Recently a new documentary has dropped entitled 1946. The premise of the movie is that the word homosexual is a mistranslation of the Greek word αρσενοκοιται in 1 Corinthians 6:9. Before the Revised Standard Version of 1946, no Bible used the word homosexual. Modern Bibles, according to them, have continued using this mistranslation and it has influenced evangelicalism to be against homosexuality, when it should be affirming to the LGBTQ. Rather than focus on any positive argument for the translation of the word in modern Bibles, of which many others have done, I want to focus on a specific glaring hole in the movie — that is, what did earlier English translations render the word as? Because if they used words that carry the same condemnation of homosexuality, then it really doesn’t matter that the word was first translated that way in 1946, and one of the central pillars of the movie falls down. We’ll start with Young’s Literal Translation of 1862.
have ye not known that the unrighteous the reign of God shall not inherit? be not led astray; neither whoremongers, nor idolaters, nor adulterers, nor effeminate, nor sodomites, (1 Corinthians 6:9 YLT)
The word αρσενοκοιται here is translated as ‘sodomite.’ Sodomite is clearly a reference to Sodom and Gomorrah. We’ll look at what sodomite meant here in a moment. Next I want to look at the translation I personally use: the King James Version (first published in 1611):
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, (1 Corinthians 6:9 KJV)
Here αρσενοκοιται is actually rendered as “abusers of themselves with mankind”. This language will probably not be familiar to those who don’t read the KJV, so here are two commentaries on 1 Corinthians 6:9 on what the phrase means. The first commentator is Matthew Pool1 from the 17th century:
Nor abusers of themselves with mankind; nor such as are guilty of the sin of Sodom, a sin not to be named amongst Christians or men.
And then we have John Gill1 (18th century):
Nor abusers of themselves with mankind; sodomites.
So we keep having the recurring theme that this word is to be rendered as sodomite. So what did the word sodomite mean? John Gill gives us us insight. On a parallel passage in 1 Timothy 1:10, a form of the word αρσενοκοιται is used again and Gill2 writes the following:
for them that defile themselves with mankind; who are guilty of sodomy; such, according to the law, were to die, Leviticus 18:22 the wrath of God was revealed from heaven in a very visible and remarkable manner against this abomination, by raining fire and brimstone upon Sodom and Gomorrah, and upon the cities of the plain, who defiled themselves in this way:
Gill makes the connection between what the men of Sodom were doing and what Leviticus 18:22 condemns, which is that “Thou shalt not lie with mankind, as with womankind: it is abomination.” The use of the term sodomite is to convey men who have intercourse with other men. Even the New Testament describes the sin of Sodom in this way:
Even as Sodom and Gomorrha, and the cities about them in like manner, giving themselves over to fornication, and going after strange flesh, are set forth for an example, suffering the vengeance of eternal fire. (Jude 7 KJV)
They were fornicators and went after strange flesh. They saw whom they perceived as men and wanted to ‘know’ them. They were going to abuse their own bodies with mankind instead of perusing natural, godly relations with womankind. So if the current push by the culture is to say that the Bible shouldn’t have the word homosexual in it, then fine, I’m perfectly happy to say that it condemns sodomy. In fact, if I were to throw a bone to those who produced the movie, I would say the term homosexual is slightly inaccurate, as the term really could only refer to men (the αρσεν in αρσενοκοιται is derived from the Greek word ανηρ which means man), and not female homosexuals (although female homosexual activity is still condemned in Romans 1:26-27). So I even prefer sodomite, to be honest.
The saddest part of all this is that, by taking away the condemnation of 1 Corinthians 6:9, the hope for sodomites is also taken away. After listing all these sins that would prevent someone from inheriting the kingdom of God, Paul writes:
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 our God. (1 Corinthians 6:11 KJV)
If you don’t have the condemnation of verse 9, you cannot have the good news of verse 11. As Christ says:
When Jesus heard it, he saith unto them, They that are whole have no need of the physician, but they that are sick: I came not to call the righteous, but sinners to repentance. (Mark 2:17 KJV)
If you are a homosexual, convicted of your sins against a holy God, I invite you to read this blog post about the Good News of Jesus Christ and how you can find forgiveness in Him.