Wednesday, January 18, 2017

“The Queen James Bible”—Wait, What?

The existence of a “Queen James Bible” is something one might ordinarily expect to find in a recent edition of the satirical news source The Onion or perhaps a copy of Mad Magazine.  But I swear the thing exists.  I discovered it online (of course) when looking through a discussion about which Bible one should use for study.  People had various opinions about which translation was preferable, with some opting for the Orthodox Study Bible, some for the RSV, some for the King James Bible.  One person, in a seasonal spirit of pre-Christmas whimsy, suggested, “How about the Queen James Bible?—LOL”, and obligingly provided a link to said volume.  Turns out the thing actually exists.
            The name of course is an intentional variation on the famous “King James Bible”, King James being the English monarch who authorized an English translation of the Bible for use in his state church in 1611.  (Since it was sole Bible authorized for such use, it is also known more officially as “the Authorized Version”.)  The name of this version was tweaked to reflect the sole reason for its existence—namely altering the traditional rendering of the eight verses found in the King James Bible condemning homosexuality to present an interpretation more congenial to homosexuals and the gay community.  The Queen James is simply the original King James Version as currently available, with the eight offending passages retranslated.  The description of it on Amazon declares that it “is based on the King James Bible, edited to prevent homophobic misinterpretation”.
            I do not know the names of the translators who presided over and produced this work, but a sample of their re-translations may give some idea of their actual credentials.  In the King James Version Leviticus 18:22 reads, “Thou shalt not lie with mankind, as with womankind: it is an abomination.”  The re-translation reads, “Thou shalt not lie with mankind as with womankind in the temple of Molech: it is an abomination”  (additions italicized).  Molech was a pagan idol, and the idea proffered is that the only problem with the homosexual sex proscribed was that it occurred in the temple of Molech.  Presumably it if occurred in an Israelite bed it would have been quite acceptable.  Or take another example:  the King James Version of Romans 1:26-27 reads, “For this cause God gave them up unto vile affections: for even their women did change the natural use into that which is against nature: And likewise also the men, leaving the natural use of the woman, burned in their lust one toward another; men with men working that which is unseemly, and receiving in themselves that recompense of their error which was meet.”   The Queen James renders it, “Their women did change their natural use into that which is against nature: And likewise also the men, left of the natural use of the woman, burned in ritual lust, one toward another; Men with men working that which is pagan and unseemly. For this cause God gave the idolators up unto vile affections, receiving in themselves that recompense of their error which was meet” (additions italicized).  In this reading the problem was not the unnaturalness of the sexual act, but simply its context of ritual idolatry.  The editors admit they have no real idea why Paul thought that lesbian sex was unnatural; they suggest it might have had something to do with pagan dancing.
            It is hardly necessary to spend much time answering such twaddle.  The idea that the Israelite code found in Leviticus which condemned certain sexual practices as abominable (e.g. incest with immediate family, and sex with beasts, in Leviticus 18:6f and 18:23) objected to homosexuality only when it was practiced in a certain religious context is too outlandish to require extended refutation, as is the idea that a first-century Jew like Paul would object to homosexuality only when practiced in a pagan ritual.  Reading in the Bible in its cultural context forbids such forced interpretations.  Moses and Paul may or may not have been on the right path, but one must at least allow them their historical say.  A more honest approach would be for the Queen James editors to acknowledge that Moses and Paul thought homosexual behaviour was abominable and sinful, and simply assert that Moses and Paul were wrong.
            I do not expect that the Queen James Bible will gain much traction, since those who care keenly for the teaching of Scripture are unlikely to spend money ($22.47 in paperback) for the privilege of discovering how the eight offending passages have been re-interpreted.  Expect to see the Queen James Bible go the way of the pet rock (remember those?), and live in memory mostly as an amusing fad and cultural curiosity.  The real significance of the Queen James Bible is as a witness to the exegetical desperation of the homosexual community when confronted with the actual teaching of Scripture. 
The actual choice is not between the King James and the Queen James Bibles, but between those who embrace the historic meaning of the Scriptures whatever its current unpopularity and those prepared to embrace it selectively according to the canons of contemporary fashion—i.e. between believing the Bible and essentially chucking it into the dumpster whenever it says something one doesn’t want to hear.  But if one is not prepared to be rebuked and corrected by Scripture, then why read it at all in any version?  Our secular media provides all the encouragement and confirmation of a secular lifestyle one could wish for.  The only reason for turning to the Bible at all is to hear something else, a kind of minority report from the Kingdom.  To exegetically photoshop the bits that do not conform to our secular lifestyle so that they now do conform to it defeats the whole purpose of feeding upon Scripture in the first place.  Worldly encouragement we can get in abundance from the World.  It is the goal of Scripture to offer something else to those who have become tired of worldliness and who long to find a better way.

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