1946 The Mistranslation That Shaped a Culture

The new documentary 1946: The Mistranslation That Shifted Culture, makes a detailed, fascinating argument that Biblical references to homosexuality may be mistranslations. That’s right: The film argues that the so-called “clobber passages” in the Bible used to justify discrimination may not have originally said what so many people think they say.

The film goes deep into explaining how the modern-day English translations of the Bible came to be. It says that the first time the word “homosexual” appeared in any Bible was in 1946, when the team working on the Revised Standard Version of the Bible erroneously combined two independent words into English. The film says this error has been used to justify much of the hatred directed at LGBTQ people.

1946 director Sharon “Rocky” Roggio thinks the film could change some Christian minds — if they just watch it. She has already seen some Christian churches try to prevent that from happening. You can listen to our full interview with her in the latest MovieMaker podcast, available on Apple or Spotify or below.

Roggio has a very real understanding of how Biblical debates over homosexuality can strain families: She is the lesbian daughter of a Christian preacher, who is prominently featured in the film, and hopes she will one day settle down with a nice Christian man. But she and her father love each other, and are committed to trying to change each other’s hearts and minds.

How to Watch 1946: The Mistranslation That Shifted Culture

The film hasn’t even come out yet — it has made the film festival rounds for months, and will be in theaters in December, then available to stream. But she is well aware of the fact that some anti-gay groups have already shot it down, without watching it first.

“We’ve already had major pushback, even before the movie has been released, so that people who don’t want to listen to us already are calling us all sorts of names, and debunking our movie. I mean, we’ve had hundreds of radio shows, podcasts, YouTube videos, sermons, news articles — we had someone write a book about our movie debunking our movie. So we’d love for them to watch the film and actually then maybe do a critique on it instead of prior to watching the film. And then whatever they think of the film, that’s their opinion,” Roggio says.

She knows people with the most extreme anti-gay positions won’t like 1946. But she hopes open-minded and open-hearted people who fill the pews every Sunday might give it a chance.

“We know that there are people sitting in those church buildings, listening to those radio shows, who we call the movable middle, who in their heart might feel that there’s something off about this, or maybe they’re torn one way or the other. And we hope that they move with us,” she says. “They lean more toward being loving, inclusive, and looking at how Bible translations are made, how we interpret the Bible, and how we use the Bible, and how that use becomes put out into society. How dangerous it can be, but also how wonderful it can be. So yeah, we’re working on that movable middle.”

Roggio, who also appears in the film alongside her father, wants to be very clear that she isn’t anti-Christian, and doesn’t hate anti-gay Christians.

“The answer is not less religion,” she says. “The answer is more affirming religion, more people who see that Christianity is a social justice movement, not a movement to start eliminating everyone’s rights who don’t look or think like you.”

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The release of the film’s timing just before Christmas makes sense.

“We all want peace on earth,” Roggio says. “We’d love safety for all of our citizens and all people around the world. We just want to live and let live but also do what’s morally right. You know, we’re not out to be causing harm in society. We need to have a serious conversation together. And we already know we have a seat at the table. And so hopefully, we can all sit down together and discuss this.”

1946: The Mistranslation That Shifted Culture, arrives in theaters in December and will be available on video on demand soon. You can follow here for updates.

Main image: The Revised Standard Version team working on the 1946 Bible translation, courtesy of 1946.

Editor’s Note: Corrects headline