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Wednesday, March 01, 2006

Mercy and Truth

    Mercy and truth are met together;
    righteousness and peace have kissed each other.
    Psalm 85:10 KJV

First, truth. I recently commented on another blog about the authors of The TNIV and the Gender Neutral Bible Controversy. The comment was an excerpt from a previous post of mine. The post was deleted. Justin Taylor emailed me that I was not being charitable. I knew that he was writing articles for CBMW against the TNIV so I responded asking him who I could write to to request a retraction of the Statment of Concern. He did not answer. I commented on his blog. He deleted it. I have recently read on another blog that I 'requested the ESV to retract the Statement'. I ws not aware that it appeared that way. I understood that I should ask someone at CBMW to do this and I thought of Justin Taylor in that connection and his position here. The fact that he is also an employee of Crossway seemed odd. I can't explain all of this. Let it rest there. It is as much of the truth as I know.

Second, Mercy. I read Taylor's article in the fall Journal of Biblical Manhood and Womanhood and it was a great blessing to me. He compared the NIV and the TNIV on 1 Corinthians 15:21.

    NIV: For since death came through a man, the resurrection
    of the dead comes also through a man.

    TNIV: For since death came through a human being, the resurrection of the dead comes also through a human being.

Taylor comments,

    "When there are systemic changes made to a translation of God’s word, and those changes obscure or distort God’s intended meaning for his people, that is a matter worthy of our concern."

My reaction to the way the TNIV has translated this verse was that for the first time it appears in English as it was intended in Greek. I was profoundly touched by this translation. It is indeed 'transparent to the Greek.' Gender language around brothers and sisters, and men and women have never really been a big deal for me. But this verse highlighting the humanity of Christ has central doctrinal significance.

In fact, on the basis of this one verse, I have decided to buy a copy of the TNIV. It really does reflect the best rendering of the Greek. Thank you, Justin, for bringing this verse to my attention. God bless.


At Wed Mar 01, 08:28:00 PM, Blogger Ted Gossard said...

Yes. Some time back I found argument formulated against the TNIV to actually make me more favorable of the TNIV. Maybe it was the holes I perceived in the argument. Though I must admit, as we all are, I am biased towards that kind of translation, as opposed to a translation that insists in what I see as archaic and misleading translations, in the name of being more literal.

At Thu Mar 02, 02:23:00 AM, Blogger Peter Kirk said...

Interesting that one of Taylor's favourite authors is D.A. Carson. This isn't by any chance the same D.A. Carson who wrote The Inclusive-Language Debate: A Plea for Realism? From a review on that page: "Carson's goal is to bring understanding and reconciliation to Bible-believing Christians who are divided over this issue of Scriptural semantics." Would that Taylor and others on his side of the debate, as well as those on the other side, would heed this plea by one of Taylor's favourite authors and stop the back-stabbing.

At Thu Mar 02, 07:18:00 AM, Blogger Suzanne McCarthy said...

And John Newton is another of his favourite authors. Grace Irwin wrote Newton's biography, received a doctorate in sacred letters from my alma mater and on retirement from teaching was persuaded to become a minister.

At Fri Mar 03, 04:46:00 PM, Blogger JT said...

Just to clear the air on a few matters:

Peter: Carson is indeed one of my favorite authors. I assume you don't think that Carson's plea precludes criticism of other translations and translation theory. (Given the nature of this blog in recent days, I think that assumption is pretty safe!!) I'm not sure if you've had a chance to read my article, but I did try to set my disagreement within a context of charity and appreciation. You wouldn't know that, of course, from Suzanne's juxaposition of those two quotes ripped from their context.

If I recall correctly, I made no specific arguments in that piece regarding whether the translation was correct. Rather, the issue was whether they were internally consistent with their stated translation philosophy. Even if you think I'm wrong, I think it's an issue worth discussing.

Suzanne: the reason I deleted your comment on my blog is not because I disliked your request. It is because it contained conjecture and false statements regarding Grudem and Poythress' theological pilgrimages and familiarity with lexicons. In retrospect I probably should have allowed your false statements to either be refuted or ignored. I simply disagree with your lack of charity and your frequent misreading of others. I know you feel the same way about those who disagree with you, and I had to make the judgment call that personal correspondence would be fruitful for both of us.

Regarding my employement and connections. I wrote that article before being employed by Crossway, and would not have written it as an employee.

If you want to demand a retraction of the Statement of Concern, you should probably right to CBMW.

In your strange methodology I know you want me to bristle at the idea that my article caused you to buy a TNIV. And while I am flattered with all this attention you've been giving me on your blog, I remain unimpressed with these gotcha games. It's just not worthy of a serious discussion. I think the guidelines are well stated, if not always well implemented: "Blog posts and comments should focus on Bible translation issues."

Thanks for hearing me out on this. And God bless you as you labor for better Bibles.


At Fri Mar 03, 04:48:00 PM, Blogger JT said...

And just before Suzanne pounces on my typo of "right" instead of "write"--I apologize!


At Fri Mar 03, 06:34:00 PM, Blogger Glennsp said...

Amen Justin. A voice of reason at last.
I have also struggled with the 'accusations' against Wayne Grudem and Vern Poythress as they are indeed unfounded.

At Fri Mar 03, 11:21:00 PM, Blogger Suzanne McCarthy said...


I make typos like that all the time. And I loved your post today on printers and donuts!

Is it charitable, Justin, for an English translation of the Bible to disenfranchise women of the right to do what they have been doing for ever - to teach, as 2 Tim. 2:2 in the ESV does? Dr. Packer confirmed for me that it was not intended to be generic. But I see that the restriction to men was not in the Greek text.

I was taught and influenced by many faithful Christian women who studied and taught Greek as a language and literature, along with the lexicons and NT, their entire life. They were not modern feminists.

I left an excerpt of this post on your website. Let me know what false statements it contains.

I apologize for not understanding that you had not written against the TNIV as an employee of Crossway. I was quite unaware of these timelines.

With reference to your article, which I did read in its entirety, the TNIV is not inconsistent in its translation of anthropos, it simply makes sense. The translation of anthropos is governed by patterns which the TNIV respects.

Thank you for coming by to clear up some aspects of this disagreement.I do appreciate it and I quite understand that you are not 'bristling', but that we both have spent the day dealing with things like printers and other technological problems. And donuts - yesterday was donut day for us because the firemen came to visit and we always buy them donuts.

At Sat Mar 04, 06:43:00 AM, Blogger Glennsp said...

The ESV does not 'disenfranchise' anyone. It is an emotive word and in this instance is bound up with a lot of assumptions on your part, which actually do not 'pass muster' as the expression goes.
The restriction of leadership to men is indeed in the greek.
My wife does not feel 'disenfranchised' by that restriction and nor do the hundreds of other women in the fellowship I attend, nor do the many thousands of women who are part of New Frontiers churches across the world.
There are women in my fellowship who are scientists, senior managment, specialist teachers (like my wife), all very intelligent and active in many roles within the fellowship.
Without exception they view the bible to restrict leadership of the Church and the family to men.
So could you please stop talking as though it is a given that the ESV 'disenfranchises' women, it is only your opinion, not a fact.

At Sat Mar 04, 08:27:00 AM, Blogger Suzanne McCarthy said...


It is the way that anthropos has been translated in 2 TIm 2:2 that bothers me. A female scientist might not recognize this.

I am deeply hurt as one of a group of women who have devoted years of their lives to studying the Greek language for the sake of the Greek NT to find that men who have been devoted to an English Bible have chosen to translate 2 Tim 2:2 as 'men' and not 'people.'

I too, and these other women I know, have the opportunity to exercise our leadership gifts outside the church. But here is an issue within the church on which we are qualified to comment. 2 TIm 2:2 should be translated as 'people'.

But I have just read a journal with articles written by some of the translators of the ESV that says, (in charitable language to be sure), that another Bible version, one that I see to be accurate overall in its translation of anthropos, 'distorts and obscures' the truth.

I am here to defend the TNIV translators, who were for the most part men. You must realize that I am responding to the initiative of the CBMW. I am not initiating this discussion myself.

I am trying to deal with a specific and technical translation issue, 2 Tim 2:2, not the broader question of women in the church.

At Sat Mar 04, 10:38:00 AM, Blogger Peter Kirk said...

Glenn, you wrote "The restriction of leadership to men is indeed in the greek." But that is not the point. 2 Timothy 2:2 is not about leadership, but about teaching. Suzanne was talking about the right of women to teach, not to lead. These are in fact separate issues. Your church does not allow women to be in positions of leadership. But surely it allows women to teach e.g. in children's Sunday school classes. Are these women not expected to be "qualified to teach others"? Are they disqualified from being entrusted with the gospel message to teach to their classes?

I hope you read my recent posting on 2 Timothy 2:2. Please reread it and then tell me where in this letter you find that teaching others is restricted to men. Yes, you might understand 1 Timothy 2:12 as restricting teaching others to men, but if so your church is being inconsistent.

So, while I understand why you don't like "disenfranchise", this modified version of Suzanne's statement seems to be fact, not opinion: the ESV version of 2 Timothy 2:2 (the intended sense of which has been confirmed by the General Editor of the version) suggests that women do not have "the right to do what they have been doing for ever - to teach".

Also, I was surprised to read that "My wife does not feel 'disenfranchised' by that restriction and nor do the hundreds of other women in the fellowship I attend, nor do the many thousands of women who are part of New Frontiers churches across the world... Without exception they view the bible to restrict leadership of the Church and the family to men." Now of course I can't speak for your wife. But I was a member of a church closely associated with New Frontiers for a few years, and I can assure you that there were a probably large number of women as well as men in that church who did not fully accept this teaching, although in general they kept quiet about it. I attended that fellowship largely because it was the least bad choice in the town that I was then living in. In general it is very dangerous to assume that everyone in a fellowship has swallowed the teaching of its leadership hook line and sinker.

At Sat Mar 04, 10:52:00 AM, Blogger Peter Kirk said...

Justin, I must admit that I cannot remember if I have read your full blog posting or only the extracts which Suzanne posted. There has simply been so much happening on this blog, as well as elsewhere in my life, in the last week or so. If you think that I and others should read it more completely, please post its URL in a comment here. Without being able to find the article, I will have to take it on trust that you "did try to set [your] disagreement within a context of charity and appreciation... the issue was whether they were internally consistent with their stated translation philosophy." So all I can say in response is that those associated with the ESV team should set their own house in order in terms of being "internally consistent with their stated translation philosophy" before criticising others on this. Suzanne has clearly demonstrated how inconsistent ESV has been in its translation of ἄνθρωπος anthrōpos. Although I don't myself demand total consistency in translation, as I point out in my own posting on 2 Timothy 2:2, such inconsistent rendering is grossly inconsistent with ESV's stated translation philosophy that "it seeks to be transparent to the original text, letting the reader see as directly as possible the structure and meaning of the original".

At Sat Mar 04, 11:26:00 AM, Blogger Wayne Leman said...

Justin, I must admit that I cannot remember if I have read your full blog posting or only the extracts which Suzanne posted. There has simply been so much happening on this blog, as well as elsewhere in my life, in the last week or so. If you think that I and others should read it more completely, please post its URL in a comment here.

Peter, I think this is the post:

Grudem Responds to Witherington

At Sat Mar 04, 12:14:00 PM, Blogger Suzanne McCarthy said...

It is important to realize that Poythress and Grudem teach that women are differently gifted, they cannot teach theological subjects in a seminary to men, and can only lead an adult Bible study with mixed men and women if they speak in a spirit of submission to the elders.

Most women are smart enough to know to be scientists or business women as some women in my family are. But others are incidentally trained in classical Greek. It is hard to stand by and watch as things are said that are not entirely accurate.

The worst thing that I have done is quote from Poythress and Grudem's own book their very own words about how lexicon entries were new evidence for them after they had written the Colorado Springs Guidelines. That is what has made me seem uncharitable.

At Sat Mar 04, 01:23:00 PM, Blogger JT said...


Suzanne included the link in her post, but here it is again:

I'm not requesting that you read it. I recognize that life is busy. I just think it might have been helpful for you to have read it before publicly accusing me of being a "back-stabber."


You keep saying that you're being villified for simply making a request or for quoting their own words. But you did more than that. You also went on to say:

"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... [T]oday 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."

I'll leave it to others to decide if those statements meet minimal standards of charity and fairness.


At Sat Mar 04, 03:13:00 PM, Blogger Peter Kirk said...

Justin, thank you for the link. This is obviously the article Suzanne was referring to; the letter from Wayne Grudem which Wayne Leman refers to is a different issue. I had read the Grudem letter before. I had not read the full article. I have now skimmed it.

Well, I was positively impressed at how you start your article:

Before examining a few translation choices of Today’s New International Version (TNIV) and the methodology behind it, I think it would be wise to express gratitude to God for the Committee on Bible Translation (CBT) for the TNIV. They labored over God’s word for ten years in order to produce this translation for the church. The brothers and sisters on the translation committee are some of the finest biblical scholars in the world, and they made an enormous investment of time, talent, and energy over the course of the past decade. We can be, and should be, grateful for their labors.

If only all the contributions to this debate opened with such a positive tone! So I can confirm that you "did try to set [your] disagreement within a context of charity and appreciation", and were in fact successful in doing so. Because of this I will withdraw with my apologies any suggestion that you, Justin, are personally a back-stabber. I wish I could be so charitable about all of your fellow contributors to that journal issue. But I just need to look at the next three words after your article, the title of the next article "Changing God's Word" by Wayne Grudem, to see Christians aiming their thrusts at fellow Christians, often those on the front line of real engagement with the contemporary world (so the image of back-stabbing is appropriate), rather than at the real enemies of the world, the flesh and the devil. On the other hand the section of Grudem's article "Objections by TNIV defenders", on p.26, is interesting in giving his answers to several of the searching questions which have been levelled at him.

As for the content of your article, I will consider only 1 Corinthians 15:21. I would submit here that the issue is in this verse is not “gender neutrality” or gender accuracy, but that accurate translation of the Greek word ἄνθρωπος anthrōpos. You rightly criticise the line of argument "(1) Anthropos can mean either “man” or “person.” (2) The TNIV decided to translate anthropos in this verse as “person.” (3) Therefore, this translation choice cannot be called a “change in meaning.”" And maybe this is the reasoning in the TNIV justification of its translation of this verse; on the other hand, the words "The Greek anthropos can mean either “man” or “person”" are clearly intended to represent their critics' position rather than their own one, although they do later accept it for the sake of argument (which was perhaps a weakness in their justification). However, the truth is that this is a false statement: ἄνθρωπος anthrōpos cannot mean “man” in the gender specific sense understood by the TNIV target audience. It can of course refer to a man, Jesus or any other man. As such it would not be illegitimate to translate “man” in certain contexts. But the reason for the TNIV rendering “human being” is surely not “gender neutrality” or gender accuracy but that this is the one real meaning of ἄνθρωπος anthrōpos.

At Sat Mar 04, 04:40:00 PM, Blogger Suzanne McCarthy said...


I would like to add that Piper and Grudem teach that women in roles of secular leadership need to deliberately nurture men under them into leadership, but not the women under them. There is a suggestion that women leading men in any capacity at all is against nature. This is found in Recovering Biblical Manhood and Womanhood. Would you support this kind of dual standard, that women not be able to compete for promotion with men in business? I hope you understand that I am not referring to an affirmative action plan, but simply that a woman, if she is skilled, be allowed to become a college president, or a leader in business or government. The authors I refer to specifically teach that this is not appropriate.


I admit that what I said was not charitable. However, I have felt that Grudem and Poythress' statements that God gives different gifts to men than to women are not charitable. The entire premise that women must not look to teaching for fulfillment is uncharitable to the women who were brought up in that tradition. That is, it is uncharitable to say that women may teach only that which has been defined by men as being within the female domain. For me, Greek is within the female domain. So I have been deeply hurt. In spite of the words that give an appearance of 'charity', I have been personally deeply hurt by Poythress and Grudem's book. I believe that other women have felt this even more so, to the extent that they may not wish to engage in this dialogue.

Having read Grudem's own statement on your blog, I believe that it corroborates what I said, that these men were devoted to a particular version of the English Bible before they learned Greek. Whereas myself and the other women I refer to, became familiar with Greek as a language and literature, both Classical and Hellenistic, for some along with Latin, or Hebrew, Aramaic and Syriac, French, German etc. starting in their teens and have never been committed to a particular English Bible version.

You must have read that I was given a Liddell-Scott Lexicon, 1869, at the age of 14, by my great aunt who was a lecturer of Greek in the early 1900's. I have bought many of the other lexicons since and been devoted to them. At university my girlfriend and I spent hours every day in the library with the best lexicons. The more the better. SInce I was also trained in French-English translation at university, I can't imagine anyone wanting to write translation guidelines without using a lexicon. And yet that is what Grudem and Poythress admit that they did.

These men later looked up other words in the lexicon, after the fact, but throughout their book they omit parts of, or misunderstand, lexicon entries in the most peculiar ways. It is obvious to someone who knows Greek that they have not read other literature in Greek. I am not revealing anything except what they have themselves have published.

Do you want me to quote other places where they misunderstand the lexicons? It has crossed my mind that these men are not aware of their errors but I think Don Carson did his best to make them more aware.

I have to admit that in my emotional turmoil, and I may have said something that is not strictly true. However, no one has yet pointed out what that would be. No one has showed me a sentence that I have written and said, "This is not true."

At Mon Mar 06, 04:03:00 AM, Blogger Peter Kirk said...

Suzanne, I have to back up your claim that Grudem and Poythress are uncharitable, to put it mildly. This is true even in the deepest sense. God is "charitable" to us humans, men and women, in that he gives us his charis "grace" and his charismata "gifts". That these gifts are for men and women is made explicit in Acts 2:17,18. Grudem, Poythress and others are uncharitable in that they attempt to forbid women from exercising the charismata which God has given to them.

God says "Your sons and your daughters will prophesy", with daughters as well as sons mentioned explicitly, Acts 2:17 quoting Joel 2:28. In the early church women did prophesy, Acts 21:9, 1 Corinthians 11:5. However we understand prophecy today, whether as inspired preaching or as a separate spiritual gift, what right do we have to forbid women from using the gifts which the Holy Spirit has given them?


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