When activist William Whatcott distributed flyers citing biblical prohibitions against homosexual behavior more than a decade ago, Canada's Human Rights Commission accused him of a hate crime – a charge upheld by that country's Supreme Court last year.
“While the courts cannot be drawn into the business of (interpreting) sacred texts such as the Bible, those texts will typically have characteristics which cannot be ignored if they are to be properly assessed in relation to . . . the (hate crimes) code," the judges ruled.
The editors of something called the Queen James Bible have no such reluctance. Supposedly led by an Episcopal priest from San Francisco, in 2012 they sought to resolve the tension between the historic understanding of God's word and modern sensibilities by producing the “Queen James Bible,” which purports to “prevent homophobic misinterpretation” of Scripture by revising eight verses that for centuries have been misunderstood or intentionally twisted by the likes of Whatcott, various popes and at least two members of the faculty of Concordia Theological Seminary in Fort Wayne.
The Rev. Dr. Walter Maier III and the Rev. Dr. John Nordling teach exegetical theology at the Lutheran Church-Missouri Synod institution at 6600 N. Clinton St. More to the point, the teach would-be pastors how to read and understand Scripture in its original Hebrew and Greek texts in order to avoid the kind of translation errors the editors of the Queen James Bible allege, but utterly fail to deliver, Maier and Nordling agree. The modern version is not only a revision of the familiar King James translation of 1611 but also a reference to James I's alleged bisexuality – as if that were relevant.
“It's one thing to disagree (with the Bible), another thing to change it,” said Maier as he compared the new gay-friendly version to his Hebrew copy of the Old Testament – the source of two of the best-known passages to be “corrected.”
The story of Sodom and Gomorrah is so well known it has given us the word “sodomy” – which, if Queen James is right, may also have to be redefined. In the King James version, Genesis 19:5 reads: “And they (men of the city) called unto Lot, and said unto him, 'Where are the men (angels, actually), which came in to thee this night? Bring them out unto us, that we may know them.' ”
According to the Queen, however, the last sentence should read: “Bring them out unto us, that we may rape and humiliate them.” This is so, the editors insist, because “Rapes such as this . . . aren't sexual acts, they are power-dominating acts.”
“But that's not what the text says,” Maier contended, pointing out that the same Hebrew word used in this context is also used in genealogies and other passages having nothing to do with rape. “Know” clearly means “sex.”
Even more obvious and egregious, Maier said, is the change made to Leviticus 18:22, which in King James reads, “ Thou shalt not lie with mankind, as with womankind: It is an abomination.” Queen James inserts “in the temple of Molech” after “womankind,” implying the abomination was limited to a specific place and time. The problem, as Maier points out, is that the pagan God Molech is never mentioned in that verse.
The revisions to the New Testament book of Romans are just as weak. In the King James version, St. Paul writes in Chapter one about men and women who had exchanged natural affections for the unnatural,” men with men working that which is unseemly and receiving in themselves the recompense of their error which was meet.”
In the Queen, however, verse 27 reads: “Men with men working that which is pagan and unseemly. For this cause God gave the idolators up unto vile affections . . . “
The change reflects the editors' view that the sin condemned in Romans isn't gay sex, but the worship of pagan gods, as it was in Leviticus.
Nordling doesn't dispute that point, but noted out that even the revision hardly casts same-sex relationships in a positive light. “It shows what can happen when one rejects God. The problem is that (this) attacks the Gospel. By denying sin, you deny forgiveness.”
And that's really the point, isn't it?
Maier and Nordling agree that the Bible consistently opposes homosexual behavior. But they also agree that Scripture accuses everyone of sin – gay and straight alike – and that forgiveness and salvation are freely offered to all who believe and struggle, often unsuccessfully, to lead God-pleasing lives.
It's not fashionable to say such things, of course. The editor of the newspaper in Newton, Iowa, was recently fired for criticizing the Queen James Bible on his personal blog, and many churches refuse to talk about sin at all -- while proclaiming a savior rendered unnecessary without it.
“We have to stand by the word of God, even though we know there will be persecution,” Maier said.
It's not like St. Paul didn't see this coming, warning in 2 Timothy that the time would come when people would “not put up with sound doctrine (but) to suit their own desires will gather around them . . . teachers to say what their itching ears want to hear.”
I suppose he got that wrong, too.