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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

(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. semo

    There are a lot of Christianphobics.. Seems there are more haters on the liberal side that think in this country there should only be one way to believe and if you do not, they will attack you.

    December 20, 2013 at 1:25 pm |
    • tallulah13

      Or perhaps we understand that religion doesn't absolve you from the consequences of your actions. When you publicly insult a number of your employer's clients, you can expect your employer to take action. See how that works?

      December 20, 2013 at 1:26 pm |
      • John

        Strange that GLAD the same organization designed to protect Gay's in the workforce from being punished for their beliefs pushed A&E to do this. After all don't they want everyone to be tolerant of their lifestyle? Whatever happened to the tolerant progressives?

        December 20, 2013 at 1:38 pm |
      • John

        What about the openly gay couple from A&Es Storage Ward NY who stated that they prefered a man's tight AS#. Shouldn't they receive the same response from progressives?

        December 20, 2013 at 1:40 pm |
    • tony

      So quit with the "one true god" stuff then.

      December 20, 2013 at 1:27 pm |
    • Lucifer's Evil Twin

      You write poorly...

      December 20, 2013 at 1:29 pm |
    • Some Antics

      Sane American: "Hey, this country should be for everyone, every religion and every creed and color and persuasion."

      Christian American: "Exactly! Freedom for all! Well, except for those gays, our God really hates those people, and let's not let any mosques be built, those Muslims are terrorists you know, oh! and don't forget everyone has to celebrate Christmas or you're not really American as it's an American tradition so don't you dare just say Happy Holidays..."

      Sane American: "sigh..."

      December 20, 2013 at 1:48 pm |
  2. Drew

    OK, I'm an atheist, was raised Catholic, just to clarify.. I don't watch this show, or know who this man is, however... Despite your article, and the people you have saying he misquoted the verse, he did not.. The verse is self explanatory, and the gay gentleman you had who disagreed, saying these were past behaviors Paul was commenting on, should realize the he is involved in those activities NOW, and is indeed sinning, if he is a true Christian..

    The man said what he believes, and he stood by it.. He's allowed to have any opinion he desires, and express it in any way that is not violent, or uncivilized..

    December 20, 2013 at 1:24 pm |
  3. guest

    who cares what these rednecks think, they are not role models!!!

    December 20, 2013 at 1:23 pm |
    • semo

      But I guess Miley and Perez Hilton are.

      December 20, 2013 at 1:26 pm |
      • tallulah13

        Poor semo. They're not role models either. You should really look beyond pop culture for people to admire.

        December 20, 2013 at 1:28 pm |
      • guest

        screw them too.

        December 20, 2013 at 1:29 pm |
    • Shamrock Rancher

      I'd bet he's A LOT CLOSER to a role model than you'll ever be.

      December 20, 2013 at 1:39 pm |
      • K-switch

        How much would you be willing to bet, knowing absolutely nothing about the poster.

        December 20, 2013 at 2:05 pm |
  4. Bob Bobson

    Friends

    I know from Leviticus 11:6-8 that touching the skin of a dead pig makes me unclean, but may I still play football if I wear gloves?

    December 20, 2013 at 1:23 pm |
    • Lucifer's Evil Twin

      As long as the gloves are made of deer or goat skin you should be OK. Don't mix textiles though,,, the bible says you'll go to hell if you do...

      December 20, 2013 at 1:26 pm |
    • oldtoys1961

      So you find it ok for men to gargle with each others balls?

      December 20, 2013 at 1:28 pm |
      • Lucifer's Evil Twin

        Why is it any of your business?

        December 20, 2013 at 1:32 pm |
      • K-switch

        The s3xiness of the act has no correlation to whether it is considered a sin by the Bible. Notice the only arguments you hear in that aspect are man on man. Hard to find anyone protesting hot l3sbo action.

        December 20, 2013 at 2:10 pm |
    • semo

      No one is to voice their opinion about gays but you can make fun of Christians all you want. You cannot have it both ways. Just like the lib socialist party.

      December 20, 2013 at 1:28 pm |
    • platypusfriend

      Genuine, practicing Christians follow the teachings of the New Testament, and consider the Old Testament law to be "fulfilled", and therefore abolished. The book "Leviticus" is from the Old Testament.

      December 20, 2013 at 1:29 pm |
    • learusa

      I think the old testament is mainly followed by Jews, not by Christians who follow the rules and guidelines set by Jesus and his followers after his death and resurrection. Many Orthodox Christians, Muslims and Jews think pigs are unclean though.

      December 20, 2013 at 1:31 pm |
  5. Earthling

    Kind of hard to say that someone gets all or part of the bible "wrong". If you get it "right", you're basing your beliefs on a fictional book. If you get it "wrong", you're in disagreement with a fictional book, and may or may not have something in common with reality. Remove that nonsense from the discussion, and base your ideas on reality.

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

      Who said its fictional? You – because you are afraid of what is written in it..

      December 20, 2013 at 1:28 pm |
    • israeline

      Earthling are you saying that because someone gets Earth Law incorrect or disobey Earth Law it is fictional? When someone does not stop at a stop sign even though one should stop at the stop sign is it fictional? Think! God Almighty is not fictional nor Universal Laws, but we are not qualified to judge, leave that to the ones that are qualified as ultimate Judges. Mercy is required in the Judging process.

      December 20, 2013 at 1:38 pm |
  6. israeline

    Correction: "Before Justice destroys, Mercy says "Here I AM".

    December 20, 2013 at 1:22 pm |
  7. john mraz

    I love the Taliban teaching too

    SO FUNNY, wake up people its 2013 ... the universe make us up ? we know this for fact .. we can grow a new ear on mice. GOD no longer needed just cells

    December 20, 2013 at 1:22 pm |
  8. Mike again

    GewGays are destroying America

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

      i agree

      December 20, 2013 at 1:28 pm |
  9. Bob Bobson

    Friends

    Most of my male friends get their hair trimmed, including the hair around their temples, even though this is expressly forbidden by Leviticus 19:27.

    How should they die?

    December 20, 2013 at 1:22 pm |
    • IKnowWhatI'mTalkingAbout

      Bob...you keep proving your ignorance in your posts. If you knew anything about the scripture you would know that walked his children (the Jews here) through many phases of life same as any parent does raining a child. There are different rules for different times. The Bible does address this and if you study it, you can see this. If you don't, you just keep spewing blah as you're doing here.

      December 20, 2013 at 1:31 pm |
  10. jimbob

    Couldn't an all powerful god now issue a less complicated more straightforward version of the bible and make it available on Amazon?

    December 20, 2013 at 1:22 pm |
    • tallulah13

      God could self-publish.

      December 20, 2013 at 1:23 pm |
    • israeline

      God Almighty already has and The Book need not be purchased. The Book is written in your HEART. Amazon needs The Book and the good thing is The Book is free to Amazon and all of us.

      December 20, 2013 at 1:28 pm |
    • Natas nico

      Love the name Jimbob...the bible is not that complex to read if you read the KJV and have a heart to receive. People get distracted by the televangelist thinking that's God when it isn't Gods desire is for all to understand his will and the scary thing is people make it out that there is some deep hidden mystery that has to be revealed when he has inspired and put into words what he desires of us. As a student at a Christian school I can see why people don't believe the bible there are so many hippos and people putting their 2 cent in when God and his word explains all we need to know..

      December 20, 2013 at 1:54 pm |
  11. THR

    I think that people need to re-learn that there's a distinction between protecting a citizen's right to free speech from oppression by the government, and a corporation's right to sever a business relationship for any reason what-so-ever at any time; for example if they feel it is no longer profitable to them. Their primary obligation is to the STOCKHOLDERS.

    December 20, 2013 at 1:21 pm |
    • tallulah13

      This is what happens when a society treats education as something to be mistrusted. You get a population that doesn't even understand the laws of it's own nation.

      December 20, 2013 at 1:24 pm |
      • Dippy

        Its, not it's.

        December 20, 2013 at 1:33 pm |
  12. newstheo

    this is a freedom of speech country!! but on the other hand we have all kinds of people living in it.We dont all get along.Sometimes we just got to keep what we say to ourselves because it will hurt us in someway when we say the wrong things.

    December 20, 2013 at 1:21 pm |
    • midwest oracle

      Not saying anything is exactly what people want so only one view is expressed.

      December 20, 2013 at 1:29 pm |
  13. israeline

    Everybody got something to say, but when one speaks wisdom is required. None of us, even Brother Paul, will have the last say. God Almighty, the Father of Lights, will have the last say, because Justice destroys, Mercy says: "Here I AM."
    We are all created by this same God Almighty. Judge nothing before its time. We are all sinners. Stop pointing fingers.
    These are all distractions used by the adversary to divide. We are one! "PEACE BE STILL!"

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

    GewGays are destroying America, our society, culture and morals.

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

      Who do you include when you say "our" morals?
      Oh right, anybody who agrees with your particular world view.
      Hate to break it to you, but what you are is a *fascist.*
      Think about it a bit; you know that it's the Truth.

      December 20, 2013 at 1:24 pm |
      • Mike again

        Aahhh Sir that was hate speech you just did to me.

        December 20, 2013 at 1:27 pm |
      • midwest oracle

        If one doesn't agree with another's world view, doesn't make one a fascist. Making that jump is exactly what is said when you don't agree with someone's view so you shut them up. Same thing with the race card, the gay card, the green card, etc. If one disagrees with the BEHAVIORS of anyone else, some kind of "Card" is thrown out to shut them up.

        December 20, 2013 at 1:32 pm |
  15. Scratchy

    Who in their right mind holds an expectation that the characters portrayed in the Duck Dynasty show would hold opinions favorable to gays, immigrants, politicians, etc. or that they are accurate interpreters of anything except maybe small engine repair and how to cook squirrels.

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

      Phil Robertson has a Master's Degree in Education

      December 20, 2013 at 1:27 pm |
  16. Cyndi

    Oh, I get it. If you don't like what the Bible says then create a new version to fit your on belief. Yeah just keep in mind that the Bible says don"t ADD to or TAKE away from it.

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

      The entire book is a lie so what's the difference?

      December 20, 2013 at 1:20 pm |
      • midwest oracle

        Pat, have you read the whole book with an open mind?

        December 20, 2013 at 1:35 pm |
      • israeline

        Pat who is speaking? God Almighty, the adversary or you? Lets see, God Almighty would say welcome son. So therefore we know it is not God Almighty. Therefore, its either you or the adversary.

        December 20, 2013 at 1:44 pm |
  17. Steve Morgan

    It's too bad that quoting bible verses has now become "hate speech".

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

      Too bad the Christian cult is a hate group.

      December 20, 2013 at 1:21 pm |
      • Mike again

        To bad you like to have feces on your junk

        December 20, 2013 at 1:24 pm |
      • Erik

        Christianity is supposed to have love as a central pillar. Yes, it has gone way wrong often throughout history. But at the heart is the teachings of Jesus.

        December 20, 2013 at 1:25 pm |
        • Adam

          I am so tired of everyone thinking that Jesus has some type of hold on morality and that following his teachings will make you better. We have seen that not to be the case here. I say put down your bibles and forget Jesus. Then go to your local bookstore and pick up any number of books on how to live a good life. Or just live based on how you feel. Jesus and the Bible need to go away and leave the 21st century alone.

          December 20, 2013 at 1:33 pm |
    • Adam

      When the bible reads like a book written by a bigot and self absorb narcissist, then what are we suppose to think. Most of the bible is a waste. There are better books out there on how to live a good life, and it doesn't come along with all of these non sensical rules.

      December 20, 2013 at 1:29 pm |
      • midwest oracle

        Adam, have you actually read the entire Bible, including the "dry" books like Numbers? Have you read every page before you make a statement like that? You will be very surprised by by what you find if you actually take the time to ready the whole Bible. If you Read it through its entirety and still feel that way, okay, but you can't make these statements without first readying it can you?

        December 20, 2013 at 1:37 pm |
  18. jj

    All so-called khristians get the bible wrong because to them all their religion's rules are negotiable. Period. End of story.

    December 20, 2013 at 1:18 pm |
    • Lovely

      Nobody reads the Gospels at all "End Times" has been declared and you are to get a book for the Rapture only.
      Jesus told the world that a messenger was coming. I have held your sins for 50 years now all will pay for their sins.
      The earth has been abominated Daniel 12:1 a Great Princess will arrive as the deliver with the book of life. Out of 4 worlds only two people made it with perfect souls. Jesus and his sister this takes care of ADAM AND EVE. Now the two olive trees, the candle stickes, the two anointed ones will prepare for the Rapture. The 12 Tribes have been chosen all else must meet God at the "ArK" Judah and Israel and Jesus will no longer pay for your sins. Again, the Gospels have been preached to all the world "End Times" have been declared it is over these people have built a kingdom that is not of 7Angels (God). Seek ye the kingdom of heaven Jesus and his sister has 7Angels each. Moses spoke to God in a bush this is how the Gospels started how they END IS THE SAME GOD SPEAKS TO ALL OF US LIKE MOSES IN THE END AND ALL PAY FOR THEIR SINS. THE SINS AND CRIMES OF THIS WORLD ARE PILED UP TO HEAVEN AND THE BEAST IS ON THE EARTH RISING TO THE DEVIL. NO ONE READ THE GOSPELS THE EARTH HAS BEEN ABOMINATED HE HAS TO SEND A MESSENGER NO ONE LISTENS SO 4.5 BILLION WILL NOT MAKE IT THAT IS THE GOSPELS ALL INFORMATION IS IN THE BOOK. NOW ONLY ONE BOOK RAPTURE EVERYTHING ELSE AT THE BOTTOM THE OCEAN BUT THE ARK, THE 10 COMMANMENTS, 12 TRIBES OF ISRAEL, SOME GENTILES, AND PRIESTS 2.5 WILL MAKE EVERLASTING LIFE.

      December 20, 2013 at 1:28 pm |
    • Natas nico

      Study to shew thyself approved unto God, a workman that needeth not to be ashamed, rightly dividing the word of truth. But shun profane and vain babblings: for they will increase unto more ungodliness. (2 Timothy 2:15, 16 KJV)

      Not all Christians

      December 20, 2013 at 1:44 pm |
  19. DarrellSF

    EVERY Christian who bases their bigotry on the Old Testament HAS IT WRONG! So, that would be about 99% of Christians. To be Christian means to follow the teachings of Christ. I'm sorry, the New Testament is supposedly about the teachings of Christ, not the old. And I don't recall Jesus saying much but, blessed are those with good character traits, and do unto others as you would have done to you. He never said to hate the sin but love the sinner. He never said anyone should be put to death. He preached respect, patience, and compassion towards fellow human beings.

    So, yeah, this jerk got it wrong. Big deal. It's unimportant in world history!

    December 20, 2013 at 1:18 pm |
    • Doug

      Thank you.... As a gay man I am so tired of hearing this non sense.. Further, it's frustrating to have hate spewed at you and using the bible to do so... Absurd !

      December 20, 2013 at 1:29 pm |
    • Greg

      Really??? 99% of Christians are following the wrong part of the bible?? Which makes you a moron. Most Church's do not focus on the old testament they focus on the new and talk about the old when needing some references to different topics. Every church i have been to Baptist/Methodist/Catholic do not hammer or harp or solely preach on the old testament. I think you need to get out more and stop drinking the koolaid.

      December 20, 2013 at 1:30 pm |
    • midwest oracle

      Darrell, have you actually read the Old and New Testament all the way through. Your statements are a bit off it seems. Take some time to read the entire Bible, without a preconcieved notions about it, and then think about what you have just stated.

      December 20, 2013 at 1:40 pm |
    • Natas nico

      Um who created the earth? If you actually READ the New Testament you will see Jesus referring to the teachings of the Old Testament prophets and in John 1:1-3 In the beginning was the Word, and the Word was with God, and the Word was God. The same was in the beginning with God. All things were made by him; and without him was not any thing made that was made. (John 1:1-3 KJV) so if Jesus is only in the New Testament then do you deny this scripture is true? Also Luke 10:18 proves he existed before the New Testament

      Study to shew thyself approved unto God, a workman that needeth not to be ashamed, rightly dividing the word of truth. But shun profane and vain babblings: for they will increase unto more ungodliness. (2 Timothy 2:15, 16 KJV)

      December 20, 2013 at 1:42 pm |
    • g

      having an understanding of the old testament is key for understanding the context of the words of christ in the new testament.... During his talks the phrases he uses are directly tied to scripture referenced during the old testament that all of the jewish religious leaders of the time christ referenced... there are many references that are useful for helping you make the connections between christs teachings and the prophecies of the coming messiah mentioned in the old testament... as a life long christian i find that the old and the new testament do compliment each other and if you trully want to understand the new you have to know the old as well... just my thoughts though....

      December 20, 2013 at 1:57 pm |
  20. michael walker

    This article funny, who would be proud to say they are an expert on the bible. That's like saying you are proud of being an expert on elves and the tooth fairy. It's the 21st century folk! Stop literally believing in mythology!

    December 20, 2013 at 1:18 pm |
    • THR

      Clearly you choose to believe in the religion known as "Science" instead.
      Learn what Science ACTUALLY is supposed to be versus what Science DOES IN REALITY
      and you'll slowly come to realize just how logically-flawed that worldview really is.
      Educate yourself COMPLETELY and you're realize that there's NO WAY to logically escape that conclusion.
      Because it's the Truth.

      December 20, 2013 at 1:28 pm |
    • Natas nico

      How is it myth? Myths have NO HISTORICAL. OR SCIENTIFIC grounds...you may need to read more Hun

      December 20, 2013 at 1:34 pm |
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About this blog

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.