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» Ship of Fools   » Special interest discussion   » Dead Horses   » Does this mean Homosexuals?

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Source: (consider it) Thread: Does this mean Homosexuals?
Robert Armin

All licens'd fool
# 182

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A little while ago our Chapter of Anglican clergy were discussing what the Church's attitude to homosexuality should be. Before this gets shunted to Dead Horses, I want to ask a very Kerygmaniacal question. One of the key passages is 1 Cor 6. 9,10, translated in the NIV as: neither the sexually immoral nor idolaters nor adulterers nor men who have sex with men[a] 10 nor thieves nor the greedy nor drunkards nor slanderers nor swindlers will inherit the kingdom of God. Footnote to NIV: The words "men who have sex with men" translate two Greek words that refer to the passive and active participants in homosexual acts.

However, I'm not at all sure that footnote is right. The first word "malakoi" means soft, is never used elsewhere in NT of a person, and so most likely is "weak willed". The second word "arsenokoitai" (ἀρσενοκοῖται) only appears here and 1 Tim 1.8-11. Since this is its first usage anywhere it is hard to be sure of its meaning, but its derivation seems to be: "arsēn" means "male", and "koitēn" "bed". Male prostitution? The term is used by Aristides of Athens (c. 138) clearly not for homosexuality and possibly for prostitution, Eusebius (d. c. 340) who evidently used it in reference to women. From 6th Century seems to be used for anal intercourse.

Most of that last paragraph is a summary of the Wikipedia article, and provoked a lively discussion. On the whole I trust the scholarship of Shipmates more than I do Wiki, so I was wondering if the Greek and Patristic scholars on board think that "homosexuals" is an accurate translation of "arsenokoitai" or not.

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Alan Cresswell

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# 31

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I've heard it said that the Septuagint uses the words arseno and koitai in Leviticus 18:22 and 20:13. The implication is that although Paul creates a new word by combining them, he's clearly referring back to the Leviticus passages, and thus clearly any sort of homosexual activity. Of course, why Paul wanted to invent a new word rather than just lift the words straight from the Septuagint isn't as easy to explain. And, certainly that nice and easy theory gets very murky indeed when Paul's word gets used within a couple of centuries, by people who would be fluent in Greek and knew the Septuagint backwards, in ways that don't read like simple homosexuality - indeed possibly not homosexuality at all.

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Trudy Scrumptious

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And, just like that, it's getting shunted to Dead Horses! Fasten your seatbelts and enjoy the ride.

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Belle Ringer
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# 13379

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I have read argument that Paul's word refers to male prostitutes, not to male love relationships expressed sexually. I am not a word scholar and cannot judge the various arguments.
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Macrina
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No, for the simple reason that if you went back to Paul today and tried to talk to him about the church's struggle with reconciling the Bible to LGBT people he wouldn't even know what an LGBT person was. The ideas we have about sexual orientation and sexuality period are so vastly removed from Paul's worldview that I don't think we can say the Bible means what we think it means in this instance.
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lilBuddha
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Plus Paul wasn't keen on sex and romantic relationships of any kind.

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balaam

Making an ass of myself
# 4543

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quote:
Originally posted by Robert Armin:
Fom 6th Century seems to be used for anal intercourse.

Except where it was used to mean masturbarion.

The Acts of Paul (2nd Century) and the Sibylline Oracles (3rd or 4th Century) have the word in a list of sins relating to economics. In the 6th century the Patriarch of Constantinople used Arsenokoites in a sentence where if the word was about homosexuality would mean men committing homosexuality with their wives. Shortly before the reformation the word was used to refer to masturbation. The word has a long and varied history.

In short we have no idea what Paul meant. There is no "Yes, it means homosexuality," or "No, it does not mean homosexuality," we simply do not know.

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balaam

Making an ass of myself
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quote:
Originally posted by Belle Ringer:
I have read argument that Paul's word refers to male prostitutes, not to male love relationships expressed sexually. I am not a word scholar and cannot judge the various arguments.

That is because some, not all, believe the Leviticus passage that both parts of the word were taken from was about temple prostitution. Yet again there is no consensus, we simply do not know.

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Highfive
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quote:
Originally posted by balaam:
quote:
Originally posted by Robert Armin:
Fom 6th Century seems to be used for anal intercourse.

Except where it was used to mean masturbarion.

The Acts of Paul (2nd Century) and the Sibylline Oracles (3rd or 4th Century) have the word in a list of sins relating to economics. In the 6th century the Patriarch of Constantinople used Arsenokoites in a sentence where if the word was about homosexuality would mean men committing homosexuality with their wives. Shortly before the reformation the word was used to refer to masturbation. The word has a long and varied history.

In short we have no idea what Paul meant. There is no "Yes, it means homosexuality," or "No, it does not mean homosexuality," we simply do not know.

I have two homosexual neighbours so I've been very interested in this translation. I'll refer you to a topic on another forum and point to the last post by "Jase" in the topic: http://www.christianforums.com/t7645846-4/
(apologies, mods, if this is against forums rules)

Was Paul quoting the Septuagint?

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Alan Cresswell

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# 31

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quote:
Originally posted by Highfive:
Was Paul quoting the Septuagint?

He clearly takes two words that appear together in Leviticus and turns them into a single word. So, it seems almost impossible that Paul is making a reference to Leviticus. But, he doesn't use any of the other words associated with those verses, no "detestable" for example. And, if he wanted to make the link to those verses clear, why did he merge two words into one rather than leaving them separate?

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leo
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# 1458

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Renato Lings suggests that malakoi referenced Jesus’s use of the term, which talks of ‘men in soft raiment who live in king’s houses’ – the idle rich who probably exploit others.

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Starlight
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I've looked over the evidence regarding the meaning of 1 Cor 6:9 quite a number of times over the years.

Some conclusions I've reached:
1. The NIV footnote claiming that the words refer to the 'active' and 'passive' partners in homosexual acts can be flatly ruled out as totally implausible.
a) The theory suffers from an almost complete lack of any evidence whatsoever. Its historical origins seem to be that anti-gay Christians wish it was true.
b) It's also almost completely implausible at face value because the word malakos is a common word, while arsenokoites is an exceptionally rare word, and if you have two words like "top" and "bottom" or "active" and "passive" for two different components of the same act, you should expect to see those words occur:
(i) with similar frequency within the language. We find the exact opposite.
(ii) together regularly. We find the exact opposite.

2. The word malakos is a very common word that can mean 'soft' and a huge variety of other meanings like 'gentle' or 'used to luxury' or 'cowardly' or 'flexible' or 'weak' etc, much in line with flexibility of the English word 'soft'. It's meaning is not typically sexual. Its meaning in a moral context is often something along the lines of "lacking the strength of will to control desires", so "lack of self-control" might be a decent English translation. An antonym used for it was karteria (perseverence), suggesting that malakos is about being 'too weak' to persevere, or too used to luxury, etc. There's no particular reason to opt for any sort of sexual translation of it in 1 Cor 6:9.

3. Arsenokoites is a really hard one to translate simply because of the lack of surviving evidence. Some general comments:
a) I find the theory that Paul invented it and expected his readers to know its meaning based on Leviticus 18/20, to be extremely implausible. The idea that Paul's readers would say "here is a word we do not understand, let us go through the bible page by page without a computer's help to find out where the parts of this word occur within one sentence and therefore conclude that its meaning must be a reference to that verse deep in the bowels of Leviticus where we have finally found it" seems so absurd as to be not worth taking seriously.
b) The very rare surviving passages in which arsenokoites is used seem to imply a diverse range of meanings, suggesting that:
i) Perhaps this was an ad-hoc word that wasn't a standard Greek word at all, and various people at different times independently used it with different meanings intended.
ii) Perhaps the early Christians themselves were not in fact sure of the intended meaning of the word.
c) Insofar as different scholars have tried to reconstruct the meaning of arsenokoites from the surviving sentences in which it is used, the most well-evidenced translation appears to me to be "rape of boys", with "anal sex" (in a heterosexual or homosexual context) as a runner-up possibility. Supporting this are the ancient Latin bible translations which translate arsenokoites as "puerorum stupratores" (rape of boys) whenever they don't simply break it into pieces and translate the pieces into latin (male + bed). Presumably for this reason, the early Latin church seems to have assumed 1 Cor 6:9 was condemning the rape of boys, and so we seen numerous condemnations of "puerorum stupratores" appear in various early Church moral codes and canons, but none about homosexuality. An example is the sex-obsessed Synod of Elvira in 305 AD, which condemns a long long list of anything sexually deviant they can think of, including of course the rape of boys ("puerorum stupratores"), but interestingly no blanket condemnation of same-sex sexual activity. So:
d) On the balance of the evidence I'd have to say that the Greek word arsenokoites most probably meant "rape of boys". And insofar as the OP expressed interest in the 'Patristic' interpretation of the word, that seems to be it.

[ 07. April 2015, 02:12: Message edited by: Starlight ]

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Alan Cresswell

Mad Scientist 先生
# 31

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quote:
Originally posted by Starlight:
I find the theory that Paul invented it and expected his readers to know its meaning based on Leviticus 18/20, to be extremely implausible. The idea that Paul's readers would say "here is a word we do not understand, let us go through the bible page by page without a computer's help to find out where the parts of this word occur within one sentence and therefore conclude that its meaning must be a reference to that verse deep in the bowels of Leviticus where we have finally found it" seems so absurd as to be not worth taking seriously.

Although you have to account for this not being a modern audience. The majority of Paul's readers wouldn't be reading at all, but listening to it being read. And, because they couldn't read they would remember things better. A largely Jewish audience would likely know large parts of the Septuagint by heart, the Pentateuch in particular.

I think the hypothesis that Paul created his word from his remembered Septuagint of Leviticus seems quite plausible. If so, he might have intended the Corinthians to make the same connection (whether they did or not is a different question). Though, that still leaves open the question of whether Paul is making a reference to shrine prostitution, incest, rape or something else, and nothing to do with the modern understanding of homosexuality being a loving act between two consenting adults.

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Starlight
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quote:
Originally posted by Alan Cresswell:
I think the hypothesis that Paul created his word from his remembered Septuagint of Leviticus seems quite plausible. If so, he might have intended the Corinthians to make the same connection (whether they did or not is a different question).

If Paul invented the word on the spot based on his own knowledge of Leviticus then he's got no good reason to assume that readers/hearers in Corinth would make the same connection. I think it's possible to salvage this hypothesis however, if you speculate that Paul himself was not the inventor of the word, but rather it had become a slang term in the diaspora Jewish community. The speculation would then be that Paul had picked it up on his travels, and would have reason to believe diaspora Jews in Corinth would recognize the word. That speculative hypothesis then allows for a Levitical origin of the word.

Of course, it only pushes the question back to: What did the average diaspora Jew think the Levitical passage was banning? Writing at the time, Philo appears to think it's shrine prostitution being banned by Leviticus. That makes a lot of sense, since a lot of scholars think the shrine-prostitution being practiced in neighboring nations was indeed the original reason for the similar (but more explicit) ban on shrine prostitution in Deuteronomy and was likewise the primary motivation for Leviticus' more ambiguous ban on shrine prostitution and/or transsexual sex and/or homosexual sex.

Although we also have to allow for the fact that any slang term may have immediately deviated somewhat from its original meaning, so even knowing the meaning of the Levitical passages as understood by diaspora Jews doesn't necessarily give us a good guide as to the meaning of arsenokoites even if we believe they originally derived from that passage. Slang terms are often changed significantly in meaning from their immediate origins.

...all of which is why linguists today poo-poo the use of etymology to try to determine the meanings of words! We've got to go by how the word actually gets used by its users, not speculative theories about its origins.

However, the practice of transsexual/homosexual shrine prostitution is reasonably consistent as a possible meaning for arsenokoites as used by later users. It's hard to exclude the possibility that that's what the word meant to a significant proportion of its users. I would personally rank the likelihood of various original meanings of arsenokoites in the order: Rape of boys, anal rape, transsexual shrine prostitution, male homosexual sex.

[ 07. April 2015, 03:55: Message edited by: Starlight ]

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Alan Cresswell

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# 31

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Here's a question I just thought of, that someone here may be able to answer. Was Paul in the habit of (apparently*) creating new words, or is this one of a very few examples?

 

* apparently because, as Starlight noted, just because a word first appears in a letter by Paul doesn't mean it hadn't been in use before then, just that we have no record of that.

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mousethief

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# 953

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quote:
Originally posted by Alan Cresswell:
Here's a question I just thought of, that someone here may be able to answer. Was Paul in the habit of (apparently*) creating new words, or is this one of a very few examples?

 

* apparently because, as Starlight noted, just because a word first appears in a letter by Paul doesn't mean it hadn't been in use before then, just that we have no record of that.

I think your footnote may answer your own question: how would we know?

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Alan Cresswell

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# 31

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I don't think we can know.

But, if there is evidence that Paul freqently lifts words in use elsewhere and rarely uses words he himself has invented then it's more likely that that's what he's done here.

On the otherhanc, if there are lots of words in the letters of Paul for which there are no surviving prior examples of them being used, then it is plausible that Paul is in the habit of inventing words, and hence it is more likely that he has done so here.

It can't prove anything, but may affect how we view the balance of possibilities.

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Golden Key
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# 1468

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Stray thought re the prohibition being against sex with male temple prostitutes:

Might that have been about STDs?

ISTM that some of the rules in the Torah are about practical things, like health. Avoid raising pigs, and you're less likely to get swine flu. (There was something in the news, several years ago.) And you can avoid trichinosis by not eating pigs. There's ritual hand-washing; sanitary care during a woman's period; and even detailed instructions on digging a latrine.

For a long time, HIV/AIDS was thought to be a disease of gay men. (And I wondered, at the time, if maybe that was some kind of natural consequence--NOT a punishment--and maybe that was why there was a prohibition in the first place.)

I'm no expert on HIV/AIDS, but it does seem to spread especially well via anal sex between men.

So maybe there was a danger then, passed on especially by temple prostitutes, and banning intercourse with them was a way to contain it??

FWIW.

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Alan Cresswell

Mad Scientist 先生
# 31

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More likely that shrine prostitution was part of, or associated with, worship of gods other than Yahweh. The Law was very concerned about that as well.

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Starlight
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quote:
Originally posted by Golden Key:
Stray thought re the prohibition being against sex with male temple prostitutes:

Might that have been about STDs?

Sure.

Or at least, that's as plausible a post hoc justification as any other...

Presumably, since the invention of condoms, Lev 18 & 20 now no longer applies.

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Robert Armin

All licens'd fool
# 182

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As the OPer I'm very grateful for all the replies. However, I'm also getting crosser with the NIV, for what seems a really irresponsible bit of footnoting, as well as translation.

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Starlight
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I personally forswore the NIV about 10 years ago due to a long series of translation issues I had with it. The NIV translators read their own conservative evangelical beliefs into the text far more than do any of the other commonly used modern translations.

I think the straw that broke that camel's back for me was when I spotted the NIV was translating 'flesh' as "human nature" in Paul's writings. (Which sets up within Paul's writings an unfortunate Augustinian/Calvinist type view of human total depravity and the need for divine action ('sinful human nature' vs the 'Holy Spirit'), which I don't think is at all what Paul is meaning when he contrasts the spiritual desires and the fleshly desires that both occur within the minds of humans and compete for dominance.)

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Jane R
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Robert asked:
quote:
One of the key passages is 1 Cor 6. 9,10, translated in the NIV as: neither the sexually immoral nor idolaters nor adulterers nor men who have sex with men[a] 10 nor thieves nor the greedy nor drunkards nor slanderers nor swindlers will inherit the kingdom of God. Footnote to NIV: The words "men who have sex with men" translate two Greek words that refer to the passive and active participants in homosexual acts.
I've always thought that the angst over this footnote misses the point. Surely *all* of us are unrighteous? Never mind the exact meaning of arsenokoitai - can anybody (apart from Jesus, of course) honestly say they have never committed any of these other sins? I myself have occasionally been guilty of drunkenness... and whatever arsenokoitai may be, they are lumped into the same list as me, not flagged up as especially wicked. The only sin Paul says is unforgivable is apostasy.

I don't think you can take a 6th-century meaning as evidence for what Paul meant. Language changes. Slang changes more rapidly than formal language does. My own view (fwiw) is that the temple prostitution reading is most plausible, because Paul goes on to emphasise his disapproval of having sex with prostitutes in vv. 15-16.

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JoannaP
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# 4493

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quote:
Originally posted by Alan Cresswell:
Here's a question I just thought of, that someone here may be able to answer. Was Paul in the habit of (apparently*) creating new words, or is this one of a very few examples?

 

* apparently because, as Starlight noted, just because a word first appears in a letter by Paul doesn't mean it hadn't been in use before then, just that we have no record of that.

I am not a Biblical scholar, but I have read that Paul does seem to have liked coining neologisms, some regarded as quite clunky by modern scholars.

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Ricardus
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quote:
Originally posted by Alan Cresswell:
Here's a question I just thought of, that someone here may be able to answer. Was Paul in the habit of (apparently*) creating new words, or is this one of a very few examples?

I had got the impression that Greek, unlike Latin, forms new words fairly easily. Hence plays with titles like Deipnosophistai, 'dinner-philosophers'.

In this respect Greek is similar to English, only English uses hyphens (as above). If I wrote a post that used the word 'pillow-fighter', I don't think anyone would particularly agonise over the fact that the word isn't in the OED and is rare to non-existent in other extant posts from the twenty-first century, so we can only speculate what Ricardus could have meant by it.

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Ricardus
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quote:
Originally posted by Starlight:
Writing at the time, Philo appears to think it's shrine prostitution being banned by Leviticus.

I assume you are referring to chapter VII of Book III of The Special Laws, which can be found here. Philo does not associate Leviticus with shrine prostitution. He associates it with pederasty and galli. (Galli were priests of Cybele who castrated themselves and dressed in women's clothing. They were not prostitutes.)

FWIW I don't think this actually damages your overall argument. I think most people today would regard pederasty as grooming and, therefore, rape of a boy.

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Carys

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quote:
Originally posted by Ricardus:
quote:
Originally posted by Alan Cresswell:
Here's a question I just thought of, that someone here may be able to answer. Was Paul in the habit of (apparently*) creating new words, or is this one of a very few examples?

I had got the impression that Greek, unlike Latin, forms new words fairly easily. Hence plays with titles like Deipnosophistai, 'dinner-philosophers'.

In this respect Greek is similar to English, only English uses hyphens (as above). If I wrote a post that used the word 'pillow-fighter', I don't think anyone would particularly agonise over the fact that the word isn't in the OED and is rare to non-existent in other extant posts from the twenty-first century, so we can only speculate what Ricardus could have meant by it.

Would German be a better example of this? German compounds nouns a lot; sometimes the sense is clear from context and sometimes it isn't. I remember in the book in German I had to read for my PhD there was a compound noun I didn't get so I asked the two native speakers in the department and they couldn't help.

Carys

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O Lord, you have searched me and know me
You know when I sit and when I rise

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Golden Key
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Re German compound words:

I once saw one that was an entire page long!

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Forthview
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Donaudampfschiffahrtgesellschaftskapitaenswitwe

allegedly written on the tombstone of the widow of a captain on one of the ships of the Danube steam navigation company.

doesn't have anything to do with homosexuals

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Meike
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Rindfleischetikettierungsüberwachungsaufgabenübertragungsgesetz

Often abbreviated as RflEttÜAÜG

Sorry, couldn't resist.

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“A god who let us prove his existence would be an idol” ― Dietrich Bonhoeffer

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John Holding

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bump
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Pigwidgeon

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Some of my fellow students in high school German class attempted to come up with the longest German word. It filled the blackboard (I don't know how many letters there were), and our teacher verified that it was properly constructed.

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Don't keep calm. Go change the world.

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