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Friday, August 25, 2006

New Berkeley Version: the human being

If I appeared a little frustrated in the last three posts, it was simply this. I wanted to start right away to mention what I have found on the history of using 'human' instead of 'man' in a Bible translation. I always feel a little tired when given to Sisyphean tasks such as the former 3 posts.

The Berkeley Bible, translated by Gerrit Verkuyl, started in 1936 with the NT published in 1945, wins the prize so far on 'human being'. The significance of this is that it was actually completed before Simone de Beauvoir posited that most treacherous notion, that woman should be considered a fellow human being! Her treatise was published in French in 1949.

This is from Philippians 2: 7-8

    he came like human beings, so recognized in looks as a human being... Berkeley Bible
    Maybe someone can supply more information on the Berkeley Bible and help us assess this translation in terms of its 'feminist' agenda.

    However, the New English Bible, 1961, leaves us in no doubt about its credentials! Here is 1 Cor. 14:35,

      It is a shocking thing that a woman should address the congregation. NEB
    Lively and colourful it is; feminist it is not. Here is Phil 2:7-8,

      Bearing the human likeness, revealed in human shape. NEB
      I have not, so far, found a trace of a fuss over the expression 'human shape'. I have not found a statement declaring that there is no such thing, only a male shape or a female shape. I suspect that the translators of the NEB, who were accused of many things, were not accused of feminism.

      It is interesting to note also that the NEB is responsible for the expression 'himself ----' as in 'himself human'. Here is 1 Tim. 2:5,

        For there is one God, and one mediator between God and men, Christ Jesus, himself man. NEB
      This expression 'himself ----' was remarked on by both Dr. Köstenberger and Adrian as unusual, not accurate and not proper English, supposedly a phrase invented for the purpose of introducing 'human' instead of 'man, thus helping to 'neuter' the text.

      Oddly, no such thing, this is simply not true. For some people, there is a bogeyman hiding under every bed. Unfortunately, with the NEB and the Berkeley Version, it is not possible to do as I did with the ESV, go and ask the editor. Not believing in bogeymen, I try to interact with real people.

      This discussion has spread a little in the blogosphere, in one case, we get this contribution,


      And elsewhere, Henry Neufeld is kindly taking some of my ideas and rendering them in more articulate English. Henry also asks,

        Now whether it was feminists who got it started or not, I think using “human” is a much better idea, and makes the second sentence clearer.
      So, Henry, I hope this post helps to answer your question. It doesn't look like feminists to me.

      Update: Our anonymous commenter points out with reference to 'himself man',

        Alas, no, it appears to be due to the 1881 Revised Version -- which was, in fact, not particularly noted for the strength of its English Grammar. It is also found in the American revision of the RV, the ASV.
      Some kind of latent slur against its grammaticality. Hmm. But tangential to feminism, nonetheless.


      At Fri Aug 25, 08:25:00 PM, Blogger anonymous said...

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      At Fri Aug 25, 08:50:00 PM, Blogger Suzanne McCarthy said...

      Even better.

      At Fri Aug 25, 11:25:00 PM, Blogger R. Mansfield said...

      I love Verkuyl's translation and it will be an upcoming entry in my top ten Bible versions series (which I really need to get back to!). He was ahead of his time in many ways and Suzanne, you've pointed out one of those ways that I had never discovered until today. Thanks!

      At Fri Aug 25, 11:35:00 PM, Blogger Suzanne McCarthy said...


      There's a wonderful article by Verkuyl here.

      At Sat Aug 26, 04:07:00 AM, Blogger Peter Kirk said...

      It may not be impossible yet to ask the NEB editorial team. At least one of the team, Prof CFD Moule, is still alive I think, although well into his 90's. I knew him slightly, when I was an undergraduate and he was a professor, but he would never let anyone, even a mere student, go through a door behind him. Moule has personally written about Philippians 2:5-11 (C. F. D. Moule, “Further Reflections on Philippians 2:5-11” in W. Gasque and R. Martin, eds., Apostolic History and the Gospel (1970)) and so is doubtless well able to answer questions about the NEB rendering of this passage. I can probably even find a mailing address for him.

      I read that Moule has also contributed to the NET Bible, which is interesting.

      At Sat Aug 26, 04:17:00 AM, Blogger Peter Kirk said...

      On 1 Timothy 2:5, I agree that RV's "himself man, Christ Jesus" (italics in the original) and NEB's "Christ Jesus, himself man" are grammatically imperfect. In good English this construction with "himself" needs to be followed by an adjective, or at least an indefinite noun. Thus "himself a man" would be a grammatical improvement, but TNIV's "himself human" is better still, because "human" is primarily an adjective although sometimes used as a noun. The situation is the same as with "Jesus was man", "Jesus was a man" or "Jesus was human"; the first is barely grammatical, but the others are OK. In fact "himself man" implies to me some kind of cosmic claim that Jesus is "man" in the collective sense, although I am sure that the RV and NEB translators did not intend to imply this.

      At Sat Aug 26, 07:57:00 AM, Blogger lingamish said...

      You go, girl! I'm glad you're back from whatever self-imposed blogging exile you were in.

      There is no feminist agenda here. Linguistically, this is simply a matter of diachronic language change. But teleologically, this is a divine agenda. Philippians 2 is about Jesus' divine AND human nature. His status as a male was not in focus anywhere in this passage. I'll come out of the closet here and say that I'm not an egalitarian but there is no way that Phil. 2 can be used as some proof text for the essential masculine nature of God, or should it be used by complimentarians as a proof that feminists are hijacking certain Bible translations through the use of the term "human."

      At Sat Aug 26, 11:00:00 AM, Blogger Ian Myles Slater said...

      As additional evidence, from the English side.

      Dorothy L. Sayers wrote two essays, "Are Women Human?" (dated 1938) and "The Human-Not-Quite-Human," both of which appeared in a 1947 collection, "Unpopular Opinions." They were issued together, under the title of the first, in a very slim paperback from Eerdmans in 1971, with an introduction by Mary McDermott Shideler); the most recent reissue was in 2005.

      Feminist, yes; but not all that recent, and hardly anti-Christian.

      At Sat Aug 26, 12:11:00 PM, Blogger Suzanne McCarthy said...

      Thanks Ian,

      And I might add that there is a fabulous DVD version of Gaudy Night here. Lots of insight into feminism and antifeminism of that era in a more narrative form.

      At Sat Aug 26, 12:44:00 PM, Blogger Peter Kirk said...

      Indeed it seems odd to suggest that feminism or the idea that women are human dates only from 1949. Both ideas certainly go back at least to the Suffragette movement of the late 19th century. According to Time, Emmeline Pankhurst used the phrase "the mother half of the human family." Other pages quote her as saying "We have to free half of the human race, the women, so that they can help to free the other half," also "Trust in God - she will provide"! She died in 1928, and probably these quotations come from long before that.

      At Sat Aug 26, 01:56:00 PM, Blogger Suzanne McCarthy said...


      You're right - it does sound odd. I imagine women have been clmouring for thousands of years to be declared fully human, and some are still waiting!

      Let me explain how I came to reference de Beauvoir, 1949. I was doing some homework on Mary Kassian, the major female compelementarian intellect, and my compatriot, in fact, and that is where she happened to start her timeline, according to this.

      I have read de Beauvoir but not Kassian. Somehow I am not sure if I will ever get around to that.

      So I was actually infering from reviews of her book that many complementarians may date the beginning of woman demanding to be treated as fully human from 1949 on, simply due to the fact that Kassian has been extensively reviewed and her writings treated as authoritative, that feminism leads to witchcraft, and we women should all thank God for blessed restrictions, etc. etc.

      In analysis, Mary Kassian shows how even the most simple of Feminist assumptions, that there should be no restrictions as to what women should do, inevitably leads down a path to a dark place completely contrary to the Christian worldview. Amazon review.

      She really is the major voice for complementarian women according to this.

      I think the point is that there are restrictions on what both sexes may do. But there should not be special restrictions on what women may do. She is moving into an influential post this year, where it looks like she will be teaching women exlusively. That seminary must have segregated courses at the leadership level.

      I guess her husband will have to give up being chaplain for the Edmonton Eskimos for the next little bit.

      At Sat Aug 26, 03:25:00 PM, Blogger Peter Kirk said...

      Presumably among the things Kassian would not want to do is to teach men, so I will forgo the interesting exercise of reading her book, just in case by doing so I might in passing learn something from her and so offend her.

      But what's that about "chaplain for the Edmonton Eskimos"? Whether Inuit or hockey players, why shouldn't Rev Kassian continue to be their chaplain? I think this is a case where for us non-Canadians some contextual information needs to be made explicit.

      At Sat Aug 26, 06:13:00 PM, Blogger anonymous said...

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      At Sat Aug 26, 06:27:00 PM, Blogger anonymous said...

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      At Sat Aug 26, 07:41:00 PM, Blogger Wayne Leman said...

      After all, Scripture does teach: He-brews.

      Most excellent, O Theophilus, a punster after mine own heart!

      Is it true that in complementarian families, the man always makes the coffee?

      Surely this is true, since, if for no other reason, it is claimed by some that "man" could refer to the adult male or it could be a gender-inclusive term.


      Oh, on the name Theolphilus, you do know how he got that name, don't you?

      At Sat Aug 26, 09:07:00 PM, Blogger anonymous said...

      This comment has been removed by a blog administrator.

      At Sat Aug 26, 10:12:00 PM, Blogger Wayne Leman said...

      I asked:

      Oh, on the name Theophilus, you do know how he got that name, don't you?

      Ishmael answered:

      Of course, his parents named him after their favorite movie: Amadeus.

      Well, I think that's the Austrian version of the story. But the English version goes like this:

      When his mother first viewed him after he was born, she exclaimed:

      "Oh, it's the awfulest baby I've ever seen."

      So, now you know the rest of the story!



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