Jewish scripture helps
”But what went ye out for to see? A man clothed in soft raiment? (malakos) behold, they that wear soft clothing (malakos) are in king’s houses.” - Matthew 11:8.
“But what went ye out for to see? A man clothed in soft raiment? (malakos) Behold, they which are gorgeously apparelled, and live delicately, are in king’s houses.” - Luke 7:25.
Effeminacy in New Testament times frequently had nothing to do with homosexuality. In New Testament times, malakoi or effeminacy equated with harlotry and frequently described a heterosexual, vainly obsessed with appearance.
Clement clearly equates the softness of luxurious, finely made, brightly colored clothing, facial makeup and excessive attention to one’s hair, by women and men, with harlotry but not with homosexuality.
Thus, Clement’s use of the malakos word group agrees with the Biblical witness of the Old Testament and with Jesus’ use of malakos in the New Testament.
“[W]hat are we to imagine ought to be said of love of ornament, and dyeing of wool, and variety of colours, and fastidiousness about gems, and exquisite working of gold, and still more, of artificial hair and wreathed curls; and furthermore, of staining the eyes, and plucking out hairs, and painting with rouge and white lead, and dyeing of the hair, and the wicked arts that are employed in such deceptions...
I admire that ancient city of the Lacedaemonians which permitted harlots alone to wear flowered clothes, and ornaments of gold, interdicting respectable women from love of ornament, and allowing courtesans alone to deck themselves. [Courtesans were high priced female prostitutes, mistresses for rich men].
On the other hand, the archons [male rulers] of the Athenians, who affected a polished mode of life, forgetting their manhood, wore tunics reaching to the feet, and had on the crobulus - a kind of knot of the hair - adorned with a fastening of gold grasshoppers, to show their origin from the soil, forsooth, in the ostentation of licentiousness. Now rivalry of these archons extended also to the other Ionians, whom Homer, to show their effeminancy, calls "Long-robed...
For if the female sex, on account of their weakness, desire more, we ought to blame the habit of that evil training, by which often men reared up in bad habits become more effeminate than women...
they [women] may be permitted to use softer clothes, provided they put out of the way fabrics foolishly thin, and of curious texture in weaving; bidding farewell to embroidery of gold and Indian silks and elaborate Bombyces [silks]...
For these superfluous and diaphanous materials are the proof of a weak mind, covering as they do the shame of the body with a slender veil. For luxurious clothing, which cannot conceal the shape of the body, is no more a covering. For such clothing, falling close to the body, takes its form more easily, and adhering as it were to the flesh, receives its shape, and marks out the woman's figure, so that the whole make of the body is visible to spectators, though not seeing the body itself."
Clement, The Instructor, Book II, Chapter 11, On Clothing.
are absolutely clear
Let's allow Clement to further define malakoi. “decoration makes women courtesans [prostitutes], and men effeminate and adulterers... they become effeminate, cutting their hair in an ungentlemanlike and meretricious way [meretricius is Latin, indicating a prostitute who attracts attention in a vulgar manner], clothed in fine and transparent garments, chewing mastich, smelling of perfume.
What can one say on seeing them? Like one who judges people by their foreheads [Jeremiah 3:3 - “thou hadst a whore’s forehead, thou refusedst to be ashamed,” Jeremiah 6:15, 8:12, Revelation 17:5], he will divine them to be adulterers and effeminate, addicted to both kinds of venery, haters of hair, destitute of hair, detesting the bloom of manliness [facial hair and body hair], and adorning their locks like women... those who take out hair by pitch-plasters, shave, and pluck out hairs from these womanish creatures...
Such are those addicted to base passions, whose whole body is made smooth... But for those who are men to shave and smooth themselves, how ignoble! As for dyeing of hair, and anointing of grey locks, and dyeing them yellow, these are practices of abandoned effeminates; and their feminine combing of themselves is a thing to be let alone.”
Clement, The Instructor, Book III, Chapters 2-3, On Drinking & On Costly Vessels.
Clement did not define malakoi as gay, lesbian or homosexual.
The apostle Paul did not define malakoi to mean homosexuality. Instead, Paul used malakoi in precisely the same way Jesus and Clement used the malakos stem. It does not make sense that Paul used the word malakoi with a meaning completely different from the meaning Jesus and Clement gave the word.
It does not make sense to insist that Paul would define malakoi in a way none of his first century readers would understand, as a universal condemnation of all homosexual practice. When we define malakoi, we must remember that no author in ancient Greek literature used malakoi as an all-encompassing term to describe homosexual practice or to describe gays and lesbians. Remember the most basic rule for interpreting scripture.
Paul did not intend his readers to understand his use of malakoi to mean a proscription of all homosexual practice. That false interpretation of 1 Cor 6:9 is a twenty-first century spin which could not possibly have been the meaning of malakoi in the first century.
Paul did not define malakoi as meaning homosexuality when he used it. In fact, since Paul had already used the word pornoi, meaning male prostitutes in this 1 Cor 6:9 vice list, he must have intended to define malakoi as meaning something other than male prostitutes.
The word malakoi, as Paul used it, conveyed the idea of moral weakness, love of fine clothing and jewelry, dressing like a harlot, spiritual and physical adultery, love of luxury or excessive pursuit of heterosexual sex.
We must be accurate when we define malakoi. Malakoi was on rare occasions, used as an epithet to describe a male prostitute. Yet that usage was not the predominate meaning of malakoi and did not encompass every kind of homosexual practice.
And since Paul has already mentioned pornoi (male prostitutes) in this vice list, there is no reason to assume he is repeating himself by mentioning malakoi with the same meaning of male prostitute.
In plainer words, when Rawlinson wants to define malakoi, he relates it to specific kinds of sexual sin, frequently practiced by heterosexuals. The word malakoi was never used in the Bible or in the ancient Greek language, as a general term to condemn all homosexuals.
“One fruit of this system was the extraordinary institution of the Galli. The Galli were men, who made themselves as much like women as they could, and offered themselves for purposes of unnatural lust to either sex [anal intercourse to worship the fertility goddess]. Their existence may be traced in Israel and Judah, [1 Kings 14:24, 15:12] as well as in Syria and Phoenicia.
At great festivals, under the influence of strong excitement, amid the din of flutes and drums and wild songs, a number of the male devotees would snatch up swords or knives, which lay ready for the purpose, throw off their garments, and coming forward with a loud shout, proceed to castrate themselves openly.
They would then run through the streets of the city, with the mutilated parts in their hands, and throw them into the houses of the inhabitants, who were bound in such case to provide the thrower with all the apparel and other gear needful for a woman. This apparel they thenceforth wore, and were recognised as attached to the worship of Astarte, entitled to reside in her temples, and authorised to take part in her ceremonies.
They joined with the priests and the sacred women [qedesha] at festival times in frenzied dances and other wild orgies, shouting, and cutting themselves [as the prophets of Baal in 1 Kings 18:19, 28] on the arms, and submitting to be flogged one by another.
At other seasons they "wandered from place to place, taking with them a veiled image or symbol of their goddess, and clad in women's apparel of many colours, and with their faces and eyes painted in female fashion, armed with swords and scourges, they threw themselves by a wild dance into bacchanalian ecstasy, in which their long hair was draggled through the mud...” George Rawlinson, History of Phoenicia, Chapter 11.
Josephus did not define malakoi as gay, lesbian or homosexual but did define it as effeminate. “40. Let those that have made themselves eunuchs be had in detestation; and do you avoid any conversation with them who have deprived themselves of their manhood, and of that fruit of generation which God has given to men for the increase of their kind:
let such be driven away, as if they had killed their children, since they beforehand have lost what should procure them; for evident it is, that while their soul is become effeminate, they have withal transfused that effeminacy to their body also.”
Josephus, Antiquities of the Jews, 4.8.40.
If you asked him to define malakoi, here is what John Calvin wrote. “By effeminate persons I understand those who, although they do not openly abandon themselves to impurity, discover, nevertheless, their unchastity by blandishments of speech, by lightness of gesture and apparel, and other allurements.”
Calvin’s Commentary On 1 Corinthians, 6:9, John Calvin.
John Gill disagreed with almost every modern preacher who uses 1 Cor 6:9 to preach against homosexuals. If you define malakoi to mean homosexual, you should ask yourself why John Calvin and John Gill and most preachers since Paul wrote 1 Corinthians disagree with you on your definition.
Here is what John Gill wrote to define malakoi. Nor effeminate “or "soft," or, as the Syriac renders it, "corrupters;" that is, of themselves, by voluntary pollution, such as are guilty of the sin of Onan, (Genesis 38:8,9).”
John Gill, Exposition of the Bible, Comment on 1 Cor 6:9.
“Clothed in soft raiment. The kind of raiment here denoted was the light, thin clothing worn by effeminate persons... This kind of clothing was an emblem of riches, splendour, effeminacy, feebleness of character.”
Barnes, Notes, Comments on Matthew 11:8.
Commenting on malakoi in 1 Cor 6:9, Barnes is of two minds when he attempts to define malakoi. First, he agrees with his assessment of the meaning of malakos in Matthew 11:8.
“Applied to morals, as it is here [I Cor 6:9], it denotes those who give themselves up to a soft, luxurious, and indolent way of living; who make self-indulgence the grand object of life; who can endure no hardship, and practise no self-denial in the cause of duty and of God.”
Then, Barnes changes his mind and asserts that the connection in Paul’s vice list “seems to demand” the interpretation that malakoi refers to pederasty, [a specific form of same sex practice] which was common among the Greeks and to a lesser extent, among the Romans in Paul’s day.
“The word is applied in the classic writers to the Cinaedi, the Pathics, or Catamites; those who are given up to wantonness and sensual pleasures, or who are kept to be prostituted to others. Diog. Laer. vii. 5, 4; Xenoph. Mem. iii. 7, 1; Ovid, Fast. iv. 342. The connexion here seems to demand such an interpretation, as it occurs in the description of vices of the same class - sensual and corrupt indulgences. It is well known that this vice was common among the Greeks - and particularly prevailed at Corinth.”
Barnes, Notes, Comments on 1 Corinthians 6:9.
This prominent Chicago pastor says nothing about homosexuality in defining the meaning of malakoi. Speaking of soft, effeminate Christians, Redpath decries the way they co-mingle the world and Christianity in their lives.
Define malakoi. “There is no clear line of demarcation; they love being coddled and they do not like being challenged.”
Alan Redpath, The Royal Route To Heaven, Studies In First Corinthians, Moody, Chicago, 1960, p. 70-71.
Redpath understood malakoi to describe self-indulgent, worldly Christians, not homosexuality.
Dr. Fee’s opinion, that malakoi in 1 Cor 6:9 refers to the younger, “passive” partner in a pederastic relationship is, in his own words “a best guess” about what Paul meant.
Dr. Fee critiques his own opinion by pointing out that there was a technical word in the Greek language to describe such men and
According to this leading heterosexual evangelical New Testament scholar, we cannot be sure what malakoi means in Paul's 1 Cor 6:9 vice list. According to Dr. Fee, his opinion that it means the younger partner in a homosexual relationship is nothing more than “a best guess.”
"malakos is seldom, if ever so used. Since it is not the ordinary word for such homosexual behavior, one cannot be sure what it means in a list like this."
Gordon D. Fee, The First Epistle To The Corinthians, Eerdmans, Grand Rapids, 1991, p. 244.
Based on these quotations from our spiritual ancestors, most of whom did not define malakoi to mean homosexual, it should be clear that most Christians, over the last two thousand years, did not define malakoi in 1 Corinthians 6:9, to mean a universal condemnation of gay and lesbians, did not even view the use of malakoi 1 Cor 6:9 a reference to homosexuality at all.
This page revised October 14, 2011