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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.

How did the early Christians baptize?

March 13, 2013 5 comments

The Challenge

In the 19th century many scholars denied that immersion was the original mode of baptism.[1] McKay and Rogers wrote influential interpretations of the archaeological evidence,[2] and Dale’s linguistic study became the standard lexical resource for the anti-immersion position.[3]

The Facts

The Greek word for baptism refers to dipping, plunging, or immersion in both the Septuagint and the New Testament.[4] [5] [6] [7] [8] [9] [10] [11] [12] 

Major studies by Lothar Heiser (1986), Sandford La Sor (1987), Jean‐Charles Picard (1989), Malka Ben Pachat (1989), and Everett Ferguson (2009), all agree the archaeological and textual evidence indicates full immersion was the earliest normal Christian practice.[13] [14] [15] [16] [17] [18]

The earliest Christian record of baptism outside the New Testament,[19] [20] proves 1st century Christians normally baptized by immersion.[21] [22] [23] [24] [25] [26]

The scholarly consensus is that full immersion was the normal practice of the earliest Christians.[27] [28] [29] [30] [31] [32] [33]  [34]  [35] [36] [37] [38] [39] [40]

_____________________________

[1] Among many others, Thorn, ‘Modern Immersion Not Scripture Baptism’ (1831), Kerr, ‘A Treatise on the Mode of Baptism: showing the unfounded nature of the assumption, that immersion is the only proper mode of administering the ordinance and that pouring or sprinkling, is the most scriptural and significant, and by far the preferable mode of its administration’ (1844), Beckwith, ‘Immersion Not Baptism’ (1858), Kerr, ‘The Heavenly Father’s Teaching: a pedo‐Baptist’s reply to immersionists shewing that Baptism is not immersion, and that immersion is not Baptism, for they are direct opposites’ (1874), Bush, ‘Bible Baptism Never Immersion’ (1888).

[2] McKay, ‘Immersion Proved to be Not a Scriptural Mode of Baptism but a Romish Invention’ (1884), Rogers, ‘Baptism and Christian Archeology’ (1903).

[3] Dale, ‘Inquiry Into the Usage of Baptizo’ (1824‐1879).

[4] ‘In the Sept.: 2 Kgs. 5:13, 14 we have loúō (3068), to bathe and baptízomai. See also 28, 40;&version=ESV; Lev. 11:25, 28, 40, where plúnō (4150), to wash clothes by dipping, and loúō (3068), to bathe are used. In 19;&version=ESV; Num. 19:18, 19, báphō, to dip, and plúnō, to wash by dipping are used’, Zodhiates, ‘The Complete Word Study Dictionary: New Testament’ (electronic ed. 2000).

[5] ‘In Mark 7:4 the verb wash in “except they wash” is baptízomai, to immerse. This indicates that the washing of the hands was done by immersing them in collected water. ‘, ibid.

[6] ‘The sevenfold dipping of Naaman (2 K. 5:14) perhaps suggests sacramental ideas and illustrates the importance of the Jordan. In the later Jewish period טבל (b. Ber., 2b of the bathing of priests; Joma, 3, 2ff. etc.)’, Kittel, Bromiley, & Friedrich (eds.), ‘Theological dictionary of the New Testament’, volume 1, p. 535 (electronic ed. 1964–c1976).

[7] ‘Βαπτίζω+ V 0‐1‐1‐0‐2=4 2 Kgs 5,14; Is 21,4; Jdt 12,7; Sir 34,25 M to dip oneself 2 Kgs 5,14; to wash Jdt 12,7′, Lust, Eynikel, & Hauspie (eds.), ‘A Greek‐English Lexicon of the Septuagint’ (rev. electronic ed. 2003).

[8]  ‘baptizō 77x pr. to dip, immerse;’, Mounce, ‘Mounce’s Complete Expository Dictionary of Old & New Testament Words’, pp. 1104‐1105 (2006).

[9] ‘In Gk. lit. gener. to put or go under water in a variety of senses, also fig., e.g. ‘soak’ Pla., Symp. 176b in wine)’, Arndt, Danker, & Bauer (eds.) ‘A Greek‐English Lexicon of the New Testament and Other Early Christian Literature’, p. 164 (3rd ed. 2000).

[10] ‘1. In the LXX baptō usually translates the OT Heb. ṭāḇal, dip (13 times; on 3 occasions baptō represents other vbs.). baptizō occurs only 4 times: in Isa. 21:4 it is used metaphorically of destruction, but in 2 Ki. 5:14 it is used in the mid. of Naaman’s sevenfold immersion in the Jordan (the only passages as equivalent for Heb. ṭāḇal).’, Brown, ‘New International Dictionary of New Testament Theology’, volume 1, p. 144 (1986).

[11] ‘Despite assertions to the contrary, it seems that baptizō, both in Jewish and Christian contexts, normally meant “immerse”, and that even when it became a technical term for baptism, the thought of immersion remains. The use of the term for cleansing vessels (as in Lev. 6:28 Aquila [cf. 6:21]; cf. baptismos in Mk. 7:4) does not prove the contrary, since vessels were normally cleansed by immersing them in water. The metaphorical uses of the term in the NT appear to take this for granted, e.g. the prophecy that the Messiah will baptise in Spirit and fire as a liquid (Matt. 3:11), the “baptism” of the Israelites in the cloud and the sea (1 Cor. 10:2), and in the idea of Jesus’ death as a baptism (Mk. 10:38f. baptisma; Lk. 12:50; cf. Ysebaert, op. cit., 41 ff.).’, ibid., p. 144.

[12] ‘Lexicographers universally agree that the primary meaning of baptizo G966 is ‘to dip’ or ‘to immerse”, and there is a similar consensus of scholarly opinion that both the baptism of John and of the apostles was by immersion’, Jewett, ‘Baptism’, in Murray (ed.), ‘Zondervan Pictorial Encyclopedia of the Bible’, volume 1, p.466 (rev. ed. 2009).

[13] ‘The philological evidence is technical and inconclusive. But the archaeological and Mishnaic evidence seems to support the argument for immersion., Sanford La Sor, ‘Discovering What Jewish Miqva’ot Can Tell Us About Christian Baptism’, Biblical Archaeology Review, (13.01), 1987.

[14] ‘The conclusions of Lothar Heiser on the administration of baptism after examining the literary and pictorial evidence accord with mine: the water customarily reached the hips of the baptizand; after calling on the triune God, the priest bent the baptizand under so as to dip him in water over the head; in the cases of pouring in the Didache and in sickbed baptism the baptized did not stand in the font.’, Ferguson, Baptism in the Early Church: history, theology, and
liturgy in the first five centuries’, p. 860 (2009).

[15] ‘Either bending his knees, kneeling, or sitting, an adult could have been totally immersed as required in fonts from 1.30m to 60cm deep.’. ibid., p. 852.

[16] ‘The express statements in the literary sources, supported by other hints, the depictions in art, and the very presence of specially built baptismal fonts, along  with their size and shape, indicate that the normal procedure was for the administrator with his head on the baptizand’s head to bend the upper part of the body forward and dip the head under the water.’, ibid, pp. 857‐858.

[17] ‘The Christian literary sources, backed by secular word usage and Jewish religious immersions, give an overwhelming support for full immersion as the normal action. Exceptions in cases of lack of water and especially of sickbed baptism were made. Submersion was undoubtedly the case for the fourth and fifth centuries in the Greek East, and only slightly less certain for the Latin West.’, ibid., p. 891.

[18] ‘Later church practice in this regard led artists to the strange fantasy of Jesus standing waist deep in water while John poured water on his head (such pictures do not occur until medieval western times).’, ibid., p. 202.

[19] ‘It contains details of the church life of the earliest Christians, their preference for baptism by immersion, their fasting on Wednesdays and Fridays, the forms of their eucharistic prayers.’, Manion & Mudge, ‘The Routledge Companion to the Christian Church’, pp. 42–43 (2008).

[20] ‘In the Didache 7 (a.d. 100–160), the oldest baptismal manual extant, triple immersion is assumed,’ (Silva & Tenney (eds.), ‘The Zondervan Encyclopedia of the Bible, volume 1, pp. 494‐495. (rev. ed. 2009).

[21] ‘Baptism is by *immersion if possible” (Cross & Livingstone (eds.), ‘The Oxford Dictionary of the Christian Church’, p. 482 (3rd rev. ed. 2005).

[22] ‘One witnesses the fasting and the solemn rite of baptism, preferably by immersion in flowing water.’, Milavec, “Didache”, p. ix (2003).

[23] ‘According to the Didache (1st century), baptism should be done by a triple immersion in running water.’, Lacoste, ‘Encyclopedia of Christian Theology: G‐O’, p. 1607 (2005).

[24] ‘The argument of the section is clear: while adhering strictly to the preference for flowing water and baptism by immersion, necessary concessions are made to local circumstances.’, Draper, “The Didache In Modern Research”, p. 47 (1996).

[25] ‘As a rule, it involved immersion in running water (see Acts 8:38; Did. 7).’, Fahlbusch & Bromiley (eds.), ‘Encyclopedia of Christianity’., volume 1, p.184 (1990‐2003).

[26] ‘Baptism is by immersion in the threefold name, but sprinkling three times on the head is allowed in an emergency.’, Vokes, ‘Life and Order In An Early Church:The Didache’, in Haase (ed.), ‘Aufstieg Und Niedergang Der Romischen Welt’, volume 2, p. 221 (1993).

[27] ‘New Testament scholars generally agree that the early church baptized by immersion.’, Wiersbe, ‘Wiersbe’s Expository Outlines on the New Testament’, pp. 466‐467 (1997).

[28] ‘Most scholars agree that immersion was practiced in the NT, and it is likely that both of these texts allude to the practice, even though baptism is not the main point of either text.’, Schreiner, ‘Believer’s Baptism: Sign of the New Covenant in Christ’, p. 81 (2007).

[29] ‘Furthermore, modern NT scholars generally concede, regardless of denominational affiliation, that Christian baptism in NT times was by immersion, as it was and still is in Judaism.’, Helyer, ‘Exploring Jewish Literature of the Second Temple Period’, p. 481 (2002).

[30] ‘The baptism commanded by Jesus in the making of disciples is an immersion in water. The topic formerly was warmly debated, but in these days there is general scholarly agreement. Several lines of evidence converge in support of the baptismal action as a dipping.’, Ferguson, ‘The Church of Christ: A Biblical Ecclesiology for Today’, p. 201 (1996).

[31] ‘It seems also that the profession was articulated in responses that the one being baptized made to the questions of the one baptizing during the baptismal rite, which in general was required to take place through total immersion, in total nudity, in running water.’, DiBerardino, ‘We Believe in One Holy Catholic and Apostolic Church’, p. 88 (2009).

[32] ‘Baptism in the Bible was by immersion, that is, the person went fully under the waters,’, Lang, ‘Everyday Biblical Literacy: the essential guide to biblical allusions in art, literature, and life’, p. 47 (2007).

[33] ‘The earliest preference was for baptism in running streams or in the sea (Mark 1:9; Acts 8:36; Didache 7). Next in preference was total immersion in a fountain or bath‐sized tank (Tertullian, Baptism 4).’, Flinn, ‘Baptism’, in ‘Encyclopedia of Catholicism’, Encyclopedia of World Religions, p. 52 (2007).

[34] ‘Baptism was normally by immersion either in the river or in the bath‐house of a large house’, Dowley (ed.), ‘Eerdman’s Handbook to the History of Christianity’, p.10 (1977).

[35] ‘There is little doubt that early Christian baptism was adult baptism by immersion’, Grimes, ‘Deeply Into the Bone: Re‐Inventing Rites of Passage’, p. 50 (2002).

[36] ‘Our study has not attempted to demonstrate that affusion rather than immersion was the practice in New Testament times, since it is clear that immersion was the general rule;’, Marshall, ‘The Meaning of the Verb “Baptize”’, in Porter & Cross (eds.), ‘Dimensions of Baptism: Biblical and Theological Studies’, p. 23 (2002).

[37] ‘We can be fairly sure that early baptism was not normally by sprinkling. Other possible alternatives were pouring (affusion) and immersion. Probably immersion was the norm.’, Guy, ‘Introducing Early Christianity: A
Topical Survey of Its Life, Beliefs, and Practice, pp. 224‐225 (2004).

[38] ‘In the early days of the Church, total immersion, often in streams or rivers, seems to have been most commonly used (Mark 1:9; Acts 8:3).’, Tischler, ‘All Things in the Bible: A‐L’, p. 59 (2006).

[39] ‘Saunder and Louw comment, ‘Obviously the phrases “going down” and “coming up” are used to focus on the two processes involved in immersion.’ Clearly the evidence from such accounts favors strongly the notion that baptism was by immersion.’, Ware, ‘Believers’ Baptism View’, in Wright (ed.), ‘Baptism: Three Views’, p. 22 (2009).

[40] ‘Stander and Louw, Baptism in the Early Church, p. 25, argue similarly for understanding the prevailing practice of the early church to be that of immersion from several other citations of various church fathers and documents, included among them Aristides of Athens, Clement of Alexandria (p. 31), Tertullian (pp. 36‐37), Hippolytus (p. 42), and Basil the Great (who practiced tri‐immersion, p. 82).’, ibid., p. 22.

Ehrman & Carrier: the historical Jesus (2)

May 19, 2012 3 comments

This post continues from the previous post in this series. In this post, a number of criticisms of Ehrman’s book made by Carrier are examined with reference to Ehrman’s response and Carrier’s reply to Erhman’s response.

The bronze statue of ‘the cock, symbol of St. Peter’

Mythicist Dorothy Murdock (pseudonym ‘Acharya S’), displayed in her book a drawing of a bronze statue she claimed to be a symbol of ‘the cock, symbol of St. Peter’ (‘The Christ Conspiracy: The Greatest Story Ever Sold’, 1999). Ehrman disputed this claim in his book, stating ‘there is no penis-nosed statue of Peter the cock in the Vatican or anywhere else except in books like this, which love to make things up’ (p. 24). In his response to Ehrman, Carrier said ‘Ehrman evidently did no research on this and did not check this claim at all’, noting that ‘Murdock quickly exposed this by providing numerous scholarly references, including actual photographs of the object’.

Defending his original statement, Ehrman replied to Carrier that ‘my offhand statement about this particular one was that the Vatican does not have a statue of Peter as rooster with a hard cock for his nose’. Carrier’s rejoinder was ‘I believe there is reason to suspect he is lying about the Priapus statue’. Despite Ehrman’s claim that his original statement was intended to mean that the statue was not of Peter, it does read naturally as a claim that the statue does not exist at all. I believe Carrier’s criticism of Ehrman’s original statement is valid, and Ehrman is requesting an unreasonably generous interpretation of that statement.

However, whilst agreeing with Ehrman that the statue has nothing to do with Peter (contrary to Murdock’s claims), Carrier went further. Saying ‘At the very least I would expect Ehrman to have called the Vatican museum about this, and to have checked the literature on it, before arrogantly declaring no such object existed and implying Murdock made this up’, he defended Murdock’s claim that the statue was at the Vatican using these words:

Richard Carrier: Some commentators on his [sic, for ‘this’] site have also tried claiming the statue was never at the Vatican, but their misinformation and mishandling of the sources is thoroughly exposed in an extensive comment by an observer at Murdock’s site.

Impressed with what he referred to as ‘numerous scholarly references’ provided by Murdock,  Carrier ironically decided to trust Murdock’s claims, and the claims of one of her supporters, without checking them. He certainly did not contact the Vatican himself. In fact he did not even check her references at all. An examination of them shows that Murdock failed to provide ‘numerous scholarly references’, contrary to Carrier’s claim.

Murdock’s misrepresented sources

1. Walker, ‘The Woman’s Dictionary of Symbols and Sacred Objects’ (1988): This is not a scholarly work at all. Walker is not even a scholar; her academic qualifications are in journalism, and the only subject in which she is recognized as an expert is knitting. Walker’s book is full of unsubstantiated personal claims deriving largely from her own imagination. Walker cites a 1972 reprint of a work by Knight, ‘An Account Of The Remains Of The Worship Of Priapus : Lately Existing At Isernia in the Kingdom of Naples: In Two Letters’ (1786). Knight is a witness to the existence of the statue, but unlike Murdock he says absolutely nothing about it being anything to do with Peter.

2. Knight, ‘An Account Of The Remains Of The Worship Of Priapus: Lately Existing At Isernia in the Kingdom of Naples: In Two Letters’ (1786): Since Murdock had already cited a work citing Knight, listing Knight independently was redundant. Murdock was inflating artificially the number of works she cited, a fact which Carrier appears to have overlooked. Knight was tutored at home and was never awarded a university degree, so he was not a scholar.  However, his wide experience with antiquities as a collector of ancient coins and bronze statues at least means he was more educated on the subject than Walker the knitting expert.

3. Williams, ‘A Dictionary of Sexual Language and Imagery in Shakespearean and Stuart Literature’ (1994). This is a scholarly work on a completely different subject. It refers to the existence of the statue, citing a work by Fuchs, ‘Geschichte der Erotischen Kunst’ (1908), so it is not an independent source.

4. Fuchs, ‘Geschichte der Erotischen Kunst’ (1908). Murdock had already cited a work citing Fuchs, so listing Fuchs independently is redundant; Carrier again overlooked the fact that Murdock was inflating artificially the number of works she cited. Additionally, Fuchs had a law degree, no qualifications in the field in which he was writing, and never held an academic appointment, so this is not a scholarly source.

5. Erlach, Reisenleitner & Vocelka, ‘Privatisierung der Triebe?’ Sexualitat in der Fruhen Neuzeit’ (1994): This work cites an unidentified ’18th C. engraving’ (p. 206, mistakenly referred to by Murdock as p. 203),  which is almost certainly Knight, so this is not an independent source. Published in 1994, this source says that the statue is ‘still housed in the Vatican’s secret collection’ (p. 206), but as we shall see there is no evidence it was ever in the Vatican ‘secret collection’. Murdock has clearly never read this book herself, and failed completely to identify it properly; she wrongly attributes authorship to ‘Peter Lang’. In fact, Peter Lang is the name of the publisher. This is another error in Murdock’s list of what Carrier referred to as ‘numerous scholarly sources’ which Carrier failed to identify. It is clear he hasn’t read the book either, and neglected to check any of Murdock’s references.

6. Jones, ‘The Secret Middle Ages’ (2002): Murdock quotes Jones referring to the ‘notorious Albani bronze said to be held in the Vatican Museum’ (p. 75), emphasis mine. Here is a scholarly work striking a note of caution concerning the popular story of the statue being held at the Vatican, and now the story is that it is said to be held in the ‘Vatican Museum’, not in a ‘secret collection’. Jones provides no source for the story, and says nothing about the statue having anything to do with Peter.

7. Stephens, ‘Public Characters of 1803-1804’ (1804): Murdock quotes text from this book referring to a print of the statue in question in ‘De la Chaussee’s Museum Romanum, printed at Rome, in folio, in 1692’ (p. 127). This text quoted by Murdock was contained in an letter printed several times previously, originally written by John Almon and published in his book ‘A Letter to J. Kidgell, Containing a Full Answer to His Narrative’ (1763). The book by Stephens which Murdock quotes is not a scholarly work, and nor is the letter by Almon (who was a journalist). Almon says nothing about the statue ever being in the Vatican and nothing about it having anything to do with Peter.

8. De la Chausse ‘Museum Romanum’ (1692): Murdock provides an image of the text on page 75 (volume 1), describing the statue in question. However, De la Chausse was not a scholar, he was a collector and cataloger of antiquities; furthermore, he does not say anything at all about the statue ever being in the Vatican.

9. Middleton, ‘The Miscellaneous Works of the Late Reverend and Learned Conyers Middleton’ (1752): Middleton was a clergyman, this is not a scholarly work, and it says nothing about the statue ever being in the Vatican and nothing about it having anything to do with Peter. His only source for the statue is De la Chausse, whom he cites (volume 4, p. 51).

10. Carlobelli, ‘The Image of Priapus’ (1996): Murdock quotes Carlobelli citing De la Chausse as an early source for the illustration of the statue (p. 67). However, apart from the fact that this is not an independent source (again we find De la Chausse is the source), Carlobelli says nothing about the statue ever being in the Vatican, and nothing about it having anything to do with Peter.

11. Wall, ‘Sex and Sex Worship (phallic Worship): A Scientific Treatise on Sex, Its Nature and Function, and Its Influence on Art, Science, Architecture, and Religion-with Special Reference to Sex Worship and Symbolism’ (1922): Murdock quotes Wall referring to ‘the representation of a bronze figure of Priapus which was found in an ancient Greek temple’ (p. 438), a photograph of which is shown in the book. Wall says nothing about the statue having ever been in the Vatican, and nothing about it having anything to do with Peter. The image in the photograph differs from the sketch in De la Chausse’s work, prompting Murdock to comment that this is ‘a photograph of what appears to be the original bronze statue (or at least its twin)’. Wall was a pharmacist with no scholarly qualifications; this is not a scholarly source. Carrier claimed Murdock presented ‘actual photographs of the object’, but this is actually the only photograph Murdock shows, and even she expresses uncertainty that it is a photograph of the actual statue to which she is referring.

12. A source is cited by Murdock as ‘Studies in Iconography (7-8:94), published by Northern Kentucky University’: The work is a journal to which Murdock clearly had no access, since she omits the name of the author and title of the article in the journal, whilst linking to the snippet view of the work available on Google Books. Murdock quotes text saying ‘This object was published under papal and royal authority, exhibited for a time in the seventeenth and eighteenth centuries, and is now said to be held inaccessible in the secret collections of the Vatican’, but without broader context it is impossible to see if the author cited any source for the claim. Nevertheless, again we find scholarly caution; the statue is ‘said to be held inaccessible in the secret collections of the Vatican’.

Assessing Carrier’s claim

Examining what Carrier referred to as ‘numerous scholarly sources’, we find:

* Half of them are not scholarly sources at all: Walker, Knight, Fuchs, Stephens, De la Chausse, Middleton, Wall

* Only two are independent sources: De la Chausse, Knight (and Knight is dependent on De la Chausse for the illustration he presents his own book); the other sources either cite one of these two, or cite no source at all

Carrier was wrong to say Murdock cited ‘numerous scholarly sources’, an error he made because he failed to check the facts. Murdock’s work itself was anything but scholarly, and Carrier (with academic qualifications Murdock lacks), should at the very least have checked Murdock’s sources before describing them so enthusiastically. If he had checked them, he would have realized how wildly inaccurate her claims were, and how poor her research was. This failure of Carrier’s was unfortunate in the context of him criticizing Ehrman for neglecting to check sources and verify claims.

Murdock’s key source contradicts Murdock’s claim

If Carrier had taken the time to check Murdock’s claims against her own sources, he would have discovered that they contradict her. Murdock claimed that the statue is a ‘Bronze sculpture hidden in the Vatican treasury of the Cock, symbol of St. Peter’. But in a book which Murdock does not quote, Knight (the only original source cited for the claim that the statue was ever in the Vatican), states explicitly that the sculpture was displayed publicly in the Vatican palace, not ‘hidden in the Vatican treasury’. Speaking of the illustration in De la Chausse, Knight says ‘The original, from which it is taken, is an antique bronze, preserved in the Vatican palace, where it has been publicly exhibited for near a century, without corrupting any one’s morals or religion, that I have heard of’)’; ‘The Progress of Civil Society: A Didactic Poem’ , p. xxi (1796), emphasis mine.

Knight is the only independent source for this claim; there appears to be no earlier source, and all later sources cite Knight. Regardless of whether or not his claim is correct, the fact is that he contradicts Murdock completely, leaving her without any independent source for her claim that the statue is a ‘Bronze sculpture hidden in the Vatican treasury of the Cock, symbol of St. Peter’. However, there is further evidence that the statue is not in the Vatican, contrary to Murdock’s claims.

One reference Murdock did not cite is Panzanelli & Scholosser, ‘Ephemeral bodies: wax sculpture and the human figure’ (2008). This book refers explicitly to the ‘notorious “Vatican Bronze”‘ (p. 121), and the image shown is the very image cited by Murdock (p. 122), yet when we turn to the page on which the statue is described we find the image which Murdock claims is hidden in the ‘Vatican Treasury’ is in fact, ‘a phallic monument in the Gabinetto Segreto, Museo Archeologico Nazionale Napoli, supposedly recovered at Pompeii/Herculaneum’ (p. 122). Not only is there no reference to Peter, but we finally find that the the image is not hidden in the ‘Vatican Treasury’, but is in the Gabinetto Segreto in Naples, the collection of sexual and erotic artifacts found in Pompeii.

Although the authors express scholarly caution as to whether the artifact was recovered among the ruins of Pompeii and Herculaneum, there is no doubt about their identification of its current location; the Gabinetto Segreto, not hidden in the ‘Vatican Treasury’. Murdock was not only wrong to claim it is ‘hidden in the Vatican treasury’, she was wrong to claim it is in the Vatican at all. This is another error which Carrier failed to identify when endorsing Murdock’s reply to Ehrman, and proves that despite saying ‘At the very least I would expect Ehrman to have called the Vatican museum about this, and to have checked the literature on it’, he did not carry out either of these checks himself.

Right or wrong?

Defending Murdock’s reply to Ehrman concerning the existence and location of the statue, Carrier made this additional claim concerning my own comments about the statue on his blog.

Richard Carrier: Some commentators on his [sic, for ‘this’] site have also tried claiming the statue was never at the Vatican, but their misinformation and mishandling of the sources is thoroughly exposed in an extensive comment by an observer at Murdock’s site.

In fact I neither misrepresented nor mishandled the sources I cited. Carrier  did not tell readers that the ‘observer’ on Murdock’s forum agreed with all of the key points in my argument (all emphasis mine).

* They agreed with me that the statue is not hidden in the Vatican treasury: ‘Mr. Burke was correct when he wrote “the image is not hidden in the ‘Vatican Treasury”’, ‘And with this we are agreed, for I have demonstrated Knight attesting to as much’

* They agreed with me that Knight is the only independent source that it was ever at the Vatican: ‘this leaves us with only one independent source affirming the fact that the statue was once located at the Vatican‘, ‘most likely that would be correct, as the later scholars stating as much do appear to be dependent on Knight

* They agreed with me that Murdock is wrong about it being currently hidden in the Vatican treasury, and her own source is evidence that she’s wrong about it ever being in the Vatican treasury, hidden or otherwise: ‘I agree with Burke‘, I even explicitly agreed with him on that‘, ‘I have already agreed more than once

The disagreements they had with what I wrote had no impact at all on my argument. The facts are that contrary to Murdock’s claims:

1. There is no statue of ‘the Cock, symbol of St. Peter’, either ‘hidden in the Vatican treasury’ or anywhere else.

2. The statue to which Murdock appeals for this claim does exist, but is not of ‘the Cock, symbol of St. Peter’, and is not ‘hidden in the Vatican treasury’.

3. There’s no evidence that this statue was ever ‘hidden in the Vatican treasury’.

4. The only source which says anything about it being anywhere in the Vatican says it was displayed publicly, not hidden.

5. The statue is nowhere in the Vatican, it is in the Segreto Gabinetto in Naples.

For further commentary, see this article at Labarum.

Ehrman & Carrier: the historical Jesus (1)

Recently there has been considerable interest and discussion concerning a confrontation between New Testament scholar Professor Bart Ehrman, and historian Dr Richard Carrier (currently without an academic post). An article in the Huffington Post by Ehrman (preceding the publication of his book ‘Did Jesus Exist?‘), was criticized heavily by Carrier.

After Ehrman’s book was published, Carrier posted a critical review, to which Ehrman made two replies (here and here), which Carrier criticized in turn (here and here). Various other commentators (professional and amateur), have entered the dispute on either side. The purpose of this series of posts is to examine some of the claims and counter-claims by both Erhman and Carrier.

For reference, the term ‘Mythicist’ is being used here to describe those who believe in the ‘Christ myth‘ theory’ that Jesus was not a historical person but a religious myth.

Carrier’s review: how substantial are the criticisms?

Carrier’s review of Ehrman’s book listed several main criticisms, but they are mitigated by Carrier himself, diminishing their importance.

1. Carrier objects that Ehrman doesn’t spend enough time criticizing the ‘bad’ mythicist arguments: ‘Almost none of this 361 page book is a critique of the “bad” mythicists. He barely even mentions most of them’; ‘for the few authors he spends any time discussing (mainly Murdock and Freke & Gandy), he is largely dismissive and careless (indeed, his only real refutation of them amounts to little more than nine pages, pp. 21-30)’.

However, Carrier acknowledges ‘That alone I could live with (although I would have rather he not addressed them at all if he wasn’t going to address them competently)’. In fact Ehrman spends about as much time dismissing these ‘bad’ Mythicists as Carrier himself has in his own works.

2. Carrier objects that Ehrman was wrong to say (or at least imply strongly), that the statue claimed by Mythicist Dorothy Murdock (pseudonym ‘Acharya S’), to be a symbol of ‘the cock, symbol of St. Peter’ (‘The Christ Conspiracy: The Greatest Story Ever Sold’, 1999), does not exist : ‘Ehrman says that “there is no penis-nosed statue of Peter the cock in the Vatican or anywhere else except in books like this, which love to make things up” (p. 24)’.

However, Carrier acknowledges ‘I do not assume Murdock’s interpretation of the object is correct (there is no clear evidence it has anything to do with Christianity, much less Peter)’. Thus Ehrman’s error does not invalidate the point he is making, that Murdock was wrong to claim the statue has anything to do with Christianity or with Peter (a point with which Carrier agrees). See additional comments here.

3. Carrier objects that Ehrman was wrong to say that the law concerning fire brigades in letter 33 of Pliny’s correspondence with the emperor Trajan was the same law referred to in Pliny’s letter 96 to Trajan: ‘He made two astonishing errors here that are indicative of his incompetence with ancient source materials’, ‘In fact, Pliny never once discusses the decree against fire brigades in his letter about Christians, nor connects the two cases in any way’.

However, Carrier acknowledges ‘modern scholars conclude, the same law is probably what was being applied in both cases (prosecuting Christians and banning firefighting associations). And that’s kind of what Ehrman confusingly says’. Ehrman was therefore not in error here; he drew the same conclusion concerning the relationship of these two letters, as standard scholarship, a position with which Carrier himself agrees.

Carrier was right to point out that Ehrman wrongly referred to two different letters of Pliny as ‘letter 10’, when the correct citation should have been ‘book 10, letter 33’ and ‘book 10, letter 96’ respectively. But this error is hardly ‘indicative of his incompetence with ancient source materials’ nor ‘demonstrates that Ehrman never actually read Pliny’s letter, and doesn’t even know how to cite it correctly’, two hyperbolic claims made by Carrier.

4. Carrier objects that Ehrman was wrong to say ‘We simply don’t have birth notices, trial records, death certificates—or other standard kinds of records that one has today’ for people living in the first century: ‘Ehrman declares (again with that same suicidally hyperbolic certitude) that “we simply don’t have birth notices, trial records, death certificates—or other kinds of records that one has today” (p. 29)’.

However, Carrier acknowledges ‘his conclusion is correct (we should not expect to have any such records for Jesus or early Christianity)’. Thus Ehrman’s error does not invalidate the point he is making, that we should not expect to find the kinds of records of Jesus that Mythicists such as Freke and Gandy claim should exist. See additional comments here.

5. Carrier objects to Ehrman’s comment concerning the authenticity of a comment by Tacitus (Roman historian), about Christians: ‘Ehrman says “I don’t know of any trained classicists or scholars of ancient Rome who think” the passage about Christians in Tacitus is a forgery (p. 55)’.

However, Carrier acknowledges ‘That the overall consensus of scholarship, myself included, sides with Ehrman on the conclusion is true’. Therefore, the fact that Ehrman doesn’t know of ‘know of any trained classicists or scholars of ancient Rome’ who think this passage is a forgery, does not affect his argument that the passage is not a forgery; Carrier even agrees with Ehrman’s argument himself. See additional comments here.

6. Carrier objects to Ehrman’s claim that “the life, death, and resurrection of Jesus were recent events” is “the view of all of our sources that deal with the matter at all” (p. 251): ‘This is false. And it’s astonishing that he would not know this, since several other scholars have discussed the sources that place Jesus in the reign of Jannaeus in the 70s B.C’.

However, Carrier acknowledges ‘These are all arguably “fringe” scholars, and they may well be as wrong as Wells or even more so. I am not defending anything they argue (I do not believe Christianity originated in the 70s B.C.) ‘. Therefore, the fact that Ehrman did not know of these other scholars does not affect his argument that the life, death, and resurrection of Jesus were recent events according to what Ehrman describes as ‘all of our sources that deal with the matter at all’. Carrier even acknowledges that the scholars to which he refers are all arguably “fringe’, and may well be wrong anyway.

Conclusion

Later articles will examine these criticisms in more detail, but it is sufficient to note here that none of them actually affect Ehrman’s overall case in any way. Even if Ehrman was wrong on every one of these points, it would not have affected his case. These are not substantive criticisms of Ehrman’s case (in fact none of them address his case), and are a mere distraction from the real issues involved. For further commentary, see this article at Labarum.

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).

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).