expressed in my video “What the Bible Really Says about Homosexuality.” Well, I tried to be brief, but I also wanted to be thorough, so here is my relatively brief response to the claims of Matthew Vines:
A Nifty Sleight of Hand
In his introduction, Vines claimed that:
“There are six passages in the Bible that refer in some way to same-sex behavior, and they are all negative … It’s true that 6 verses isn’t all that many out of Scripture’s 31,000. But not only are they all negative, from the traditional viewpoint, they gain broader meaning and coherence from the opening chapters of Genesis.”
This is a very skillful bit of deception. By admitting at the outset that these six verses dealing with homosexuality are all negative, Vines often manages to convince his audience that he is correct in his claim that there are only six verses against homosexuality among the many thousands of verses in the Bible. Most of those listening to Vines are so overwhelmed by the fact that he is willing to admit the negativity of these six verses that they subconsciously agree with his conclusion that the Bible really doesn’t say much about homosexuality at all.
There are two significant problems with this conclusion. The first is that the truth of God’s Word does not depend on the number times that He speaks. If God had only provided us with a single sentence condemning homosexuality, that single sentence would be enough for us to state with full authority that homosexuality is wrong.
Did you know that there are only three passages of Scripture which mention the virgin birth of Christ? There are only one passage in the Old Testament and two in the New Testament. Two out of the four Gospels (Mark and John) do not mention the virgin birth at all, and Paul, the most prolific New Testament writer, says nothing about the virgin birth in all of his epistles. Can we then conclude from this paucity of evidence that Christ was not born of a virgin? Absolutely not. God’s Word is authoritative regardless of how often or how seldom He speaks on a given topic.
However, the second problem with Vines’ statement that there are six verses dealing with homosexuality is that there are actually more than twice that many. By my count, there are at least fifteen passages of Scripture which speak of homosexuality. That’s more than double the number that Vines claims to have found, and now we see the skill with which he has deceived his listeners. Vines used an admission of a weakness in his position (the fact that all six verses are negative) to hide nearly two-thirds of the biblical evidence against him.
What about the Pedophiles?
The quickest way to see the flaws in Matthew Vines’ approach to this issue is to replace every instance in which he refers to homosexuals with a reference to pedophiles. Vines may object to this correlation between pedophilia and homosexuality, but both groups make identical claims against Scripture. For example, Vines claims that:
“Within [the traditional] framework, gay people have a problem, and that is that they want to have sex with the wrong people. They tend to be viewed as essentially lustful, sexual beings. So while straight people fall in love, get married, and start families, gay people just have sex.”
But pedophiles can make this claim as well. They too can say that:
“Within [the traditional] framework, pedophiles have a problem, and that is that they want to have sex with the wrong people. They tend to be viewed as essentially lustful, sexual beings. So while straight people fall in love, get married, and start families, pedophiles just have sex.”
In fact, this statement can be made by anyone involved in any form of forbidden sexual activity. An adulterer can claim that his problem with the traditional view is that he wants to have sex with the wrong person – a woman who is already married, and that it’s not right for people to view his love for and desire to start a family with this woman as mere lust and sex. Those involved in bestiality can claim that their problem with the traditional view is that they want to have sex with the wrong species. Polygamists can claim that their problem with the traditional view is just that they want to have sex with the wrong number of women. Necrophiliacs can claim that their problem with the traditional view is that they want to have sex with the wrong kind of body. And etc. Every claim that Vines makes about homosexuality can be equally applied to any form of sexual deviancy.
This approach to an argument is what is known as argumentum ad absurdum or arguing to the absurd. To make this argument, all you have to do is take the original claim and follow it to its logical conclusions. If those conclusions are absurd, then the original claim is most likely false.
In this case, we begin with Vines’ original claim that the traditional view of the biblical passages on sexuality is wrong because it does not account for committed and loving relationships among homosexuals. Then, we follow this claim to its logical conclusion. If desire for a committed and loving relationship removes homosexuals from the traditional biblical prohibitions, then anyone with a desire for a committed and loving relationship is justified regardless of what kind of sexual gratification he seeks. Vines may object to this argument, but it is the logical conclusion of his own claim.
An Error from the Beginning
Vines prefaces his look at the six verses about homosexuality by giving a very skewed interpretation of Genesis 2:18. Here is what Vines said about this verse:
“In Genesis 2:18, God says, ‘It is not good for the man to be alone. I will make a helper suitable for him.’ And yes, the suitable helper or partner that God makes for Adam is Eve, a woman. And a woman is a suitable partner for the vast majority of men – for straight men. But for gay men, that isn’t the case. For them, a woman is not a suitable partner. And in all of the ways that a woman is a suitable partner for straight men—for gay men, it’s another gay man who is a suitable partner. And the same is true for lesbian women. For them, it is another lesbian woman who is a suitable partner. But the necessary consequence of the traditional teaching on homosexuality is that, even though gay people have suitable partners, they must reject them, and they must live alone for their whole lives, without a spouse or a family of their own. We are now declaring good the very first thing in Scripture that God declared not good: for the man to be forced to be alone. And the fruit that this teaching has borne has been deeply wounding and destructive.”
There are several errors in this paragraph, and other authors have adequately addressed most of them. I would like to focus, however, on one that I have not seen addressed very often. Vines claims that if we tell a homosexual male that it is good for him to remain celibate, then we are “declaring good the very first thing in Scripture that God declared not good: for the man to be forced to be alone.” However, this statement does not take into account the possibilities that God was speaking only of Adam in particular (“It is not good for Adam to be single”) or that God was referring to mankind in general (“It is not good for humans to be only male”). Instead, Vines insists that this passage can only be viewed as if God had said “it is not good for any man to be celibate.”
This view of Genesis 2:18 cannot be correct because it would then create a contradiction between Genesis 2:18 and I Corinthians 7:8 where Paul wrote “I say therefore to the unmarried and widows, It is good for them if they abide even as I.” And later in the same chapter, he specifically directed some men to “seek not a wife.” Now, if telling someone that it is good for them to remain celibate is a violation of Genesis 2:18, then the Apostle Paul is guilty of such a violation for he was not only celibate himself, but specifically said that it would be good if other men were celibate too.
Once again we find that Vines’ claim can be refuted by an argument to the absurd. It is absurd to conclude that the Apostle Paul violated Genesis 2:18 and even more absurd to conclude that God allowed him to encourage others to violate this verse too. And yet, this is the conclusion that must be drawn if we follow the logic of Vines’ argument. Since the conclusion is obviously absurd, we can safely say that the original claim is false. It is not a violation of Genesis 2:18 to advise homosexuals to remain celibate.
Genesis 19 – A Historical Lie
The first of the six passages that Vines presented was the account of Sodom and Gomorrah in Genesis 19. Vines made many, many errors in his comments regarding this passage, but I’d like to focus first on his claim about the history of the Christian view of this chapter of Genesis. According to Vines:
“The destruction of Sodom and Gomorrah was not originally thought to have anything to do with sexuality at all, even if there is a sexual component to the passage we just read. But starting in the Middle Ages, it began to be widely believed that the sin of Sodom, the reason that Sodom was destroyed, was homosexuality in particular.”
This is simply false, and it reveals Vines to be a liar. Try typing “church fathers on homosexuality” in Google and see how many quotes you can find of pre-medieval Christians referring to the sexual nature of the sin of Sodom. For example, consider what Clement of Alexandria wrote of Sodom in A.D. 193:
“The Sodomites having, through much luxury, fallen into uncleanness, practicing adultery shamelessly, and burning with insane love for boys; the All-seeing Word, whose notice those who commit impieties cannot escape, cast his eye on them … ordered Sodom to be burned … lest lust, through want of punishment, should throw wide the gates to those that were rushing into voluptuousness.”
And the second century poem “A Strain of Sodom” attributed to Tertullian contains these lines:
“Whither is passion's seed inviting you?
To what vain end your lust? For such an end
No creatures wed ... To conjugal delight
Each kind its kind doth owe: but female still
To all is wife; nor is there one that has
A mother save a female one.”
And Augustine, in the fifth century, had this to say about Sodom:
“Therefore are those foul offences which be against nature, to be every where and at all times detested and punished; such as were those of the men of Sodom: which should all nations commit, they should all stand guilty of the same crime, by the law of God, which hath not so made men that they should so abuse one another. For even that intercourse which should be between God and us is violated, when that same nature, of which He is Author, is polluted by perversity of lust.”
Throughout the entirety of Christian history, there is a consistent record of theologians linking the sin of Sodom to homosexuality. For Matthew Vines to say otherwise is direct evidence that he is lying. He is either lying about the content of the writings of pre-medieval Christians, or he is lying about his knowledge of those writings. There is no other explanation for his statement.
Genesis 19 – Suppressing Evidence
Vines concluded his section on Sodom by quoting Ezekiel 16:49 and declaring in smug triumph that “God Himself in Ezekiel declares the sin of Sodom to be arrogance and apathy toward the poor.” The audacity of this claim is beyond astonishing. Vines may as well have quoted Matthew 27:5-6 and said that the sin of Judas was bringing blood money into the temple. Such a lie would be nearly on the same level as Vines’ claim that the sin of Sodom was arrogance and apathy toward the poor.
Had Vines made this statement about Judas, we could have refuted his lie by pointing out that he had ignored verse 4 of Matthew 27. Similarly, to refute Vines’ lie about the sin of Sodom, all we have to do is point out that he ignored verse 50 of Ezekiel 16. In both cases the proof of the lie is only one verse removed from the evidence that was twisted to proclaim that the lie was true. Anyone who claimed that the sin of Judas was bringing blood money into the temple would be laughed to scorn and dismissed as an ignorant fool. And yet, Vines has made the same level of claim about the sin of Sodom, and he is praised for his wisdom and intelligence. This is a very sad commentary on the state of the church in our time.
Let’s take a moment to look at Ezekiel chapter 16. This entire chapter is a single prophecy that God pronounced against Jerusalem. It begins with God telling Ezekiel, “Son of man, cause Jerusalem to know her abominations,” and the entire chapter is focused on these abominations. In this chapter, God condemned Jerusalem for playing the harlot (vs. 16), for committing whoredom with idols (vs. 17), for engaging in child sacrifice (vs. 20-21), for building temples to false gods (vs. 23-25), and for multiplying her fornication (vs. 28-29). All of these things were summed up in verse 35 when God said:
“thy filthiness was poured out, and thy nakedness discovered through thy whoredoms with thy lovers, and with all the idols of thy abominations, and by the blood of thy children, which thou didst give unto them;”
These are the abominations of Jerusalem which are listed in this chapter. Notice how many of them are sexual in nature and then notice how many of them have to do with “arrogance and apathy toward the poor.” The primary focus of the entire chapter is on the sexual abominations of Jerusalem with a secondary focus on her idolatry and child sacrifice. This brings us to verses 44-46 where God said that these three types of abominations found in Jerusalem were the same three types of abominations found in the cities around her.
“Behold, every one that useth proverbs shall use this proverb against thee, saying, As is the mother, so is her daughter. Thou art thy mother's daughter, that lotheth her husband and her children; and thou art the sister of thy sisters, which lothed their husbands and their children: your mother was an Hittite, and your father an Amorite. And thine elder sister is Samaria, she and her daughters that dwell at thy left hand: and thy younger sister, that dwelleth at thy right hand, is Sodom and her daughters.”
Here, Sodom is referred to as a sister of Jerusalem, and we are told of her that she loathed her husband and her children just as Jerusalem loathed her husband and her children. How did Jerusalem loathe her husband and her children? The entire chapter up to this point is filled with condemnations of Jerusalem’s sexual deviancies and her child sacrifice. The connotation is abundantly clear. God is saying here that by accepting sexual deviancies and child sacrifice, Jerusalem has become like the city of Sodom.
Then, in verse 47, God began to condemn Jerusalem for being even more corrupt than the cities around her, and this brings us to the immediate context of Ezekiel 16:49 which Matthew Vines quoted in order to claim that the sin of Sodom was just “arrogance and apathy toward the poor.”
“As I live, saith the Lord GOD, Sodom thy sister hath not done, she nor her daughters, as thou hast done, thou and thy daughters. Behold, this was the iniquity of thy sister Sodom, pride, fulness of bread, and abundance of idleness was in her and in her daughters, neither did she strengthen the hand of the poor and needy. And they were haughty, and committed abomination before me: therefore I took them away as I saw good. Neither hath Samaria committed half of thy sins; but thou hast multiplied thine abominations more than they, and hast justified thy sisters in all thine abominations which thou hast done."
God mentioned in this passage that He had destroyed Sodom for her abominations, and in verse 53, He mentions having destroyed Samaria for her abominations just as He had promised in verses 38-43 to destroy Jerusalem because of her abominations.
Throughout the entire chapter, God’s focus is on sexual deviancies and child sacrifice. These are the abominations which He found in Jerusalem, and these are the abominations by which He compared Jerusalem to the cities of Sodom and Samaria. To use this chapter to dismiss the sin of Sodom as mere “arrogance and apathy toward the poor” is itself the height of arrogancy and a truly pathetic attempt to twist the truth of Scripture.
Leviticus 18 and 20 – A Bold Faced Lie
After dismissing Genesis 19, Vines then turned to the passages against homosexuality found in Leviticus 18 and 20. In regards to these two passages, Vines made a very important admission. He said that: “In these chapters, male same-sex intercourse is prohibited, and the punishment for violators is death.” Of course, he was very quick to add that “their context within the Old Testament Law makes them inapplicable to Christians.” According to Vines:
“As Gentiles were being included for the very first time into what was formerly an exclusively Jewish faith, there arose ferocious debates and divisions among the early Jewish Christians about whether Gentile converts should have to follow the Law, with its more than 600 rules. And in Acts 15, we read how this debate was resolved. In the year 49 AD, early church leaders gathered at what came to be called the Council of Jerusalem, and they decided that the Old Law would not be binding on Gentile believers.”
This is simply false. The Council of Jerusalem did not decide “that the Law would not be binding on Gentile believers.” Here is the actual decision of the Council in their own words as recorded in Acts 15:28-29:
“For it seemed good to the Holy Ghost, and to us, to lay upon you no greater burden than these necessary things; That ye abstain from meats offered to idols, and from blood, and from things strangled, and from fornication: from which if ye keep yourselves, ye shall do well. Fare ye well.”
When we read the actual words of the Council, we find that they said the exact opposite of what Vines claimed. Instead of telling the Gentiles that they could ignore the law, the Disciples in Jerusalem sent the Gentiles a list of laws which they should follow. The final item on that list was that Gentile believers should abstain from fornication.
In the New Testament, the term “fornication” is used in reference to a wide array of sexual sin. It is used in reference to adultery (Matt 5:32, I Cor 6:13), pre-marital intercourse (John 8:41, I Cor 7:2), incest (I Cor 5:1), and homosexuality (Jude 7). Now, Vines denies that Jude 7 is a reference to homosexuality and claims instead that it is, at most, a reference to the gang rape which was attempted by the men of Sodom, but he is only able to do this because he ignores Ezekiel 16:50 which identifies the sin of Sodom as an abomination. Leviticus 18 and 20 identify homosexuality as an abomination, but we know from Deuteronomy 22:23-29 that rape is not considered an abomination. Indeed, the fact that rape is not seen in as harsh of a light as the sexual sins listed in Leviticus 18 is one of the primary objections that modern skeptics have against the Bible’s teachings on intercourse.
The only type of fornication that Jude could have been referring to in light of Ezekiel 16:50 is the sin of homosexuality. Thus, the list of laws which the Council at Jerusalem said that Gentiles should follow included a prohibition against homosexuality.
Leviticus 18 and 20 – Beating the Straw Man
Vines admitted that there are aspects of the Law, such as the Ten Commandments, which he thinks are applicable to Christians, and although he never explained how he determines which portions are applicable and which are not, he soundly defeated two arguments for the applicability of Leviticus 18 and 20 to modern day Christians. The first argument is that these passages apply today because the sins listed are called abominations. The second argument is that they apply because the sins listed were punishable by death. Vines did an excellent job of pointing out the fatal flaws in both of these arguments. The only problem is that there are no theologians who actually make these arguments. Vines has set up and defeated a make-believe opponent. I suppose he is to be congratulated for his ability to tilt at windmills, but let’s take a look at the actual reason that the prohibitions against homosexuality still apply to us today.
The real reason that the prohibitions against homosexuality apply today is that they are expressly identified in Scripture as part of God’s natural law and not just a part of the Law of Moses.
For example, the law forbidding anyone but the high priest from entering the holiest place of the temple was just a part of the Law of Moses. It was not instituted until the building of the tabernacle under the direction of Moses, and it came to an end when God rent the veil of the temple after Christ died on the cross. The law against murder, on the other hand, is part of God’s natural law and not just a part of the Law of Moses. This law was in existence from the very beginning of creation, and it can never be repealed as long as creation remains, for it is a part of the very fabric of nature. This law preceded the Law of Moses (Gen 9:6), it exceeds the Law of Moses (Rom 13:10), and it supersedes the Law of Moses (Gal 5:21). Murder is not sin because the Law of Moses made it a sin for Israel. Rather, Moses identified murder as a sin in Israel because it is a sin for everyone in every place and at all times. In short, murder is wrong because it is a violation of God’s natural law.
Leviticus 18:24-30 identifies the prohibitions in that chapter as also being part of God’s natural law. According to this passage, these prohibitions existed before the Law of Moses and they extended to all people in every nation and not just the nation of Israel. Here is what we read concerning these laws:
“Defile not ye yourselves in any of these things: for in all these the nations are defiled which I cast out before you: And the land is defiled: therefore I do visit the iniquity thereof upon it, and the land itself vomiteth out her inhabitants. Ye shall therefore keep my statutes and my judgments, and shall not commit any of these abominations; neither any of your own nation, nor any stranger that sojourneth among you: (For all these abominations have the men of the land done, which were before you, and the land is defiled;) That the land spue not you out also, when ye defile it, as it spued out the nations that were before you. For whosoever shall commit any of these abominations, even the souls that commit them shall be cut off from among their people. Therefore shall ye keep mine ordinance, that ye commit not any one of these abominable customs, which were committed before you, and that ye defile not yourselves therein: I am the LORD your God.”
Beginning with verse 24, we find that the nations which lived in Canaan before Israel were defiled by the things prohibited in this chapter. Those nations were not bound by the Law of Moses like the nation of Israel was, and yet, God said that they were guilty of iniquity.
Of what law were they guilty? Twice in this passage, God specifically identified these prohibitions as part of the law of nature when He spoke of the land itself vomiting out its inhabitants. In other words, God did not have to do anything to personally punish these nations. Their punishment was the result of natural processes which He had set up at creation. He didn’t have to drive them out of the land because nature itself would have eventually removed them for Him. This is what Paul referred to in Romans 1 when he wrote of homosexuals receiving in themselves a recompense for their sins. Homosexuality is a violation of a natural law, and as such, it produces a natural consequence.
The nature of the prohibitions in Leviticus 18 is further emphasized by the warning in verse 29 that “whosever [not just of Israel but of any nation] shall commit any of these abominations … shall be cut off from among their people [not just from among Israel].” This verse once again emphasizes the universal nature of these prohibitions. They are not just applicable to Israel under the Law of Moses, but rather they apply to every nation, everywhere, and at all times.
This is why theologians view the prohibitions of Leviticus 18 as being applicable to modern Christians. It is not because these sins are declared to be abominations, nor is it because they are punishable by death. No, the reason that these prohibitions are still applicable is that God himself identified them as part of the law of nature. A nation can no more defy these laws with impunity than a man can leap off a building in defiance of gravity and not fall back to the earth.
Romans 1 – The Sin against Nature
In regards to the condemnation of homosexuality in Romans 1, Vines claimed,
“How we understand this passage hinges in large part on how we understand the meaning of the terms ‘natural’ and ‘unnatural.’”
Vines is correct in this statement. If he can convince his followers that the traditional understanding of these terms is erroneous, then he can easily dismiss the traditional view of Paul’s condemnation of homosexuality. This is why Vines spent more time on this point than on any other point of his lecture. We will not need quite as much time, however, for his errors on this point are both glaring and obvious.
Vines makes two claims regarding Paul’s reference to nature – first, that Paul was condemning anyone who is not true to his sexual orientation whether heterosexual or homosexual, and second, that Paul was just referring to societal customs and not to any actual physical traits at all. Of course, it is obvious that these two claims contradict each other, but let’s look at each of them individually.
The first claim is predicated on Vines’ declaration that “Paul’s reference to same-sex behavior is intended to illustrate this larger sin of idolatry.” Vines provided no evidence for this assertion, and indeed, it would be impossible for him to find evidence for this statement anywhere in the first chapter of Romans. What the Bible actually teaches is not that homosexual behavior is an illustration of idolatry but rather that it is a consequence of idolatry.
Beginning with verse 21 and continuing to the end of the chapter, we find that the result of idolatry is that “their foolish heart was darkened,” “they became fools,” “God also gave them up to … dishonour their own bodies between themselves,” “God gave them up to vile affections,” “their women did change the natural use into that which is against nature,” “the men … burned in their lust one toward another, men with men working that which is unseemly,” “God gave them over to a reprobate mind,” they did “things which are not convenient,” they do things that “are worthy of death,” and they “have pleasure in them that do them.” All of these things are proclaimed to be consequences of idolatry, and not a single one of them is described as an illustration of idolatry.
Vines’ second claim (that Paul was just referring to societal customs) is equally fallacious. In support of this claim, Vines correctly concluded that “we also need to consider how Paul himself uses these terms [natural and unnatural] in his other letters.” Vines then turned to I Corinthians 11 where Paul said, “Doth not even nature itself teach you, that, if a man have long hair, it is a shame unto him?" Vines then claimed that:
“One of the most common meanings of the Greek word for ‘nature’ is custom, and that is how Christians widely interpret this passage in 1 Corinthians today. And the reference to what is a ‘disgrace’ or ‘shame’ is taken as specifically being shameful given particular customs. So how we read Paul here in 1 Corinthians is basically this: ‘Do not the customs of our society dictate that it is considered shameful for a man to have long hair, but honorable for a woman?’”
Once again, Vines provided absolutely no evidence for his assertion that the Greek word for “nature” is commonly translated as “custom.” The Greek word translated as “nature” is the word φύσις (physis). I took the time to look up this word in fifteen different lexicons, and I did not find a single one that even hinted at the word “custom” as a possible translation for physis. In fact, every single lexicon said that this word refers to the physical (physis) world which is to say that it refers to nature. Several lexicons even cited I Corinthians 11:14 as an example of the word physis meaning “nature.” The reason that Vines was unable to provide any evidence to support his claim that this word really means “custom” is that there is no such evidence. When Paul spoke of “nature” in Romans 1, he was referring to the physical (physis) orientation of the bodies of those involved.
To prove this point further, let’s look at some of the other places where the New Testament writers used the word “nature” or physis. Take, for example, Romans 2:27 where we read:
“And shall not uncircumcision which is by nature, if it fulfil the law, judge thee, who by the letter and circumcision dost transgress the law?”
Here we find Paul using the word “nature” to highlight a difference between uncircumcision as the original physical condition of males and circumcision which is a physical alteration of the male nature in accordance with the Law of Moses.
In Galatians 2, we find Paul also using the word “nature” to refer to those who were physically Jewish as opposed to physically Gentiles.
In Ephesians 2, Paul referred to all of us as being “by nature the children of wrath” dead in our sins until we were made alive by the grace of Christ. This is not saying that we were the children of wrath according to custom, but rather that prior to salvation all men are physically in the condition of deserving the wrath of God because of their sins.
And in II Peter 1, we learn that those who accept Christ are made “partakers of the divine nature.” This is not a reference to the customs of Christians but rather to the “exceeding great and precious promises” that God is always physically present with us and that He has physically given us His Spirit as the “earnest of our inheritance.”
Out of all the uses of the word “nature” in Scripture, none of them give any indication that the term “custom” would be a reasonable translation of physis.
Additionally, the fact that Paul was referring to the physical orientation of the bodies of those in Romans 1 is evident from the context of the passage itself, for we find in verse 24 that God gave them up to “dishonour their own bodies.” The sins which followed in verses 26 and 27 were sins against the bodies of those involved. Thus, when Paul speaks of women changing the natural use, he is referring to them changing the physical use of their bodies, and when he refers to men leaving the natural use of the woman, he is referring to them leaving the physical use of the female body and fulfilling their male desires upon male bodies instead. Paul’s use of the word physis makes his meaning absolutely clear. The only way he could have been more clear would have been to provide a step by step guide to homosexual intercourse.
I Corinthians 6 and I Timothy 1 – A Defining Moment
This brings us to the final two passages which Vines listed in his presentation – I Corinthians 6:9 and I Timothy 1:10. Both passages use a form of the Greek word ἀρσενοκοίτης (arsenokoites) which is translated in the KJV as “abusers of themselves with mankind.” The traditional view of these verses is that the word arsenokoites refers to homosexual men. The reason for this view is that the term arsenokoites is a compound masculine word made up of the two root words arsen (male) and koites (to have sexual intercourse with, i.e.: coitus). When the definitions of the two root words are combined in the masculine form, we can define arsenokoites as “men who have coitus with men,” and we can see that this action is condemned as evil in Scripture.
Vines objected to the traditional understanding of arsenokoites by claiming that:
“simply looking at a word’s component parts doesn’t necessarily tell us what it means. There are many English words where this approach would fail: for example, the words ‘understand,’ ‘butterfly,’ ‘honeymoon.’ The component parts here – ‘honey’ and ‘moon’ – really don’t tell us anything about what that word actually means.”
But Vines is very much mistaken in this conclusion. Looking at a word’s component parts does tell us what that word means, and in fact, the three English words that he cited are great examples of this fact.
The word “understand” is composed of the Old English word unter (in the midst of) and the word “stand” which reveals to us that to understand a concept is to stand in the midst of it or, in other words, to be surrounded by it and see it all around you. The word “butterfly” refers to a type of flying insect that was frequently observed hovering (flying) around butter churns. And the word “honeymoon” refers to the sweetness (honey) of the first month (moon) of a marriage.
The same thing is true of arsenokoites. The definitions of the two root words arsen and koites provide us with a proper understanding of this terms meaning. The combination of these two terms allows for no other meaning than “men who have coitus with men.”
This definition follows the pattern of similar words in the Greek literature. For example, Hipponax, writing in the sixth century BC, tells us of a man named Bupalus who was a maitrokoites of his mother Arete. I have not been able to find a single author of any level of learning who has failed to recognize this term as meaning “a man who has coitus with his mother.” The word is formed by combining the Greek term for mother (maitra) with the word koites. Similarly, a second century tale entitled “The Life of Aesop” refers to a man as a doulokoites which is to say that he was a man who had intercourse with slaves (doulos). These terms illustrate that it was an accepted practice in the Greek language to combine the term for the recipient of sexual intercourse with the word koites as a description of men engaging in intercourse with that kind of partner. Arsenokoites follows this same pattern of etymology, and must be translated in the same vein to mean “men who have coitus with men.”
Vines sneered at the idea that “we can determine the meaning of this term from its etymology.” But if we were to do an etymological study on the word “etymology” itself, we would find that it is a combination of two Greek words – etymas meaning “true” and logia meaning “sense.” Etymology then is the study of the true sense of words. For Vines to deny that the meaning of a word can be determined by its etymology is literally nonsensical. In essence, he has claimed that we cannot determine a word’s true meaning by studying its true meaning.
For me, this claim was the defining moment of Vines’ entire presentation. After more than an hour of lies and deceptions, he finally arrived at the pinnacle of foolishness by claiming that studying the truth will lead us into falsehood. Here his entire position is laid bare for the folly that it is. Vines hasn’t discovered some new, groundbreaking truth which eluded the ancients. Rather he has refused what he knows to be the truth and now seeks to justify his folly. Professing himself to be wise, he has become a fool; and refusing to glorify God in his body he has descended to the depth of uncleanness through the lust of his own heart.
Bill Fortenberry is a Christian philosopher and historian in Birmingham, AL. Bill's work has been cited in several legal journals, and he has appeared as a guest on shows including The Dr. Gina Show, The Michael Hart Show, and Real Science Radio.
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