Bradley LaShawn Fowler sues Zondervan over use of the word ‘homosexual’
July 9, 2008 5 Comments
I know I am probably going to get myself into trouble for posting anything on this particular case, but I sometimes can’t help myself. I wonder if my position will manage to tick off people from both sides of this issue.
Here is the jist of the case from Bradley LaShawn Fowler’s site:
Zonderan Corp. LLC., a leading Christian publishing company in Grand Rapids,MI. are named as the defendant in a sixty million dollar law suit.
Michigan author Bradley-Almighty has compiled astounding research from within the pages of the bible, that will change the face of religion across the globe. So much, on Monday, July 7, 2008, Bradley marched into the Eastern District Court house of Ann Arbor, MI. and filed a Federal Law suit on the grounds of malicious negligence, strict liability, malice, libel, and violating his rights under the 14th Amendment.
"Lack of sincerity from bible readers has helped this conspiracy go on this long." Bradley comments during a brief interview with Michigan Front Page Newspaper, Executive Editor Janaya Black.
In 1964, the scripture found in 1 Corinthians Six, verse Nine read as followed:
Know ye not that the unrighteous will not inherit the kingdom of God? Be not deceived; neither fornicators, nor idolaters, nor adulterers, nor effeminates, nor abusers of themselves with mankind…
In 1982, the same scripture read like this:
Do you not know that the wicked will not inherit the kingdom of God? Do not be deceived; Neither the sexually immoral nor idolaters nor adulterers nor male prostitutes nor homosexuals…
In 1987, the same scripture read as followed:
Do you not know that the unrightoues and the wrong doers will not inherit or have any share in the kingdom of God? Do not be decieved(misled): neither the impure and immoral, nor idolaters, nor adulterers, nor those who participate in homosexual behavior…
But the 1994 editioin reads like this:
Know ye not that he unrighteous shall not inherit the kingdom of God? Be not deceived: neither fornicators, nor idolaters, nor adulteres, nor effeminate, nor abusers of themselves with mankind…
Which one of these is truth? Which one is not?
And this is from a site that has posted one of his press releases:
Imposing terminology that conveys a message of hate and discrimination towards a particular sector or group of individuals, solely based on bias opinions, has caused Bradley and countless of other homosexual men to be assaulted, discriminated against, and or, even murdered. History proves many Christian’s believe biblical scriptures are the "authentic word of God". Yet it seems the bible has become the authentic word of Zondervan Corp. LLC, and its editorial staff, who willfully manipulated society into mistreating homosexuals, by revising the scriptures to reflect homosexuality, is a sin. This could very well open the door for same-sex couples to wed nationally. Since biblical scripture has been used against same-sex couples to prevent them from marrying in Michigan and other states, this new evidence could enforce states to recognize same-sex marriage.
I agree with Mr. Fowler that many Christian groups have taken an incorrect stance on homosexuality. Scripturally speaking, we all carry around many sins, including "lifestyle" sins or "uber" sins. And, I do agree with him that some have taken this to an extreme and used this reasoning to discriminate against, pummel or even kill homosexuals.
I also agree with Mr. Fowler’s assessment that Zondervan has issued different versions of the NIV, which have translated some Greek words differently. I find this to be common practice as groups of scholars get together to determine whether or not a particular passage conveys the correct meaning. This is especially true with the NIV, which is a thought-by-thought translation, rather than a word-for-word translation.
Having said that, I see no basis for the lawsuit. I also see no personal affront from Zondervan to Mr. Fowler, other than the one he reads into it. This is true even if his assertion that Zondervan has slanted the words for an agenda is true. Of course, the proof is in the pudding, so we should examine the translation against other translations and determine if Zondervan is unique.
When one looks at the bible, we see various differences in the words chosen. There are a variety of reasons for this, but the most common are:
· No direct correlary word for the term – this is true in any translation, even with modern lanaguages, but is especially true of a language that is no longer spoken. Yes, Greek is still spoken, but the Koine (common) version of the first century is radically different from what we see today.
· Some versions use a word for word translation, others use a thought for thought translation, and some are in between. There are also a few translations that are designed as narratives, which are more thought-by-thought, but expounded for modern readers (The Message and World English Bible fit this model). Whether one searches for the larger meaning or a direct translation of individual words has a huge bearing on how the translation works.
My point here is the individual translator(s) [generally these are teams] have a difficult time getting everything translated without some loss of fidelity. IF one truly wants to study the bible, without this loss, he has to consult he original material. Fowler’s primary complaint is against the NIV (a thought for thought translation) and the New King James bible (a word for word translation). He is largely focused on the word "homosexual" being used.
The word used here is ἀρσενοκοῖται, which is a greek word that strong’s defines as "a sodomite – abuser of (that defil) self with mankind"; it is also commonly translated homosexual, as in the Strong’s Online site I have linked. The word is a combination of the words ἄρσεν meaning male and κοίται which is translated in strongs as "bed, chambering, conceive"; also the male sperm. Putting the two words together, you have the concept of a man bedding down with a man or taking on a man’s sperm. Yes, this is perhaps a bit graphic for this blog, but it is the word’s meaning.
This word is found in two bible passages: 1 Corinthians 6:9, cited by Mr. Fowler, and 1 Timothy 1:10. Mr. Fowler has stated problems with only two translations, the NIV and the New King James, and has issue with different editions of a bible "changing" the words. I find this baseless, as it is a translation. But, we should examine his argument at face value and see whether or not this is unique to Zondervan (and Thomas Nelson – sued for $10 million) or if this is common of translations. For this, we will compare a wide number of English translations spanning more than 400 years of history.
1 Corinthians 6:9 translations of ἀρσενοκοῖται
homosexual offenders – NIV, NIV:UK
homosexuals – NASB, NKJV, HCSB
men who commit homosexual acts – NIRV
participants in/practicers of homosexuality – Amp, NLT, ESV, TNIV
behaves like a homosexual – CEV
sex abusers – The message
abusers of self with men – AV (King James), 21KJV, ASV, Darby
men who have sexual relations with other men – NCV
sodomites – YLT
people who do sex sins with their own sex – NLV
they that do lechery with men – Wycliffe
those who commit adultery of any kind – WEB (this one is very loose)
Other than the World English Bible (WEB) and The Message, both of which are very loose translations (narrative), all focus on the idea of men having sex with men (or at least one having sex with one’s own sex). How about Timothy 1:10?
perverts – NIV, NIV:UK
homosexuals – NASB, HCSB
immoral persons – Amp
participants in/practicers of homosexuality – NLT, ESV, TNIV
them that defile themselves with mankind – AV, 21KJV
live as homosexuals – CEV
sodomites – NKJV, YLT, Darby
[those] who have sexual relations with people of the same sex – NCV
abusers of themselves with men – ASV
people who do sex sins with their own sex – NLV
those who have a twisted view of sex – NIRV
them that do lechery with men – Wycliffe
men who have sex with other men – WEB
This time we see a bit more disparity. The Message is completely out of the race, as it distills the list tremendously.
It gets even worse for Mr. Fowlers case, when one expands beyond the English translations and finds the concepts are fairly universal. In Spanish, the word is Sodomitas (Sodomite), the Italian bible translates as homosexual, while the German’s use a word that means boy violator (pedophile?).
If one wants to take this even further, it could be argued that all of the English translations actually soften the wording, as the Greek word μαλακοὶ is translated as effiminate. In Strong’s the word is translated "Of uncertain affinity; soft, i.e. Fine (clothing); figuratively, a catamite — effeminate, soft. ". Of interest here is the word Catamite, which was the younger male in a pedastric relationship, which were quite common in ancient Greece.
Does he have a case?
On the basis of bible references provided (have not seen the full complaint yet), I do not see Mr. Fowler’s case as a reasonable one. I do not see a printed bible, especially one that contains the same ideas that pretty much all other bibles include, as a source for a violation of civil rights. This is especially true when one considers this particular version was originally translated in 1973 with at least one English version containing the same basic concept as old as 1604.
Hopefully Mr. Fowler is using this case to attempt to cry out against social injustice. If so, I applaud the effort. Unfortunately, it is more likely to backfire on him, as the case is probably going to be deemed baseless. Very little social change occurs when one uses flawed material to attempt to get one’s point across.
While I see the lawsuit as a nuisance suit, at best, I would like to see some light on this particular issue. The church I currently attend is Southern Baptist, a group which has a pitiful record on this particular issue. I am not stating that the SBC is incorrect about its views that Paul regarded homosexuality as a sin, as it is quite evident he did. My issue is with the SBC, or at least a good number of its members, regarding homosexuality as some special "uber" sin that requires full attention, while turning its back on many other sins committed by its members.
Well, let’s see if the fireworks start on this one.
Peace and Grace,
Follow up (4:07 PM CST): While I am more inclined to focus on truth as truth rather than "is this guy reliable", I was just sent a link that I find interesting:
This is the rap sheet for Mr. Fowler. I am not going to write in any opinions on this; I will let your own minds wander.