Why did Paul write a letter to the Corinthians?

Homosexuality Is Not a Sin Homosexuality Is a Sin

According to the Christian author Murphy-O'Connor, when Paul wrote 1 Cor. 6:12-20, Paul was condemning a homosexual man with woman-styled hair who had become a leader within the Corinthian church. No historical records exist that support Murphy-O'Connor's claim, and he does not cite any sources supporting his statement. Unfortunately, it is not obvious to the average reader that Murphy-O'Connor's claim is based solely on his interpretation on the Bible and not on any historical facts, and it's scary how some authors attempt to rewrite history based only on their opinions.

Historical records show that Paul's affluent followers in Corinth, who also were the church's leaders, were Phoebe, Gauis, Crispus, Titus, Justus, Erastus, and Stephanas, according to the historian Griffith-Jones,1 and Cloe, Stephanus, Fortunatus, Achaicus, Sosthenes, and Timothy according to the historian Chiltion.2 None of these leaders, especially the male leaders, are described as homosexuals with long hair.3

At any rate, historians agree that the major sin that disgusted Paul in 1 Corinthians, other than idolatry, gluttony, and fornication, was incest between a son and his mother, as stated in and 1 Cor. 5:1"It is actually reported that there is sexual immorality among you, and of a kind that is not tolerated even among pagans, for a man has his father's wife" 1 Cor. 5:1 ESV..4 In 1 Cor. 5:2-5"And you are arrogant! Ought you not rather to mourn? Let him who has done this be removed from among you. For though absent in body, I am present in spirit; and as if present, I have already pronounced judgment on the one who did such a thing. When you are assembled in the name of the Lord Jesus and my spirit is present, with the power of our Lord Jesus, you are to deliver this man to Satan for the destruction of the flesh, so that his spirit may be saved in the day of the Lord" 1 Cor. 5:2-5 ESV., Paul expresses his deep revulsion over the incestuous relationship and announces his judgment that the man belongs in hell. This individual is the only person who Paul specifically condemns in 1 Corinthians. In all of the other verses, whenever Paul is condemning a sin, he addresses the congregation as a whole. Thus, based on the Bible, we know that Paul wasn't speaking out against "a male homosexual with a magnificent female hair-do" at Corinth; instead, he specifically admonished a newly converted Christian who was guilty of incestuous relations with his mother, and he also chastised the entire Corinth congregation for their various sins.

Paul wrote a letter to the Corinthians to chastise the Corinthians for their idolatry, gluttony, and sexual sins. The sexual sins included incest (as stated in 1 Cor. 5:1"It is actually reported that there is sexual immorality among you, and of a kind that is not tolerated even among pagans, for a man has his father's wife" 1 Cor. 5:1 ESV.), adultery, fornicators, and male homosexuality, as stated in 1 Cor. 6:9"Or do you not know that the unrighteous will not inherit the kingdom of God? Do not be deceived: neither the sexually immoral, nor idolaters . . ." 1 Cor. 6:9 ESV.. We know that Paul reprimanded the Corinthians for their homosexual activities, along with other sexual indiscretions, because Paul is the first person to use the term arsenokoitēs, which refers to male homosexuality.1

Moreover, Paul also admonishes men who grow their hair long, as stated in 1 Cor. 11:14"Does not nature itself teach you that if a man wears long hair it is a disgrace for him . . ." 1 Cor. 11:14 ESV., because during Paul's time, men with long hair were often viewed as "effeminate" and possibly homosexual, which was disgraceful (see 1 Cor. 6:9 KJV"Know ye not that the unrighteous shall not inherit the kingdom of God? Be not deceived: neither fornicators, nor idolaters, nor adulterers, nor effeminate, nor abusers of themselves with mankind . . ." 1 Cor. 6:9 KJV., which states that the "effeminate" will not enter into the kingdom of heaven).2 Thus, when Paul wrote 1 Corinthians, he was admonishing "a male homosexual with a magnificent female hair-do" who had become a leader within the Corinthian church.3 Paul was afraid that this man would steer the congregation in the wrong direction, down the path of sexual immorality. Because Paul disapproved of this individual and his lifestyle, he created the term arsenokoitēs to oust this toxic leader from the church and to discourage Christians from following his example.

Similarly, we know of men who are like the Corinthian leader that Paul condemned and who are prevalent in society today. These men must follow Paul's instructions and renounce their homosexual desires in order to follow God's will. Only after male homosexuals renounce their sexual desires with God's help and Jesus Christ's grace will they be eligible to enter into the kingdom of heaven.

1Griffith-Jones, 2004, p. 274-75, 278 Return

2Chilton, B. 2004, p. 206-07 Return

3Griffith-Jones, 2004, p. 274-75, 278; Chilton, B. 2004, p. 206-07; Gager, 2000;  Knox, 1950; Enslin, 1957; Chilton, 2004; Ehrman, 2006 Return

4"In 1 Cor. 5 Paul declares himself in the matter of incest, for that is what πορνεία must indicate, since the man had his father's wife. . . . Apparently the woman was the offender's stepmother; whether or not the father was dead is not said. In either case the crime remained. The Jewish law forbade intercourse with one's mother or stepmother on penalty of being stoned to death" Enslin, 1957, p. 149). Return


1 Tim. 1:10 & 1 Cor. 6:9 Home

1Glesne, 2004, p. 126 Return

2St. John Chrysostom, a theologian, "cautioned parents not to let their son's hair grow long. Long hair, he said, made a boy look effeminate, softening the ruggedness of his sex. Long-hair boys, Chrysostom believed, were particularly attractive to pederasts" (Spencer, 1995, p. 87). Return

3"A similarly childish understanding of Paul's insistence that there was no place for traditional differences in the church found expression in the community's acceptance of a male homosexual with a magnificent female hair-do as a leader in the liturgical assembly (1 Cor. 6: 12-20)" (Murphy-O'Connor, 2004, p. 161). Return


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