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Monday, April 24, 2006

adoption of sons: part 2

I have been puzzling over this one for a few days. I do understand that this passage is a major concern to some pastors. I have been asked specifically about this verse a few times. So here are a few thoughts.

Here are Galatians 3:26 and 4:5 - 7 in a few major translations. There are three traditions. First, the KJV and the preceding translations, which use 'children' first and then switch to 'sons'. The TNIV falls within this tradition. Then there is the tradition of the RSV, ESV and NIV which uses 'sons' in both 3:26 and 4:5 - 7. Finally, there is the tradition of the New Living, Good News and Contemporary English version which use 'children' throughout.
    3:26 For ye are all the children of God by faith in Christ Jesus. 4:5b that we might receive the adoption of sons. 6And because ye are sons, God hath sent forth the Spirit of his Son into your hearts, crying, Abba, Father. 7 Wherefore thou art no more a servant, but a son; and if a son, then an heir of God through Christ. KJV

    3:26 So in Christ Jesus you are all children of God through faith 4:5b that we might receive adoption to sonship. 6 Because you are his sons, God sent the Spirit of his Son into our hearts, the Spirit who calls out, "Abba, Father." 7 So you are no longer slaves, but God's children; and since you are his children, he has made you also heirs . TNIV

    3:26You are all sons of God through faith in Christ Jesus,
    4:5b that we might receive the full rights of sons. 6 Because you are sons, God sent the Spirit of his Son into our hearts, the Spirit who calls out, "Abba, Father." 7 So you are no longer a slave, but a son; and since you are a son, God has made you also an heir. NIV

    3:26for in Christ Jesus you are all sons of God, through faith
    4:5b so that we might receive adoption as sons. 6 And because you are sons, God has sent the Spirit of his Son into our hearts, crying, "Abba! Father!" 7 So you are no longer a slave, but a son, and if a son, then an heir through God. ESV

    3:26 So you are all children of God through faith in Christ Jesus. 4:5b so that he could adopt us as his very own children and because you Gentiles have become his children, God has sent the Spirit of his Son into your hearts, and now you can call God your dear Father Now you are no longer a slave but God's own child. And since you are his child, everything he has belongs to you. NLT (has footnotes)
Although υιοθεσια is a distinctive word this is not the only time it is used in the NT. Here are the other passages in the KJV.

    5 Having predestinated us unto the adoption of children by Jesus Christ to himself, according to the good pleasure of his will. Ephesians 1:5 KJV

    For ye have not received the spirit of bondage again to fear; but ye have received the Spirit of adoption, whereby we cry, Abba, Father. Romans 8:15 KJV

    And not only they, but ourselves also, which have the firstfruits of the Spirit, even we ourselves groan within ourselves, waiting for the adoption, to wit, the redemption of our body. Romans 8:23 KJV

    Who are Israelites; to whom pertaineth the adoption, and the glory, and the covenants, and the giving of the law, and the service of God, and the promises Romans 9:4 KJV
In each of these places the ESV uses 'adoption of sons' except for Romans 9:4 where they have retained the simple 'adoption' of the KJV. It is probably worth mentioning that in the BAGD the first entry is simply 'adoption'.

I have to assume that in this case it is the CEV, GNB and NLT, which will take the flack for not being exact. However, my next thought on this is that a simple 'adoption' is indeed the correct translation and that, in fact, 'as sons ' is entirely redundant. Here are the Luther Bible and the Louis Segond.
    Denn ihr seid alle Gottes Kinder durch den Glauben an Christum Jesum.
    daß wir die Kindschaft empfingen.
    6Weil ihr denn Kinder seid, hat Gott gesandt den Geist seines Sohnes in eure Herzen, der schreit: Abba, lieber Vater!
    7Also ist nun hier kein Knecht mehr, sondern eitel Kinder; sind's aber Kinder, so sind's auch Erben Gottes durch Christum Luther
In the Luther Bible, there is no 'son' in sight. Kind is 'child'. I am beginning to wonder whether there has been a recent statement of concern against the Luther Bible.

    3:26 Car vous êtes tous fils de Dieu par la foi en Jésus Christ;
    4:5b afin que nous reçussions l'adoption. 6Et parce que vous êtes fils, Dieu a envoyé dans nos coeurs l'Esprit de son Fils, lequel crie: Abba! Père! 7Ainsi tu n'es plus esclave, mais fils; et si tu es fils, tu es aussi héritier par la grâce de Dieu. Louis Segond
In the French Bible, it is simply 'adoption'. I do note that 'fils' is used instead of 'enfants'.

Concerning the necessity to make 'as sons' explicit, I would say that the implications of the Greek law will not enter into your understanding about this verse unless you look up the word in the first case. In which case you will know the word and you can discuss what this term means in Greek law.

If there is any spiritual truth concerning gender here, surely it is this, that women too are adopted by God with all the rights of sons. I think that a pastor could get this idea across best by treating women as if they had the same rights as the men. Women would not need to be reassured that they have equal rights with men, unless they have first been made to understand that they do not.

However, reading gender into this passage at all is a detraction from the main point. The contrast is with slavery. We will be children and not slaves. We will have the full rights of children and heirs. Since we do not live in a time in which daughters have different rights from sons, we do not need to worry about which word is used here.

Having said that I would not find 'adoption of sons' out of place, but I think that in terms of translating the Bible into languages which have not had a Bible before, the Luther Bible is a much better model in many ways than any English translation tradition. It appears that because English does not have grammatical gender for the most part, we tend to interpret gender in language as 'truth'; instead of understanding, as Luther seemed to, that the grammatical features of language itself are not more important than the truth being talked about.


At Tue Apr 25, 09:39:00 PM, Blogger Sungkhum said...

Excellent comments - thanks for putting them up for us to read. This is a very interesting subject...


At Wed Apr 26, 11:33:00 AM, Blogger Peter Kirk said...

Perhaps the most amazing point here is that even though in Roman law (if I understand this correctly) only males could have the full benefits of adoption, power of attorney etc, in Christ this restriction does not exist. There is no such culturally determined gender limitation. Rather, this adoption is equally available to women and men and all have the same rights and responsibilities in God's family. We must of course make sure that in any translation this point is clear and unambiguous.


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