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Does Phil Robertson get the Bible wrong?
Phil Robertson of A&E's "Duck Dynasty" has been suspended for his comments on homosexuality.
December 20th, 2013
11:23 AM ET

Does Phil Robertson get the Bible wrong?

By Daniel Burke, CNN Belief Blog Co-Editor
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(CNN) - The Robertson family of "Duck Dynasty" fame has rallied around its patriarch, saying his controversial comments on homosexuality are "grounded in the teachings of the Bible." But Scripture is fiercely contested ground, and some experts say Phil Robertson misinterprets a key Bible verse.

A&E, the network that broadcasts the hugely popular "Duck Dynasty" show, suspended Robertson for a now infamous interview with GQ magazine. In the article, Robertson, who became a born-again Christian in the 1970s after a prodigal youth, is asked to define "sin."

Here's what Robertson says: “Start with homosexual behavior and just morph out from there. Bestiality, sleeping around with this woman and that woman and that woman and those men."

Robertson, 67, then paraphrases a Bible passage from the New Testament: “Don’t be deceived. Neither the adulterers, the idolaters, the male prostitutes, the homosexual offenders, the greedy, the drunkards, the slanderers, the swindlers - they won’t inherit the kingdom of God.”

That's a pretty close citation of 1 Corinthians 6:9-10, which is a letter from Paul, often called the father of Christianity theology, to a fledgling Christian community in Corinth, Greece.

Here's what Paul's passage says, as rendered in the New International Version, by far the most popular translation among evangelicals and conservative Christians such as Robertson:

"Do not be deceived: Neither the sexually immoral nor idolaters nor adulterers nor men who have sex with men, nor thieves nor the greedy nor drunkards nor slanderers nor swindlers will inherit the kingdom of God."

Evangelicals, who make up about a quarter of the U.S. population, tend to take that passage at face value. The Robertson family pastor, for instance, told CNN on Thursday that "the verse explains itself."

Robertson himself is no religious neophyte. He's an elder in the White's Ferry Road Church of Christ and offers spiritual counseling, charity and Bible studies to many in his hometown of West Monroe, Louisiana, the family pastor, Mike Kellett told CNN.

The "Duck Dynasty" star also preaches around the country to conservatives that flock to hear his blend of woodsy, plainspoken Christianity.

Many conservatives backed Robertson's views on Scripture and homosexuality this week, if not the "crude" way he argued his point to GQ.

My Take: The Bible really does condemn homosexuality

But other Bible experts said the Scripture Robertson cited isn't quite clear about homosexuality.

"A lot of people misread this text because it's so complicated," said O. Wesley Allen Jr., an associate professor at Lexington Theological Seminary in Kentucky.

First, scholars say, we have to look at the context surrounding Paul's letter.

The Christian leader is trying to get the quarreling Corinthians to stop taking each other to civil courts and being judgmental. "The very fact that you have lawsuits among you means you have been completely defeated already," Paul says.

Things were supposed to be different after they became Christian believers, Paul continues; they were supposed to stop their sinful ways.

Then Paul lists some of their sins of the past, including greed, drinking too much, worshipping idols and sexual immorality. "That is what some of you were," Paul says. "But you were washed, you were sanctified, you were justified in the name of the Lord Jesus Christ and by the Spirit of our God."

The list of sins is likely based on rumors that Paul heard about Corinth, says Warren Throckmorton, a psychology professor at Grove City College in Pennsylvania who has studied the Bible's teachings on homosexuality. Bible scholars call it a "vice list," and it appears several times in Scripture.

So what does Paul's "vice list" say about homosexuality? That's the tricky part.

The first word Paul uses is "malakoi," which means "soft" in Greek, according to Allen. By analogy, the word came to mean "effeminate," which is how the King James Version of the Bible translates it.

"In the ancient world, it would refer to a boy in a relationship with an older man," Allen said. "It was pederasty, not homosexuality as we think of it today."

The other relevant word on Paul's "vice list" is "arsenokotai," which means "male sex." It refers to the other half in the man-boy relationship, common in Greece at the time, Allen said, the older male having sex with the "soft one."

"It isn't anything to do with what we would see today in an intimate, mutual relationship between gay adults," said Allen, who is co-authoring an upcoming book on homosexuality and heterosexuality in the church.

My Take: The Bible’s surprisingly mixed messages on sexuality

Even so, scholars such as Allen acknowledge there are no Bible passages that support same-sex relationships, and at least seven that appear to condemn gay sex.

"There's no way around the fact that those passages take a negative view of homosexuality, and nowhere in the Bible is a positive view offered," Allen said. "So conservatives and liberals continue to debate."

Liberals say that some parts of the Bible offered particular truths for a specific times and places but those times and places, as well as human understanding of sexuality, have progressed dramatically.

"The Bible may be divinely inspired, but its authors were human and saw, as St. Paul puts it, through a glass darkly," said Jim Naughton, a Christian gay rights activist and communications consultant. "On the subject of homosexuality, the Bible doesn’t mean what Phil Robertson thinks it means."

Conservatives such as Robertson, on the other hand, argue that the Bible is the bedrock of their faith, unchanging and unalterable. "We want you to know that first and foremost we are a family rooted in our faith in God and our belief that the Bible is His word," the Robertson family said Thursday.

For decades, the gulf between the two sides has divided denominations, churches and families. To paraphrase Lincoln, both sides read the same Bible and pray to the same God, and both invoke his aid to argue against each other. Which is why our contemporary debate over homosexuality is so fierce, and so seemingly unending.

- CNN Religion Editor

Filed under: Belief • Bible • Christianity • Church • Culture wars • Discrimination • Ethics • evangelicals • Faith • Gay marriage • Gay rights • gender issues • Prejudice • Same-sex marriage • Sexuality

soundoff (5,719 Responses)
  1. Camille

    The quotation by Robertson above, "Do not be deceived,.....etc, etc". and the Paul's words, "Do not be deceived: etc...." means the same thing. There is only one way to interpret it.
    These people doing these things will NOT inherit the kingdom of God. Maybe people are not looking at the use of the words "neither" and "nor" which means "not". "Neither" is to be used with "nor" and "either" is to be used with "or" (but not in this case though).
    I was of the opinion that Robertson was voicing his personal opinion based on his beliefs. He has a right to that.
    The Bible was originally written by men who were inspired by God. He told them what to write because he knew that they would need guidelines to follow as to how to live, to come to understand his power and to let us know what is going to happen, see Revelations; God is not the ruler of this world now, Satan is and he is the one leading all these people astray because he is a liar, a slanderer, a resister and he challenged God's sovereignty to rule. So God is allowing his to rule all this time since he says human being are capable of ruling themselves and they do not need to depend on God. When the time is ripe, God will say, "Enough"."

    December 20, 2013 at 1:06 pm |
    • PushingBack

      Nobody is stopping him from voicing anything. However, opinions and beliefs, once voiced, are not free from consequences. Nobody is guaranteed freedom of expression without consequences.

      December 20, 2013 at 1:23 pm |
    • G to the T

      You chose the words (supposedly) of Paul over those (supposedly) of Jesus? Makes sense...

      December 21, 2013 at 11:23 am |
  2. tre

    In what way are this guy's views different from all the evangelical preachers on TV? They are just a little more polished, and slightly more tactful. Why does no one criticize them or threaten to throw them off the air? Just because they are the "reverend" or "doctor" so-and-so?

    December 20, 2013 at 1:06 pm |
    • Rick

      Because Phil represents A&E whether on set or off. A&E is a long time supporter of the LGBT community thus creating bad press for A&E. It's not about free speech it is about having common sense and voicing your opinions about things that you say are a result of your beliefs. Keep those beliefs where they belong...in your church.

      December 20, 2013 at 1:16 pm |
  3. Only1Voice

    Phil Robertson gets the text and meaning of the Bible exactly correct. That's what it says and means. Our culture is anti-nomian and anti-authoritarian as it emphasizes the self above all other things. We set rules and give meaning, rejecting all outside guides. Yes, woe to those who call good evil and evil good.

    December 20, 2013 at 1:04 pm |
    • Bob Bobson

      Christians use the old testament to justify their hatred of gays, yet for everything else they say it's not relevant.

      December 20, 2013 at 1:06 pm |
      • PushingBack

        Correct, it's only relevant to them if it means agreeing with their narrow view of the world.

        December 20, 2013 at 1:20 pm |
    • tallulah13

      I judge people by their actions. I find that behavior is a far better indicator of good and evil than a 2000 year old book that was cobbled together to support one of many religious cults in the middle east at that time.

      December 20, 2013 at 1:10 pm |
    • nik green

      LMAO!

      December 20, 2013 at 1:24 pm |
  4. john mraz

    THE BOOK Starts out as a lie, the cant even get start right ?

    God the Father did it all by himself.

    In the beginning God created the heaven and the earth. Genesis 1:1

    Thus saith the LORD, thy redeemer, and he that formed thee from the womb, I am the LORD that maketh all things; that stretcheth forth the heavens alone; that spreadeth abroad the earth by myself. Isaiah 44:24

    Jesus did it.

    There was a man sent from God, whose name was John. The same came for a witness, to bear witness of the Light, that all men through him might believe. He was not that Light, but was sent to bear witness of that Light. That was the true Light, which lighteth every man that cometh into the world. He was in the world, and the world was made by him, and the world knew him not. John 1:6-10

    [The "John" in this passage is John the Baptist, who is talking about Jesus, saying that "the world was made by him."]

    By him [Jesus] were all things created, that are in heaven, and that are in earth, visible and invisible, whether they be thrones, or dominions, or principalities, or powers: all things were created by him, and for him. Colossians 1:16

    God and Jesus did it together.

    Yet for us there is one God, the Father, from whom all things are and for whom we exist, and one Lord, Jesus Christ, through whom all things are and through whom we exist. 1 Corinthians 8:6

    enough said about this book of lies. time for real people to make 2013 laws, not read from mind of Taliban

    December 20, 2013 at 1:04 pm |
  5. whay is it

    A lot of morons on here do not understand the first amendment.

    You have the right to say what you want and not get accosted by the government for it (exceptions are the "false alarm" pretenses and threats). However once you infringe on a private individuals/companies right to life, liberty, and the pursuit of happiness with your words, YOU are wrong.

    Phil Robertson infringed on A&E rights by spewing garbage out of his mouth and A&E determined (undoubtedly covered it in a contract) that his words infringed on A&E's business

    December 20, 2013 at 1:02 pm |
  6. Mike again

    Gays need to be banned from adopting children.

    December 20, 2013 at 1:02 pm |
    • Observer

      Wish we could do the same for ignorant bigots.

      December 20, 2013 at 1:04 pm |
    • Doc Vestibule

      Why?

      December 20, 2013 at 1:04 pm |
    • curtis

      Agreed. A child without a father or mother should not be something that happens on purpose. Yes two dads might be better than none- but with the waiting list and scrutiny to adopt, this is not the issue. Stop putting pc over quality of life.

      December 20, 2013 at 1:05 pm |
    • Sam Harris

      As do you.

      December 20, 2013 at 1:06 pm |
    • Gregg H

      As long as they're not aborted, who cares if they have a family to take care of them, right?

      December 20, 2013 at 1:06 pm |
  7. Doc Vestibule

    I've been posting the various translations of malakoi and ar.senkotai on this board for years.
    AR.SENKOTAI – Has been translated as "abusers of themselves with mankind" (KJV), "se.xual per.verts" (RSV), "sodo.mites" (NKJV, NAB, JB, NRSV), those "who are guilty of hom.ose.xual per.version" (NEB), "men who lie with males" (Lamsa), "behaves like a hom.ose.xual" (CEV), "men who have se.xual relations with other men" (NCV), and "ho.mose.xual offenders" (NIV). The New American Bible (Roman Catholic) translated ar.senokoitai as "practicing hom.ose.xuals". After much protest, the editors agreed to delete this term and replace it with "sodo.mites" in subsequent editions.
    'Ar.senokoitai' referred to male prosti.tutes for Paul and Christians until the 4th century.

    MALAKOI – Literally means "soft" or "males who are soft". This word has been translated as "ef.feminate" (KJV), "hom.ose.xuals" (NKJV), "corrupt" (Lamsa), "per.verts" (CEV), "catamites" which means call boys (JB), "those who are male prosti.tutes" (NCV), and "male prost.itutes." (NIV, NRSV). Until the Reformation in the 16th century and in Roman Catholicism until the 20th century, malakoi was thought to mean "mas.turb.ators." Only in the 20th century has it been understood as a reference to hom.ose.xuality.

    December 20, 2013 at 1:02 pm |
  8. David

    Religion is what we believe it to be and/or practivce. Bigger issue I have is his First Amendment right has been trampled. "It is a messed up situation when Miley Cyrus gets a laugh, and Phil Robertson gets suspended."

    December 20, 2013 at 1:01 pm |
    • baelknight

      That's not a violation of his first amendment right. The first amendment states he cannot be jailed or executed for his beliefs. It does not protect you from saying something that someone else finds offensive and prohibit consequences for saying it.

      I am free to go curse at my boss. He is free to fire me. I cannot use the first amendment in my defense.

      December 20, 2013 at 1:04 pm |
    • Gregg H

      I wasn't aware that the A&E network was a branch of the government.

      December 20, 2013 at 1:05 pm |
    • Observer

      David,

      You are CLUELESS about what the 1st Amendments says. Read it sometime.

      December 20, 2013 at 1:05 pm |
  9. A Matter of Faith

    Did anyone notice that A&E is the one who actually aired the statements. They had plenty of time to review this footage and decide whether or not to air it. Apparently this bit did not end up on the cutting floor as did I'm sure less contraversial scenes. ... So who is fooling who here?

    December 20, 2013 at 1:01 pm |
    • A Matter of Faith

      Oh, wait... it was a GQ magazine article....totally unrelated to the A&E channel?? Very interesting what is happening with our basic freedoms when 'interpreted" by the "For Profit" commerce giants.

      December 20, 2013 at 1:05 pm |
    • JH1

      Did you completely miss the third paragraph that clearly stated Robertson's statements were made to a GQ Magazine reporter?

      December 20, 2013 at 1:12 pm |
  10. Gregg H

    Wow, a lot of people are taking what a dumb hillbilly says very seriously. If you want intelligence, watch a show with intelligent people. If you want to laugh at morons, don't be upset when they say something stupid.

    December 20, 2013 at 1:01 pm |
    • ripley83

      He's not just a dumb hillbilly. He is also a business owner, author and star of a hit cable show. He can't make these sort of mistakes without expecting this type of reaction.

      December 20, 2013 at 1:09 pm |
    • JC

      All I know is that these college educated, successful business persons are really rich for being a "dumb hillbilly."

      December 20, 2013 at 1:12 pm |
  11. skalaballa

    Wow. Just wow. Read Revelations 22:18 and tell me this article didn't just do exactly that.

    December 20, 2013 at 1:01 pm |
    • Doc Vestibule

      Revelation 22 – hmmm...
      Is that before or after the bit about the 7 headed, 10 horned, amphibious bear monster?

      December 20, 2013 at 1:03 pm |
    • James

      Welcome to modern era of lies.

      December 20, 2013 at 1:04 pm |
    • ripley83

      Its Revelation not Revelations.

      December 20, 2013 at 1:12 pm |
    • asdf

      Wow, Just wow! You actually read revelations and tried to relate it to current events! Revelations only relates to the time and place it was written. Obviously John was wrong because the kingdoms he was threatening were not destroyed and the end of times did not come.

      December 20, 2013 at 1:32 pm |
  12. john mraz

    David was gay and made a covenant in front of the lord, first gay marriage. Its in the bible .
    Gay is OK. he even tucked the 2 boys in a tent .

    December 20, 2013 at 1:00 pm |
    • skalaballa

      Oh really? do you have a citation so I can go read this?

      December 20, 2013 at 1:02 pm |
      • john mraz

        since you asked: Jonathan has a secret meeting with David in the forest. David will be king, he says, and he will be right beside him. "And they two made a covenant before the LORD." 23:16-18

        December 20, 2013 at 1:10 pm |
        • john mraz

          "The soul of Jonathan was knit with the soul of David, and Jonathan loved him as his own soul ... And Jonathan stripped himself of the robe that was upon him, and gave it to David, and his garments ... and his girdle."

          December 20, 2013 at 1:11 pm |
        • john mraz

          (19:2) "Jonathan ... delighted much in David."

          December 20, 2013 at 1:12 pm |
        • john mraz

          20:41) "They kissed one another ... until David exceeded."
          David and Jonathan "kissed one another, and wept with one another" when they parted for what they though might be the last time. pretty G if you ask me honey hum hum !!!

          December 20, 2013 at 1:13 pm |
        • asdf

          Are you quoting the bible or Game of Thrones?

          December 20, 2013 at 1:44 pm |
    • Mike again

      Another twisted Gay interpretation trying to make them feel good about their perverted life style.

      December 20, 2013 at 1:04 pm |
      • G to the T

        It's a "lifestyle" like being "black" is a "lifestyle". grow up

        December 21, 2013 at 11:34 am |
    • john mraz

      (20:16) "And Jonathan caused David to swear again, because he loved him: for he loved him as he loved his own soul."

      December 20, 2013 at 1:14 pm |
  13. jung

    You shall not round off the hair on your temples or mar the edges of your beard.–Leviticus 19:27 (English Standard Version)
    They shall not make bald patches on their heads, nor shave off the edges of their beards, nor make any cuts on their body.–Leviticus 21:5 (English Standard Version)
    “You shall keep my statutes. You shall not let your cattle breed with a different kind. You shall not sow your field with two kinds of seed, nor shall you wear a garment of cloth made of two kinds of material.–Leviticus 19:19 (English Standard Version)
    “Those who sanctify and purify themselves to go into the gardens, following one in the midst, eating pig's flesh and the abomination and mice, shall come to an end together, declares the Lord.–Isaiah 66:17 (English Standard Version)

    December 20, 2013 at 1:00 pm |
    • Shelley

      Whacky, obsolete stuff, that bible, for sure.

      December 20, 2013 at 1:02 pm |
  14. charleshawkins

    http://youtu.be/Nx6uSGPS_PQ

    A link to what I said on the subject back in 2004.

    December 20, 2013 at 12:59 pm |
    • Patsy Nomore

      Reich wing bible thumpers read what they wanna read...Not what the bible says..Idolaters,means worshiping the dollar,more than the Kingdom of Heaven... Not true say the thumbers..

      December 20, 2013 at 1:07 pm |
      • skalaballa

        Not true. Idolatry is studied often in many different churches I have been too. It's a widely known topic. There may be many "bible-thumpers" that don't know what they are talking about just as there are many uneducated liberals that spew things they know nothing about.
        Go ahead and hate on the uneducated in my group but know there are just as many if not more idiot liberals spewing idiotic things too. i.e. being intolerant of Christian's beliefs claiming they are intolerant. figure that one out???

        December 20, 2013 at 1:13 pm |
  15. Jeff

    Being gay while does promote closeness toewards and individual, it is a fruitless endevour. You can decieve yourself by focus on the first part, but it is the second part that is required in marriage and a gay couple will never be considered married, bacause a continuation of their bonding is impossible.

    December 20, 2013 at 12:59 pm |
    • Doris

      Sorry – gay marriage is already happening. Please try to keep up.

      December 20, 2013 at 1:00 pm |
      • skalaballa

        Actually, by the definition of marriage, gay partnership is happening. They can call it marriage, but marriage is defined as a man and a woman.

        December 20, 2013 at 1:04 pm |
        • Doc Vestibule

          Canadian checking in here.
          Gay marriage has been legal here for over a decade.
          Anglican and Unitarian churches perform them all the time for those who are interested in a church ceremony.

          December 20, 2013 at 1:06 pm |
        • fred mertz

          Sez you.

          December 20, 2013 at 1:19 pm |
      • Jeff

        Your right gay marriage is happening, partners have been getting together, but NONE have produced a baby. Have you heard something different? Hence it is a fruitless endeavor.

        December 20, 2013 at 1:09 pm |
    • QS

      Bummer....you gonna be the one to break it to all those straight married couples who can't conceive that they aren't "really" married either?

      December 20, 2013 at 1:01 pm |
      • Jeff

        This limitation is my no fault of their own.

        December 20, 2013 at 1:13 pm |
        • Jeff

          'my' should be 'by'

          December 20, 2013 at 1:22 pm |
        • QS

          So we should feel guilty because it's our fault we're gay?

          Irrelevant anyway as having children is not a pre-requisite of marriage.

          December 20, 2013 at 1:27 pm |
        • baelknight

          Its still, as you say, a "fruitless endeavor". Thus, as a fruitless endeavor, and as you have defined marriage as two people being able to have children, any couple incapable of having children cannot be validly married.

          December 20, 2013 at 2:16 pm |
    • Doris

      "the second part that is required in marriage"

      lol. says who? are you saying that straight couples who only adopt can never have a fulfilling marriage?

      December 20, 2013 at 1:02 pm |
      • Jeff

        I very much respect Elton John's comment in reference to the word 'marriage'. He said marriage is a religious term and should not be used for the gay community. But by all legal partnership rights, you can make a legal partner in life, but calling it marriage is just wrong and being gay is yes a fruitless endeavor.

        December 20, 2013 at 1:19 pm |
  16. QS

    I honestly don't care whether this person gets the bible right or that person gets the bible wrong – the fact that so many are still so deluded by religion in general and seemingly offer themselves to it as if they are asking, pleading, to be manipulated by it is enough for me to discount the entire inst.itution as a farce.

    I'm over this notion that we should be obligated to show respect for religious beliefs that are inherently disrespectful to others just because they happen to be a person's "beliefs". If your beliefs prevent you from being a decent enough person to not discriminate against others for no reason, then your beliefs are and should be seen as unacceptable in a tolerant society.

    It's time for those neat little "traditional" protections, justifications and excuses used by religion and its followers to be challenged and for people of good conscience to remove themselves from this divisive mind-trap altogether!

    December 20, 2013 at 12:58 pm |
    • DS

      Your comment is the most idiotic response I've ever read. You are proclaiming that you are the "tolerant" police and that because you are confused by religion that everyone in religion should be tolerant of other people sticking their you know whats in other guys arsses. There is a place prepared for you after this life.

      December 20, 2013 at 1:11 pm |
      • QS

        You must not have read many of the responses from religious people then.

        December 20, 2013 at 1:25 pm |
  17. Freedom Storm

    If Phil Robertson had cited something from the Koran, he would have been promoted to a high position at A&E.

    December 20, 2013 at 12:58 pm |
    • Some Antics

      Right, because Islam is so tolerant of gays and women...

      Only a sad little ignoramous would try to claim that liberals and LGBTs favor Islam over Christianity, they are both sad excuses for enlightenment and do nothing but further hate and discrimination.

      December 20, 2013 at 1:03 pm |
  18. whay is it

    Christianity's biggest problem:

    You have a million different "interpretations" to suite whom ever.

    December 20, 2013 at 12:58 pm |
    • skalaballa

      This is not Christianity's problem, it's a religion problem. This is those who aren't true Christians distorting Christianity to fit their desires and needs. Jesus himself fought against relgion and man-made traditions which came from bad interpretations and adding or taking away from the Word of God.
      True Chrisitianity is not about the do's and do nots and following rules to be a good person. It's about grace and forgiveness and love and a real relationship with God through Christ Jesus.

      December 20, 2013 at 1:06 pm |
      • DS

        That's not true. Christianity is about keeping the commandments. "If ye love me, keep my commandments". The Savior does provide grace for those that keep his commandments. Its not just grace.

        December 20, 2013 at 1:15 pm |
  19. J

    I love the conservative crocodile tears! They sure weren't leaping to the defense of the Dixie Chicks and their "1st amendment rights" when the media raked them through the coals.

    December 20, 2013 at 12:58 pm |
    • Some Antics

      It's called a double standard and they learn it from childhood which is why none of them can see it.

      December 20, 2013 at 1:05 pm |
  20. Scott liscomb

    Your wrong, wrong wrong. Being gay is a sin. ask the Pope.

    December 20, 2013 at 12:58 pm |
    • Dippy's Assistant

      It's "you're", not "your", dimwit, and the Pope is wrong. And his religion is dying out too.

      December 20, 2013 at 12:59 pm |
    • JWT

      Being gay is only a sin to those gays who happen to follow that particular interpretation of the bible.

      December 20, 2013 at 1:00 pm |
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The CNN Belief Blog covers the faith angles of the day's biggest stories, from breaking news to politics to entertainment, fostering a global conversation about the role of religion and belief in readers' lives. It's edited by CNN's Daniel Burke with contributions from Eric Marrapodi and CNN's worldwide news gathering team.