Homosexuality in the Bible: Not Haggling Over Words Here

By Published on December 8, 2022

A recent documentary claims that a “mistranslation” of the Bible is to blame for Christians believing homosexuality is a sin. Directed by self-identified “lesbian Christian” Sharon “Rocky” Roggio, the film asserts that the word homosexual did not appear in any version of the Bible until 1946. Translators for the Revised Standard Version (RSV) used it for the first time then, in their translation of 1 Corinthians 6:9.

Rather than haggle over a specific word, I’d like to step back and consider the larger issue at stake, one that impacts all of humanity: the issue of idolatry.

The LGBT Movement is Based on Idolatry

To define oneself primarily in terms of a sexual appetite or inclination is to make an idol out of sexuality and its expression. It is worshipping an aspect of creation rather than the Creator. It leads straight toward treating others as sexual objects for our own gratification, or to bolster our own ego.

It’s one thing to love those whom we love, or to have strong feelings toward those who are the object of our affections. It’s another thing to put them in the place of God. Jesus tells His followers, “If anyone comes to me and does not hate father and mother, wife and children, brothers and sisters—yes, even their own life—such a person cannot be my disciple. And whoever does not carry their cross and follow me cannot be my disciple.” (Luke 14:26-27)

Each of us is equally called to repentance and to a new life in Christ, one that forsakes our idolatrous and sinful past.

It’s no surprise that Jesus offers no special exception for people who are same sex attracted, however strong their feelings may be.

But the root of idolatry, affecting us all, goes back to the Garden of Eden. Our first ancestors sought autonomy from God, the ability to see and define for themselves what is good and what is evil. We have all made the same mistake. We are all called to repent of it.

“God’s Kindness is Meant to Lead You to Repentance”

Filmmaker Roggio argues that our concept of what it means to be homosexual has changed over time, and that the word biblical translators chose in 1946 is inadequate. Here is the current translation. The RSV has changed with the times, carrying the thought through verse 10.

Do you not know that the unrighteous will not inherit the kingdom of God? Do not be deceived; neither the immoral, nor idolaters, nor adulterers, nor sexual perverts, nor thieves, nor the greedy, nor drunkards, nor revilers, nor robbers will inherit the kingdom of God. (1 Corinthians 6:9-10)

Roggio may also be unhappy with Romans 1:18-32, where God judges our idolatry by turning us over to our lusts, a judgment we may be living under now. While these verses may seem especially harsh upon certain expressions of sin, Romans 2 makes it clear that none of us are blameless. To quote the first four verses:

Therefore you have no excuse, O man, whoever you are, when you judge another; for in passing judgment upon him you condemn yourself, because you, the judge, are doing the very same things. We know that the judgment of God rightly falls upon those who do such things. Do you suppose, O man, that when you judge those who do such things and yet do them yourself, you will escape the judgment of God? Or do you presume upon the riches of his kindness and forbearance and patience? Do you not know that God’s kindness is meant to lead you to repentance? (Romans 2:1-4)

Let God Define Good and Evil

Whatever form of idolatry haunts us, and certainly that includes our quest for self-actualization apart from God, we are all called to repentance. Each person must submit to the Lordship of Jesus Christ, the One who can rightfully (and righteously) define for us what is good and what is evil.

Jesus gave Himself as a sacrifice for our sins, that we may ultimately stand justified before God the Father. This applies to all, regardless of the idols we have clung to. Each of us is equally called to repentance and to a new life in Christ, one that forsakes our idolatrous and sinful past.

Translators have a responsibility to choose which word translates the Greek best. It isn’t only about one word or even one verse, though. It’s about the clear message of the whole Bible, and it’s also about our own choice. To follow Him, we must each count the cost of discipleship. That choice is ours.

 

Jim Kenaston graduated from Messiah College with a B.A. in History (1983) and from Miami University with an M.En. in International Environmental Affairs (1990).

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