Featured Post

The Christian Perspective on the Old Testament

Unfortunately, too many Christians have allowed themselves to harbor extreme views with regard to the role which they permit the Old Testame...

Sunday, April 21, 2024

United Church of God's Steve Myers on I Corinthians 6 and Those Unrighteous LGBTQ Folks

In an Ambassador Bible College presentation, UCG's Steve Myers expounded on the sixth chapter of Paul's first epistle to the saints at Corinth (see Epistles of Paul 10). Now, he began with a fairly straightforward appraisal of Paul's admonishment to the Christians of Corinth against taking disputes between Christians to civil authorities for adjudication. Unfortunately, thereafter, his commentary descended into the predictable Armstrongist diatribe against homosexuals.

Myers begins this part of his lecture by quoting this English translation of Paul's text: "1 Corinthians 6:9 'Don't be deceived, neither fornicators, nor idolaters, nor adulterers, nor homosexuals, nor sodomites.'" He continued: "Wow, this list is getting long here, isn't it? Interesting that he starts out with all these sexual sins. Why do you think he would do that? Oh yeah, we're in Corinth. We're in Corinth, right? This is the place where they had the temple with the thousand temple prostitutes. A lot of that was still going on at this time. Yeah, those things impacted the church. But he makes this point, don't be taken in, don't be deceived. These behaviors, this unrighteousness can take many forms. There could be many forms of unrighteousness. And he goes on, not just the sexual sins." This is followed by a brief acknowledgement by Mr. Myers that Paul listed a number of other specific sins in this connection.

Nevertheless, Myers quickly returned to his main topic. He continued: "He gets very specific. He says homosexuals will be disqualified from the Kingdom if that continues to be their lifestyle. Of course, our world today is promoting this life. It's a lifestyle choice to be a homosexual or to be a lesbian, or any of these types of things, questioning, and queer, and trans, and the whole thing. Well, this is speaking to all of that. So he says not only homosexuals, which of course, in Corinth, this would have pointed to the male prostitutes. We talked about individuals who were slaves that were donated to the temple worship of Aphrodite were temple prostitutes. Yeah, they were male prostitutes. The homosexuals would have been that." Steve went on to complete his thought: "Also interesting that he says sodomites as well. Now, you read those two words and say, well, aren't they the same thing? Kind of sounds like it and maybe today we might think of it in similar types of terms, and not trying to be gross or too explicit or anything like that. But the homosexuals that they're talking about here, the male prostitutes, you would associate those with being the passive partners in a homosexual relationship. The sodomites, on the other hand, would have been the aggressors, would have been the more active role in that. And so interesting that Paul is showing condemnation to both, to both sides of the equation. And so none of that is acceptable. None is acceptable. And so he'll deal with lesbians, they're not mentioned in this list here, but Romans 1:26 certainly points that fact out as well. So we're not letting any of that lifestyle choice get away with it, in other words."

Now, admittedly, that is a pretty slick presentation. He affirms the traditional stance against homosexuality as a sinful "lifestyle," while simultaneously giving a nod to alternative interpretations of this text. What's that? Well, he acknowledges that there are a number of Biblical scholars who believe the traditional interpretations of these passages into modern English have resulted in flawed and misleading translations of Paul's original Greek text into English! They point out that the modern concept of "homosexuality" was unknown to these ancient peoples. Yes, they certainly were aware of various types of same gender sexual relationships, but they were wholly unfamiliar with the modern notion of one having a sexual orientation.

This is made very clear by the two Greek words that have been translated here into English as "homosexuals" and "sodomites." In the King James Version of the Bible, the first word "Malakos" is translated into English as "effeminate." This interpretation was derived from the sense that the original Greek word was indicative of softness or expensive clothing (as in Christ's use of the term in the Gospels of Matthew 11:8 and Luke 7:25). In Blue Letter Bible's online version of Strong's Concordance, we see that the Greek word Malakos is "of uncertain affinity," and means "soft, i.e. fine (clothing); figuratively, a catamite:—effeminate, soft." What is a "catamite"? It is one who practices pederasty (a sexual relationship between an adult male and a boy). Now, hopefully, we can all agree that such a relationship should be regarded as an abomination. It clearly violates the Law of Love and does real harm to both the adult and the child by perverting the God-ordained intention that adults nurture and protect children. Clearly, the unequal mental, emotional, and power dynamic between the two precludes any notion of a loving and consensual relationship between two equals. This is the epitome of an unrighteous or sinful behavior!

Likewise, in the King James Version, the other word "Arsenokoites" is translated into English as "abusers of themselves with mankind." Once again, in Blue Letter Bible's online version of Strong's Concordance, we read for Arsenokoites that it is a compound word derived from "arren" meaning "man" and "koite" meaning a "bed" (and having the same relation as the English word to being associated with a sexual connotation). Now, as Paul was writing to the Greco-Roman city of Corinth (where pederasty and male temple-prostitutes were common features), I leave it to my readers to decide whether Paul was referring to the modern concept of homosexuality, OR if he meant to single out two of many sinful practices prominent to that part of the Gentile world. Notice too, that even Mr. Myers alludes to this practice in his remarks on this passage! I think we all sometimes forget that Paul's epistles were written to address problems of a particular congregation of a First Century Christian Church which he had been associated with (as in the first chapter of his letter to the saints at Rome). Moreover, Mr. Myers' reference to this behavior's connection to idolatry makes much more sense in this context (male prostitution in the service of Aphrodite) than it does in the wider context of homosexuality.

Once again, returning to the context of Paul's letter, it is clear that he was addressing the sinful behaviors of the unconverted people surrounding the saints in Corinth. Yes, in the broader sense, he was talking about a sinful lifestyle, but the concept of a "homosexual lifestyle" was wholly unknown to Paul and the people whom he was addressing. This is made clear by what he says about practicing all of the sinful behaviors enumerated by him. He reminded them that "Some of you were once like that. But you were cleansed; you were made holy; you were made right with God by calling on the name of the Lord Jesus Christ and by the Spirit of our God." (Verse 11, NLT) In other words, prior to their conversion, some of the folks whom he was addressing had engaged in the same kind of behaviors - they had formerly lived a sinful lifestyle.

In conclusion, like many folks before him, Mr. Myers is projecting our modern perspective and understanding onto a passage of Scripture which was written to folks with a different perspective and understanding of human sexuality and behavior. In other words, Paul was clearly NOT writing about consenting adults in a loving, faithful, and committed relationship! Hence, to suggest that he was talking about "homosexuality" in this passage would be a clear perversion of his meaning and intent. I don't know about you, but that reminds me of something that Peter once wrote about Paul's writings. He said that some of Paul's writings were hard to understand, and that "untaught and unstable people" sometimes twisted them "to their own destruction, as they do also the rest of the Scriptures." (II Peter 3:16, NKJV) It makes one wonder - who really has the agenda in this instance? Is Mr. Myers seeking to perpetuate his own understanding and traditions regarding homosexuality, OR Is he truly seeking to understand God's Word? I'll let my readers decide for themselves the answers to those questions - I think that I've made my own perspective very plain.


  1. "He said that some of Paul's writings were hard to understand, and that "untaught and unstable people" sometimes twisted them "to their own destruction, as they do also the rest of the Scriptures." (II Peter 3:16, NKJV)" - Why would God give to humans as His word a book (really a collection of books) so hard to understand and open to so many interpretations? Surely the Supreme Intelligence of the universe could provide clear, easy-to-understand communication to his creation.

  2. Richard,
    I've asked myself the same questions. For me, the answers to those questions are found in three truths: 1) God decided to make Scripture a joint project with humans (his choice, not mine), and only the Divine part of that equation can be considered pure and error free. 2) Human language and communication is imperfect in both the one sending the message, and the one receiving it. Indeed, as far as we know, there has never been a human language which has perfectly conveyed all of humankind's thoughts and emotions (not to mention their inadequacy in describing God and his abilities). and 3) A person cannot understand the things of God without God's Holy Spirit. Moreover, the ability to understand is also dependent on the extent to which each one of us yields to its leadership (the Holy Spirit doesn't possess us like a demon - it doesn't control anyone).