Or do you not know that the unrighteous will not inherit the kingdom of God? Do not be deceived: neither the sexually immoral, nor idolaters, nor adulterers, nor men who practice homosexuality, nor thieves, nor the greedy, nor drunkards, nor revilers, nor swindlers will inherit the kingdom of God.
These verses are I Corinthians 6:9-10, ESV (emphases mine), and they have recently become some of the most contentiously translated verses in the Bible.
The problem, of course, is the phrase, ‘men who practice homosexuality’, which in the original text is the Greek word arsenokatoi. Before we translate this, it helps to know that it also pops up in I Timothy 1:9-10, so let’s consult that as well.
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…
Now, what does arsenokatoi mean?
Well, it turns out that it appears in a different form in Leviticus 20:13 as arsenos (man) and koiten (lay/mat/bed). Paul combined those two words into one which literally means ‘man lay’, or more accurately, ‘men who lay with men’.
And it is most certainly not a mistranslation. The other meaning of koiten – κοίτη – is litter. That doesn’t seem very ambiguous to me.
The other argument against this translation is the fact that homosexuality was rare to nonexistent in the first century AD, and Paul wouldn’t have addressed it.
Oh, about that…God is omniscient.
He knows everything.
If He can inspire the Bible, send fire from heaven, and save the world through His Son’s death, are you telling me He can’t see into the future?
After all those prophecies?
That’s the trap of selective omniscience, and it can be hard to avoid. God is relatable, but He’s still ultimately powerful.
Note: I Corinthians 6:9 is not suggesting that those who have at one point in the past done these things cannot enter heaven; it states that they must repent first. There’s a silent unrepentant right before the list.
Thanks to Increasing Learning for this excellent article about arsenokatoi and its meaning.