The Queen James Bible
I recently heard of the Queen James Bible project from a critic. Here’s the idea: the few and far between biblical texts that are used against LGBT persons – a grand total of 8 – have been translated differently. Everything else is the standard KJV. The name choice makes a lot of sense if you know your history, namely that King James was known as a practicing bisexual and was even called Queen James behind his back.
Changing the Bible?
Some readers are probably already up in arms that they have changed the Word of God in the name of political correctness! If that’s you, calm down. First of all, nowhere in the New Testament is the Bible called the Word of God. Jesus is the Word of God. This is not changing Jesus at all. If your gut reaction is to be upset, you may have an unhealthy overemphasis on the written text instead of the living Word. But even that aside, the Bible is still Scripture, you might say, and we shouldn’t change Scripture. Revelation even warns us about that.
If you’re bringing up this objection, please realize that all translations are in and of themselves interpretations. On the issue of what the Bible has to say about homosexuality it is especially contentious because many argue that the common translations which encourage condemnation are not very good ones. In fact, older translations condemned the “effeminate” rather than gays and lesbians but since that has become one of the modern crusades of the conservative church we are more inclined toward that translation now. As the website for QJB points out, no Bible before 1948 even mentioned homosexuality. Many of us now think that these few New Testament verses more accurately condemn temple prostitution and/or pederasty, both of which were the primary forms of gay activity at the time. If you disagree with the Queen James’ interpretation, so be it. Most scholars disagree with multiple things in various translations. There’s a lot more agreement than disagreement, but different interpretations are inevitable in translation and even in choosing which manuscripts to prioritize over others.
You may find it odd that the aspect I like least about this project is that it uses the King James as its basis. The King James was based on the manuscripts which were available at the time. Since then, we have discovered many older manuscripts that give us a much better look at what the original text said. There may not be meaningful theology-altering differences but as somebody who went to seminary it drives me crazy that we would deliberately use something based off on incomplete data when there are far better alternatives. In fact, at my school, we could use any translation we wanted except for the King James and The Message or other paraphrases. It was just considered bad scholarship. That doesn’t mean that they don’t have a purpose – The Message in particular is great for devotional use – but study is not one of them.
So I get why they chose the King James. It’s beautiful and many still use it today. There are even those, who I don’t understand in the slightest, who think the King James Bible is the literal word of God; “if it was good enough for St. Paul; it’s good enough for me” some people say with complete seriousness. And of course there’s the historical tie of King/Queen James. It’s also public domain so they only had to hire new translators for a few verses and use the rest, although of course they don’t mention that part. I get it. I just personally find it degrades their otherwise-valuable message since none of the rest of their translation is acceptable to academics.
By challenging the sacred cow of “gays go to Hell,” most conservatives won’t touch this Bible. By using an obsolete translation as your base, most liberals won’t either. I like the idea. I think it has the potential to inspire better translations on these few verses. But I don’t think that this particular Bible has much of a chance influencing anybody.