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Saturday, February 24, 2007

Brothers

Brothers, some of you may have already noticed a new poll which has been in the right margin of this blog for a couple of days. It has a magenta background (is that an appropriate color for brothers?!) and asks what meanings you have for the English word "brothers." I invite you to take the poll when you have time. You can select as many of the options as you wish which give meanings which you personally have for the word "brothers".

Oh, did any of you feel left out the way that I began this post? If so, that would indicate that your understanding of the word "brothers" is different from some others who have responded to the poll.

Feel free to discuss the poll and the English word "brothers" in comments to this post.

Also, today I was required to convert BBB to use the new Blogger system. I hope that all of you will be able to continue accessing and commenting on this blog as easily as in the past. Please let me know if you have any difficulties with BBB under the new Blogger system.

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28 Comments:

At Sat Feb 24, 03:40:00 PM, Blogger Sam said...

I suspect some of the first-century readers or hearers of the epistles might have felt left out with something beginning "adelphoi", at least if they were an only child. That amounts to a misunderstanding of what was meant, but my point is that someone's feeling left out doesn't mean the word doesn't refer to the group it's meant to refer to.

I'm fully on board with the point that most people don't use this word in English to refer to women. But I'm not sure that's a sufficient reason to discontinue it. I think more needs to be said than just that some will feel left out. Feeling left out can be because of a misunderstanding of a particularized use rather than because of a wrong use. In my view, we used to have a particularized use that is becoming a wrong use in many segments of the English-speaking world, but I'm not sure we're there yet, and that makes the argument a little more difficult to make. You have to supply a few more premises, ones that are very particularized for the purpose behind your specific translation, and once you've got that I think you're fine. But that allows for translations with other purposes, intended for other groups that will not follow the same guidelines.

 
At Sat Feb 24, 03:44:00 PM, Blogger Jeremy Pierce said...

Sorry, that was me again. I keep forgetting to check who's logged in before leaving comments. I'll be very happy not to be sharing a computer once I get mine back (I hope sometime next week).

 
At Sat Feb 24, 04:14:00 PM, Blogger Peter Kirk said...

Jeremy, it is perhaps ironic that you logged on as your wife. I wonder if she, as someone who unlike you is in a category (well, two categories) likely to feel left out, would have written the same as you accidentally wrote in her name. In cases like this I think we who are not left out should defer to the opinions of those who are, or at least feel they are.

Meanwhile, if there really remain "segments of the English-speaking world" in which "brothers" can be used in an entirely generic sense without any misunderstanding, and I doubt if there are, perhaps they are the ones which need a specialised translation. Well, they already have several.

 
At Sat Feb 24, 05:28:00 PM, Blogger Jeremy Pierce said...

Peter, my wife is much more used to gender-neutral 'brothers' than I am. She grew up using the KJV and never would have wanted to use anything else if she hadn't lost hers only to be forced to use other Bibles I had. She tends to prefer traditional language for the mere tradition, and that includes what I consider archaisms. In predominantly black churches in the U.S., people tend to adjust mentally to what they hear that doesn't fit with their own personal use of language. It's very interesting to hear black preachers quote the KJV and then put it in their own words. Their own words are a real mix of archaisms and very contemporary language. I haven't seen the same sort of thing in any other kind of church.

And for the record, I didn't say that we shouldn't defer to those who feel left out. I just said that we need more argument than the mere fact that they feel left out, because someone can feel left out by something that is properly translated but they just don't understand the context. We need further premises, and I think those premises are true premises for much of the English-speaking world. I just don't think it warrants doing this for every kind of translation, just the ones most of the general reading public (and especially the unchurched and people with ESL) will read.

 
At Sat Feb 24, 06:22:00 PM, Blogger Wayne Leman said...

Peter, my wife is much more used to gender-neutral 'brothers' than I am. She grew up using the KJV and never would have wanted to use anything else if she hadn't lost hers only to be forced to use other Bibles I had.

Well, Jeremy, I'm thinking that Sam might enjoy getting a nice leather-bound KJV Bible someday for some special occasion.

 
At Sat Feb 24, 08:39:00 PM, Blogger Suzanne McCarthy said...

Jeremy,

I can't help but wonder where in the KJV 'brothers' is mentioned. A quick software search, (dare I confirm I did this) indicates that 'brother's' occurs, but 'brothers' does not.

I too grew up with the KJV and was quite willing to consider myself one of the brethren, but I never once thought that I was a 'brother.' It was clear to me that the brothers had privileges that I never would have.

Every brother in the Brethren could speak in church after the age of 18, but the sisters were silent. However, we were all brethren.

No, I think you may never have read the KJV yourself. In many ways I find the KJV very gender neutral since it is clear that when 'men' are refered to it actually means humans, but the ESV, as I know from asking Dr. Packer, really does mean 'men'.

And yes, there are many of us here who do like traditional language for the tradition. Many of us value traditional language so much that we are actually familiar with it and can freely understand the nuances of 'will' and 'shall', for example. The truth is some of us are just plain getting on in years!

 
At Sat Feb 24, 09:43:00 PM, Blogger anonymous said...

Ms. McCarthey is absolutely correct -- the KJV consistently uses "brethren" as the plural for "brother".

The plural of "brother" is of course one of the most celebrated mysteries in the English language, since the coarse form "brothers" was in common use in the the thirteenth century, and then vanished, until it reappeared suddenly at the end of the sixteenth century.

Perhaps more mysterious is trying understand why the RSV sometimes uses "brethren" and sometimes uses "brothers," with no apparent reason. At least the tin-eared RSV translators did not use "cistern" as the plural of "sister."

I am interested in seeing the BBB canaille's theories why the inclusive "brothers" was not used in Matthew 19:29 and the corresponding synoptic passages. Why, when it came to giving up things, did "sisters" need to be explicitly listed as a category, in red letter to boot?

 
At Sat Feb 24, 10:27:00 PM, Blogger Wayne Leman said...

Anon. wondered:

I am interested in seeing the BBB canaille's theories why the inclusive "brothers" was not used in Matthew 19:29 and the corresponding synoptic passages. Why, when it came to giving up things, did "sisters" need to be explicitly listed as a category, in red letter to boot?

I wonder the same thing, Anon. Good question. The only thing I can think of that might account for the explicit mention of sisters is that all other categories of individuals in the nuclear family are explicitly listed, also. I don't know why each would be explicitly listed, but maybe it has something to do with an emphasis on how important it was to give up absolutely everything to be a follower of Jesus.

About the red letters, well I haven't personally examined those old manuscripts, but maybe they ran out of the normal dye for the ink and had to use some blood or some other red substance for awhile.

Ha!

 
At Sat Feb 24, 11:10:00 PM, Blogger Suzanne McCarthy said...

Anon,

There must be two kinds of sisters. On the one hand, Christian women or women of your tribe and people; on the other hand, the sister of your own mother's womb, as the Greek suggests. The latter is the sister one should give up. Because, after all, how can one give up the other kind - they do not belong to you in the first place.

 
At Sat Feb 24, 11:28:00 PM, Blogger anonymous said...

Because, after all, how can one give up the other kind - they do not belong to you in the first place.

And the lands did?

 
At Sat Feb 24, 11:39:00 PM, Blogger Suzanne McCarthy said...

That is less problematic than ones father and mother, but there it is, natural and spritual brothers and sisters, and natural and spritual lands and fields. Who knows? I should know better than to argue with you, Sir. :-)

 
At Sun Feb 25, 12:50:00 AM, Blogger anonymous said...

Following Liddell, I understood the plural form here indicated the word referred to a village, countryside, or country.

 
At Sun Feb 25, 11:16:00 AM, Blogger Suzanne McCarthy said...

That is very odd. What edition of Liddell is that?

Mine offers what you might expect for αγρος - lands, fields, or farms; and country as opposed to town.

Of course, I only have the 1871 and the online LSJ at Perseus. I think BADG suggests 'hamlet' as well. He is ubiquitous.

French is easier, "la campagne" rather than "le pays". But village - no, I don't see it.

 
At Sun Feb 25, 12:31:00 PM, Blogger anonymous said...

NB: "Liddell" is spelled with three l's and many contemporary scholars prefer "village" to "willage".

Luke 9:12 repays study.

 
At Sun Feb 25, 02:19:00 PM, Blogger Suzanne McCarthy said...

Luke 9:12 repays study.

That is my precise point. αγρος contrasts with κωμη. κωμη is the town or village which αγρος is in contrast to.

And in this case it is the countryside, the land, but not 'country' as in homeland.

So, in the sense that αγρος really does mean countryside as in fields, or farm, it is something that can be a 'belonging', and something that one can leave behind or forasake, as one can do with one's own biological sister.

But αδελφοι - fellow Christians - one is not asked to forsake, that I am aware of at any rate.

PS This conversation would sound a lot clearer in French. I wonder sometimes if it is worth translating the Bible into English at all.

 
At Sun Feb 25, 02:53:00 PM, Blogger anonymous said...

in the sense that αγρος

We are not discussing αγρος but αγρους, which is compared with the plural "villages", more than one person could own.

αγρους could lodge and feed the crowd of five thousand. And this does not merely mean a campground, for Bethsaida was a "desolate place" and did not lack for empty space.

αγρους in the plural is significant, because father and mother are singular in Matthew 19:29.

 
At Sun Feb 25, 03:10:00 PM, Blogger Wayne Leman said...

Suzanne, my father's pronunciation for the small town has often been "willage".

 
At Sun Feb 25, 03:48:00 PM, Blogger Suzanne McCarthy said...

Yes, the willages and wayside ...

We are not discussing αγρος but αγρους, which is compared with the plural "villages", more than one person could own.

The plural αγρους can mean farms, which several people can own; or fields, which one person can own.

αγρους could lodge and feed the crowd of five thousand. And this does not merely mean a campground, for Bethsaida was a "desolate place" and did not lack for empty space.

Who said "campground"?

αγρους in the plural is significant, because father and mother are singular in Matthew 19:29.

Leave your fields, ie a field of wheat and a field of barley, and a field of chickpeas, etc. Why would a man have only one field?

 
At Sun Feb 25, 04:25:00 PM, Blogger anonymous said...

Readers can decide for themselves which interpretation matches the context of verse 27 better.

 
At Sun Feb 25, 04:45:00 PM, Blogger Suzanne McCarthy said...

Well, I hope that Sam gets her KJV then she can read 'lands' and decide for herself.

 
At Sun Feb 25, 05:03:00 PM, Blogger Suzanne McCarthy said...

Actually this whole discussion brings to my attention a serious problem with the KJV and the ESV. If it appears to anyone that this verse means one's country or homeland, instead of one's farm or fields, then it is overly ambiguous and should be brought up to date.

And every one that hath forsaken houses, or brethren, or sisters, or father, or mother, or wife, or children, or lands, for my name's sake, shall receive an hundredfold, and shall inherit everlasting life. KJV

29And everyone who has left houses or brothers or sisters or father or mother or children or lands, for my name's sake, will receive a hundredfold and will inherit eternal life ESV

And everyone who has left houses or brothers or sisters or father or mother or wife or children or fields for my sake will receive a hundred times as much and will inherit eternal life. TNIV

And everyone who has left houses or brothers or sisters or father or mother or children or farms for My name's sake, will receive many times as much, and will inherit eternal life. NASB



Luther prosaically translated it as Äcker.

I think the ESV is losing out on presenting itself as literal here. The TNIV and NASB do better.

 
At Mon Feb 26, 03:00:00 AM, Blogger Peter Kirk said...

On agros, note that in Acts 4:36-37 Barnabas gave up just such a piece of land for the sake of Christ. And although different words are used for the land which Ananias and Sapphira sold in the next verse (after a misleading chapter break) and in the more general description in 4:34, it seems clear that there was an actual early Christian practice of giving up areas of land by selling them and giving the proceeds to the Christian community. How exactly Jesus' words as recorded in the gospels relate to early Christian practice may be debatable, but there is certainly some kind of link.

 
At Mon Feb 26, 03:07:00 AM, Blogger Peter Kirk said...

Jeremy, I accepted before that there may remain "there really remain "segments of the English-speaking world" in which "brothers" can be used in an entirely generic sense without any misunderstanding". And, despite the difference in some people's perceptions between "brothers" and "brethren", "predominantly black churches in the U.S." where the language heard is "a real mix of archaisms and very contemporary language" may be such a segment. If they choose to go on using KJV, they are welcome to do so, as long as they realise that by doing so they are cutting themselves off from the world the ought to be evangelising. If ESV and similar translations were explicitly targeted for such groups, my objections to it would be much less; my main objection is based on the ESV team's insistence that ESV is the best Bible for all purposes and implicitly for all English speakers.

 
At Mon Feb 26, 01:40:00 PM, Blogger anonymous said...

How exactly Jesus' words as recorded in the gospels relate to early Christian practice may be debatable, but there is certainly some kind of link.

This connection is dubious at best, as Mr. Kirk appears to recognize by his uncharacteristic hesitancy and qualification in his response.

First, the activities being described are different. In Matthew, the new disciple forfeited all when he joined the cult. In Acts, the cult member maintains a pool of assets that are slowly sold as needed to provide funding for the continued success of the movement. Second, as Mr. Kirk concedes, the word is different.

Matthew 19:29 refers to Jews who joined the cult. While at the time of Jesus the cult was considered as being Jewish, by the of the authorship of the gospels, the cult had reached heretical status, because it recruited gentiles en masse and did not require observance of the Biblical commandments. Jews who entered the cult would have to give up everything -- their family (who would sit shiva [mourning ceremony for the dead] on the loss of family member to avodah zara [foreign worship]), and the new recruits would no longer be considered part of the people Israel -- giving up their family, property, and nation.

In this context, it is significant that women (sisters, mother, and in some of the synoptic passages, wife) were explicitly listed. It suggests either inconsistent editing on the part of the redactors or, if one views the text as inspired, has some sort of theological significance.

 
At Tue Feb 27, 11:18:00 AM, Blogger Peter Kirk said...

Mr. Anonymous makes some interesting observations about my previous comment which require further explanation from me.

My point was this: As an evangelical I believe that Jesus' actual words, in a reasonably accurate translation, are recorded in the gospels. Thus I would suggest that the generosity of early believers like Barnabas was at least in part because they had heard Jesus' teaching, second hand if not first hand, and were putting it into practice.

But I am aware that some scholars take a different view, that the teaching in the gospels reflects the practice of the early church, and thus that Jesus' supposed words in Matthew are derived from the practice of people like Barnabas.

Mr. Anonymous' own view seems to be on the latter lines, but with the added suggestion that the gospel writers took practices from their own time (that is to say, practices such as those he mentions which are actually recorded from several centuries later but which are speculatively backdated by him and other scholars to the late first century CE) and claimed, in clear breach of the commandment not to bear false witness, that these were the words of Jesus although they knew that they were not - and furthermore were inconsistent and so incompetent in doing so.

Well, some people may like to think that the gospels were written by incompetent liars. That gives them a good excuse not to obey the teaching in them, like loving one's neighbour. I prefer to believe that this is the genuine teaching of Jesus Christ the Son of God.

 
At Tue Feb 27, 01:41:00 PM, Blogger anonymous said...

I hardly would state that the gospels were written by incompetent liars. But to claim that the gospels are literal quotations of Jesus runs into problems. (1) Jesus likely spoke in Aramaic, not in Koine greek (in different registers). (2) The synoptic gospels do not agree with each other. (3) The synoptic gospels do not agree with the fourth gospel. (4) The existing manuscripts of the gospels disagree.

 
At Tue Feb 27, 03:00:00 PM, Blogger Peter Kirk said...

(1) I explicitly noted that the gospels contain translations of Jesus' words. (2) The differences are easily explained by the selective use of material and the use of different translations of the same original. (3) So what? There was plenty of material to select from, see John 21:25. (4) Yes, there are corrupt manuscripts, although most differences are trivial. It is the text as originally written that I would consider to be substantially the words of Jesus. I accept that there is a problem in identifying that original text, but that is a completely separate issue.

 
At Tue Feb 27, 03:05:00 PM, Blogger anonymous said...

By the way, as I once heard in a sermon, many people have no problem with Leviticus 19:18. They hate themselves, and they hate their neighbors.

(I'll let you extrapolate to Deuteronomy 6:5 on your own.)

 

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