Monday, October 09, 2006


The Bible and Homosexuality - A History

For some reason I'm fascinated with the Bible. More specifically, I'm fascinated with the way the Bible is manipulated and twisted to fit the conservative agenda. Oftentimes misquoted and taken out of context, the Bible has become the weapon of choice for conservatives everywhere who wish to push an agenda of bigotry and hatred. To their advantage, most people don't know enough about the Bible to dispute these wild claims nor are most people willing to admit their ignorance. Thus the "Bible-pushers" have won before the battle has even begun.

As for me, I know enough about the Bible to know that I need to look things up. Such was the situation this past Sunday.

When we're in church, my wife and I like to play a little game. Whenever the pastor quotes a passage from the Bible, we look it up. Not to see if he's quoting it correctly mind you (after all, he's reading from his notes), but to see if the quote is being used in the proper context. And what we've found more often than not is that when the quote comes from the New Testament the context it is in tends to have a tinge of liberalism to it. On the other hand, if the quote comes from the Old Testament, it tends to be more conservative. Because, after all, the God of the Old Testament was a vengeful God while Jesus of the New Testament was a tolerant and forgiving God. But that's not what I'm here to discuss. So back to the story...

The message this past Sunday was a rather mundane one. Consequently, my wife and I were afflicted with wandering minds. When our minds wander we tend to thumb through the Bible looking at different passages or looking up different topics. Whatever strikes our fancy. Well for some reason, my wife's fancy was struck by homosexuality. So she turned to the back of her Bible (the New International Version for those of you who wish to play along at home) and found homosexual listed in the concordance. It referred her to 1 Corinthians 6:9 which reads:
Do you not know that the wicked will not inherit the kingdom of God? Do not be deceived: Neither the sexually immoral nor idolaters nor adulterers nor male prostitutes nor homosexual offenders

On the way home, she shared with me what she had found. I was stunned. I had always believed that the word homosexual was not in the Bible. So we looked up the passage in my youngest son's New Living Translation Bible and found the following:
Don’t you realize that those who do wrong will not inherit the Kingdom of God? Don’t fool yourselves. Those who indulge in sexual sin, or who worship idols, or commit adultery, or are male prostitutes, or practice homosexuality,

Again, I was shocked. Could I have missed it all these years? Not to mention, I thought that the relevant verses pertaining to homosexuality (according to the anti-gay crowd) came from Leviticus. I knew I needed to look into this further. Thus began my search for the history of homosexuality and the Bible. What I found is extremely interesting.

For starters, there are twenty-one versions of the Bible written in English. The different versions are often called translations, however I prefer to refer to them as interpretations. You'll understand why later. The different versions are:
21st Century King James Version
American Standard Version
Amplified Bible
Contemporary English Version
Darby Translation
Douay-Rheims 1899 American Edition
English Standard Version
Holman Christian Standard Bible
King James Version
New American Standard Bible
New International Reader's Version
New International Version
New International Version - UK
New King James Version
New Life Version
New Living Translation
The Message
Today's New International Version
Worldwide English (New Testament)
Wycliffe New Testament
Young's Literal Translation

While it is often thought that the King James Version is the original English version, the KJV was actually based upon the Wycliffe New Testament of which there were two versions - an "Early" version and a "Late" version that contained a number of fine tunings. So to begin my search, I began with the Wycliffe. Looking at 1 Cor 6:9, I found:
Whether ye know not, that wicked men shall not wield the kingdom of God? Do not ye err; neither lechers, neither men that serve maumets [neither men serving to idols], neither adulterers, neither lechers against kind, neither they that do lechery with men,

According to this, anyone who engages in lechery [an indulgence of sexual desire], not just those who engage in lechery with their own kind, is not going to inherit the Kingdom of God. Sounds a bit extreme, but I guess fair is fair.

So next I moved on to the KJV. The KJV was first published in 1611. There I found this from 1 Cor 6:9:
Know ye not that the unrighteous shall not inherit the kingdom of God? Be not deceived: neither fornicators, nor idolaters, nor adulterers, nor effeminate, nor abusers of themselves with mankind,

Effeminate? Is this what is being interpreted as homosexual? To my knowledge effeminate didn't mean gay, it meant having the characteristics of the feminine sex. So I looked it up. It turns out that I was rignt. Effeminate is defined as:
(of a man or boy) having traits, tastes, habits, etc., traditionally considered feminine, as softness or delicacy.

So to me this would mean that any man who was delicate or soft would not be allowed to inherit the Kingdom of God. Along with the adulterers, of course. And what is this "abusers of themselves with mankind?" A little ambiguous, I would say.

Next came the Darby Translation followed by Young's Literal traslation, both of which made ambiguous reference to fornication and or efiminate, but neither was terribly specific. Young's did refer to sodmites and Darby's referred to abusing oneself with men, but still no reference to specific homosexuality. After all, sodomy can refer to an act between a man and a woman.

By 1899, the verse had changed dramatically with the Douay-Rheims 1899 American Edition. According to this version, 1 Cor 6:9 states:
Know you not that the unjust shall not possess the kingdom of God? Do not err: neither fornicators, nor idolaters, nor adulterers,

Much less ambiguous and notice the lack of any reference to such things as sodomy or abusers of self with men let alone any reference, ambiguous or not, to a homosexual act.

For the next seventy years though, the ambiguity would continue. In 1969, however, things would change. This was the year that the New Life Version was first published. In the NLV, there was different language but no less confusion. From 1 Cor 6:9 we get:
Do you not know that sinful men will have no place in the holy nation of God? Do not be fooled. A person who does sex sins, or who worships false gods, or who is not faithful in marriage, or men who act like women, or people who do sex sins with their own sex, will have no place in the holy nation of God. 10 Also those who steal, or those who always want to get more of everything, or who get drunk, or who say bad things about others, or take things that are not theirs, will have no place in the holy nation of God.

But what is a sex sin? Is it all sex? Is it lechery? We're kind of back to where we started with the Wycliffe - It's not just homosexuals, but everyone.

By 1982, though, things became very specific with the release of the New King James Version where the word homosexual made its first appearance. From 1 Cor 6:9:
Do you not know that the unrighteous will not inherit the kingdom of God? Do not be deceived. Neither fornicators, nor idolaters, nor adulterers, nor homosexuals,[a] nor sodomites,

What strikes me as odd about the appearance of this word is the timing. 1982, the year of its publication, was one year after the Centers for Disease Control first remarked on a strange group of pneumonia cases in five gay men. Originally known as GRID, or Gay-Related Immune Deficiency, this fatal disease would eventually become known as AIDS.

Since the publication of the NKJV in 1982, all new versions of the Bible (with the exception of the Amplified Bible, The Message, and the Worldwide English) have contained the word homosexual. Why do you suppose that is? Could it be that these new translations interpretaions of the Bible have had a specific target? After all, the word homosexual has been around since the 1890s according to Random House. So why wait this long to use this particular word?

Although anyone with an education knows that AIDS is not exclusive to homosexuals, many still view it as a "gay disease." Are these new interpretations of the Bible merely playing off the fear of AIDS to promote an attitude of hate and bigotry? Who knows?

What I do know is that since the NKJV was first published, the frequency of the usage of homosexual in the Bible has grown. Many Bibles now also include it in 1 Timothy 1:10, which reads:
The law is for people who are sexually immoral, or who practice homosexuality, or are slave traders,[c] liars, promise breakers, or who do anything else that contradicts the wholesome teaching


The original King James version of this verse reads as follows:
For whoremongers, for them that defile themselves with mankind, for menstealers, for liars, for perjured persons, and if there be any other thing that is contrary to sound doctrine;

Furthermore, the New Living Translation now contains four instances where the word homosexual is used - 1 Corinthians, 1 Timothy and those passages from Leviticus that I thought I remembered. Leviticus 18:22 and Leviticus 20:13. From Lev 18:22 (NLT):
“Do not practice homosexuality, having sex with another man as with a woman. It is a detestable sin.

Compare that to the original KJV:
Thou shalt not lie with mankind, as with womankind: it is abomination.

And also Leviticus 20:13 (NLT):
“If a man practices homosexuality, having sex with another man as with a woman, both men have committed a detestable act. They must both be put to death, for they are guilty of a capital offense.

And from the original KJV:
If a man also lie with mankind, as he lieth with a woman, both of them have committed an abomination: they shall surely be put to death; their blood shall be upon them.

Could the abrupt change in wording be a coincidence? It's timing would lead me to believe that it's not. It would appear to me to be a deliberate attempt to push an agenda of hatred and bigotry toward a very specifc group of individuals based upon an ignorant fear of the unknown and misunderstood. Much like the modern conservative agenda.

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