The essay by Marshal Alan Phillips ("New Bible erases homosexual bias," Buffalo News, Dec. 8) makes several critical errors regarding the Biblical doctrine on homosexual practices.
Phillips claims that the New Revised Standard Version of the Bible more accurately translates Greek and Hebrew terms which have been taken in previous translations to proscribe all homosexual behavior.
The result, he maintains, is that "intolerance of same-sex relationships was not an essential feature of early Christianity."
He further bases his thesis on purported scholarship which relies on "research into the legal, theological, artistic and scientific records of Greek writers contemporary with (the Apostle) Paul" who, in the majority of translations, appears to designate homosexuality as a sin.
Phillips asserts that according to philological studies by Yale professor John Boswell, "There is no reason to believe that the two Greek words (used by Paul) arsenokoitai and malakoi connoted homosexuality." Both Boswell and Phillips are wrong here.
Arsenokoitai derives from arsen (male) and koite (marriage bed, intercourse) and should be plainly understood as meaning male intercourse. Malakoi, on the other hand, was used in classical Greek to refer to young men who willingly submitted to sodomy, and did not generally include prostitution with females.
Both the Old and New Testaments stand in distinct conflict with the sexual practices of their respective worlds. The Israelites, although inhabitants of Canaan, were directed to avoid the immoral practices of the Canaanites (Leviticus 18:22; Deuteronomy 23:18) and Christians are instructed to renounce the immorality of their world (Galatians 5:19).
Early Christian rejection of homosexuality as sin was based directly on the Old Testament condemnation of such practices.
There is virtually no evidence for the contention that the apostolic church "affirmed same-sex relationships." What Phillips is plainly attempting to do is reach for legitimacy by rewriting the Bible and its historical context.
REV. PAUL SCHENCK
President, National Clergy Council