Was “homosexual” mistranslated?



I recently came upon a claim that, because of mistranslation, homosexuality was condemned even though it isn’t stated as being bad. I read certain people explaining that I Corinthians 6:9-10 is mistranslated since “homosexual” wasn’t even a word in Ancient Greek. They even claim that only the abuse of boys by older men was the issue.

I wanted to know your take, and if you’ve heard of these claims before.


Yes, I have heard these sorts of arguments before. See Is homosexuality condemned in the Scriptures? This answer gives details about each of the Greek words and cites sources to show that homosexuality was being described.

What you ran across is typical poor argumentation. The people making these arguments count on the fact that few people will bother to check their assertions since another language is involved. Let's take "'homosexual' wasn't even a word in Ancient Greek." The statement is actually true. "Homosexual" is an English word. English developed over a 1,000 years after ancient Greek. However, this doesn't mean that homosexuality was unknown to the ancient Greeks or that they didn't have a way of talking about homosexuality in their language.

The second tactic is to try and redefine the meaning of words to make them either different or more narrow. This permits the arguer to believe that his particular actions are not covered by the condemnation.  First, note that this second argument contradicts the first argument that homosexuality wasn't a word in ancient Greek. This second argument is that it only covers the sexual abuse of boys by older men. Thus, the arguer is saying that abuse by similarly aged males is not condemned (probably an unintentional consequence of the poor argument) and that consensual sex regardless of age is not condemned (which is what he was likely aiming for). The problem is that the arguer cannot prove that his definition is correct. At best, he might cite an instance where an older man sexually abused a boy and it was called a homosexual act, but such does not prove that the word was limited to only those situations. Besides multiple Greek words were used in the Bible to refer to homosexuality. The arguer has the burden of proving that all of them have an equally limited meaning. You have to remember that a claim is not proof. It only sets out what the arguer intends to prove but too many take the claim as equivalent to evidence.

  • Notes on Homosexuality gives a long list of passages that refer to homosexuality in the Old and New Testaments.


Thank you for the response it was very helpful. Also thank you for references to the other notes I read through them and they helped out as well.

Print Friendly, PDF & Email