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Saturday, February 25, 2006

Sitting at the Feet of the Lord

This is a very powerful story for women. Here Mary is sitting at Jesus' feet, listening to his teaching.

    Now as they went on their way, Jesus entered a village. And a woman named Martha welcomed him into her house. And she had a sister called Mary, who sat at the Lord's feet and listened to his teaching. But Martha was distracted with much serving. And she went up to him and said, "Lord, do you not care that my sister has left me to serve alone? Tell her then to help me." But the Lord answered her, "Martha, Martha, you are anxious and troubled about many things, but one thing is necessary. Mary has chosen the good portion, which will not be taken away from her." Luke 10:38-42 ESV
Only in a literal translation do we get the comparison with Paul.

    "I am a Jew, born in Tarsus in Cilicia, but brought up in this city, educated at the feet of Gamaliel according to the strict manner of the law of our fathers, being zealous for God as all of you are this day. I persecuted this Way to the death, binding and delivering to prison both men and women, as the high priest and the whole council of elders can bear me witness. From them I received letters to the brothers, and I journeyed toward Damascus to take those also who were there and bring them in bonds to Jerusalem to be punished. Acts 22:3-5 ESV
Paul claims that he was taught by Gamaliel in the law of the fathers, by saying that he was educated at the feet of Gamaliel. Being at someone's feet was to be a pupil, to be taught by someone. A less literal translation might prevent us from making this comparison between Paul and Mary. Martha was scolding Mary not only because she was not helping in the kitchen but because she was taking a male role, being seen to be taught by a man. But Jesus said,

    "Mary has chosen the good portion, which will not be taken away from her."
Ironically Poythress and Grudem have claimed this role of Mary's for themselves. Here is what they say.

    On the other hand, the Bible is also an incredibly profound book. The wisdom of God in the Bible is unsearchably rich and deep. ... God invites us to go on, to hear more, to learn more, to sit at Jesus’ feet (Luke 10:39), to digest the vast richness of biblical wisdom. God calls on us to grow in wisdom by meditating on and absorbing his Word.
But still they ask women to accept a difference in prominence, order, leadership and representation between men and women, because that is how Jesus wanted it.

And I do get tired of those posts that demonstrate how 'woman shall be saved through childbearing' means women shall only experience (some stage or other of salvation, forgive me if I forget which one) if they stay in the domestic sphere. That is not what Jesus said. He actually said that Mary had chosen the good portion, and it shall not be taken from her.

10 Comments:

At Sun Feb 26, 02:01:00 AM, Blogger DavidR said...

I have long pondered this text, and have had the temerity to preach it more than once.

For me, the interpretative crux lies in the question: what did Mary choose that was the better part? On this, the commentaries are uniformly unhelpful, IMO.

So far as I can see, Mary's choice consisted in breaking a social taboo in order to "sit at Jesus' feet" -- that it was in the location, more than in the audition (as it were) that her choice lay.

If this reading holds, then "application" tumbles out slightly differently -- taking a risk, breaking social conventions, to attend to Jesus becomes commended by the Lord, not simply sitting there rather than helping with the dishes.

It's a reading that tallies with yours, Suzanne, even if the line of approach is a tad different.

[p.s., just for the banter, I checked the date I first preached that exegesis -- it was exactly 10 years ago today!]

 
At Sun Feb 26, 02:09:00 PM, Blogger evanmay said...

This article somewhat concerns me, Suzanne. Of course, this is your blog and you can post about whatever you want. But the title of the blog is indeed "Better Bibles Blog." It seems that you have digressed from the topics of translation, transmission, and textual criticism in order to assume a theological agenda, here specifically (as elsewhere) concerning Grudem and Poythress.

I know that exegesis should lead to systematic theology. But it seems that here (and your past few posts) you have abandoned your mission to aid the church in "improving English Bible translations," in order to express your theological disagreements with other theologians/exegetes.

 
At Sun Feb 26, 02:31:00 PM, Blogger Suzanne McCarthy said...

Actually I was trying to show my appreciation for the ESV translation and use it honourably and really demonstrate that it can be used properly. I was trying to show the importance of the literal language of the ESV.

It is not the ESV translaton that bothers me at all but the fact that these two men have said that the use of the 'he' pronoun in English, (disregarding the meaning of the Greek pronoun), is obligatory to communicate that women were intended for a position of lesser prominince, order, representation and leadership.

I want to show that except for a few odd instances the ESV might be acceptable to some of us on occasion, if only the translators themselves had not stated their concerns about other translations.

I do have to ask if you have read the book which I was asked to critique, The TNIV and the Gender Neutral Bible Controversy. And yes, I do believe that giving this book a thorough review and critique is central to the task of Bible translation. How could it not be? It is the most important book on this topic, is it not? I shall continue to quote from it until the Staement of Concern about the TNIV is retracted.

 
At Sun Feb 26, 02:49:00 PM, Blogger evanmay said...

Actually, I was unaware that that was the book from which you are quoting. No, I have not read that book.

 
At Sun Feb 26, 04:15:00 PM, Blogger Suzanne McCarthy said...

Apologies. I should try to be mre specific but I have been quoting from this book on and off for a while. I will offer some more in a few days.

 
At Sun Feb 26, 04:22:00 PM, Blogger evanmay said...

No, it was my mistake.

 
At Sun Feb 26, 04:53:00 PM, Blogger Suzanne McCarthy said...

I would like to add that, in my opinion, this book The TNIV and the GNBC dishonours the ESV rather than the opposite. I would rather not criticize a Bible translation and in fact, I am probably just the kind of person that would read the ESV, at least as one of the versions that I read, if not the main one, if only the translators had not allowed their biases to show through in a few instances.

 
At Mon Feb 27, 11:45:00 AM, Blogger Glennsp said...

Hi,
I would appreciate it if you could give me the page number(s) where Wayne Grudem & Vern Poythress make the comment -
"ask women to accept a difference in prominence, order, leadership and representation between men and women, because that is how Jesus wanted it."
Thankyou

 
At Mon Feb 27, 08:18:00 PM, Blogger Suzanne McCarthy said...

“Husbands are imitators of Christ, and wives of the church which is subject to Christ (Eph. 5:22-33). Yes, the Bible gives honor to all members of the body of Christ (note the importance given to all members of the body in 1 Cor. 12), but it also refutes the erroneous aspects of feminism.

Feminism replaces biblical honor with a misguided attempt to wipe out the differences in people with respect to prominence, order, leadership, and representation.

Generic “he” is thus seen to be simply one aspect of the larger spiritual conflict. Feminists want to abolish generic “he” partly because, by its lack of gender symmetry, it symbolizes a difference between men and women.

But the Bible paints a different picture, a picture in which God has ordained men, not women, to serve in certain positions of leadership, first in Adam as representative of the human race, then in Christ, and now in the family and the church. It so happens that generic “he” in English subtly resonates with this truth by suggesting a male case as the starting illustration for a general truth. …

Generic “he” in English accomplishes this symbolization in a manner analogous to what happens in Hebrew and Greek in the Bible. …

Radical feminism not only denounces a practice in English; by implication it also denounces the same practice in the Word of God in the original languages. And in denouncing the Word of God, it thereby denounces God who caused the words to be written.”

The TNIV and the Gender Neutral Bible Controversy page 257 - 258

In Greek there is only a word for “that same one” which is sometimes translated into English by the generic ‘he’. It is listed in the Lexicon for a dozen meanings first, and then “he, she, it”.

But you, dear reader, have caused me to read this page again and see that not only are parts of the Bible not for woman but Thomas A Kempis’ Imitation of Christ is no longer for woman. I open my old worn copy to read,

“Each part of the Scripture is to be read with the same Spirit wherewith it was written. We should rather search after spiritual profit in the Scriptures, than subtilty of speech.”
Book 1 chap. 5

I have read these words of A Kempis before. Perhaps Poythress and Grudem have not. Subtlety is one of their favourite words. They write,

"generic “he” in English subtly resonates".

The scholars of the TNIV are not feminists, they are evangelical scholars of Greek, who regard Scripture for truth and spiritual profit, not 'subtilty' of speech, in this case a subtilty of English speech.

 
At Fri Mar 03, 06:43:00 PM, Blogger Glennsp said...

Page numbers please, if at all possible??
Thank you

 

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