Book Review: The Bible, Love & Homosexuality
Exactly two years ago at the conference preceding the European Regional Assembly of WSCF Europe Renato Lings was vividly talking about the Bible, its translations and a fascinating life of words. Today he delivers his thoughts in a compelling book “Love Lost in Translation: Homosexuality and the Bible”.
When you first see the book you may think that you will never be able to go through a whole volume.It is over 700 pages on densely worded paper. It is unthinkable however to imagine that the variety of issues and methodological approach used would allow anything smaller. Lings looks at various Bible parts in twelve different translations into English. He analyzes both the Old Testament (Hebrew Bible) and the New Testament in five parts of his book and in appendixes gives a brief account on Sodom in Islam. Lings offers his thoughts in a very structured, rigorous way serving ready-made arguments for discussions that go well beyond homosexuality and the Bible. Whole material is presented in an accessible way a variety of tables allow comparisons of different Bible translations
But what is this book really about? Is it a manifesto in which the author tries to delegitimize the commonly used Bible translations? Is it a scholarly argument that does is too academic to be useful for a non-expert? Lings himself says that he was trying to show that the current biblical interpretation is based not that much on the text itself, but on the assumptions that go back to the Middle Ages and the church fathers. It is a challenge that Lings brilliantly handles in his book.
Firstly, the author goes well beyond looking for the love lost in translation. He gives a broad account of linguistic subtleties and nuances in a well-researched analytical way. He engages in tracking how certain words were translated in certain periods and why as well as he presents a whole broader canvas of social interactions that were in the background of events described in the Bible. This is particularly important when it comes to the Hebrew Bible that at times poses numerous challenges to a nonexpert. Secondly, he encourages the reader to understand the whole politics of translation. Many biblical dictionaries were produced when homoerotic relationships were condemned and this could have influenced the process of translating parts where homoeroticism is present.
Probably the best part that shows how both translation and interpretation of the Bible in the Middle Ages is a meticulous analysis of the story of Sodom that spans three chapters of Genesis. Lings provides countless observations about the part that is generally understood as a biblical condemnation of homosexuality. He challenges these providing a whole rich background of various discourses included through tremendously detailed reading of each and every word. His arguments are juxtaposed with many references of representatives of different views on Sodom. Lings’s conversation with them is an extremely inseminating exercise for anyone interested in understanding the Bible better and deeper.Lot’s family drama is a fertile sole for further inquiries into the issue of homoeroticism and Christianity.
Even though homosexuality becomes more and more accepted in Christian churches, there are still many parties who are opposing equality of homosexual relations. The Ling’s book gives a very useful tool to all those who wish to understand better the underlying reasons of this attitude.And if English is not your mother tongue, “LoveLost in Translation” will surely direct you to approaching the Bible in your language in a new way
K. Renato Lings: Love Lost in Translation: Homosexuality and the Bible. Bloomington, Indiana: Trafford Publishing.738pp. £21,08 (hardback) £18,64 (paperback), £8,04 (Kindle edition)