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ROME (ChurchMilitant.com) - A new pro-LGBT documentary is blaming the "anti-gay movement among Christians" on a "grave mistranslation" of the Revised Standard Version of the Bible.
Director Sharon "Rocky" Roggio's film 1946: The Mistranslation That Shifted Culture claims that the word "homosexual" was never meant to be in the Bible, and its inclusion has created a justification for claiming that homosexual acts are sinful.
Bible translators used the term homosexual for the first time in the 1946 translation of the RSV, a version translated by Protestant biblical scholars and accepted "with the minimum number of alterations" by Catholics in 1965.
The film, released Friday, argues that the rendering of 1 Corinthians 6:9 using the term "homosexuals" to translate the Greek word arsenokoitai "fueled the Christian anti-gay movement that still thrives today."
The filmmakers argue that the apostle Paul is not referring to homosexuals in his first epistle to the church at Corinth. Hence, arsenokoitai (ἀρσενοκοῖται) should be translated as "molester of boys" or "pederasts."
The filmmakers claim the RSV's 1971 edition altered the translation from "homosexuals" to "sexual perverts," but by then the damage was done since hundreds of millions of Bibles with the allegedly wrong translation had been published.
In a press release, the filmmakers announced, "While other documentaries have been successful in their attempt to treat the symptom of homophobia in the church, 1946 is working to diagnose and treat the disease — biblical literalism."
Roggio uses the film to tell the story of how her pastor father responded with a letter full of Bible verses imploring her to repent and forsake her sexual behavior when he discovered she was a lesbian.
She asserts, "Prior to even knowing about the 1946 mistranslation, I was led to it because I knew I needed to use Scripture to be able to have a conversation with my parents to affirm my reality and my identity."
"I was raised in a loving home, the daughter of a Christian pastor who believes being gay is a sin," the director adds. "I can't compromise [my] conviction," the film director's pastor father responds in the film.
The documentary traces the journey of Ed Oxford, an advocate and gay man who grew up a Southern Baptist, as they dig through the archives at the Yale Sterling Memorial Library.
There, they discovered correspondence between the head of the translation committee and a gay seminary student, Rev. David S., in which the committee head concedes that the committee made a mistake in the translation.
Robert Gagnon, a New Testament scholar who is regarded as the world's most prominent academic on the biblical interpretation of texts prohibiting homosexuality, told Church Militant he had responded in detail to the film's arguments.
Gagnon, author of The Bible and Homosexual Practice: Texts and Hermeneutics, dismissed the documentary's claims "as one of the most badly argued attempts at discerning the meaning of arsenokoitai in 1 Corinthians 6:9 that I have seen."
"This is not terribly surprising since it is not written by someone with expertise in exegeting biblical texts," Gagnon laments, arguing that the term refers to "all men who (as the active, penetrating partner) have sex with a 'male' (Gk. arsēn) where 'male' can refer to an adult or minor, irrespective (but not exclusive) of innate desires for males."
"It is an indictment of serial-unrepentant participants in an act, not a consignment to Hell simply for the mere experience of unwanted homosexual desire," Gagnon clarifies.
The New Testament scholar traces the word's "clear connections to the Levitical prohibitions of male-male intercourse," explaining that the compound Greek word arsenokoitai is formed from the Greek words for "lying" (keimai) and "male" (arsēn).
"The word is a neologism created from terms used in the Greek Septuagint translation of the Hebrew Levitical prohibitions of men "lying with a male" (Lev. 18:22; 20:13), he adds.
"Had a more limited meaning been intended — for example, pederasts — the terms paiderastai (lover of boys), paidomanai (men mad for boys) or paidophthoroi (corrupters of boys) could have been chosen," Gagnon observes.
The scholar excoriates a previous book on which the movie is based as "a tendentious and uninformed work that tells us more about what they [the authors] wished Jesus and the writers of Scripture had said rather than what they actually said."
On Friday, pro-LGBT Jesuit Fr. James Martin tweeted an article from The Guardian, a left-wing British newspaper, commending the documentary.
Prominent Protestant apologist Dr. James White responded to Martin's tweet by noting that he had challenged the filmmakers to "debate the thesis in moderated, public debate."
"This argument has been refuted over and over again. Martin's promotion of such a ridiculous attempt says much about his true views," White writes.
"And the fact that [Pope] Francis seems to be more than happy to promote Martin says much about the direction of Rome today," he adds.
Martin also uploaded the article to his website, Outreach: An LGBTQ Catholic Resource, which claims to have "assembled some of the world's most renowned biblical scholars, as well as LGBTQ advocates" to answer questions on homosexuality and the Bible.
"Catholics are neither literalists nor fundamentalists," Martin's resource notes.
"One response to what are often called "clobber verses" is to see them in their historical context and remember that even devout Christians shouldn't do everything that Old Testament commands [sic]. Likewise for the Epistles in the New Testament," he explains.
The English Standard Version, a recent evangelical translation now widely adapted in the English-speaking world by multiple Catholic bishops' conferences, has retained the reference to homosexuality in its translation of 1 Corinthians 6:9–10.
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, nor thieves, nor the greedy, nor drunkards, nor revilers, nor swindlers will inherit the kingdom of God.
The ESV explains in a footnote that "the two Greek terms translated by this phrase refer to the passive and active partners in consensual homosexual acts."