Correspondence with NCCC (USA) about the RSV and NRSV translations

I first made contact by e-mail with Rev Bob Edgar, the General Secretary, National Council of Churches of Christ USA. I received an encouraging response, and forwarded my submission concerning the RSV/NRSV for which NCCC USA have copyright.
 
NCCC USA reply
My submission

Nov 1999

Dear Mr Edgar

I asked David Lull to whom I might send a submission about the passages usually referred to in discussions about homosexuality, and he referred me to you, the new Gen. Sec'y. Can you please confirm whether I should forward it to you, and whether it is to the Riverside Dve, New York address that a submission should be sent?

Briefly, my wife and I, who are both committed christians and members of Synod, and I an evangelical local preacher, were given a ministry by the Lord 7 years ago after we were challenged to learn about homosexuals (and their life issues). We now have many such christian friends and after 7 years of sharing fellowship, worship and aspects of social life with them we can speak and write of them (as we do regularly) with some authority. This did not spring from any influence within ourselves or family, for neither we nor any of our family are homosexual.

I wrote a short book 'RELUCTANT JOURNEY' describing how we come to be where we are. Since publication in 1997 it is now in its 3rd print and has helped many in the church to understand, and brought healing through self-acceptance to many homosexual christians struggling with their sexuality. It is on our website  together with articles etc for like-minded inclusive christians.

I have been in touch with the Bible Society here in the UK, and have just made a submission to the Gen. Secretary, UBS World Service Centre along these lines, and plan to do the same with the International Bible Society (NIV) and others. My concern is with the negative, destructive attitudes towards homosexuals that the present translations support, including towards those homosexuals who love the Lord; people who in our estimation include some of the finest christian people we have met. When one considers analytically and contextually one Bible version alongside another, it reveals how varied and in some translations, how wrong and foolish these patently are.

I would add that in my estimation (as many others) the RSV/NRSV stand as the most reliable of the English versions available, but even so, in my view even these leave something to be desired after applying study, research and knowledge of responsible homosexuals, especially christians.  I hope my wife and I might make some small contribution to the thinking taking place in NCCC.

May we wish you every blessing for the New Year and the challenges that lie ahead

Yours in Christ

George and Carol Hopper

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I received the following reply around Dec 1999

Dear George:

I begin my work as General Secretary of the NCCC this week. Yes, you can sent the information to me and I will forward it to the appropriate person. We will be several months in transition, so I hope you will understand if you do not hear back right away. I look forward to the challenges ahead.

May God bless your creative ministry.

Peace,

Dr. Bob Edgar;  General Secretary

National Council of Churches

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So I forwarded my submission as follows. It is similar in most respects to submissions to other Bible Societies, except for my suggestions for change which do vary with the various versions.

Go to conclusions/suggestions

To: Bob Edgar;  Gen Secretary, NCCC    18 Feb 2000

Dear NCCC

I contacted you recently because, while the RSV/NRSV are for me and many the best translations, there are some parts which I feel the need to raise with you.  May I first introduce myself.

I am a trained and accredited local preacher in the evangelical tradition, and a member of Methodist District Synod. Since conversion in 1954, I have studied the Bible diligently, in various English versions and, with study helps, 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 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,

 *contextually  ie 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 science background enables me to study objectively, and I try to work with correct information and assumptions because I know when these are wrong they lead to false conclusions/results.

And I take great care in Bible study, because I have seen the damage done by literalism and misuse, not only within our own wider family, but in other communities etc  - 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 part that current translations of the Bible play in the condemnation, oppression, beatings and murders of homosexuals.

While the responsibility for much of this damage falls on people who find in scripture the condemnation they want to find, some of this responsibility falls, I believe, on the translation community which (taken as a whole), has sown confusion and inaccuracy in the popular translations, as I hope you will see later. Thus my concern in writing to you, is the quality of those Biblical texts in the RSV/NRSV commonly used by others to humiliate homosexuals, including those (and we know many) who love the Lord Jesus.

This is a difficult issue - it was not until the Lord challenged my wife and I to find out for ourselves, (which we did thro meeting and learning from the people themselves, and others who understand them eg medical and other practitoners), that we have come to understand the scriptures on this matter. We now have 7 years experience of sharing worship, fellowship and aspects of social life with homosexual christian friends, and as a result bring much experience and knowledge of this issue to our study.

The story of how we came to our 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 in its 3rd print, is recommended reading for Ordinands in Training at some colleges, as well as having the support and commendation of people at nearly every level in the church. Written to be easily read while containing the essential information, it is necessarily short, but does set out what we had learned including the Bible study up to 1996. Since that time study has continued, and this letter contains complementary material, especially but not only, on Gen 19, 1 Cor 6, 1 Tim 1 and Jude 7.

An important early stage 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 used the following definition, as I found that the word 'homosexuality' was being used confusingly 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".  Same-sex attraction, love (and forms of sexual expression if they occur in a partnership) is quite un-natural to us, but natural to true homosexuals, although I stress that my Bible study was/is primarily concerned with such who live in loving, faithful, covenant same-sex partnerships, many of whom have sought God's blessing on their union. The study showed that there was no condemnation in the Bible of loving, faithful, covenant homosexual partnerships.

The Bible study, based on these premises (which we later found to be true to the experience of those we met, and supported by professional opinion), led to my repentance, following which the Lord called us to our ministry. In the 7 years of that ministry, we have seen the confusion, distress, depression and even despair of homosexual christians who have tried everything to change, but ultimately found that they had to accept themselves as they are. Part of the problem is 'their difference' and the stigma that attaches to it, but it is componded by the prejudice and bigotry in church and society, usually supported by Biblical quotation, even from the unchurched.

Yet serious study of this issue leads me to reject the basis for this Biblical condemnation, other than of those homosexuals who (like some heterosexuals) are sexually-abusive in various ways. So we were pleased to hear that some members of your translation committee are inclined 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'.

I trust that our experience, and my continued studies, may help if only in a small way to this end.

So I proceed to the study summary, apologising for the length of this letter, which is unavoidable.

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 NOTES COMPLEMENTING THE STUDY IN 'RELUCTANT JOURNEY'

GENESIS 13:13 and 19:1-11

{I include notes on this story because, while RSV/NRSV are faithful to the translation, it is related to Jude 7 (see the later notes) in which you seem to have adopted the traditional interpretation}.

The story of Sodom has done inestimable damage to the image of homosexuals. The NIV, 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) But 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 e. below) is that he recognised that he was going to have to calm this crowd by offering the gods of Sodom some kind of sacrifice. Human sacrifice was common then, and a female must be a 'virgin'. An alternative was appeasement by offering his daughters as temple prostitutes, which also initially required 'virginity' - this would show that Lot was 'nodding' his recognition to the local gods, which might appease them.

f) 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.

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 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 injustice.

 2. according to Ezekiel 16:48-50, were pride, 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 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 those Christians who translate and/or interpret it traditionally, are doing so at variance with their Lord and in spite of the Biblical evidence!

It is pleasing that you have not done as NIV, GNB, JB and LB and added words which incorrectly support the traditional interpretation. Nevertheless, a helpful footnote would make a deal of difference to readers understanding.

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NOTES ON LEV 18:22 (and 20:13)

It is vital to recognise that this is the only reference (see below) 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 connected with other OT references to male shrine prostitution, (although the New American Standard Bible claims as a footnote that the literal translation is "you shall not lie with a male as those (plural) who lie with a female (singular))" which strongly suggests prostitution). Nevertheless, my interpretation does not rest on this. But it serves to show how translators disagree!

   NOTE: Lev 20:13 is the same as Lev 18:22, but with the addition of the penalty for the offence.

That this reference is unique in the Old Testament/Hebrew Bible is significant, as these were the scriptures of Jesus, the apostles including Paul, and the early church. As the NT Canon was not agreed for many years, these scriptures and the Gospels informed the New Testament writings, including those of Paul.

Further, 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'.  The sexual sins of adultery, prostitution, fornication etc are not only condemned many times, but became part of the spiritual imagery of unfaithfulness of Israel toward God, (see notes on Jude 7). There are 100s of references to heterosexual sexual sin. So what is this single same-sex reference about?

In order to find out, I did the following;

1. I compared the writings of the law in Exodus/Leviticus, with those in the copy of the law, (Deuteronomy), and found in Deuteronomy the only law comparable to that in Lev 18:22. This law in Deuteronomy about same-sex acts is Deut 23:17,18 and concerns shrine prostitution.

2. I examined the Hebrew words translated 'abomination'or'God hates that', and anlysed their use. This 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 almost exclusively when referring to idolatrous   worship, its 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. I found the context of Lev 18:22 and 20:13 to be the idolatrous fertility religion and statutes of Egypt and Canaan, (Lev 18:3; 24-30; and Lev 20:23).

4. Study shows the history of Israel to be 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', including the associated fertility rites.

5. Thus the jigsaw pieces fit together; and point to the Leviticus references being about shrine prostitution, just as all 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 books which informed the NT writers ie Decalogue, (Exodus or Deut); the associated Books of the Covenant; the Blessings and Cursings of Moses; the Prophets; or the Gospels,. The 'truly great' books are silent on the matter, and there is but one doubtful reference which, when carefully analysed, points to the same sin as do all the other OT references, ie  shrine prostitution.

Thus, there is no condemnation of loving, faithful covenant same-sex relationships in the Hebrew Bible, ie the scriptures of Jesus and the early church, only of same-sex abuses like involvement in prostitution, which may have been committed by any man.

It would help greatly if this were made clear in the RSV/NRSV in footnotes and references, and any such footnotes/refs which might lead to continued misunderstanding removed or replaced

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NEW TESTAMENT

 GOSPELS

It is significant that there is no sign of condemnation of loving, faithful same-sex relationships in the gospels! Our Lord, 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 could be expected to show understanding of the people in question. He speaks in this verse of  different reasons 'why men do not marry women' 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 seemingly refers without condemnation 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 considerations of  culture and language, 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  first refers to his servant as 'doulos' or 'servant'.  Later, 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 this way to someone who was not family, was one way of saying 'lover'.

While this conclusion 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 here (or anywhere else of homosexuals or their relationships), only commendation of the centurion's faith. From our reading of the gospels, we believe Jesus would have welcomed responsible homosexual men and women, as we do.

 

SO WHY DOES THE TONE CHANGE WITH PAUL?

On his travels Paul saw 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, and corrupted societies.

Paul tried to keep this out of the church, just as the prophets of Israel had done. He saw the degradation 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 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.

ROMANS 1:18-32

Here Paul sets out the way (as a 3-part argument) that societies were corrupted by idolatry. 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 wickedness.

This passage is about what happens when people refuse to acknowledge the living God and turn to idolatry! Every kind of immorality was practised in Rome. The argument hinges around v26 which begins 'because of this ....'.

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.

By definition, homosexual men and women do not 'give up natural relations with, or affection for the opposite sex', their natural atraction is for people of the same gender. Thus this passage is about heterosexual men and women who are no longer satisfied with their 'natural' sexual expression, and turn to perversion, as well as other sexual sins that could be engaged in by anyone - prostitution, pederasty, incest etc common to some Romans.

There are those who take verses out of context here to condemn all homosexuals and all same-sex relationships, including such Christians in loving, faithful, covenant relationships which honour God and each other. Christian homosexuals are not idolaters but people who in faith have claimed and know the grace of God. See eg Romans 8:30-34, and 1 Jn 4:11-16.

Translation which makes such points clear to readers would help curb the tide of Biblical ignorance regarding such people.

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1 CORINTHIANS 6:9

Corinth was 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.

Paul used 4 Greek words in vv7-9 to identify those guilty of sexual immorality;

a) pornoi - 'whoremongers'; (from 'porne' = harlot)

b) moichoi - 'adulterers'.

and 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, and

d) arsenokoitai - Paul was referring directly back to Lev 20:13 '.. koimethe meta arsenos koiten gunaikos...' which from the Lev. study means 'men who lay with male shrine prostitutes'.

How are these words translated?

As follows in the versions I possess ie  GNB=Good News Bible; NIV=New Int'l Version; JB=Jerus. Bible; LB=Living Bible; KJV=King James Version; and RSV/NRSV.

1. 'pornoi' is variously translated as 'fornicators' (NRSV- correct); 'the immoral' (RSV- can mean many things);'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); 'those who live immoral lives' (LB- can mean many things).

Confusion can be seen even with this relatively simple word, with its root 'porne' or harlot.

2. 'moichoi'is consistently translated 'adulterers'.

3. But confusion reigns with the translations of 'malakoi' and 'arsenokoitai'.

'malakoi' is translated as;

'male prostitutes' (NRSV, NIV- correct);'sexual perverts' (RSV- can mean many things); 'homosexuals' (LB- clear but wrong); 'homosexual perverts' (GNB- those homosexuals who are perverted?);'effeminate' (KJV-  silly);'catamites' (JB- utterly wrong for it is stating in effect that 'sexually-abused children will not inherit the Kingdom of God'. ).

Together, the impression is of shooting with a blunderbuss to ensure something is hit.

4. 'arsenokoitai' is variously translated as 'sexual perverts'(RSV- can mean many  things); 'sodomites' (NRSV, JB - see **NOTE below);'homosexual    offenders' (NIV- what offence?);''homosexuals' (LB- wrong); 'homosexual perverts' (GNB- what perversion?); 'abusers of themselves with mankind' (KJV - what does this mean?).

When the meaning of 'arsenokoitai' derived from Lev 20:13, is 'men laying with male shrine prostitutes', these translations taken together are confusing and wrong.

** NOTE:As many (incorrectly) equate 'sodomite' with 'homosexual', translating 'arsenokoitai' as 'sodomite' is effectively saying 'homosexual' which, as you know, is incorrect. Thus it is a poor word selection.

A 'sodomite' may be either homosexual or heterosexual. A homosexual may or may not be a sodomite. As the term 'sodomite' is always used pejoratively; it is wrong to use it of those in faithful, loving, covenant partnership, which is not only not condemned in scripture, but is justified in that God gives to many in such partnerships His Spirit, seen in the Spirit's fruit in their lives. If God so gives ......(see Acts 10:esp v44ff).

As for the translations of the words 'malakoi', 'arsenokoitai' and even 'porne', what do those who have to rely on such translations do, when there is such confusion and inaccuracy? From people with skills of language and expression, one expects better.

More seriously, the above translations of 'malakoi' and 'arsenokoitai' in the various versions give reason to those who misuse the Bible to oppress and damage homosexuals.

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1 TIMOTHY 1:10

The same confusion reigns with the translation of key words in this letter of Paul's to Timothy 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, used only 'pornois' and 'arsenokoitai' to describe opposite-sex and same-sex sexual immorality respectively. What do translators give us?

a) 'pornois' - the word with the same root as in the letter to Corinth.

'fornicators' (NRSV- correct); 'immoral persons' (RSV- can mean many things); 'adulterers' (NIV- too restricted); 'whoremongers' (KJV - correct); 'all who are immoral and impure' (LB- can mean many things); 'the immoral' (GNB- can mean many things); 'immoral with women' (JB - almost, but needs 'men being sexually' to precede 'immoral with women').

b) 'arsenokoitais' - whose root meaning we know from Leviticus 20:13.

'sodomites' (RSV, NRSV); 'homosexuals' (LB); 'perverts' (NIV); 'abusers of themselves with mankind' (KJV); 'sexual perverts' (GNB);'immoral with boys or men' (JB)

These translations are again unhelpful - confusing and largely wrong or irrelevant!  And they are highly dangerous translations as far as homosexual people are concerned!

Again, the translation community as a whole is letting its readership down.  It does not seem to understand the people and the issue or appreciate the way people interpret words like 'sodomite' as it comes to do its work on these texts, and largely seems not to have discerned the meaning of Leviticus 18:22; 20:13 and that it informs both 1 Cor 6:9 and 1 Tim 1:10.

PAUL'S OTHER LETTERS

The final point is that neither Paul, nor other NT writer used 'malakoi' or 'arsenokoitai' again.

Paul condemned sexual immorality in every letter, and if'arsenokoitai' were a universal condemnation of homosexuals, Paul would have used it in every letter. That he did not, shows that those who use 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 relationships.

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 JUDE 7

Here, Jude refers to false teachers in the context of 'Sodom and Gomorrah, and like cities..'

The translators of that part of Jude 7 ie '...ekporneusasai (fem. pl.) kai apelthousai (fem. pl.) opiso sarkos eteras...' ignore the evidence of Isaiah, Ezekiel and Jesus and mistranslate the Greek according to current tradition, thus;

*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...'

*LB gives 'all full of lust of every kind, including lust of men for other men..'

*GNB gives 'indulged in sexual immorality and perversion..'

However,  Isaiah, Ezekiel and Jesus refer to the 'sin of Sodom' (either specifically or in the context of another town's actual or potential sin). They do not include sexual immorality, but speak of Sodom's sin as idolatry, injustice, pride, unbelief etc.

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) and make Jude 7 read incorrectly as actual sexual acts. Jude was written well after the prophets and Jesus, so the translation of Jude 7 should be informed by the clear understanding of the sins of Sodom given earlier by the prophets and Jesus.

The whole of Ezekiel Chapter 16 should be read 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. Therefore Jude 7 should be translated in spiritual terms eg ' like the daughters of Sodom who prostituted themselves, and went whoring after other gods, and perverted justice etc' which is exactly the way in which the prophets (including Ezekiel) portrayed the people of Israel when they went astray, and whose sins were compared unfavourably with those of Sodom!

Other Bible translators have misled their readers in Gen 19, by not considering the full Biblical evidence about Sodom and its sins.  Its resulting mistranslation, confusion and inaccuracy in other passages fuels the condemnation of homosexuals by people who do not understand them, even those homosexuals who love the Lord and live 'blamelessly in love before God'.

I trust that RSV/NRV translators will re-consider the Jude passage, and re-translate accordingly.

CONCLUSIONS

I trust that I have shown by study and analysis;

a) that there is no condemnation of loving, faithful homosexual relationships in the Bible.

b) that there is confusion in the translation of those texts used by those to condemn homosexuals and the expression of their sexuality. Such translations constitute a danger to such people.

Current versions of the Bible, including some texts/passages in RSV/NRSV, give ammunition to people who use the Bible as a weapon against homosexuals, although they have no relevance to the lives of responsible homosexuals, especially faithful Christians who live in love with God and others according to the teaching of Christ, and to whom God has given His Spirit.

Translators bear some responsibility for this. So I ask you at NCCC to prayerfully consider the following suggestions for the RSV and NRSV versions.

SUGGESTIONS FOR CONSIDERATION:

1. Homosexuality has at least two definitions, and as understood today includes faithful, loving, committed partnership, which is neither mentioned specifically nor condemned in scripture. A footnote/reference to this effect or associated note would greatly help readers.

2. The 'traditional' interpretation of the Sodom story is wrong, and has nothing to do with homosexuals/ity. Suitable footnotes to Gen 19:1-11 (and Jude 7 - see note below) in both versions cross-referenced to Isaiah 1:10ff, Ezekiel 16:48-50 and Matt 10:11-15; 11:23-24; Mark 6:11; Luke 10:10-12; 17:26-30 would help make clear the correct interpretation.

3. X-references from and to Sodom and 'sexual immorality' be deleted throughout.

4. Lev 18:22 and 20:13 need footnotes to indicate that they refer to male cult/temple prostitution.

5. Romans 1:18-32 is about the moral corruption resulting from idolatry, and does not include moral, loving same-sex relationships. A footnote would be helpful which indicated this.

6. People do not distinguish between 'sodomite' and 'homosexual' nor between abusive and loving sexual expression, and thus 'sodomite' should be suitably replaced in 1 Cor 6:9 and 1 Tim 1:10.

7. Jude 7 be re-translated in spiritual terms, in keeping with Isaiah's, Ezekiel's and Jesus' view of the sin of Sodom.

8. By the same token as for Jude 7, the translation of 2 Pet 2:10 which is also dealing with the  effects of 'false teachers' in which the translations cite actual sexual passion connected with Sodom (as compared with spiritual prostitution, which I believe is intended) , would seem to be inappropriate.

Dear NCCC Christian friends, in writing to you I have been challenging, but 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 while the RSV/NRSV are superior to other translations on this issue, some texts/passages are translated and footnotes to the scriptures made in the RSV/NRSV are such as to cause confusion and potential harm to good homosexual men and women.

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 (Retired); Local Preacher; Member of District Synod

 E-mail -  gseh.rj@talktalk.net    Web -  www.reluctantjourney@talktalk.net

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I await NCCC's reply, recognising that such things are not considered in isolation, and that they take much time for a large translation committee to consider, and for changes to be made. We pray God's blessing and guidance on those who will consider this.

 

 
 
 
 
 

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