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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. Kyle

    I love how the media "asks" its news! "Does he get the Bible wrong"? "Is your mother a wh o re"?

    December 20, 2013 at 4:39 pm |
  2. Jesse from KC

    It's plain and simple.

    The Bible was NOT divinely inspired. Christianity is a scam, as are all world religions.

    The New Testament is a creation of writings, each created 60-250 years AFTER the "death of Christ", by people who claimed to be people they weren't. It's a collection of "eye-witness" accounts that constantly contradict each other.

    Any person that is logical can deduce that the Bible is a scam.

    Grow up.

    December 20, 2013 at 4:39 pm |
    • kyzaadrao

      Sometimes I believe blog posters must not be real because of the outlandish things they claim, but here we are.

      December 20, 2013 at 4:41 pm |
      • truthprevails1

        Can you prove him wrong?

        December 20, 2013 at 4:42 pm |
    • aaronguitar

      thank you

      December 20, 2013 at 4:43 pm |
    • Dan

      Of course it is a scam but you will never convince these religious nuts. They want to believe not think.

      December 20, 2013 at 4:43 pm |
    • patrickg68

      Well said, Jesse! So tired of people preaching about their god...ugh, especially this time of year! Enjoy the Winter Solstice – the axial tilt is the reason for the season! Peace

      December 20, 2013 at 4:48 pm |
    • Brian Watson

      Jesse,

      This is simply not true. Scores of evidence support that eyewitnesses or those who interviewed eyewitnesses wrote the New Testament, all within the first century. You may want to see Richard Bauckham's Jesus and the Eyewitnesses.

      December 20, 2013 at 4:49 pm |
      • patrickg68

        You have NO PROOF! Eyewitnesses are not reliable proof! You have no proof of your god or any other god, grow up!

        December 20, 2013 at 4:54 pm |
    • Geoff

      It amazes me how all these non beleivers are experts on the bible.

      December 20, 2013 at 5:06 pm |
  3. Brian Nielsen

    Free Speech is for Everyone, not just liberals. If you don't like someone's opinion, voice your own; BUT they have a Right to it... I Repeat, Free Speech is for Everyone; NOT just the "Pink and Squishy" !

    December 20, 2013 at 4:39 pm |
    • Yup!

      His free speech was not in any way affected. The government handles that, and they have done nothing. A&E is a private corporation, and they may fire anyone who they wish. Not a free speech issue.

      December 20, 2013 at 4:41 pm |
    • Observer

      Brian,

      He had free speech. Weren't you paying attention?

      A&E also has rights like not wanting to project an image of ignorance and bigotry.

      December 20, 2013 at 4:42 pm |
      • aaronguitar

        exactly

        December 20, 2013 at 4:44 pm |
    • Fred Nielsen

      Free speech is not the only rule that is relevant here, you simpleton. Contract law and other material is contextual too.

      Guess you didn't inherit the family brains like I did, cousin.

      December 20, 2013 at 4:43 pm |
      • Erin

        re "Guess you didn't..." -now THAT's funny, Fred. Nice slam.

        December 20, 2013 at 4:46 pm |
    • patrickg68

      Of course he has the right to free speech, however, with that right comes responsibility and the understanding that you cannot stand upon your soapbox and preach your vile hate and not expect people to retort!

      In this case, his employers did not agree with his hate-speech, therefore, they decided to suspend him and silence him. It's called free enterprise! The same thing applies to you in your workplace; you cannot spew hate or any other offensive language without anticipating consequences! Deal with it, grow up and stop believing in some man-made, make-believe god from a book of antiquity written by desert nomads who believed the Earth was the center of the Universe and it was FLAT!!
      Of course, you're probably a flat-Earth creationist...I'm wasting my time! I suppose you believe that Christmas is a Christina holiday, too...lol!!!

      December 20, 2013 at 4:59 pm |
      • patrickg68

        *Christian holiday

        December 20, 2013 at 5:00 pm |
  4. Patrish

    Don't care if he got it right or wrong – Bible thumbing people are some of the most obnoxious people I knew. Besides he's redneck and don't find them entertaining or well educated, so I pay little attention to what they yammer about.

    December 20, 2013 at 4:38 pm |
  5. Mark

    Wow, I stopped reading this article right when I read this line: "said Jim Naughton, a Christian gay rights activist and communications consultant."

    No such thing as a christian gay rights activist, never has been AND never will be. People are stupid.

    December 20, 2013 at 4:38 pm |
    • Pete

      There are 100's of churches that support gay rights, get an education.

      December 20, 2013 at 4:39 pm |
      • dwight

        These are also the same hundreds of churches that have been influenced by culture and not by the Bible they propose to follow.

        December 20, 2013 at 4:44 pm |
  6. CHRH

    If you dont want to know what a 69 year old grandfather thinks, dont ask him. But dont be surprised that there are many millions who feel the same way. It is their right just like its A&E's right to suspend him.

    December 20, 2013 at 4:36 pm |
    • FaSol

      The Bible is very clear about this subject, and Phil Robertson has a right to express his beliefs.

      December 20, 2013 at 4:45 pm |
  7. RexiGirl

    I'm glad to see that he got suspended from the show. I'm hoping that the show gets cancelled. I don't know why anyone would want to watch a bunch of rednecks. I think that it's very stupid to have all of this merchandise for a show that is not even worth watching. People are stupid because they watch it.

    December 20, 2013 at 4:36 pm |
    • Patrish

      Since I live close to some, I so agree. Not entertain, unless you like stupid.

      December 20, 2013 at 4:39 pm |
  8. slim jim

    GOD IS NOT THE FIRST GOD,

    Deuteronomy 4:35-39
    Unto thee it was shewed, that thou mightest know that the LORD he is God; there is none else beside him. (v.35)
    THEN ???
    Genesis 1:26
    And God said, let "US" make man in "our" image.
    Genesis 3:22
    And the Lord God said, Behold, then man is become as one of us, to know good and evil.

    Genesis 11:7
    Let us go down, and there confound their language.

    Exodus 12:12
    And against all the gods of Egypt I will execute judgment.

    Exodus 15:11
    Who is like unto thee, O LORD, among the gods?

    Exodus 18:11
    Now I know that the LORD is greater than all gods.

    Exodus 20:3, 5
    Thou shalt have no other gods before me. ... Thou shalt not bow down thyself to them, nor serve them.

    Exodus 22:20-28
    He that sacrificeth unto any god, save unto the LORD only, he shall be utterly destroyed. (v.20)

    Thou shalt not revile the gods. (v.28)

    CLEARLY GOD HAD A LOT OF OTHERS AROUND IN THE BEGINNING ... its in the bible ! just saying ...
    lot a opinions lots a people, even before earth lol

    December 20, 2013 at 4:36 pm |
    • DG

      The scriptures you posted don't really prove anything besides the fact that you don't know what they mean... each one makes perfect sense when you understand the Bible.

      December 20, 2013 at 4:40 pm |
      • slim jim

        (20:41) "They kissed one another ... until David exceeded."
        David and Jonathan "kissed one another, and wept with one another" when they parted for what they though might be the last time. GAY

        December 20, 2013 at 4:42 pm |
        • Mr. Berzerk

          More lack of understanding of culture and context.

          December 20, 2013 at 4:45 pm |
    • travis

      Yes, the bible clearly states there was a god head. Three unique beings that form god. God the father, god the son (Jesus) and god the holy spirit.

      December 20, 2013 at 4:41 pm |
      • slim jim

        Deuteronomy 4:35-39
        know that the LORD he is God; there is none else beside him. personality disorder ?

        December 20, 2013 at 4:46 pm |
        • Mr. Berzerk

          Trinity....look it up....sigh.

          December 20, 2013 at 4:50 pm |
        • travis

          Three unique beings make up god, like 50 unique states make up the usa

          December 20, 2013 at 4:51 pm |
    • Jerry Price

      When God refers to more than one He speaks of the Trinity. When he refers to gods he refers to gods men create in their own minds. He may also refer to Angels when he says (us).

      December 20, 2013 at 4:44 pm |
      • slim jim

        Exodus 34:14
        For thou shalt worship no other god: for the LORD, whose name is Jealous, is a jealous God.

        December 20, 2013 at 4:47 pm |
      • slim jim

        1 John 5:7
        For there are three that bear record in heaven, the Father, the Word, and the Holy Ghost: and these three are one.

        December 20, 2013 at 4:49 pm |
    • Mr. Berzerk

      An't never heard of the Trinity have you? God is three in essance one in person. Its a mystery not a contradiction.

      December 20, 2013 at 4:44 pm |
    • Joe

      The us the verse refers to is Jesus and the Holy Spirit. Before you quote scripture make sure you know what you are talking about.

      December 20, 2013 at 4:46 pm |
    • ddtins

      there is only one God and it's in the bible all the other so called gods u talking about little g read ur bible and please

      December 20, 2013 at 4:54 pm |
  9. Jerry Price

    A&E showed their true colors. I would even go back.

    December 20, 2013 at 4:36 pm |
  10. FK

    First Amendment, that's all. Let him talk and give an opinion.

    December 20, 2013 at 4:36 pm |
  11. Journey

    To all the Duck Dynasty supporters talking about how oppressed this man is...stuff it.

    That Duck Dynasty, Inc. swagger, pushed in our faces for so many years, was not greased with bird grease. It was actually greased with the blood and the tears of southern racial and religious intolerance. If you can't stand the hunt for equality get out of the duck blind.

    December 20, 2013 at 4:36 pm |
  12. Dan

    I've got pillow biters on the left of me and bible thumpers on the right.

    December 20, 2013 at 4:35 pm |
    • Jerry Price

      Being in the middle is as good as having a mouth full of feathers. In this case you will have pillow feathers and duck feathers. Pick your poison.

      December 20, 2013 at 4:38 pm |
  13. veep

    His comments about black people were waaaay more offensive than the gay ones and there's nothing in the bible defending him there.

    He is an ignorant man; as are all ye who follow him.

    December 20, 2013 at 4:34 pm |
    • Jay

      To you I say a very non-relgious Amen.

      December 20, 2013 at 5:01 pm |
  14. LotsofAmmo

    Phil Robertson is a self confessed alcoholic, wife beater and draft dodger. You guys on the right really know how to pick your hero's huh? He fits right in with Rush and Ted Nugent. Nice

    December 20, 2013 at 4:34 pm |
    • Yup!

      He enjoys quacking at waterfowl too. But his Charles Manson look really clinches it for me.

      December 20, 2013 at 4:35 pm |
      • GODZILLA1

        Absolutely right! He is the TRUE poster boy for the T baggers.

        December 20, 2013 at 4:36 pm |
    • DuckU

      With that kind of background he might qualify as a Democratic President! At least he is a legal citizen and tells the truth

      December 20, 2013 at 4:41 pm |
  15. Shana Franklin

    Phil did not get the bible wrong! He has said nothing wrong, by his faith he answered a question. Maybe if there was a lot more Phils in the world it would be a better place. These people are acting like he is wrong for the way he thinks but they are ,probably the same people that go to church on Sun. to see what their neighbor is wearing, or what member is sleeping with the other or who has more money. They judge!

    December 20, 2013 at 4:34 pm |
    • GODZILLA1

      BS, TOTAL BS.

      December 20, 2013 at 4:37 pm |
  16. Extremely Moderate

    Dyslexic doG

    Does anyone else notice that this guy is copy pasting the same comments over and over again? Whats more he is belittling the beliefs of those who have religion.

    Why do you care Dyslexic doG?

    I swear your more vocal about your non-faith than most Christians are about their faith.

    Haha, change your tag to EVANGELICAL ATHEIST!

    December 20, 2013 at 4:34 pm |
    • J.R.

      Yes, isn't it just terrible when people are allowed to exercise their right to free speech in order to criticize your antiquated and inhumane religious beliefs?

      December 20, 2013 at 4:36 pm |
  17. T

    .......Gee, .........who do you listen to,............a backwoodsy, home grown hi ll bi lly layman,.............................or the POPE.

    December 20, 2013 at 4:34 pm |
    • Dan

      the first one

      December 20, 2013 at 4:36 pm |
    • Charles Gannon

      I thought you had to be Gay to be Pope, no?

      December 20, 2013 at 4:42 pm |
  18. Dan

    Did he or did he not misinterpret the book of fairy tales? That is the question that we all need to ponder.

    December 20, 2013 at 4:33 pm |
    • travis

      Historically accurate fairy tales?

      December 20, 2013 at 4:38 pm |
      • Pete

        You do know the world's largest research center has shown the bible is not an historical doc.ument.

        December 20, 2013 at 4:41 pm |
        • travis

          The fall of medopersia, the rise and fall of rome, the Jews as slaves in egypt. All of those and many more are accurate. And most were predicted before they even happened

          December 20, 2013 at 4:49 pm |
        • Geoff

          Sure whatever the worlds largest research center says has to be fact right> Just another mans opinion

          December 20, 2013 at 5:04 pm |
  19. Chris

    While I don't agree with the opinion of Phil Robertson, he does have the right to his opinion. That said, his employer (A & E) does have the right to suspend or fire him based on their own standards or their belief he does not exemplify their brand. I have never watched "Duck Dynasty", nor do I ever intend to.

    If you don't agree with what Phil Robertson says he believes, don't watch or purchase any of the "Duck Dynasty" merchandise. If enough people stop watching the program and buying the merchandise, the show will be cancelled. Then the entire issue is resolved.

    December 20, 2013 at 4:33 pm |
  20. Tracy

    I find it amazing that we have "free speech" but when someone voices an opinion others don't like – they are then hanged by everyone. I believe in free speech for everyone – even if I don't agree with them. This is his opinion, let it go – he is allowed to have his own opinion!!! I find it refreshing that he was honest with his opinion and not trying to be politically correct or "lie" to make him look like a different person than he is. He has more integrity than anyone in Washington!

    December 20, 2013 at 4:33 pm |
    • Dread Beard

      Are you sure you understand what free speech entails?

      December 20, 2013 at 4:38 pm |
    • Shawn

      You hit this whole thing on the head!!!!!! Who really cares, he didnt say that he was going to kill people, or they need to go away.

      December 20, 2013 at 4:40 pm |
    • somethingstellar

      So... you're mad we're exercising our freedoms to criticize his use of this freedoms?
      I fail to see what anybody is doing wrong. If he didn't want to be criticized, shouldn't have shared his thoughts in public media. I've done media, thats the risk you take when you do it. He said it, great, thats all on him, now he gets to deal with the consequences like all of us do when we say or do stupid things.

      December 20, 2013 at 4:52 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.