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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. Victoria

    It seems that as of lately, it is forbidden to talk in this country because they want to hang you...or you are FORCED to apologize for telling the truth.... YES!! THIS COUNTRY IS GOING TO THE DOGS AND HOLLYWOOD HAS A LOT TO DO WITH THIS... SODOM AND GOMORRA..and I will not apologize.....

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

      Thank you Victoria!! Nor will I.

      December 20, 2013 at 3:13 pm |
    • AE

      Sodom and Gomorrahvs about inhospitality, according to Luke 10:10-13, and failure to care for the poor, according to Ezekiel 16:19·50: “Behold, this was the iniquity of thy sister Sodom, pride, fullness of bread and abundance of idleness was in her and in her daughters, neither did she strengthen the hand of the poor and needy.”

      Jesus commands us to love our neighbor. Gay people are your neighbor. Be hospitable toward them.

      December 20, 2013 at 3:13 pm |
      • tarura

        Oh, duck you and your logic

        December 20, 2013 at 3:19 pm |
        • AE

          Jesus was drawn to the prost.tutes and theives of his time. And the religious leaders were appalled by this.

          I'm sure he is with the g.ays in the same way. And some religious leaders will be appalled by this.

          December 20, 2013 at 3:32 pm |
    • ParmaJeff

      You can say what you please. And guess what, cupcake? So can A&E.

      December 20, 2013 at 3:14 pm |
    • Observer

      Victoria,

      The sin of Sodom was GREED.

      Please read a Bible SOMEDAY.

      December 20, 2013 at 3:15 pm |
      • Live4Him

        Your Bible's pages must be full of holes where you've cut out the parts you don't like!

        December 20, 2013 at 3:18 pm |
      • Observer2

        Observer,

        Sodom was NOT destroyed because of Greed, buddy. I think it is you who needs to read the Bible.

        December 20, 2013 at 3:22 pm |
        • AE

          "Behold, this was the guilt of your sister Sodom: she and her daughters had arrogance, abundant food and careless ease, but she did not help the poor and needy."

          December 20, 2013 at 3:35 pm |
      • Michael, Chapel Hill

        Really? Did you read the Bible?

        December 20, 2013 at 3:24 pm |
    • Free Nuts

      What truth? Maybe you can demonstrate this truth -you know, without letting subjectivity or consensus dirty up the process.

      December 20, 2013 at 3:15 pm |
    • QS

      We're trying to rescue this country from the dogs that religion unleashed upon it from its inception.

      I will not apologize for standing up to religious intolerance, bigotry, discrimination or tyranny.

      December 20, 2013 at 3:15 pm |
    • tallulah13

      Oh look! It's Victoria Jackson!

      So Vicky, if you did an interview about your job with a magazine and said really ignorant, offensive things about people who happen to be clients of your boss, do you think that your boss would be very happy with you? Do you think that you would keep your job?

      December 20, 2013 at 3:16 pm |
    • Doc Vestibule

      Soon the USA will go down the tubes and become a den of sin, crime and corruption just like all those other secular countries like Canada, Ja/pan, Switzerland..... oh wait a minute.
      Those countries have much lower crime rates, a better educated citizenry, higher qualities of life, lower rate of teen pregnancy and obesity...
      All that success and happiness must be a trick of Satan, like those dinosaur bones.

      December 20, 2013 at 3:17 pm |
    • Jenn

      YESSS!!! go girl

      December 20, 2013 at 3:17 pm |
    • tarura

      Liberals an their PC cater to 2-5% of the population while offending the rest of us.

      December 20, 2013 at 3:18 pm |
      • areyoumymoms

        I hate to quibble with you over tiny details, but even a Christian website saw fit to quote the Pew Research study from June of this year that shows a majority of Americans favor gay rights: http://www.christianpost.com/news/poll-majority-would-support-gay-marriage-in-all-50-states-101060/

        We can now marry in 16 states plus D.C. I'd say that represents a little more than 2-5% of the population. How does it feel to be in the minority, tarura?

        December 20, 2013 at 3:30 pm |
    • Doc Vestibule

      Do you have children, Victoria?
      When God comes to raze your town, just offer up your kids to be ra/ped by a ravenous mob and maybe God will deem you righteous enough to spare, like He did with Lot.
      Just don't look over your shoulder when the fire rains down or you'll be turned into a condiment.

      December 20, 2013 at 3:18 pm |
    • Jeff

      It's funny how in the 1800's people thought the world and this country were going to the dogs and the newspapers were the cause. In the early 1900's people thought the country was going to the dogs and radio and Jazz music was the cause. And now you think the country is going to the dogs and Hollywood is the cause. I guess it's good to be a dog!

      Rather than saying the sky is falling lets try to talk about our beliefs in a CALM manor. We also need to LISTEN to other people and allow them their beliefs and discuss in a rational manor our differences and find potential common ground and build on that. The amazing thing that comes from listening to other people is that they become more likely to listen to you. When we rant...like your last post...no one listens to you (and I make fun of you, albeit in an intelligent way) and we alienate one another. Civil discourse is how we improve our society without it we become....congress!

      December 20, 2013 at 3:26 pm |
    • areyoumymoms

      No one cares if you apologize. No one cares if Phil apologizes. And I'd think none of you care that A&E won't apologize for taking action against an employee who reflected negatively on their network. Believe what you want to believe, but no one is suppressing your right to free speech. You're more than welcome to make yourself look ignorant on the Internet, just like Phil is welcome to do the same in GQ. But a private employer doesn't have to stand for it.

      December 20, 2013 at 3:27 pm |
  2. Extremely Moderate

    asdfasdfadf

    December 20, 2013 at 3:10 pm |
  3. bild

    It's wrong. God's Holy Bible condemns it and even nature declares that it takes a man and a woman to produce a child and therefore the natural order is a man and a woman, not two of the same.

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

      If it's unnatural, how come it also occurs in the animal kingdom? Are those animals making the choice to sin also?

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

        Animals follow urges, there are no gay/straight animals

        December 20, 2013 at 3:14 pm |
        • ParmaJeff

          You understand that humans are animals, yes?

          December 20, 2013 at 3:15 pm |
        • Madtown

          Travis needs to study some biology.

          December 20, 2013 at 3:18 pm |
      • bild

        See the book of Genesis. There was the original creation and then there was original sin of man. This brought about the fall and the curse and the devil (Serpent) getting the rule of this world. But, good news, Jesus Christ destroyed the devils power at the cross and resurrection. Though the world is still in this broken and Sin dominated state, there is Salvation through the Gospel. And Jesus Christ is about to be revealed from Heaven and then Judgment.

        December 20, 2013 at 3:33 pm |
  4. Dave

    Was looking at some of the vile comments people are making against the bible and against Christians and was thinking "I wonder what they would do if their bosses read them and decided to fire them for stating them publicly?". Ironic.

    December 20, 2013 at 3:09 pm |
    • tallulah13

      This is an anonymous internet message board. If you can't tell the difference between that and a major magazine article, then you are a very slow student.

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

        Perhaps. But if you can't see the irony in others gloating over someone getting fired for expressing their opinion publicly, while vilely insulting others (under the cover of anonymity), you’d be on the same bus as me.

        December 20, 2013 at 3:22 pm |
  5. ConflictofInterest??

    Can we talk about the source quoted in the second paragraph (lousy journalism aside)? Are we going to say that the alleged 'expert' doesn't have a conflict of interest? What the article neglects to address is the overwhelming majority of THEOLOGICAL experts that agree with the stance that said Duck Hunter takes...

    Agreed that it's his right to say it and A&E's right to suspend him if they want.

    Freedom of speech. Whether you agree or disagree, all have the right to say it. Get over it, people.

    December 20, 2013 at 3:09 pm |
  6. Steve

    I still think it's ickey.

    December 20, 2013 at 3:09 pm |
    • tallulah13

      Yeah. Look at those beards and that camo. They look filthy. I can't imagine how any woman would want to touch a guy like that, much less have intimate relations with him.

      December 20, 2013 at 3:13 pm |
      • Kadog

        So when you look at him (them) you see camo and a beard that represents something filthy and not who that person is on the inside..wow, you must really have a deep, sincere relationship with your significant other...

        December 20, 2013 at 3:32 pm |
  7. NAB

    I can't believe this is still a story. Are people really listening to what Phil says.....has anyone watached the show?? Move on people there are bigger issues in the world. What would the world do without Duck Dynasty.....

    December 20, 2013 at 3:08 pm |
  8. TheFred

    People love to sin and when their sin is exposed they try to deflect attention away from themselves onto someone else. When Adam and Eve sinned in the Garden and God confronted them, Adam immediately blamed it on Eve who blamed it on the Serpent

    December 20, 2013 at 3:08 pm |
    • Free Nuts

      Ah yes, and the Flintstones is really a documentary – got it.

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

      And the serpent blamed "god".

      Religion offers nothing to this world.

      December 20, 2013 at 3:13 pm |
  9. Wiseman

    Obama will make a speech and say Phil could have been him

    December 20, 2013 at 3:07 pm |
    • ParmaJeff

      What a dumb comment.

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

        Amen

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

      LMAO!!!

      December 20, 2013 at 3:10 pm |
  10. blow Sarah blow

    how does anyone know how to understand the writtings in the bible, it is open to all sorts of interpretation ,and with no one in this modern age being there when it was written how in the heck could you possibly know?!

    December 20, 2013 at 3:07 pm |
  11. tedecho

    who cares what this lucky to be rich hillbilly thinks? america, gotta love it 🙂

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

      Wish I could jump on this bandwagon of not caring, but when people like that hold the beliefs and values they do there is a very good reason to care because it infects the rest of society on some level or another.

      December 20, 2013 at 3:12 pm |
  12. bill

    Of course a christian gay rights activist would claim Phil has it wrong. I don't think it was a quote from the bible, just Phil's opinion. The gay community is who has it wrong. They have just given more reasons for the haters to hate.

    Every religious book is open to interpretation, religious or non-religious for that matter. Scholars and students have debated the meaning of books, art and architecture for generations and will continue to do so. Don't hate this man or his supporters for shared opinions any more than he or his supporters hate the gay community. They may not agree with it but I don't see this as hate. If they consider is a sin, most religions teach to love the sinner regardless.

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

      I'd be more worried about my wealth if I was Phil. Jesus said nothing about being gay, but said a lot about being rich. The outlook is not very good for rich men. Not sure about gay men.

      December 20, 2013 at 3:08 pm |
  13. Wiseman

    Why would Phil want a Gay affiliation like A&E to profit off his family. If I Was Phil I would say good riddance... they made their firtune on duck calls not A&E

    December 20, 2013 at 3:06 pm |
  14. gravy

    Maybe Obama should put in his two cents again.

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

      Obama only knows how to say 'catchy catch phrase' to the minorities to get a vote and elected. He actually does not know how to accomplish anything. Just imagine he could of given 400 million to each individual ciitizen and say go choose you own health care insurance for life, but instead he created a money pit program they will fail, cost the middle class and rich more to support the wealthfare poor of not having insurance.

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

        Obama-care cost 400 million so far. Obama could of given each individual a million dollars or more to pick their own health insurance for life.

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

          Jeff,

          400 million divided by 300 million people equals $1.33 per person.

          Oooops. Basic math.

          December 20, 2013 at 3:13 pm |
      • Observer

        Yep. Bring Bush back so we can watch the Dow Jones plummet and start $2,000,000,000,000 wars for false reasons.

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

      Why? A&E is a corporation. You GOTPers LOVE that. Deal with it; the corporation has.

      December 20, 2013 at 3:12 pm |
  15. geologist

    Seriously who gives a darn what he says, pay attention to your lives and real issues like hunger, war, and damage to the environment, not the media or entertainment world.

    December 20, 2013 at 3:05 pm |
    • What Now

      Thank you. I am constantly amazed at our country. Many people on here probably can't even tell you what a geologist does, but I'll bet they can tell you all about the latest reality TV show or what Miley Cyrus (sp?) said or wore this week. Sad.

      December 20, 2013 at 3:13 pm |
  16. theoriginaljames

    I didn't care what this hillbilly religious freak thinks before I read this, and I still don't. The bible is fiction and from that foundation every religious fanatic writes their own version, but it still remain fiction. Meanwhile, the tv show that is behind his celebrity is still the most boring junk on tv and still not worth watching.

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

      PREACH! 🙂

      December 20, 2013 at 3:10 pm |
  17. urr_qasdim

    Anybody who doesn't know Hebrew and Arameic gets the Bible wrong. Translations are terrible, inaccurate and often miss the point completely. Even the very first word in the Hebrew Bible is mistranslated!

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

      Or maybe, just maybe, a book written that long ago by Aramaic people simply has absolutely no bearing on the world today?

      December 20, 2013 at 3:09 pm |
  18. Jeff

    I be willing to assume "Phil" is off duck hunting today and could care less about all this media noise. LoL. I am also glad he had the balls to speak his mind. We need more in society to take a stand and lead in what they believe!

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

      Exactly what the people are doing who don't agree with him....except, for some reason, because those are his "beliefs" he is supposed to get a free pass, right?

      December 20, 2013 at 3:08 pm |
      • Kadog

        So when the freaks from Westburo Baptist Church get the Supreme Court to rule in favor of their right to free speech and expresion of belief, and GLAAD gets to have their freedom of speech and expression and then this guy gets persecuted for his it's ok??? Sorry...can't have it both ways...either everyone gets it or no one gets it...

        December 20, 2013 at 3:24 pm |
  19. mgarrett

    I am so over this hick and his free speech. He had a contract with A&E, yes? He should be a little more diplomatic
    or shut his yapper. Who cares what he thinks about anything? His opinions are not gospel.

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

      And with the do respect you give others, I shall forget you opinion too.

      December 20, 2013 at 3:06 pm |
  20. Pete

    I am a fan of the Robertson family & their Duck Dynasty show but we can't just turn a deaf ear to comments like Phil R uttered, Why should we say that it is okay to discriminate & hate towards gas/lesbians but it is not okay to discriminate against other segments of our population such as other ethnic groups. I think Paula Dean might be scratching her head right now wondering why Phil is being supported and she wasn't.

    December 20, 2013 at 3:05 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.