The BBC has accused one of the Bible’s most beloved characters of having a homosexual relationship in a programme marking the 400th anniversary of the King James Bible.
Listen to the controversial comments
Last weekend a programme on Radio 4 claimed that the young David, who is best known for killing Goliath, had been involved in the Bible’s “only gay relationship”.
While introducing a reading from the historic Bible translation playwright Howard Brenton claimed that David had been in love with Jonathan, the son of King Saul.
On Sunday’s broadcast Mr Brenton said: “To a secular reader the story of David and Jonathan’s love is obviously homosexual, the only gay relationship in the Bible.”
The controversial remark was made as part of a series of biblical readings commissioned to mark the anniversary of the King James Bible.
While he did acknowledge that the subject was controversial many Christians will see Mr Brenton’s comments as a gross distortion of the account.
Another introduction by the playwright also appears to cast doubt on the Bible’s account of King Solomon’s reign.
Queen of Sheba
Reflecting on the Queen of Sheba’s visit to King Solomon Mr Brenton claims that there is no archaeological evidence for the existence of either the Queen or her country.
Work on the King James translation began in 1604, at the request of James I of England, and carried on until 1611.
A team of 47 of the best Bible scholars of the day worked on translating the text into English, and the King James translation became the version read by many English speaking nations.
In 2008 John Humphrys attacked the Bible’s four Gospels on the BBC quiz show Mastermind, claiming that they are unreliable accounts of the life of Jesus.
Contestant Kathryn Price, a Christian, appeared on the show which was broadcast in October. Her specialist subject was the Gospels of the New Testament.
Before the general knowledge round of questions, Humphrys launched into an assault on the reliability of the Gospels.
The BBC has faced repeated accusations of anti-Christian bias in recent years.
Last year the BBC was forced to defend an EastEnders storyline after outraged viewers accused the corporation of anti-Christian bias.
The complaints centred around a plotline on EastEnders which portrayed Lucas Johnson, a Christian Pentecostal pastor, as a deranged killer whose deeds are motivated by his Christian faith.
Viewers watched the pastor, played by actor Don Gilet, failing to help his ex-wife when she was dying, strangling a love rival to death, and attacking his current wife.
In 2009 an ex-BBC presenter claimed that the BBC is keen on programmes which attack churches, and that there was a wider secularist campaign “to get rid of Christianity”.
Don Maclean, the former Radio 2 religious programme host, also said that the broadcaster is “keen on Islam”.
Mr Maclean said: “you don’t see any programmes on Anglicanism that don’t talk about homosexual clergy and you don’t see anything on Roman Catholicism that doesn’t talk about paedophiles.
“They seem to take the negative angle every time. They don’t do that if they’re doing programmes on Islam. Programmes on Islam are always supportive.”
Also in 2009 it was revealed that the BBC Trust had rejected complaints against a TV drama that showed a fanatical British Christian beheading a moderate Muslim.
The offending episode of “Bonekickers” was aired in July 2008.
The BBC Trust, a group of “independent trustees acting in the public interest”, rejected suggestions that the drama associated fanatical Christianity with evangelicalism and gave an offensive portrayal of evangelical Christians.
But Daily Telegraph writer, Damian Thompson, said: “We are deep into the realms of BBC bias and ignorance here.
“Only a BBC drama series would, to quote the complainant, ‘transfer the practice of terrorist beheadings from Islamist radicals to a fantasised group of fundamentalist Christians’.”
In April 2009 Jonathan Wynne-Jones, a national newspaper journalist, warned that the frequent television portrayals of Christians as absurd make it more difficult for believers to defend themselves.
Writing on his blog Mr Wynne-Jones warned that a spate of recent storylines in a number of soaps had sent the clear message that “Christians are nutters”.
And in January 2009 a controversial BBC drama depicted a group of pro-life campaigners as violent extremists.
The drama, entitled Hunter, depicted three pro-lifers kidnapping two children whose mothers had previously undergone abortions.
The actress playing one of the pro-life kidnappers bore a striking resemblance to real life pro-life campaigner, Josephine Quintavalle, who battled with the BBC in 1997 over the broadcaster’s decision to censor a party political broadcast by the Pro-Life Alliance.
BBC controller Kate Harward said that the show was based on “the day to day detail of the real world”.