Better Bibles Blog has moved. Read our last post, below, and then
click here if you are not redirected to our new location within 60 seconds.
Please Bookmark our new location and update blogrolls.

Thursday, August 10, 2006

References to Christ as human

Henry Neufeld, on his blog, Threads from Henry's web, has been writing about the incarnation. I had read his first post and meant to mention it tonight. He has posted again on this topic here. Henry puts the incarnation at the centre, "Jesus come in the flesh."

So I want to show three rather straightforward verses about Jesus, come in the flesh, and how they look in the TNIV, NRSV and the ESV. At some later date, I would like to write about Hebrews 2, which is somewhat more complex.

All the words coloured red represent the word anthropos in the Greek. I have removed notes in the original due to technical reasons. Please view these verses at BibleGateway or Studylight for the full context.

1 Corinthians 15:21
    For since death came through a human being, the resurrection of the dead has also come through a human being NRSV

    For since death came through a human being, the resurrection of the dead comes also through a human being. TNIV
    For as by a man came death, by a man has come also the resurrection of the dead. ESV

Philippians 2:7-8

    but emptied himself, taking the form of a slave, being born in human likeness. And being found in human form, he humbled himself and became obedient to the point of death - even death on a cross. NRSV

    rather, he made himself nothing by taking the very nature of a servant, being made in human likeness. And being found in appearance as a human being, he humbled himself by becoming obedient to death— even death on a cross! . TNIV
    but made himself nothing, taking the form of a servant, being born in the likeness of men. And being found in human form, he humbled himself by becoming obedient to the point of death, even death on a cross. ESV

1 Timothy 2:5

    This is right and is acceptable in the sight of God our Savior who desires everyone to be saved and to come to the knowledge of the truth. For there is one God; there is also one mediator between God and humankind, Christ Jesus, himself human NRSV

    This is good, and pleases God our Savior, who wants all people to be saved and to come to a knowledge of the truth. For there is one God and one mediator between God and human beings, Christ Jesus, himself human, TNIV
    This is good, and it is pleasing in the sight of God our Savior, who desires all people to be saved and to come to the knowledge of the truth. For there is one God, and there is one mediator between God and men, the man Christ Jesus ESV
I do want to admit that it is difficult to get these passages just right. Because 'humans' is not stylistically viable in all contexts in English, anthropos is sometimes translated as 'people' and 'everyone'. I think 'people' is better, but there it is. However, I feel that altogether the solutions found by the NRSV and the TNIV are accurate and helpful.

It is of utmost importance to understand that in Phil. 2:7, the Greek does not say that Jesus was born in the likeness of a male. He was, but that is not the significance of the verse. This will influence how one interprets the concept of being in the image of God, imago dei. Another topic for later.

Notes: Dr. Grudem says about these verses, (page 4)
    the masculinity of Christ was downplayed
But, if human is the basic semantic component of anthropos and that is the intended meaning, then translating it as 'man' only works if we are absolutely certain that 'man' is understood in the generic sense, in which case there isn't any semantic masculinity to be downplayed.

Dr. Kostenberger writes in a similar vein, (page 12)

    It has already been noted in the survey of the translation of anthropos above that their commitment to gender-inclusive language frequently led the NIVI translators to neuter the word “man” in Scripture.
Is there some sense that to translate anthropos as human, rather than man, neuters the word? What about anthropology, and philanthropy, and anthropomorphic? I hope Dr. Kostenberger will feel free to respond to this question.


At Thu Aug 10, 05:42:00 AM, Blogger lingamish said...

The Philippians and 1 Tim verses are the ones I frequently employ for discussing this issue. The 1 Cor. verse is also good. Regarding the 1 Tim. verse, it is also helpful to show people that aner is used later in a specific instruction to men.

I have to confess I'm not fond of "human being." It always sounds awkward to me. And when that occurs it always seems that "human" or "person" can be used and sound better.

At Thu Aug 10, 08:21:00 AM, Blogger Suzanne McCarthy said...


I think if we got jused to an OT versions that used human in Genesis, then human would sound natural. I agree that there are stylistic problems.

At Thu Aug 10, 09:48:00 AM, Blogger R. Mansfield said...

To me, in most cases, "human/s" sounds better than "human being/s," "humankind," or even "person/people." But this may be subjective.

At Thu Aug 10, 09:50:00 AM, Blogger lingamish said...

Rick, we agree on something! ;^)

At Thu Aug 10, 10:46:00 AM, Blogger Suzanne McCarthy said...

Here is Genesis 1:26 in three translations,

Then God said, "Let us make humankind in our image, according to our likeness; NRSV

Then God said, "Let us make human beings in our image, in our likeness, TNIV

And God said, Let us make a human in our image, by our likeness, Alter

I seem to be hearing a preference for Alter's translation.


I don't think this is subjective. I think Alter really does take a well thought out literary approach and possible really has come up with the best option.

At Thu Aug 10, 11:06:00 AM, Blogger M. J. Mansini said...

I think Rick was talking about his opinion on what "sounds better", and he meant that said opinion was "subjective". Just wanted to make sure... since Suzanne made mention as well.

Anyway, on Alter's translation he goes with "make A human being", which is clearly singular (in English), while the other translations appear to be plural.

I believe that the word in question here is 'adam, which is singular (which makes Alter's translation possible); but, on the other hand, I would wager that the term has a collective or "whole" sense in this verse.

This raises the question, did God say, "I'm gonna make a human", or did He say, "I'm gonna make all of humankind/more than one human"?

At Thu Aug 10, 11:50:00 AM, Blogger R. Mansfield said...

Yes, I meant that I thought it might be my subjectivity, but maybe there's a consensus on that subjectivity.

As for Gen 1:26, although ‏אָדָ֛ם‎ ('adam) is singular, ‏רָדה‎ (rdh: rule) is in a third person plural form. Therefore, I would think you would have to put a more collective term like humankind or at least humans to match the Hebrew.

At Thu Aug 10, 05:18:00 PM, Blogger Suzanne McCarthy said...

Yes, there is a problem with Gen. 1:26 and I don't have the answer. Which one sounds better in English, and which one reflects the Hebrew better? Not necessarily the same. That is the way it is with translation!

At Fri Aug 11, 08:43:00 AM, Blogger Andreas Kostenberger said...

For the record, I no longer stand behind the substance of the article in the CBMW News from which you quote. See my review of Don Carson's book on Bible translation.

At Fri Aug 11, 09:35:00 AM, Blogger Wayne Leman said...

Andreas clarified:

For the record, I no longer stand behind the substance of the article in the CBMW News from which you quote. See my review of Don Carson's book on Bible translation.

Thank you very much for this update on your position about gender language in Bible translation. I'm glad that you started with the anecdote about how your daughters reacted to "Follow me and I will make you fishers of men." I doubt that your daughters were practicing feminist ideology when they understood "men" in its most common meaning sense today.

The Bible is right: "A little child shall lead them." (Is. 11:6)


I want to mention how much I appreciate the tone of your review. How much I wish that there would be more of that tone in the current debates about gender language in Bible versions. We would be able to advance in more accurate understanding of the meanings of the gender language of the Bible if we would listen well to each other and work together, as much as possible for accurate Bible translation, regardless of our particular ideologies about roles of men and women in the church and home.

At Fri Aug 11, 11:56:00 AM, Blogger Peter Kirk said...

I would like to echo Wayne's positive words about Andreas' review. I wish some of the other authors of CBMW News and similar articles would join Andreas as "cautious converts". However, as implied by the PS to my lastest posting here, I take Carson's position on anthrōpos as gender generic, except in certain special contexts where specifically contrasted for example with gunē, and therefore cannot completely agree with Andreas.

At Tue Nov 07, 07:11:00 PM, Blogger AndyZuu said...

Researching which Bible to use next and stumbled on this site. Great idea.

FYI, if you search google news for humanity you get 12,800 responses. If you do the same for humankind you get 912 response. Also in this blog humanity is used much more often than humankind.


Post a Comment

Links to this post:

Create a Link

Subscribe to Post Comments [Atom]

<< Home