Homosexuality: Does the New Testament Condemn It?

St Paul speaks about homosexuality three times
Keep reading to learn what he says…
One afternoon while ministering to the homeless in downtown Fort Worth, Texas, I fell into a conversation with a stranger about religion, which eventually led to the subject of Christ. Without hesitating, he came right out and said, “I’m a gay Christian.” After he admitted to being an active homosexual, he added, “I have studied the whole Bible and nowhere does it teach that homosexuality is a sin.” 
I countered his claim, but the conversation became understandably awkward.

Since then, I’ve met others who believe that the Bible does not condemn homosexual acts as sinful. In fact, the Apostle Paul condemned homosexuality on three separate occasions. In his epistle to the Romans, Paul describes the origin of idolatry and associates it with the origins of homosexuality, among both men and women:
Their women exchanged natural relations for unnatural, and the men likewise gave up natural relations with women and were consumed with passion for one another, men committing shameless acts with men and receiving in their own persons the due penalty for their error. And since they did not see fit to acknowledge God, God gave them up to a base mind and to improper conduct (Rom 1:26-28).
Paul identifies homosexuality with the following terms: unnatural, shameless acts, error, base mind, and improper conduct.
Saint Paul also explains that practicing homosexuals “will not inherit the kingdom of God”:
Do you not know that the unrighteous will not inherit the kingdom of God? Do not be deceived; neither the immoral, nor idolaters, nor adulterers, nor effeminates {malakoi}, nor homosexuals {arsenokoitai}, nor thieves, nor the greedy, nor drunkards, nor revilers, nor robbers will inherit the kingdom of God (1 Cor 6:9-10).
The words translated as “effeminates” and “homosexuals” are often omitted in modern Bible translations and replaced with the single word “perverts,” even though two separate words appear in the Greek text of Paul’s First Epistle to the Corinthians.  One might understand why the man I met in Fort Worth believed that “homosexuality was not condemned in the Bible,” since many English versions actually hide the term under pretence of translation. The two Greek words used by Paul in this passage are malakoi and arsenokoitai. The word malakoi is sometimes translated effeminates and the word arsenokoitai is translated as homosexuals.
The Greek word arsenokoitai undoubtedly refers to male homosexuality. The very etymology of the word arsenokoitai reveals this. It is a compound of two words: arsen meaning “male” and koitai meaning “bed,” and specifically “marriage bed.”  Thus, arsenokoitai literally means “men in bed together.”
Lest there be any doubt about the identity of arsenokoitai with homosexuals, let us turn to the Greek Septuagint version of Leviticus 20:13, which reads, “If a man lies with a male as with a woman, both of them have committed an abomination; they shall be put to death.”  While the Old Testament death penalty for homosexuality was abolished by Christ, this passage undoubtedly refers to homosexual practice and confirms that Paul’s use of the Greek word arsenokoitai prohibits the same behavior described in Leviticus 20:13—men having relations with men. 
The Greek Septuagint renders this passage as: kai hos an koimethe meta arsenos koiten gynaikos. We find within it the same two Greek words that compose the word arsenokoitai, which was used by Paul to condemn homosexuality. I have underlined the words above to make the connection more obvious. Here we see arsonos and koiten together describing homosexual activity in the clear language of Leviticus 20:13. Clearly, Paul’s use of the similar compound word arsenokoitai refers to homosexual men—men in bed with other men.
The word used by Saint Paul, malakoi, literally means “soft ones.” There are three interpretations as to what this term might mean. First, it may refer to those who are overly obsessed with luxury, an attribute that would have been identified with effeminacy in antiquity. 
The second interpretation is one given by the Jewish historian Josephus. Josephus identifies soft ones with men who dressed as women and sometimes even mutilated or removed their male genitals.  These men may have been the passive partners in homosexual acts in the context of pagan ritual festivals, i.e. cultic male prostitutes. However, we must grant that the term malakoi is not explicitly used in this regard. The third possible solution is the one given by Saint Thomas Aquinas, which states that the “sin of softness” is the sin of masturbation.  Incidentally, the Catholic Church considers masturbation as sin against chastity:
“Masturbation is an intrinsically and gravely disordered action. The deliberate use of the sexual faculty, for whatever reason, outside of marriage is essentially contrary to its purpose.”
If Paul intended to refer to masturbation in his condemnation of “soft ones,” then he stands in agreement with the Church’s condemnation of masturbation. Whatever Paul meant by soft ones, it seems to have pertained to sexual sin, since in Paul’s list it falls between adultery and homosexuality.
The third passage in which Paul condemns homosexuality is found in his First Epistle to Timothy where he identifies homosexuals as lawless and disobedient:
“The law is not made for the just man, but for the unjust and disobedient, for the ungodly and sinners, for the wicked and defiled, for murderers of fathers and murderers of mothers, for manslayers, fornicators, homosexuals {arsenokoitai}, kidnappers, liars, perjurers, and whatever else is contrary to sound doctrine” (1 Tim 1:9-10).
Once again, the original Greek word used here by Paul for homosexuals is the same word that he used before: arsenokoitai. Clearly, Saint Paul was opposed to homosexual acts. The Catechism of the Catholic Church conforms to Paul in this regard:
“Basing itself on Sacred Scripture, which presents homosexual acts as acts of grave depravity, tradition has always declared that “homosexual acts are intrinsically disordered.” They are contrary to the natural law. They close the sexual act to the gift of life. They do not proceed from a genuine affective and sexual complementarity. Under no circumstances can they be approved.”
Nevertheless, the Catechism of the Catholic Church recognizes that,
“The number of men and women who have deep-seated homosexual tendencies is not negligible. This inclination, which is objectively disordered, constitutes for most of them a trial. They must be accepted with respect, compassion, and sensitivity.”
Persons with homosexual inclinations are called to chastity – not matrimony. By the virtues of self-mastery that teach them inner freedom, at times by the support of disinterested friendship, by prayer and sacramental grace, they can and should gradually and resolutely approach Christian perfection.
The post above was just a small part of a chapter in my book: The Catholic Perspective on Paul. If you need a book to help you understand Catholic theology and Saint Paul’s epistles, then this is the book for you. It’s getting great reviews. Learn more about this book at amazon.com by clicking here.


Let’s open the comments: What do you think? How can we focus our apologetical tactics against the tsunami of pro-homosexual rhetoric in the last several months?

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  • AMEN!!! Sarena. You presented the Word’s perspective on the issue clearly and precisely. I’m impressed because so many take scriptures out of context to present and bolster personal and denominational beliefs and doctrines. You did not do this. Keeping scripture in context is understanding what Christ said: “You shall know the truth and the truth shall make you free.” The truth of scripture will set us all free by allowing the Holy Spirit to perform and complete the work of the death burial and resurrection of Christ. The result of the work of the cross is not only salvation–it is also the inward and outward manifestation of holiness (holy living).

    Not obeying the Word is rejecting the Word. You cannot follow Jesus by disobeying him! You cannot try to see how much of the world and fleshly lusts you can have and still

  • Guest

    AMEN!!! Sarena. You
    presented the Word’s perspective on the issue clearly and precisely. I’m
    impressed because so many take scriptures out of context to present and bolster
    personal and denominational beliefs and doctrines. You did not do this. Keeping
    scripture in context is to understand what Christ meant by saying: “You
    shall know the truth and the truth shall make you free.” The truth of
    scripture will set us all free by allowing the Holy Spirit to perform and
    complete the work of the death burial and resurrection of Christ. The result of
    the work of the cross is not only salvation–it is also the inward and outward
    manifestation of holiness (holy living). Not
    obeying the Word is rejecting the Word. You cannot follow Jesus by disobeying
    him! You cannot try to see how much of the world and fleshly lusts you can have
    and still “have” Jesus.

  • Thomas

    Thanks for this article, Dr. Marshall. It explains what I always thought about St. Paul condemnation of all immoral sexual behaviour.

  • Kitty

    yes and im pretty sure youre wearing mixed fabrics and eating shrimp, how bout you stop being a hypocrite and following the ‘laws’ of perverted old men from way back in muslim country nd you start growing and actually living your life. you also dont have long hair or a beard, pretty sure thats a sin, better get on your knees buster…