Mary Arline (queen_of_kithia) wrote,
Mary Arline

Scriptural analysis, part 2

Today we are going to look at 1 Corinthians 6:9-10 and 1 Timothy 1:10. We're going to look at them together because they both have the same problem, and it's a problem of translation.

We're going to start with 1 Corinthians 6:9-10. It's kind of a laundry list of the sorts of sinners who, according to Paul, will not inherit the kingdom of God1 There's a word in there that some versions of the Bible translate as "homosexuals." In the New American Bible, it is translated as "sodomites," hearkening back to the story of the rape gang that we looked at yesterday, when we determined that the sexual orientation of a rapist is irrelevant.

Here is the whole passage as found in the New American Bible:
Do you not know that the unjust will not inherit the kingdom of God? Do not be deceived; neither fornicators nor idolators nor adulterers nor boy prostitutes nor sodomites nor thieves nor the greedy nor drunkards nor slanderers nor robbers will inherit the kingdom of God.
Now, as American Catholics, we are very lucky to have the New American Bible because it has scholarly annotations. Here is the annotation on this passage:
The Greek word translated as boy prostitutes may refer to catamites, i.e., boys or young men who were kept for purposes of prostitution, a practice not uncommon in the Greco-Roman world. [...] The term translated sodomites would then refer to adult males who indulged in homosexual practices with such boys.
Basically, what Paul is describing here would be considered child exploitation in our society. Once again, it has nothing to do with a committed relationship between consenting adults. It is a condemnation against taking advantage of the vulnerable and, as in the previous example, the homosexual behavior is incidental.

1 Timothy 1:10 doesn't really add anything new to the discussion; it just uses the "sodomite" term again, and the annotation tells us to refer back to the note on 1 Corinthians 6:9-10.

Tomorrow (or whenever I get around to it), we will have to deal with Romans 1:24-27. This is the bugbear; the least ambiguous and seemingly most condemnatory of all four passages. However, it's actually very easy to deconstruct. The problem in this case isn't a problem of translation but a problem of English-speakers not thinking critically about our own language. But that's a discussion for another day.

1Keep in mind that Paul's not the one who gets to have the final say in the matter. I, like Madeleine L'Engle, tend to subscribe to the theory of universal salvation, which our Church considers to be heterodox.
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