TikTokers @revkarla, @lordfordbored, and @jegaysus all interrogate Christian theology, ideas, and scripture on their accounts. (Photos via Tiktok screenshots)

Topics: Spirituality | Religion

3 commonly mistranslated Bible words, as explained by TikTok theologians

Welcome to #BibleTranslations, the forum where users are clearing up scriptural misconceptions

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(RNS) — Popular activities for this (mostly) vaccinated summer include: visiting heavily populated beaches, hanging out indoors with crowds of more than 50 and debating biblical Greek translations on the internet.

On TikTok, more than 49 million users have viewed the hashtag #deconstruction — a buzzword chiefly among evangelicals and former evangelicals who are re-analyzing the traditional faith they grew up in.

The hashtag #BibleTranslations has roughly a half million views, leading to earnest advice on selecting a Bible translation or lighthearted videos poking fun at the King James Version. But a dynamic subsection of creators is using the platform to debunk what they see as dangerous misinterpretations of biblical texts.

@johndoenobody

How do we handle “church hurt”? ##deconstruction ##exvangelical ##progressivechristian ##jesus

♬ original sound – John Doe Nobody

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Some of the deconstructionists of TikTok are progressive Christian pastors with theology degrees. Others have studied their way out of the churches they grew up in and are now religiously unaffiliated. Still others are sharing scraps of knowledge they have picked up in the telephone game of the internet. But whether atheist or Christian or somewhere in between, this corner of biblical TikTok is united over a shared nerdy obsession with getting words right.


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Explaining the nitty-gritty details of ancient Greek and Hebrew in Christian Scriptures may not seem like viral content, but on TikTok, it’s algorithm fire.

Here are three of the most popularly “deconstructed” words on the video platform.

Hell

One of the biggest trends in the biblical translations of deconstructionist TikTok is breaking down the many meanings packed into the word “hell.”

JeGaysus, a creator with a devoted following of 180,000, offers his literary critique on “Gehenna” — a word often translated as “hell” — in the guise of a rainbow-scarfed Jesus.

@jegaysus

Alright..if I can’t get my most viral vid on the fyp we’ll know there’s a bigger issue #hell #deconstruction #itsametaphor #lgbtqia #gehenna

♬ original sound – Gay Jesus-KingOfQueens

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Hell is often presented as a big, scary reason not to leave Christianity — you don’t want to wager on eternal life and be on the losing end. At least, that’s how Jesseca Reddell felt (Motherofdogs on TikTok). For Reddell, learning more about the different meanings behind “H-E-double-hockey-sticks” helped her get over her fear of eternal damnation if she left her church. “Share with your traumatized friend,” the video caption suggests. 

@m0ther0fd0gs_

Share w your traumatized friend #foryoupage #foryou #bible #education #christian #DontSpillChallenge #atheist #religion #hell #fyp

♬ original sound – Motherofdogs

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There are many ancient traditions about the afterlife. Scriptural descriptions of the bad place are often intertwined with secular ideas that were popular at the time. So one big question deconstruction advocates pose is what word is actually behind the English translation, “hell.” Maybe Gehenna? Possibly Tartarus? Could be Hades or even Sheol?

Ricky Brock Jr. has a bachelor’s in theology, which he puts to use responding to his followers’ questions about the afterlife. Here, he explains some of the origins of the concept of hell in order to help a commenter overcome their fear.

@captaindadpool86

Reply to @chilled_marble #greenscreen

♬ original sound – CaptainDadPool

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Homosexuality

The Greek words that are translated in contemporary English as “homosexuality” or “homosexuals” are just as hotly debated as “hell” among TikTok scholars.

The Rev. Karla Kamstra offers a little ditty to summarize her thoughts on where the word “homosexual” can be found in the Bible.

@revkarla

Thank you @sharynlord for original sound #revkarla #lgbtq #ally #friends #hypocrisy #religioustrauma #heal #healing #spiritualbutnotreligious

♬ original sound – Sharynlord

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Many creators, like Kamstra above, focus on the Greek word Paul uses in 1 Corinthians 6:9 — arsenokoitai. They point out controversies in the history of its translation and the different ways to interpret the word. The ancient Greek word gets trotted out in daily internet beef, like in Macy Schultz’s video below:

@macyaschultz1

Reply to @comrade_snoopy4 y’all sound so dumb #fyp #xyzbca #lgbtq #politics #trend #bi #mistranslations

♬ original sound – macy schultz

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Andrew Harrison Cox has seminary training and now works at a justice ministry in Florida. His videos, like the one below, point out the gap between the cultural phenomena Paul refers to and how we talk about homosexuality today.

@andrewharrisoncox

Reply to @the_christian_writer #lgbtqia #queerchristian #queer #lgbtq #christian #sin @1946themovie #homosexuality #sexualsin

♬ Monday Jazz – Easy Listening Jazz Instrumentals

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Others flesh out passages such as Romans 1:26 with more cultural context. Here’s the passage (NIV translation, just for the record):

Because of this, God gave them over to shameful lusts. Even their women exchanged natural sexual relations for unnatural ones. In the same way the men also abandoned natural relations with women and were inflamed with lust for one another. Men committed shameful acts with other men, and received in themselves the due penalty for their error.

But, according to one TikToker, Paul’s referring to specific acts happening in pagan temples as part of idolatrous worship.

@1946themovie

Reply to @thepotatoking12345 They just get younger and younger. #indoctrination #badtheologykills #toxicchristian #romans1 #bible #transition #gay #bi

♬ Spongebob – Dante9k

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These biblical deconstructionists of TikTok have landed on a single conclusion: They are in fairly firm agreement that, according to the Bible, homosexuality is not a sin.

Andrew Harrison Cox preaches that message to try to dispel the anxiety his followers express.

@andrewharrisoncox

Reply to @drowning00000 #homosexuality #homosexualagenda #gay #bi #trans #lgbtq #pridemonth #bible #thebible #queer #thebible #christian

♬ original sound – Andrew Harrison Cox

Watch video here

Satan

The father of lies provides nearly limitless fodder for TikTok theologians looking to undo some common misconceptions. Creators discuss the different titles in the Scriptures that have become names for the Prince of Darkness we know and loathe today.

Deconstructing the story of the devil also attracts creators who don’t normally dedicate their feeds to biblical interpretation or deconstruction content. Such as Logan Ford, 25, who claims Lucifer’s origins were a typo.

@lordfordbored

Reply to @captainmacfarlane ##greenscreen ##lucifer ##satan ##history ##bible ##books ##comics ##dc ##fypシ ##foryou ##lordfordbored ##sorrynotsorry ##viral

♬ Monkeys Spinning Monkeys – Kevin MacLeod

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And some, like Jeff Baker, pastor and co-founder of Chosen Family Church, manage to cram a semester’s worth of biblical criticism on scriptural imagery for Satan into a 60-second video:

@cfc_pastorjeff

#stitch with @jegaysus #greenscreen this took me soooo long to fit into a minute lol #satan #devil #snakeangels #biblestudy #theology #queerpastor

♬ original sound – Jeff from Chosen Family Church

Watch video here

If you’re looking for a crash course in pop biblical criticism, enjoy stoking online arguments over ancient texts or just hope to learn a little Greek in 60 seconds, maybe open TikTok and start scrolling.

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  • says:

    Using "Tic Tok" articles to understand theology is not a good idea. Considering some "Tok'ers" have killed themselves for "followers" or those who invent games or challenges like the "fire challenge", where followers of an imagined game literally kill each other or at least severely harm themselves.
    First, of your platform is from a person with a hashtag Gay Jesus - enough said. If we deny Hell is real, then we don't need to worry about the consequences of sin. It may not be everything that these people object to, but it is a separation from God. Considering that God has made everything we enjoy, separated from His Creation isn't something I would enjoy or consider messing around with.

    I am so tired of the same arguments that use the Bible for condoning homosexuality.
    Karla Kamstra states that the word homosexual was not in the Bible, and that the term was not in use until 1947. This may be true, but the act was still condemned and understood as such well into the 3rd Century (Chrysostom).
    "Inasmuch as they departed from the natural passion and longing of the male for the female, which is implanted into nature by God, and desired what is altogether contrary to nature. Whence comes this perversity? Undoubtedly from Satan, who after people have once turned away from the fear of God, so powerfully suppresses nature that he blots
    out the natural desire and stirs up a desire that is contrary to nature." (Martin Luther - about 1540)
    Arsenokoitai is two root words which means "man" and "bed". It may not have been used anywhere else in the Bible, but Paul needed a word to describe to Jewish Greeks the meaning behind Leviticus 18 and 20.
    Malakois means soft and delicate, used to describe men. If Paul wanted to use "boys" he would likely have used the word pais where we get our word pedophile (child love).
    If we do not have Satan, was Christ "delusional" in the wilderness? (Luke 4) Who was He quoting all those Deuteronomy passages to?
    For a better understanding, the Book of Revelation (12:12 and chapter 20) describe Satan's limit in power and ultimate destiny. Again to deny he exists we try to excuse our actions towards God.
    It would be great to see an article on these issues from good apologists and Bible scholars. Rather that from people trying to get the most likes on an app.