1 Corinthians and 1 Timothy

Robinson raises questions about two verses:

“Know ye not that the unrighteous shall not inherit the kingdom of God? Be not deceived: neither fornicators, nor idolaters, nor adulterers, nor effeminate, nor abusers of themselves with mankind, Nor thieves, nor covetous, nor drunkards, nor revilers, nor extortioners, shall inherit the kingdom of God. And such were some of you: but ye are washed, but ye are sanctified, but ye are justified in the name of the Lord Jesus, and by the Spirit of our God.” – 1 Corinthians 4:6 KJV

“But we know that the law is good, if a man use it lawfully; Knowing this, that the law is not made for a righteous man, but for the lawless and disobedient, for the ungodly and for sinners, for unholy and profane, for murderers of fathers and murderers of mothers, for manslayers, For whoremongers, for them that defile themselves with mankind, for menstealers, for liars, for perjured persons, and if there be any other thing that is contrary to sound doctrine; According to the glorious gospel of the blessed God, which was committed to my trust.” – 1 Timothy 1:8-11 KJV

In his commentary, Robinson writes:

“In the letter to the Corinthians, amid the list of those who will not inherit the kingdom of God, Paul uses two Greek words: malakoi and arsenokoitai. The first is a common Greek word meaning ‘soft,’ and elsewhere in Scripture it is used to describe a garment. Nowhere else in Scripture is it used to describe a person. The early Church seems to have understood it as a person with a ‘soft’ or weak morality. Later, it would come to denote (and be translated as) those who engage in masturbation, or ‘those who abuse themselves.’ In our own time, with masturbation having been more popularly accepted, this word has often been used to denote homosexuals. All we actually, factually, know about the word is that it meant ‘soft.’

The Greek word arsenokoitai is an even greater mystery. It is found nowhere else in Scripture – nor is there any record of its being used in any other contemporaneous text. We have nothing, neither internal to the Scriptures nor external to them, to give us guidance as to its meaning.”1

Robinson contends that there is ambiguity with two Greek words that are used in these passages. Let’s look at the verses in question with the Greek added:

“Know ye not that the unrighteous shall not inherit the kingdom of God? Be not deceived: neither fornicators, nor idolaters, nor adulterers, nor effeminate (μαλακός, malakos), nor abusers of themselves with mankind (ἀρσενοκοίτης, arsenokoitēs)” – 1 Corithians 6:9 KJV

“For whoremongers, for them that defile themselves with mankind (ἀρσενοκοίτης, arsenokoitēs), for menstealers, for liars, for perjured persons, and if there be any other thing that is contrary to sound doctrine” – 1 Timothy 1:10 KJV

To define these words, let’s take a look at the Thayer’s Greek Lexicon:

g3120g733

However, let’s assume for the sake of argument that these definitions are biased against homosexual conduct. Is there any evidence in Scripture that would help define these mysterious Greek words?

We have to understand that 1 Corinthians and 1 Timothy were both written by Paul. Paul also wrote Romans. In our analysis on Romans, we showed how Paul explicitly included homosexual conduct as an act of unrighteousness. Considering the common thread between Romans, 1 Corinthians, and 1 Timothy with Paul as the author, it is not a stretch to say that he was reiterating his statements made in Romans 1 to the church in Corinth and to his letter to Timothy.

However, there is a clue given in the context of 1 Timothy 1:10. Let’s review the text:

“But we know that the law is good, if a man use it lawfully; Knowing this, that the law is not made for a righteous man, but for the lawless and disobedient, for the ungodly and for sinners, for unholy and profane, for murderers of fathers and murderers of mothers, for manslayers, For whoremongers, for them that defile themselves with mankind, for menstealers, for liars, for perjured persons, and if there be any other thing that is contrary to sound doctrine; According to the glorious gospel of the blessed God, which was committed to my trust.” – 1 Timothy 1:8-11 KJV

In verse 8, Paul writes “but we know that the law is good, if a man use it lawfully.” In verse 9, he begins with “knowing this.” This indicates that the following text is based upon his statement in verse 8, which is concerning the good of the law. Paul then lists the people for which the law was written, one being “them that defile themselves with mankind” (ἀρσενοκοίτης, arsenokoitēs). If the law was written for these individuals, we would find something in the Old Testament law which would apply. Paul would not have listed this mysterious Greek work in the text unless the law mentioned it specifically.

Considering Paul was very well versed in the Old Testament Scriptures and at one time a Pharisee (Philippians 3:4-6), he would have been intimately familiar with the law – particularly Leviticus 18 and 20. It is in Leviticus 18 and 20 that God revealed his law regarding holiness and the prohibition of homosexual conduct. This connection in 1 Timothy helps us understand the Greek word arsenokoitēs and how it was defined.


1. Robinson, God Believes in Love, pp. 88-89