Monday, December 23, 2013

Arsenokoites and Duck Dynasty

Leaf, in our backyard

I returned home from some last minute Christmas shopping to turn on the TV and see a CNN talk show host and Jay Bakker talking about the meaning of the word arsenokoites in the Bible. All because of "Duck Dynasty." The vast improbability of something like this should convince even the greatest skeptic that there is a God.

Bakker said, in one sentence, "We don't know what the meaning of that word is."

The CNN talk show host-theologian was spinning the "dialogue" to bolster his already-established conclusion, a very bad theological not to mention logical move.

Wow - These are exciting theological times!

I posted a few years ago on arsenokoitais, and recently reposted, due to that Dynasty called "Duck." Here is some more on this word, from New Testament scholar Robert Gagnon's The Bible and Homosexual Practice: Texts and Hermeneutics.

  • Some want arsenokoites to mean (as used in 1 Corinthians 6:9) exploitative homosexual intercourse (rather than mutual homosexual intercourse). Gagnon writes: "A broadening of the word arsenokoites to include exploitative heterosexual intercourse or even a restriction to exclude non-exploitative homosexual intercourse appears unlikely in view of the unqualified nature of the Levitical prohibitions." (Gagnon, Kindle Locations 5767-5769)
  • A straightforward reading of arsenokoites would be: arsen ("male") + koite (related to the very keisthai, "to lie"). Thus: a man who lies with a male. This word, in ancient culture, "was not restricted to pederasty." (Ib., K5779) [Note: Gagnon argues that arsenokoites is limited to homosexual behavior. He writes: The suffix on the second element of the compound noun (-koites) indicates that "bedders of, the ones taking to bed or lying with" is masculine. The first element of the compound (arsen-, "male[ s]") is the object, not the subject...  Ib., Kindle Locations 5864-5866)"That arsenokoitai refers to same-sex intercourse is strengthened by its pairing with malakoi." (Ib.) 
  • A socio-rhetorical study (as Gagnon does) of the word reveals that arsenokoites means: "men who have sexual intercourse with men." Simpliciter. 
"Duck Dynasty" has forced us to examine this word. The great theologians at CNN are working overtime to spin it in the direction they want (this is called "eisegesis"). Phil Robertson had it right, at least biblically. (That is, there is some very strong biblical scholarship behind him, even though he is surely unaware of it.)

NOTE: See Gagnon and Dan O. Via, Homosexuality and the Bible: Two Views. Via writes:

"I believe that Hays is correct in holding that arsenokoitēs refers to a man who engages in same-sex intercourse (Hays 1997, 97). The term is a compound of the words for “male” (arsēn) and “bed” (koitē) and thus could naturally be taken to mean a man who goes to bed with other men. True the meaning of a compound word does not necessarily add up to the sum of its parts (Martin 119). But in this case I believe the evidence suggests that it does. In the Greek version of the two Leviticus passages that condemn male homosexuality (Lev 18:22; 20:13) a man is not to lie with a male as with a woman each text contains both the words arsēn and koitē. First Cor 6:9-10 simply classifies homosexuality as a moral sin that finally keeps one out of the kingdom of God." (p. 13)