When I was on vacation a couple of weeks ago, I finally got around to reading my downloaded Kindle copy of The Books of Enoch, the famous apocryphal books. 1 Enoch was fascinating! It goes into great detail about Genesis 6:1-4, the Biblical passage about fallen angels taking human wives and creating the nephilim. In other words, the Rogue One of Biblical writings!
Now, 2 Enoch was what really caught my eye, for personal reasons. Contrary to what we might believe, the second book was found separately over a 100 years later, by a professor in the Belgrade Public Library (Serbia). Rather than continuing to focus on the angels, it details Enoch’s God-guided ascension through Heaven. Truth be told, I have a ways to go before I finish it. I stopped reading too far after finding this passage, where an angel describes to Enoch the various crimes that the individuals in a layer of heaven were being punished for:
“This place, O Enoch, is prepared for those who dishonor God, who on earth practice sin against nature, which is sodomy of a child, corruption of children,…”2 Enoch 10:3
When I first read this passage, I expected a near copy-and-paste of 1 Corinthians 6:9-10, infamously known as one of the “clobber passages” used to discriminated against LGBTQ individuals. Instead, there was truly nothing gay to be found here. Instead, the very first crimes the angel mentioned were harm against children. There was no mention of homosexuality in this passage.
I was stunned, out of shock at feeling validated by apocryphal texts. In the preface for 2 Enoch provided by the author of this Kindle collection of the books, he notes that this was a Slavonic translation of the original Greek text. It looks like the Slavonic translators went to great scholarly pains to do as best a job translating the manuscripts as possible.
What I’m trying to get at is, why is it that an Eastern-European interpretation of this passage has no mention of homosexuality, while English translations of the Bible are infamous for the six “clobber passages” that seemingly condemn it?
Doing some quick web research led to this article, where a Biblical scholar writes about his revelations regarding how Leviticus 18:22 and 20:13 have been translated across different languages. When his German friend paid a visit, they perfectly translated these two verses from a German Bible he’d collected. The German Bible decried men lying down with young boys instead of with other men.
They were shocked to say the least, and flipped to 1 Corinthians 6:9-10, curious to see how the German Bible had translated the Greek word “arsenokoitai” (I’ve read that this is actually a Greek portmanteau created by Paul, between the Greek words for “man” and “bed”). Once again, the German Bible decried pedophilia instead, saying that “Boy molesters will not inherit the kingdom of God.”
To take this a step further, they found a 1534 facsimile edition of Martin Luther’s original German translation of the Bible. Sure enough, the key word found in these verses was “knabenschander”, boy molester (I plugged this into Google Translate out of curiosity, and it also came up as “boy abuser”). They also found this word mentioned in 1 Timothy 1:10, the verse that states “The law is for…”.
The author later found in his Bible collection a 1674 Swedish and 1830 Norwegian translation. He had a trilingual friend read through those same verses in these translations, and once again, they had been translated to decry boy molesters/abusers. With all of these European translations focused on rightfully condemning pedophilia, it makes me wonder if foul play has been involved with English translations that rewrite the targets as homosexuals.
A Word, Please!
Turns out that there’s a huge historical reason why these translations were focused on boy molesters. Have you all heard the word “pederasty” before? It was mainly a Greek practice where young boys were socially expected to submit to an older man for the sake of learning and social status. Unfortunately, it has been confirmed that there was a sexual element to this as well. How vile. If I’ve read right, the boys were expected to sexually submit to these older men, or be shamed.
Now, here’s what I’m struggling to understand (and my main point for this blog post): how the heck did the KJV and future English translations translate “boy molesters” into “homosexuals/men who lie with men”?!
I’m trying to wrap my head around the timeline of how Bibles were printed and translated. I know for starters that with the creation of the Gutenberg Press in 1455, Bibles were mass-produced for the first time ever.
I found this article from SMU, which states that in 1460, a man named Johann Mentelin printed a Latin Bible. This article also notes that six years later, he printed a German Bible, and that German was the first printed Bible translation other than Latin.
I tried to find an accessible Latin translation, and found this site that provides the entire Vulgate translation (which apparently means “common” in Latin). According to my instant web notes, this was the translation most commonly used before the Reformation period (when the Gutenberg Press was created).
The Vulgate‘s version of 1 Timothy 1:10 goes like this in Latin:
fornicariis masculorum concubitoribus plagiariis mendacibus periuris et si quid aliud sanae doctrinae adversaturVulgate, 1 Timothy 1:10
On the free Vulgate site, they have the key words translated to “for them who defile themselves with mankind”. Well, I plugged the same Latins sentence into an online Latin-to-English translator, and it translated the word “masculorum” as (drum roll, please!): male prostitutes!
This bothers me, to say the least. From a glance at the Vulgate, it’s definitely the basis for the KJV. But why did this online translator interpret these words as “male prostitute”? A reasonable explanation is that ironically, both interpretations aren’t mutually exclusive. The problem is then, that the KJV version is far too “flowery” in its depiction of shrine prostitution, what must be the intended target.
I read this video’s summary, and I think it’s a dead ringer for what Paul was trying to discuss in 1 Corinthians. So apparently, there was an infamous temple of Aphrodite in Corinth (an ancient Greek city) where at one time 1,000 “sacred prostitutes” were dedicated. What makes this especially disturbing is the summary’s note that some of these likewise dubbed “virgin daughters” were barely 12 years old. Yuck. Sounds like this counts as the “corruption of children” mentioned in that passage from 2 Enoch.
To add to the Biblical context, here’s this detailed article from Gay Christian 101 (the site that led to be truly becoming a Christian) about shrine prostitution in the Bible. There are numerous condemning references to the practice just in the Old Testament, with many of the occurrences in Canaan, the land that would eventually become Israel. And it looks like this was the true culprit for the “clobber passages” in the New Testament.
On that note, a quick mention of Romans 1:26-29. I found yet another awesome article from Gay Christian 101, this time going into excellent detail about the cultural context. The key word the author found, from verse 1:24, is “akatharsian”, a Greek word that denotes shrine prostitution. The men and women described in this passage were given over to evil thoughts because they were inflamed with passion during sexual worship in these old temples. Unfortunately, they were likely to unwittingly trade sexual diseases with each other given the likelihood that they didn’t use safe sex practices.
It disturbs me, that others might try to use this passage to insinuate that gay people are inherently evil.
Ah, and for the grand finale: the infamous story of Sodom and Gomorrah.
The Cities of Sin
For so long, the destruction of Sodom has been based on the anti-gay interpretation that God obliterated it because of the men’s gay desires. That’s one way to water down attempted r*pe of angels (the “strange flesh” mentioned in Jude 1:7)!
Behold, a recounting of Sodom’s transgressions in the book of Ezekiel:
“Behold, this was the guilt of your sister Sodom: she and her daughters had pride, excess of food, and prosperous ease, but did not aid the poor and needy.”
Oh look, it’s America!
To hammer home the point that there was nothing “gay” about Sodom, it’s important to be aware of the main plot of 1 Enoch: the Fall of the Watchers. These were the fallen angels who lusted after human women, chasing “strange flesh”, and were accordingly punished for what they wrought.
You could call what happened in Sodom an unwitting inversion of the Watchers’ crime. This time, human men lusted after angels, likely with the intention to commit sexual violence. Hence, the true meaning of the word “sodomite”/”sodomize”. As this article skillfully details, the true definition of sodomy is attempting to use sex as a hateful, dominating weapon of power over others. The men in Sodom tried this, and it led to their doom.
And look at the Jesus cross-reference I found thanks to Bible Hub!
“And if anyone will not welcome you or heed your words, shake the dust off your feet when you leave that home or town. Truly, I say to you, it will be more bearable on the day of judgment for the land of Sodom and Gomorrah than for that town.”Matthew 10:14-15
This is a subtle but strong reference to the sheer inhospitality of Sodom. That, and the punishment for them refusing to heed God. Sodom had chances to change, but refused. Imagine just what kind of terrible destruction could be wrought in the future.
Lost in Translation
This feels like a horrendous, centuries-long translation game of “telephone”. Good golly. Just looking at this article somebody wrote on the Greek word “malakoi” (I believe it’s supposed to mean “soft”) shows that it went from being interpreted as “weaklings” for a long time, before being malformed into “effeminate/homosexual”.
I also have hard proof that yes, translators have been known to insert their genuinely homophobic biases into their work. A few years ago, after comparing different Bible versions of the passage where David and Jonathan meet for the last time, I discovered that the NLT (New Living Testament) decided to…rebrand how they greeted each other.
“And as soon as the boy had gone, David rose from beside the stone heap and fell on his face to the ground and bowed three times. And they kissed one another and wept with one another, David weeping the most.”1 Samuel 20:41, ESV
“As soon as the boy was gone, David came out from where he had been hiding near the stone pile. Then David bowed three times to Jonathan with his face to the ground. Both of them were in tears as they embraced each other and said good-bye, especially David.”1 Samuel 20:41, NLT
Seriously? Instead of them kissing each other as a form of greeting and weeping together, they hugged and simply said goodbye? Never did I ever think I’d find a case of fragile masculinity in a Bible translation.
Oh, and it does bear mentioning, there’s been so much harm done by these mistranslations. If the translators responsible for these inaccurate interpretations did this intentionally, then they absolutely committed false witness against their gay neighbors. That, and these poor choices are at least semi-motivations for this non-exclusive list of crimes committed against LGBTQ people around the world:
- The “corrective” sexual violence committed against lesbian women to supposedly “make them straight”
- The disgusting acts of violence that we’ve suffered, perhaps most infamously Matthew Shepard
- From 2020, a staggering account of how disproportionately we’re murdered, especially our trans brethren
- Being blamed for horrific natural disasters such as Hurricane Katrina in 2005, supposedly because of a New Orleans pride parade the week prior
So much blood has been spilled, so many tears have been shed, all in part due to these verses. There’s no way what we’ve seen is the result of “good fruits”. Please. Just don’t. When gay kids kill themselves and are rendered homeless at alarmingly high rates, especially because of religious families without mercy, the bad fruit of this mess is plain to see.
None of this is God’s fault. It’s most certainly the fault of the people in religious positions of power who refuse to stop treating us as scapegoats for sexual sin, when it’s usually evil men who tend to be the culprits. Where’s the same energy in condemning Josh Duggar, Catholic clergy, and all of the other perpetrators who constantly get free passes from the religious crowd, when they refuse to have empathy for us?
And it must be said: why do Evangelicals especially like to shout “He’s not perfect!”/”Let he who is without sin cast the first stone” when we’ve tried to call out the crimes and sins of former president Trump? They sure have no qualms pointing fingers and slandering us for every imaginable thing they think we do!
It’s so hard to not be angry at this point. How can I not be fuming, when it’s become clear that we’ve been wrongfully associated with pedophiles and shrine prostitutes for so long? It’s wrongdoings like this that used to make me doubt the validity of my bond with God. And I refuse to ever again feel gaslit or invalid by Christian resources that look down on us.
May God grant us justice and peace.
- Shrine prostitutes in the Bible are not gays or lesbians. (gaychristian101.com)
- Judaism and homosexuality: A brief history – Jewish World – Haaretz.com
- Watchers/ Nephilim (deliriumsrealm.com)
- Has ‘Homosexual’ Always Been in the Bible? – United Methodist Insight (um-insight.net)
- Romans 1 describes ancient shrine prostitution, not gays and lesbians. (gaychristian101.com)