The word "homosexual" didn't appear in English Bibles until 1946

by Matt Slick

The homosexual community has raised the argument that the word homosexual never occurred in the Bible until 1946, thereby trying to demonstrate that homosexuality is not wrong; that instead, Christians have translated the Bible to make it suit their needs.  Consider this quote from a pro-homosexual website.

"The word "homosexual" did not appear in any translation of the Christian Bible until 1946. There are words in Greek for same-sex sexual activities, yet they never appear in the original text of the New Testament." (http://www.pflagupstatesc.org/statistics.htm)

But, we have to acknowledge that you don't translate a word from Hebrew and Greek into the English if there is no English equivalent.  So, using the term "homosexual" in the English Bible could not have occurred until after the word had entered the English vocabulary.

So, when did the term "homosexual" enter the English vocabulary?

  • "In English the word homosexual was first used in 1892 in the English translation of Krafft-Ebing's "Psychopathia sexualis" which was a reference work, in German, on sexual perversions. It first appeared in 1886 and was enormously popular, being reprinted about once a year!"(http://wiki.answers.com/Q/What_year_did_homosexual_become_a_word)
  • "homosexual (adj.) 1892, in C.G. Chaddock's translation of Krafft-Ebing's "Psychopathia Sexualis," from Ger. homosexual, homosexuale (by 1880, in Gustav Jäger), from homo-, comb. form of Gk. homos "same" (see homo- (1)) + Latin-based sexual. "Homosexual" is a barbarously hybrid word, and I claim no responsibility for it. It is, however, convenient, and now widely used. "Homogenic" has been suggested as a substitute. [H. Havelock Ellis, "Studies in Psychology," 1897] Sexual inversion (1883) was an earlier clinical term for it in English. The noun is recorded by 1895. In technical use, either male or female; but in non-technical use almost always male. Slang shortened form homo first attested 1929." (http://www.etymonline.com/index.php?allowed_in_frame=0&search=homosexuality&searchmode=none)

Okay, so that explains when the word entered our vocabulary.  Since 1892 it would take some time, in a less technologically advanced society than today, for the word to be disseminated throughout the population and appear in various forms of literature.  That would explain why the English term "homosexual" did not appear in the Bible until 1946.  But, does the Bible teach against the concept of homosexuality?  For that, let's take a look at the English translations that use the term, and then we will examine the original language.

What does the Bible Say?

The places where the English word "homosexual" occurs in the Bible are found in two verses:

  • 1 Cor. 6:9, "Or do you not know that the unrighteous will not inherit the kingdom of God? Do not be deceived; neither fornicators, nor idolaters, nor adulterers, nor effeminate, nor homosexuals, 10 nor thieves, nor the covetous, nor drunkards, nor revilers, nor swindlers, will inherit the kingdom of God." (NASB, ESV, NIV, )
  • 1 Tim. 1:10, "realizing the fact that law is not made for a righteous man, but for those who are lawless and rebellious, for the ungodly and sinners, for the unholy and profane, for those who kill their fathers or mothers, for murderers 10 and immoral men and homosexuals and kidnappers and liars and perjurers, and whatever else is contrary to sound teaching, 11 according to the glorious gospel of the blessed God, with which I have been entrusted." (NASB, ESV)

In Each case, the Greek word used for 'homosexual' is ἀρσενοκοίτης, arsenokoites. Here is what it means according to Greek dictionaries:

  • ἀρσενοκοίτης arsenokoítēs; gen. arsenokoítou, masc. noun, from ársēn (730), a male, and koítē (2845), a bed. A man who lies in bed with another male, a homosexual (1 Cor. 6:9; 1 Tim. 1:10 [cf. Lev. 18:22; Rom. 1:27]). Zodhiates, S. (2000). The complete word study dictionary : New Testament (electronic ed.). Chattanooga, TN: AMG Publishers.
  • 88.280 ἀρσενοκοίτης, ου m: a male partner in homosexual intercourse—‘homosexual.’ οὐκ οἴδατε ὅτι … οὔτε μοιχοὶ οὔτε μαλακοὶ οὔτε ἀρσενοκοῖται … βασιλείαν θεοῦ κληρονομήσουσιν ‘don’t you know that … no adulterers or homosexuals … will receive the kingdom of God’ 1 Cor 6:9–10. It is possible that ἀρσενοκοίτης in certain contexts refers to the active male partner in homosexual intercourse in contrast with μαλακόςb, the passive male partner (88.281).  Louw, J. P., & Nida, E. A. (1996). Greek-English lexicon of the New Testament : Based on semantic domains (electronic ed. of the 2nd edition.). New York: United Bible Societies.
  • ἀρσενοκοίτης (arsenokoitēs), ου (ou), ὁ (ho): n.masc.; ≡ Str 733—LN 88.280 male homosexual, one who takes the active male role in homosexual intercourse (1Co 6:9), specifically interpreted as male homosexual paedophilia (nab footnote); possibly a more generic term in first Timothy; sodomites (rsv, nrsv, nkjv), perverts (niv, neb, reb), practicing homosexuals (nab), homosexual (njb), (1Ti 1:10+), note: translations possibly use certain specific terms to infer or allow certain theologies.  Swanson, J. (1997). Dictionary of Biblical Languages with Semantic Domains : Greek (New Testament) (electronic ed.). Oak Harbor: Logos Research Systems, Inc.
  • ἀρσενοκοίτης, ου, ὁ an adult male who practices sexual intercourse with another adult male or a boy homosexual, sodomite, pederast    Friberg, T., Friberg, B., & Miller, N. F. (2000). Vol. 4: Analytical lexicon of the Greek New Testament. Baker's Greek New Testament library. Grand Rapids, Mich.: Baker Books.

It is best to use an English word that accurately portrays the original.  Since a new and more accurate word had entered the English vocabulary, it became the word of choice. 

Let's take a look at the Merriam-Webster dictionary, 11th ed. Springfield, Mass, 2003:

  • ho•mo•sex•u•al \ˌhō-mə-ˈsek-sh(ə-)wəl, -ˈsek-shəl\ adj 1892 1: of, relating to, or characterized by a tendency to direct sexual desire toward another of the same sex 2: of, relating to, or involving sexual intercourse between persons of the same sex — ho•mo•sex•u•al•ly adv

Therefore, it is easy to see why the word "homosexual" was not used until later English translations.  Once a more accurate English word existed, it was matched to the corresponding Greek word.  Homosexuality is still a sin according to the Bible.

 

 

 

 
 
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