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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. Jesus Disciple

    Phil is absolutely correct. The only true GOD made a woman for a man & a man for a woman. God's word is true.

    December 20, 2013 at 4:01 pm |
    • Observer

      So you support slavery and beating helpless children, right?

      December 20, 2013 at 4:03 pm |
      • travis

        Source?

        December 20, 2013 at 4:05 pm |
        • Earthling

          The Bible

          December 20, 2013 at 4:09 pm |
      • I was just thinking..

        thats too deep for them. It may casue them to think and use the brain God gave them.

        December 20, 2013 at 4:32 pm |
    • voiceoftruthusa

      Amen to that

      December 20, 2013 at 4:23 pm |
  2. shehar39

    he's right.. the Bible is clear on it... people just think they are smarter than G-d

    December 20, 2013 at 4:01 pm |
    • ParmaJeff

      Chapter and verse where Jesus, you know, the guy Christianity is based upon, said anything about gays.

      December 20, 2013 at 4:03 pm |
      • Responding to the Pride

        Parma...Jesus didn't say anything about beastiality either–that doesn't make it open season on Fido.

        December 20, 2013 at 4:10 pm |
        • Invicta17

          Exactly!

          December 20, 2013 at 4:13 pm |
        • Greg

          The Bible does say no tattoos and no eating of pig meat, so... do you like bacon?

          December 20, 2013 at 4:38 pm |
        • Responding to the Pride

          Greg...I love bacon. Have your read Acts 10:9-15? Because if you had, you wouldn't reveal your foolishness in trying to cite to me the Law of Moses and whether it applies to Christians (as atheists, and only atheists, seem to believe).

          December 20, 2013 at 5:38 pm |
    • mogran

      I cannot believe that anybody really cares exactly what GLAAD thinks about Phil and Duck Dynasty...they are far outnumbered by folks like me who really enjoy the show. If you believe the Bible, stop coveting your neighbor...personally I think GLAAD simply thought they'd get some free publicity

      December 20, 2013 at 4:07 pm |
  3. Carlton

    The Bible is very clear and is the perfect law and standard for mankind because they are God's revealed words which are always right and true. Even though mankind can never live completely up to the Bible, we must have a standard to strive for and try to live up to. This is where Jesus Christ comes in...through Him we are able to considered right and perfect according to the Bible. The only reason anyone fights against this is because they have no intention to live according to a standard, because in their eyes they are wise enough to have their own standard, which is a manifestation of pride. Everyone should be able to be humble or humble themself because at the end of the day we all know we are not perfect have many flaws. Again, this is why we need Jesus and His words (Bible) which clearly spells it all out for us.

    December 20, 2013 at 4:01 pm |
    • ParmaJeff

      Jesus never said a word about gays. Try again.

      December 20, 2013 at 4:02 pm |
      • travis

        Matt 19:1-8

        December 20, 2013 at 4:07 pm |
    • Dyslexic doG

      how can you possibly speak about "what jesus said"?!?!

      The King James version of the new testament was completed in 1611 by 8 members of the church of England. There were (and still are) NO original texts to translate. The oldest manuscripts we have were written down 100's of years after the last apostle died. There are over 8,000 of these old manuscripts with no two alike. The king james translators used none of these anyway. Instead they edited previous translations to create a version their king and parliament would approve. So.... 21st century christians believe the "word of god" is a book edited in the 17th century from the 16th century translations of 8,000 contradictory copies of 4th century scrolls that claim to be copies of lost letters written in the 1st century.

      So we don't even know if the jesus character existed, much less what he may or may not have said.

      Seriously?! Claiming that jesus said certain phrases is utter mind numbing nonsense, and yet you seem to base your belief on this! Your belief has more holes in it than swiss cheese! It would be laughable if it wasn't so tragic.

      December 20, 2013 at 4:06 pm |
      • JayCarlos

        Why have you wasted so much time and research on someone, something you dont believe?
        Why do you work so hard to discredit; someone who stands for love, mercy and grace?
        Religion aside; and you seem like a determined smart individual; But basic logic doesnt sit in to lead you to believe that there's a greater being above us all? Just look at the wonder minds, that put this internet string together, the technology entailed in how you and I both communicate, then look at greater things, like our planet, solar system, the nature birth of yes YOU, and how you were carried in a womb for months to become a great human being? If this doesnt allow you to dig deep to searchign for the higher being that created you, its simply because you dont care to seek the truth, but if you do, i challenge you to simply have faith in the Gospel and see the wonders of your creator. God Bless 🙂 I've already added you to my prayers.

        December 20, 2013 at 4:20 pm |
        • Greg

          Problem is that love, mercy, and grace doesn't factor in much to a lot of people who call themselves Christian.

          December 20, 2013 at 4:40 pm |
  4. JayCarlos

    I would like to add you to my prayers 🙂
    God gave us free will to chose and accept our own actions; that massacre was so unfortunate and a painful thing for all parents around the globe to witness; if God forced us to love him, that wouldnt' be loving, would it? By nature man does not chose God, Man choses self-fullfillment, which mainly derive from evil; I include myself first in such actoins; God choses all to be saved, BUt only his sheep hear his call.
    God Bless.

    December 20, 2013 at 4:01 pm |
  5. Christine

    What a monumental waste of time, arguing the intricacies of a silly bunch of myths.

    December 20, 2013 at 4:01 pm |
    • Responding to the Pride

      Yet here you are!

      December 20, 2013 at 4:03 pm |
    • Jack Trolman

      stop trolling

      December 20, 2013 at 4:06 pm |
  6. tom LI

    And really, how Manly is it to shoot ducks with scatter shot? After tricking them? Kinda like Satan is alleged to have done to Eve! Now take a duck out with a 22 and you're getting some kudos.

    December 20, 2013 at 4:01 pm |
    • RB

      With a pistol, while he is flying.

      December 20, 2013 at 4:04 pm |
  7. Mike

    The sooner that people stop basing their lives on 2,000 – 4,000 year old mythology, the better off we will all be. Anyone can find a passage in the bible to support just about any point of view.

    December 20, 2013 at 4:00 pm |
    • JayCarlos

      I will add you to my prayers 🙂
      God Bless.

      December 20, 2013 at 4:02 pm |
    • voiceoftruthusa

      What does the passage of time have to do with the relevance of Jesus Christ? Do you become less relevant as each year in your life passes by?

      December 20, 2013 at 4:03 pm |
    • Jack Trolman

      I seriously doubt that you would say that to a devout muslim. i sense a double standard.

      December 20, 2013 at 4:09 pm |
  8. mdpay

    Phil is right. Don't like the Corinthians passage try Romans 1 verses 26 & 27. In any case A&E violated his right to free speech and the gays seem to be violating his freedom of religion

    December 20, 2013 at 3:59 pm |
    • Earthling

      How did they violate his rights. He doesn't have the right to have a show on A&E. What about A&E's rights?

      December 20, 2013 at 4:00 pm |
    • Dano

      not.

      December 20, 2013 at 4:00 pm |
    • tom LI

      No they didnt -A&E owns the Show! They already edit the characters! Get a clue – come back to reality!

      December 20, 2013 at 4:02 pm |
    • Greg

      Free speech from the First Amendment is based on the government preventing or taking retribution for things you say. Last I checked, A&E is not a branch of the government.

      December 20, 2013 at 4:06 pm |
    • QuestionEverything

      You apparently do not understand the meaning of the word, "violated", or the First Amendment; nobody's rights were violated due to DC's comments. The First Amendment protects your rights from being infringed by the government, not from an employer suspending and employee.

      December 20, 2013 at 4:09 pm |
  9. Jeff

    Its a good thing Phil didn't say Santa Clause is not real or white, In fact is more likely St. Nick was Greek......

    December 20, 2013 at 3:59 pm |
  10. Ponchos raincoat

    Its fiction and therefore can't be taken seriously.

    December 20, 2013 at 3:59 pm |
    • travis

      Historically accurate fiction?

      December 20, 2013 at 4:01 pm |
      • truthprevails1

        Only itsy bitsy parts of it, many many others are inaccurate and proven lies.

        December 20, 2013 at 4:02 pm |
    • voiceoftruthusa

      Nah, Jesus Christ is alive and seated on the throne and will return again to extend His kingdom to mankind

      December 20, 2013 at 4:04 pm |
  11. Is you stoopid

    check out this article and look at the rank of US in STEM, me bets it would like the rank of countries that acceot science over the duck fux idiot religion, yeehaa

    December 20, 2013 at 3:58 pm |
    • Is you stoopid

      http://www.nytimes.com/2013/12/18/opinion/why-students-do-better-overseas.html?_r=0

      December 20, 2013 at 3:58 pm |
  12. Michael Kim

    Matthew 9;12 For I did not come to call the righteous, but the sinners.
    John 3:16 For God loved the world whosoever believes in him may have eternal life.

    December 20, 2013 at 3:57 pm |
    • truthprevails1

      Now try using a quote that isn't 2000+ years old. Or are you not capable of residing in the 21st century with updated information?

      December 20, 2013 at 3:59 pm |
    • Dyslexic doG

      why quote from a book written by people in the same cult as you? what does that prove?

      December 20, 2013 at 4:00 pm |
      • Live4Him

        We know its not from your cult.

        December 20, 2013 at 4:01 pm |
    • voiceoftruthusa

      Amen

      December 20, 2013 at 4:05 pm |
  13. tkmorr

    While Mr. Robertson may feel himself perfectly qualified to judge 'sin', perhaps he should consider the words of another Christian on the matter who may be a bit more qualified, per Pope Francis: “If someone is gay and he searches for the Lord and has good will, who am I to judge?”.

    December 20, 2013 at 3:57 pm |
  14. Jeff

    Religous Commandment from A&E in the making of a reality show: " THOU SHALL NOT HAVE A REAL OPINION COMING FROM A REALITY SHOW REPRESENTIVE! LET IT BE WRITTEN! LET IT BE SO! ~ A&E

    December 20, 2013 at 3:57 pm |
    • ParmaJeff

      Stop whining because A&E exercised their right to employ whom they wish.

      December 20, 2013 at 3:58 pm |
      • Extremely Moderate

        I think the issue is why they did it?

        December 20, 2013 at 4:00 pm |
        • Jeff

          Why they can Phil was do to a possiblity lowering of the market, which equal dollars or less profit, do to upsetting a particular market, the gay 'abnormal' market of society.

          December 20, 2013 at 4:02 pm |
      • Jeff

        Yes Yes I know, the entertaiment industry is the single only industry in the USA which has legal right to discriminate. I know. I know..

        December 20, 2013 at 4:01 pm |
    • JAMES OLIVER

      I suspect some would yell "commie" if A&E were told they had to keep employees that they did not wish to keep.

      December 20, 2013 at 4:04 pm |
      • voiceoftruthusa

        A&E is certainly free to fire him. And the family behind the most popular cable show in history will exercise their right to either take their family business to another network or create an internet following on some top-notch video streaming website.

        December 20, 2013 at 4:09 pm |
  15. hearties

    Rom 6:1 What shall we say then? Shall we continue in sin, that grace may abound?

    December 20, 2013 at 3:57 pm |
    • Live4Him

      Exactly!

      December 20, 2013 at 3:58 pm |
      • ParmaJeff

        Still waiting for chapter and verse where Jesus said a word about gays.

        December 20, 2013 at 4:00 pm |
        • Live4Him

          Sure, no problem.

          Lev 18:22 ”‘Do not lie with a man as one lies with a woman; that is detestable.

          Matt 5:17 “Do not think that I have come to abolish the Law or the Prophets; I have not come to abolish them but to fulfill them.

          December 20, 2013 at 4:03 pm |
        • JayCarlos

          Leviticus 20:13
          Only if you ask to seek the truth; But if you ask to only nuture your disbelief, this verse will not mean anything to you 🙂
          I pray that your spiritural eyes, be opened and you be lifted.
          God Bless

          December 20, 2013 at 4:06 pm |
    • Dyslexic doG

      why quote from a book written by people in the same cult as you? what does that prove?

      December 20, 2013 at 4:01 pm |
  16. Marty

    This just shows how America has turned into a bunch of pansies. Get real and let the man say what HE believes. Such a joke.

    December 20, 2013 at 3:57 pm |
    • Earthling

      He has every right to say what he said. But A&E does not have to offer him a platform to do it. Thats their right.

      December 20, 2013 at 3:59 pm |
      • MIke

        He didn't even do this on A&E. It was a GQ magazine interview. A&E basically suspended him for having an opinion that he shared through a totally unrelated media outlet. I believe A&E was wrong.

        December 20, 2013 at 4:16 pm |
    • QS

      He DID say what he believes, nobody stopped him. People seem to confuse others being offended by what was said with him being prevented from saying it somehow.

      December 20, 2013 at 3:59 pm |
      • Extremely Moderate

        The problem I have is that he was punished for saying what he believed.

        December 20, 2013 at 4:02 pm |
        • Earthling

          A&E didnt like what he said and suspended. Sounds like the free market at work to me.

          December 20, 2013 at 4:05 pm |
      • Extremely Moderate

        I mean, if I believed that h.mos.xua1 1nt.rco.se was wrong and said so, would it also be okay for me to lose my job?

        December 20, 2013 at 4:04 pm |
        • Earthling

          If I joined a religion that taught its ok to beat your wife and said, publicly, that I agreed with this, would it be ok to fire me?

          December 20, 2013 at 4:08 pm |
  17. Cause I Said So

    I was raised in a Southern Baptist Church my entire life, and I was taught the exact same thing that Phil Robertson said.. Being gay is a SIN. I do not judge them, I accept them for who they are. It is their life, not mine. You people act like this is something new... like you didnt know that the bible said it was a sin. Why do you think they are fighting for their rights? Because until a few years ago.. ALMOST EVERYONE thought being gay was a SIN!!!! Would I fire someone in my company because they believe in gay marraige? NOPE. That is their opinion. Do I forbid my family from watching Modern Family? Nope. Doesnt mean I have to agree with their lifestyle choices on the show. Its an opinion people... Get the heck over it!

    December 20, 2013 at 3:56 pm |
    • QS

      Every person who insists we simply ignore these discriminatory beliefs that lead to discriminatory actions should have a right taken away from them that they take for granted. Maybe then people would start to understand why so many of us are fed up with religious beliefs being given a free pass!

      December 20, 2013 at 4:02 pm |
  18. Free Holiday Nuts

    [youtube=https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=noHAyUqEauE&w=640&h=360]

    December 20, 2013 at 3:56 pm |
  19. KeninTexas

    I find it hilarious that so called experts come out of the woodwork to pile on. I suspect these so called experts are most likely card carrying members of GLADD too. Typical of a CNN hatchet job.

    December 20, 2013 at 3:55 pm |
    • ParmaJeff

      Are so so completely blind as to NOT know this is widely reported? Fox is wetting their panties with this story.

      December 20, 2013 at 3:57 pm |
  20. kim

    seems Phil missed the part about being a hatred spewing bigot and judgemental...oh that's right, pick out the parts that support your cause........you idiots that watch this BS are just that, idiots, does it take nothing more than this to entertain you?

    December 20, 2013 at 3:55 pm |
    • travis

      Your post sounds very hateful, bigoted and judgmental.

      December 20, 2013 at 3:56 pm |
    • Live4Him

      Your post seems to be from 'hatred spewing bigot and judgmental' individual.

      December 20, 2013 at 3:57 pm |
    • I was just thinking..

      very true. It seems these other people can dish it but cant take it. Typical!

      December 20, 2013 at 4:30 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.