
condemn a man for being effeminate, straight or gay. I have known my
share of effeminate straight men, as well as "manly" gay men, so it is
highly inappopriate to associate effeminate with gay. The usage of the
word malakos seems to fit much better into 1 Co 6 if translated morally

You mention this particular text in addition to "others." I would have to
see those other texts to judge them, because I can't find anything
supporting your contention.

Jeramy Townsley
Indiana University

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