The theory that King James I, in commissioning the translation into English of the Bible (that which would become known as the King James Version), instructed the team of scholars involved to rewrite passages to reflect his own alleged misogyny and self-hating homosexuality. In the process, according to cardinal's writeup (since deleted) in Everything King James Bible, Mary Magdalene went from being a holy woman or the wife of a rabbi to being a prostitute, and numerous injunctions against homosexuality were added where they had not existed before.

While I love a good conspiracy theory as much as the next guy, my objections to this are as follows:

  • The guidelines given the translators appear to be a matter of historical record: searching for "King James Bible" on the Web, I found them in several places. Tweaking the text to reveal some kind of heretofore-undiscovered "truth" about women and gays did not seem to be part of their commission.
  • Not only was the KJV not the first Bible in the world, it wasn't even the first one to be translated into English. If Mary was originally depicted as a holy, virtuous woman, and then was abruptly depicted as a whore in the new translation, one would think people would notice and be outraged.

Note that I said if. The truth is, the Gospels never say explicitly that Mary Magdalene was a prostitute at all, not even in the KJV. This perception seems to have come about because in the Gospel according to Luke, Mary is first mentioned close on the heels of a story wherein Jesus forgives the sins of an unnamed prostitute (Luke 7:38-50). Soon thereafter, the text refers to "Mary (called Magdalene)" from whom Jesus cast out seven demons (Luke 8:1-3).

  • Another objection is one I tend to level at any claim of Biblical tampering - namely, why leave it at that? Why pick on Magdalene in particular? There are plenty of strong, virtuous women in scripture, both in the Old and New Testaments. Why not slander them all? Why leave in the bits in the Epistles that claim equality of the sexes in Christ? Why not change the names and genders of the female church leaders Paul speaks of, or undermine their roles? And as for homosexuality, check out King David's close relationship with his friend Jonathan - lines like "Your love to me was wonderful/Surpassing the love of women", while not necessarily describing homosexual love, would seem to be the sort of thing that would end up in King James' sights if he were as rabid on the subject as the theory states. For a conspiracy, this one leaves an awful lot of things only half-done.
  • I am certainly no expert on the subject of the history of the Bible. And I'm open to the possibility that what cardinal describes is true, but as presented it seemed incredibly far-fetched. cardinal encountered his source years ago and could not remember the title or author when I asked, but if anyone has any concrete info on this it might be worthy to share it with us in this space.

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