Beyond the Queen James Bible

Beyond the Queen James Bible December 22, 2012

I read with interest in recent days the news (which I thought I’d heard announced at some point before) about the Queen James Bible.

What this Bible does is translate the eight “clobber passages” in ways that reflect what many scholars understand them to mean, seeking to make clear that they are not about contemporary same-sex relationships. Those are the only changes – the rest is the straight (pun intended) text of the King James Version.

In some instances the translation seems to be right on target, such as in its rendering of Genesis 19:5:

And they called unto Lot, and said unto him, Where are the men which came in to thee this night? Bring them out unto us, that we may rape and humiliate them.

That’s clearly what the text means. But in other instances, it takes proposed background information which is hypothetical and works it into the text in a manner that is perhaps too interpretative (although the same criticism can be made of any Bible in places). An example is its rendering of Leviticus 18:22:

Thou shalt not lie with mankind as with womankind in the temple of Molech: it is an abomination.

You can read its distinctive rendering of these and other verses on the Bible’s web site.

Hopefully the Queen James Bible will generate some useful discussion of these passages. But on the whole, from what I’ve heard about it, I am unhappy.

One reason I don’t like this Bible is that it sticks to King James English. Doing so won’t make any part of it more likely to be understood by modern readers. But a more significant qualm I have is that I don’t think that translating these passages in ways that counter prevailing misinterpretations is something that ought to be done only in a Bible marketed at gays and lesbians. It is crucial that as many Christians as possible read translations that make the issues of translation and interpretation in these issues clear. According to a post at Red Letter Christians, there are more hate crimes against gays and lesbians each year than there are against Christians. And the “clobber passages” are one of the reasons that too few Christians care about this.

If one were to actually give the Bible a more significant makeover in the interest of having it address such issues as these directly wherever possible, what might it look like?

In a first attempt to answer that question, here is a parable, based on one attributed to Jesus in Luke 16:19-31:

There was a straight man who had a loving wife and happy family. A gay man named Lazarus would pass by his gate every day, longing to have for a relationship of his own even a shadow of the legal standing, social acceptance, and personal safety that that man had. Even neighborhood dogs came and walked alongside him and offered him companionship, but he really wished he could walk down the street hand in hand with his partner without being afraid they would get beat up. The straight man gave regularly to organizations that opposed marriage equality.

The time came when Lazarus died and the angels carried him to sit at Abraham’s side at a fabulous banquet. The straight man also died and was buried. In Hades, where he was in torment, he looked up and saw Abraham far away, with Lazarus by his side.  So he called to him, ‘Father Abraham, have pity on me and send someone to dip the tip of his finger in water and cool my tongue, because I am in agony in this fire.’

“But Abraham replied, ‘Son, remember that in your lifetime you received your good things, while Lazarus received bad things, but now he is comforted here and you are in agony. And besides all this, between us and you a great chasm has been set in place, so that those who want to go from here to you cannot, nor can anyone cross over from there to us.’

He answered, ‘Then I beg you, father, send someone to my family, for I have five brothers. Let that person warn them, so that they will not also come to this place of torment.’

Abraham replied, ‘They have the Scriptures; let them listen to them.’

‘I too had the Scriptures, but I did not understand them as I do now. Please send someone to my family!’

Abraham said, ‘Fine, I’ll send Lazarus.’

‘No, father Abraham,’ he said, ‘He’s gay, and they won’t listen. But if someone who is straight goes to them, they will repent.’

Abraham shook his head with disappointment and said to him, ‘If they do not listen to Moses and the Prophets, and if they will not listen to the pain of those around them, then they will not be convinced no matter whom I send to them.’


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  • Jesus would be turning over in his grave…if he were still in it.

  • aar9n

    I find its easier to simply argue that the bible is not inerrant than to try to explain how the context of the clobber verses is not the same as the present situation in America.
    Once you realize the bible makes mistakes; there is no basis for being anti-gay besides prejudice, which is the true reason evangelicals treat gays the way they do anyway.
    This book seems to simply be fuel for the IDiots to start the “liberals change the bible” bullshit; which is ironic because the one thing we do know about the king James text is that it was changed over time.

  • Kubricks_Rube

    As the nastiest “clobber passages” are in the Old Testament (and since I myself am Jewish) I like to point out to Christian “clobberers” that despite our alleged Pharisaic focus on the letter of the law over the spirit, somehow both reform and conservative Judaism are not only generally LGBT friendly but have even come to affirm same-sex marriages- so perhaps even Leviticus 18:22 and 20:13 are not as airtight as they think.

  • While I think understanding verses in their proper contexts is important I have to say that I doubt the ancient Hebrew authors of these passages would look too friendly upon any same-sex relationship, even modern monogamous ones. Would you disagree? If you don’t, then I’m not sure what the point is in offering ancient context to the passages if you don’t think their view of homosexuality applies to us anyway.

    • Pseudonym

      I wouldn’t disagree, but to be fair, the ancient Hebrews also wouldn’t look kindly on mortgages, or psychiatry, or evolution, or feminism.

      The point, as I understand it, is to put the passages in their historical context. The whole vibe of Leviticus, for example, is trying to set the Hebrews apart from those other nations. You shouldn’t do what “they” do, lest you become too much like “them”. That is clearly part of the subtext of Leviticus 18:22, even if the above “translation” is taking way too many liberties.

      I don’t like the QJB, if only because taking an existing translation and modifying a few verses is a cop-out. However, it’s not (as James rightly pointed out) like other translations don’t do the same type of interpretation to reinforce their own beliefs. I would argue, for example, that the NIV translators rendered 1 Corinthians 6:9 in such a way that it was more homophobic than what Paul said. If they’re allowed to dial the homophobia up, the QJB “translators” are allowed to dial it back.

  • Curious

    I would be curious to know, which biblical translation into english you think is most accurate?

    The Queen James bible seems like a nice idea for people who already believe homosexuality is not a sin, but I doubt it will convince any homophobes.

    • I don’t think relying on one translation is a good idea. If one doesn’t read in the original languages, the best one can do is to read several which do not all share the same theological assumptions and translation approach – say the JPS, the NIV, and the NRSV.

      • C

        I know I’m very late, but thank you for your answer.

  • Frank

    Another sad attempt at rewriting Gods truth.

    • JK