Abarim Publications' online Biblical Greek Dictionary
The adjective αρσην (arsen) means male, and, you'll be glad to know, is not directly related to our English word "arse", which stems from the Proto-Indo-European root "ors-", meaning back or buttocks. Still, the Hebrew word for buttocks is the same as the name Seth, the youngest son of Adam and Eve, in whose days men began to call upon the name of YHWH (Genesis 4:26).
Commentators who have not yet had the opportunity to contemplate the meaning of "I will open My mouth in parables; I will utter things hidden since the foundation of the world" (Matthew 13:35) may be forgiven to mistake the genre of the creation story (which tells of the first events after the foundation of the world) for photographic realism. Others take the Word at his word and wonder what the creation story might be a parable of.
Since the Bible is a huge fractal, the story of creation fits many a natural cycle, so no single solution should be expected to be the only one. One solution comes with the match with the Hot Big Bang Inflation model (with the matter-antimatter breach on day two, the rise of baryonic and non-baryon particles plus the nucleosynthesis on day three, and matter-radiation decoupling on day four). Another one shows meditations on the evolution of information technology and specifically the human societies this allowed to rise from the larger biosphere of animals.
In antiquity, femininity was associated with collectivity and masculinity with individuality — which is why nations and peoples were called "mothers" (see our article on the Hebrew noun אם, 'em), and their kings and formal governments (including God and his divine government) were deemed "father" (hence the noun אב, 'ab). Their citizens were their children (hence the noun בן, ben) and the young and foolish ones sat with their mothers and were one with the women, whereas the elder and wiser ones sat with their father and were one with the men.
The Hebrew word for masculinity comes from the verb זכר (zakar), meaning to remember. The Hebrew word for femininity comes from the verb נקב (naqab), meaning to pierce or bore. That suggests that the Hebrews had a pretty good handle on the transference of genetic material, from the male into the female, which is precisely the process upon which the design of the tabernacle was based — the purpose of the tabernacle was to house the Ark of the Covenant, whose contents was the Law, divided over two discrete data sets, one pertaining to the Father and the other to the Mother. Jesus Christ, in turn, is depicted as a national gamete, whose sole genetic material was maternal (and since Mary was a Levite, so was Jesus of Nazareth, genetically speaking). In life, Jesus was an ovum, and thus masculine, but when merged with the paternal Holy Spirit, he became the feminine church his legal constitution demanded (see our article on Stephen for more on this).
The Greek word for female is θελυς (thelus), which comes from the noun θηλη (thele), meaning nipple. That means that the Hebrew sense of male and female relates to conception, whereas the Greek one relates to lactation. And milk (or γαλα, gala), is the Bible's metaphor for the elementary instruction of very young children (1 Corinthians 3:2, 1 Peter 2:2).
Masculinity relates to a living cell's genetic constitution, a conscious mind's knowledge, and a nation's formal government, and femininity to a living cell's body, a conscious mind's sphere of awareness, and a nation's general population (1 John 5:7).
As Paul warns in Romans 1:26-27, when a general population, which over time has naturally formed through its interaction with its own government, abandons her formal government and joins some other population, both populations will ultimately destabilize and disintegrate. And when the government of one population, which over time has naturally formed through its interaction with its own population, merges with some other, wholly new government, they both will become utterly forgotten. Likewise, minds that embrace a wholly new doctrine in addition to what to what they have always known to be real, will spiral into madness. Living cells that embrace an additional genetic code will succumb to viral invasion or cancer.
Our adjective αρσην (arsen) occurs 9 times in the New Testament, see full concordance, and from it derives:
- Together with the noun κοιτη (koite), bed, or rather place of central governance: the challenging noun αρσενοκοιτης (arsenokoites), literally male-marriage-chamberer (1 Corinthians 6:9 and 1 Timothy 1:10 only). Possibly because of the accidental similarity with the Latin word coitus — which instead stems from the prefix com, meaning joint or together — and probably due to the long transcended human weakness to condemn what's not understood, this noun αρσενοκοιτης (arsenokoites) was long considered to describe a male homosexual. But this is certainly not correct.
The Greco-Roman world had neither shortage nor shame of homosexual intercourse and our word does not occur anywhere in the Greek classics. If Paul had wanted to specifically discuss the very familiar act of homosexuality, he wouldn't have used this word. Instead, he seems to have willfully referred to Leviticus 18:22 and 20:13, whose Septuagint translations indeed uses our two source words αρσην (arsen) and κοιτη (koite). The question now rather becomes: why did Paul use a word that deliberately averted any attention away from physical sexuality and toward a lengthy passage in the Torah?
Paul wrote just before the Jewish revolt that would result in the destruction of the temple in Jerusalem, the massacre of two million Jews and the effective termination of Judaism as it was known until then. As we discuss in our article on the name Philemon, Paul wrote about very sensitive political topics and routinely committed acts of high treason against the emperor (for instance by calling Jesus the Son of God, which was in fact an imperial title of Caesar Augustus). Roman censure compelled Paul to write in parables and metaphors, with references to many other texts (many extra-Biblical), which any learned person would easily recognize but would elude the Roman brutes. Unfortunately they also eluded early Roman Catholic commentators.
What these same early Christian commentators also didn't comprehend was that following Christ has nothing to do with proper doctrine but rather with sustaining a living mind, nothing with obedience to established rules and everything with growth, dialogue, review, adaptation and intellectual evolution. Paul wrote about what we moderns call statecraft (1 Corinthians 15:24), logic and science (1 Thessalonians 5:21), and our adjective speaks of incompatible systems of formal governance — legislation and administrative complexes; Ephesians 1:21, 6:12 — not about dudes bedding dudes.