Tom Wright, a top British biblical scholar, has just published a new translation of the New Testament. I wasn’t going to buy it at first but reading bits of it impressed me so much by its readability and freshness that I had to get it. I like Wright’s translation of 1 Corinthians 6:9-11:
Don’t you know that the unjust will not inherit God’s kingdom? Don’t be deceived! Neither immoral people, nor idolaters, not adulterers, nor practicing homosexuals of whichever sort, nor thieves, nor greedy people, nor drunkards, nor abusive talkers, nor robbers will inherit God’s kingdom. That, or course is what some of you were!
The casual reader of the passage in Paul’s letter will not know that the words I have highlighted in bold are a storm-centre of controversy in the church. The controversy has to do with the meaning of these two Greek words: μαλακοὶ and ἀρσενοκοῖται which Wright translates as nor practicing homosexuals of whichever sort. Wright is right. Some liberal Christian commentators have implausibly suggested that Paul only condemned pederasty or abusive sexual relationships between males. But the Greek is unqualified in its general condemnation of males who have sex with males. The word ἀρσενοκοῖται (arsenokoitai) is decisive.
Professor Robert Gagnon observes:
‘The word arsenokoitai should be translated literally as “men who lie with a male.” There is a clear connection to the Levitical prohibitions of male-male intercourse. The word is formed from the Greek words for “lying” (koite) and “male” (arsen) that appear in the Greek Septuagint translation of the Levitical prohibitions of men “lying with a male” (18:22; 20:13).’ source
The shocking implication is that the growing number of Churches worldwide that approve this prohibited behaviour (such as the United Church of Christ and the Metropolitan Community Church) are encouraging behaviour that if unrepented literally excludes people from God’s kingdom!