Bible Abuse Directed at Homosexuals

A Theory Why ‘Abomination’ Was Used

In a culture (ours) where adultery is widely winked at – a sin significant enough to be designated by God as one of the Ten Commandments) – only ignorance (and Christian forgiveness) can excuse the willful, widespread singling out of being gay as the most repulsive and despicable of behaviors.

Context might be important in explaining why ‘abomination,’ a word so distant from the original Hebrew in meaning, was unfailingly used well into the 20th century. One theory of why the word appears in the King James translation of Leviticus 18:22 and 20:13{1} has to do with the behavior of King James himself. At the time of the King James translation, though King James I had nine children, he is claimed to have  abandoned his wife and affairs of state for affairs of the bedroom. Even though his son Charles would terminally discover that times were changing, James still ruled by divine right, and questioning his actions or inactions was treason. What options did people have to get things back on track?

See the discussion of the history of bibles on the Front Page.

You may remember the nursery rhyme:

Georgy Porgy pudding and pie,
Kissed the girls and made them cry.
When the boys came out to play.
Georgy Porgy ran away.

Without naming names, this referred clearly to a certain “Gentleman of the Bedchamber,” one George Villers. Ladies regretted their lack of influence on him, and he avoided other men at court. Eventually he rose to become Earl of Buckingham (heaped with costly jewels, lands, and lucrative offices in the process). Murdered two years after James’s death by a former naval officer injured in one of Buckingham’s military campaigns, he is buried in Westminster Abbey beside King James.

It is also claimed that the nursery rhyme “Humpty Dumpty” (a term that was slang for a short, clumsy person in the 17th century) could have first been written and circulated as a warning for James I (who became overweight but never fell off a wall).

The word ‘abomination’ had appeared in English first in Leviticus 18:22 in the Wycliffe Bible of 1385, so it may have been a delayed reaction to the behavior of King Edward II; Edward had been deposed in 1326 partly as a result of his strong attachments to (male) favorites, indiscretion which hostile chroniclers (or those from significantly later) described as sexual relationships. Then again, the Latin Vulgate of 425 translates Leviticus 18:22 as cum masculo non commisceberis coitu femineo quia abominatio est, so the word ‘abomination’ was there for the finding in the Latin from which the Wycliffe Bible was translated. Nevertheless, keeping it when the oldest extant Hebrew sources were translated into English might have been a move that it was hoped would get James’s attention.{2}

For balance it must be noted that at least one strident religious conservative denies that James I was homosexual (or bisexual), blaming the claim on anti-Stuart historians.  Unfortunately for his cause, however, his tactics in the counter-claim look as strident and subjective as those of his historical opponents.