The Tort of Negligent Translation

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You wouldn’t think you could get sued over a Bible translation, but one Bradley LaShawn Fowler has filed lawsuits against two publishers demanding a total of $70 million in damages. He claims that their versions of the Bible, which condemn homosexuality, violate his rights as a homosexual man. He is representing himself, and his handwritten complaints (Thomas Nelson and Zondervan) are difficult to understand, but that seems to be the gist of it.

His complaints concern I Corinithians 6:9:

η ουκ οιδατε οτι αδικοι βασιλειαν θεου ου κληρονομησουσιν μη πλανασθε ουτε πορνοι ουτε ειδωλολατραι ουτε μοιχοι ουτε μαλακοι ουτε αρσενοκοιται

Textus Receptus

An nescitis quia iniqui regnum Dei non possidebunt? Nolite errare: neque fornicarii neque idolis servientes neque adulteri neque molles neque masculorum concubitores

Vulgate

Know ye not that the unrighteous shall not inherit the kingdom of God? Be not deceived: neither fornicators, nor idolaters, nor adulterers, nor effeminate, nor abusers of themselves with mankind,

King James

What is at issue is the meaning of the words μαλακοι and αρσενοκοιται The usual view is that they refer to men who engage in homosexual acts. μαλακοι are those taken to play the “feminine” role, αρσενοκοιται those taken to play the “masculine” role. That these refer to homosexuals of some sort is clear from the Latin translation, produced in the 5th century, which uses molles “soft ones” for μαλακοι and masculorum concubitores “those who sleep with men” for αρσενοκοιται.

There are two disputes over the translation of these terms. One is valid but not really relevant here. The observation is that the ancient Greeks had no notion of homosexual “identity”, so modern terms like “homosexual” and “gay”, which describe identities, are not appropriate. This seems to be true, but it means only that the Greek terms must be taken as referring to men who engage in sexual acts with men, not to a male gay sexual orientation or identity. The passage still condemns homosexual activity.

The other dispute is whether these terms refer to all men who engage in gay sex or to narrower categories such as temple prostitutes. There is a literature on this which I won’t go into. My own view is that the proponents of the broader view have won the debate.

As I understand Fowler’s complaints, he is not arguing that the New Testament, when translated correctly, discriminates against him as a gay man. Rather, he thinks that the publishers were negligent in publishing Bibles containing what in his view is an erroneous translation, one that, he thinks, falsely condemns homsexuality.

From a legal point of view, the interesting thing about this case is that it arguably turns on the secular question of the meaning of a text, not, strictly speaking, on religious doctrine. US Courts decline to rule on matters of religious doctrine on the grounds that this would violate the First Amendment, but insofar as this case requires a decision as to the meaning of a passage in a text, albeit a religious text, and not a decision on Christian doctrine per se, in theory the court might undertake the task.

Unfortunately, for those would find it interesting to see a court analyze the meaning of a Greek text, I suspect that this case won’t get that far. The judge has already expressed skepticism, and I have grave doubts as to the ability of the pro se plaintiff to proceed with the case. There are, furthermore, other legal issues, such as whether the publishers are liable for negligence in the absence of the ability of the plaintiff to establish a duty of care.

Incidentally, I looked up the passage in The Unbound Bible, which is very useful if you want to look at the Bible. It will display up to four parallel columns aligned at the verse level, chosen from any of more than two dozen versions of the Bible.

Hat tip to the Religion Clause.



43 Comments

  1. Hippolyte said,

    July 9, 2008 @ 7:38 pm

    Interesting… in modern Greek, “malaka” is a rude slang term referencing masturbation, basically the same as “wanker.” I wonder if there was a mistranslation somewhere along the line, or a shift in meaning?

    Either way, it seems like this guy would get a bit further by arguing the cultural context of the Bible (e.g. can I buy my slaves from Mexico or Canada) rather than disputing the translation. Good luck though, dude.

  2. Elyse Grasso said,

    July 9, 2008 @ 7:46 pm

    I think you may have a Cupertino in your text: ‘template prostitutes’ instead of ‘temple prostitutes’.

  3. Bill Poser said,

    July 9, 2008 @ 8:13 pm

    I think you may have a Cupertino in your text: ‘template prostitutes’ instead of ‘temple prostitutes’.

    Thanks, fixed.

  4. Arnold Zwicky said,

    July 9, 2008 @ 8:21 pm

    To Elyse Grasso: “Cupertino” is not a synonym for “typo”. I’m quite sure Bill Poser doesn’t use spell checkers (or completion software, for that matter). Almost surely a “completion error” on Bill’s own part, a phenomenon we’ve posted about here before: see Mark Liberman on “capture errors” here. The confusion might have come about because Mark used the allusive title “A Cupertino of the Mind” for his posting. But the springs of Cupertinos and capture errors are different.

  5. Aaron Davies said,

    July 9, 2008 @ 9:07 pm

    Is the tort of negligent translation anything like the offense of publishing a phrase book with intent to cause a breach of the peace?

  6. Q. Pheevr said,

    July 9, 2008 @ 9:09 pm

    From a legal point of view, the interesting thing about this case is that it arguably turns on the secular question of the meaning of a text, not, strictly speaking, on religious doctrine. US Courts decline to rule on matters of religious doctrine on the grounds that this would violate the First Amendment, but insofar as this case requires a decision as to the meaning of a passage in a text, albeit a religious text, and not a decision on Christian doctrine per se, in theory the court might undertake the task.

    I don’t think it’s possible to separate the textual question from the doctrinal one. In translating any text, one must make all sorts of judgments about the intent behind the original, and about what, when a “perfect” translation is impossible (which is more or less all the time), constitutes the best approximation or the most tolerable deviation. It is possible to adopt either a more scholarly and detached approach or a more doctrinaire approach to the translation of a religious text, but it seems inescapable that translation is interpretation, and I think it would be dangerous for any court to take on the task of interpreting a religious text.
    Of course, as you say, there are plenty of other good reasons for the court not to try to answer this question, but I think this is another one.

  7. DYSPEPSIA GENERATION » Blog Archive » Bible publisher faces $60M federal lawsuit over homosexuality said,

    July 9, 2008 @ 10:01 pm

    […] Update: A more comprehensive explanation of the issues is here. […]

  8. David Schwartz said,

    July 9, 2008 @ 10:16 pm

    What religious view you draw from the original text is definitely a doctrinal question. It is not necessarily your goal to translate the Bible “accurately” in a linguistic sense. It may very well be your goal, and legitimately so, to translate the Bible so that it accurately renders in English the doctrines you think the original states.

    Essentially, I agree with Q. Pheevr’s comment.

    Even if the original clearly said X, it is perfectly reasonable to write Y if you believe that the original *meant* Y in the doctrinal sense.

  9. Bill Poser said,

    July 9, 2008 @ 10:28 pm

    Arnold is right, I don’t use spell checking software. My spell checkers are implemented in wetware. They are Geoff Pullum and David Nash. Nor do I use completion software. I also find that I increasingly leave out words that I had intended to write. Perhaps this is a sign of age? My output device can’t keep up with my thoughts?

  10. HP said,

    July 9, 2008 @ 10:47 pm

    It seems to me that Mr. Fowler has forgotten Marx’s* famous aphorism, “I would never belong to any club that would have me as a member.”

    * Yes, I know. Does it really need to be said?

  11. Bill Poser said,

    July 10, 2008 @ 12:37 am

    I agree that it is an open question whether or not a court will agree to decide this question. However, I think that it is not so clear cut that any question of the interpretation of the text is necessarily a question about doctrine. Consider, for example, the case of a publisher Jones who contracts with scholar Smith to produce a new translation of the Bible. On delivery, Jones finds numerous errors in the translation and refuses to pay Smith, who then sues Jones for breach of contract. If Smith has translated:
    בְּרֵאשִׁית בָּרָא אֱלֹהִים אֵת הַשָּׁמַיִם וְאֵת הָאָרֶץ׃

    “In the beginning, the lord created hotels and restaurants”

    I am confident that the court will hold that Smith has done a terrible job and that Jones need not pay him. The incorrectness of this translation can be determined entirely by a knowledge of Hebrew without reference to Christian (or Jewish) doctrine.

    Even where matters of doctrine are involved in interpretation, it may still be possible to separate interpretation from translation. Consider Leviticus 17 which forbids the consumption of blood. Most Christians consider this passage to forbid only eating or drinking of blood, but the Watchtower Bible Society interprets it also as forbidding transfusions. This doctrinal difference in the interpretation of Leviticus 17 is not based on a difference in translation of the Hebrew text. Indeed, you can see here an official WBS blood transfusion refusal card which quotes Leviticus 17:14 as “You must not eat the blood of any sort of flesh”. So, even a member of WBS, whose doctrinal interpretation is that the prohibition extends to transfusion, will not consider the translation “eat” incorrect. Again, were a dispute to depend on the accuracy of the translation of this passage, a court could decide the matter in spite of the fact that there is a doctrinal dispute as to its interpretation.

    The critical question in the present cases is whether the plaintiff is concerned with the literal meaning of the text or its doctrinal interpretation. Is his complaint that Christian doctrine was negligently misrepresented or that the text was mistranslated? In some cases, it may not be possible to separate these questions, as when technical religious terms are involved, but in other cases it should be possible to distinguish them.

  12. Bill Poser said,

    July 10, 2008 @ 12:44 am

    Aaron Davies,

    Hmm. I’ve never encountered the tort of publication of a phrase book with intent to breach the peace, but it sounds intriguing. Got an example? I have to admit, you’ve given me mischievous ideas.

  13. Stephen Jones said,

    July 10, 2008 @ 1:26 am

    I firmly believe that ‘template prostitutes’ (aka lazy journalists) should burn in hell, and am glad that for once I am in agreement with St. Paul.

  14. Bill Poser said,

    July 10, 2008 @ 1:28 am

    A news report with some additional details is here.

  15. Bill Poser said,

    July 10, 2008 @ 1:30 am

    ‘template prostitutes’ (aka lazy journalists)

    Ah, so that’s what I meant.

  16. Stephen Jones said,

    July 10, 2008 @ 1:34 am

    Hmm. I’ve never encountered the tort of publication of a phrase book with intent to breach the peace, but it sounds intriguing. Got an example? I have to admit, you’ve given me mischievous ideas.

    Monty Python – Dirty Hungarian Phrasebook

  17. KCinDC said,

    July 10, 2008 @ 1:41 am

    Bill, try googling “my hovercraft is full of eels”.

  18. Stephen Jones said,

    July 10, 2008 @ 1:42 am

    The last link didn’t contain the trial. This one contains the trial as well.

  19. Jack Collins said,

    July 10, 2008 @ 2:23 am

    Biblical scholars are actually pretty stumped about what exactly αρσενοκοιται were, since the term appears nowhere in the Greek corpus before Paul. Considering that there were quite a few terms for various sorts of male-male sexual practices in Koine Greek, it is curious that Paul chose to coin a whole new word. Literally, it would translate as “man bedders” or “bed men,” but that doesn’t really narrow it down. It is possible that Paul meant to allude to the Greek (Septuagint) translation of Leviticus 18:22 (καὶ μετὰ ἄρσενος οὐ κοιμηθήσῃ κοίτην γυναικός…, lit.”and with a man you will not sleep a woman’s bed…”). Whatever Paul’s intent, it probably was not to condemn male-male sexual relations between men of equal age and social status, since such relationships were rather uncommon in the Hellenistic world.

  20. gordonoz said,

    July 10, 2008 @ 6:59 am

    Maybe rich men should sue Bible translators, claiming they have been embittered and disappointed by their failed efforts to fit camels through the eyes of needles.

  21. James Wimberley said,

    July 10, 2008 @ 7:27 am

    “Template prostitutes” come in both passive and active forms. MSM journalists, in failing to challenge McCain’s extremist policies, make themselves molles for his attempt to portray himself as a macho maverick. The masculorum concubitores are the right-wing pundits and hacks like Limbaugh who actively propagate such deceptions.

    BTW, can I put in an ignoramus’ plea for literal transliterations of Greek and other non-Latin words into the Latin character set? In addition not as a substitute of course.
    Bill: What’s wrong with spell checkers? Turn off auto-complete. Turn off the grammar checker, unless you need material for an anti-Microsoft rant. Even turn off check as you type, though I personally like it. Your typo, a Fehlleistung for which we are all grateful, shows that avoiding spellcheck does not protect you.

  22. Bill Muir said,

    July 10, 2008 @ 7:50 am

    I have no use for a spellchcker.

  23. David Schwartz said,

    July 10, 2008 @ 8:59 am

    Bill Poser: You created a hypothetical that is completely different from the case we are dealing with. In your hypothetical, it’s the person who gets to decide which doctrine the translation should reflect who is suing.

    Sure, if I hire you to produce a linguistically-accurate translation, you had better do that. And courts can decide whether you did that or not free of doctrinal issues.

    But in this case, there was no obligation to anyone to produce a linguistically accurate translation. Producing a doctrinally-accurate translation is an equally valid goal, and there was no obligation to choose one method over the other.

    “Again, were a dispute to depend on the accuracy of the translation of this passage, a court could decide the matter in spite of the fact that there is a doctrinal dispute as to its interpretation.”

    Yes, were the dispute over the *linguistic* accuracy. But if the dispute was over the *doctrinal* accuracy, a court could not do so. It is perfectly reasonable for someone to attempt to produce a doctrinally-accurate translation of the bible that clarifies ambiguities and even errors in the original if that’s what they think is best.

    If you claim he can use if the translation isn’t linguistically-accurate, you must feel that there is some obligation to make the translation linguistically-accurate, even if that means (in the judgment of the translator) making it doctrinally-inaccurate. Such an obligation would offend the first amendment and common sense.

  24. Maud Newton: Blog said,

    July 10, 2008 @ 10:25 am

    […] complainant sues two Bible publishers, alleging that their translations erroneously condemn […]

  25. Craig Russell said,

    July 10, 2008 @ 10:27 am

    @ James:

    η ουκ οιδατε οτι αδικοι βασιλειαν θεου ου κληρονομησουσιν μη πλανασθε ουτε πορνοι ουτε ειδωλολατραι ουτε μοιχοι ουτε μαλακοι ουτε αρσενοκοιται

    E ouk oidate hoti adikoi basileian theou ou kleronomesousin me planasthe oute pornoi oute eidololatrai oute moichoi oute malakoi oute arsenokoitai

    The words in question are the last and the third to last (malakoi and arsenokoitai).

    ‘Malakos’ is the ordinary Classical Greek word for ‘soft’, and it can mean ‘soft’ in as any number of senses, one of which is ‘cowardly; morally weak; lacking in self control’ (according to LSJ, the standard dictionary of Classical Greek).

    This use in general goes back to Homer, where an easier-to-defeat warrior is said to be ‘more malakos’, but its specific use to mean ‘one who submits sexually’ is not terribly well-attested outside of Paul’s letter. LSJ lists a 3rd century BC papyrus, a 2nd century AD astrologer called Vettius Valens (whom I have never heard of), and the third century AD biographer Diogenes Laertius.

    But it is not hard to imagine that if this use was somewhat ‘slangy’ in Paul’s day, it might not have made it into the surviving literary record before him. (Compare the British slang meaning of the word ‘bent’). So it might have been perfectly clear to Paul’s audience that he meant ‘male sexual recipient’, but it is not so clear to US, I think–it could just as well mean ‘weak-hearted’ or ‘morally deficient’ in general.

    ‘Arsenokoitai’ does (as mentioned above) seem to be original to Paul (but, again I am always skeptical if we ever make such a claim, since we have so little evidence, really, to go by). The combination is arseno- (male) and koit- (bed), and it seems (to me) likely that the expected meaning would be “those (men) who take men to bed”.

    My opinion is that Fowler is barking up the wrong tree here. Paul probably did want to single out men who engaged in sexual activity with other men–especially given the context. “Pornoi” (as seen from the English derivative) and ‘moichoi’ are unquestionably sexual terms. Paul probably did consider it a sin for men to have sex with each other. For Fowler to insist that the Bible must mean what he already believes it to mean is no different from a fundamentalist insisting the same–it’s putting the answer before the question.

    If I were Fowler, the argument I’d make (and not in court) is: “Paul, living in the first century Roman empire and speaking to communities of a new sect founded in the principles of Judaism, didn’t like homosexual behavior. So what? Why should any of us care about that?

  26. Jon Weinberg said,

    July 10, 2008 @ 10:47 am

    Not to disparage the importance of the “textual meaning vs. doctrinal interpretation” issue, but folks should be aware that the suit is meritless under U.S. law either way. (I’m wearing my constitutional-law-professor hat here.) That is, even if the court finds that the publisher translated the text incorrectly, and should have known better, Fowler should still lose. Why? Because his claim in the nature of a group defamation claim. Suppose I publish a statement that members of a certain racial minority commit the bulk of crimes, and that studies back me up on this. My statement can easily be shown to be false, but if a member of that group should sue me, he’ll lose — U.S. law says that it’s not grounds for a successful lawsuit to have defamed an entire large group of which plaintiff is a member. Same result if a publisher says that gays are hated by God, and cites Bible verses, in translation, that it says back that position up. This suit isn’t different from that in any way that matters to the result.

  27. The Boar’s Head Tavern said,

    July 10, 2008 @ 11:57 am

    […] Man suing Zondervan for publishing Bibles that condemn homosexuality. Good comments (no JN) on the linked post. Posted by: JS Bangs @ 12:00 pm | Trackback | Permalink […]

  28. Gay man sues Bible publishers said,

    July 10, 2008 @ 2:47 pm

    […] (PDF), as well as other commentary and links. James Taranto also comments. And Bill Poser, Language Log (via our comments), on the translation issues raised by the […]

  29. Simac said,

    July 10, 2008 @ 7:33 pm

    It takes quite a cognitive leap to characterize this as any sort of tort in any legal sense whatsoever; no court will touch this case on that basis alone. You are correct in pointing out that the publisher doesn’t owe anyone any duty to produce a certain translation, and there is no “living author” with whom or which a contractual relationship stipulates a right of review and the right to reject objectionable translations–so really instead of tort it’s a question of contract law. Torts require a common law duty to act or not act in certain ways such that someone else is not injured in some way, and that doesn’t apply in this case.

    In addition, all the publisher has to do is say “we choose our translations on the basis of our religious beliefs,” which falls clearly under the First Amendment. There is also no requirement that I purchase their particular translation.

    Still, the lawsuit does provoke a much-needed discussion into the conservative bloggosphere about translation, literalism, and the Word.

  30. David Schwartz said,

    July 11, 2008 @ 3:32 am

    Jon Weinberg: And, of course, he can’t argue that foisting a position on god that he didn’t actually take somehow defames god either.

  31. Jon Weinberg said,

    July 11, 2008 @ 7:37 am

    David Schwartz: Under well-established standing principles, God would have to sue for that himself. And the general understanding, pursuant to Luke 11:52, is that He’d have a hard time finding a lawyer.

  32. Jason S said,

    July 11, 2008 @ 2:54 pm

    The idea that the Greeks “had no notion of homosexual ‘identity'” is fallacious — Aristophanes’ speech in Plato’s Symposium matches quite well with modern Western notions of “sexual orientation.” As a refresher, Aristophanes states that the original humans were bipartite and were split apart by Zeus. Since then, each half has searched for its “other half,” but there were three types of humans before: androgenous, all-male, and all-female. This, Aristophanes explains, is why some men — seeking for their partner — prefer men to women and there are women who “do not care for men” but “have female attachments.” Aristophanes then declares that those of the all-male (what we would now call “gay”) group are the “best … because they have the most manly nature.”

    That sounds an awful lot like modern notions of sexual orientation. Such concepts were indeed present in the ancient Greek world as early as the 4th century BCE. I’m not sure why or how the idea that such an idea was not present has become so widely believed, but it is incorrect.

  33. Bill Poser said,

    July 11, 2008 @ 10:18 pm

    There are two reasons that I tend not to use spell checkers. The first is that spell checkers are usually components of word processors and that I do not routinely use a word processor to write. To non-Unix people, this may come as a shock. I do most of my writing using a plain text editor, usually emacs. If I am writing something intended to be printed, I will include commands for the TeX text formatter. If I am creating a web page, I do the same thing only I include HTML markup rather than TeX.

    The other reason that I tend not to use a spell checker is that a grate deal of what I write include so many words that the spell checker identifies as errors, because they are in another language or for some other reason exotic, that it is rather tedious to use a stand-alone or obtrusive sort of spell checker. The kind that comes with the WordPress comment box in which I am now writing, which just underlines words that it considers suspicious in red, is okay, but most of the time I am not writing in such an environment.

  34. Bill Poser said,

    July 11, 2008 @ 10:20 pm

    Jason S,

    Your point seems well taken. Ancient Greek ideas about sexual orientation is not my area of expertise. I don’t know why there seems to be such wide agreement that the Greeks didn’t have approximately modern notions of sexual identity.

  35. Bill Poser said,

    July 11, 2008 @ 10:25 pm

    With regard to the question of whether arsenokoitai refers only to those who engage in a specific type of homosexual act in the context of a particular type of relationship, such as that typical in classical Greece between an adult man and a boy, it seems to me that the fact that Paul chose an apparent neologism rather than any of the existing terms available to him is in and of itself evidence that he did not wish to limit himself to a particular act and/or relationship, but want to refer to homosexual activity in general.

  36. Bill Poser said,

    July 11, 2008 @ 10:37 pm

    David Schwartz,

    I think that my hypothetical is more apt than you admit. It was not meant to present a parallel legal situation, only to serve as an example of a situation in which a court could make a decision about the meaning of a religious text without invoking doctrinal considerations. I think that we are in agreement that if the question is whether the translation reflects the correct doctrine, the court cannot decide it since it cannot decide what doctrine is correct.

    Which question would need to be answered were this case to proceed is not entirely clear, because it is not clear whether the publisher (or translator) purports to offer a doctrinally correct translation and whether Fowler’s church relied upon it for such a purpose. Put another way, it is not clear whether Fowler’s complaint is that the Bible misrepresented the doctrine of his church or whether his complaint is that the Bible presented a linguistically incorrect translation on which the members of his church relied in formulating their own doctrine.

  37. Jack Collins said,

    July 12, 2008 @ 2:57 am

    @ Craig Russel:

    Paul probably did consider it a sin for men to have sex with each other.

    Well, yes, but Paul accepted sex within marriage only grudgingly because it was preferable to fornication. (1 Cor 7:1-7)

    @Bill Poser

    …it seems to me that the fact that Paul chose an apparent neologism rather than any of the existing terms available to him is in and of itself evidence that he did not wish to limit himself to a particular act and/or relationship, but want to refer to homosexual activity in general.

    This begs the question that Paul would have had notions of homosexual practices other than those which predominated in his culture, which would have been pederasty and male prostitution. And he certainly didn’t mean to refer to all homosexual activity, as arsenokoitai is explicitly a male term.

    I don’t think the point is to emphasize that the Greeks had no concept of homosexual orientation, but that their concept of homosexual orientation–and heterosexual orientation–was very different than ours. To the Greeks, sex included an element of social domination. Sex took place between men and women, men and boys, free men and slaves or prostitutes, not between equals.

    None of this has any relevance to the case, of course, which is absurd, but it is relevant to understanding the complexities of translation. Another example would be the translation of the Hebrew ענה (`anah) as “rape” in Genesis 34 (the “Rape of Dinah”). Rape has very specific legal and social implications in modern usage that simply didn’t apply to the ancient Israelite understanding of sex roles and marriage.

  38. Suing Bible publishers for bad translations « Michael Lauer’s Weblog said,

    July 12, 2008 @ 7:46 am

    […] Bible publishers for bad translations Via Language Log and Religion Clause and a whole lot of other places: the story of Bradley Fowler, who is suing […]

  39. David Schwartz said,

    July 12, 2008 @ 10:38 am

    “Put another way, it is not clear whether Fowler’s complaint is that the Bible misrepresented the doctrine of his church or whether his complaint is that the Bible presented a linguistically incorrect translation on which the members of his church relied in formulating their own doctrine.”

    The complaint is equally absurd either way, just for different reasons. Clearly, the first case requires the court to establish valid or invalid doctrine, which is absurd. Clearly this implicated first amendment issues.

    The second case requires the court to compel a standard of linguistic accuracy over a standard of doctrinal accuracy. In other words, it would hold that the law can compel a religious publishing outfit to produce a linguistically accurate translation even if that outfit believes the translation is doctrinally wrong. I find that even more absurd than the first and an even more serious implication of first amendment issues.

    Simply put, the law cannot determine the ‘right way’ to determine the content of bibles. Such a notion is absurd on its face.

  40. blog.rightreading.com » Reader sues over translations said,

    July 14, 2008 @ 8:58 am

    […] case is reported at Language Log, where the lively discussion it provoked included the following comments: JACK COLLINS: Biblical scholars are actually pretty stumped about what exactly ???????????? were, […]

  41. Bookninja » Blog Archive » Roundup said,

    July 15, 2008 @ 10:42 am

    […] Bible publisher sued over translation that “erroneously” condemns gays (via Maud) Posted by George [link] […]

  42. Newsflash: Christianity is Struggling with Homosexuals « Very Important Stuff said,

    July 21, 2008 @ 3:52 am

    […] Language Log, Bill Poser writes about the Greek text of 1 Corinthians 6:9, and a lawsuit filed against two publishers by a homosexual man in Michigan.  […]

  43. Ken said,

    May 22, 2009 @ 1:59 pm

    Words change their meaning over time. The word “lasagna” comes from a Greek word that meant “chamber pot.” Clearly, no one has chamber pots for dinner today.

    Whatever the modern meaning of these words may be, there is insufficient attestation for their meanings 2,000 years ago to put this fine a point on the translation. The translation arises out of animus toward gays, not scholarship. The same words are used in Romans 1. With this speculative translation, it would have the Word of God saying that whatever it is first appears in adulthood and its etiology is worshiping physical idols in fertility cults.

    No gay people today were transformed from heterosexuals in adulthood by participating in the worship of idols in a fertility cult. Therefore whatever the word means, it does not refer to what we call lesbians and gay men, just as chamber pots are not an ingredient in lasagna.

    Now, one may argue we have a lot of scholars and translators over many centuries translating it this way, but many people doing a thing doesn’t make it right. And thou shalt not follow a multitude to do evil.

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