So what does Paul’s “vice list” say about homosexuality? That’s the tricky part.
The first word Paul uses is “malakoi,” which means “soft” in Greek, according to Allen. By analogy, the word came to mean “effeminate,” which is how the King James Version of the Bible translates it.
“In the ancient world, it would refer to a boy in a relationship with an older man,” Allen said. “It was pederasty, not homosexuality as we think of it today.”
The other relevant word on Paul’s “vice list” is “arsenokotai,” which means “male sex.” It refers to the other half in the man-boy relationship, common in Greece at the time, Allen said, the older male having sex with the “soft one.”
“It isn’t anything to do with what we would see today in an intimate, mutual relationship between gay adults,” said Allen, who is co-authoring an upcoming book on homosexuality and heterosexuality in the church.