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ROME (ChurchMilitant.com) - Protestant apologists are ridiculing Pope Francis and the Catholic Magisterium for granting approval to a Catholic biblical commentary that insists that the Bible does not condemn "same-sex love" as it is understood today.
The Jerome Biblical Commentary for the Twenty-First Century teaches, "The Bible does not speak about same-sex love as one does today," since the "modern concept of 'homosexuality' or 'homoeroticism'" was not known as a sexual orientation in antiquity.
The commentary has a foreword by Pope Francis and has been granted a nihil obstat ("nothing obstructs") and imprimatur ("let it be published"), which, according to the imprint, "are declarations that the material is free from doctrinal or moral error."
Popular Protestant apologist Dr. James White condemned the book, saying in a YouTube video, "This has nothing to do with exegesis. This is woke propaganda masquerading as biblical commentary and scholarship."
Mocking the Magisterium for endorsing the commentary in his video published Friday, White asked if there was "a consistency" in Francis "supporting those who are seeking LGBTQ inclusion and having just released a letter giving pastoral freedom in certain circumstances to bless same-sex unions."
According to the commentary, so-called anti-LGBT biblical verses cannot be used to forbid same-same acts because "the anal penetration of a male by a male was a way to denigrate the penetrated one, to humiliate strangers or the inferior party in warfare."
Homosexuality was proscribed in the Bible because it did not "provide offspring," especially when "it was crucial for the identity and the survival of the small community around Jerusalem" in the "Persian province of Yehud in the fifth century BCE to generate and educate enough offspring in regular familial conditions," the commentary argues.
The commentary warns Catholics against using St. Paul's condemnation of lesbian and homosexual acts in Romans 1:24–27 as a "'clobber text' to denigrate persons with same-sex orientation."
"Whatever contemporary moral arguments one wants to mount about same-sex relations, it is ethically irresponsible to use this passage in Romans 1 to close off contemporary explorations of the issues," the commentary adds.
The commentary further suggests that the background to understanding this text for Paul and the Roman Church would have been "pornographic" parties held in Roman palaces. Hence, "there is no indication that private behavior is in view anywhere in this passage," it notes.
Paul is censuring relationships that are abusive and exploitative in the context of the power structures of his day, and these "have nothing to do with loving sexual relationships between consenting adults," the section on Romans concludes.
The commentary also criticizes the author of 1Timothy for asking women to dress modestly and to refrain from teaching or exercising authority over a man in the context of liturgical worship (1Timothy 2:8–14).
It suggests that 1Timothy was not written by Paul, who, according to the commentary, favored women in Church leadership, while "the author" of the first epistle to Timothy "is here considerably more repressive of women than the Paul of the earlier letters."
The commentary points out that Phoebe was a female deacon who was trusted by Paul to deliver his letter to the Romans.
"Priscilla was a catechist along with her husband, and several other women in the Roman churches are congratulated for their hard work for the community," in Romans 16, the commentary observes.
"Such prominence of women was not abnormal in the Jewish communities in the diaspora, for several funerary inscriptions of this period exist in which women are named as president of the synagogue," the commentary emphasizes.
"The biblical commentary is saying Paul didn't write that," exclaims White in his video. "Leftist progressivist consistency is what we have, and the pope says, 'Hey, this is what you need to be reading.'"
In his foreword, Pope Francis notes that "this new Jerome Biblical Commentary composed by an international team of Catholic scholars is further evidence of the important movement in the Church" of the "rediscovering of the word of God," thanks to Vatican II's dogmatic constitution Dei Verbum on the Sacred Scriptures.
"Through this living word, we are also encouraged to strengthen our bonds with the Jewish people and to pray for Christian unity," Francis emphasizes, commending "the type of scholarship exhibited in this volume of biblical commentaries."
In a YouTube video a day after White's presentation, Sydney-based Protestant apologist "The Other Paul" launched a livestream asking viewers to suggest biblical verses so he could look them up and check how the commentary was interpreting the passages.
In response to a viewer's question, "The Other Paul" checked the commentary's view of the authorship of the Gospel of Matthew and noted that it has been denied despite the Church's authoritative tradition that St. Matthew the apostle is the author of the first Gospel.
"If they are saying that Matthew most likely did not write Matthew as well as the belief that he did is church tradition, is this an explicit admission that church traditions can be erroneous?" a viewer asked.
"The Other Paul" also explored the commentary's essay on "Feminist Biblical Interpretation," in which biblical scholar Sr. Barbara Reid writes,
More recently, some feminists have developed reading strategies from lesbian, gay, bisexual, transgender, and queer perspectives. They show how categories that emerged in recent centuries are applied anachronistically to biblical texts to make modern-day judgments; some look for insight from same-sex relations in the Bible by figures such as Ruth and Naomi or David and Jonathan; examining texts in which figures transgress what is traditionally considered proper gender behavior is another approach used by such scholars.
In a nearly two-hour session, the YouTuber ridiculed the Catholic commentary for including an essay on "Latinx" biblical interpretation. Latino conservatives have slammed the gender-inclusive neologism "Latinx."
A 2021 Gallup poll reported that only 4% of respondents preferred the term "Latinx," while 15% percent preferred "Latino" and 23% preferred "Hispanic."
Furthermore, a 2020 Pew Research Center report found that only 23% of U.S. adults who self-identify as Hispanic or Latino have heard of the term "Latinx," and just 3% embrace the term for themselves.
The word "Latinx" originated in the mid-2000s "in activist circles primarily in the U.S. as an expansion of earlier gender-inclusive variations such as Latino/a (with the slash) and Latin@ (with the 'at' sign)," says Joseph M. Pierce, assistant professor in the Department of Hispanic Languages and Literature at Stony Brook University.
"The 'x' does not imply a specific gender — as would the 'o' (masculine) or the 'a' (feminine) for nouns in Spanish — and is meant to disrupt the grammatical binary that is inherent in this romance language," Pierce explains.
While the first edition of the Jerome Biblical Commentary was published in 1968, the second revised edition, titled the New Jerome Biblical Commentary, was published in 1989.
Both editions clearly refer to homosexual acts as "sodomy" in the commentary on Leviticus 18:22. In the section on Romans, the second edition notes: "The contrast between 'females' and 'males' (1:27) shows that the sexual perversion of which Paul speaks is homosexuality."
The conclusions of the Jerome Biblical Commentary for the Twenty-First Century on same-sex relationships go against a prevailing consensus in which liberal, conservative, secular, atheist, Jewish, Christian, LGBT and heterosexual scholars agree that the Bible unequivocally prohibits homosexuality.
"Professor [Robert] Gagnon [a conservative] and I are in substantial agreement that the biblical texts that deal specifically with homosexual practice condemn it unconditionally," admits pro-LGBT biblical scholar Dan O. Via.
"Nowhere does Paul or any other Jewish writer of this period imply the least acceptance of same-sex relations under any circumstance," writes Louis Crompton, a self-identified homosexual, pioneer of gay studies and emeritus professor at the University of Nebraska.
Lesbian professor Bernadette Brooten of Brandeis University pronounces her verdict: "I see Paul as condemning all forms of homoeroticism as the unnatural acts of people who had turned away from God."
Professor Martti Nissinen from the University of Helsinki, author of academic books on the Bible and homosexuality from a pro-gay perspective, agrees that "nothing would have made Paul approve homoerotic behavior."
Pim Pronk, a gay professor at the Free University in Amsterdam is emphatic: "Wherever homosexual intercourse is mentioned in Scripture, it is condemned. … The New Testament adds no arguments to those of the Old. Rejection is a foregone conclusion."