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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. sly

    Hey, Duck has the right to interpret whatever book he chooses the way he wants. And companies have the right to terminate contracts.

    It's all good – don't worry, that is one rich redneck, he'll be fine. The holy books will still be read by some. And Americans will continue to be free to keep their love lives personal and private.

    All good folks – enjoy the holidays.

    December 20, 2013 at 2:59 pm |
    • Invicta17

      "Redneck" is a racial slur. You sound like a bigot using it.

      December 20, 2013 at 3:37 pm |
  2. Truth

    If A&E were only selling bibles and reverse mortgages in their commercials then they would have kept this guy on as a mascot, as it is they have other products they want to market to everyone so they had to drop this turd or have it smeared accross their corporate backers products. They made the only choice the hand of the free market would allow them to, the rational choice.

    December 20, 2013 at 2:59 pm |
  3. Richard Hertz 89

    You know the ol' sayin' "if it walks like a duck, sux like a duck, whacks like a duck"....

    Leave Phil alone. If you don't like what he represents go elsewhere.

    December 20, 2013 at 2:58 pm |
    • Beth

      That's stupid, Richard. We don't each live in an independent vacuum. Actions and statements usually impact others.

      December 20, 2013 at 3:01 pm |
    • sly

      I agree – I've never seen this Duck guy, nor watched A&E, and I haven't ever read any holy books.

      Life is good – Duck talked, A&E exercised their rights, the Duck fella is rich and he'll be back. And Americans are free to love whom they want. It's all good.

      December 20, 2013 at 3:02 pm |
    • What Now

      I think his employer just followed your advice. They didn't like what he had to say so they suspended him.

      December 20, 2013 at 3:06 pm |
      • Richard Hertz 89

        and you can watch Phil this winter on the new WET network, oh, sorry, you couldn't 'cause that would be racist, but wait, you can watch BET...Love Jones comes on at 3:30 I think. Has anyone else noted the polification of "african"- american meterologists? hmhmhmhmh

        December 20, 2013 at 3:13 pm |
  4. Dan

    Why is it okay for A&E to suspend Phil Robertson for expressing his beliefs but it isn't okay for a bakery to refuse to provide a wedding cake for a gay wedding?

    December 20, 2013 at 2:58 pm |
    • LivinginVA

      You are comparing employer rights in regards to employees with public accommodations. If the bakery fired an employee for giving an interview where they complained about the bakery owner's beliefs, that would be fine.

      December 20, 2013 at 3:03 pm |
    • Rbnlegend

      And vice versa, why was it ok for the bakery to refuse the wedding cake, but the end of the word for A&E to do a big publicity stunt with Mr.Robertson?

      December 20, 2013 at 3:05 pm |
    • Truth

      Your analogy has a few flaws. One, no one is denying a public service to anyone by letting Phil go, his job position was not open to the public. Two, the cake was publically advertised to everyone but then refused based on the s e x u a l orientation of the customer, that is discrimination and is illegal. Three, I have no doubt that Phil signed some sort of contract and I also have no doubt that A&E had the right to terminate him for any reason as most of these contracts are completely one sided, if you want to work for them and have a show and get paid, you sign their contract.

      December 20, 2013 at 3:05 pm |
    • JayCarlos

      Dan, you hit the nail on the head;
      A bus driver Stan McNeil in Rutgers NJ,getts fired for Praying for a student (student's full will of prayer) because the bus company says, " we not do that here"
      A family is being sued in upsate NY for not allowing a gay couple to marry on their private grounds, of which they tend to rent out to marrying couples through out the year; The estate owner, says, it goes against my belief, and therefore rejects the gay couple.
      An retired police officer David Wells is arrested in NJ Monmouth Mall, and charged for "trespassing" (in a mall people) for witnessing to people.
      A&E's excuse is that they dont tolerate such comments, the same in different words, as the others above, simply not accepting something due to their beliefs values BUT there is no pending lawsuit against them.
      Christian Prosecution??? It doesnt take a genius to figure this out. 🙂
      God Bless

      December 20, 2013 at 3:18 pm |
  5. Rolando Sanchez Leiva

    The US and the World is in love/dazed and attached/coupled to sin. I pray this planet's ego trip/experimental pseudo maturity the Government of The Kingdom of Heaven judge it into submission.

    The LORD Yeshua/Jesus came to Teach Progress. I pray brother Robertson, 67, continues to stand and Teach Progress

    John 3:19
    Expanded Bible (EXB)
    19 ·They are judged by this fact [L And this is the judgment/condemnation/verdict]: The Light [C Jesus, God’s Son] has come into the world, ·but they did not want light. They wanted darkness [L but people loved the darkness more than the light], because they were doing evil things.

    December 20, 2013 at 2:58 pm |
    • Madtown

      The LORD Yeshua/Jesus came to Teach Progress
      ----
      Sure, but only to a small segment of the earth's population at the time. I wonder why additional representatives didn't go to each continent to teach the same message to everyone? Those people were human too.

      December 20, 2013 at 3:06 pm |
      • Rolando Sanchez Leiva

        John 21:25
        Expanded Bible (EXB)
        25 There are many other things Jesus did. If every one of them were written down, I suppose the whole world would not be big enough for all the books that would be written.

        December 20, 2013 at 3:50 pm |
  6. boger

    BULLSHlT.

    BULLSHlT.

    BULLSHlT.

    BULLSHlT.

    BULLSHlT.

    BULLSHlT.

    BULLSHlT.

    BULLSHlT.

    BULLSHlT.

    December 20, 2013 at 2:57 pm |
    • Rolando Sanchez Leiva

      Whats wrong with you ???

      December 20, 2013 at 3:51 pm |
  7. Macc

    I guess if it was a true choice to be gay or not, you could call it a behavior. Most the gays I've met were born that way or made that way by abuse. I have never heard a gay person say "My life is easier because I'm gay". So, telling someone they are wrong for just being gay, is kind of crazy. To act any other way would be fraudulent. To live a lie, is not very Christ Like behavior.

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

      Nor have you heard a Black person say it either..

      December 20, 2013 at 2:57 pm |
    • travis

      People could say I was born a rapist or made that way by abuse but it doesn't change the fact that the act is wrong

      December 20, 2013 at 2:58 pm |
      • Bob

        False analogy, travis.

        December 20, 2013 at 2:59 pm |
        • travis

          How so?

          December 20, 2013 at 3:00 pm |
  8. Karen

    The only problem I have with religious people is that they seem to pick and choose what parts of the Bible they follow. If you are going to state that the Bible is what we should follow then they should step up and follow the entire thing.

    December 20, 2013 at 2:55 pm |
    • Jim

      Unfortunately, the bible is so full of contradictions, the only way to make sense of it is to pick and choose...

      December 20, 2013 at 3:00 pm |
      • Glaws

        You mean like "Don't eat Pork", but wait a minute, "It's okay to eat pork"

        December 20, 2013 at 3:04 pm |
  9. Clifford

    It is his opinion, now move on DUH!!! Keep giving the left something to talk about. Think about this, if he wasn't famous would this even be a discussion?

    Jus saying

    December 20, 2013 at 2:55 pm |
  10. PVS1

    christian conservatives are offended when you quote their own holy scripture which they habitually misrepresent because they never actually read it. by 'holy scripture' i mean the new testament as well as the bill of rights.

    December 20, 2013 at 2:55 pm |
  11. Raven

    He was speaking of his Christian beliefs, and therefore, he follows the teachings of Jesus. Christ said, "let him without sin cast the first stone". I think that is a something we could all take to heart.

    December 20, 2013 at 2:54 pm |
    • GeorgeH

      Wouldn't judging gays publicly like this be covered by what Jesus said?

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

      Timothy 2:12

      December 20, 2013 at 2:57 pm |
  12. Glaws

    EVERYONE is SO FOCUSED ON WHAT HE SAID ABOUT GAYS!!!!!!!
    HE ALSO SAID BLACKS WERE HAPPY BEING DEPRIVED OF THEIR RIGHTS UNDER JIM CROW>>>>
    Now that may have a little something to do with being fired too.

    December 20, 2013 at 2:54 pm |
    • travis

      All he said was he didn't see any blacks being mistreated and that the ones he knew seemed happy.

      December 20, 2013 at 2:56 pm |
      • Elliott Carlin

        Here here Travis: please don't let facts get in the way of a good argument. lol. The guvmit has really put the nail through the coffin on the black family.

        December 20, 2013 at 2:58 pm |
      • Glaws

        He said they were happy under Jim Crow laws... Who in their right mind would think ANY human being would be happy as being a second class citizen...

        December 20, 2013 at 3:01 pm |
        • Elliott Carlin

          perhaps you can put down your 21st century eye glasses for a moment. We're all guilty of it to a degree, but its really easy to view things from our station in life and ask why. If we fail to understand the times, we'll never understand.

          December 20, 2013 at 3:05 pm |
        • Glaws

          @ Elliot He was born in the 21st Century.. I have my glasses on and everyone didn't think the same as he does even now fewer think the same as he does and apparently you too... He will never admit to injustices he saw because he probably thought they were right. So if his definition is right, we would still be living under Jim Crow laws, unable to get an education and picking cotton and singing.. Has anyone told you that times change and people change with is part of progression. Any one of color who lived in those days are not in a hurry to revisit it.. So my glasses are on, where are yours?

          December 20, 2013 at 3:18 pm |
    • Jim Jams

      First, employment isn't a right. He can't go to jail for what he said, but he is also not guaranteed to be employed

      Second, why is there no outrage from the drunkards

      December 20, 2013 at 2:58 pm |
  13. Burbank

    I am sick to death of all these mean rednecks! I wish there was an island we could put them on where they could be smugly isolated in their supposed superiority and leave the rest of us alone. Even at that, in thier monoculture, they would probably manage to find a reason to hate on each other.

    December 20, 2013 at 2:53 pm |
    • Truth

      I think they called that island "The New World" a few hundred years ago. The came, settled a wilderness, turned it into the most productive and richest place on the planet. I'm sure they could do it again if we gave them a chance.

      December 20, 2013 at 3:01 pm |
    • Gary

      Hmm, so your solution to controversy is to take anyone who doesn't agree with your thinking and exile them to some island. Sounds more like communism than a democracy.

      December 20, 2013 at 3:06 pm |
    • EM

      I hate to tell you this, but humanity would not progress if we took the people we didn't like and put them on islands. Thats a little more compassionate than Hitler's view, but not by much.

      Even if you don't like them for a good reason such as, your book of scripture says they are sinners, or maybe another good reason is that they are hateful and ignorant, or maybe their book of scripture teaches ridiculous things.

      Welcome to America and the American dream! Somehow we are supposed to get along 🙂

      December 20, 2013 at 3:11 pm |
  14. Gerg Livingston

    The gay backlash is here. And none too soon.

    December 20, 2013 at 2:52 pm |
  15. D.D.

    You can thank Jesus that this post is even possible. Tolerance is a Christian theology. Try to find it in any other religion and you will be sorely disappointed. Its only because Jesus taught to love your neighbor that this garbage is "tolerated". Hey, try being gay in a Muslim country. Good luck with your beliefs in a Muslim country.

    December 20, 2013 at 2:51 pm |
    • WellThen

      You mean the same sort of tolerance they exhibited towards the natives in the Americas? No thanks.

      December 20, 2013 at 2:53 pm |
      • Elliott Carlin

        you speakum krokum. How did those natives treat those who were here before them?

        December 20, 2013 at 3:10 pm |
    • Nathanial

      There are many world religions much more tolerant than Christianity.

      December 20, 2013 at 2:54 pm |
    • BUD

      You mean like stoning the adulterers?Or killing the first born of the Egyptians?

      December 20, 2013 at 2:54 pm |
    • Bob

      Tolerance in Christianity is nonsense. Have a look at this, straight from the horrid, bigoted Christian storybook AKA the bible:

      Numbers 31:17-18
      17 Now kiII all the boys. And kiII every woman who has slept with a man,
      18 but save for yourselves every girl who has never slept with a man.

      Deuteronomy 13:6 – “If your brother, your mother’s son or your son or daughter, or the wife you cherish, or your friend who is as your own soul entice you secretly, saying, let us go and serve other gods … you shall surely kill him; your hand shall be first against him to put him to death”

      1 Timothy 2:11
      "Let a woman learn quietly with all submissiveness. I do not permit a woman to teach or to exercise authority over a man; rather, she is to remain quiet. For Adam was formed first, then Eve; and Adam was not deceived, but the woman was deceived and became a transgressor."

      Revelations 2:23 And I will kill her children with death; and all the churches shall know that I am he which searcheth the reins and hearts: and I will give unto every one of you according to your works.

      Leviticus 25
      44 “‘Your male and female slaves are to come from the nations around you; from them you may buy slaves.
      45 You may also buy some of the temporary residents living among you and members of their clans born in your country, and they will become your property.
      46 You can bequeath them to your children as inherited property and can make them slaves for life, but you must not rule over your fellow Israelites ruthlessly.

      Note that the bible is also very clear that you should sacrifice and burn an animal today because the smell makes sicko Christian sky fairy happy. No, you don't get to use the parts for food. You burn them, a complete waste of the poor animal.

      Yes, the bible really says that, everyone. Yes, it's in Leviticus, look it up. Yes, Jesus purportedly said that the OT commands still apply. No exceptions. But even if you think the OT was god's mistaken first go around, you have to ask why a perfect, loving enti-ty would ever put such horrid instructions in there. If you think rationally at all, that is.

      And then, if you disagree with my interpretation, ask yourself how it is that your "god" couldn't come up with a better way to communicate than a book that is so readily subject to so many interpretations and to being taken "out of context", and has so many mistakes in it. Pretty pathetic god that you've made for yourself.

      So get out your sacrificial knife or your nasty sky creature will torture you eternally. Or just take a closer look at your foolish supersti-tions, understand that they are just silly, and toss them into the dustbin with all the rest of the gods that man has created.

      Ask the questions. Break the chains. Join the movement.
      Be free of Christianity and other superstitions.
      http://whywontgodhealamputees.com/

      December 20, 2013 at 2:58 pm |
      • Me

        Oh you uneducated gentile.. before posting verse that you know nothing about, how about you read about the old and new covenants between old and new testaments and how the old testamant laws no longer apply since Jesus ushered in a new covenant.. oh yes thats right.. you dont believe that! Ok welll.. look like you post fell onto blind eyes because that comment had no weight to it.. wow...some folks.

        December 20, 2013 at 3:06 pm |
    • GeorgeH

      Maybe you'd better bone up on your Church history, D.D.. Not much "tolerance" was shown to pagans and the Christians Rome deemed "heretics" up until not too long ago. Protestants don't fare much better. Luther's comments about Jews would make even Hitler blush.

      December 20, 2013 at 2:59 pm |
      • Elliott Carlin

        You are correct George, however perhaps you should bone up on a few things yourself; you make the argument that because there are flawed people in any belief or loyalty system, then that system ought to be discarded. If that is the case, we should perhaps all turn in our passports based on just what has happened under George W Obama.

        December 20, 2013 at 3:12 pm |
        • D.D.

          Now that is some solid truth.

          December 20, 2013 at 3:19 pm |
  16. MV

    No, he got the Bible right.

    What he, like so many other people, got wrong is to think that the Bible is something more than a book of fables written back when mankind didn't understand where the sun went at night.

    He's allowed to express his opinions, and his employer is allowed to fire him.

    December 20, 2013 at 2:51 pm |
    • emilie56

      Yes he us free to express his views but I don't think they should be expressed in magazines and on TV. He should keep his views at home where nobody will be incited to violence.

      December 20, 2013 at 2:54 pm |
    • Doris

      He got the Bible right? I'm not quite so sure – maybe we should go with the Xtian sect down in Mexico City who still sacrifice people. Maybe they have it right.

      December 20, 2013 at 2:54 pm |
    • Glaws

      Did he get it right about the blacks being happy picking cotton and living under southern segregation? He says they sang,, that was probably the only thing they could do and not get hung or killed for.

      December 20, 2013 at 2:56 pm |
  17. Nathanial

    Why does an entire country care about about what a duck hunter reality hick star thinks? Personally I care more about what my wife thinks......

    December 20, 2013 at 2:51 pm |
    • emilie56

      You are a smart man. Not many here. I shudder to think this nonsense will be discussed on TV all through the Xmas season.

      December 20, 2013 at 2:55 pm |
      • Elliott Carlin

        Perhaps you shouldn't watch much TV in the first place. Save you a lot of eye-rolling. Did you know X is the greek letter which is used for Christ in the NT?

        December 20, 2013 at 2:57 pm |
  18. Jeff

    I know, lets ask the Federal Government to make a decision on this.... oh wait, our current government doesn't make decisions, they only make 'debt'!

    December 20, 2013 at 2:50 pm |
    • tallulah13

      Oh blah blah blah. The law is abundantly clear. Phil Robertson is free to say what he said. He will not face criminal prosecution. That is what the First Amendment covers.

      A&E employs Phil Robertson. As his employer, they have the right to suspend or fire him if they believe his actions are detrimental to the continued success of their business.

      Now do you get it?

      December 20, 2013 at 2:52 pm |
      • Jeff

        The show is about 'entertainment' and I understand why they let him go. The entertainment industry is free to be discriminating and yes Phil is free towards his speech both are true. I also agree with Phil opinions.

        December 20, 2013 at 2:55 pm |
        • tallulah13

          When you insult a number of your employers customers, you will be very lucky to keep your job. It would be very silly that you call the consequences of such an action "discrimination."

          December 20, 2013 at 3:01 pm |
  19. emilie56

    There isn't a person alive who gets the Bible right. Starting with the alleged making of the earth in 6 days with a rest on the 7th day without knowing what a day in the life of God is, we have gotten it wrong. Where did the begats come from? Cain killed Abel and Cain married who if there was nobody else? We can proceed from there. Why are human beings so scared of admitting they know nothing?

    December 20, 2013 at 2:50 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.