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Monday, October 16, 2006

husband of one wife

Not to steal from the popularity of yesterday's post, here is a more mundane example which I found in Rodney Decker's review of the ESV.

    "the husband of one wife" KJV, ESV with note 'a man of one woman' 1 Tim. 3:2
    "having been the wife of one man" KJV, ESV with note 'woman of one man' 1 Tim. 5:9
The ESV does give notes to indicate a literal translation of the Greek, but if read in the pulpit, the KJV and the ESV will give the impression that those qualified to serve as widows could not have been married more than once in their life, whereas an overseer only had, at the time, to be the husband of one wife.

However, the rest of the 1 Tim. 5 certainly indicates that younger widows ought to remarry. So the KJV and ESV create a moral contradiction for women. A younger widow should remarry therefore disqualifying herself from later recognition as a widow in church service.

The TNIV, however, translates these as,

    faithful to his wife
    faithful to her husband
and supplies a parallel English translation for these two parallel Greek expressions.
    μιᾶς γυναικὸς ἄνδρα
    ἑνὸς ἀνδρὸς γυνή
While notes might be helpful in the TNIV, there is a scholarly consensus that this is the correct translation of the Greek construction.

Here is Peter's conclusion on this text,

    As I have previously concluded, Paul's teaching at this point is not about the gender of church leaders but about their sexual activity. Titus 1:6 did not mean to Paul or Titus that women must not be elders, so it cannot mean the same to us today. What it does mean today is what it meant to Titus, that married male elders must be faithful to their wives - and by extension to genuinely comparable situations, it may also mean that married female elders must be faithful to their husbands, and that single and widowed elders must be celibate. At least, this is the conclusion to which I am led by the scholarly approach to the Bible.

Note: This post has been edited.

11 Comments:

At Tue Oct 17, 09:42:00 AM, Blogger codepoke said...

Here on the "English speaker only" side of the fence, the TNIV translation seems too good to be true. I want it to be true so badly, that I cannot trust my objectivety.

How does a mono-tongued guy like me find a basis for confidence when confronted with a translation like this, that is essentially a change in English meaning?

 
At Tue Oct 17, 10:20:00 AM, Blogger Wayne Leman said...

Codepoke asked:

How does a mono-tongued guy like me find a basis for confidence when confronted with a translation like this

In principle, when evaluating any trranslation, one good method is to compare different Bible versions. Most of the time we find that they say essentially the same thing.

that is essentially a change in English meaning?

If you are referring to this specific translation in the TNIV, there are resources you can use which will allow you to see the options for what the original Greek meant, even though you may not understand Greek.

One option is to read a commentary which takes into account each possible meaning of Bible passages such as this one that Suzanne posted about.

Another is to use a Bible version such as the NET Bible which often gives such information in footnotes.

 
At Tue Oct 17, 03:27:00 PM, Blogger Suzanne McCarthy said...

Codepoke,

The primary application here is about remarriage after one's first partner has died. That would be assumed as permissible today, although it wasn't always. My first point is that a widow may have been widowed twice and this would not disqualify her from being truly a widow.

I think other teaching on remarriage is spread throughout the Bible. Today, most churches allow remarriage after divorce related to adultery, abandonment, and abuse.

I am not sure about the 'too good to be true' part. Is there some other teaching on this? Our church is pretty conservative but they do allow remarriage in the cases mentioned above. The issue for many people is that they don't like to divulge either their own sins or their partners sins. They would rather just tiptoe off quietly to another church. And amen to that!

 
At Tue Oct 17, 03:55:00 PM, Blogger Wayne Leman said...

Suzanne, I have heard some scholars agree with you in this post. They say that the thrust of the Greek is not on whether or not a man has been married, but that if he is married, he is to be a "one-woman" man, that is, faithful in all ways to his wife. And the parallel for married women would be true.

Thanks for this post. I like the TNIV rendering. It strikes me as more accurate and clearer than translation wordings in many other English versions.

 
At Tue Oct 17, 05:04:00 PM, Blogger Suzanne McCarthy said...

I don't think these texts should be used as arbiters on remarriage. However, the KJV and the ESV do give an impression that goes beyond what the Greek says. I notice that the NRSV retains the same meaning as the KJV and the ESV. Interesting.

 
At Wed Oct 18, 04:37:00 PM, Blogger codepoke said...

Sorry to be gone so long, when you are answering my question so quickly. Unavoidable, I'm afraid.

There are two men in my church who divorced as young men, then married other women. Those marriages have lasted 24 years and some smaller number. These are faithful men, both to the Lord and their wives, who are not allowed to be elders on the basis of the majority interpretation of this verse. They lived faithfully their entire lives, but had divorce thrust upon them.

faithful to his wife ... changes everything.

I, too, am divorced. The classic interpretation says that I can be an elder as long as I don't remarry, because then I have only been the husband of one wife. The divorce is not the issue, but the wife-count. If, however, happiness finds me and I remarry, I cannot serve the church as an elder. Rather an unpleasant quandry to be in over what sounds like an unreasonable point of order.

If, however, the requirement is that I be found faithful, the clouds part. Hence, too good to be true.

[The verification word is: lholy]

 
At Wed Oct 18, 04:51:00 PM, Blogger Wayne Leman said...

Codepoke commented:

The classic interpretation says that I can be an elder as long as I don't remarry, because then I have only been the husband of one wife.

Codepoke, I am not inspired and sometimes I'm not very inspiring. So I cannot claim to give you a word from the Lord. However, I have thought on this issue a fair amount over the years. I grew up in a church with the classic interp. of this verse.

But lately I've been leaning toward the faithfulness interp. for this verse. The way that the Greek is structured leans in that direction, from what I have heard.

I am currently reading a book that says that Paul put this requirement in for elders because there was so much historical polygamy among the Jews. Paul didn't want any of that carrying over for Jewish or Gentile Christians.

So, according to that interp., if one is currently married, regardless of whether or not they have been divorced in the past, and if this person is faithful to their spouse they would qualify for eldership as long as they meet the other qualifications. This fits with my understanding of grace and love, also, which I see in the teachings of Jesus. Jesus emphasized the sanctity of marriage. But I think he recognized that there were situations where the marriage bonds were broken. And often there would be one spouse who would be less "at fault" than the other. And even if both are at fault, it seems to me that redemption and forgiveness are part of the good news.

My home church didn't even want a man, who had been divorced long ago and had been married and faithful to his second wife for many years, to teach a Sunday School class. We spent a lot of time debating that one. The man and his wife were vibrant Christians who had much to teach us.

I don't think the point is to try to wiggle out of Scriptural requirements. I think the point is to try to understand, as best as we can, what the original meaning of a passage was and why that passage appears in a part of the Bible addressed to some specific local situation.

 
At Wed Oct 18, 04:54:00 PM, Blogger codepoke said...

Wayne,

In principle, when evaluating any trranslation, one good method is to compare different Bible versions.

Weymouth is probably as close an anyone to supporting the TNIV's interpretation, with:
true to his one wife

One option is to read a commentary which takes into account each possible meaning

Of the commentaries on Crosswalk, 3 offer some support, and the rest are against this interpretation or dance around the subject.

That is really much more support for the TNIV interpretation than I expected, but it is still a clear case where the TNIV is outnumbered. I orginally asked my question assuming that this would be what I would find when I did these basic checks.

My question was what to do when there is a minority position out there that I am afraid to trust, but want to. This post is about "filling in the blanks" between the Greek words. It's about reading the text on the basis of a very full understanding of the language, and finding that the fullest understanding of the language contradicts the majority position.

There are other more important examples out there, but to stick with this one, what do I tell the other elders in my church with regard to these two men? How do I tell them that the TNIV and Weymouth are right, and everyone else is wrong? They want to believe I am right, but cannot yet.

 
At Wed Oct 18, 04:55:00 PM, Blogger codepoke said...

You type faster than I do, Wayne. :-)

 
At Wed Oct 18, 07:08:00 PM, Blogger Suzanne McCarthy said...

Codepoke,

My question was what to do when there is a minority position out there that I am afraid to trust, but want to.

This is the same position women are in. :-)

 
At Thu Oct 19, 09:26:00 AM, Blogger codepoke said...

Amen, Suzanne.

 

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