It was reported a couple of weeks ago that a group re-published a modified version of the King James Bible known as the “Queen James Bible”. With a rainbow cross on the cover, this Bible version is editorialized to re-write passages most often cited in opposition to homosexuality.
No doubt orthodox Christians are outraged at the manipulation of the Christian holy book, though the receptive audience may be just as likely to call themselves Christian. Catholics should by no means be surprised. Catholic moral and ethical teaching is not solely based on scripture and comfortably consistent with the Natural law. Our stance on the dignity and sanctity of life and the family has a long consistent teaching throughout the history of the church, whereas fundamentalists could feel the threat should such an edition ever exceed its niche audience.
One thing to keep in mind, though, is that the authority of Bible editing rests primarily on the authority of the Church. Sola Scriptura relegates God’s teaching to private interpretation and easily private editorializing of the Gospels. The rise of Bible translations such as The Message or the Queen James Bible proceeds from a misguided attempt to re-read scripture through the lens of the prevailing contemporary culture. Not only are we forgetting that Jesus was a real figure who existed deliberately in a different cultural context that should not be ignored when reading, but also that no individual even has a right to re-interpretation.
Scripture itself proceeded from a codification of the Sacred Tradition. Christians existed before the Bible and therefore Christianity is not per se a “Bible-based” religion. Catholics often get grief from protestants about prioritizing “Tradition” over Scripture. The fact is that Scripture is part of that very tradition, and the integrity of Scripture is protected by the Holy Spirit in the same way that all sacred teaching is preserved by the Holy Spirit from corruption due to the times. Debates about proper translations and gender inclusive language aside, no Church teaching can be wiped out by any re-writing of the Bible and any attempts to do so should be met with great suspicion. We cannot divorce the Bible from Tradition itself. If we make ourselves the authority on the key Book that serves as our authority, we oust God’s voice from what is supposed to be His word.