This is how the word Homosexual entered the Bible.
If I were to ask you the origin of the term homosexual in the Bible, you would say it dates back to the original text, right? Well, you would actually be wrong; the term ‘pervert’ was mistranslated to homosexual in the RVS or Revised Standard Version of the Bible in 1946. This led to the blatant homophobia that religious conservatives believed was part of the Bible and led to anti-LGBTQ+ rhetoric, which the American Christian Conservatives backed up. A simple mistranslated caused decades of suffering and marginalization.
To start, I just want to say that I am not blaming the creation of homophobia on Christianity; far from it; I am only looking at how language and its use affected a subgroup of the population. The relationship between most religions and queerness is quite nuanced and this article in no way is meant to shame anyone based on their sexual orientation or religious beliefs.
Prior to 1946, the term homosexual wasn’t found in any version of the Bible. Instead, the terms used were the Greek terms ‘Malakoi’ and ‘Arsenokoitai’, which researchers agree should have been translated to effeminate and sexual pervert, respectively. Kathy Baldock and Ed Oxford both made it their mission to find the root of this mistranslation and why it occurred. The RVS committee agreed to translate these terms to homosexuals, and they had ulterior motives.
Kathy Baldock and Ed Oxford dedicated their lives to finding proof for this anti-queer root in the Bible. As part of this extensive research that led to the creation of a documentary, they found about 90 boxes of transcript from the RVS committee from the archives of the University of Yale. Baldock and Oxford found letter exchanges from a young seminarian named Dave where he explicitly showed his concerns about the misuse of the word homosexuals in the new 1946 RVS Bible.
The Head of the Translation Committee, Luther Weigle, acknowledged the mistranslation and the damage that it caused to an already marginalized group in America years later. He swore that he would rectify this mistake in future publication of the RVS Bible but this only happened in 1971, where they replaced the term homosexual with ‘sexual pervert’. However, 25 years had already elapsed since the original publication and other publications replaced those Greek terms with homosexuals. The damage had already been done and it affected the lives of millions.
The misuse of a single word affected history forever; this highlights the old saying that a “pen is mightier than a sword.” Today, this mistranslation can be seen in most new editions and reprints of the Bible, especially in Corinthian 6:9 and Timothy 1:10.
Unfortunately, most religious conservatives have appropriated this misuse of the term homosexual to condemn homosexuality and is used as the foundation of their anti-LGBTQ+ discriminatory agenda. Society at large has been affected by this mistranslation and, by and large, has shaped how we view the relationship between queerness and religion. The belief held by many and which has been taught to them was born out of the misuse of a single term and still affects the lives of people now.
1946: The Mistranslation that Shifted Culture is a definitive much watch as it shed light on the issues of homophobia and its long-lasting effect today. Watch the trailer and, if you have time, the entire 1946 documentary to learn more on this subject. Educate yourself; it’s essential to demystify religion and how we see it. We shouldn’t believe in anything blindly and must question everything to see the true picture.
Now whenever someone quotes Corinthian 6:9, Genesis 19 or Leviticus 18:22 and 20:13 to back up their homophobic comments, you can correctly correct them and tell them that the word was never part of the original Bible but is instead a gross mistranslation. To quote Baldock and Oxford: “1946 is not an attack on Christianity or the Bible. It is a quest to discover biblical truth and honor God’s Word.”
Sound off in the comments section below if you learnt anything new today.