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Tuesday, April 17, 2007

Daughters or children? 1 Peter 3:6

I just noticed an interesting issue related to gender language at 1 Peter 3:6. Peter, writing here to wives, says that if they behave properly they are the tekna of Sarah. Now tekna is the gender generic word for "children".

So it is interesting to see what various translations have made of this. Some translations are literal: ERV, ASV, RSV, NASB, ESV and HCSB all have "children"; also Darby and NJB, and more surprisingly and perhaps for different reasons, CEV. But the tradition of translating according to the sense "daughters" goes back to KJV and even to Wycliffe (the version at Bible Gateway), and has been taken up by NIV and NRSV and retained in TNIV, also in Douay-Rheims, Moffatt, NLT, NKJV, REB, Good News Translation, The Message, the Amplified Bible - and oddly enough in Young's Literal Translation. It seems that the rendering "children", like many literalisms, goes back to the English Revised Version and its policy of highly concordant translation. (I note that Darby's 1890 and Young's 1898 translations are later than ERV, NT 1881).

For comparison, it would be interesting to look at a place where tekna refers to males. But I can't find any plural examples. However, several individual males are called teknon. Most cases of this are in direct address, which does not necessarily give a good comparison. But Philemon 10 provides the best comparison in that Onesimus is referred to in the third person as Paul's teknon. How has this been translated? We find "child" in ERV, ASV, RSV, NRSV, NASB, ESV, NLT, HCSB, REB, NJB, Amplified, Young's, Darby, but "son" in Wycliffe, Douay-Rheims, KJV, Moffatt, NIV, TNIV, NKJV, GNT, CEV, The Message. Again the literalism originated with ERV.

Most versions are consistent in either being literal or in following the meaning. But Young's, Amplified, NRSV, NLT and REB are somewhat inconsistent in having "daughters" in 1 Peter but "child" in Philemon. And CEV is inconsistent in the opposite direction.


At Tue Apr 17, 07:44:00 AM, Blogger Suzanne McCarthy said...

Thanks for providing confirmation that the overly concordant approach to gender terms seems to come from the ERV. There is certainly no unidirectional development from concordant to less concordant over time.

At Wed Apr 18, 04:29:00 PM, Blogger Michael Kruse said...

I did a review of an essay by Peter Davids on this passsage. It doesn't to your concordance issue but I think it shines some light on what may be at issue here. Here are two paragraphs from my post.

"Davids also goes on at some length into the peculiar statement in verse 6, “Thus Sarah obeyed Abraham and called him lord.” The reason it is peculiar is that in only one place, Genesis 18:12, does she call him “adonai.” “After I have grown old, and my “husband is old, shall I have pleasure?” There is not hint of authority or obedience here. Peter is not referring to the Bible!"

"Davids points out that at the time Peter was writing there was a popular extracanonical Jewish work called the Testament of Abraham. Davids notes that, “Here Sarah is depicted in terms of an ideal Hellenisitc wife, an illustration that serves Peter’s purpose.” (234) By following Sarah’s (fictional) example women could win over their unbelieving husbands."

A Silent Witness in Marriage: 1 Peter 3:1-7


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