Correspondence with the International Bible Society of New York,
on the New International Version
My first approach to IBS was in early 2000. There
was an immediate welcome for my submission, which at this stage I had indicated
solely as some serious constructive criticism of the NIV translation.
In early April 2000 I sent off the submission
(undated - my error) to IBS, which is set out immediately below.
As the main body is very like that of the Watchtower submission (and slightly
inferior to it in quality as I was still learning) you
can go straight to the Recommendations made to those responsible for the
translation of the NIV.
Prof. John Stek; Chairman, Committee on Bible Translation
International Bible Society
Dear Professor Stek
I recently contacted the IBS because, while I consider the NIV for the
most part to be a good translation, there are parts about which I
am concerned. I should perhaps first introduce myself.
I am a trained and accredited local preacher in the
evangelical tradition, and a member of District Synod. Since my conversion
in 1954, I have studied the Bible diligently, in various English versions
and, as study requires, in the original languages. It is precious to me,
and I endeavour to study with the utmost integrity. The Bible has informed
my life and my marriage of 44 years; it is 'daily bread' in our home, and
I have read it through several times.
As well as studying the Bible prayerfully and with
great care, I also study;
*analytically, - using
analytical concordances, dictionaries and other references,
Biblical context, comparison and cross-referencing; making use of
knowledge of the culture, religious ideas, thinking and world-view etc
of the writers, as well as the history and culture of the societies to
whom the writers were referring.
My scientific background enables objective study,
and I try hard to work with correct information as my experience is that
incorrect information/assumptions lead to wrong conclusions/results.
I take great care in Bible study, because I have
seen the damage done by literalism and misuse, not only within our wider
family, but in community - apartheid; cult suicides etc as well as
such evils as the Inquisition and slavery. More recently I (who am not
gay, nor is my wife or any of my family) have come to understand the major
part the current translations of the Bible play in the condemnation, oppression,
beatings and murders of homosexuals.
The responsibility for much of this damage falls
on prejudiced bigots, who find in scripture what they want, but the oppression
and maltreatment of homosexuals is, I believe, one for which the translation
community bears a heavy responsibility. So my concern in writing to you
is the quality of the NIV (esp the Study Bible) of those Biblical texts
(and associated study notes) used by others to damage homosexuals, including
those (and we know many) who love the Lord Jesus.
The translation community, taken together, has sadly
shown considerable confusion and some inaccuracy in the various popular
translations, as you will see. This is probably due to traditional perceptions
of the people and the issue, which inevitably influences translation. I
appreciate the difficulty - it was not until the Lord challenged my wife
and I to find out for ourselves, (which we did thro meeting, gaining the
confidence of and learning from the people themselves, and others who understand
them), that we have come to anything like the knowledge required
to enable us to study and understand the scriptures on this matter. We
now have 7 years experience of sharing with such people, and as a result
have amassed much knowledge on the issue.
The story of how we came to be led by the Lord to a ministry of 'support,
affirmation and Christian love for homosexuals, Christians especially',
is found in my booklet 'RELUCTANT JOURNEY' a copy of which I enclose. It
is now in its 3rd print, and is recommended reading for Ordinands in Training
at some colleges. Written to be easily read while containing the essential
information, it is necessarily short, but does set out the essence of what
we had learned up to 1996, as well as the essence of the Bible study. Since
that time I have continued to study and this letter contains more material,
especially, but not only, on Gen 19, 1 Cor 6 and 1 Tim 1.
An important stage leading to my change of heart
was going back to the Bible prayerfully and carefully on this issue, asking
of it this question 'If there are people who are made that way and have
no choice in their sexuality, and if they are capable of loving, faithful,
committed relationships with their (same-sex) beloved, what has the Bible
to say about that?'.
And I did so using the following definition, as I
found that the word 'homosexuality' was being used as a catch-all; "True
homosexuals are like heterosexuals in all respects except when attracted
or falling in love, then it is with another of the same gender, usually
another homosexual". While same-sex sexual expression in its various
forms is quite un-natural to us, it is as natural to a true homosexual
as opposite-sex sexual expression in its various forms is to us.
I stress that my Bible study is/was primarily concerned
with those who live in loving, faithful, same-sex partnerships, many of
whom have sought God's blessing on their union. There are of course many
homosexuals who live celibate lives, including some living with their partner.
Thus defined above, neither heterosexuals involved in same-sex acts, nor
bisexuals (who are attracted to both genders), are 'homosexuals', although
there is a homosexual side to the nature of bisexuals. There is also a
very small number of others who are confused about their sexuality, usually
resulting from child sexual-abuse. My Bible study, based on the above premises
(which we later found to be true to the experience of those we met, and
supported by professional opinion), led to repentance, following which
the Lord called us to our ministry. And it is the Lord who has led me to
write to you and others of the principal Bible Societies.
In the seven (7) years of our ministry, we have seen
at first hand the confusion, distress, depression and despair of homosexual
christians who, finding they are different and among those condemned by
church and society, have tried everything to change. Prayer, counselling,
deliverance ministry, nothing changed, and they found that they had to
accept themselves as they were. Any need for counselling arises from their
'given difference' and, because of this, the prejudice and bigotry with
which they are treated, usually supported by Biblical quotation, even from
When I began to seriously study this issue, I read
the Bible thro for reference and context. Then I struggled prayerfully
and carefully over several months with those texts that I later found from
our new-found homosexual Christian friends were those that were
used by others to condemn them.
That, and subsequent study, based now on 7 years
experience of homosexual Christians, serves to show me that the translation
concerned with this issue is confused and wrong. Indeed we recently received
a message that the National Council of Churches of Christ, USA has members
of its translation committee who now wish to 're-evaluate for clarification,
and possible re-translation the five Biblical passages often cited in discussions
of homosexuality, as those passages have no relation to the modern concept
of homosexuality'. When re-reading the Bible following my challenge,
I felt that this was the case, but as I had no firm evidence for it, I
continued to study the texts/passages as in this letter.
But this is all background to the study, which I offer as evidence of the
need for further consideration of the translation of those texts that are
used to condemn even those homosexuals who are responsible and loving -
of God and their partner. Such condemnation and rejection is both unchristian
and wicked, and it is invariably 'backed' by Biblical quotation!
I proceed to the study summary, apologising for the
length of this letter, which is unavoidable.
GENESIS 13:13 and 19:1-11
This is a story that has done inestimable damage to the image of homosexuals.
The NIV together with GNB, JB, LB all contribute to that by incorrectly
inserting in v.5 words like 'rape', 'have sex' 'abuse' - words not found
in the Hebrew and for which there is no Biblical foundation, thus;
a) While we know from Gen 13:13 that these were wicked men, we are NOT
told in the story;
1. what form their wickedness took, OR
2. who these men were (other than 'men of
Sodom') who were going to attack Lot's messengers.
There is no foundation in the story or in any other Biblical evidence that
these were all homosexuals, OR that the intended offence was same-sex rape.
Indeed the reverse is true!
People often misconstrue the Hebrew 'yada' (know) as indicative of sexual
intercourse. But 'yada'occurs around 700 times in scripture, translated
as 'know', nearly always in the sense we use 'know'. It is used only 13
times when it means sexual intercourse, and it is always made clear by
an accompanying statement eg 'Abraham knew Sarah his wife, and she conceived
and had a son'. Such a clarification does not
occur in v.5.
b) Why was Lot not raped when he went out to them,
if this is a story about same-sex rape? This is incontrovertible evidence
that this story is not about same-sex rape per se.
c) Why when offering his daughters, does Lot specify
that they are virgins? If they were being offered simply as sexual
playthings, virginity did not matter. Indeed they would not have been so
after the first encounter. So his statement about their virginity was significant!
d) Even if Lot was offering his daughters as sexual
playthings, it cannot be reliably inferred that this was to prevent a sexual
attack - he could just have well have done so for reasons of diversion
from physical violence to, or murder of, his guests.
e) Much more likely, (knowing Lot's background, see
f. below) is that he recognised that the gods of Sodom had to be
appeased by sacrifice of some kind. Human sacrifice was common then, and
a female must be a 'virgin'. An alternative reason was to appease the local
gods by offering his daughters
as shrine prostitutes, which also initially required 'virginity' - this
would show that Lot was 'nodding' his recognition and offering appeasement
to that god.
e) Lot was a man of obscene wealth and different
culture, who brought his god, Jahweh, into the territory of other gods
who would (be considered by the men of Sodom to) be displeased. Now he
was abusing that privilege by entertaining his god's messengers. Furthermore
'Lot sat at the gate' ie he was an elder of Sodom and thus 'judged', or
helped judge cases. Verse 9 'Get out of our
way...this fellow came here as an alien, (foreigner), and now wants to
play the judge!' gives some clues to the reasons for the attack, not uncommon
reasons given by xenophobes.
f) Not only is it NOT made clear that the story in
Gen 19 is about homosexuals and same-sex rape, but we are told elsewhere
something quite different. Most references in the Bible to the sin of
Sodom do not specify what that sin was, but some do. The sins of Sodom;
1. according to
Isaiah 1:10ff, were idolatrous worship, and
2. according to
Ezekiel 16:48-50, were pride, stubborn-ness
3. according to
Jesus Matt 10:11-15; 11:23,24; Mark 6:11; Luke 10:10-12; 17:26-30
were inhospitality, unbelief and unpreparedness.
Thus neither our Saviour, nor these great prophets,
interpreted the story, (and thus the sin) of Sodom according to present
tradition! This for me is of the greatest significance. It means that Christians
who translate and/or interpret it traditionally, are doing so at variance
with their Lord and in spite of the Biblical evidence!
Also of significance is the story in Judges 19, in
which the criminals are clearly identified, and in which the woman offered
is raped and killed by the Benjamites. This story is, in some ways, very
similar to that of Sodom. But why are homosexuals, who are NOT identified
in the Sodom story, condemned, while Benjamites who are identified as the
offenders are never mentioned. The reason is not hard to find - prejudice
LEV 18:22 (and 20:13)
It is vital to recognise that this is the *only reference
to same-sex activity in the Old Testament (or Hebrew Bible) that when read
literally as translated, stands alone in its application. On such
inspection it does not seem to be associated with other OT references to
male shrine prostitution, (although the New
American Standard Bible claimed literal translation ie "you shall not lie
with a male as those (plural) who lie with a female (singular))" strongly
suggests 'men who lay with (presumably to have sex with) male prostitutes'.
*NOTE: Lev 20:13 is the same as Lev 18:22, but with the addition
of the penalty for the offence
That this is a unique reference in the Old Testament/Hebrew
Bible is most significant, as these were the scriptures of Jesus, the apostles
including Paul, and the early church. The NT Canon was not agreed for many
years, and these scriptures together with the Gospels informed the New
Testament writings, including those of Paul.
Importantly, a single reference on a matter of such moral importance is
entirely atypical of these scriptures. God does not say 'I will say this
only once'. Consider the sexual sins of adultery, prostitution, fornication
etc which are not only condemned many times, but became part of the spiritual
imagery of unfaithfulness of Israel toward God. There are 100s of references
to heterosexual sexual sin.
So what is this single reference about? In order to find out I did the
1. Comparing the writings of the law in Exodus/Leviticus,
with those in the copy of the law, (Deuteronomy) I found in Deuteronomy
the law comparable to that in Lev 18:22. The only law in Deuteronomy about
same-sex acts is Deut 23:17,18 and concerns shrine prostitution.
2. Examination of the Hebrew words translated 'abomination'
or 'God hates that', and an analysis of their use, gave me the following;
which relates to food regulations in Lev 11;
which relates to unacceptable and unworthy worship of God and desecration
of the Temple;
c. 'toe'bah' is the Hebrew word used for 'abomination'
and is used almost exclusively of idolatrous worship, statutes and practices.
Where 'abomination' is used in the references in Deuteronomy, 1 and 2 Kings
to condemn shrine prostitution, 'toe'bah' is the word used. And 'toe'bah'
is the word used in Lev 18:22 and 20:13.
3. The context of Lev 18:22 and 20:13 is of the idolatrous fertility religion
and statutes of Egypt and Canaan, (Lev 18:3; 24-30; and Lev 20:23).
4. The history of Israel is concerned primarily with
how their kings dealt with idolatrous worship. Kings were judged
in their history not by greatness in battle or extending 'empire', but
whether they rid the land of 'the high places', ie idolatrous worship,
including fertility rites.
5. Thus the whole thing is of a piece; and this all
points to the Leviticus references being about shrine prostitution, just
as all the other references to same-sex sin in the Hebrew scriptures.
6. It speaks volumes that there are no references
to same-sex sin other than shrine prostitution, in the Decalogue, (Exodus
or Deut); the associated Books of the Covenant; the Blessings and Cursings
of Moses; the Great Prophets; or the Gospels. The 'truly great' books are
silent on the matter, and there is but one doubtful reference which, when
analysed, points to same-sex acts associated with idolatrous worship, ie
Thus, there is no condemnation of loving, faithful same-sex relationships
in the scriptures of Jesus and the early church; only of same-sex abuses
like prostitution, which may have been committed by any man. This should
be reflected in the NIV, its references and study notes.
In particular, references to 'homosexuals' should
be used with the greatest care, as we know that the present concept of
'homosexual' was not defined until the 1890s. Thus the writers of both
Old and New Testaments could not be writing with this same concept
in mind, and to use the word in this way will mislead the reader. Also
'shrine prostitute' does not equal 'homosexual' in the writings, and footnotes
should make this clear.
It is significant that there is no sign of condemnation
of loving, faithful same-sex relationships in the gospels either! The 'Living
Word' is silent, although not on heterosexual sin! I think there is enough
evidence from his welcome to those on the margins of society, eg Luke 15:1-7,
that Jesus would welcome responsible men 'who were born that way', (see
next para) as in Luke 7:1-10.
Matthew 19:12 - Jesus is the one person in the Bible
that seems not to be ignorant on the matter in question - he speaks in
this verse of different reasons why men do not marry ie are eunuchs
- 'some because they were born that way, others because men made them that
way, and others who do not marry for the sake of the Kingdom'. In this,
Jesus refers without condemnation seemingly to those who would today refer
to themselves as 'homosexual' .
Luke 7:1-10 This story of the 'healing of the
Centurion's servant' is, from a consideration of culture and language,
almost certainly about a loving homosexual relationship.
Slaves in Roman culture were simply 'possessions' who were sexually abused
at the whim of master or mistress, unless they were 'loved', as this servant
was. It was said in Roman society that a man's 'sexual preference' could
be seen by the gender of his (favourite) slaves. Centurions often took
a 'love slave' with them when on a difficult tour of duty, (as was Israel).
When the language of the story is examined, the centurion
when first engaging Jesus in conversation refers to his servant as 'doulos'
or 'servant'. Later as he relaxes in his conversation with Jesus,
he speaks of his servant as 'entimos' or 'precious/beloved' - most unusual
for a member of a brutal society with its cruel games, its cruel form of
execution ie crucifixion, and its sadistic and hedonistic sexual practices.
Finally, he refers to his servant as 'pais' or 'son/child'. In his
society, to refer in such terms to someone who was not family, was one
way of saying 'lover'.
While it cannot be certain, the language of the story agrees with cultural
considerations to suggest that here was a loving, homosexual relationship.
And there is no condemnation from Jesus, only commendation of the centurion's
SO WHY DOES THE TONE CHANGE WITH PAUL?
Paul saw on his travels the corruption that idolatrous
fertility worship brought to societies. It was practised widely by farming
communities around the Mediterranean, who saw the fertility rituals as
a 'sympathetic waking up' of the gods to make fertile the fields and flocks.
For example, on Cyprus, no young woman could marry
until she had served in the Temple of Aphrodite and been selected, with
payment to the temple, for sexual intercourse. And at the annual 'Aphrodisia'
festival, all eligible women in the area had to serve when 'pilgrims' came
from around the Mediterranean to take part in the sexual liturgy. These
practices were common to many lands bordering the Mediterranean, the scene
of Paul's travels.
Such practices corrupted societies. And in the same
way that the prophets of Israel fought to keep idolatrous worship
and its disgusting practices out, so did Paul fight this in relation to
the early churches. He saw the degradation, particularly bad in places
like Rome, which Tacitus described as 'the common sewer into which everything
infamous and abominable flows like a torrent from all quarters of the world'
- the price paid for being influenced by the nations it had subdued.
Romans were a brutal people, who worshipped various gods, and had their
'vicious games' and initiations (sometimes brutal and sexual) and festivals,
which were at times orgiastic. Their forms of 'marriage' allowed the paterfamilias
to find his sexual satisfaction where he wished. It was no business of
his 'wife'who was there to care for the home, and bear the free-born children.
He had power of life and death over his family, and 'freedom' where to
find sexual satisfaction.
Just as the Deuteronomic history of Israel was based
on a cyclic pattern, so Paul saw a pattern in the way that societies were
brought low by idolatry. Romans 1:18-32 is a 3-part argument setting out
Paul's thinking on how humanity goes wrong. The immorality of Rome is its
The argument goes;
a) summarising vv18-22 - Humankind rejects the plain
truth about the Creator God, even though
the evidence of God's work is plain for all to see.
b) summarising vv23-25 - Then humankind turns to
idolatry, exchanging the truth of God for a lie;
and the glory of God for images resembling humans and beasts; idolatrous
images of their gods.
c) summarising vv26-32 - Consequently humankind no longer acknowledges
God, and becomes
debased in life, with passions perverted, and filled with every kind of
This is about what happens when people refuse to
acknowledge the living God and turn to idol worship - Paul was certain,
because he had seen it! The argument hinges around vv 23-26 which latter
verse starts 'because of this ....'. Every kind of immorality was practised
in Rome, including prostitution (male and female), pederasty, adultery,
incest etc. It was epitomised by the Empress Agrippina serving in a brothel
out of lust. People were dissatisfied with expression of their natural
sexuality, and were turning to, what for them were, unnatural sexual acts.
This picture painted by Paul has no relevance to
the loving, christian people we know, whether homosexual or heterosexual.
Paul is not addressing the true love of homosexual or heterosexual people,
but the depravity resulting from idolatry.
Those who tear a verse or two out of context here
to condemn all homosexuals and all same-sex relationships, especially those
who are Christians in loving faithful relationships which honour God and
each other, are sadly abusing the scriptures. See eg Romans 8:30-34, and
1 Jn 4:11-13.
1 CORINTHIANS 6:9
As Paul inveighs against against various wrongdoers in vv7-9, he
includes 4 Greek words to identify those guilty of sexual immorality;
a) pornoi - 'male whoremongers'; (porne
b) moichoi - 'male adulterers'.
But Paul uses two other words that are often used to condemn homosexuals;
c) malakoi - 'soft men', in this context
the passive partner in abusive same-sex acts,
d) arsenokoitai - Paul was referring
directly back to Lev 20:13 '.. koimethe meta arsenos koiten gunaikos...'
and from the Lev. study thus means 'men who lay with male shrine prostitutes'.
But how are these words translated? In the versions
I possess they are translated as follows;
1. 'pornoi' is variously translated
as 'sexually immoral'(NIV- right ballpark,
but could mean many things); 'people who are
immoral'(GNB- can mean many things); 'people
of immoral lives' (JB- can mean many things); 'fornicators'
(NRSV- good); 'the immoral' (RSV- can mean
many things); 'those who live immoral lives'
(LB- can mean many things).
Confusion can be seen even with this relatively simple word, with its root
'porne' meaning harlot.
2. 'moichoi' is consistently translated 'adulterers'.
But confusion reigns when 'malakoi' and 'arsenokoitai'
3. 'malakoi' is translated as 'male
prostitutes' (NIV, NRSV- good); 'sexual
perverts' (RSV- can mean many things); 'homosexuals'
(LB- clear but wrong); 'homosexual perverts'
(GNB- those homosexuals who are perverted?); 'catamites'
(JB- utterly wrong and wicked); 'effeminate'
(KJV- just silly).
It gives the impression of a man who thinks if he shoots with a blunderbuss
is bound to hit something! The JB translation is very wrong, for it
is stating in effect that 'sexually-abused children are wicked and will
not inherit the Kingdom of God'.
4. 'arsenokoitai' is variously translated as 'homosexual
offenders' (NIV- what offence?); 'sexual perverts'(RSV-
can mean many things); 'homosexuals' (LB-
wrong); 'sodomites' (NRSV, JB - right ballpark,
wrong context); 'homosexual perverts' (GNB-
in what way?).
When the meaning of 'arsenokoitai' derived from Lev
20:13, is 'men laying (presumably having same-sex intercourse) with male
shrine prostitutes', these translations are not only confusing but wrong.
Again it gives the impression of the blunderbuss.
'Homosexual' and 'sodomite' (which many equate, usually incorrectly, see
NOTE below**) are the only two clearly defined meanings, but they are wrong.
'Sodomite' when used in the immoral sense, (but not the loving sense) is
close, although it has to be remembered that male temple prostitution was
for both men part of the religious liturgy - as for the rest,
what do they mean? From men and women with skills of language and
expression, one expects far better. More seriously,
the translations of 'malakoi' and 'arsenokoitai' give reason to those
who oppress and damage homosexuals.
** NOTE: A sodomite may be either homosexual or heterosexual; a homosexual
may or may not be a sodomite. The term 'sodomite' is always used pejoratively;
thus it is wrong to use it of those in faithful, loving, committed partnership,
which is not condemned in scripture.
Indeed, the justification for faithful, committed
homosexual loving partnerships is that God gives to many in such partnerships
His Spirit, seen in the Spirit's fruit. If God ......(see Acts 10:esp v44ff).
Corinth was a wicked, sexually immoral place like
Rome, to whom it owed allegiance, and whose influence overshadowed Corinth.
To behave like a 'Corinthian' was to be debauched; the Temple of Aphrodite
left its mark on this port city, where people were away from home influences,
and anything went. Same-sex, as well as opposite-sex prostitution was rife,
and the 'malakoi' and 'arsenokoitai' were common in Corinth.
But Biblical translators do not seem to properly
appreciate either the cultural background or the meaning of 'malakoi' and
1 TIMOTHY 1:10
The same confusion reigns with the translation of key words in this letter
He was writing to Timothy who was at Ephesus, the
city of the Temple of Diana, or Artemis, another fertility goddess,
who influenced society there; Ephesus was also the main Roman city of Anantolia.
So all the same influences were found as in Rome and Corinth. And the same
sexual immorality born of idolatry.
This time, Paul, (according to the Nestle text), used only two Greek
words ie 'pornois' and 'arsenokoitai' to describe opposite-sex and same-sex
sexual immorality respectively;
a) 'pornois' - the word with the same root as in the letter
to Corinth. Translators give us; 'adulterers' (NIV-
too restricted); 'whoremongers' (KJV - correct);'immoral
persons' (RSV- can mean many things);'all
who are immoral and impure' (LB- can mean many things); 'fornicators'
(NRSV- fair); 'the immoral' (GNB- can mean many things); 'immoral
with women' (JB - not quite, it needs 'sexually' before 'immoral').
Again there is still something of the blunderbuss about these, taking them
together. How are people who have to rely on these translations meant to
deal with the variations, most of which do not help?
b) 'arsenokoitais' - whose root meaning we know from Leviticus
20:13. Translators give us; 'sodomites' (RSV, NRSV);'homosexuals'
(LB); 'perverts' (NIV); 'abusers
of themselves with mankind' (KJV); 'sexual
perverts' (GNB); 'immoral with boys or men'
These translations are no better than those of the
Corinthian letter - confusing and largely wrong or irrelevant! They
are highly dangerous translations as far as homosexual people are concerned.
The translation community is letting its readership
down badly. It clearly does not understand the people or the issue as it
comes to do its work on these texts, and seems not to have discerned that
Leviticus 18:22; 20:13 inform both 1 Cor 6:9 and 1 Tim 1:10, although NIV
does link these by X-reference, but has failed to determine the core meaning
of 'arsenokitais' from Leviticus.
PAUL'S OTHER LETTERS
The final point of interest is that neither Paul,
nor any other NT writer used 'malakoi' or 'arsenokoitai' again. Paul inveighed
against sexual immorality in his every letter, and if 'arsenokoitai' were
a universal condemnation of homosexuals, Paul would have used this word
in every letter. That he did not, shows that those who claim the Leviticus
reference as a universal condemnation of homosexual acts are wrong.
The most sensible conclusion is that there was a particular problem at
Corinth and Ephesus, ie male prostitution associated with the temple, for
which he used the word 'arsenokoitai' drawn from Leviticus. For Rome
he gave a graphic description of the things troubling him; but in none
of these is there any indication that he includes loving, faithful homosexual
The NIV Jude 7 translation of 'sarkos' is highly questionable, bearing
(a)how Jesus, Isaiah and Ezekiel saw
the sin of Sodom, which differs from the NIV translation
(b)the several ways that this Greek
word is used throughout the Septuagint and Greek NT. Taking account
of (a) and (b), the NIV translation of that part of the verse which reads
'sexual immorality and perversion' is more likely to be correct if it were
translated in a spiritual sense, rather than the phyical sense your translators
I have shown by study and analysis;
a) that there is no condemnation of loving, faithful
homosexual relationships in the Bible.
b) that translators have not only brought considerable
confusion to the translation of those texts traditionally thought to condemn
all homosexuals and the expression of their sexuality, but have translated
key passages and words in a way that is dangerous to homosexuals. This
strongly suggests a need for translators to better understand the people,
the issue and the Biblical context and linkages that operate for the texts
dealing with same-sex immorality in the Bible.
The present translations, including NIV, give ignorant,
bigoted people a Biblical weapon to ill-treat homosexuals, although they
have no relevance to the lives of responsible homosexuals, and especially
those who are faithful Christians who live in love with God and others
according to the teaching of Christ, and to whom God has given His Spirit.
In this, translators bear a heavy responsibility, and the matter should
be corrected without delay, indicating clearly the position by re-translation
and suitable footnotes (as appropriate).
SOME RECOMMENDED CHANGES TO NIV TRANSLATION
While the X-references to texts and notes re 'shrine
prostitutes' in both the centre column and page footer in the NIV Study
Notes Version are helpful, the following items need attention;
1. Homosexuality has at least two definitions, and
as understood today includes faithful, loving, committed partnership, which
is neither mentioned nor condemned in scripture. This should be recognised
if reference to homosexuality must be made, and notes added to help readers.
2. That part of Gen 19 v5 in the NIV, ie 'that
we can have sex with them', should be deleted together with the associated
page footnote, neither of which has any Biblical foundation.
3. A suitable footnote is needed relating to Gen 19 making clear by cross-reference
to Jesus and the great prophets that the 'popular' interpretation of the
story of Sodom is wrong, and has nothing to do with homosexuals/ity.
4. Any X-references from and to Sodom and 'homosexuals/ity'
should be deleted throughout; for example, the Lev 18:22 centre page and
page footnote text references, and the Romans 1:27, 1 Cor 6:9, 2
Pet 2:10 and Jude 7 page footnote text references, and any others
5. Footnotes added to Lev 18:22 and 20:13 to indicate
their context ie shrine prostitution.
6. A footnote added to Romans 1:18-32 to indicate
the correct context ie moral corruption as the result of idolatry.
7. The Greek 'arsenokoitai' in 1 Cor 6 and 1 Tim 1 translated according
to their correct context, and ensuring that they no longer create potential
danger for homosexuals.
8. The NIV Jude 7 translation 'sexual immorality
and perversion' is highly questionable, (see Jude 7 notes above) and should
be re-translated in spiritual terms, (rather than physical) in the fashion
of the OT prophets who denounced the 'whoring after other gods, and the
spiritual perversion which denied justice' which fits better with Isaiah,
Ezekiel and Jesus view of the sin of Sodom.
9. The X-references in the Jude 7 page footnote to
Gen 19:5 (and 2 Pet 2:10) require deletion.
Professor Stek, I have been challenging, but honest; I trust that I have
not been ungracious; I have certainly not intended to be so, and apologise
if this letter gives such an impression. I do care very much for justice
and truth, and believe passionately that the scriptures are mistranslated
on this issue.
I look forward to hearing from you. Meanwhile may I wish you the blessing
of God in your work.
Yours in Christ
George S E Hopper C Eng
INTERNATIONAL BIBLE SOCIETY
April 24, 2000
Dear Mr. Hopper:
Thank you for your package of materials containing
several very thoughtful critiques of specific items in the NIV translation.
Your work is deeply appreciated and I will pass it on to the Chairman of
the Committee on Bible Translation, Rev. John Stek.
Let me assure you that this material buttressed
by your thorough research and documentation, will be considered very seriously
by CBT. You will hear from Rev. Stek in due course.
1 have included, along with this letter addressed
to you, a packet of information about the NIV and a document which dialogues
International Bible Society; Translations
INTERNATIONAL BIBLE SOCIETY
John H. Stek, Chairman, Committee on Bible Translation
Dear Mr. Hopper,
I respond to yours (no date) concerning NIV renderings
of certain passages relative to the practice of same-sex unions (fleeting
or permanent), and to cross-references as well as to study notes in the
NIV Study Bible.
You call our attention to passages that do indeed
call for careful contextual exegesis and carefully nuanced renderings into
contemporary English. And as a matter of fact, our translation committee
is reviewing all those passages again (as well as much more) and the editors
of the Study Bible are reviewing all the study notes, including those pertaining
to the passages that concern you. We are very conscious of the fact
that in today's environment these scriptural words are closely attended,
frequently quoted, and, yes, sometimes abused. Your paper can serve
as a stimulating contribution to our committee's discussion of the passages,
cross-references and study notes you cite. For that reason, I will
share your comments with all our committee members and with the General
Editor of the Study Bible.
Thank you for your concern that the Word of God
should speak with clarity and charity.
Yours in Christ,
John H. Stek
Needless to say we were moved by Prof Stek's reply,
and responded thus;
Dear Professor Stek
Thank you for your kind and gracious letter in
response to my submission. It was an emotional and spiritual moment when
my wife and I read your reply, and a prayer of gratitude was offered to
him who you and we love as Saviour.
I am especially gratified as an evangelical Christian
that you, as representatives of the NIV have responded as you have. Needless
to say, if there is any more I can reasonably do based on our experience,
you have only to mention it. Any matter will be dealt with the utmost integrity.
May God richly bless your work
Yours in Christ
George S E Hopper C Eng