I’ve recently talked about my faith and it’s no secret I was raised in an ELCA Lutheran church. I admit however that my knowledge of the Bible is atrocious. There are key things I was taught growing up and I’ve used those keys as a measure against anything that tests my faith. While this works well for me, I realize others need a more specific foundation and often turn to the Bible for answers. Note: My ‘keys’ are also in the Bible, see Matthew 22:36-40
My home church is in the process of becoming a Reconciled in Christ congregation. Basically that means we will openly welcome those among the LGBTQ community. Gloria Dei is already a welcoming community but becoming an R.I.C. congregation puts us on a list and makes it known that we accept anyone regardless of sexual identity or orientation. Part of this process involves studying the Bible and understanding what it says and doesn’t say about homosexuality.
Being the good scholarly type that I am, I attended Sunday School on the day all of this was unpacked for us. We talked at length about various Bible passages, what they mean in context to when they were written and how some things don’t culturally apply today. A few days ago I went back over the material and pulled out my own study Bible to see what it had to say. It turns out that not all Bibles are created equal.
One of the verses presented in Sunday School had slightly different verbiage than my own Bible. After a quick BibleHub.com search I discovered most translations had this verse translated one of two ways. The verse in question is Genesis 19:5. Chapter 19 of Genesis is the story of Sodom and Gomorrah, a story often used to support the notion that homosexuality is a sin. This particular verse is the instance when the men of Sodom come to Lot’s house and demand he turn over his guests so that they may “know them” in one translation or “have sex with them” in another. The first instance doesn’t necessarily imply sexual intent and the second implies rape not consensual sex between men. I have read and reread that story and found no basis for the notion that homosexual behavior was the reason for the destruction of Sodom and Gomorrah. In fact, Genesis 19 never even mentions sexual immorality of any kind. My study bible had notations about this verse (Gen 19:5) which directed me to other passages in the Bible. Upon reading those verses and looking at the notations for them, the publisher draws what I believe to be a false conclusion and redirects the reader back to Genesis 19:5 as evidence, specifically that homosexuality is a sin.
I used a lifeline and phoned a pastor about my discovery and she laughed at me and told me to get a less conservative study Bible. Up until that point I had never really considered publisher bias in “the Good Book”. I know bias exists everywhere which includes the authors of the various books of the Bible. I had foolishly assumed that since this was a study bible, the notations were written from a scholarly perspective which would include arguments for both sides of an interpretation. In the case of the Zondervan NIV Study Bible copy written in 1984, this is simply not how the information is presented.
I might have been able to dismiss this one instance but I continued with the R.I.C. material and moved on to other verses used as bludgeons against the LGBTQ community. I again found another notation where a conclusion is drawn based on the translated scripture passage without taking into consideration the entirety of the passage, only a single verse! (Romans 1:27)
Ultimately the point I’m trying to make is not that you can’t trust the word of the Lord but that you have to look at more than one translation and more than one publisher’s conclusion about what those words mean. This is by no means an easy task and I am anxiously awaiting the delivery of two additional study Bibles so that I may continue to draw my own conclusions.