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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. BO

    Atheist experts LMFAO

    December 20, 2013 at 3:04 pm |
    • Free Nuts

      Fundies with their method of inquiry and verification. LMAO.

      http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=4YIj4rLYo0c

      December 20, 2013 at 3:09 pm |
  2. irvine

    Better go read the rest of Paul's book.. lol
    Flee fornication, for every other sin is without the body. Those who commit fornication sin against there own body.

    Nevertheless, to avoid fornication, let every man have his own wife, and every wife her own husband.

    December 20, 2013 at 3:04 pm |
  3. Gary

    "some experts say Phil Robertson misinterprets a key Bible verse." Yeah, the so called experts that don't believe the Bible is the word of God.

    December 20, 2013 at 3:04 pm |
    • Roger that

      What proof do you have that the Bible came from a god? I'll check back in 20 years to see if you have come up with any evidence.

      December 20, 2013 at 3:06 pm |
      • Tali3

        What proof do you have that it isn't?

        December 20, 2013 at 3:21 pm |
    • LivinginVA

      There are religious Biblical scholars who believe the same thing.

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

      Good post. Gary!!
      I bet Jeremiah Wright claims to be an 'expert' on religion tooooo, and look what an arss he is!!

      December 20, 2013 at 3:07 pm |
  4. karl from az

    He's git it 100% correct! Trouble is that while people may 'believe in God', they don't 'believe God'! There's a difference!

    December 20, 2013 at 3:03 pm |
  5. D.D.

    Why are Evangelical Christians receiving so much discrimination?? What have we ever done besides work hard, pay our taxes and raise our families in a God fearing manner. Isn't this what being American is all about?? Isn't this what has made this nation so great?? As an evangelical christian i feel very "DISCRIMINATED" AGAINST. However, will i get the same sympathy from all of you as the GAYS????

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

      The fact that you think being religious in any way is part of what being American is all about is part of the reason people like you are now feeling discriminated against.

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

      Do all gays discriminate against anyone in particular?

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

        Saying something is a sin isn't discriminating against it.

        December 20, 2013 at 3:07 pm |
      • D.D.

        They certainly seem to discriminate against Christians. How about other religions that actually "hate" gays??? There are plenty out there. Christians don't hate gays, we just hate the sin. We are taught to love others, tolerate their faults and point them to the only hope for mankind in Jesus Christ.

        December 20, 2013 at 3:11 pm |
    • Andy

      it's just people pushing back against all the irrational judgment and attempts to turn the country into a theocracy

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

        What a moron... for 225 years God and Religion has been a part of this Country's legacy. In that time no Religion has tried to turn it into a Theocracy! Ignoramus's like you spout things you know nothing about...

        December 20, 2013 at 3:21 pm |
    • Pete

      Most intelligent people are not saying anything negative or discriminating against Evangelical Christians but their is a large segment of Evangelical Christians expressing intolerance against other segments of our population.

      Did you also think it was okay for Paula Dean to discriminate against blacks because she was a Christian?

      December 20, 2013 at 3:24 pm |
      • Kay

        Real honest to goodness Christians do not pass judgment. Real practicing Christians that try to follow the teachings of Jesus Christ do not make ignorant statements about other human beings for no reason. Its Christmas, haters, take a break!

        December 20, 2013 at 3:42 pm |
    • JayCarlos

      Bless you DD. As Jesus suffered in the hands of his own people, so shall we; therefore, rest assure, while we are losing a battle to a dieing world, we are gaining treasures in Heaven.

      December 20, 2013 at 3:29 pm |
  6. 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 iYn.

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

    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 3:03 pm |
    • QS

      Sin is as much a manmade concept as "god" is.

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

        What's the difference between the concept of God and Spirit and the concept permission to exist???

        December 20, 2013 at 3:20 pm |
  7. chlysm

    Who cares? The Bible was written by man and people pick and choose which parts of the Bible they want to follow. Also, people are naturally hateful of those who are different so it is only natural that religion is used as an excuse to hate others who are different.

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

      Religion isn't about hatred or intolerance, it's about love and acceptance

      December 20, 2013 at 3:04 pm |
  8. InFormed

    It's amazing how many people try to interpret a collection of Bronze age stories that have been translated and incorrectly transposed so many times. Some people really do need a crutch to exist.

    December 20, 2013 at 3:03 pm |
  9. 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 iYn

    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 3:02 pm |
    • cecilia

      No one really knows who wrote that junk.

      December 20, 2013 at 3:04 pm |
      • Rolando Sanchez Leiva

        Do you love your Sin that much??

        December 20, 2013 at 3:36 pm |
        • Rolando Sanchez Leiva

          I sin but I pray to the LORD in Yeshua's name to remove it. In the process I find the gift of overcoming this world....

          December 20, 2013 at 3:39 pm |
  10. Capt. Mike

    When I go to preaching.com's list of the 25 most influential pastors in America, I don't see any of them cited in this article. That smacks to me of the "source shopping" that CNN is known for: decide on the story you want to write and then find a source to support it. What does Billy Graham have to say? How about Chuck Swindoll, Gardner Taylor, Rick Warren or John MacArthur?
    And the New International Version? Bible versions range from literal (word for word) to least literal (though for thought). The NIV is in the middle. It is actually a paraphrased vesion of another translation. What does the highly literal NASB say? If you're going to tell me what the Bible says, at least pick a good Bible.

    December 20, 2013 at 3:02 pm |
    • tallulah13

      Any list is subjective and based on a set of criteria created by the maker of the list. It's like a list of Top 100 Movies or Books. It's mostly opinion. What are the qualifications of your source site? If it is affiliated to a specific church, then it's objectivity is suspect.

      December 20, 2013 at 3:07 pm |
  11. Reality # 2

    To all the watchers of "Duck Dung":

    The Apostles' Creed 2013: (updated by yours truly and based on the studies of historians and theologians of the past 200 years)

    Should I believe in a god whose existence cannot be proven
    and said god if he/she/it exists resides in an unproven,
    human-created, spirit state of bliss called heaven??

    I believe there was a 1st century CE, Jewish, simple,
    preacher-man who was conceived by a Jewish carpenter
    named Joseph living in Nazareth and born of a young Jewish
    girl named Mary. (Some say he was a mamzer.)

    Jesus was summarily crucified for being a temple rabble-rouser by
    the Roman troops in Jerusalem serving under Pontius Pilate,

    He was buried in an unmarked grave and still lies
    a-mouldering in the ground somewhere outside of
    Jerusalem.

    Said Jesus' story was embellished and "mythicized" by
    many semi-fiction writers. A descent into Hell, a bodily resurrection
    and ascension stories were promulgated to compete with the
    Caesar myths. Said stories were so popular that they
    grew into a religion known today as Catholicism/Christianity
    and featuring dark-age, daily wine to blood and bread to body rituals
    called the eucharistic sacrifice of the non-atoning Jesus.

    Amen

    December 20, 2013 at 3:02 pm |
  12. Me

    Sounds like something a famous Nazi would Say.. congrats man you are now prejudice! Get a life now!..btw you sure you aren't in the Black Panthers, KKK, Aryan nation, Crips, Bloods, or a Muslim Terrorist? Thats what I thought.. im sure those redneck would beat your A** anyday.. they are the backbone of this country and they have a helluva lot more respect than you dude.

    December 20, 2013 at 3:02 pm |
  13. DebbieJ

    does the stupidity and ignorance never end?
    I swear to God any black, gay or meixcan can say anything they want ....but you let a caucasian say ANYTHING and all hell breaks loose. Get a thicker skin people or hang youself on the wall.....

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

      But I think this article is about dufus' interpretation of Gullible's Travels...

      December 20, 2013 at 3:03 pm |
    • tallulah13

      So basically Debbie is whining because other people are whining. Poor thing. I bet she hates sharing the spotlight.

      December 20, 2013 at 3:09 pm |
    • Yvonne

      LOL Debbie, I am Mexican and agree with you. It's pretty crazy! Not sure why everyone is in an uproar...what happened to "Freedom of Speech"?! The fact that this is all over the news is crazy to me....that's what he believes now everyone get over it....

      December 20, 2013 at 3:10 pm |
  14. gay

    I love all of the robertson's and pray Phil will be reinstated. I am thankful we have freedom of speech in our country.

    December 20, 2013 at 3:01 pm |
  15. Chris

    Listen Im a card carrying f*g-lovin' liberal, but didnt people realize this guy would be like this? You really didnt realize? And America has got to stop trying to shut people up! Don't say the N word or the F word on TV then but he should say whatever he thinks if he wants to. Liberals like me can use his words to discredit him if we like. But its a bad place to go when you say 'he shouldnt be allowed to say such things'.
    And .......pleae remember- we're talking about 'Duck Dynasty' here. Criticize yourself for paying attention to what 'duck guy has to say.

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

      He's allowed to say whatever he wants. His employer is allowed to respond how they want.

      December 20, 2013 at 3:05 pm |
  16. Aaron

    I like the show. Uncle Si is funny and Jase is a cool dude. It's a tv show. Anyone who thinks Phil is some kind of religious leader is an idiot. I can't believe people are so mad because a back woods self proclaimed redneck voiced his opinion. Really????? This is an issue? Rednecks don't like gays, gays don't like rednecks. So what? I am all for equal rights, but I am really tired of the faux outrage the gays express when you don't see things the same as them. Do what you want in your own bedroom with a consenting adult. Just get out of my face with it!!! I like women. I don't run around telling people how great it is to be hetero! Go live your gay lives in piece and quit with the victim crap. Always outraged about things stupid people say. Enough already. Does Phil robertsons opinion matter in the grand scheme of things???? No!!! Get over it!!!

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

      Aaron – a lot of good stuff in your comments! I'm totally for ending all discrimination againest gays, but that doesn't mean I have to like them. There is no 'special' reason I cannot dislike religious folks either – but I really don't like hearing them talk, and it sure disgusts me when I hear some sports figures saying "we won, and I'd like to thank God that I hit that fastball".

      Like who you want, hate who you want. That's human nature. Many Arabs hate white Americans, as do many blacks. Many Jews seem to dislike many Arabs. Red necks often hate minorities. I personally feel all TeaBillies should be shot, but then, that's just my opinion.

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

      Nice.....well put.

      December 20, 2013 at 3:11 pm |
  17. 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 iYn.

    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 3:00 pm |
    • Ed

      Sin – man-made.
      Moral truth – man-made.
      Bible – man-made.

      Next.

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

        Ed
        The beauty of mankind, how you were born, the process, the unexplained scientific complexities that make up a human body; and this beautiful world, the Sun that shines on you and yours truly everyday, Stars-that light up your lovely night, Moon- that shines into your dark night- Also man-made? 🙂
        God Bless, i will have you in my prayers.

        December 20, 2013 at 3:22 pm |
      • Rolando Sanchez Leiva

        What's the difference between the concept of God and Spirit and the concept permission to exist???

        December 20, 2013 at 3:25 pm |
    • johno54

      Nice quote, but being a Christian myself, I know that the devil is a liar and he too knows the quotes from the bible better than even the pope because like a good strategist evil knows how to use even the words of the bible against Christians. Phil Robertson might be a Christian but it would seem that he has allowed himself in his arrogance and ignorance now espouses a faith that is far removed from the sensitivity of the Christ himself. Typical of such Christians is the lack of empathy for their more common brothers and sister. He has forgotten that there but for the grace of God go I. So Mr. Robertson you are no better than the Pharisees and Sadducees of old who were caught up in being holier than though, caught up into rituals and questionable uses of God's word.
      I challenge Mr. Robertson to say if he has loved his neighbor as himself, even after his utterances. because somewhere in his utterances it is the devil and not Go that is hidden in the details.

      December 20, 2013 at 3:14 pm |
      • Rolando Sanchez Leiva

        Sin must be label Sin even when we have a High with it

        December 20, 2013 at 3:24 pm |
  18. Wiseman

    I agree that Gays should be banned from adopting Children

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

      It might be a good idea to do the same for ignorant bigots, too.

      December 20, 2013 at 3:01 pm |
      • Rolando Sanchez Leiva

        Genesis 18:20
        Expanded Bible (EXB)
        20 Then the Lord said, “·I have heard many complaints [L The outcry is great] against the people of Sodom and Gomorrah [14:2]. ·They are very evil [L Their sin is very great/heavy].

        Who's crying here??

        December 20, 2013 at 3:58 pm |
  19. joeazona

    publicity stunt. wake up

    December 20, 2013 at 2:59 pm |
  20. AE

    "The same Bible... ....used to keep white churches white is the source of the inspiration of the Rev. Martin Luther King Jr. and the social reformation of the 1960’s.

    The same Bible that anti-feminists use to keep women silent in the churches is the Bible that preaches liberation to captives and says that in Christ there is neither male nor female, slave nor free.

    And the same Bible that on the basis of an archaic social code of ancient Israel and a tortured reading of Paul is used to condemn all h.mo.exuals and h.mos.xual behavior includes metaphors of redemption, renewal, inclusion and love – principles that invite h.mos.xuals to accept their freedom and responsibility in Christ and demands that their fellow Christians accept them as well. "

    Peter Gomes

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

      That fine, hateful bible, indeed. You really have to ask why a god can't come up with something that isn't so subject to interpretation.

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

        It is honest. Just because something horrible is described in the Bible does not mean that God approves.

        December 20, 2013 at 3:06 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.