The 'Living Bible' and 'New Living Translation'
I have been trying for some time to contact Dr Kenneth Taylor, the author of the paraphrase 'The Living Bible', or the person now responsible for its rendering. On the matter of the texts misused by many to condemn homosexuals, 'The Living Bible' is, according to my studies, as seriously in error as a paraphrase of the Bible, as the Jehovah's Witnesses 'New World Translation' is as a translation. I finally received a reply dated 5th July 2001! Alleleuia!
Set out below is a recent letter to Tyndale House Publishers, USA, followed by my submission to Mark D Taylor at Tyndale House Publishers. Please pray for a prayerful, open-minded reception by the Translation Committee.
Tyndale House Publishers 10 May 2001
Illinois 60189-0080; USA
'The Living Bible' and 'The New Living Translation'
I am an evangelical preacher and Bible Scholar who has become concerned at the error and confusion in modern translations, including paraphrases. While my roots are evangelical, I do not want the scriptures tampered with to suit me, but rather to guide me. I believe the Word that is offered to people should be of the highest quality, and of the greatest integrity - nothing less than the best for God. As many people accept the scriptures in a literal sense, any error misleads and causes spiritual and other damage to peoples lives, as we have seen.
I have been in touch with those responsible for translation in Bible Societies that produce the more popular versions, and I understand that Dr Kenneth Taylor was the producer of the versions mentioned above. I would like to forward a submission to him or whoever may now be responsible for this project, and ask that you advise me how he, or the present producer, may be contacted.
Yours in Christ
George S E Hopper
Box 5846; Basildon SS15 4GS; United Kingdom
This is my submission to Mark D Taylor, responsible for taking my work to the Translation Committee.
Mark D Taylor; Tyndale House Publishers; USA
1 August 2001
Dear Mr Taylor
I was referred to you, after enquiring of Tyndale House as to who was responsible for the 'Living Bible' and 'New Living Translation'. I am making this submission (based on the Living Bible) as I believe you to be people who have the same love for the scriptures as I, and would want the scriptures to reflect the original writers' intent as accurately as possible. I have studied the Living Bible carefully, together with other versions, alongside the Hebrew and Greek scriptures and found there are parts of the Living Bible which cause me grave concern.
However, this is in no sense just a criticism of the Living Bible paraphrase, but springs from the same concern about translation that I have already shared with the societies producing the Good News Bible (GNB), the New International Version (NIV), the Revised Standard and New Revised Standard Versions (RSV/NRSV) and the New World Translation (NWT) of their Bible translation. I will continue to make such submissions to other major producers of Bibles as God has called me to do. I should perhaps introduce myself.
I am a trained and accredited preacher in the evangelical tradition, and a member of District Synod in Methodism UK. Since my conversion in 1954, I have studied the Bible diligently, in various English versions and, as study requires, in the original languages. The Bible is precious to my wife and I, and I endeavour to study with the utmost honesty and integrity. The Bible has informed our lives and our marriage of 45 years; it is 'daily bread' in our home, and I have read it through several times.
As part of studying the Bible prayerfully and with great care, I study;
*analytically, - using original language interlinear texts, lexicons/dictionaries and analytical concordances, as well as other references that enable word usage and analysis,
*contextually ie Biblical context (whole Bible as well as verse, chapter, book), comparison and cross-referencing; and in the context 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 do my utmost to work with correct facts and information, as experience shows that incorrect data/assumptions lead to wrong conclusions/results.
And I take great care in Bible study, because I have seen the damage done by literalism and misuse within our own wider family, and in the world community - eg apartheid; cult suicides etc as well as such past evils as the Inquisition and slavery. Since 1993, I (who am not homosexual, nor is my wife or any of my family) have come to understand the major part that translations of the Bible, including the Living Bible (LB), play in the condemnation, oppression, beatings and murders of homosexuals.
The responsibility for much of this damage falls on those who are prepared to misuse scripture for their own ends, but the oppression and maltreatment of homosexuals is, I believe, one for which the translation community also bears a heavy responsibility. So my concern in writing to you about the Living Bible is the quality of those Biblical texts that others use to damage homosexuals, including those (and we know many) who love the Lord Jesus in sincerity.
While I do not doubt that the translation community has worked as well as it can, it has sadly sown considerable confusion and misled Bible readers and students on this issue in the various popular translations, as you will see clearly from this submission. This is almost certainly due to translators own traditional understanding that when brought to their work on the issue, inevitably influences translation, as one eminent Bible Society Director suggested. Dr David Wolfers also found this as the reason for the poor translation of parts of the Book of Job, ie translators bringing pre-conceived ideas to the translation, which led him to re-translate Job in his book 'Deep things out of darkness'.
I fully appreciate the translators' difficulty. Until challenged by the Lord in the late 1980s to find out for myself what this was all about, I shared the same perceptions of homosexuals and personal interpretation of the Bible texts I am now raising with you. That research enabled fresh prayerful study of the scriptures on this matter with 'new eyes and understanding'. It led to my repentance in 1992, and the giving of a ministry by the Lord in 1993.
Having initially researched the issue, an important stage was going back to the Bible prayerfully and carefully over many months for reference and context on this issue, asking of it this question;
'If there are people who are made that way who 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 ignorantly and confusingly 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".
Thus defined above, neither heterosexuals who get involved in same-sex acts, nor bisexuals who are attracted to both genders, are 'true homosexuals', although there is a homosexual side to the nature of bisexuals, which for some is dominant. There is also a small number of people who are confused about their sexuality, usually resulting from child sexual-abuse.
Since 1993, my wife and I in our ministry have amassed much knowledge of these much-maligned people, the issue, and its relationship to scripture. 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. Years of prayer, counselling, deliverance ministry - but nothing changed, and they found that they ultimately had to accept themselves as they were. Any need for counselling arises from their 'given difference' and the prejudice and bigotry with which they are treated, usually supported by 'Biblical quotation', even from the unchurched. Yet we find our homosexual Christian friends to be among the most faithful of Christians - loving, courageous and forgiving of those who hurt them. We see something very real of Christ within them.
The story of how we came to be led by the Lord to this ministry of 'Support, affirmation and Christian love' for homosexuals, Christians especially, is found in my booklet 'RELUCTANT JOURNEY' a complimentary copy of which I enclose. Written to be easily read while containing essential information, it is necessarily short, but does include the essentials of what we had learned up to 1996, (published 1997) when it was completed, including my initial Bible study.
However, continued study of texts in the original languages from that time till the present, enables the submission in this letter to contain further material on all the Biblical references. I stress that my continued Bible study, as for the initial study, is primarily concerned with those who live in loving, faithful, same-sex partnerships, many of whom, as we now know, have sought God's blessing on their union. We also know homosexuals who choose to live celibate lives, including some who live with a partner. These are in stark contrast to the promiscuous image that many have of homosexual men and women, and which we are fully aware exists in practice for some, as for some heterosexuals.
The Lord has led this whole journey of faith of ours, and it is the Lord who has led me to write to you and other Bible Societies. The purpose in writing is because careful study serves to show that all Biblical translations on this issue are confused and wrong to a greater or lesser extent; are misleading readers and students on this matter, and causing distress to God's homosexual people.
There are now, thankfully, members of the translation community who are beginning to recognise the need to 're-evaluate for clarification, and possible re-translation the Biblical passages often cited in discussions of homosexuality, as those passages have no relation to the modern concept of homosexuality'. As this concept was not understood until the 1890s, Bible writers cannot possibly have had this in mind when writing, and thus the term should not be used when translating. When re-reading the Bible through following my initial challenge, I felt that this was the case, but as I had no firm evidence for it then, I continued to study the texts/passages as in my book.
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 and reject even those homosexuals who are responsible, faithful and loving Christian people. Such condemnation and rejection is unChristian and wicked, and it is invariably 'backed by poorly translated Biblical quotation'!
I proceed now to the study summary, apologising for the length of this letter, which is unavoidable.
1. GENESIS 19:1-11 (and 13:13)
This is a story that, as translated and interpreted, has wrongly done great damage to homosexuals and their image. No intelligent, searching Bible student can deny that the traditional interpretation is incorrect. Yet the LB (Living Bible), the NWT (New World Translation); the NIV, (New Int'l Version); the GNB (Good News Bible), and the JB (Jerusalem Bible), all contribute to that damage by incorrectly inserting into v.5 words like 'rape' or 'have sex/intercourse with'.
This is contrary both to internal analysis of the story, and more importantly, the words of the prophets and Jesus, who provide the only firm evidence of Sodom's sin. 'Rape' and 'have sex/intercourse' are words for which there is no Biblical foundation in v.5, as follows;
1. THE INTERNAL EVIDENCE OF THE STORY
a) While we know from Gen 13:13 that these were wicked men, we are NOT told in the story;
1. Specifically, what form their wickedness took, (but the prophets and Jesus tell us) OR
2. Who these men were (other than 'men of Sodom') who were going to attack Lot's messengers. There is no basis in the story or in any other Biblical evidence that these were homosexuals, OR that the intended offence was same-sex rape. Indeed the opposite is true as you will see! The Hebrew derivatives of 'yada' (or know) used here is misconstrued as some form of male/male sexual intercourse. But 'yada' (and derivates) occur nearly 700 times in scripture, meaning 'know' in the sense we mean '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 the Hebrew 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 state 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 their first encounter. So his statement about their virginity was significant!
d) Even if Lot had offered 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;
Human sacrifice to gods was common then, and a female must be a 'virgin'. An alternative was to appease the local gods by offering his daughters as shrine prostitutes, which also required 'virginity' offered to the gods - this would show that Lot was 'nodding' his recognition and offering appeasement to the gods.
f) Lot was a great compromiser. In Chap 13 'he pitched his tent toward Sodom', but by Chap 19 he was not only living in Sodom, he was an elder there, and had betrothed his daughters to Sodom men.
He was also a man of obscene wealth and different culture, who brought his God into the territory of the gods of Sodom who would (be considered by the men of Sodom to) be displeased. Now he was abusing that privilege by entertaining his God's messengers.
In spite of Sodom's wickedness, he dwelt in Sodom and 'sat at the gate' ie he was an elder of Sodom and 'judged', or helped judge cases. Verse 9 gives some clues to the reasons for the attack,'Get out of our way...this fellow came here as an alien, (foreigner), and now wants to play the judge!'- not uncommon reasons for their attacks given by jealous xenophobes today.
2. THE EVIDENCE OF ISAIAH, EZEKIEL AND JESUS
g) Not only is it NOT made clear that the story in Gen 19 is about homosexuals and same-sex rape, but we are told by the prophets and Jesus quite differently.
Most references in the Bible to Sodom do not specify or infer what was Sodom's sin, but some do.
The sins of Sodom were, (specified or inferred);
1. according to Isaiah 1:10ff, were hypocrisy, idolatrous worship, and injustice.
2. according to Ezekiel 16:48-50, were pride, greed, idolatry, stubborn-ness and injustice.
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 Lord and 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 and others who translate and/or interpret it according to present tradition, are doing so at variance with the Lord Jesus, the Living Word, and in spite of the Biblical evidence!
And not only does this affect Gen 19: 5, but continues to affect other dependent references incorrectly, eg Jude 7.
COMPARISON WITH THE STORY IN JUDGES 19, 20
The story in Judges 19 is very significant. The criminals - men of the tribe of Benjamin - are clearly identified and, unlike the men in Gen 19, raped the woman offered to death. This story is similar in some respects to that of Sodom, but far more vicious. Why are homosexuals (who are NOT identified in Gen 19) condemned, while Benjamites who are clearly identified in Judges 19 never mentioned. The reason is not hard to find!
LEVITICUS 18:22 (and 20:13, which is the same as 18:22 but with the addition of the penalty)
It is vital to recognise that this is the only reference to same-sex activity in the Old Testament/Hebrew Bible, that when read literally as presently translated does seem to be generally applicable and not associated with all the other OT references to same-sex sin ie temple/shrine prostitution.
However, the correct translation of the Hebrew is "a man shall not lie with a man as those (plural) who lie with a woman (singular))" strongly implying prostitution. The correct translation is supported by the 'New American Standard Bible' as a footnote, the 'Interlinear NIV Hebrew-English Old Testament by JR Kohlenberger 3rd', and is something I have also found by textual study.
Together with the following Biblical research, it confirms that the Leviticus references, like all other OT refs to same-sex sin, are about male shrine prostitution.
1. That this (Lev 18:22/20:13) 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 and Jude.
2. Importantly, a single reference on a matter of such moral importance is entirely atypical of the 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?
3.Comparison of the laws in Exodus/Leviticus, with those in the copy of the law, (deutero ho nomos) ie Deuteronomy. In the same way as Kings is compared with Chronicles, and the Synoptic Gospels are compared with one another to help understanding, so in Deuteronomy is found one 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.
4. Examination of the Hebrew words translated 'abomination' or 'God hates that', and an analysis of their use, gave the following;
a. 'shequets' which relates to food regulations in Lev 11;
b. 'shiqquts' which relates to unacceptable and unworthy worship of God and desecration of the Temple;
c. 'toe'bah' is the Hebrew word used for 'abomination' 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.
5. The context of Lev 18:22 and 20:13 is of the idolatrous fertility religion of Egypt and Canaan and its statutes, (Lev 18:3; 24-30; and Lev 20:23).
6. That the correct translation of the Leviticus reference/s strongly implies male prostitution makes the whole thing of a piece; and points to the Leviticus reference(s) being about male shrine prostitution, just as all the other references to same-sex sin in the Hebrew scriptures.
NB It is significant that Jerome (Latin Vulgate 420 AD) translates 'arsenokoitai/s' as 'masculorum concubitores' ie 'male prostitute'. 'arsenokoitai/s' derives directly from the Leviticus references, and supports the case.
7. 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.
8. 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. These 'great' books are silent on the matter, and there is but one doubtful reference which when analysed, points, like all other OT references, to same-sex acts associated with idolatrous fertility worship, ie male shrine prostitution.
Thus, the only possible conclusion is that there is no condemnation of loving, faithful same-sex relationships in the Old Testament/Hebrew Bible - which were the scriptures of Jesus and the early church; only of male shrine prostitution. Even if Gen 19: 5 could be construed as same-sex rape, (which it cannot) it does not alter this conclusion.
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 who were outcasts and on the margins of society, eg Luke 15:1-7, that Jesus would equally welcome such people.
Luke 7:1-10 This interesting 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 Greek of the story is examined, the centurion first refers to his servant as 'doulos' ('servant'). Later, he speaks of his servant as 'entimos' ('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'. To refer in such terms to someone who was not family, especially to a servant, was one way in his society of saying 'this is my beloved'.
While it cannot be claimed as certain, the story's language agrees with cultural considerations to strongly suggest that here was a loving, homosexual relationship. And there is no condemnation from Jesus, only commendation of the centurion's faith.
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 at that time by farming communities around the Mediterranean, who saw the fertility liturgy/rituals as a 'sympathetic waking up' of the gods to make fertile the fields and flocks.
Such practices corrupted societies. And in the same way that the prophets of Israel fought to keep idolatrous worship and its corrupting practices out, so Paul fought this in relation to the early churches.
For example, in Cyprus, no young woman could marry until she had served in the Temple of Aphrodite and been selected, with payment to the temple, for prostitution services. And at the annual 'Aphrodisia' festival, all eligible women in the area had 'to serve as temple prostitutes' when pilgrims came from around the Mediterranean to take part. These practices were common to many lands bordering the Mediterranean, the scene of Paul's travels.
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. This is the background to Paul's letter to the Romans; in particular it greatly influenced the first chapter of that epistle in which he was establishing the guilt of all humankind, (Romans 2:1).
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-stage argument setting out Paul's thinking on how humanity goes wrong. The grave immorality of Rome is its backdrop.
The argument goes as follows;
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 wickedness.
This passage is about what happens when people refuse to acknowledge the living God and turn to idol worship - Paul was certain, he had seen it! The argument hinges around vv 23-26, the latter verse of which 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 sheer lust. People were dissatisfied with expression of their natural sexuality, and were turning to, what were for them, unnatural sexual acts.
A literal rendering of the Greek of v26 is;
'God gave beside them (ie men and women) into passions of dishonour. ...females exchanged the natural use into the one beside nature'.
When idolatrous religion involved women in prostitution, bestiality and orgies, the most likely act to which Paul refers (as 'besides nature') is bestiality, but it is not clear.
The nearest to the Greek without adding personal interpretation is;
'God allowed them their choice of indulging in passions of dishonour, their women channelled their natural sexuality into un-natural acts'. There is nothing in the Greek of v26 which allows your interpretation ie 'women indulging in sex sin with one another' .
When referring to men, the Greek of v27 is clearer;
'Likewise... the men, having let go of the natural use of the female, were burned out in the lust of them....men in men...'.
Paul is here referring to male orgies ie 'men (plural) in men (plural)..' which were common in Rome.
Your translation of v27 is likely to mislead, however, for '....men, having let go of the natural use of the female' does not apply to homosexual men, whose 'natural use' is not for women. Thus this can only be referring to heterosexual men whose 'natural' sexual desires were jaded, and had become involved in what was for them 'perverted acts'.
The following is suggested as more nearly reflecting the Greek of v27 'And the men, having put aside their natural desire for women, became inflamed with lust for other men, in orgies and the like, reaping the rewards of their error'.
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 depravity resulting from idolatry.
But sadly, there are those who are encouraged by poor translation to use verses here out of context to condemn all homosexuals and all same-sex relationships, including those who are Christians in loving faithful relationships, which honour God and each other, (Romans 8:30-34, and 1 Jn 4:11-13).
While that is scriptural abuse, it is preferable to ensure good translation that cannot easily be misused.
1 CORINTHIANS 6:9
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 had 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 were common in Corinth. But Biblical translators do not seem to properly appreciate either the cultural background or the meaning of 'malakoi' and 'arsenokoitai'.
Paul identifies various sexual wrongdoers in vv7-9, and he includes 4 Greek words;
He uses two words to condemn heterosexual immorality;
a) pornoi - 'whoremongers'; (porne = harlot)
b) moichoi - 'adulterers'.
Paul uses two other words to condemn male same-sex immorality, but NOTE - Paul does not refer to female same-sex immorality, which makes translation of Rom 1:26 of the Living Bible even more unlikely.
c) malakoi - 'soft'; in this context thought to be male same-sex prostitutes, and
d) arsenokoitai. Paul was pointedly referring back to Lev 20:13 of the Septuagint, the Greek translation of the Hebrew scriptures, used commonly at that time '.. koimethe meta arsenos koiten gunaikos...' which from the Leviticus study refers to 'men who lay with male (shrine) prostitutes'.
But how are these words translated?
1. 'pornoi' meaning 'whoremongers' is translated as;
'those who live immoral lives' (LB- can mean many things); 'fornicators' (NWT/KJV/NRSV- right ballpark); 'people who are immoral' (GNB- can mean many things); 'sexually immoral' (NIV- right ballpark, but too general); 'people of immoral lives' (JB- can mean many things); 'the immoral' (RSV- can mean many things);
Confusion can be seen even with this relatively simple word, with its root 'porne' (harlot).
2. 'moichoi' is consistently and correctly translated 'adulterers'.
3. But confusion is again sown in the translations of 'malakoi' and 'arsenokoitai'.
'malakoi' is variously translated as;
'homosexuals' (LB - clear but wrong); 'men kept for un-natural purposes' (NWT - what does this mean?); 'male prostitutes' (NIV, NRSV- OK); 'sexual perverts' (RSV- can mean many things); 'homosexual perverts' (GNB- those homosexuals who are perverted?); 'catamites' (JB- utterly wrong); 'effeminate' (KJV- foolish).
These give 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;
'homosexuals' (LB- wrong); 'men who lie with men' (NWT - too general/misleading); 'homosexual offenders' (NIV- what offence?); 'sexual perverts' (RSV- can mean many things); 'sodomites' (NRSV, JB - misleading, see **NOTE below); 'homosexual perverts' (GNB- perverted in what way?).
When 'arsenokoitai' derived from Lev 20:13, is strictly 'men who lay with male shrine prostitutes', these translations not only cause confusion but are wrong.
Jerome (Latin Vulgate) translated 'arsenokoitai' from the Greek into Latin, as 'masculorum concubitores' or 'male prostitutes'. He did his work in the 4th Cent and was therefore close to the time of the original writings.
NOTE* 'Homosexual' and 'sodomite' (which many equate, usually incorrectly, see NOTE** below) are the only two reasonably clear meanings, but they are wrong.
'Sodomite' is close, although it has to be remembered that male temple prostitution was for both men part of a religious liturgy. As for the rest, what do they mean? From people with skills of language and expression, one expects far better.
More seriously, these translations of 'malakoi' and 'arsenokoitai' give reason to those who would, and do, wickedly oppress and destroy 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 such 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).
1 TIMOTHY 1:10
The same confusion is shown with the translation of key words in this letter of Paul's. 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 the main Roman city of Anatolia, and the same influences were found as in Rome and Corinth; and the same sexual immorality born of idolatry.
This time, Paul used only two Greek words ie 'pornois' and 'arsenokoitai' to describe opposite-sex and same-sex sexual immorality respectively. But how are they translated?
a) 'pornois' - a word with the same root as in the letter to Corinth.
Translators give us;
'all who are immoral and impure' (LB- can mean many things); 'fornicators' (NWT/NRSV- right ballpark); 'adulterers' (NIV- too restricted); 'whoremongers' (KJV - correct); 'immoral persons' (RSV- can mean many things); 'the immoral' (GNB- can mean many things); 'immoral with women' (JB - inadequate, what does it mean? ).
b) 'arsenokoitais' - whose meaning is 'men who lay with male shrine prostitutes'.
Translators give us;
'homosexuals' (LB - wrong); 'men who lie with males' (NWT- too general/misleading); 'sodomites' (RSV, NRSV- misleading); 'perverts' (NIV - means what?); 'abusers of themselves with mankind' (KJV - means what?); 'sexual perverts' (GNB - who/what?); 'immoral with boys or men' (JB - in what way?).
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. How are people who have to rely on such translations meant to deal with these variations, most of which sow confusion and are wrong?
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 one version does link these by X-reference, but has failed to determine the core meaning of 'arsenokitais' and misleads readers.
PAUL'S OTHER LETTERS
The final point of interest is that neither Paul, nor any other New Testament writer used 'malakoi' or 'arsenokoitai' again. Paul condemned 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 idolatry, 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 relationships in his condemnation.
Here, Jude refers to false teachers in the context of 'Sodom and Gomorrah, and like cities..'
The Greek of Jude 7 includes '..ekporneusasai (fem. pl.) kai apelthousai (fem. pl.) opiso sarkos eteras...' Using the feminine plural in this context is an example of the way idolatry is described in the Hebrew scriptures eg 'like the daughters of Sodom who have prostituted themselves and gone after other gods etc'. And sexual acts have little relevance when referring to the teaching of false teachers.
While Jude 7 is about false teachers in the context of female prostitution, in which context it implies idolatry, the Greek has nevertheless been mistranslated to 'accord with the traditional interpretation of the story of Sodom', which is about men, thus;
*LB gives 'all full of lust of every kind, including lust of men for other men..'
*NWT gives 'committed fornication excessively, and gone out after flesh for unnatural use..'
*KJV gives 'giving themselves over to fornication, and going after strange flesh..'
*JB gives ' fornication of Sodom and Gomorrah and other towns nearby was equally unnatural..'
*NIV gives 'gave themselves up to sexual immorality and perversion...'
*NRSV gives 'indulged in sexual immorality and pursued unnatural lust...'
*RSV gives 'acted immorally and indulged in unnatural lust...'
*GNB gives 'indulged in sexual immorality and perversion..'
The evidence in Isaiah 1:10ff, Ezekiel 16:48-50 and the Gospels has been ignored (as well as the evidence within the story of Sodom itself - see Notes on Gen 19 attached) to make Jude 7 read incorrectly as actual sexual acts. Isaiah, Ezekiel and Jesus refer to the 'sin of Sodom' (either specifically or in the context of another town's actual or potential sin), as idolatry, inhospitality, injustice, pride, unbelief etc.
Jude was written well after the prophets and Jesus, so Jude's writings would be informed by the clear understanding of the sins of Sodom given by the prophets and Jesus, and should be translated acordingly.
It is instructive to read the whole of Ezekiel Chapter 16 to see the context in which vv.48-50 are set, and it becomes clear why the Jude keyword references are in the feminine plural. This is just one of many instances where idolatry was referred to as 'spiritual prostitution, fornication or adultery', which indicate that Jude 7 should be translated in spiritual terms eg ' like the daughters of Sodom who gave themselves over to whoring after other gods, and perverted justice etc'.
Study and analysis shows that;
a) there is no condemnation of loving, faithful homosexual relationships in the Bible.
b) translators have not only brought confusion to the translation of those texts traditionally thought to condemn all homosexuals and the expression of their sexuality, but have translated key phrases and words in a way that is highly 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 the Living Bible, give ignorant, bigoted people a Biblical weapon to hurt and damage homosexuals, although the texts have no relevance to the lives of responsible homosexuals, 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 with the minimum of delay, indicating clearly the position by re-translation and/or suitable footnotes.
SOME CHANGES RECOMMENDED TO THE LIVING BIBLE
1.1. The term 'Homosexual/ity' has at least two definitions, and as understood today includes faithful, loving, committed partnership. As Biblical writers can have had no conception of that term as it is of recent origin, to use it is both wrong, and misleading to readers. Thus all such references should be removed.
2.1. Gen 19 v5 be correctly retranslated '......the men of the city of Sodom surrounded the house and called out to Lot 'Where are the men who came to you, bring them out so that we may know who they are'. There is no warrant in the Hebrew for describing the men of Sodom as 'sodomites' - and 'Sodomites' will only mislead. The suggested retranslation takes account of Isaiah's, Ezekiel's and Jesus' stated view of Sodom's sin, which includes inhospitality and other sins, but not sodomy or male rape.
2.2. A footnote to Gen 19:1-11 is suggested for inclusion, making clear by X-refs to the statements by Jesus, Isaiah and Ezekiel, that the traditional interpretation of the story of Sodom is wrong, and is not about homosexuals/ity, but idolatry, injustice, inhospitality, pride, greed, etc........
3. Deut 23:17, 1 Kings 14:24, 15:12, 22:46 and 2 Kings 23:7 do not refer to 'homosexual/ity' per se, but to 'male shrine prostitutes/ion', which is the correct translation of the Hebrew 'qadesh'. Thus any reference to 'homosexuals/ity' should be replaced in these texts by 'male shrine prostitutes/ion'.
4. The references, Leviticus 18:22 and 20:13, should be correctly translated ie 'a man shall not lay with a man, as men (pl) lay with a woman (sing)' and a footnote is suggested to give their context and show their meaning ie male shrine prostitution.
5.1. At Romans 1:18-32 a footnote is suggested to indicate the nature, context and meaning of the passage ie a logical argument showing moral corruption as the result of idolatry.
5.2. Replace the present invalid phrase in Rom 1:26 '... women turned against God's natural plan for them and engaged in sex sin with each other' with;
'...their women channelled their natural sexuality into one of unnatural acts', which is as close to the Greek as one can get without building-in personal interpretation.
5.3. Replace your misleading Rom 1:27 '...And the men, instead of having a normal sex relationship with women, burned with lust for each other, men doing shameful things with other men....'
with the following, which is more faithful to the Greek;
'..And the men, having put aside their natural desire for women, became inflamed with lust for other men in orgies and the like, reaping the necessary result of their error'.
6. In 1 Cor 6:9, replace 'homosexuals' with the correct translation of the Greek 'malakoi' and 'arsenokoitai' ie 'male prostitutes' and 'men who lay with male (shrine) prostitutes' respectively. It could be summarised as 'those who indulge in male prostitution'.
7. At 1 Tim 1:10 replace 'homosexuals' with the correct translation of 'arsenokoitai' ie 'men who lay with male (shrine) prostitutes' or again 'those who indulge in male prostitution'.
8. In Jude 7 replace the invalid '....all full of lust of every kind, including lust of men for other men.',with;'who were given over to idolatry and the perversion of justice.', which reflects the context of Jude 7 in denouncing false teachers; Isaiah's, Ezekiel's and Jesus' view of the sin of Sodom; the feminine plural context of the Greek text of Jude 7; and the associated descriptive feminine language used by the prophets to condemn idolatry and injustice.
9. I have commented only on texts in the Living Bible, but I would ask that you also reconsider the same texts in the 'New Living Translation' and any other paraphrases/translations, on this same basis.
Sirs, I have been challenging and honest, but I trust that I have not been ungracious - I have certainly not intended to be so, and apologise if this submission gives that impression. But I do care very much for Biblical integrity, justice and truth, and have concluded from my extensive work that the scriptures to which I have referred in this submission are mistranslated.
I have tried to avoid typing errors etc, but if there is anything you wish to question, or on which you think I could provide further assistance, I will attempt to respond well.
I look forward to your reply, meanwhile may I wish you the blessing of God in your work.
Yours in Christ
George S E Hopper C Eng (Ret'd); Local Preacher
Top of page Letters Homepage Book