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Wednesday, December 13, 2006

Dr Wayne Grudem's latest errors

I regret having to make this point in its own blog post, with the potential for quite a lot of publicity through searches etc. It is never pleasant having to point the errors of my brothers in Christ. I tried to do this in a less prominent place through a comment on the post in which the error was found, but my comment there was deleted, on the basis that it was off topic although it was in direct response to a point in the post I was commenting on. But I do consider it important to correct clear errors of fact which I find in blog posts or elsewhere, especially when these are written by well-known teachers, whose words some people, sadly, are likely to take as close to gospel truth. I have written more about this on my own blog.

I am grateful to Adrian Warnock for the excellent material in his blog, including most recently his fascinating interview series with Dr Wayne Grudem. Dr Grudem is an important scholar who has written significant books on theology and on the issue of women's roles in the church; although I disagree with much of the material in these books, I cannot deny their importance. He has also worked hard on the ESV Bible translation, and, despite my well-known criticisms of this version, I respect him as my fellow Bible translator.

But it is in this interview series that I have found two errors which Dr Grudem has made.

The first of these is in fact not originally Grudem's error but that of Wallace and Burer, whose misunderstanding of the Greek grammar of Psalms of Solomon 2:6 has already been discussed in some detail on this blog. Grudem's error here is that he continues to accept what Wallace and Burer wrote, and indeed wrote on Adrian's blog in defence of his position, even when there is clear evidence that at least this one statement of Wallace and Burer's is factually incorrect:
This construction comes as close to Rom. 16:7 as any we have yet seen. The parallels include (a) people as the referent of the adjective ἐπίσημος, (b) followed by ἐν plus the dative plural, (c) the dative plural referring to people as well. All the key elements are here.
The error here, as explained in more detail in the comment thread on Adrian's blog, is that, as a matter of elementary Greek grammar, ἐπίσημος episēmos, whether a noun or an adjective (another matter of dispute) cannot refer to people as Wallace and Burer claim. It is amazing that a top level Greek expert like Wallace has not spotted such an elementary mistake. But this error in their analysis of what they claim as the best example supporting their thesis - in fact the only unambiguous example except for one from Euripides five centuries before Paul - invalidates their whole argument. Dr Grudem should accept this and abandon this line of argument, perhaps in favour of another argument which he accepts as possible, that "apostle" is used in a wider sense in Romans 16:7.

Grudem's second error is in part five of Adrian's interview series, and is apparently his own personal error rather than his uncritical acceptance of someone else's. It is this error which both Suzanne and I independently noticed and commented on (I drafted my comment before reading hers, although I saw hers before I published mine). And Adrian deleted both of our comments on this point, apparently because he considers it disrespectful to Dr Grudem to correct his factual error.

Here is the issue, slightly adapted from my comment, originally on Adrian's blog and saved in a posting on my blog: In part five of Adrian's interview,
Grudem writes: "in 1 Timothy 2:12 the TNIV adopts a highly suspect and novel translation ... It reads, “I do not permit a woman to teach or to assume authority over a man”". But this is not a novel translation at all, for as with Matthew 5:9 Grudem seems to have ignored KJV. Look at the KJV rendering of 1 Timothy 2:12: “I suffer not a woman to teach, nor to usurp authority over the man”. Of course "usurp authority" is not precisely the same wording as "assume authority", but the meaning in the context must be the same. Grudem continued: "If churches adopt this translation, the debate over women's roles in the church will be over, because women pastors and elders can just say, “I’m not assuming authority on my own initiative; it was given to me by the other pastors and elders.” Therefore any woman could be a pastor or elder so long as she does not take it upon herself to “assume authority.”" Well, for over 300 years most English speaking churches adopted KJV, but despite Grudem's argument here this did not stop the debate over women's roles in the church. So what is the real difference between TNIV and KJV here?
I did not use the language of "errors" on Adrian's blog out of deference to his request that commenters show respect to his guest. But it is in fact an error for Grudem to claim that the TNIV translation is novel when in fact it is almost identical to the KJV rendering of the same verse. This is similar to the misleading claim made on the list of "translation inaccuracies" in the TNIV New Testament, for which I believe Grudem is responsible, in which Matthew 5:9, Romans 9:26 and Galatians 3:26 are listed as a examples of
“sons” (huios, plural) changed to “children”,
although in these verses the TNIV reading "children" is the same as the KJV rendering. At least this is not technically an error of fact (so the author of this list has not made a fool of himself or herself as R.C. Sproul has done over Matthew 5:9), as the basis for comparison in this list is explicitly the NIV rather than the KJV, but it seems that all of these differences between NIV and TNIV were labelled "translation inaccuracies" without consideration of the KJV readings, or for that matter whether the change was in fact exegetically justified in the particular case.

In the same comment I raised another significant issue which I noted in the same interview part. This may allow for an alternative understanding of 1 Timothy 2:12 as not binding on the church today, but certainly needs careful consideration. I am not saying that this is an error by Grudem, but am mentioning it here simply because this is an important point which, having been deleted for no good reason from Adrian's blog might otherwise get lost:
Grudem also writes: "I don’t think a pastor can give a woman “permission” to do Bible teaching before the church, because the Bible says not to do that." But actually what the Bible passage in question says is that Paul himself does not give women this kind of permission, in the churches over which he had authority. So this seems to leave open the possibility that other church leaders could and did give this permission. There is a long and complex hermeneutical procedure which needs to be followed, including such issues as how far our churches today are under Paul's apostolic authority and whether individual examples should ever be taken to be normative, before we can translate Paul's example into a command for churches today. This process seems to have been ignored in this whole discussion, at least on the blogs I have been reading. I hope Grudem has addressed this issue in his book.
Indeed, I hope that Dr Grudem will be able to read these points and answer them, despite Adrian's over-zealous exercise of "respect" for him by deleting these comments from his blog. I will attempt to bring this post to Dr Grudem's attention.


At Wed Dec 13, 10:07:00 AM, Blogger Sungkhum said...

Interesting observations.
Thanks Peter.

The post from Adrian's blog read:
"But actually what the Bible passage in question says is that Paul himself does not give women this kind of permission, in the churches over which he had authority. So this seems to leave open the possibility that other church leaders could and did give this permission. There is a long and complex hermeneutical procedure which needs to be followed, including such issues as how far our churches today are under Paul's apostolic authority and whether individual examples should ever be taken to be normative, before we can translate Paul's example into a command for churches today."

I wonder why we even have Paul's writings in our Bible if we don't believe they are the Words of God...I believe it is a contradiction to say that Paul is in the Bible and so we don't have to follow what he said.

Is it Pauls mere opinion (like in I Cor. 7) or is it Scripture? If Scripture is God's Word, can we ignore it?

"If God has not spoken, we are hopelessly lost - but if He has, we are obligated to know what He said."

If translators do not believe that the Word of God is actually the Word of God - it will reflect in their translation and dishonor God.

If something is of God, it must be, in its first state, perfect. If it is from man, it will be flawed.


At Wed Dec 13, 10:22:00 AM, Blogger Wayne Leman said...

Nathan concluded:

If something is of God, it must be, in its first state, perfect. If it is from man, it will be flawed.

So true, Nathan. But we must remember that the Bible records a number of things which are from humans (or the devil) and flawed. Careful exegesis helps us determine which things in the Bible are from God and to be obeyed and which are not from God. To use an extreme example, we can pull something out of context and find that the Bible says, "There is no God." Of course we omitted the preface to that statement which is, "The fool has said in his heart."

In the letter of 1 Corinthians, Paul quotes a number of times from a letter he had received from the Corinthians. Their questions are not inspired. But we believe that Paul accurately recorded their words.

At Wed Dec 13, 03:33:00 PM, Blogger Peter Kirk said...

Nathan, I take your point. All of the Bible is the word of God. But that doesn't mean that every command in the Bible is a command to every Christian today. I don't think you would understand 2 Timothy 4:13 as a command to yourself. And certainly not everything which everyone did, even which every apostle did, is an example which we are obliged to follow. I don't think you would understand Romans 15:25 as something you are obliged to emulate. So, we have to have principles, hermeneutical principles, to decide which things written in the Bible are directly applicable to us.

As a rather more serious example, should we take as binding for ourselves, and our pastors, Paul's example of refusing to accept financial support from his congregations? See for example 1 Corinthians 9:12,15,18. Probably not, because Paul also says in the context that Christian workers have the right to accept support; and, probably rightly, we give priority to Paul's teaching over his personal example.

And similarly we need to consider passages like 1 Timothy 2:12 carefully in their immediate and wider context, rather than concluding that just because Paul did not do something we are also obliged not to do the same. When for example we find that in Ephesus, the very city to which 1 Timothy was written, Paul left Priscilla and her husband in charge of the infant church there and she was soon teaching the man Apollos, Acts 18:19,26, then we have to realise that what Paul wrote to Timothy might simply have been a description of his temporary practice, rather than a binding command for all time. I'm not saying that it was necessarily one or the other, only that the issue needs to be discussed in some detail, and not written off with a naive "the Word of God is actually the Word of God".

At Tue Dec 19, 02:55:00 PM, Blogger j2 said...

I get you are upset with Grudem. But hijacking a comment section to someone else's blog post to launch a serious and vitriolic attack on a colleague is disrespectful not just to Adrian and Wayne, but all of the readers, too. So blog your own post, finally, as you have here. It was boring minutiae then, and it still is on this blog, but I had the chance to actually choose to read the digression in the context of this blog. I would hardly consider myself dim-witted, but your sacred point remains illusive to me, presumably, because I care not to learn about the mechanics of understanding and translating biblical Greek.

State your case as though Mr. Grudem, never existed, and in terms that an ordinary bloke could comprehend. If it is the conclusion that Grudem's work leads to that you find offensive then stick to why you think your conclusion is correct. Include all the geeky, Greek matters to support it, but in a way that someone other than a small band of "amateur linguist" might be intrigued by it.

At Wed Dec 20, 12:21:00 PM, Blogger Peter Kirk said...

Dr Burer has now written a piece on Adrian's blog retracting the specific error which he and Wallace made with the words "people as the referent of the adjective ἐπίσημος". See that post and comments on it for more details.

J2, since the error which Burer and Wallace made, and have now corrected, was in the technicalities of Greek, how am I supposed to explain it "in terms that an ordinary bloke could comprehend"? In some ways I regret that this blog is not as accessible to people like you as it might be. But in a case like this there is a need to publish something rather technical on a technical issue. Perhaps we should consider setting up a separate blog for more technical issues. But I can't accept that we shouldn't be allowed to blog about matters which are too technical for everyone to understand.

As for "serious and vitriolic attack", I did spot signs of vitriol on Adrian's blog, but I don't think any of it came from me.


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