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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. The Dude

    Really... This is news.

    December 20, 2013 at 1:46 pm |
  2. we see your true color by your talk

    Now am I suppose to believe a liberal media org like cnn, nope, I was a Christian college grad who studied the Bible and it was interpreted correctly by him and is being interpreted incorrectly by this liberal media, so get a grip and get a hold of the truth and quit trying to rewrite the Bible by people who voted against God in their convention and we know who that was, liberal Dems.

    December 20, 2013 at 1:45 pm |
    • Doc Vestibule

      Different versions of the Bible translate the Greek terms in different ways.
      That isn't "liberal bias" – that is fact.

      December 20, 2013 at 1:47 pm |
    • LivinginVA

      There are Biblical scholars who do not agree with you. There are people who have read the Bible in FAR closer to the original text than you have that do not agree with you. Your opinion is just that, your opinion.

      December 20, 2013 at 1:48 pm |
      • stevebrinkhoff

        That's great. So if I'm a pig farmer with a high school education I'm pretty much screwed if I can't read the original text, doomed to be misled all my life in relying on a version o the Bible given to me by my church.

        December 20, 2013 at 1:51 pm |
        • LivinginVA

          Yup – which is why for centuries the Church didn't want the populace educated at all. What you should do is read it in several versions and look for the overarching ideals.

          December 20, 2013 at 1:55 pm |
        • chris

          If you try to take every word literally then YES. I f you use the metaphors to help guide your moral compass then no.

          December 20, 2013 at 1:56 pm |
      • moonraker

        Of course you are "LivinginVA". Your parents must be so proud that they spent thousands of dollars for you to go to a school about make-believe.

        December 20, 2013 at 2:07 pm |
        • LivinginVA

          I never claimed to be a Biblical scholar. I majored in educational technology.

          December 20, 2013 at 2:10 pm |
    • Me Too Iguagna

      That's funny, because I also studied the bible in college and they are completely wrong in their interpretation.

      December 20, 2013 at 2:04 pm |
  3. raeder10

    Editors give their opinions.
    They just enjoy peoples reactions and having a good laugh.

    December 20, 2013 at 1:44 pm |
  4. Michael

    Welp Mr. Duck, you better stop eating lobster at those golf country clubs you used to hang out in. And no pork, either. And dont forget to offer your daughters to mobs of men. Cause you know all of those things are in the Bible, too. You cant cherry pick, its all the word of God so you are a sinful, sinful man who is NOT going to heaven.

    December 20, 2013 at 1:44 pm |
    • timbit_queen

      In fact, their minds were grown hard and calloused [they had become dull and had lost the power of understanding]; for until this present day, when the Old Testament (the old covenant) is being read, that same veil still lies [on their hearts], not being lifted [to reveal] that in Christ it is made void and done away. 2 Cor 3:14

      The mosaic law isn't to be follow anymore, we now live under the chrisian law.

      December 20, 2013 at 1:48 pm |
      • midwest oracle

        timbit – you are partially correct. Christ came to fulfill the Law (old testament) not to abolish it. The standards set forth in the old testament, like the 10 Commandments still apply. The Sins of the old testament are still Sins of the new testament but Christ has paid the penalty, which we deserved, for them. If we profess Christ as Lord and still sin, we still break our fellowship with the Father and must confess our sins again to reestablish that fellowship. Christ died once for our sins, but our behavior can still get in the way of our fellowship with the Father.

        December 20, 2013 at 1:54 pm |
        • timbit_queen

          Of course you are alo right, we must continually apply the ransom to our lives and ask for forgiveness each day for we are sinners. My point was that we don't stone people anymore under/for the reasons stated in the mosaic law for as the scripture I quoted states : "...that in Christ it is made void and done away."

          December 20, 2013 at 3:50 pm |
    • Lee-Anne Griffin

      Actually you need to read Acts to understand the food thing. The old laws were superseded by the new word of Jesus. I am NOT saying I agree with this guys view on gays, but if you are going to slam people on the Bible, make sure you know what you are talking about.

      December 20, 2013 at 1:54 pm |
    • Mark

      Pretty sad that this article quotes scholars to argue about what the Bible says who for the most part don't believe in its inspiration. There are scholars on the other side but it would be hard for people to know that since their argument so rarely get cited. But then again this isn't about truth is it? We really only want to hear what we believe and we want to believe was is easy. Let's remember that Robertson was asked his opinion and he shared it. Seems as if we really didn't want to know what he thought but rather he was either being trapped or the there was hope he would cave to modern view but his opinion they did not want.

      December 20, 2013 at 2:03 pm |
  5. tony

    And lots of postings from non-believers too.

    December 20, 2013 at 1:44 pm |
  6. RC

    Interesting a gay interpreting the bible so it fits his wish.
    It doesn't work that way.

    December 20, 2013 at 1:44 pm |
    • tallulah13

      All christians interpret the bible to suit their needs. That's why there's over 30,000 christian sects.

      December 20, 2013 at 1:45 pm |
    • moonraker

      Isn't "interpreting the bible" to fit your position exactly what conservatives have been doing forever? The hatred on these comment sections never cease to shock me.

      December 20, 2013 at 1:46 pm |
  7. Terry G

    Never watched this stupid show and don't really care what he said. Just the fact that this show is so popular tells me all I need to know about society today.

    December 20, 2013 at 1:44 pm |
  8. Greg M

    "Conservative Christians, who make up about a quarter of the U.S. population..."

    The Pew Research Poll cited actually shows Christians as 78.4% of the American population. Way to misrepresent the facts Daniel Burk.

    The majority of Americans stand behind Phil Robertson's beliefs, while the mainstream media continues to mislead and misrepresent the truth, that we are a nation based on Christian morals.

    December 20, 2013 at 1:44 pm |
    • tony

      Wow. You missplaced the decimal point. Thats 7.84 %

      December 20, 2013 at 1:46 pm |
      • moonraker

        You beat me to it, tony!

        December 20, 2013 at 1:47 pm |
      • Eddie

        Wrong, 78.4%.
        http://religions.pewforum.org/reports

        December 20, 2013 at 1:51 pm |
    • tallulah13

      Hey Greg? The study says "conservative" christian. That's not the same a "christian". Many christians sects in this country are actually supportive of gay rights. Stop misrepresenting the facts, Greg.

      December 20, 2013 at 1:49 pm |
      • Greg M

        The research doesn't differentiate between conservative or progressive Christians, but the data shows Protestant Christians are 51.3% and all Christians are 78.4%. So Daniel Burke added his own label of "conservative", which is a misrepresentation of the data he is citing.

        December 20, 2013 at 2:00 pm |
        • CNN Belief Blog Co-EditorCNN

          Greg M, that sentence should have said that "evangelicals" make up about a quarter of the country, not "conservative Christians," who, as you correctly point out, make up a larger segment of the population. Thanks for pointing out my error.

          December 21, 2013 at 10:36 am |
    • MBAGUY12

      Way to misinnterprete yourself the articlspecifically states "Conservative Christians". That is a far cry from teh 78% you quote. Main Christians believe in God, but also think for themselves. I am one of them. I will never align myself with narrow minded people who quote 2,000 year old text which has been translated, then translated again, and yet again. Each time teh translation changes the meaning of some of teh passages. So if you want to follow teh teachings of Christ, follow your heart, and apply them to YOUR life. Let others live the life they believe is true and good. What is right for you is not right for all. Jews have different beliefs, and you respect them. Why not let all people live without your butting in

      December 20, 2013 at 1:56 pm |
      • Greg M

        How do you follow Christ but don't follow the bible? Where do you learn about what Christ teaches, if not from the Bible?

        December 20, 2013 at 2:03 pm |
    • Valkyrie

      Moron, you quoted it yourself..."conservative Christians." Not all Christians are conservative. The proportion of so-called "conservative", or wack jobs, the author quotes is (sadly) correct!

      December 20, 2013 at 1:59 pm |
  9. Cindy

    And you have no idea what the Bible really means.

    December 20, 2013 at 1:43 pm |
    • tony

      If it's really the word of god, then no human could possibly know it's true meaning either.

      So all those church leaders are fakes.

      December 20, 2013 at 1:48 pm |
      • Me

        Really???!!!! lol. have you even made the attempt to read it?? I'll go with "NO"

        December 20, 2013 at 1:55 pm |
  10. Watch the best moments from gay day

    One for the Duck to watch at the diner table !

    https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=EvzzNcpisLU#t=0

    December 20, 2013 at 1:43 pm |
  11. tony

    The Bible was the Rubiks cube of the first millenia, and the last 3/4 of the second.

    December 20, 2013 at 1:42 pm |
  12. Sam Bo

    Jesus Christ is god almighty!

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

      So almighty, that he needs bibkles, collection plates and can't overcome condoms.

      December 20, 2013 at 1:43 pm |
  13. Nateru

    Anyone that quotes and claims they live by the Bible, yet purchases and wears mixed fabric clothing (Leviticus 19:19) is a hypocrite...which I would tend to believe 99.99% of the "Christians" on here violate.

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

      Anybody who says they follow any religion is inherently a hypocrite. The only thing worse is that they are willfully ignorant of their own hypocrisy.

      December 20, 2013 at 1:44 pm |
    • Me

      If you actually knew the Bible, you'd know those laws only applied to the Israelites that were coming out of Egypt and no longer apply. But you just picked and chose that verse like all other atheist right? right. Nice try

      December 20, 2013 at 1:47 pm |
      • tony

        Thta's no worse than picking the parts that appear to support the rich conservative Xtian lifestyle.

        December 20, 2013 at 1:50 pm |
        • Jay

          It depends on if it is relevant or not. Something you apparently have no concept of.

          December 20, 2013 at 1:54 pm |
      • alaskan1st

        So did the ten comandments only apply to them. Who's picking and choosing?

        December 20, 2013 at 2:56 pm |
    • tallulah13

      I wonder how many of those "Duck Dynasty" t-shirts I see at the store are poly-cotton blend.

      December 20, 2013 at 1:50 pm |
    • Jay

      You sir have no clue what you are talking about. Oh, and just in case you didn't realize...you are quoting Old Testament. Try again.

      December 20, 2013 at 1:52 pm |
    • tim

      its clothes man that has to do with clothes ripping and tearing apart like animal hides. Plus no one is perfect not even 50% perfect

      December 20, 2013 at 1:59 pm |
    • dlw

      why do people who really know nothing about the Bible always spout off scripture from Leviticus trying to prove that Christians are hypocrites? Christians are not Jews and are not under the law as it was prescribed for the nation of Israel. The law was a "guardian" over the Jews provided to both foreshadow the coming of Christ and appropriate worship of Him and to prove to the nation of Israel (and the whole world actually) they were incapable of being right with God by their own actions. Accordingly, Jesus came and fulfilled the entire law by His perfect obedience to it. Being right with God is not by actions (what one wears, what one eats, etc) but by His grace alone which can be received through our faith and trust in the redeeming life, death and Resurrection of Jesus.

      December 20, 2013 at 2:12 pm |
  14. semo

    Boy if you post anything about religion it sure brings out the haters super fast.

    December 20, 2013 at 1:41 pm |
    • QS

      Not so much as the articles about anything having to do with "the gay"! Those bring out the real haters.

      December 20, 2013 at 1:45 pm |
    • tony

      And lots and lots of postings from non-believers too.

      December 20, 2013 at 1:51 pm |
  15. stevebrinkhoff

    Thank god I'm an atheist. I guess if you don't understand the original-language text you're going to be misled, and for thousands of years. Christianity, and all other religions, can't even come up with a single consistent message of what their faith means. Damned if you do, damned if you don't – literally. Who's right – Episcopalians or Baptists or Catholics? You can't have it a thousand ways, and there are about 32,000 sets, denominations, and offshoots of Christianity. The Founding Fathers had it right – the USA is NOT a Christian nation. Thank you Jefferson, Adams, Franklin, Paine, Washington.

    December 20, 2013 at 1:41 pm |
    • Ole Olay

      Good for you, now let others believe what they want to believe.

      December 20, 2013 at 1:44 pm |
    • John

      You are absolutely correct, they did have it right!

      It is impossible to rightly govern a nation without God and the Bible. – George Washington

      December 20, 2013 at 1:45 pm |
      • stevebrinkhoff

        Wasington refused to take communion because he did not believe in the divinity of Jesus. You can look it up. He was a Deist who attended church.

        December 20, 2013 at 1:53 pm |
        • Jay

          I'm glad you have all the answers. It's easy to sit back and criticize others beliefs and comment on the fact they aren't uniform when you have no beliefs of your own. I disbelieve that you have any biblical knowledge at all. I also disbelieve that you have any real concept of our historical path. Oh and by the way, people disagree about the founding fathers faith too...so there is no way for you to 100% prove your beliefs about George Washington. Wow, this is cool...I can just sit back and crack on you all day hiding behind my "non-belief".

          Next

          December 20, 2013 at 2:00 pm |
    • QS

      Well said!

      And when it comes to believing what people want to believe, no, they cannot simply believe in a revisionist history that does not conform to reality and simply call it their "belief".

      December 20, 2013 at 1:46 pm |
    • DJ PsiPhi

      Woah woah, what are you doing with all these facts. You are going to force an aneurysm on some of the die hard religidi0ts.

      December 20, 2013 at 1:48 pm |
    • Robert

      You vastly overestimate the differences. But the religions are manmade while the Bible does have a consistent and coherent message, even if people argue what it is. Most differences between denominations are about style, not substance or at least not the biggest substance. Catholic vs. Protestant is more serious but even that can be intelligently debated among thoughtful people.

      December 20, 2013 at 1:53 pm |
      • stevebrinkhoff

        They COULD be intelligently debated but they are more often not. Mosts people are more than content to damn others to hell for being apostates. And since the Bible talks about a flat earth, dragons, unicorns and giants, people of science were condemned to death out of Biblical ignorance. This continues to this day with evolution-deniers. When the Pope and Pat Robertson say evolution is a fact (yes, Pat said that...) and other "Christians" say evolution is from Satan, what are we to make of this? Thanks but no thanks.

        December 20, 2013 at 1:58 pm |
        • Jay

          Try reading the bible before you continue to misrepresent it.

          By the way...Harry Potter is a book about cultural dining. Yeah, really...I said it so it's true.

          December 20, 2013 at 2:02 pm |
    • LOL

      In the first TWO WORDS of your post you not only acknowledge that there is a God, but give Him thanks – not much of an athiest there, are you?

      December 20, 2013 at 1:58 pm |
      • stevebrinkhoff

        I'm glad that that the concept of sarcasm escapes you. It speaks well of your character, if not your intelligence.

        December 20, 2013 at 2:00 pm |
    • 270to256

      How can you thank someone you don't believe in?

      December 20, 2013 at 3:39 pm |
  16. Geoff

    The problem with todays society is that nothing is wrong or immoral, we live in a world that says if it feels good do it. People don't like the bible because they don't want to be held accountable for their actions. For people who say the bible is false take this challenge on end times prophecy that the bible talks about. All prophecy's that relate to the end times have come to pass, they have all happened, you cannot deny that. The lord is set to return at any time. I can only hope and pray that you non believers get right with God before it's to late, because eternity means forever and hell is really hot!

    December 20, 2013 at 1:41 pm |
    • Dippy

      Prophecies, not prophecy's. Don't you religies know how to form a simple plural?

      December 20, 2013 at 1:45 pm |
  17. Cindy

    No he doesn't get what the Bible says wrong. It's people who don;t want to face the truth and don't want to change their lifestyle are the ones who get it wrong. Scriptures can easily be twisted to say what you want them to say but there is onle ONE way to enterpret them and Phil gets it right.

    December 20, 2013 at 1:41 pm |
    • Jeffica

      When did you choose what gender to be attracted to.
      When did you choose to "live a hetero lifestyle"?

      December 20, 2013 at 1:43 pm |
      • Lee

        In heaven.

        December 20, 2013 at 1:49 pm |
      • Jay

        Whether you chose it or are born with these desires is debatable. What is not is that the lifestyle is an abomination to God. Whether you still will go to heaven or not, who am I to say? You may well go and I may well be condemned...personally I hope we both go. Not my call though, I can only follow what my convictions tell me.

        December 20, 2013 at 2:05 pm |
    • sam stone

      apparently, lots of people "twist it to get it wrong", cindy. how many different christian denominations are there?

      December 20, 2013 at 1:45 pm |
    • Marie

      You are 100% right.

      December 20, 2013 at 1:54 pm |
    • Perry

      Cindy, sounds like you have studied Gods Word. I agree with you and Phil. Gods Word is not that hard to understand if you believe and have faith. Those that twist the scriptures to satisfy their desires will learn in the end when Christ Jesus comes again. God Bless You.

      December 20, 2013 at 2:02 pm |
    • Valkyrie

      Really? Only ONE way? And there is only ONE way to interpret your statement: Ignorant!

      December 20, 2013 at 2:04 pm |
    • WellThen

      Well, Cindy: Timothy 2:12

      No misinterpretation, not a parable, not taken out of context. Now STFU. God commands it.

      December 20, 2013 at 2:52 pm |
  18. talderman

    Corinthians 11:14 – "Does not nature itself teach you that if a man wears long hair it is a disgrace for him," This is an example of taking what you want and ignoring other "teachings" from the Bible.

    December 20, 2013 at 1:41 pm |
    • Geoff

      It makes perfect sense if you read the WHOLE chapter and not just pick out a verse to talk about and not knowing what your talking about.

      December 20, 2013 at 1:49 pm |
  19. Sam Bo

    Jesus Christ is god.

    December 20, 2013 at 1:41 pm |
    • R. West

      God

      December 20, 2013 at 1:44 pm |
      • HotAirAce

        An alleged but unproven god.

        December 20, 2013 at 1:48 pm |
  20. Me

    All opinions that speak of GOD's righteousness will always be opposed. After all, evil opposes good and good opposes evil. The world is evil, God is good. Everything is just as the "fairy tale" says it would be.

    December 20, 2013 at 1:40 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.