Sodomy and the NIV

by Carl Graham - 1993

The question is often asked, "Is the New International Version (NIV) a reliable translation?" The answer depends entirely on the basic belief structure of the one replying.

It is a general consensus among the evangelical community that the NIV is an excellent rendition of what God has said to mankind. The positive answer among this group is probably brought about for two reasons: (1) The translators claimed to be evangelicals, and (2) the evangelicals endorse the modern techniques of textual criticism which were employed. Others who subscribe to the theory of textual criticism will also hold a high opinion of the NIV. From a scholarly standpoint, the NIV seems to have been accepted.

However, there are those who are comfortable with the King James Bible (KJB) and hold a totally different view about the NIV. They see many new words and concepts and are convinced that these changes only aren't necessary, some even detract from God's Word. They believe the truth never changes and if the NIV were a true translation of the Bible, it would reflect the same thoughts and comparable words as the KJB which has been around for centuries.

Clearly, there is a disagreement between the NIV and KJB supporters. While there are many minor problems, the major difficulty falls in the area of providential preservation of the Scriptures and the implications this has on how God has protected His Word and kept it accurate over the passing years.

The KJB translators were fully committed to an accurate translation based on their personal convictions that the Bible is the verbally inspired Word of God, and that He has preserved it in its pure form for all generations. The texts they used were the Hebrew Masoretic and the Greek Textus Receptus.

On the other hand, the NIV translators held the view that the Bible had become corrupted over the centuries and they could reproduce the original wordings by various literary techniques. They discarded the work of the KJB translators and developed the eclectic text. The major discrepancies between the KJB and the NIV are due in part to the two different underlying texts, but the most radical changes stem from the foundational beliefs of the two translating committees.

The NIV committee was made up of over 100 people with various biblical backgrounds and doctrinal beliefs. There were many who professed inerrancy, but believed the texts of the KJB were severely corrupted. Somewhere between this and the liberal view were those who professed partial inerrancy which basically means the Bible is inerrant in matters of faith and practice but is in error in matters of history and science.

Then there were the extreme group who claimed to hold a high view of Scripture, but whose doctrine was either liberal (didn't believe the Bible was God's inspired Word), or was just generally confused regarding God's Word. The sad part of the whole situation is those who knew better let those with liberal leanings control the process and this resulted in a doctrinally deficient version of the Bible. This is clearly illustrated by the influence of Dr. Virginia Ramey Mollenkott and the treatment of homosexuality in the NIV.

Dr. Mollenkott, one of the literary consultants for the NIV translating committee, is a professed homosexual. This is verified by her own words in an interview in the Episcopal publication, "Witness" (June 1991, Pages 20-23). The interviewer, Sue Pierce, asked the question, "Why was it important to both of you to come out as lesbians?" Dr. Mollenkott's reply was, "My lesbianism has always been a part of me. I tried to kill myself in my teens because they told me I'd never be healed, that God had no use for people like me. I couldn't stand the thought of living a life that was useless or offensive to God. I tried to be heterosexual. I married myself off. But what I did ultimately realize was that God created me as I was, and that this is where life was meaningful."

Realizing Dr. Mollenkott's moral direction, one could expect her views to strongly affect the outcome of the NIV translation, and it does, as can be seen in the in the treatment of the sin of Sodom from which the term "sodomy" is derived. This word, generally used in homosexual behavior is defined in Webster's New Collegiate Dictionary as "copulation with a member of the same sex or with an animal." As can be seen, sodomy implies more than homosexual behavior, but Dr. Mollenkott was not interested in the human-beast relationship, she was only concerned about justifying the same sex relationship of sodomy.

In her book, "Is the homosexual my Neighbor?" (Ithmn), Dr. Mollenkott explains fully why she thinks the homosexual got bad press in the Bible. She presents all kinds of fanciful notions that the Old Testament Holiness Codes which forbid sodomy do not apply to the New Testament Church. She explains in detail that Jesus did not condemn homosexuality as a loving relationship between two consenting adults. Therefore, she concludes it has to be OK. Where Paul mentions homosexuality, she again says it only applies to promiscuous homosexuality. The NIV clearly reflects her views.

The following readings compare the KJB and the NIV in several areas where sodomy or homosexual behavior is mentioned. Going over these, it is easy to see that sodomy was never considered as a viable concept in the NIV and homosexuality was presented from Dr. Mollenkott's viewpoint. The comments of Dr. Mollenkott are from her book, "Is the Homosexual my Neighbor?" (Ithmn)


Genesis 19:5

KJV - And they called unto Lot, and said unto him, Where are the men which came in to thee this night? bring them out unto us, that we may know them.

NIV - They called to Lot, "Where are the men who came to us tonight? Bring them out to us so that we can have sex with them."

Mollenkott (Ithmn), Page 57, "...The Sodom story seems to be focusing on two specific evils: (1) Violent gang rape and (2) inhospitality to the stranger."


Leviticus 18:22 - Sodomy

KJV - Thou shalt not lie with mankind, as with womankind: it is abomination.

NIV - Do not lie with a man as one lies with a woman: this is detestable.


Leviticus 20:13 - Sodomy

KJV - If a man also lie with mankind, as he lieth with a woman, both of them have committed an abomination: they shall surely be put to death; their blood shall be upon them.

NIV - If a man lies with a man as one lies with a woman, both of them has done what is detestable. They must be put to death: their blood will be on their own heads.

Mollenkott, (Ithmn), Pages 110-121 - Dr. Mollenkott argues that this part of the ceremonial laws, and as such, are to be disregarded by Christian. She places this act on the same level as wearing clothes of two different materials.


Deuteronomy 23:17 - Sodomite

KJV) - There shall be no whore of the daughters of Israel, nor a sodomite of the sons of Israel.

NIV - No Israelite man or woman is to become a shrine prostitute.

[Notice the change from "sodomite" in the KJV to "shrine prostitute" in the NIV. Two totally different things. Prostitution and homosexuality are different entities. - Dr. Ken Matto]


Judges 19:22 - Sodomy

KJV - Now as they were making their hearts merry, behold, the men of the city, certain sons of Belial, beset the house round about, and beat at the door, and spake to the master of the house, the old man, saying, Bring forth the man that came into thine house, that we may know him.

NIV - While they were enjoying themselves, some of the wicked men of the city surrounded the house. Pounding on the door, they shouted to the old man who owned the house, "Bring out the man who came to your house so we can have sex with him."

Mollenkott, (Ithmn), Page 57 - "Violence - forcing sexual activity upon another - is the real point to this story."


1 Kings 14:24 - Sodomites

KJV - And there were also sodomites in the land: and they did according to all the abominations of the nations which the LORD cast out before the children of Israel.

NIV - There were even male shrine prostitutes in the land; the people engaged in all the detestable practices of the nations the LORD had driven out before the Israelites


1 Kings 15:12 - Sodomites

KJV - And he took away the sodomites out of the land, and removed all the idols that his fathers had made.

He expelled all the shrine prostitutes from the land and got rid of all the idols his fathers had made.


1 Kings 22:46 - Sodomites

KJV - And the remnant of the sodomites, which remained in the days of his father Asa, he took out of the land.

NIV - He rid the land of the rest of the shrine prostitutes who remained there even after the reign of his father ASA.


2 Kings 23:7 - Sodomites

KJV - And he brake down the houses of the sodomites, that were by the house of the LORD, where the women wove hangings for the grove.

NIV - He also tore down the quarters of the male shrine prostitutes, which were in the temple of the LORD and where women did weaving for Asherah.

Mollenkott, (Ithmn), Page 59-60 - "Most scholars agree that in the fertility religions of Israel's neighbors, male cult prostitutes were employed for homosexual acts. The people who loved and served the God of Israel were strictly forbidden to have anything to do with such idolatry, and the Jewish men were commanded to never serve as temple prostitutes.."


Matthew 11:24 - Judgment upon Sodom

KJV - But I say unto you, That it shall be more tolerable for the land of Sodom in the day of judgment, than for thee.

NIV - But I tell you it will be more bearable for Sodom on the day of judgment than for you.

Luke 10:12

KJV - But I say unto you, that it shall be more tolerable in that day for Sodom, than for that city.

NIV - I tell you, it will be more bearable on that day for Sodom than for that town.

Mollenkott, (Ithmn), Page 59, "Jesus refers to Sodom, not in the context of sexual acts, but in the context of inhospitality." And on page 71, she expands the thought with "...the idea of a life long homosexual orientation or condition is never mentioned in the Bible."


Romans 1:26-27

KJV - For this cause God gave them up unto vile affections: for even their women did change the natural use into that which is against nature: {27} And likewise also the men, leaving the natural use of the woman, burned in their lust one toward another; men with men working that which is unseemly, and receiving in themselves that recompense of their error which was meet.

NIV - Because of this, God gave him over to shameful lusts. Even their women exchanged natural relations for unnatural ones. In the same way men also abandoned natural relations with women and were inflamed with lust for one another.

Mollenkott, (Ithmn), Page 62 - "The key thought here seems to be lust, 'unnaturalness,' and, in verse 28, a desire to avoid the acknowledgment of God. But although the censure fits idolatrous people with whom Paul was concerned here, it does not seem to fit the case of a sincere homosexual Christian. Such a person loves Jesus Christ and wants above all to acknowledge God in all of life, yet for some unknown reason feels drawn to someone of the same sex, for the sake of love rather than lust. Is it fair to describe that person as lustful or desirous of forgetting God's existence?"


1 Corinthians 6:9 - Rejection of Homosexual Behavior

KJV - Know ye not that the unrighteous shall not inherit the kingdom of God? Be not deceived: neither fornicators, nor idolaters, nor adulterers, nor effeminate, nor abusers of themselves with mankind,

NIV - 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 homosexual offenders.

A note here to point out that this is the only place in the NIV where the word "homosexual" occurs. It is not clear from the context if this means heterosexuals who abuse homosexuals or homosexuals who abuse each other. See Dr. Mollenkott's explanation in the 1 Timothy comments following.


1 Timothy 1:9-10

KJV - Knowing this, that the law is not made for a righteous man, but for the lawless and disobedient, for the ungodly and for sinners, for unholy and profane, for murderers of fathers and murderers of mothers, for manslayers, {10} For whoremongers, for them that defile themselves with mankind, for menstealers, for liars, for perjured persons, and if there be any other thing that is contrary to sound doctrine;

NIV - We also know that law is made not for the righteous but for law breakers and rebels, the ungodly and sinful, the unholy and irreligious; for those who kill their fathers or mothers, for murderers, for adulterers and perverts, for slave traders and liars and perjurers-and for whatever else is contrary to the sound doctrine.

Mollenkott, (Ithmn), Page 67, "Interpretations of these passages depends on two Greek words used in 1 Cor. 6:9 which have presented a problem for translators in the King James Version, they translate 'effeminate' and 'abusers of themselves with mankind.' In the Revised Standard Version of 1952, they were combined and rendered simply 'homosexuals' which implied that all persons whose erotic interests were oriented to the same sex were by the very fact excluded from membership in the kingdom of God. But the original intent seems to have been to single out specific kinds of same-sex practices which were deplorable."


Jude 7 - Strange Flesh

KJV - Even as Sodom and Gomorrha, and the cities about them in like manner, giving themselves over to fornication, and going after strange flesh, are set forth for an example, suffering the vengeance of eternal fire.

NIV - In a similar way, Sodom and Gomorrah and the surrounding towns gave themselves up to sexual immorality and perversion. They serve as an example of those who suffer the punishment of eternal fire.

Mollenkott, (Ithmn), Page 59 - "The 'unnatural lust' thus could, in the context, and in view of the apocryphal texts to which Jude made allusion, refer to a desire for sexual contact between human and heavenly beings."


It would not be fair to say that all people involved in producing the NIV favored homosexuality as an alternate lifestyle, but it is fair to say that those who were responsible for the final wordings were at least sympathetic to Dr. Mollenkott's cause. One only has to look at the treatment of sodomy in the NIV to reach this conclusion.

While many believe practicing homosexuals can be Christian, there are many other who hold a different conviction about what the Bible says about sodomy. For this group, it is hardly acceptable to call sodomites temple prostitutes, nor to think of same-sex relationships as natural. These same people would take a viewpoint that God hates the sin of homosexuality and will bring judgment on those who live this kind of lifestyle.

The information presented here is not all inclusive, but is intended to sound an alarm. If the NIV is your Bible of choice, it would be prudent to look closely in other areas as well, for there are many other subjects handled as loosely as sodomy. Don't take anyone's word for what God's says; Check it out! After all, He'll hold you alone responsible.



1. Mollenkott, V.R. - Women, Men and the Bible, New York: Crossroads Publishing Co., 1988

2. Mollenkott, V. R. and Scanzoni, L., Is the Homosexual my Neighbor?, San Francisco, CA: Harper and Row, 1978

3. Mollenkott, V.R., Speech, Silence, Action!, Nashville, TN.: Abingdon, 1980

4. Pierce, Sue, "Church needs new Sexual Ethic." Witness, June1991, pages 20-23

5. The Holy Bible, The New International Version, Grand Rapids, MI; Zondervan Bible Publishers, 1978

6. Webster's New Collegiate Dictionary, Springfield, MA: G & C Merriam Co., 1977




For more information on corrupted Bible translations, go to Great Christian Links and proceed to the KJV ministries section.