The original question was: As to Biblical references to the words homosexuals or sodomites, would I be correct in saying that the 1611 King James Version didn’t include either word, until the 1982 New King James Version – a period of 371 years later? Who or what caused the alteration? Why did the alteration take 371 years? Why would God’s inerrant word ever need alteration?
Answer by John Mackay
The word ‘homosexual’ does not appear in the original King James Version, which was published in 1611, but was included in the New King James Version New Testament, which was published in 1979. The full NKJV Bible was released in 1982. However, it must be noted that the word ‘homosexual’ did not exist as an English word until the late 1800’s.
Now two personal bits of background pertaining to my answer concerning the question about inerrancy, inspiration and Bible translations.
Firstly, I am greatly indebted to Linguists and Bible translators Dr Allan Hall and Dr Charles Taylor. Allan was a lecturer in Linguistics at Queensland University, a missionary, and a Bible translator. He was also one of the first people I asked to join Ken Ham and myself as we founded the Creation work in Australia. Charles gained his PhD in African language from London University, and I first met him when he was coordinator of applied linguistics at the University of Sydney. Both men have now have passed on, but it was very helpful to observe their work practices and to sit under their teaching many times.
Secondly, it has also been helpful for me to work and lecture in many non-English speaking countries via interpreters and translators and struggle with their requests to rephrase my lecture this way or that to make their work much easier. I learned much about how language works by simply asking them ‘why?’ Interestingly, in Churches they would note my Bible readings, but then read it from their own local language Bibles “so the listeners could clearly understand!” They would not make use of my KJV text at all.
So now to the reader’s central question on the word ‘homosexual’, and should the “inerrant inspired Word of God” ever need updating?
First, let’s consider what happens whenever a Bible is translated, regardless of time or place. When Christian missionaries first arrived in England during the Roman Empire, they did not have a King James Bible. They had a 2-3 hundred year old Greek translation of the Old Testament (Septuagint), plus Greek copies of the recently compiled Greek New Testament. Neither did them much good in talking to the inhabitants since the Romans spoke Latin, and the ancient Britons spoke a variety of Celtic languages. Furthermore, the Greek New Testament did not include the word ‘homosexual’ since this was not a Greek word. However, the Greek word we translate as homosexual in modern translation is fairly easy to spot, and I’m sure you will catch it: Arsenokoites (1Cor 6:9, 1Tim1:10), originally meaning literally ‘male-sperm-cohabiting’.
After the Romans left the UK (around 400AD), the original ancient Britons, who spoke various Celtic languages, merged with invading Anglo-Saxons and Danes in the next century, and the language become more Anglish …aaah English. But even to them the word ‘homosexuality’ would have been meaningless, as it was a not yet existent word.
The culture of the day was interesting, as many of the original UK tribes viewed the act of homosexuality as acceptable, so preaching that God despised homosexuality would have been totally and politically incorrect. It also means that many words preachers would have used in the second century UK, became irrelevant after the 5th Century Anglo-Saxons and Danes invaded, and the language moved away from Gaelic and more toward what you and I would recognize as English. Now, the final shift would take 1066 and all that, as the Normans invaded at Hastings and reintroduced Latin based language in to the mix. Surprisingly, little trace of the Roman Latin had endured in the UK prior to 1066.
By the time of the 1600’s when spoken English was more like what we are used to in the 21st century, the wonderful KJV was authorised. Arsenokoites was translated by the phrase “the abusers of themselves with mankind” – quite a mouthful. The UK language at the time had no single word for homosexuality.
Having mentioned my debt to linguists and Bible translators such Dr Allan Hall and Dr Charles Taylor the following factors in analysing language emerge. A key feature to note is the way in which mankind uses words ensures that some words go out of date, others change their meaning, and new words are invented by cultures. Sometimes local words are borrowed by translators to translate a foreign concept. Good translators have to keep the inspired original meaning of God’s Holy Word current, regardless of which words are changing in people’s heads.
To show you how new words for old meanings get into the scriptures consider the word ‘sin’. When missionaries finally got round to translating the Bible into the spoken language of the English population, they had to find a local word that meant what the Biblical word or words meant which described the breaking of God’s Law. Therein lies the art and science of translating.
How did the word ‘sin’ get into the English Bible? Since archery was the common way of hunting, competing and making war, etc. the missionaries did notice that when there was an archery competition arrows fell short of the target or missed it completely – the local word for such an event was ‘sin’. Light bulb moment! Because the Biblical concept they were trying to translate is that of falling short of God’s Glory or missing the standard or law that God has set, the missionaries took the Old English word ‘sin’ to demonstrate this. Since we are no longer archers we mostly don’t know the original meaning at all.
Returning to the word ‘homosexual’, the earliest English translations would still not have included that word as it didn’t exist until the late 1800’s. It does exist now, and it is much easier to say than either “Arsenokoite” or “the abusers of themselves with mankind”. The word is derived from the Greek homos, meaning ‘same’ (as in words like ‘homogeneous’) plus ‘sexual’. It is not derived from the Latin ‘homo’ meaning ‘man’ as in Homo sapiens. For more on the inclusion of the word ‘homosexual’ into English Bible Translations see the question: There is no reference to homosexuality in any Bible prior to the 1946 RSV so why do you oppose it? Answer here.
Now for an example of Biblical words that have changed their meaning through human use – try “prevent”, as used in the King James Bible. When the Psalmist writes: Ps 88:13 “But unto thee have I cried, O Lord; and in the morning shall my prayer prevent thee …” we think we have just read that our prayer can stop God doing things. But if you analyse the original word “pre” as in before and “vent” originally meaning “wind” – the meaning is that we ‘wind’ or ‘vent’ our prayers before God . Therefore, in the 21st century, a skilled preacher must use a lengthy explanation to keep the meaning clear, and replace ‘prevent’ with a modern equivalent as the former word would now communicate the wrong meaning.
Now try your hand with KJV Ps 119:147-148 which states: “I prevented the dawning of the morning, and cried: I hoped in thy word. Mine eyes prevent the night watches, that I might meditate in thy word.” See what you would have to do to this KJV 1611 English to get a USA 2015 congregation to understand this.
Other words drop out of language completely, so that if we could drop you back in AD1611 England, you would think you were in a foreign country, as we no longer use many of their words. In the King James version, you will notice the following words have been abandoned down through the last four centuries and hence the need for updating either by a good preacher or updating by a reliable translator into a modern English text: besom (Isaiah 14) meant a broom, and leasing (Psalm 4) meant lying.
NB: Almost 2,000 years after it was first compiled, the oldest Greek documents of the New Testament still contain the word Arsenokoites. The word still refers to a practise God despises so much that the Scripture states that its practise precludes you from the Kingdom of God, regardless of how popular it is within our culture.
Now a warning to translators who play with God’s Word from the original Greek and Hebrew and think they can make it say anything they want. God’s Word warns us to neither add nor to subtract from what He has stated. See Revelation 22: 18-19. Take seriously the warning that it means you will be in serious trouble from God for eternity! Therefore, don’t play down God’s displeasure with homosexuality if you truly love your brother.
Finally this is all a reminder that we are not to fall in love with print, nor to worship a page, but we are to know and love and worship the Person behind the printed pages – Jesus. As he is recorded saying in John 14:21-24 (KJV):
“He that hath my commandments, and keepeth them, he it is that loveth me: and he that loveth me shall be loved of my Father, and I will love him, and will manifest myself to him. Judas saith unto him, not Iscariot, “Lord, how is it that thou wilt manifest thyself unto us, and not unto the world?” Jesus answered and said unto him, “If a man love me, he will keep my words: and my Father will love him, and we will come unto him, and make our abode with him. He that loveth me not keepeth not my sayings: and the word which ye hear is not mine, but the Father’s which sent me.”
Now, look it up in NKJV, and find that it may use more modern English words but the meaning of this promise Jesus made is exactly the same. You and I can know Him personally because He dwells within the Christian and this shows in the real change in morality and motivation which happens within us and shows out of us. That is the real proof of Christianity. So do you know this Jesus as your Lord and Saviour? That’s the eternal crux of the matter.
P.S. Yes I still read my old KJV daily, and I purposely consult my Greek and Hebrew dictionaries and Interlinear and parallel versions so that I may proclaim the word of God faithfully. And for those of you who are preachers, I recommend you get into this habit as well.
Related questions on this topic:
Homosexuality: Are you born that way? Answer here.
You claim homosexuals are not born that way. What evidence do you have? Answer here.
Homophobia? Why do you people hate homosexuals if you claim God is a God of love? Answer here
Homosexual behaviour is widespread in animals. Doesn’t this prove it is a natural behaviour? Answer here
There is no reference to homosexuality in any Bible prior to the 1946 RSV so why do you oppose it? Answer here
GAY GENE? Have scientists now discovered a gene for homosexuality? Answer here.
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