A new documentary entitled 1946: The Mistranslation that Shifted Culture claims that the mistranslation of a word in the 1946 Revised Standard Version Bible led to the rampant “homophobia” that now infects the Church. In the film, a Bible researcher and an author claim that a Greek word found in 1 Corinthians 6:9 should not have been translated “homosexuality.” 

“Or do you not know that the unrighteous will not inherit the kingdom of God? Do not be deceived: neither the sexually immoral, nor idolaters, nor adulterers, nor men who practice homosexuality … will inherit the kingdom of God.”

The film claims that the word translated to “homosexuality” is a compound Greek word that combines the concept of an effeminate man with a man sharing a bed with another man. Though that sounds exactly like the definition of “homosexuality,” scholars in the film assure viewers that a “historical context” is being missed, and Paul was condemning sexual predation and pederasty rather than homosexuality. This claim is not new, nor is it or the film “groundbreaking,” as some have claimed. 

The normalization of homosexuality has long included efforts to square the behavior with biblical morality. These efforts have taken various forms, such as appealing to the “truly loving God” who “would never” require people to deny their desires, or claiming a moral trajectory to the Bible so that prohibitions against homosexuality no longer apply. Of course, some simply reject the Bible as no longer relevant to our lives, while others employ this strategy of claiming the Scriptures were mistranslated.  

What is clear from how often these arguments surface, how quickly they are embraced and how passionately they are defended is that many people really, really wish that the Bible said something different about homosexuality than it does. Also clear is how unprepared many Christians are to respond to the latest reincarnation of one of these arguments, even when they are obviously untrue or, well, silly. While it can be difficult to remain confident in our convictions as the truth grows more unpopular, shaken confidence typically leads to either an embarrassed silence or a loud anger. Either way, it leaves those who need the truth without it. 

This documentary is the latest example of pulling and positing arguments for LGBT affirmation out of thin air and then treating these arguments as legitimate. The trend began roughly 10 years ago, when Matthew Vines gave a speech in a Kansas church that went viral. Citing his personal struggles with same-sex attraction, Vines claimed that the Bible didn’t prohibit homosexual activity, because it couldn’t. If it did, he said, it would be too painful for gay people, and that pain would be the “bad fruit” about which Scripture warned. 

Despite a 2,000-year history of Christian belief, tradition, and exegesis to the contrary, many found Vines’ assertions to be compelling, a fact that said far more about the sad state of Christian discipleship than his theology. Of course, twisting Scripture to justify belief or behaviors is not new. At no time until now did anyone attempt to claim that the Bible did anything but condemn homosexual acts, a historical fact that undermines the claim made in the documentary that Christian morality on this point dates back only several decades.  

At the same time, this historical consistency exposes just how serious a problem it is when Christians find these new assertions so compelling. With few exceptions, the questions and complexities of Christian theology have been thoroughly explored and settled. Most challenges to Christian belief and morality leveled by cynics and skeptics have been answered. There is, however, a dramatic gap between the answers that are there, and the answers Christians know. The result is that even absurd assertions, like the one made in this new documentary, confirm the beliefs of the already convinced and convince many who should know better but don’t. 

In fact, the strangest assertion in this new documentary is not even the claim of mistranslation. It’s the assertion that Christian opposition to homosexuality began in 1946.  The opposite is, of course, true. Despite all the theological squabbles about all sorts of things among various Christian groups throughout Church history, only in recent days and only in a very narrow part of the Western world has anyone doubted that the Bible rejects homosexuality. 

Christians believe that God has revealed Himself in the world He made and in His Word. On this issue, both clearly tell the same story. In fact, they are the same story. Christians who know this will not be “tossed to and fro” by every wind of false doctrine or by the silly claims of a documentary. 


Originally published in Breakpoint.