The word used for them that defile themselves with mankind is arsenokoites. Arsenokoites is a compound word where the Greek word arseno means man or male and the Greek word koite which means bed or couch.
The origin of the word is thought to coined by either Paul or the Hellenistic Jews. The word could mean shrine prostitute, pederasty or it could possibly refer to incest. We cannot be sure what the true meaning of the word is since it is a made up word.
In Rick Brentlinger’s book Gay Christian 101, Spiritual Self-Defense For Gay Christians, a heterosexual linguistic scholar, James Barr makes the statement:
“The main point is that the etymology of a word is not a statement about its meaning but about its history… it is quite wrong to suppose that the etymology of a word is necessarily a guide either to its ‘proper’ meaning in a later period or to its actual meaning in that period.”
Nongays attempt to make the individual meanings of male (arseno) and bed (koite) to mean homosexual with no regard to the historic usage of the word. If someone living 2000 years from now tried to accurately define a modern compound word such as jitterbug or fancypants, they would probably come up with a definition far from what the words actually mean.
Even though it is impossible to know exactly what arsenokoites actually means, there is a clue in a quote by John the Faster, Patriarch of Constantinople, around AD 575. This is another quote from Gay Christian 101.
“One must also ask about the perplexing, beguiling, and shadowy sin of incest, of which there are not just one or two varieties but a great many very different ones. One type is committed with two sisters of the same father or mother (or both). [Jacob with Leah and Rachel] Another involves a cousin; another the daughter of a cousin; another the wife of one’s son; another the wife of one’s brother. It is one thing with a mother-in-law or the sister of a mother-in-law, another with a stepmother or a father’s concubine. Some even do it with their own mothers and others with foster sisters or goddaughters. In fact, many men even commit the sin of arsenokoitia with their wives.”
From the above quote it is clear arsenokoites does not mean homosexual at least John the Faster did not think so. The meaning of the word is unclear and all one can really do is make a guess to what arsenokoites actually means. That being said, it is a giant leap to translate the word as homosexual.
There is not enough evidence to point to any particular behavior and make it stick. If Paul was really condemning homosexuality, he would not have been so vague. He would have used a word the ancients understood to mean homosexual, not a made up word in which the definition is not clear.