Gay-Proofing the Bible
May 6 2013
Photo Courtesy of the Editors of the Queen James Bible
It could be argued that the main reason gay marriage has yet to be legalized throughout the US is that a majority of Christians can’t deal with two dudes doin’ it. Most conservative Christians cloak their objections to same-sex relations in a few Bible verses that say stuff like, “Thou shalt not lie with mankind, as with womankind: it is an abomination.” (Leviticus 18:22) But an anonymous group of Christians is claiming that, actually, the parts of the Bible that are interpreted as references to homosexuality don’t say anything at all about diddling someone who has the same type of junk as yours—and they’ve gone a step further by retranslating the respective passages.
They’ve named their resulting text the Queen James Bible, and while it only contains about 100 words that have been changed from what can be found in the King James Bible, the altered passages read quite differently. That famous line about homosexuality being an “abomination,” for instance, was tweaked in the QJB to read, “Thou shalt not lie with mankind as with womankind in the temple of Molech: it is an abomination” (emphasis added). The QJB’s editors explain that this change was made due to historical context. It’s their view that this section of Leviticus is all about banning forms of pagan idolatry, which included “lying with” male prostitutes in certain temples, and wasn’t intended to condemn specific sex acts.
The editors have drawn criticism from conservative Christians for using historical context to interpret verses rather than relying on literal translation of the Hebrew. Christian Apologetics and Research Ministry (CARM), a right-wing group that opposes gay marriage, posted an especially harsh line-by-line attack on its website, claiming that the editors “altered [Leviticus 18:22] to fit their sexual preference.”
“To take offense with historical context is to take offense with historical fact,” the anonymous QJB editors wrote me in an email. “To fixate on the idea that God and the Bible hate gay people based on a few words is like worrying about the intonation of a vocal harmony on a Beatles demo instead of enjoying the music and letting it enrich your life. We encourage any non-Christian to sit down and read the entire Bible front to back. Nobody’s going to come away from that experience hating gay people.”
The academic argument over translation is mostly symbolic—if the majority of Christians decide to ignore the parts of the Bible that condemn homosexuality, as they already ignore the bits banning tattoos and eating shellfish, they’ll do so. But the editors of the QJB believe that it’s important to fight their opponents on their own terms, rather than just dismisswing certain verses as archaic. “People point at the Bible and say, ‘Gay people are bad because this book says so,’” they said. “We wanted a Bible people could point to and say, ‘Not anymore.’”
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