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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. Dan

    Can we please throw out all bibles and start having our own opinions?

    December 20, 2013 at 4:47 pm |
    • kyzaadrao

      You've had that freedom now for a couple of hundred years in this country. Perhaps you should visit a country where you don't for comparison.

      December 20, 2013 at 4:51 pm |
    • David R. Scott

      Good Idea.... Let's get rid of all religions.... they kill people

      December 20, 2013 at 5:08 pm |
  2. Philippe

    Just because a guy is "on TV" doesn't mean we should be listening to his "ideas" on anything.

    He has a right to say whatever he wants yet the network also has a right to protect it's financial interests by yanking this guy off the air.

    By the way, I am appalled by the discourse on this subject. You Americans sure are black and white kind of people! And you religious people out there should know: even the Pope thinks it's a bit crazy to go on and on about "gays" all the time! Christ's message was simple: love your neighbour and let God do the judging. Similarly, be nice when debating things with one another.

    December 20, 2013 at 4:47 pm |
    • Name*

      Well said. Judge not is also part of the same literary work. God may judge and humans may not. If the man wants to speak let him. And if the channel wants to protect itself then let it. Get real. That show is not on the air to NOT make money. So if it evolves into a loss then mitigate and dump it. Producers do it all the time. That's why Star Trek was cancelled in the 60's...who knew...right?

      December 20, 2013 at 4:55 pm |
    • Jerry Price

      Jesus was talking about his diciples....

      John 13:34-35
      New International Version (NIV)

      34 “A new command I give you: Love one another. As I have loved you, so you must love one another. 35 By this everyone will know that you are my disciples, if you love one another.”

      He does say to love your neighbor as yourself meaning all of mankind. But that means love your neighbor enough to save them from their own destruction. This means if your neighbor sins...do you continue to watch them sin...or do you speak up and save them?

      Mark 12:28-31
      New International Version (NIV)

      The Greatest Commandment28 One of the teachers of the law came and heard them debating. Noticing that Jesus had given them a good answer, he asked him, “Of all the commandments, which is the most important?”

      29 “The most important one,” answered Jesus, “is this: ‘Hear, O Israel: The Lord our God, the Lord is one.[a] 30 Love the Lord your God with all your heart and with all your soul and with all your mind and with all your strength.’[b] 31 The second is this: ‘Love your neighbor as yourself.’[c] There is no commandment greater than these.”

      December 20, 2013 at 5:00 pm |
  3. Askmehow

    He doesn't get the bible wrong he's a typical christian. There is a reason why they need to be saved. Usually they're a holes.

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

      Lets all ignore that hateful, bigoted, closed minded remark.

      December 20, 2013 at 4:59 pm |
  4. NineAtoms

    To those who vehemently oppose your brothers and sisters who are LGBT, let me say, "Let he who is without sin cast the first stone." If you want to spend your entire life opposed to people whose only difference from you is what gender they love and want to spend their lives with, then that's your choice. I choose to spread tolerance, love and peace, not intolerance, hate and fear.

    December 20, 2013 at 4:46 pm |
    • Ole Olay

      Oppose is a strong word. I do not oppose, I just do not support. There is a huge difference.

      December 20, 2013 at 4:48 pm |
    • Phil DUncan

      I don't hate the people who are gay I hate the sin of being gay. I know that gay people don't want to hear that but that is what I think of the gay life style. Having said that, I am not their judge but unless I woke up in Communist China or North Korea this morning I have a 1st amendment right to state my view no matter how unpopular it is to you or anyone else. I am very weary of the Gay and Lesbian community saying that we are wrong to believe what we believe, or to voice our opinion out loud. Spewing meaningless venom is one thing, when asked a question about what you believe is another. If you don't want to hear the answer, then don't ask the question.
      We live in a country of freedom and the gay people have a right to live their lives the way they want and Christians have a right to say it isn't right. Last time I checked, God was a gentleman. He may knock at the door but it has to be opened from the inside. We live in a world where people will always have differences of opinion. I am like the governor of Louisiana sick of the left believing in freedom of speech unless it is something they disagree with.

      December 20, 2013 at 5:10 pm |
  5. B

    It is an amazing that those that have tolerance are the most intolerant if you disagree with them. The sodomites are a sick bunch...

    December 20, 2013 at 4:46 pm |
    • David R. Scott

      The so called christians are pure EVIL BIGOTS.

      December 20, 2013 at 4:56 pm |
    • Jackson

      What about those conservatives who preach morality and family values, but are having extra-marital affairs.

      I guess that level of hypocrisy is ok with you right?

      Thanks for once again proving I.O.I.Y.A.R. (it's okay if you're a republican)

      December 20, 2013 at 6:18 pm |
  6. The Clothing-Optional Zombie Resurrection of Anna Nicole Smith

    So when the duck poop settles on this very important drama, do you think that more people will have converted to Christianity? Uh, maybe not.

    December 20, 2013 at 4:46 pm |
    • David R. Scott

      convert to christianity.... I think not.... they are all racists and bigots! The Duck looks like a filthy drug smuggler!
      Probably is!

      December 20, 2013 at 4:49 pm |
  7. Rob

    Getting the bible wrong? Are you f'in kidding? A book of myths! Sorry to offend, but I'll wait for .00000000000000000000000000000000001 percent of evidence in anything in the bible before I start believing. And if I'm wrong, I'm OK because I'll be very far away from you wingnuts when I die. But I'm not wrong!

    December 20, 2013 at 4:45 pm |
    • David R. Scott

      No Sir... You are correct... Thanks!

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

        You're the one that mentioned drugs in the first place....makes one go hummmm bout you.

        December 20, 2013 at 4:51 pm |
    • Dianna

      You have no clue what you're headed for dude. Turn from your wicked ways (and mouth) before its REALLY to late for you.

      December 20, 2013 at 4:50 pm |
    • Former Xtian

      LOL yeah. As soon as you open the book, you have already gotten the bible wrong.

      December 20, 2013 at 4:57 pm |
    • Mr. Berzerk

      Ask historians. There is pretty SUBSTANTIAL eveidence from NON-religious sources that the Bible is accurate.

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

      Here is a small snipit of actual facts in the bible. The Jews as slaves in egypt. The rise and fall of rome. The rise and fall of the Roman empire. The rise and fall of Babylon.

      December 20, 2013 at 5:02 pm |
    • Jerry Price

      If you are so confident in that statement then you should have no fear in asking God to come into your heart if He exist. If He does exist then you will have life eternal. If he does not you have lost nothing.

      December 20, 2013 at 5:04 pm |
  8. jeff

    My mom and wife wear all forms of makeup, i.e., eye shadow, liners,, mascara, lipstick, tons of oils, lotions, etc... they do not wear hats to church!! Will they go to hell? How do I deal with their continued sins? How did Noah get every form of life on that dam ark?

    December 20, 2013 at 4:45 pm |
    • David R. Scott

      I love it Jeff...

      December 20, 2013 at 4:50 pm |
    • David R. Scott

      Just a gaggle of BIBLE THUMPERS! YAHOOS ALL!

      December 20, 2013 at 4:51 pm |
    • Former Xtian

      My dad eats bacon as well. I keep telling him he's going to hell, but for some reason none of these Christian groups are fighting to ban bacon. Why is this?

      December 20, 2013 at 4:57 pm |
      • Mr. Berzerk

        Because any one who actually READ the bible know why bacon is ok, and how the animals fit in the ark, and

        December 20, 2013 at 5:01 pm |
        • Mr. Berzerk

          why make up is ok, and not wearing a hat is ok.

          December 20, 2013 at 5:01 pm |
  9. Journey

    Good for this man. Someone needs to start standing up to these people.

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

      Good for A&E for not putting up with bigots for their bottom line.

      December 20, 2013 at 4:47 pm |
    • Piccolo

      Yeah because gays are totally invading your churches and homes and destroying your marriages.

      NOT.

      Blame your problems on someone else... like I dunno, maybe the guy that created all sin, all hate and all evil.

      December 20, 2013 at 4:55 pm |
  10. Jason

    Th

    December 20, 2013 at 4:45 pm |
  11. Dan

    “If every trace of any single religion were wiped out and nothing were passed on, it would never be created exactly that way again. There might be some other nonsense in its place, but not that exact nonsense. If all of science were wiped out, it would still be true and someone would find a way to figure it all out again.”
    ― Penn Jillette

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

      Awesome, Dan.

      December 20, 2013 at 4:48 pm |
    • Dianna

      Certainly wouldn't be someone of YOUR stature, would it? hahahaha

      December 20, 2013 at 4:55 pm |
      • David R. Scott

        Can You prove their is a God? I did not think so. Pray to the sacred rabbit and you will be healed!

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

      I agree to disagree on that as you have no proof of such.

      December 20, 2013 at 4:56 pm |
  12. David R. Scott

    A & E ... YOU NEED TO TAKE THE WHOLE OFFENSIVE SHOW OFF THE AIR.... SAVE YOURSELVES BEFORE THE BOYCOTT BEGINS

    December 20, 2013 at 4:44 pm |
  13. Scott

    What we have here is our medias twisted perception at its best. Who cares what he said in an interview, no one has to read it or watch his show. There is so much else to worry about in this world, people starving, dying, forced into work camps. We are on the brink of war with several different countries and we are concerned with one persons view of people which is based on the way he was raised. We are condemning this man, yet our justice system lets a rich kid who killed 4 people off with probation because he was raised a certain way.

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

      Nobody's condemning him. They are saying he's an ignorant imbecile, which is a self evident statement based on his beliefs.

      December 20, 2013 at 4:53 pm |
      • travis

        That was an ignorant comment you had there piccolo

        December 20, 2013 at 4:57 pm |
      • Dianna

        Nobody is condemning him you say? Read the comments idiot.

        December 20, 2013 at 4:59 pm |
        • David R. Scott

          The bigot NEEDS CONDEMNING.... MORON!

          December 20, 2013 at 5:06 pm |
  14. JesusIsTrush

    I wonder how these so-called "experts" would interpret Romans 1? Or are they already among those described by it?

    December 20, 2013 at 4:43 pm |
    • Ole Olay

      yup gay Bible experts, haven you read the article?

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

      Oops, supposed to be "JesusIsTruth." Oh well, maybe the misspell will get more attention.

      December 20, 2013 at 4:45 pm |
  15. paul

    Still want to know what makes it all right to stick a male organ in a toilet.

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

      LOL what makes it alright for you to let the women in your life leave while they're menstruating?

      December 20, 2013 at 4:56 pm |
    • David R. Scott

      Try it Paul... it beats going to church with all those bigots!

      December 20, 2013 at 5:01 pm |
  16. Free Nuts

    We've finally been able to demonstrate in easy-to-understand terms how the religious fundy method of inquiry and verification works. Basically, like this:

    [youtube=https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=4YIj4rLYo0c&w=640&h=360]

    December 20, 2013 at 4:42 pm |
  17. dave

    its all well and good what "the bible says", but what if the other person simply doesnt subscribe to "the bible" ?
    the history of the catholic church has been attrocious over the centuries. what if someone just feels "they have no credibility to judge anything, based on their own past"

    what if someone feels "thats YOUR bible... but i dont have an interest in it, and god spoke to me in another way"?

    the point here is that the man was being self righteous and speaking for God. God speaks for God. not mankind. we need to spend less time reading old texts and more time actually listening with our hearts about how to behave and treat each other

    December 20, 2013 at 4:42 pm |
    • Spell Check Police

      AND god(s) are fictional.

      December 20, 2013 at 5:00 pm |
  18. The Thenkare

    He didn't say that A&E said it was a sin, he said it was his take on the subject. A&E over reacted. All of us sin in one way or the other before we roll out of bed in the morning and since one sin is no worse than another I'd say thank God we have Jesus to turn to. When they asked him about sin he didn't have to specifically talk about this one but it is his right as a free American to express his view.

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

      A&E can employ who it pleases. Actions have consequences.

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

      Considering he insulted a large amount of A&E employees, I'd say it wasn't an over reaction. He has every right to express his hateful opinion, but A&E also has every right to tell him his opinion is bigoted and based on ancient fairy tales and distance themselves from him. Hate speech is wrong, even though it's allowed by civil rights.

      December 20, 2013 at 4:46 pm |
      • David R. Scott

        Correct

        December 20, 2013 at 5:04 pm |
    • David R. Scott

      More so called christian crap..... JEEE US get a grip.

      December 20, 2013 at 5:03 pm |
  19. David R. Scott

    ANYONE DEFENDING THIS LOW LIFE IS A LOW LIFE ALSO.... HIDING IN THE SHADOW OF GOD!

    December 20, 2013 at 4:41 pm |
    • psych ward staff

      OK, pops. Stop screaming and finish your applesauce.

      December 20, 2013 at 4:44 pm |
    • Ole Olay

      He is the low life, because he has an opinion that you happen not agree with? What does it make you?????????

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

        People that consciously chose to spread hate are low lifes. Just like any KKK member. Sure, they have the right to their opinion, but that doesn't make their behavior productive or enlightening in the least. They are ignorant imbeciles and should be treated as such.

        December 20, 2013 at 4:51 pm |
        • Mr. Berzerk

          Tell me what in his statment was spreading hate?

          December 20, 2013 at 4:51 pm |
        • somethingstellar

          @ Mr. Berzerk.

          Umm, he said that GLBT folks were no better than dog diddlers, murderers and terrorists. I think that Christians are no better than the Nazi party but I'm not going to spout off in a magazine about how they're no better than the Nazi's.

          December 20, 2013 at 4:53 pm |
  20. Dan

    It's the gays vs the brain-washed religious sheep again. This one could go either way.

    December 20, 2013 at 4:41 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.