Sunday, August 24, 2008

Is Paul God?

Much debate has raged over whether Christ had given us direction against being homosexual. When supporters of GLBT rights and their allies try to point out that Christ was not quoted anywhere in the Gospel to have said anything negative about homosexuality it almost always comes up that Paul was divinely inspired when he wrote 1 Corinthians:

I Corinthians 6:9:
The passage: In his first epistle to the church at Corinth, Paul lists many activities that will prevent people from inheriting the Kingdom of God (heaven). Robertson's Word Studies refers to this passage as: "a solemn roll call of the damned even if some of their names are on the church roll in Corinth whether officers or ordinary members." 1

The King James Version of the Bible translates verse 9 and 10 as:

"Know ye not that the unrighteous shall not inherit the kingdom of God? Be not deceived: neither fornicators, nor idolaters, nor adulterers, nor effeminate, nor abusers of themselves with mankind, Nor thieves, nor covetous, nor drunkards, nor revilers, nor extortioners, shall inherit the kingdom of God."

This verse has been translated in many ways among the 25 English versions of the Bible that we have analyzed. The two activities of interest here have been variously translated as:

effeminate. In the English language, this covers a wide range of male behavior such as being unmanly, lacking virility. One might think of the characters "John," the receptionist on NYPD Blue, or "Jack" on Will and Grace.
homosexuals, variously described as: "men who practice homosexuality," (ESV);
"those who participate in homosexuality," (Amplified);
"abusers of themselves with men," (KJV);
"practicing homosexuals," (NAB);
"homosexuals," (NASB, CSB, NKJ, The Great Book: The New Testament in Plain English);
"homosexual perversion," (NEB);
"homosexual offenders," (NIV);
"liers with mankind," (Rhiems); and
"homosexual perverts." (TEV)

Although "homosexual" is a very common translation, it is almost certain to be inaccurate: If Paul wanted to refer to homosexual behavior, he would have used the word "paiderasste." That was the standard Greek term at the time for sexual behavior between males.
The second term is "arsenokoitai" in Greek. The exact meaning of this word is lost. It seems to have been a term created by Paul for this verse. "Arsen" means "man" in Greek. So there is no way that "arsenokoitai" could refer to both male and female homosexuals. It seems that the translators gave in to the temptation to widen Paul's condemnation to include lesbians as well as gay males.

Unfortunately, the term "homosexual" is commonly defined in two different ways: as a behavior (engaging in same-sex activity) or as a sexual orientation (being sexually attracted only to members of the same sex). Most of the biblical translations appear to refer to behavior rather than orientation.

male prostitutes, also described as "men kept for unnatural purposes." It is not clear whether the term "male prostitutes" (NIV, NRSV, CSB) is restricted to homosexuals or may also include men who are heterosexual prostitutes.
catamites, also described as "boy prostitute." This is a young male who is kept as a sexual partner of an adult male. (Jerusalem Bible, NAB, James Moffatt)
pederasts: male adults who sexually abuse boys; an abusive pedophile (an adult who molests young children) or abusive hebephile (an adult who molests post-pubertal teenagers).
perverts: a person engaged in some undefined activity that is one of the dozens of sexual perversions. (Phillips, The Great Book: The New Testament in Plain English)
sodomites: a name derived from the city of Sodom which is described in Genesis 19. (NRSV, NKJ). The men of the city are described as wanting to rape male visitors; many Christians interpret this as a blanket condemnation of all homosexual behavior.


"to explain it more clearly, we'll quote a friend who is studying to be a minister:

1) Paul is not God.

2) When Paul is citing this list of sins he is doing it to make the point that the Church in Corinth is free of these sins, which were listed in the Torah, because of their faith in Jesus. Paul's letter to the Romans spells out in excruciating detail how the law no longer applies to Christians because they have died to sin and been risen in Jesus. In other words, these categories were good enough for our Hebrew forebears as they went, but as Jesus says to the tricky scribes, Moses gave those laws (specifically speaking of divorce) because the people's hearts were hard. Jesus clearly demands a higher mode of ethical conduct; in repeated instruction and parables he contrasts what people were taught with what he says. Therefore, Paul's personal feelings about what kind of people will inherit the kingdom of God, taken as a blanket condemnation of certain behaviors, is not only contrary to Paul's own teachings on the matter of justification, but deeply opposed to the spirit and teaching of Christ.

3) What Paul is giving a list of, in both verses that you cite, are examples of depraved conduct, as he sees it. His point is that when people turn their backs on God, they are prone to act in all kinds of sick ways; his point is not to list things that Christians should mark in their notebooks as being the "newly revised Levitical code". Paul is saying, "You guys used to do all kinds of crazy shit, but now that you have Jesus, you've got your act together." I would say that there is a big difference between lustful, furtive couplings and a committed, healthy relationship. The notion of a committed, healthy homosexual relationship was utterly foreign to early Jews and Christians, as was the notion of abolition, racial intermarriage, antiseptics, and all sorts of other things that we take for granted today.

4) Jesus never mentions homosexuality in the Gospels, not once. If it was so important that we had to clamp down on it anywhere and everywhere it rears its terrible head, don't you think he would have at least, you know, brought it up? There is on the other hand, a specific condemnation of divorce in the Gospels, spoken by Jesus, and yet I don't hear Focus on the Family saying anything about divorce."

Let's put Christianity into more simple terms, which is the root of the religion anyway:

What is the Greatest Commandment?
"Love the Lord your God with all your heart and with all your soul and with all your mind." (Matthew 22:37,38)

What is the second Greatest Commandment?
"Love your neighbor as yourself." (Matthew 22:39)

What is the Golden Rule?
"Do unto others as you would have them do unto you." (Matthew 7:12)

If you are unsure of the appropriateness of the way you act towards someone remember that God dwells within our hearts, and ask yourself if you would like being treated the same way. Our moral compass is within us to help guide us when we lose focus of these simple yet important words of guidance. Concentrate on enjoying the gift of life and passing that joy onto those around you. Be as you would have others be to you. You should only ask from your neighbor what you are willing to give in return.

How much do you know about religion? Care to take a test?


John said...

Paul is not a reliable witness.

I have read the epistles and I just don't get why Paul is held in such high esteem. He seems ignorant of the gospel and willing to teach things that are opposite Jesus words.

Have you noticed that Paul NEVER quotes Jesus support his views?

John Hosty-Grinnell said...

You know I actually did look to see if he had quoted Jesus in the past, but I kept my thoughts to myself because I thought I would sound like a rabble rouser. Imagine that? ;)

Paul Jamieson said...

Paul never needed to quote Jesus because Jesus was speaking through Paul.

(This comment was edited for content by blog administration)

John said...

If Jesus was speaking through Paul, why did he so often disagree with what Jesus said?

John Hosty-Grinnell said...

The point we were making is that Paul seemed to exhibit a lack of understanding of the Gospel and Jesus' works.

If he was speaking for Jesus in all efforts then Jesus is a bit of a head case, contradicting Himself here and there. I doubt as an all knowing diety that could be true.

Paul Jamieson said...

"Let's put Christianity into more simple terms"

here is your problem in a nutshell

Too bad for you it doesn't work that way

John Hosty-Grinnell said...

Tell us why you think so Paul, I among others want to understand your point better.

John said...

But Jesus did put it all in a nutshell, but it was Paul (and the other apostles) who could not accept his message.

Everybody really knows this; thy just deny it:

Hillel the Elder (c 110 BCE-10 CE) was asked what is the most important law: He said:

"What is hateful to you, do not do to your fellow: this is the whole Law; the rest is the explanation; go and learn. "

A few years later Jesus of Nazareth was asked the same question and he said:

"Therefore, whatever you want men to do to you, do also to them, for this is the Law and the Prophets. "

That is all there is to it.

It really is just that simple.