The word “homosexual” first appeared in the Bible in 1946. That year a committee met to translate an updated English version of the book from Greek. Religious scholars, priests, theologians, linguists, anthropologists, and activists have researched and studied where the word occurs in the book for decades. Their conclusion is that it was a mistranslation.
In other words, the biblical claim that homosexuality is a sin — the catalyst for a complete culture shift with political ramifications, religious implications, consequences for LGBT rights and acceptance, and, frankly, deadly consequences — was, in their view, a mistake.
As a new film claims, it was “the misuse of a single word that changed the course of history.”
1946: The mistranslation that changed the culture is a new documentary film directed by Sharon “Rocky” Roggio. Ahead of its premiere this week at the DOC NYC Festival, it has predictably gone viral in the conservative and Christian communities.
A grassroots campaign promoting the film on social media has brought his official TikTok account more than 185,000 followers. That makes sense. For most people – practicing Christians or otherwise – the message of the film is shocking.
There are several levels: the realization that the Bible has been translated many times over the centuries and that human error may have been involved in the process. This may seem obvious, but it’s eye-opening. In addition, one must come to terms with the notion that human error could be responsible for fueling homophobia – a mindset of hatred, oppression and religious nationalism that has defined the last 75 years of our existence.
Before anyone even saw the film, there was an organized effort to attack and refute the film’s claims. Roggio and others involved in the production of the documentary have received threats. Campaigns have been launched to remove even harmless social media posts. An entire book has been published to refute the evidence – although the film has not yet been shown.
“The opposition has been vocal about our film and trying to debunk it because they’re scared,” Roggio told The Daily Beast in an exclusive interview ahead of time 1946New York premiere. “We literally untie them and pull the anchors out from under them.”
These attacks come from all sides.
“We were hit by the conservative crowd,” says Roggio. “We were met by the atheist crowd. We have been met by LGBTQ people who have been hurt by the church and have now left the church because they feel we are joining religious supremacy by even playing along in that dialogue.”
1946 takes a journalistic, scientific approach to backing up these claims. Drawing on thousands of historical documents, centuries-old texts and Bible translations in many languages, the film’s experts conclude that two Greek words have been mistranslated to mean homosexual. More specifically, one means feminine. The other designates a person who was a sexual abuser and harmed someone.
As the film outlines, years after the translation, when the error was pointed out, the committee recognized it and attempted to correct it. But by the 1970’s the implications of these verses were widespread. When the AIDS crisis hit in the 1980’s, this mindset was armed by the moral majority, particularly through the conflation of politics and religion in the United States.
“A big point of our film was the biblical literalness,” says Roggio. “We just think it was a magical book that just fell down on us, but these are real people making these choices that affect our true reality. People will feel detached from this idea that it’s man who screwed up, not God. As much as we fight biblical liberalism, we want our conservative audience to travel with us, in the sense that this is not an attack on God. This is not an attack on the Bible. This is a real problem of mistranslation.”
before 1946 Premiering at DOC NYC on November 12, we spoke to Roggio about the work she (along with scholars and activists Kathy Bullock and Ed Oxford) has done to meticulously back the film’s claims, the challenge of becoming a Christian penetrating a community that refuses to hear evidence and how a documentary like this could change the world.
I grew up in the church, but I’m still someone who found the idea of ”gay” a mistranslation in the Bible shocking. How did people react to that?
We’re talking about the biggest book in the world. This affects the three major religions in the world. That affects everyone. And we don’t discuss these things. This intrigued me as someone who grew up in the church, was a victim of bad theology, and was discriminated against for being a member of the LGBTQ community. When I realized that the word homosexual wasn’t in the Bible until 1946, that was a click for me. I think it will be a click for a lot of people.
Even the basic principle that the Bibles we read were translated by a human being and that there may have been an error in that translation — that is an overwhelming realization for people.
One of the biggest concerns we see in America today is Christian nationalism and people who use the Bible and say it is infallible. They are biblical literalists. It has sovereignty over us. It cannot be changed. The word is the word. This is dangerous. It’s dangerous for so many people. We see it playing out in our reality today, and I call that real religious supremacy. My idea in refining these themes is hopefully getting the conservative audience to join us and be honest. Words have power and words have meaning. The way we use the Bible and these ancient texts is very important. So we’re trying to contextualize.
What is the goal of this contextualization?
Our film is more than just theology. It’s history. It’s society. It’s politics. It’s law. It’s oppression. Again, these words have meaning. We as a group had to negotiate the text. A group of people over time have had to choose which verses stand out, which verses we follow – which verses matter in our country and our law. To be truly an honest reader of Christian Scripture, we must find a way where we are not oppressing people, where we have contextualized the text – we understand where it came from and how it affected a group of people.
When you present this idea, which is upsetting and probably disturbing to many people, how do you explain it to them at the most basic level?
1946: The mistranslation that changed the culture is about the first time the word “homosexual” appears in the Bible. We had a research team that wanted to ask the question: who made this decision and why? What was discovered by a series of letters from the Translation Committee, in which the word “homosexual” was inserted, was that it was an error. Then it was discovered how the word “gay” went viral in print in the ’70s. That influenced the 80’s and the moral majority and how we view the merging of politics and religion, especially in America. What we see today are the dangers of Christian nationalism, and it has only grown.
Can you elaborate on the mistranslation of the word “homosexual” and what happened there?
We are talking about a word, a medical term, that has a connotation of a group of people having an orientation, contrary to what the original Greek, Hebrew and Aramaic texts refer to, namely an attacker, someone who was an Perpetrator – someone who has abused someone else, and on the other side is a victim. That’s a whole different connotation. So that was my impetus to make the film because now I have physical evidence, letters written by the committee [acknowledging this].
This translation committee, too, not only recognized the error, but continues to correct it and allow its translations to reflect the connotation of abusive behavior. While we now see malice in the conservative bodies that have been doing the opposite since the 80’s. They say it refers to consensual acts, so it was reinforced as homophobia because of that mistranslation.
“This translation committee, too, not only recognized the error, but continues to correct it.”
From my experience I know that there are many Christians who are unshakable in their faith, who act out of blind faith. What’s it like arriving with all that evidence, research, and evidence — even just a request to listen to what the film claims — but encountering this stubborn certainty?
It’s like hitting a wall. You get two kinds of Christians. You get people like my dad. [Roggio’s father is a pastor who appears in the film and repeatedly challenges its claims.] They want us to think they love us so much that they’re just trying to tell us the truth. And my father is very kind and never hurtful. But there are other people I will see, especially on social media, who turn their fear into anger and then into hate. You are malicious. A lot of what I see on social media and TikTok epitomizes the phrase “There is no love like Christian hate”. You are just so disgusting.
Is it ever productive? What is it like to face that on a human level?
We’ve reached a few people who will actually listen and watch the film. But there are so many people who are so narrow-minded. It’s heartbreaking that people aren’t even open to acknowledging us as human beings. It’s just dehumanizing. Since the church is comfortable meeting other people – not us, but you – it is easy for them to dehumanize the LGBTQ person. A major obstacle is that even some of the theologians who are spreading this harmful rhetoric have no ties to LGBTQ people.
Do you think that makes a difference?
Part of the reason I wanted to put my father in the film and my story in the film is because we’re a prime example of “hitting the wall.” Here is an example of someone I love very much who is my biggest oppressor. It doesn’t get through to him at all. And the other thing is, you know, we’re not going to change everyone’s mind, and that’s okay. But at the end of the day, my father needs to keep his beliefs where they belong and stay out of where my beliefs are.
I don’t interfere with his equality and he doesn’t need to interfere with mine. I’m doing this to give everyone equal protection under the law, because if we don’t get this right now, with the Bible in this country, we’re all in trouble no matter what you believe.
https://www.thedailybeast.com/documentary-1946-says-homosexual-is-in-the-bible-by-mistake-and-is-being-attacked-by-christians?source=articles&via=rss The documentary “1946” states that “homosexual” is mistaken in the Bible and is attacked by Christians