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Living On The Edge: challenges to faith

September 1, 2013 Leave a comment

Today Christians in the Western world are typically living in a post-Christian society. Christian beliefs are met with skepticism, and people see little reason to believe. Christians are confronted with daily challenges to their faith, and often struggle to understand the relevance of Christianity to modern life.

The book ‘Living On The Edge: challenges to faith‘ (due to be printed in November 2013), addresses those concerns. For an overview of the book, click here.

Does the Greek word malakos refer to homosexual acts?

June 4, 2011 7 comments

The Claim

The Greek word malakoi (plural form of malakoi), is typically translated as referring to males practicing homosexual acts by standard English translations in 1 Corinthians 6:9.[1] [2] This is challenged by those seeking legitimization of homosexual behaviour within Christianity.[3] [4]

The Facts

Lexical evidence from Greek texts indicates the word was used to refer to the passive partner in a male homosexual act.[5] [6] [7] [8] The meaning of the word is not confined to male prostitutes,[9] or sexually exploited males.[10] [11] [12]

Lexical Sources

Standard Greek lexicons and dictionaries understand this word as a reference to the passive partner in a male homosexual act.[13] [14] [15] [16] [17] [18]

Scholarly Commentary

The majority of commentators and translators understand malakos to refer to the passive partner in a male homosexual act. [19] [20] [21]


[1] 1 Corinthians 6:9, ‘men who practice homosexuality’ (ESV), ‘men who have sexual relations with other men’ (NCV), ‘homosexual partners’ (NET).

[2] More ambiguously ‘is a pervert’ (CEV), ‘male prostitutes’ (NIV84), ‘men who are prostitutes’ (NIrV), ‘male prostitutes’ (NLT), ‘male prostitutes’ (TNIV); a standard Greek lexicon says (‘male prostitutes’ NRSV is too narrow a rendering; ‘sexual pervert’ REB is too broad)=Pol 5:3.—S. lit. s.v. ἀρσενοκοίτης. B. 1065. DELG. M-M.’, Arndt, Danker, & Bauer (eds.), ‘A Greek-English Lexicon of the New Testament and Other Early Christian Literature’, p. 613 (3rd ed. 2000)..

[3] ‘Olsen insists that the μαλακοί in Paul’s time, “almost always referred in a negative, pejorative way to a widely despised group of people who functioned as effeminate ‘call boys’“ (Mark Olson, “Untangling the Web: A Look at What Scripture Does and Does Not Say about Homosexual Behavior,” Other Side, April 1984, 33–34). Scroggs affirms that, “the word in Paul’s list refers specifically to this category of person, the effeminate call-boy” (The New Testament and Homosexuality, 42).’, Malick, ‘The Condemnation of Homosexuality in 1 Corinthians 6:9’, Bibliotheca Sacra (150.600.482), 1993.

[4] ‘Though Scroggs is careful to note that μαλακός is not a technical term for “effeminate,” he relates the definition of “effeminate” exclusively to pederasty: “The use of malakos would almost certainly conjure up images of the effeminate call-boy, if the context otherwise suggested some form of pederasty.”’, ibid., p. 487.

[5] ‘A particularly significant expression of this usage may be found in a letter from Demophon, a wealthy Egyptian, to Ptolemaeus, a police official, concerning needed provisions for a coming festival.’, ibid., p. 487; Malick supplies the text ‘“Demophon to Ptolemaeus, greeting. Make every effort to send me the flute-player Petoüs with both the Phrygian flutes and the rest; and if any expense is necessary, pay it, and you shall recover it from me. Send me also Zenobius the effeminate [μαλακόν] with a drum and cymbals and castanets, for he is wanted by the women for the sacrifice; and let him wear as fine clothes as possible” (“Letter of Demophon to Ptolemaeus” [from mummy wrappings found in the necropolis of El-Hibeh about 245 B.C.], The Hibeh Papyri: Part I, no. 54, 200–201).’, ibid., p. 449.

[6] ‘ In classical Greek, μαλακός was also used to refer to boys and men who allowed themselves to be used homosexually.4 It was also applied to a man taking the female or passive role in homosexuality. Dionysius of Halicarnassus, who wrote Roman Antiquities around 7 B.C., described Aristodemus of Cumae as μαλακός because he had been “effeminate” (θηλυδρίας) as a child and had undergone the things associated with women.5 In classical literature the word μαλακός is sometimes applied to obviously gay persons. Lucian describes the blood of some priests he condemns for passive homosexual behavior as μαλακός.6 This cannot be dismissed as not indicating anything about the sexuality of the individuals in question. These were priests who spent their time seeking group sexual encounters. While there is some ambiguity with regard to μαλακός, it is not beyond reason to see the word representing the passive parties in homosexual intercourse. This is even more reasonable when it is in juxtaposition with ἀρσενοκοιτής which does imply an active homosexual role. It is interesting that in Aristotle’s Problems, a lengthy discussion of the origins of homosexual passivity, he employs the word μαλακός. In its general sense the word does mean “unrestrained,” but not without any particularly homosexual context.’, Ukleja, ‘The Bible and Homosexuality Part II: Homosexuality in the New Testament’, Bibliotheca Sacra.

[7] ‘In classical Greek, malakos is used of boys and men who allow themselves to be used homosexually and of those who play the part of the passive partner in homosexual intercourse.77 In Roman Antiquities, written about 7 B.C. by Dionysius of Halicarnassus, Aristodemus of Cumae is called malakos because he had been “effeminate” (thēludrias) as a child, having undergone things associated with women.78 Thus, while there is some ambiguity about malakos, there is evidence in supporting the view that it refers to the passive partner in homosexual intercourse. Moreover, this view is further supported by its use with arsenokoitēs, a term for the active member in such acts.’, Feinberg, Feinberg, & Huxley, ‘Ethics for a Brave New World’, pp. 200–201 (1996).

[8]This usage is well attested. Plato observes in Phaedrus that an older lover “will plainly court a beloved who is effeminate [malthakos].” Oi Malthakoi, a comedy of Cratinus, deals with effeminate men.151 There exists an Egyptian letter dating from roughly 145 B.C., in which malakos almost certainly refers to passive male homosexuality.’, Greenberg, ‘The Construction of Homosexuality’, p. 212 (1990).

[9] ‘When it is employed in reference to sexual relationships of men with men, however, it is also not a technical term for male call-boys in a pederastic setting. The term may mean effeminate with respect to boys or men who take the role of a woman in homosexual relationships.’, Malick, ‘The Condemnation of Homosexuality in 1 Corinthians 6:9’, Bibliotheca Sacra (150.600.490), 1993.

[10] ‘The other word used to designate same sex relations in 1 Corinthians 6:9 is malakoi. This word refers to the passive partner sexually, an effeminate male who plays the role of a female.’, Schreiner, ‘A New Testament Perspective on Homosexuality’, Themelios(31.3.70), April 2006.

[11] ‘Paul could have used the more technical term paiderastēs (a pederast) if he had intended to restrict his comments to exploitative sex. Furthermore, if the only problem in view were sex that exploits others, there would be no need for Paul to mention the passive partner as well since he is the one being oppressed, and not the oppressor.’, ibid., p. 71.

[12] ‘The terms malakoi and molles could be used broadly to refer to effeminate or unmanly men. But in specific contexts it could be used in ways similar to the more specific terms cinaedi  (lit., “butt-shakers”) and pathici (“those who undergo [penetration]”) to denote effeminate adult males who are biologically and/or psychologically disposed to desire penetration by men. For example, in Soranus’s work On Chronic Diseases (early 2nd century A.D.) the section on men who desire to be penetrated (4.9.131-37) is entitled “On the molles or subacti (subjugated or penetrated partners, pathics) whom the Greeks call malthakoi.” An Aristotelian text similarly refers to those who are anatomically inclined toward the receptive role as malakoi (Pseudo-Aristotle, Problems 4.26). Astrological texts that speak of males desirous of playing the penetrated female role also use the term malakoi (Ptolemy, Four Books 3.14 §172; Vettius Valens, Anthologies 2.37.54; 2.38.82; cf. Brooten, 126 n. 41, 260 n. 132). The complaint about such figures in the ancient world generally, and certainly by Philo, centers around their attempted erasure of the masculine stamp given them by God/nature, not their exploitation of others, age difference, or acts of prostitution.’, Gagnon, ‘Dale Martin and the Myth of Total Textual Indeterminacy’ (2007); http://www.robgagnon.net/DaleMartinResponse.htm.

[13]pert. to being passive in a same-sex relationship, effeminate esp. of catamites, of men and boys who are sodomized by other males in such a relationship, opp. ἀρσενοκοίτης (Dionys. Hal. 7, 2, 4; Dio Chrys. 49 [66], 25; Ptolem., Apotel. 3, 15, 10; Vett. Val. 113, 22; Diog. L. 7, 173; PHib 54, 11 [c. 245 B.C.] may have this mng.: a musician called Zenobius ὁ μαλακός [prob. with a sideline, according to Dssm., LO 131, 4—LAE 164, 4]. S. also a Macedon. ins in LDuchesne and CBayet, Mémoire sur une Mission au Mont Athos 1876 no. 66 p. 46; Plautus, Miles 668 cinaedus [Gk. κίναιδος] malacus; cp. the atttack on the morality of submissive homoeroticism Aeschin. 1, 188; DCohen, Greece and Rome 23, ’76, 181f) 1 Cor 6:9 (‘male prostitutes’ NRSV is too narrow a rendering; ‘sexual pervert’ REB is too broad)=Pol 5:3.—S. lit. s.v. ἀρσενοκοίτης. B. 1065. DELG. M-M.’, Arndt, Danker, & Bauer (eds.), ‘A Greek-English Lexicon of the New Testament and Other Early Christian Literature’, p. 613 (3rd ed. 2000).

[14] ‘The vice catalog of 1 Cor 6:9 mentions the μαλακοί, soft people / weaklings, as reprehensible examples of passive homosexuality (cf. Rom 1:27; Lev 20:13; Ep. Arist. 152; Sib. Or. 3:184ff., 584ff.; see Billerbeck III, 70; H. Conzelmann, 1 Cor [Hermeneia] ad loc. [bibliography]).’, Balz & Schneider, ‘Exegetical Dictionary of the New Testament’, volume 2, p. 381 (1990).

[15] ‘figuratively, in a bad sense of men effeminate, unmanly; substantivally ὁ μ. especially of a man or boy who submits his body to homosexual lewdness catamite, homosexual pervert (1C 6.9)’, Friberg, Friberg, & Miller, ‘Analytical Lexicon of the Greek New Testament’, p. 252 (2000).

[16] ‘88.281 μαλακόςb, οῦ m: the passive male partner in homosexual intercourse—‘homosexual.’ For a context of μαλακόςb, see 1 Cor 6:9–10 in 88.280. As in Greek, a number of other languages also have entirely distinct terms for the active and passive roles in homosexual intercourse.’, Louw & Nida, ‘Greek-English lexicon of the New Testament: Based on semantic domains’, volume 1, p. 771-772 (electronic ed. of the 2nd edition 1996).

[17] ‘μαλακός , ή, όν soft, fancy, luxurious; homosexual pervert (1 Cor 6:9)’, Newman, ‘A Concise Greek-English Dictionary of the New Testament’, p. 110 (1993).

[18] ‘3120. μαλακός malakós; fem. malakḗ, neut. malakón, adj. Soft to the touch, spoken of clothing made of soft materials, fine texture (Matt. 11:8; Luke 7:25). Figuratively it means effeminate or a person who allows himself to be sexually abused contrary to nature. Paul, in 1 Cor. 6:9, joins the malakoí, the effeminate, with arsenokoítai (733), homosexuals, Sodomites.’, Zodhiates, ‘The Complete Word Study Dictionary: New Testament’ (electronic ed. 2000).

[19]Most translators render it as “effeminates” or “catamites,” implying receptive anal homosexuality – or use a less precise term like sodomite or homosexual.’, Greenberg, ‘The Construction of Homosexuality’, p. 212 (1990).

[20] ‘In the first (1946) edition of the RSV, Gk malakoí and arsenokoítai in 1 Cor. 6:9 were together rendered “homosexuals.” Boswell (p. 107) would translate these terms as “the wanton” and “male prostitutes” respectively. Such translations are linguistically possible but hardly necessary. Most commentators and translators continue to understand these terms as references to passive and active partners in male homosexual intercourse.’, Blandstra & Verhey, ‘Sex; Sexuality’, in Bromiley, ‘The International Standard Bible Encyclopedia’, volume 4, p. 437 (rev. ed. 1998)

[21]In general there is broad (but not unanimous) agreement that μαλακοί in 1 Cor 6:9–10 denotes “the passive … partner … in male homosexual relations” (Barrett),’, Thiselton, ‘The First Epistle to the Corinthians: A commentary on the Greek text’, New International Greek Testament Commentary, p. 449 (2000).

Mortalism 5: 19th-20th century views

The Modern Era

Belief in conditional immortality and the annihilation of the unsaved became increasingly common during the nineteenth century,[1] [2] [3]  [4] entering mainstream Christianity in the twentieth century.[5] [6] [7]

From this point it is possible to speak in terms of entire groups holding the belief, and only the most prominent individual nineteenth century advocates of the doctrine will be mentioned here.

Scientific Support

Scientific conclusions concerning human mortality provided additional support.[8] [9]

Lexicographical Support

Lexicographical studies had already cast doubt on the traditional doctrine.[10] [11]  The standard Hebrew lexicon and grammar of John Parkhurst (reprinted many times throughout the nineteenth century), noted that the traditional translation ‘soul’ of the Hebrew word nephesh, had no lexical support.[12]

Such studies became influential in nineteenth century arguments for conditional immortality. [13] [14]

Notable Conditionalists

*  1833: Millerites (later Advenist groups came from the Millerites)[15]

*  1846: Edward White[16]

*  1855: Thomas Thayer[17]

*  d.1863: François Gaussen[18]

*  1865: Christadelphians[19]

*  1873: Henry Constable[20]

*  d. 1878: Louis Burnier[21]

*  1878: Conditionalist Association[22]

*  1888: Cameron Mann[23]

*  1895: Miles Grant[24]

*  1897: George Stokes[25]


[1]It emerged seriously in English-language theology in the late 19th century’, Johnston, ‘Hell’, in Alexander & Rosner (eds.), ‘New dictionary of biblical theology’ (electronic ed. (2001).

[2]Yet many abandonments of the traditional view are to be noted, including F. W. Newman (the Cardinal’s brother who took refuge in Unitarianism), S. T. Coleridge, Thomas Erskine of Linlathen, F. W. Robertson of Brighton, F. D. Maurice, Bishop Colenso of Natal, T. R. Birks of the Evangelical Alliance, Andrew Jukes, Samuel Cox, and others who took up the cudgel for conditional immortality like the redoubtable R. W. Dale of Birmingham and F. J. Delitzsch of Leipzig.72  Dale himself indicated he was drawn to Moody because of Moody’s great compassion for the lost, but ultimately he came to deny everlasting punishment. The defections were on the other side of the Atlantic also and included such a household name as the Quaker writer and preacher, Hannah Whitall Smith, whose The Christian’s Secret of a Happy Life was so popular.’, Larsen, ‘Heaven and Hell in the Preaching of the Gospel: A Historical Survey’ Trinity Journal (22.2.255-256), 2001.

[3] ‘In the 1900s, the United States saw a minimal emergence of annihilationism, primarily in new fringe groups like the Jehovah’s Witnesses and Seventh-Day Adventists.  But during that century England saw the rise of several books defending this doctrine, such as Archbishop of Durham Richard Wately’s A View of the Scripture Revelations Concerning a Future State (1892), Congregationalist Edward White’s LIfe in Christ (1846), English Baptist Henry Dobney’s The Scripture Doctrine of Future Punishment (1858), and Anglican priest Henry Constable’s Duration and Nature of Future Punishment (1868).’ , Morgan & Peterson, ‘Hell Under Fire: Modern Scholarship Reinvents Eternal Punishment’, p. 197 (2004).

[4] ‘Referring to this subject, says Edward White, of London, ex-chairman of the great Congregational Union of England and Wales: “It is the one form of evangelical faith, which seems likely to win the sympathy of modern Europe…. Some of the very greatest of men are lending their sanction to the movement.” “It is espoused with ever increasing energy by evangelical scholars in all parts of the world.”’, ibid.

[5] ‘In Germany Richard Rothe, in France and Switzerland Charles Lambert, Charles Byse, and E. Petavel, in Italy Oscar Corcoda, and in America C.F. Hudson and W.F. Huntington have been prominent advocates of conditionalist views, and have won many adherents. Thus Conditionalism has at length, in the 20th cent., taken its place among those eschatological theories which are to be reckoned with.’, Fulford, ‘Conditional Immortality’, in Hastings & Selbie, ‘Encyclopedia of Religion and Ethics’, volume 3, p. 824 (1908).

[6] ‘The doctrine of conditional immortality is becoming popular, especially among Christian thinkers.’, Radhakrishnan, ‘An Idealist View of Life; being the Hibbert lectures for 1929.’, p. 283 (2nd ed. 1947).

[7] ‘R. A. Torrey, H. A. Ironside, Paul Rood, John R. Rice, Robert G. Lee, and many others preached on heaven and hell, but they were a vanishing breed.’, Larsen, ‘Heaven and Hell in the Preaching of the Gospel: A Historical Survey’ Trinity Journal (22.2.257), 2001.

[8] ‘We are confronted thus with the problem of conditional immortality. Henry Drummond said that life depends on correspondence with the environment. The human body needs food, drink and oxygen to breathe. But if the body is gone and the environment is spiritual what correspondence can there be on the part of one who has lived only for the needs and lusts of the body?’, ‘A Letter From Roland Bainton On Immortality’, Church & Williams (eds.), ‘Continuity and discontinuity in church history: essays presented to George Huntson Williams’, p. 393 (1979).

[9]Science has learned no more than is expressed in Eccl. 3: 19: ‘For that which befalleth the sons of men befalleth beasts; even one thing befalleth them; as the one dieth, so dieth the other; yea, they have all one breath; so that a man hath no preeminence above a beast.’ “Said Lester F. Ward, A. M., at the Smithsonian Institution, Washington, D. C.: “The consciousness, when scientifically examined, reveals itself as a quality of brain…. It is a universal induction of science that modification of brain is accompanied by modification of consciousness, and that the destruction of brain results in destruction of consciousness. No exception to this law has ever been observed.”’, Grant, ‘Positive Theology’, chapter 4 (1895).

[10]Dr. Fulke saith plainly, that neither in the Hebrew, Greek, nor Latin, is there a word proper for hell, (as we take hell for the place of punishment of the ungodly.) Fulke’s Defence Translation, pp. 13, 37, 89. Is not this a full testimony against their opinion of the torments of hell?’, Richardson, ‘Torments of Hell’, in Whittermore, ‘The Doctrine of Hell Torments Overthrown: In Three Parts’, pp. 10-11 (1833).

[11]The word hell is not in the Greek; the Greek Word for which they put the English word hell, is gehenna; ge in Greek is the earth, or ground, and henna is borrowed from the Hebrew, from the valley of Hinnom.’, ibid., p. 14.

[12] ‘As a noun, nephesh hath been supposed to signify the spiritual part of man, or what we commonly call his soul; I must for myself confess that I can find no passage where it hath undoubtedly this meaning., Parkhurst, ‘A Hebrew and English lexicon without points: in which the Hebrew and Chaldee words of the Old Testament are explained in their leading and derived senses, To this work are prefixed, a Hebrew and a Chaldee grammar, without points’, p. 460 (1799).

[13] ‘Dr. J. H. M’Culloh says: “There is no word in the Hebrew language that signifies either soul or spirit, in the technical sense in which we use the term as implying something distinct from the body.”  § 55. R. B. Girdlestone, in his Synonyms of the Old Testament, says: “The soul is, properly speaking, the animating principle of the body; and is the common property of man and beast.” “In other words, it is the life, whether of man or beast.” When every passage in the Bible that speaks of the soul of man has been carefully examined, it will be found that these statements of these eminent Hebrew scholars and lexicographers, and many others, are strictly correct, and therefore should be fully believed by all who love the truth.’, Grant, ‘Positive Theology’, chapter 4 (1895).

[14]There are four words in the original language of the Scriptures, all translated hell (though not invariably), each of which, it has long been supposed, denotes this place of woe. Of late, however, that opinion has been discarded.’, Balfour, ‘An Inquiry Into the Scriptural Import of the Words Sheol, Hades, Tartarus, and Gehenna, Translated Hell in the Common English Version’, p. 9 (rev. ed. 1854).

[15] The original group following the teachings of William Miller, who began preaching his distinctive beliefs in 1833; Miller himself did not believe in conditional immortality, but it was one of a number of beliefs held among the group.

[16] ‘Congregational minister Edward White, whose Life in Christ (1846) espoused the view that immortality was not necessary but conditional on right belief. Instead of suffering perpetual torture, the unsaved were annihilated.’, Wilson, ‘STOKES, George Gabriel’, Bebbington & Noll (eds.), ‘Biographical dictionary of evangelicals’, p. 633 (2003).

[17] Thayer, ‘The Origin and History of the Doctrine of Endless Punishment’ (1855); he was appealed to by subsequent conditionalists due to his reputation as an authoritative lexicographer.

[18] ‘Louis Gaussen, whom Froom mentions on p. 252 with respect to premillennialism, and on p. 602 in connection with Petavel-Olliff, may be remembered almost as an apostle of the biblical doctrine concerning the state of the dead.’, Vauchez, ‘The History of Conditionalism’, Andrews University Seminary Studies, volumes 4-5, pp. 199-200 (1966).

[19] Thomas, ‘Tour in the United States and Canada.—Letter from Dr. Thomas’, The Christadelphian (2.7.105), 1865.

[20]Death is, for the time, the annihilation of man, his hopes, his thoughts, his life, himself —’, Constable, ‘The Intermediate State of Man’, p. 88 (1873).

[21]The unconsciousness of the dead was also set forth by the Swiss pastor Louis Burnier (1795-1873).’, Vauchez, ‘The History of Conditionalism’, Andrews University Seminary Studies, volumes 4-5, p. 199 (1966).

[22]In 1878, some English Baptists formed the Conditionalist Association. George A. Brown, an English Baptist pastor, host’, Pool, ‘Against returning to Egypt: Exposing and Resisting Credalism in the Southern Baptist Convention’, p. 134 (1998).

[23]The theory of the final destruction of the wicked, or, as it is more briefly and correctly named, the theory of “conditional immortality” is this: That men are not created with inherent immortality, with a soul, or body, or both, such as cannot be destroyed, but that immortality is a superadded gift which man’s nature is capable of receiving and which God bestows in such cases as He wills, and that He does not so will in the case of impenitent sinners; hence, it of course follows, that at some time all such offenders will cease to exist.’, Mann, ‘Five Discourses On Future Punishment’, p. (1888).

[24] Grant, ‘Positive Theology’ (1895).

[25]The doctrine of conditional immortality was his principal religious concern.’, Wilson, ‘STOKES, George Gabriel’, Bebbington & Noll (eds.), ‘Biographical dictionary of evangelicals’, p. 633 (2003).

The crisis of absent men

May 14, 2011 6 comments

The Claim

A common complaint made by egalitarians is that ‘the church’ is forcing women to leave, and discouraging women from joining, due to ‘traditionalist’ views of the role of women. Although there is certainly evidence that women have on occasion been dissuaded from joining a church (or ecclesia), due to its position on this issue, or even from accepting Christianity, there is far more evidence that churches in countries which have made the greatest effort to be inclusive of women, are losing men at a significant rate.[1]

The Facts

Remarkably, church attendance by women has consistently been higher throughout history, even during those times when women were most marginalized. Historically, women have typically been more involved in religion than men regardless of social or theological environment.[2]

The marginalization of women therefore has historically had little to no impact on church attendance by women (and in some cases can be seen to have encouraged it), whereas modern churches face the challenge of seriously declining male attendance, despite the fact that men still occupy the majority of leadership positions in most mainstream Christian denominations.[3]

The most prominent examples of this problem are in the US and UK, where numerous studies have confirmed a significant gender gap in the churches,[4] which various organizations have attempted to address.[5]

This particular subject has not received the same enthusiastic call for action as issues such as the role of women in the congregation,[6] though it has been noted to various extents in the relevant scholarly literature for many years.[7] Many Christians remain unaware of the issue, and no worldwide campaigns are undertaken to increase awareness of the problem (some efforts to address the issue are in fact even resisted[8]), though literature addressing the subject specifically (both popular[9] and scholarly[10]), is gradually increasing.

It should be understood that there is evidence that this lack of involvement by men is not necessarily related directly to participation by women.[11] A congregation which increases the involvement of its women in various roles (including leadership), will not necessarily lose its men.[12] If we are to be serious and honest about addressing gender issues in our community, this is an issue which should not be ignored.

The problem is the more concerning given that no single cause for the decline has been discovered, indicating the issue is complex, and not susceptible to a simple solution. Significantly, this appears to be a uniquely Christian problem, not found in other religions:

‘Yet, as Murrow (2005a, 8 ) points out, Judaism, Buddhism, Hinduism and Islam all have at least as many male adherents as female ones. Podles (1999, ix) also notes that, within Christianity, the Orthodox Church has a general [sic] balance. The implication is clear: it is not that religion or spirituality per se are inimical to men. Rather, it must be specific forms and expressions of religion or spirituality that alienate men and deter their participation.’[13]

One contributing factor appears to be derogatory attitudes towards male spirituality, with men commonly encountering the belief that their religious experiences are of little value, and that they are less spiritual than women:

‘It is somewhat disturbing to note that, according to my survey, 13.2% of Christians agree with the statement that “men are less spiritual than women” (including 19.3% of men, who are repeatedly told that their forms of spirituality are not the real thing).’ [14]

Another clearly identified contributing factor has been the gradual feminization of Christian worship services, aimed at reflecting what women (supposedly), feel most comfortable with:

‘Perhaps the main focus of those who criticise the Church for having become feminised is that its worship is too ‘touchy-feely’, overemotional or over-personal. This has been derogatorily called ‘Jesus is my boyfriend’ (or, more provocatively, ‘girlfriend’) worship. As Murrow (2005a, 187) argues, “today’s praise music invites the worshipper to assume the feminine role” and praise music can resemble the Top 40 love songs.’ [15]

By way of example, Ducker provides the lyrics of three typical popular worship songs, with lyrics such as ‘Jesus, lover of my soul’, ‘But listen, my Lover/Is coming from heaven’s throne!’, and ‘I have felt Your touch,/More intimate than lovers’. [16] Noteworthy is the fact that even some popular Christian composers have started to consider that such lyrics are inappropriate.[17]

This feminization of church culture has had a negative impact on men, contributing to their absence. [18] As men are under considerable secular pressure to conform to unbiblical male role models, Ducker observes that the modern church must take steps to address the needs of men in the congregation:

It is a commonplace that masculinity is in crisis. Men are experiencing considerable confusion over their identity, in terms of who they are and what their roles are. As the end of the millennium approached, Roy McCloughry reported “a loss of definition and a confusion about what is expected of men… It is amazing how quickly men seem to have lost their confidence” (1994, 4).

However, such complaints were already familiar, having their origin in the turbulent changes in gender relations in the 1960s, and the ensuing ‘sex war’. By the mid-1980s Leanne Payne was able to note that this “growing cultural malady” was already epic in proportions” and equated to a full-blown “crisis in masculinity” (1985, 9). The Church’s response to this disruption to men’s identities, labelled “gender dysphoria” by Culbertson (2002, 221), has been both feeble and disappointing, yet this is a profoundly spiritual issue.’ [19]

The fact is that men are leaving their churches at a far greater rate than women.


[1] For the UK, Ducker notes ‘Using the limited data that we do have, we find that there is considerable convergence of estimates for the male proportion of those in Church, which typically fall within the range of 35% to 40% for the period 2005-2007. This proportion is lower than at any recent point of church history and is part of a trend going back at least as far as 1980, when approximately 44% of those in Church were males.6 There are signs that this trend is now stabilising’, ibid., pp.11-12 (2007)

[2] ‘It is found consistently that women are more religious than men both behaviorally and attitudinally (e.g., Argyle and Beit-Hallahmi, 1975; Scobie, 1975; Yinger, 1970), Gee, ‘Gender Differences in Church Attendance in Canada: the Role of Labor Force Participation’, Review of Religious Research (32.3.267), 1991

[3] ‘It would be interesting to see whether the gender of clergy is correlated to male/female attendance rates, and whether it is significant that two denominations that have had women ministers since the early 1970s (URC and Methodism) also have two of the lowest rates of male participation (35% and 36% respectively). Re-examining his most recent dataset, Christian Research’s Dr Peter Brierley 18 One topical example of this is the revision of ‘Onward Christian Soldiers’ to ‘Onward Christian Pilgrims’ (see, for example, Hymns Old and New – new Anglican edition), has found that “where there is a female minister the percentage of men in their congregations is only 38%” compared to the “overall proportion of churchgoers [which is] 43%” (personal correspondence, 9 May 2007).’, Ducker,  ‘Disbanded Brothers – Has a ‘Feminised’ Church Alienated Men in the UK?’, pp.24-25 (2007)

[4] ‘The UKCH Religious Trends series has included occasional data on church attendance by gender (as well as analysis by age, denomination and churchmanship). No.5 in this series (2005/2006) provides evidence for two main trends: that women outnumber men in the UK’s churches, and that the proportion of men in church congregations is falling‘, Ducker,  ‘Disbanded Brothers – Has a ‘Feminised’ Church Alienated Men in the UK?’, p.10 (2007); also http://www.whychurch.org.uk/gendergap.php

[6] ‘there has been surprisingly little written on this topic in relation to the UK’, Ducker, ‘Disbanded Brothers – Has a ‘Feminised’ Church Alienated Men in the UK?’, p.2 (2007)

[7] As for example an article almost 50 years ago, ‘women, both in and out of the labor force, attend church more frequently than men’, Lazerwitz, ‘Some factors associated with variations in church attendance’, Social Forces, p. 310 (1961)

[8] ‘there is continued reluctance to organise men-only activities’, Ducker, ‘Disbanded Brothers – Has a ‘Feminised’ Church Alienated Men in the UK?’, p.22 (2007)

[9] Kunjufu, ‘Adam! Where Are You? Why Most Black Men Don’t Go to Church’ (1994), Podles, ‘The Church Impotent: The Feminization of Christianity’ (1999), Murrow, ‘Why Men Hate Going to Church’ (2005)

[10] Lummis, ‘A Research Note: Real Men and Church Participation’, Review of Religious Research (45.4.404-414), 2004

[11] Note however the 2003 UK study by Heather Wraight, ‘Men and the Church’, which found ‘the most common response to the question what they “least liked about being a man in church” was “being outnumbered by women” and “being in a minority”’,  in Ducker, ‘Disbanded Brothers – Has a ‘Feminised’ Church Alienated Men in the UK?’, p.9 (2007)

[12] In a study of Episcopalian congregations in the US, Lummis notes ‘Survey results indicate that the presence of women in ordained or in lay church leadership does not significantly diminish men’s feelings of being appreciated by their congregations’, ‘A Research Note: Real Men and Church Participation’, Review of Religious Research (45.4.404-414), 2004

[13] Ducker, ‘Disbanded Brothers – Has a ‘Feminised’ Church Alienated Men in the UK?’, p.17 (2007)

[14] Ibid., p.17

[15] Ibid., p.20

[16] Ibid., pp.20-21

[17] ‘Significantly, Matt Redman, composer of several worship songs in this vein, recently admitted that he was “re-visiting a couple of things [that he had] written before” because they were too effeminate: “If a blokey bloke comes into church, is he going to connect with what’s going on? Some of the romantic imagery used in worship, the more I think about and study scripture, I’m not so sure about it… In the Bible you don’t have people coming up to Jesus saying, ‘You’re beautiful…’, even in Revelation before his throne… [One song ended with] ‘I’m so in love with you’… Maybe I should have written, ‘I’m so in awe of you.’ It’s a learning process.” (Interviewed by John Buckeridge in Christianity, March 2007, pp.12-13)’ , ibid., p.21

[18] ‘Instead of affirming men in their created, masculine identities, the Church has tended towards a general notion of spirituality that is unmistakably feminine. Thus, the desirable virtues of churchgoers are that they are ‘nice’, ‘friendly’, ‘polite’ and ‘well-behaved’. They should be contemplative, quietly prayerful, intuitive and able to express their ‘personal relationship’ with Jesus articulately and emotionally. Whilst these characteristics may well reflect a certain type of spirituality, it is not one that men will necessarily identify with and as such is further evidence of the feminisation of Church culture.’, ibid., p.26

[19] Ibid., p.26

Does the Greek word arsenokoitēs refer to homosexuals?

The Claim

The Greek word arsenokoitai (plural form of arsenokoitēs), is typically translated as referring to practicing homosexuals by standard English translations in 1 Corinthians 6:9[1] and 1 Timothy 1:10.[2] This is challenged by those seeking legitimization of homosexual behaviour within Christianity.

* 1975: Bailey[3] agreed the word refers to males involved in homosexual acts,[4] but not generally to ‘homosexuals’[5]

* 1980: Boswell[6] claimed the word only designates male prostitutes[7] [8]

* 1983: Scroggs[9] interpreted the word as referring only to abusive pederasty[10] [11]

* 1996: Martin[12] argued the traditional interpretation is false etymology[13] [14] [15] [16]

Scholarly Commentary

Scobie[17] and Campbell argue against the restriction of the word to pederasty.[18] Hays, Scobie, and Malick point out that the meaning is identified by its derivation from the Greek translation of the Old Testament, where the component words refer to homosexual conduct.[19] [20] [21]

Wright identifies other compound verbs ending in –koitēs and referring to sexual activity.[22] Via agrees arsenokoitēs refers to homosexual activity.[23]

Standard Greek Lexicons

Standard Greek lexicons and dictionaries understand this word as a reference to homosexual behavior.[24] [25] [26] [27] [28] [29] [30]


[1] 1 Corinthians 6:9: ‘behaves like a homosexual’ (CEV), ‘men who practice homosexuality’ (ESV), ‘men who have sexual relations with other men’ (NCV), ‘practicing homosexuals’ (NET), ‘homosexual offenders’ (NIV84), ‘commit homosexual acts’ (NIrV), ‘practice homosexuality’ (NLT), ‘practicing homosexuals’ (TNIV).

[2] 1 Timothy 1:10: ‘live as homosexuals’ (CEV), ‘men who practice homosexuality’ (ESV), ‘who have sexual relations with people of the same sex’ (NCV), ‘practicing homosexuals’ (NET), ‘practice homosexuality’ (NLT), ‘practicing homosexuality’ (TNIV).

[3] Bailey, ‘Homosexuality and the Western Christian Tradition’ (1975).

[4] ‘He takes the term in 1 Cor 6:9 as denoting males who actively engage in homosexual acts, in contrast to μαλακοί (malakoi, “effeminate”), those who engage passively in such acts.’, De Young, ‘The Source and NT Meaning of Αρσενοκοιται, with Implications for Christian Ethics and Ministry’, Masters Seminary Journal (3.2.193), 1992.

[5]However, he insists that Paul knew nothing of “inversion as an inherited trait, or an inherent condition due to psychological or glandular causes, and consequently regards all homosexual practice as evidence of perversion” (38). Hence Bailey limits the term’s reference in Paul’s works to acts alone and laments modern translations of the term as “homosexuals.” Bailey wants to distinguish between “the homosexual condition (which is morally neutral) and homosexual practices” [italics in source].’, ibid., p. 193.

[6] Boswell, ‘Christianity, Social Tolerance and Homosexuality’ (1980).

[7] ‘In an extended discussion of the term (341–53), he cites “linguistic evidence and common sense” to support his conclusion that the word means “male sexual agents, i.e. active male prostitutes.” His argument is that the arseno- part of the word is adjectival, not the object of the koitai which refers to base sexual activity. Hence the term, according to Boswell, designates a male sexual person or male prostitute.’, De Young, ‘The Source and NT Meaning of Αρσενοκοιται, with Implications for Christian Ethics and Ministry’, Masters Seminary Journal (3.2.193-194), 1992.

[8] He nevertheless recognized his interpretation was marginal; ‘He acknowledges, however, that most interpret the composite term as active, meaning “those who sleep with, make their bed with, men.”’, ibid., p. 194.

[9] Scroggs, ‘The New Testament and Homosexuality’ (1983).

[10]Hence arsenokoitai does not refer to homosexuality in general, to female homosexuality, or to the generic model of pederasty. It certainly cannot refer to the modern gay model, he affirms (109). This is Scrogg’s interpretation of the term in 1 Tim 1:10 also. The combination of πόρνοι (pornoi, “fornicators”), arsenokoitai, and ἀνδραποδισταῖ (andrapodistai, “slave-dealers”) refers to “male prostitutes, males who lie [with them], and slave dealers [who procure them]” (120). It again refers to that specific form of pederasty “which consisted of the enslaving of boys as youths for sexual purposes, and the use of these boys by adult males” (121).’, De Young, ‘The Source and NT Meaning of Αρσενοκοιται, with Implications for Christian Ethics and Ministry’, Masters Seminary Journal (3.2.196-197), 1992.

[11]Consequently Paul “must have had, could only have had pederasty in mind” (122, italics in source). We cannot know what Paul would have said about the “contemporary model of adult/adult mutuality in same sex relationships” (122).’, ibid., p. 197.

[12] Martin, ‘Arsenokoites and Malakos: Meanings and Consequences’, in Brawley (ed.), ‘Biblical Ethics and Homosexuality: Listening to Scripture’ (1996).

[13]It is highly precarious to try to ascertain the meaning of a word by taking it apart, getting the meanings of its component parts, and then assuming, with no supporting evidence, that the meaning of the longer word is a simple combination of its component parts.’, Martin, ‘Arsenokoites and Malakos: Meanings and Consequences’, in Brawley (ed.), ‘Biblical ethics & homosexuality: listening to scripture’, p. 119 (1996).

[14] ‘Thus, all definitions of arsenokoitês that derive its meaning from its components are naive and indefensible.’,  ibid., p. 119.

[15] ‘It seems to have referred to some kind of economic exploitation by means of sex,’, ibid., p. 120.

[16] He also argued that no one knows what it means; ‘I am not claiming to know what arsenokoitês meant, I am claiming that no one knows what it meant.’, ibid., p. 123.

[17]There is no evidence that the term was restricted to pederasty; beyond doubt, the NT here repeats the Leviticus condemnation of all same-sex relations (cf. J.G. Taylor 1995: 6-7; Hays 1996: 382-83).’, Scobie, ‘The Ways of Our God: An approach to biblical theology’, p. 838 (2003).

[18] ‘In response, however, it must be pointed out, first, that arsenokoites is a broad term that cannot be confined to specific instances of homosexual activity such as male prostitution or pederasty. This is in keeping with the term’s Old Testament background where lying with a “male” (a very general term) is proscribed, relating to “every kind of male-male intercourse.”13 In fact, the Old Testament “bans every type of homosexual intercourse.” not just male prostitution or intercourse with youths.’, Campbell, ‘Marriage and Family in the Biblical World’, p. 243 (2003).

[19] ‘Although the word arsenokoitēs appears nowhere in Greek literature prior to Paul’s use of it, it is evidently a rendering into Greek of the standard rabbinic term for “one who lies with a male [as with a woman]” (Lev. 18:22; 20:13). (Despite recent challenges to this interpretation, the meaning is confirmed by the evidence of the Sybilline Oracles 2.73). Paul here repeats the standard Jewish condemnation of homosexual conduct.’, Hays, ‘First Corinthians’, Interpretation: A Bible Commentary for Teaching & Preaching, p. 97 (1997).

[20]It clearly echoes the Greek of Lev 18:22 and 20:13 in the LXX (arsen = “male,” and koite = “bed”), so that arsenokoites literally means “one who goes to bed with a male” (cf. Malick 1993b: 482-87).’, Scobie, ‘The Ways of Our God: An approach to biblical theology’, p. 838 (2003).

[21] ‘It is significant that of all the terms available in the Greek language, Paul chose a compound from the Septuagint that in the broadest sense described men lying with men as they would lie with women.’, Malick, ‘The Condemnation of Homosexuality in 1 Corinthians 6:9’, Bibliotheca Sacra (150.600.484), 1996.

[22] ‘He points out that in all other similar compounds ending in -koites the first half specifies the object of the sleeping, or its scene or sphere. That is, the first part always functions in an adverbial sense.21 This is because koites has a verbal force, in most not all instances, arseno denotes the object.22 Hence, the compound word refers to those who sleep with males, and denotes “‘male homosexual activity’ without qualification.”’, Haas, ‘Hermeneutical Issues In The Use Of The Bible To Justify The Acceptance Of Homosexual Practice’ (1), 1999; other –koitēs/os cognates include doulokoitēs (sexual relations with slaves, doulos), mētrokoitēs (sexual relations with one’s mother, mētēr), and polukoitos (sexual relations with many people, polus).

[23] ‘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.’, Via, ‘Homosexuality and the Bible: Two Views’, p. 13 (2003); Via acknowledges this despite supporting homosexual unions.

[24] ‘ἀρσενοκοίτης, ου, ὁ   arsenokoitēs   male homosexual* Referring to a male who engages in sexual activity with men or boys: 1 Cor 6:9; 1 Tim 1:10; Pol. Phil. 5:3; W. L. PETERSEN, “Can ἀρσενοκοῖται be translated by ‘Homosexuals’?” Vigiliae Christianae 40 (1986) 187-91. — D. F. WRIGHT, Translating ΑΡΣΕΝΟΚΟΙΤΑΙ,” Vigiliae Christianae 41 (1987) 396-98.’, Balz & Schneider, ‘Exegetical Dictionary of the New Testament’, p. 158 (1990).

[25] ‘ἀρρενοκοίτης, ου, ὁ, sodomite, AP9.686, (Maced. iv/vi A.D., v. BCHsuppl. 8 no. 87); (ἀρσ-) 1Ep.Cor.6.9.’, Liddell, Scott, Jones, & McKenzie, ‘A Greek-English Lexicon’, p. 246 (rev. and augm. throughout, 19996).

[26] ‘ἀρσενοκοίτης, ου, ὁ    an adult male who practices sexual intercourse with another adult male or a boy homosexual, sodomite, pederast.’, Friberg, Friberg, & Miller, ‘Analytical Lexicon of the Greek New Testament’, p. 76 (2000).

[27] ‘ἄρσην G781 (arsēn), male; θῆλυς G2559 (thēlys), female; ἀρσενοκοίτης G780 (arsenokoitēs), male homosexual, pederast, sodomite.’, Brown, ‘New International Dictionary of New Testament Theology’, volume 2, p. 562 (1986).

[28] ‘88.280 ἀρσενοκοίτης, ου m: a male partner in homosexual intercourse—‘homosexual.’’, Louw & Nida, ‘Greek-English lexicon of the New Testament: Based on semantic domains’, volume 1, p. 771 (electronic ed. of the 2nd edition 1996).

[29] ‘733. 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, ‘The Complete Word Study Dictionary: New Testament’ (electronic ed. 2000).

[30]a male who engages in sexual activity w. a pers. of his own sex, pederast 1 Cor 6:9 (on the impropriety of RSV’s ‘homosexuals’ [altered to ‘sodomites’ NRSV] s. WPetersen, VigChr 40, ’86, 187–91; cp. DWright, ibid. 41, ’87, 396–98; REB’s rendering of μαλακοὶ οὔτε ἀρσενοκοῖται w. the single term ‘sexual pervert’ is lexically unacceptable), of one who assumes the dominant role in same-sex activity, opp. μαλακός (difft. DMartin, in Biblical Ethics and Homosexuality, ed. RBrawley, ’96, 117–36); 1 Ti 1:10; Pol 5:3. Cp. Ro 1:27. Romans forbade pederasty w. free boys in the Lex Scantinia, pre-Cicero (JBremmer, Arethusa 13, ’80, 288 and notes); Paul’s strictures against same-sex activity cannot be satisfactorily explained on the basis of alleged temple prostitution (on its rarity, but w. some evidence concerning women used for sacred prostitution at Corinth s. LWoodbury, TAPA 108, ’78, 290f, esp. note 18 [lit.]), or limited to contract w. boys for homoerotic service (s. Wright, VigChr 38, ’84, 125–53).’, Arndt, Danker, & Bauer (eds.), ‘A Greek-English Lexicon of the New Testament and Other Early Christian Literature’, p. 135 (3rd ed. 2000).

Is 1 Timothy 2:11-12 a time limited text?

The Claim

Hugenberger (a moderate egalitarian/soft complementarian), notes the view of Spencer (a strong egalitarian), that Paul’s prohibition on women speaking in 1 Timothy 2:11-12 is time limited, a temporary prohibition until the women of the ecclesia have abandoned their heretical teaching:

‘In addition Spencer notes that rather than using the imperative mood or even an aorist or future indicative to express that prohibition, Paul quite significantly utilizes a present indicative, perhaps best rendered “But I am not presently allowing.”29 This temporary prohibition, then, is based solely on the regrettable similarity between the Ephesian women and Eve in that the women of Ephesus had been deceived and as such if allowed to teach would be in danger of promoting false doctrine.’[1]

Hugenberger then explains why this suggestion is improbable:

As attractive as this interpretation appears, serious objections have been raised against it in recent years.

First of all, some caution may need to be exercised against an overly simplistic picture of the Jewish or Greek cultural background at times assumed for our passage.32 For example, Eunice and Lois (2 Tim 1:5; 3:15) appear to have known the Scriptures better than might be inferred from the Jewish practice adduced by Spencer, although Spencer acknowledges the possibility that women could learn privately.

Most seriously, S. T. Foh has argued that the women of 1 Tim 2:9–15 do not appear to be one and the same as the false teachers elsewhere.

She notes that these women are treated in a radically different manner from the false teachers since they are urged to “continue in faith, love, holiness, and sobriety,” while the women mentioned in 2 Tim 3:6–7, for example, “can never arrive at a knowledge of the truth.”

Moreover, as Foh points out, there is no Scriptural warrant for the underlying assumption that Eve taught Adam to eat the forbidden fruit.’[2]

‘Finally, this view fails to explain why Paul stresses the temporal priority of Adam rather than merely mentioning Eve’s deception.’[3]

Egalitarian Commentary

Egalitarian Barron similarly exposes the weakness of this argument:

‘First, defenders of the traditional view have argued that Paul’s blanket statement, “I do not permit a woman to teach,” sounds universal.

If what he really meant was “I do not permit a woman to teach error,” and that he would have no objection to women teaching once they got their doctrine straight, why did he not say that? Kroeger received criticism even from a fellow egalitarian for failing to deal with this point.16 [original footnote reproduced in footnote [4] below]’[5]

Indeed, Barron rightly notes that the argument is incompatible with the common egalitarian claim that women were teaching in the ecclesias because they were sufficiently educated and doctrinally sound:

And egalitarians are in no position to interpret Paul’s dictum as a temporary prohibition, needed until women could surmount cultural obstacles to education—not when, out of the other side of their mouths, these egalitarians are championing women (one of whom, Priscilla, labored in Ephesus) who did fulfill a teaching or leadership role in the NT.17

Not all women of Paul’s day were intellectually impoverished or hopelessly contaminated by pagan practices, yet Paul seems to prohibit all women from teaching in Ephesus.

The egalitarians seem forced into the implausible claim that no woman in the Ephesian church was sufficiently orthodox and educated to teach.’[6]

Egalitarian Gordon Fee likewise dismisses the idea that the prohibition is temporary:

Despite protests to the contrary, the “rule” itself is expressed absolutely. That is, it is given without any form of qualification. Given the unqualified nature of the further prohibition that “the women”29 are not permitted to speak, it is very difficult to interpret this as meaning anything else than all forms of speaking out in public.’[7]

So also egalitarians Soderlund and Wright:

‘I Timothy 2:11-12 thus remains as the one apparently clear case of Paul’s imposing a ban on women’s ministry.’[8]


[1] Hugenberger, ‘Women In Church Office:  Hermeneutics Or Exegesis?  A Survey Of Approaches To 1 Tim 2:8-15’, Journal of the Evangelical Theological Society (35.3.349), (September 1992).

[2] Ibid., p. 349.

[3] Ibid., p. 350.

[4] ‘16. Liefeld, “Response to Kroeger” 245’

[5] Barron (egalitarian), ‘Putting Women In Their Place:   1 Timothy 2 And Evangelical Views Of Women  In Church Leadership ‘,Journal of the Evangelical Theological Society (33.4.455), (December 1990).

[6] Ibid., pp. 455-456.

[7] Fee, ‘The First Epistle to the Corinthians’, p. 706 (1987).

[8] Soderlund & Wright, ‘Romans and the People of God’, p. 239 (1999).

Secular commentary on egalitarianism

The Claim

Some egalitarians claim that the egalitarian interpretation is uniquely positioned to convince unbelievers that the New Testament Christian community was egalitarian.[1]

The Facts

Although the complementarian case certainly receives criticism from general society, secular scholarship overwhelmingly supports the complementarian case and typically rejects egalitarian revisionism as ideologically motivated fiction. Ironically, it is often the egalitarian case which brings the Bible into disrepute with the non-believer.

Secular commentaries on early Christian history do not hold these views simply because they are driven by the desire to depict the Bible as negatively as possible, or because they assume the Bible is misogynist, patriarchal, and sexist. Many affirm that the Bible contains positive affirmation of women. But they are skeptical at best of egalitarian revisionist treatments of the Biblical texts, and of well established historical facts.

Alastair Campbell

Despite acknowledging the possibility of women as leaders of ecclesial meetings held in their households, historian Campbell’s overall response to egalitarian historical revisionism is negative.[2]

Instead, Campbell argues, modern Christians should simply accept that their position is different to that of the 1st century ecclesias, and acknowledge that they will necessarily abandon the apostolic teaching and example as a result of living in a different culture.[3]

Judith Lieu

Lieu is a respected academic commentator on early Christianity holding views sympathetic to egalitarian revisionism. Lieu is skeptical of such attempts firstly because of their origin.[4] She is also skeptical of them on the basis of their methodology.[5]

Lieu identifies the fact that such criticism of egalitarian revisionism is well established, and notes the methodological flaws typical to such revisionist efforts.[6]

She is unpersuaded by attempts to present Christ or Paul in an egalitarian light,[7] and unconvinced by the dramatic claims made by egalitarians for Galatians 3:28.[8]

Gerd Lüdemann

Lüdemann is unconvinced by egalitarian claims, and criticizes the revisionist work of the respected Biblical scholar Elizabeth Schüssler Fiorenza.[9] [10]

Also receiving sharp rebuke from Lüdemann are the egalitarian attempts to read into the text more than is there. [11]

Like other secular scholars, Lüdemann is unconvinced by egalitarian claims for Galatians 3:28.[12]

Lena Ksarjian

Lena Ksarjian is sympathetic to egalitarian and feminist efforts to re-interpret the Bible,[13] but does not find these efforts convincing.[14] Ksarjian is particularly critical of the claims made by Schüssler Fiorenza.[15]

Craig Martin

Craig Martin describes the flawed interpretive methods he used to use when he was an egalitarian Christian.[16]

He explains how, on the prior assumption that the New Testament taught egalitarianism, he used these methods was to interpret the text in a manner which was acceptable to his theology.[17] [18]


[1] ‘However, there is another apologetic mission that egalitarians are in a unique and opportune position to fulfill. This involves presenting the message of biblical equality to the unbelieving world in a persuasive manner, thus winning to Christ people who might never be touched by traditionalist approaches.’, Groothius (egalitarian), ‘Apologetics: The Egalitarian Imperative’, (2002)

[2] ‘Rather than striving to show that women played a more prominent part than our evidence suggests, or that the prohibitions of the Pastorals do not mean what they appear to say, it would be more honest to admit the facts and then, if so minded, set them aside. Again, rather than using the New Testament to establish a primitive, egalitarian innocence for the church, while discarding much of the New Testament in the process, those for whom the New Testament documents speak with authority would do better to take them as a whole and ask what we learn from the disciples of the apostles and the fact that they in their generation closed the door to women in leadership after Jesus and Paul had seemed to open it.’, Campbell, ‘The elders: Seniority within earliest Christianity’, p. 275 (2004).

[3] ‘They would say to us, I think: We did what we thought was right in our situation for the sake of the spread of the gospel (1 Cor 9:20–23). The spread of the gospel is still paramount, but your day is not ours. We refused to bring discredit on the gospel by an untimely and intemperate rush for freedom. See that you do not bring discredit on the same gospel by denying a freedom whose time has long come!’, ibid., p. 275.

[4]The politics of such a view are self-evident, for much study of the subject has developed within a context where women were struggling to establish a proper role for themselves within the contemporary church; to this end they have sought an egalitarian past to act as a model for present polity.’, Lieu, ‘Neither Jew nor Greek? constructing early Christianity’, p. 83 (2002).

[5] ‘While other enthusiastic assertions about the distinctiveness of early Christianity and/or of the teaching of Jesus have been somewhat tempered in recent years, this one, [better treatment of women by early Christianity than in early Judaism] for those same reasons, has continued to be repeated. It is the purpose of this discussion neither to prove nor to disprove that claim, something which with our evidence may not be possible, but rather to explore the rhetoric which surrounds it and to expose the hazards of the naive use of sources which often accompanies it.’, ibid., p. 83.

[6] ‘To do so is not totally new: a range of recent studies has shown that such wishful thinking about Jesus’ or Paul’s ‘liberalism’ is deeply flawed, resting on a naive use of the early Christian sources, particularly regarding Jesus, and on a, perhaps less naive, misuse of the Jewish sources, taking as descriptive of the first century, the prescriptive construction of a world by the second-century male scholarly elite we know as the rabbis.2 [original footnote reproduced in footnote [6]  below]’, ibid., p. 83.

[7] ‘This essay has already rejected any model which starts with ‘the good’ that Christianity or Judaism could offer women, for such models tend to personify Christianity, usually in the person of Jesus or Paul, when recent study suggests that both Jesus and Paul were ambiguous regarding this issue, and that any place women had in their movements was ancillary to their definition of those movements.’, ibid., p. 97.

[8] ‘The arguably pre-Pauline formula in Gal. 3:28, ‘In Christ there is neither Jew nor Greek, neither slave nor free, and not male and female’, has been celebrated with enthusiasm as the cornerstone of early Christian egalitarianism, particularly within feminist exegesis. Yet the rhetoric of Galatians remains unaffected by the last clause of that confession.’, ibid., p. 112

[9] ‘For all those seeking historical information and plausible historical reconstruction in Schüssler Fiorenza’s feminist-theological reconstruction of Christian origins, reading is a torment. With arbitrary exegesis she attempts to show that the early Christian movement opened up positions of leadership for women and therefore could be called egalitarian.’, Lüdemann, ‘Primitive Christianity : A survey of recent studies and some new proposals’, p. 87 (2003).

[10]Many textual analyses are very farfetched; those mentioned in the report could easily be supplemented.113 [original footnote reproduced in footnote [10]  below]  …The theological zeal behind this book is at least as absolutist as the patriarchalist exegesis of primitive Christianity and modernity which Schüssler Fiorenza attacks. It is hardly much use in moving forward constructive research into primitive Christianity.’, ibid., p. 87.

[11] ‘Scattered through the chapter there are again theses that serve to re-evaluate the role of the woman in early Christianity: Phoebe (Rom. 16:1–2) was not a deaconess commissioned for women’s work but a minister of the whole church of Cenchreae (170). That does not emerge from the wording. Three women, namely Lydia and her companions (cf. Acts 16:15), are said to have been founders and leaders of the church of Philippi, with whom ‘Paul had entered into a “communal partnership” (societas)’ (178). This thesis is derived solely from Acts. Finally Prisca—by means of an uncertain historical judgement—becomes the teacher of Apollos (179).’ , ibid., p. 87.

[12] ‘Ch. 6 is headed ‘Neither Male and Female. Galatians 3:28—Alternative Vision and Pauline Modification’ (205–41). Schüssler Fiorenza rightly regards the text as a pre-Pauline baptismal declaration. The text is ‘best understood as a communal Christian self-definition rather than a statement about the baptized individual’ (213).’, ibid., p. 87.

[13] Ibid.

[14]In conclusion, I am sympathetic with the feminist project. I do not believe that feminist scholars are engaging in some intellectual sleight of hand or are pulling a nonexistent rabbit out of a nonexistent hat. I do believe these scholars are well-intended. However, some of these intentions serve to promote patriarchy rather than help eliminate it.’, Ksarjian, ‘Trying to Prove that the Bible Is Pro-Woman How some feminists perpetuate patriarchy’, Free Inquiry Magazine, (19.1.1999)

[15] ‘’In Schüssler Fiorenza’s view, Galatians 3:28 is the “magna carta of Christian Feminism.”9 From the historical point of view, Schüssler Fiorenza’s interpretation is vulnerable.'[15]

‘In light of these complexities I do not see how Schüssler Fiorenza’s interpretations can withstand historical scrutiny.’, ibid.

[16] ‘Another example of selective privileging can be seen with the way in which Christian communities interpret the comments about the status of women in the Pauline and deuteroPauline letters. Some passages in these letters recommend measures that we would now consider to be sexist; other passages suggest Paul apparently supported women in leadership positions.’, Martin, ‘How to Read an Interpretation: Interpretive Strategies and the Maintenance of Authority’, The Bible and Critical Theory, p. 05.14 (5.1.2009).

[17] ‘This was exactly the position I took in my early undergraduate studies: reconciling my assumption of the inerrancy and authority of the Bible with my view of God as necessarily egalitarian required exhaustive mental gymnastics.’, ibid., p. 06.14.

[18] ‘I tended to privilege selectively the passages that appeared to support women in leadership positions, and then I read the passages that disparaged the role of women in light of those, often attempting to interpret the sexist passages as if they were not sexist. How could the apparently sexist passages be interpreted as not sexist? Sometimes with the simultaneous deployment of ventriloquism – ‘Paul really means something completely different than what he seems to say’ – and sometimes with the simultaneous use of disabling contextualization – ‘this comment was only applicable to the specific context in which Paul was writing, and doesn’t apply to other contexts.’’, ibid., p. 06.14.