Greek translation of homosexual: arsenokoitai vs paiderasste


According to the passages in 1 Corinthians and 1 Timothy that talk about homosexuals were translated incorrectly. The original word in Greek was arsenokoitai and is translated as “abusers of themselves with mankind” originally and later it began to be translated as “homosexual”. However according to the article, if Paul wanted the meaning to be “homosexual” he would have used the other word, “paiderasste”.

I’ve stumbled upon this whilst discussing the Bible with a man who’s defending homosexuality and saying it’s not a sin. I can’t find any information on this that refutes it.

Does anyone know Greek that could help me debunk this?


Debunk this? What makes you so sure it’s false?

What exactly does “abuser of themselves with mankind” mean? What, are they burning themselves on the arm with cigars? Sticking sharp objects into themselves?

This is a common way to try and dispel something someone doesn’t like in the text. Go find a better word in another language and hinge the entire argument around hermeneutic theory. It made Lamsa a lot of money.

Read the text in context, not only within that passage but with the rest of Scripture. If you are Catholic, mesh it also with Tradition and Teaching. What comes out the other end of all that?

First: ARSEONOKOITAI (singular: arsenokoité) is a FEMININE word. If it applied to men at all, we would see the forms ARSENOKOITOS, -OI–but we never do.

There are only THREE uses of the word ARSENOKOITAI in ancient times, and they are six centuries apart.

  1. In the Sybelline Oracles, dating 6th Century BC, it says, “The ARSENOKOITAI from the north will abduct our children.”

  2. St. Paul’s use, which you mentioned.

  3. In the writings of St. John the Faster of Constantinople, he says that ARSENOKOITAI is something that some men do to their wives.

If it’s something a man and woman can do, it’s clearly NOT homosexuality, it is?

So, it’s clearly NOT something that can be “debunked.”

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I can tell you that Greek word *paiderastia *does **not **mean homosexual as in two adults in a same-sex relationship. It means “lover of boys.” It is a particular word, with a particular meaning-- one who sodomizes boy children.

Paidos- child, boy
Erastes/Erastai - love/lover

From it we get English words pederast and pedophile.

I cannot help you with the other word.

And, no matter that particular passage, we also know that in another passage that “lieing with other men” and “women lieing with women” is specifically condemned.

Also when one understands rightly ordered sex acts (the Sixth Commandment), wrongly ordered sex acts are obvious: contraception, homosexual sex, masterbation, sodomy with a woman. All of these things are disordered for the same reason-- they separate the unitive and procreative elements of intercourse.

As is often the case, misses the point, and one of the surest signs is that they start arguing about translations of Biblical Greek.

  1. The approved formula in Scripture for marriage = man + woman.
  2. The approved “venue” for sexual activity is within the confines of marriage.

Anything that doesn’t meet those criteria is condemned as sinful.

– Mark L. Chance.

When done with women it’s called anal intercourse. It is also called sodomy although *originally *that word applied only to a man with another man.

The Greek word could still be referring to the same *type *of sexual act, just in a different context. This type of sex act is not moral whether done between two men or a man and a woman.

Here is a quite logical explanation:

Paul used the Septuagint, the Greek translation of the Old Testament. The Greek translation of the Leviticus passages condemns a man (arseno) lying with (koitai) another man (arseno). Paul joins these two words together into a neologism, a new word, and thus he condemns in 1 Corinthians and 1 Timothy what was condemned in Leviticus.

Even if they were right, that still doesn’t deal with Romans.

Romans 1:27

and in the same way also the men abandoned the natural function of the woman and burned in their desire toward one another, men with men committing indecent acts and receiving in their own persons the due penalty of their error


Debunk this? What makes you so sure it’s false?

When you take this in context, with the command from the OT and St. Paul’s letters, it means what it’s always been interpreted to mean.

Personally, I trust the infallible Magisterium on matters such as this. I am not saying that someone else or anyone else does not or that the argument described in the OP does not need to be debunked as it does need to be debunked and it has been debunked. As others have said, homosexuality is still wrong even if arsenokoitai or paideraste doesn’t mean homosexual. We know this by looking in Leviticus for example and also by looking in Romans.

The point the author of the article found at: is attempting to assert is that all Biblical scholars have misinterpreted the original Greek text and, because of this gross misinterpretation, 1 Corinthians 6:9 is, in no way shape of form, referencing homosexuality. It’s a well thought out and very clever argument that is false when you consider the word, homosexual, did not originate until the mid to late nineteen hundreds and, unless my history serves me incorrectly, I doubt John wrote his epistles in the nineteen hundreds and therefore would not have used the Greek word paiderasste.

Ask yourself: if you are a believer, then shouldn’t you take the words contained within the Bible to be the true word of God? If so, then how can you argue or believe such things as the errancy of the bible or that John just wrote was he wrote merely because he felt like it and in no way could it be divinely inspired. Further, how can “believers” argue that the Bible does not meet the needs of today or that it should be somehow updated in order to serve the needs or fit with our current society. Doesn’t this imply that we are acting as God or that God somehow got it wrong?

Anyways, just curious questions about tactics utilized by homosexual believers or homosexual-friendly believers. But who am I to make these claims when we all seem to wield Biblical passages in order to serve our own needs.

Anyways, just curious questions about tactics utilized by homosexual believers or homosexual-friendly believers. But who am I to make these claims when we all seem to wield Biblical passages in order to serve our own needs.

This was one major reason that I latched onto and cling to the understanding that Christ founded One, Holy, Catholic, and Apostolic Church, and that after a merciful Father rescued me from twenty plus years of pseudo-agnosticism as a fallen away Pentecostal. On so many issues I found no secure and stable authority for scriptural understanding in the protestant world. I thank God daily for Christ’s Vicar on earth, and the teaching authority of the magisterium, the bishops in union with the pope.

Of course the most sublime reception of Our Lord in the Eucharist trumps everything. When evangelicals ask me, “do you know Jesus”, I have to chuckle to myself, oh boy…do I know Him… ways you can’t even imagine!

arsenokoitai translates arseno-men and koitai- bed. The exact meaning of the word is not understood. It used to be thought to mean masterbation. Homosexual is a modern meaning that has been applied by some and really doesn’t come up in the Bible. In the modern Bible translations, some verses are changed to mean homosexuality. Jesus never says homosexuality is a sin. If you research those few verses that mention homosexuality in the modern translations, you will find that those were refering to sex, of all types used as rituals in temple rites by the ancient greek and latin Bibles. I would encourage you to seek to true meaning in the Bible and a true understanding of its meanings in context to the times each translation was written. God does not want us to squabble over who is “in” and who is ‘out’. It is God’s task to judge. God wants us to love one another. So kudos to you to helping someone seek the work of God and know that God does not want a strict adhearance to a list of laws, but wants us to seek a pure heart, a good conscience, and a faith that is not phony.

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You’ve just responded to a 3 year old thread.

First of all, it does matter what the word arsenokoitai means in order to grasp whether homosexual acts are or not condemned in the Bible. More than that, we must consider who has written this word and to whom he has done that. It appears in two Paul’s epistles: 1Co, which is really by Paul and 1Tm, which authorship and date are rather controversial. In the first case, 1Co, the term comes together with malakoi, which was translated as “moles” in the Vulgata Latina, by Saint Jerome. The Latin translation here is important because Corinth, in the 1st century BC, was a Roman city, rather cosmopolitan, but very roman in its values and morals. In that time, the ‘pagans’ themselves condemned passive sexual attitudes by men (uir), who were conceived as political citizens and, as such, also governors of their houses. In this sense, the moral condemnation of the ‘malakoi’ or ‘moles’ (‘humid’ and ‘effeminate’ man) existed among the Romans as an improper activity for free man. It was not only considered something bad for a man to man relationship, but also for a man to woman relationship in which the man would have a passive attitude (like in some sexual positions). However, Paul condemns not only the malakoi, but also the one who might have had an active relationship with him: the ‘arsenokoitai’. It is clearly suggested that the exploitation of the ‘morally condemned’ ‘malakoi’ is also reprehensible. Paul was certainly aware of what is written in Leviticus about fornication, which is a part of the Jewish Law which was considered relevant for the gentiles converted to the Christian faith to follow, as it is explained in the book of Acts. He adopted or translated the sexual relationship of a man with a man condemned in the Old Testament to the Pagan context of his time and to the moral rules of the Romans in a Greek province. The point here is not to check the validity of the terms ‘arsenokoitai’ or ‘malakoi’ to the present days, but to adapt or translate them into the current behaviors related to contemporary homoafectivity. Certainly, a sexual intercourse cannot be considered morally right or wrong not considering the conscience of the ones who practice it. ‘Pagans’ converted to Christianity could understand the point of view of Paul because they recognized his words with practices that they knew. The point is that: do we talk about the same thing when we consider homosexual practices nowadays? If we want to be fair with our brothers and sisters who feel attracted to people of the same sex, we have to know which are their practices and, more important, which intentions inform their practices. We’re not Romans nor Jews anymore. We are not citizens of the Empire nor subjects to all the Jewish restrictions and taboos. But we have the Holy Spirit to illuminate our minds and a magnanimous judge to consider our acts and thoughts with mercy. We can be like Paul instead of blind followers of his words. Get closed to homosexuals and see by yourselves if they deserve punishment for the life they live. They are sinners, but only in the same extent that we all are.

I would suggest Raymond F. Collins, Sexual Ethics and the New Testament: Belief and Behavior (2000). He is a Professor of New Testament and former dean at Catholic University of America. His book has received favorable reviews for its detailed historical-critical research. He is extremely politically sensitive yet he consistently brings to light what Jesus and Paul actually conveyed by their words.

Search the word in question at the google site for Collins’ book. His conclusion is that Paul may have coined the word arsenokoitai and etymologically it means “bedding down with a man.” According to note 70 (p. 99) the Liddell-Scott Greek lexicon indicates that this neologism of Paul’s seems to be a Greek translation of the Hebrew miškab zakûr used in rabbinic texts based on Lv 18:22, i.e., “lying with a man as with a woman.”

In connection with this he notes that the classical world doesn’t think so much in terms of psychological orientation as a personal attribute, but rather in terms of actions and their moral value or disvalue. Hence lists of vices and virtues are a literary form in Classical moral works of the time and such a device was used in the NT as well.

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