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Friday, January 13, 2006

Brothers and Sisters: Colorado Springs

I feel that I have to give this post a qualifying subtitle, so 'Colorado Springs' it is. A few people have mentioned my post on the generic pronoun so I will take a few minutes to continue the discussion on gender. As Alan says here, Grudem and Poythress do admit that 'brothers and sisters' is acceptable for 'adelphoi'. However, a close reading of The TNIV and the Gender Neutral Bible shows that they did not always hold this position.

On June 2, 1997, when the initial Colorado Springs Guidelines were agreed on, Guideline B 1 originally read,

    "Brother" (adelphos) and "brothers" (adelphoi) should not be changed to "brother(s) and sister(s)."
In The TNIV and the GNB, 2004, p. 425 - 426, Poythress and Grudem write, "Examination of further lexicological data (as indicated in chapter 12) showed that this guideline was too narrow."

The following refined guideline was approved on Sept. 9, 1997,

    "Brother" adelphos should not be changed to "brother or sister"; however, the plural adelphoi can be translated "brothers and sisters" where the context makes clear that the author is referring to both men and women.
What was the 'further lexicological data'? In Poythress and Grudem's own words,

    "in fact, the major Greek lexicons for over 100 years have said that adelphoi, which is the plural of the word adelphos, 'brother" sometimes means "brothers and sisters" (see BAGD, 1957 and 1979, Liddell-Scott-Jones, 1940 and even 1869).

    This material was new evidence to those of us who wrote the May 27 guidlines - we weren't previously aware of this pattern of Greek usage outside the Bible. Once we saw these examples and others like them, we felt we had to make some change in the guidelines."
Do Grudem and Poythress actually say that those who wrote the gender guidelines had never looked at the 'gender terms' in Liddell - Scott or BAGD? Do they really call Liddell - Scott (1869) new evidence?

By their own admission, these men were of an age where they had already established their own personal theology, and had presumed to write theology for others, without ever learning to use a variety of the most standard Greek lexicons. They came to Colorado Springs with their gender guidelines already prepared, based on a narrow view of what the Greek said, and attempted to make these guidelines binding on the Christian community.

I suggest that today we have the first generation of translators for a major English revision of the Bible who have, for the most part, not been exposed in any way to the study of classical Greek. They do not bring a knowledge of Greek to the Bible, but they bring their own preconceptions of the English Bible to the Greek.

Many other passages in this book confirm that the authors are not aware of patterns of Greek usage outside the Bible, in particular with reference to anthropos, aner, and arren.

I am particularly indignant, since I studied Greek from the age of 14 to 21, and when I became an adult someone gave me Recovering Biblical Manhood and Womanhood by Grudem and Piper, so I could presumably, benefit from their wisdom.

More on the generic pronoun another day. On adelphoi, 'brethren' was once an acceptable solution for me but 'fellow believers' also sounds appropriate. However, I am sure that Wayne Leman will want to take issue with 'fellow'. I appreciate Stephen Carlson's thoughts on this here.


At Sat Jan 14, 09:05:00 AM, Blogger Wayne Leman said...

However, I am sure that Wayne Leman will want to take issue with 'fellow'.

Actually, Suzanne, it sounds OK for me, also. I think it does so because my personal lexicon lacks etymological information about "fellow." It doesn't sound so much, if at all, like a masculine term to me. Of course, I have studied the history of the English language and have learned about the masculinity of this word. But during my language learning years I guess I never had any masculine component as part of the word. "Fellow believer" sounds much better to me than "brothers" when both are intended to refer to a group composed of both females and males.

However, the more that I have been thinking about this very issue lately and talking to my wife about it, the more that my personal lexicon is getting impacted by what I'm learning about the etymology of the word. Our personal lexicons are constantly in flux, evolving, as we communicate with others.

At Sat Jan 14, 09:39:00 AM, Blogger Suzanne McCarthy said...

I would take a cue from Acts 7:23 where Moses returns to his 'brethren, the children of Israel'. Obviously these are his people, members of the same race, or nation. I can't think of how best to say that in English, but fellow member or fellow believer works.

I don't think adelphoi was used to say, 'the men' but not 'the women'. Paul could be explicit when he wanted to be.

At Sat Jan 14, 12:29:00 PM, Blogger Wayne Leman said...

I would take a cue from Acts 7:23 where Moses returns to his 'brethren, the children of Israel'. Obviously these are his people, members of the same race, or nation. I can't think of how best to say that in English, but fellow member or fellow believer works.

How about:

"his own people"
"his fellow citizens"
"his fellow Hebrews"

At Sat Jan 14, 03:53:00 PM, Blogger Ted Gossard said...

Suzanne, thanks for your thoughts here.

This underscores for me what I've presumed for some time. The drive behind the ESV and against the TNIV is driven by the "culture war". Not by scholarship. And part of what drives this, I think, is a desire to return to an old Reformed point of view, a backlash from evangelical scholarship's work of the past twenty or so years. Another group (not necessarily Reformed) of pastors, one very influential worldwide who uses the ESV, who got together to determine what can be done to recapture evangelicalism and get it on track again.

At Sat Jan 14, 03:57:00 PM, Blogger Ted Gossard said...

Actually the Reformed protest probably is due to a significant number that are returning to strong Reformed theology. The backlash influences more the second group I mentioned.

And it seems to go right back to what you're referring to. Scholarship of the twentieth century, and particularly of the last 30 years is looked at with profound suspicion by both groups.

At Sat Jan 14, 04:28:00 PM, Blogger Peter Kirk said...

I am looking at a definition of "fellow". I'm not quite sure what Wayne means about its etymology, which appears to be from an Old Norse word meaning “a partner or shareholder”, which seems to me to be quite appropriate. On the other hand, the first sense given in the definition is "A man or boy", clearly intended in a specifically male sense. And this word is, or was not long ago, in quite common use here in England to mean "male person", often contrasted with "girl" - you would hear sentences like "the fellows played football while the girls went shopping". So I would be rather cautious about using "fellow" on its own for ἀδελφός adelphos. But it would be OK as an adjective, in an expression like "fellow believer".

At Sat Jan 14, 06:07:00 PM, Blogger Kenny said...

I think the usage of fellow as distinctly masculine is a British colloquialism, is it not? I have occasionally seen the term "the fellas" (usually spelled that way) in novels where it is apparently supposed to mean something like "the gang" in the street slang of a previous decade, but it never occurred to me to consider this phrase as gender exclusive. In fact, the term "fellow" as a noun rather than an adjective sounds archaic/stilted/British to me in general (yes, those three adjectives do go together in my mind, no offense intended). Actually, I use the word myself with some frequency, but then, I'm a strange person and I get some sort of perverse enjoyment from using archaisms in everyday conversation, and so have also been known to use phrases like "on the morrow".

At any rate, I don't think "fellow" as a noun should be used in a contemporary translation at all, and I think that "fellow" is gender-neutral, whether used as a noun or as an adjective. Just my 2 cents.

At Sat Jan 14, 06:19:00 PM, Blogger Alan S. Bandy said...

The phrase "fellow believers" does seem to accurately represent the sense of the term adelphoi and the older "brethern." My question is should we try to maintain the familial connotations embedded in adelphoi? If so, then, "fellow believers" may not successfully convey that sense (maybe, "spiritual siblings").

At Sat Jan 14, 08:28:00 PM, Blogger Tim said...

Yes, I would prefer a term that kept the family connotation. What's wrong with simply saying 'brothers and sisters'?

But I should also say, Suzanne, when I read your post I felt like standing up and cheering. 'Preach it, sister!'


Tim C.

At Sat Jan 14, 09:43:00 PM, Blogger Suzanne McCarthy said...

Thanks Tim (and fellow Canadian),

I felt a little reticent at first, but want to get the word out that the CSG were not based on scholarship. At first, I actually believed that Carson had been a bit harsh, but now I see that calling P and G 'naive' was a great kindness instead.

The problem is maybe not so much with 'brothers and sisters', as with 'brother or sister' - sounds awkward. However, 'fellow believer' works in the singular and plural smoothly.

'Fellow believer' is a little old fashioned, maybe. I have been conditioned by a PB upbringing. Nothing short of Chaucer actually sounds old fashioned after that. As Kenny pointed out, after you read too much archaic English, it spoils your ear.

I realize that 'fellow' as a noun might sound male, but as an adjective, there is no other word that says it so well!


Tut, tut. My daugher is a soccer(football) goalie, and my son is quite a shopper.(He did a valiant job this Xmas!) And we just watched 'Bend it like Beckham' again this week. Surely women are now as involved in sports in the UK as they are here. Even in Sparta the girls had to train like the boys. However, I myself am not much at sports so I won't take this to heart.

At Sun Jan 15, 02:26:00 PM, Blogger Peter Kirk said...

Yes, my comment was gender stereotyped, but it is also based on real experience! Actually women here are often very involved in sports, and some in football/soccer. But a football playing girl would never be called a fellow! But a woman can be a fellow of a college or of a learned society, so the word is not fully gender exclusive. And, Kenny, you are right that it is sometimes spelled and usually pronounced "fella", not with a clear final "o" vowel, but it is certainly a variant of "fellow".

Meanwhile I want to echo Tim's final comment, but to avoid further gender stereotyping, should I stand up and say "Preach it, fellow believer!", or what?

At Sun Jan 15, 03:32:00 PM, Blogger Suzanne McCarthy said...

Hi Peter,

Only kidding. I have the same two uses of fellow myself, and I rather like the word, as an adjective. It sounds like one has been accepted into a group, one really belongs.

This is getting tricky, in one context 'fellow believer' sounds better, but in another 'sister' and 'brother' sound good, too. Doesn't it depend on context? That is, when someone emails me with "you go, girl!" That is a compliment - I don't protest the use of 'girl'. So "preach it, sister!" also sounds right. But, if you started calling me 'sister' out of context, I might wonder if you had a PB upbringing like myself.

Back to Tim, 'fellow Canadian' sounds warm and fuzzy to me, but 'my Canadian brother', hmmm.

I don't know what the answer is. Should we try to reclaim 'brother and sister' and use them in everyday conversation between believers? Anyone else?

At Tue Jan 17, 02:49:00 PM, Blogger SingingOwl said...

I'm agreeing with Tim (Woo HOO) and LOL at Peter's question...haw haw..that struck me really funny.

But I think your post highlights the motivations of some "scholars" (yes, I know I am being sarcastic) and I, like you, find it offensive. Really offensive. New evidence indeed. Snort.

At Wed Feb 22, 02:08:00 PM, Blogger Suzanne McCarthy said...

I would like to add that arren is a variant spelling for arsen male.


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