A ‘Wicked Bible’ for the 21st century?
The Queen James Bible
In 1631, a printing of the King James Bible went horribly wrong, when the verse “Thou shalt not commit adultery” was misprinted “Thou shalt commit adultery.” The printers were fined £300 (a very large sum at the time), and most of the copies were recalled and burned. This edition was called ‘The Wicked Bible’ or ‘The Sinners’ Bible’ because of the typo.
The Wicked Bible was the result of a mistake, but a new translation of the King James Bible has a very deliberate change to several verses. The “Queen James Bible” ‘reinterprets’ several verses that have traditionally been read as prohibiting homosexual practices.
|Verse||Traditional KJV translation||‘Queen James’ translation|
|Genesis 19:5||And they called unto Lot, and said unto him, Where are the men which came in to thee this night? Bring them out to us, that we may know them.||And they called unto Lot, and said unto him, Where are the men that came in to thee this night? Bring them out unto us, that we may rape and humiliate them.|
|Leviticus 18:22||Thou shalt not lie with mankind, as with womankind: it is an abomination.||Thou shalt not lie with mankind as with womankind in the temple of Molech: it is an abomination.|
|Leviticus 20:13||If a man also lie with mankind, as he lieth with a woman, both of them have committed an abomination: they shall surely be put to death; their blood shall be upon them.||If a man also lie with mankind in the temple of Molech, as he lieth with a woman, both of them have committed an abomination: they shall surely be put to death; their blood shall be upon them.|
|Romans 1:26||For this cause God gave them up unto vile affections: for even their women did change the natural use into that which is against their nature:||Their women did change their natural use into that which is against nature: And likewise men, left of the natural use of the woman, burned in ritual lust, one toward another;|
|Romans 1:27||And likewise also the men, leaving the natural use of the woman, burned in their lust toward one another; men with men working that which is unseemly, and receiving in themselves that recompence of their error which was meet.||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 recompence of their errors which was meet.|
|1 Corinthians 6:9–10||Know ye not that the unrighteous shall not inherit the kingdom of God? Be not deceived: neither fornicators, nor idolators, nor adulterers, nor effeminate, nor abusers of themselves with mankind, nor thieves, nor covetous, nor drunkards, nor revilers, nor extortioners, shall inherit the Kingdom of God.||Know ye not that the unrighteous shall not inherit the kingdom of God? Be not deceived: neither fornicators, nor idolators, nor adulterers, nor morally weak, nor promiscuous, nor thieves, nor covetous, nor drunkards, nor revilers, nor extortioners, shall inherit the Kingdom of God.|
|1 Timothy 1:10||For whoremongers, for them that defile themselves with mankind, for menstealers, for liars, for perjured persons, and if there be any other thing that is contrary to sound doctrine;||For whoremongers, for them that defile themselves, for menstealers, for liars, for perjured persons, and if there be any other thing that is contrary to sound doctrine;|
|Jude 1:7||Even as Sodom and Gomorrha, and the cities about them in like manner, giving themselves over to fornication, and going after strange flesh, are set forth …||Even as Sodom and Gomorrha, and the cities in like manner, giving themselves over to fornication, and going after nonhuman flesh, are set forth for an example, suffering the vengeance of eternal fire.|
Translation versus interpretation
The editors’ notes state:
The Bible is the word of God translated by man. This (saying nothing [sic] countless translations and the evolution of language itself) means that the Bible can be interpreted in different ways, leading to what we call “interpretive ambiguity.”
There is an Italian word play, “Tradutori? Traditori!” which translates, “Translators? Traitors!” which is most appropriate in this case. The ‘interpretive ambiguity’ the translators cite, in practice, becomes a blank check to blatantly rewrite the verses, citing cultural context, alternate meanings of the word, and other ‘magic decoder rings’ that make the verses say something other than what they clearly do. While ‘something is always lost in translation’, most texts don’t really allow for all that much ‘wiggle room’ as far as meaning. Just for the sake of example, here is the Greek text of Romans 1:26–27:
διὰ τοῦτο παρέδωκεν αὐτοὺς ὁ θεὸς εἰς πάθη ἀτιμίας: αἵ τε γὰρ θήλειαι αὐτῶνμετήλλαξαν τὴν φυσικὴν χρῆσιν εἰς τὴν παρὰ φύσιν, ὁμοίως τε καὶ οἱ ἄρσενες ἀφέντες τὴν φυσικὴν χρῆσιν τῆς θηλείας ἐξεκαύθησανἐν τῇ ὀρέξει αὐτῶν εἰς ἀλλήλους, ἄρσενες ἐν ἄρσεσιν τὴν ἀσχημοσύνηνκατεργαζόμενοι καὶ τὴν ἀντιμισθίαν ἣν ἔδει τῆς πλάνης αὐτῶν ἐν ἑαυτοῖς ἀπολαμβάνοντες.1
Now the ‘Queen James’ version does the following inexcusable things to this text.
- The phrase διὰ τοῦτο παρέδωκεν αὐτοὺς ὁ θεὸς εἰς πάθη ἀτιμίας (dia touto paredōken autous ho theos eis pathē atimias) has been moved from the beginning of the thought to the end, removing the causal link to the preceding thoughts. In the Greek, “this reason” is “they exchanged the truth about God for a lie and worshipped and served the creature rather than the Creator” (v. 25). But in the QJV, “this reason” becomes “men working with men that which is pagan and unseemly and pagan”. It also changes the sense of πάθη ἀτιμίας (pathē atimias, meaning “passions of dishonour”) from homosexual behaviour in general to pagan worship. This sort of ‘cut and paste’ job would receive a failing grade in Greek 101, and is deeply unethical.
- They did not translate τέ (te), which although a small word is not insignificant, since it is a connective meaning “both and”.
- The QJV changes ἀφέντες (aphentes) from an active participle (“leaving”) to a passive (‘left of’). One wonders whether this was deliberate or whether the QJV translators are simply so inept that they don’t know the difference. There are many perfectly good ways to express the passive idea of deprivation; the active participle of ἀφίημι (aphiēmi, depart or dismiss) is not one of them.
- “Ritual” lust is nowhere in there; it’s purely read into the text.
In short, in this case, every single change they made was an inexcusable bastardization of the text which is apparent to anyone who has the most basic knowledge of Koinē Greek and translation principles.
Much could also be said about the Hebrew butcherings as well. The Levitical texts didn’t mention the temple of Molech at all. The revisionism implies that the only reason that the text condemned homosexual behavior was that it was practiced in pagan temple. But it was the reverse, the pagan temple practices were condemned partly because they included homosexual behavior. By the ‘logic’ of the ‘translators’, child sacrifice is also allowable as long as it wasn’t in Molech’s temple.
Rewriting Scripture is not the answer
For the majority of history, it’s been assumed that Scripture condemned homosexuality, both Old Testament and New Testament. People have disagreed that homosexuality is sinful, and they had the integrity to simply state that they thought Scripture was wrong. Maybe Paul just wasn’t enlightened enough, or the ancients had no conception of a committed homosexual relationship. But the QJV goes one step further and tries to write that condemnation of homosexuality out of Scripture entirely.
A good translator does not try to impose his or her own agenda onto the text, but is conscious that a translator’s job is to communicate the thoughts of the document as fluently as possible in the receptor language (the language into which the document is translated). This is why we’ve been uniformly critical of translations which seek to impose their own agenda on the text, whether feminism, conservatism, or anything else.
The translator of an ancient text like those of Scripture faces many challenges—when does one translate an unintelligible metaphor into something that the audience will understand, for instance? There is legitimate room for interpretation when the language has more than one possible meaning (but some of this may be intended, so ambiguity should be left in the translation if possible).
People who want to communicate their own thoughts should be authors, and not try to impose them on texts in spurious translation. This QJV is no exception.
- This particular passage has no significant variants, so the UBS text does not differ from the TR, which forms the Greek textual basis for the King James Version. Return to text.