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Saturday, June 30, 2007

A virtuous woman

Ruth not only shows hesed, a word now so loaded with meaning that it is hard to translate, but she is also a virtuous woman.

Virtuous from
  • morally excellent
  • pure: in a state of sexual virginity; "pure and vestal modesty"; "a spinster or virgin lady"; "men have decreed that their women must be pure and virginal"
And there's the catch. Just as "kind' can mean "acting with compassion" or simply "gentle", virtuous can mean "virginal" or "morally excellent". But, in fact, the Hebrew says nothing about chastity or virginity but points rather to strength and nobility.

In Hebrew she is אֵשֶׁת-חַיִל. This word is defined in the Koehler-Baumgartner as
  • capacity, power, strength
  • property, wealth
  • qualified, fit for military service
  • of good family, valiant, brave
In the LXX Ruth 3:11 is translated as γυνὴ δυνάμεως - a woman of power. This expression, אֵשֶׁת-חַיִל, also occurs in Proverbs 31:10 where it is translated in the LXX as γυναῖκα ἀνδρείαν - a manly woman.

Of course, ανδρεια does not really mean "manly". As the adjective derivative of ανηρ it means "noble" "of the military or citizen class" or "brave" and "strong". It all gets a little awkward because we perceive of this word ανηρ as reflecting gender rather than class. In an odd way, it does both. Therefore, Ruth is
a woman of strong character, a noble woman, a woman of class.

Naturally we understand that Boaz didn't want a bodybuilder nor a masculine woman. However, in this society being strong was not a purely masculine trait,
ideally the men should be strong and the women should be strong too.

Here is Katherine Bushnell on the translation of חַיִל as virtuous, rather than strong.
    624 Next we will consider the Hebrew word cha-yil (HEB), which occurs 242 times in the Old Testament. It is translated “army” and “war” 58 times; “host” and “forces” 43 times; “might” or “power” 16 times; “goods,” “riches,” “substance” and “wealth” in all 31 times; “band of soldiers,” “band of men,” “company,” and “train” once each; “activity” once; “valor” 28 times; “strength” 11 times: these are all noun forms. The word is often translated as an adjective or adverb. It is translated “valiant” and “valiantly” 35 times; “strong” 6 times; “able” 4 times; “worthily” once and “worthy” once. We have now given you the complete list of the various renderings of this word excepting four instances in which the word is used in describing a woman. Please review the list, and get the usage of the word clearly in mind before proceeding further.

    625. Now we will take the first of these four remaining cases, relating to women: Ruth, the Moabitess, was a woman of courage and decision of character. In her loyalty to her dead husband’s mother, she refused to turn back and re-marry in her own land, but forsook her country and kindred to accompany her mother-in-law to a (to her) foreign land, and undertook there, to keep them both from starvation by the labour of her hands. Boaz, who afterwards married her, said to her: “All the city of my people doth know that thou art a woman of cha-yil,” (Ruth 3:11). Now considering the girl’s courage and devotion, how should this word have been translated? You have the list of meanings before you, and are quite competent to form an opinion. How would “thou art an able woman” or “thou art a woman of courage” do? The Septuagint Greek says, “Thou art a woman of power” (dunamis).

    626. But it almost looks as though our English translators took no care, as to the precise language here. The circumstances, when Boaz spoke the words, were peculiar, but not improper in Israel; but man was praising a woman, and “of course” here is a reference to her reputation for chastity, and so it is translated, “thou art a virtuous woman.” But glance over the various meanings given to this word elsewhere. Not once has it reference to any other moral characteristic than that of strength or force. What courage this foreign girl had shown in supporting her mother-in-law!

    627. Now for the next mistranslation of this word, because it relates to woman. The last chapter of Proverbs describes an ideal woman for a wife. The description is a mother’s, to her son. It is quite different from the average man’s ideal of woman at her best. But the Bible describes her, in the language of Lemuel’s mother, as a woman whose “price is far above rubies:. Here are some of her striking characteristics: “She is like the merchants’ ships, she bringeth her food from afar.” “She considereth a field and buyeth it.” “She girdeth her loins with strength, and strengtheneth her arms.” “Strength and honor are her clothing.” Surely this must be a “strong-minded” woman who is praised here.

    628. Three times over the “strength” of this woman of Proverbs is referred to. Each line of the description speaks of efficiency. She is praised in turn for general goodness and trustworthiness, energy, efficiency, enterprise, far-sightedness, early-rising, business capacity, gardening, muscular strength, weaving, benevolence, fore-thought, embroidery work, elegant clothes for herself, tailoring for her husband, honor, wisdom, kindness, piety. But, as it happens, no definite reference is made to her purity, or to her faithfulness to her husband in the marriage relation.

    629. Now what one word would best sum up such a character? The precise original expression is the same as in the verse we have quoted from Ruth,a woman of cha-yil.” We must suppose that the translators hastily concluded that they knew, without looking closely at the original, what sort of a woman a mother ought to recommend to her son for a wife, and so they translated: “Who can find a virtuous woman?” That represents the undoubted sentiments of the translators; but it does not represent the teaching of the original text. “Virtue” is of priceless value to woman, to be sure; but her duty to her husband is not her only duty; all her life cannot be summed up in that one moral quality.

    630. “But,” someone will reply, “virtue is often used in the sense of a summing up of all moral characteristics.” That may be; but it would not be so understood by the common folk, in this connection, and the Bible is supposed to be translated for them. The vast majority, reading this verse, would suppose the word “virtue” to refer to the woman’s chastity. The Septuagint translates here (“Tell it not in Gath, publish it not in Askelon,” lest the study of the sacred tongues be prohibited to woman!), “A masculine woman . . . more valuable is she than very costly stones.”

    And finally, the description of this ideal woman is summed up in the 29th verse, in the words: “Many daughters have done cha-yil, but thou excellest them all. “Worthily,” “valiantly,” are the only translations that we have in any other part of the Bible for this word, when used as an adverb. But after the same careless manner, the word is here translated “virtuously.” We suppose there was an instinctive distaste, disrelish, for showing that the Bible praised, in the inspired words of a woman writer, a “strong” woman, for doing “valiantly.”

    631. Now for the fourth instance of the mistranslation of this word: Proverbs 12:4 reads, in the original, “A woman of cha-yil is a crown to her husband,” and there is no doubt that she is here again praised for her strength of character. But the English reads, “A virtuous woman is a crown to her husband.” Doubtless such a woman is a crown to her husband, but women prefer to know what the Bible says, rather than to be merely reminded of a favorite axiom among men. Here again, the Septuagint translates, “masculine.”

    632. “But,” an objector will say “ ‘virtuous’ comes from the Latin word vir, which means ‘man’, and why is it not the proper word to use here, in the sense of ‘manly’, ‘strong’?” Because “virtue,” while it has this literal sense, is not used to describe “manliness” in English, but “morality” in general, among men: and when used of woman, it is understood to refer to morality of one sort, more particularly, which happens not to be referred to in these extended descriptions in the quotations from Proverbs. If the translator had thought that this word “virtue,” or the word “virtuously” were likely to be understood in their literal sense by women, “manly” and “manfully,” who can believe that he would ever have employed those words here?

    633. Virtue is a quality of great importance to women, and had they been more clearly taught from pulpit, and by a more careful translation of such passages as we have been considering, the obligation laid upon them in the Bible, to be strong, in body, mind and spirit; if these theologians themselves had learned this from the Bible, women would have been far better equipped to guard their virtue,¾since the ruin of girls is usually due to weak character and general unfitness to cope with the world. To sum up: This Hebrew word, cha-yil, used over 200 times in the Hebrew Bible, signifies “force,” “strength,” “ability.” But in every instance where it relates to women, and nowhere else, is it translated “virtue,” i.e. “chastity.”
Some translations now reflect this.
  • a virtuous woman KJV
  • a worthy woman NRSV, ESV
  • a woman of worth RSV
  • a woman of excellence NASB
  • a woman of noble character TNIV
  • what a courageous woman you are--a real prize! The Message
  • also honorable, respected, fine, etc.
I'm not sure if a woman wants to be a prize. How about "what a strong woman you are - a real treasure!" Actually the TNIV probably has it right this time. She is a woman of noble character.

I was challenged last month, when we were reading and discussing Eph. 5:22-33 to come up with some Biblical thoughts on the relationships described in Ephesians. I feel that the story of Ruth has shed some light on this for me. People are to be subject to their hesed relationships, in a reciprocal manner. They are to show covenant kindness and loyalty to each other.

In the story of Ruth, men and woman equally make their own decisions, provide for and protect others, initiate action and sacrifice for those that they are in relationship with. In the context of a male headship agrarian society, where men own both land and women, the women are strong - they function within this context, as actors with the characteristic of strength. Ruth leaves her own country, provides for Naomi, marries a man who will enable her to honour her first husband's family, and in a final act, takes her first born son and gives him to Naomi to name and feed at her own breast. It is an amazing story.

Girly Blogger

I have just received a girly blogger award from Talmida. Thank you, Talmida, I love it. Some may not know that I do read some pink blogs, and I don't mind being a pink author, in the gender sense, of course.

However, I am going to have some difficulty passing this award on because I restrict my consistent blog reading to our sidebar. Tricky. My main reason for not wanting to expand my blogreading is that I like to spend most of my time reading books, and at least half of those are books written by women and recommended to me by women.

Who are these women? There are my many sisters, nieces and aunt, who are both friends and mentors. Also a very real presence in my life are the women I work with, the teachers who recommend books to me, and who are models of leadership and loving care towards children.

I have many librarians in my close circle of family and friends. If I ever were to run out of book recommendations I would start reading women librarian blogs. But knowing my family and friends, I will never run out of books to read. (I am currently reading The Swallows of Kabul.)

So I would like to dedicate this award to the many women, family and friends, who read my bookshelf blog and who recommend the books I read there. They are the unseen part of my blogging world. Then there are the women who comment here, whose sermons I listen to, or whose book recommendations I try to follow. (I should also mention anonymous, the chameleon blogger, who has recommended and provided many books for my enlightenment.)

On a related note, I would like to note a few trends in this little corner of the blogging world. In the last year some of our bloggers and commenters have started their own blogs. Peter, Wayne, and Iyov are all blogging elsewhere on related topics. I read their blogs regularly and explore the blogs mentioned in their sidebars extensively. I recommend them to you.

Back to Talmida, a Christian Hebraist, who has written some interesting posts recently on translation and other topics. I enjoyed reading Anthony Esolen's Anguish. It offers another angle on the archaic versus modern debate.

For those who want a basic, no frills translation post, here is Chris Heard on a nuance in Gen. 2:18-19.

I should also mention that I will be switching topics soon as I start a course next week with Bruce Waltke, followed by Gordon Fee in two weeks.

Friday, June 29, 2007

Hesed and Kindness

I had not expected this simple word to turn into a series. However, the comments demand it. Jeremy Pierce writes,

    I would add is that this isn't mere faithfulness or loyalty. It's faithfulness or loyalty to a covenant. But it also has connotations of love and not just mere faithfulness as a duty.

    My Old Testament professor Saul Olyan preferred to translate it as "covenant love" in order to get that element. Since it's love in the context of a covenant, the faithfulness aspect is sort of implied rather than explicit. That's the one downside of his translation.

Talmida refers to this quote,

    Here too the usual English translation of "lovingkindness" misses a key element. In the Bible, chesed meant living up to a covenantal responsibility, so my Bible professors taught me to translate chesed as "covenant loyalty." Loyalty captures the blend of duty and feelings of concern, connection, and sympathy that we naturally have for those with whom we feel a bond. Doing chesed means feeling that loyalty toward all other human beings. We owe each other our compassion, not only when it happens to well up within us.

    Gemilut chasadim literally means "paying back chesed." Since chesed is showered on us each day, all our lives-from family and loved ones, from the created world around us-the only way to repay it is to do chesed for others.
Dr. Mariottini writes,

    When the word is applied to God, it refers to his faithfulness to the relationship. Thus, the word is best translated “faithfulness,” “unfailing love,” “loyalty.” When the word is applied to human beings, it refers to the loyalty and commitment that people should bring to that relationship. In this case, a good translation of hesed should be “commitment,” “loyalty.”
Bauckham writes,

    Ruth acts with חסד (loyalty or caring responsibility) only because both women act with initiative and mutual support
Here are two dictionary entries for kindness, the word which is most often used to translate hesed in Ruth 3:10.

Concise Oxford Dictionary (the state or qulaity of being kind) kind:

  • of a friendly, generous, benevolent or gentle nature
  • showing friendliness, affection or consideration
  • affectionate
  • archaic loving
  • the quality of being warmhearted and considerate and humane and sympathetic
  • forgiving: tendency to be kind and forgiving
  • a kind act
I think the problem is evident. Kindness can be too easily understood as warmhearted, gentle, affectionate, forgiving and sympathetic. It should, however, be loyal, faithful, and committed. It is love along with covenant, and compassion along with commitment. It is living up to responsibility.

If we take this back to the original context which I started with, it means that Ruth was not just warmhearted and gentle but she was responsible and committed. She contradicted Naomi, she left her own country to accompany Naomi, she worked in the fields to provide for Naomi, she put herself in a compromising position, she initiated a marriage relationship, and she gave her firstborn to her mother-in-law to name. We don't know how gentle she was, we do know she must have been strong and determined. She was loving and committed and fulfilled her caring responsibilities.

  • kindness KJV, RSV, ESV, NIV, TNIV, NASB, HCSB
  • What a splendid expression of love! Message
  • family loyalty NLT
  • truly loyal CEV
  • loyalty NRSV
  • ἐλεος - compassion LXX
Few translations have ventured an alternative to "kindness". Notice that the archaic meaning of "kindness" is "love". With that in mind, "kindness" may have been accurate in the KJV, but no longer accurate in contemporary versions. However, I think Bauckham has the right touch in contemporary language when he uses "caring responsibility". Not only did Ruth remain loyal in spirit, but she acted out of caring responsibility. How about this for Ruth 3:10?

    He said, ‘May you be blessed by the Lord, my daughter; this last instance of your caring responsibility is better than the first; you have not gone after young men, whether poor or rich.

Ephesians 2:10: live the good life?

Metacatholic Doug Chaplin writes On liking a bad translation, concerning the Jerusalem Bible rendering of Ephesians 2:10:
We are God’s work of art, created in Christ Jesus to live the good life as from the beginning he had meant us to live it.
He notes several problems with this, including that "work of art" and "live the good life" are very dubious renderings. Nevertheless, he writes,
I still find my imagination fired, my ethical vision stirred, and my heart excited by the Jerusalem Bible in a way the much more accurate NRSV simply fails to manage (along with every other translation I’ve looked at).
I don't know what the Jerusalem Bible translators intended by "live the good life", but the way I would usually understand this expression is completely contrary to the meaning of the passage and the overall teaching of Jesus. Now clearly Doug's reason for liking this version is clearly not because it justifies hedonism. But I can understand why some people might be attracted to this rendering!

Thursday, June 28, 2007

Favourite NRSV editions

Iyov has devoted a post to his favourite NRSV editions. I have been leaning in the direction of this translation myself recently and explain one reason in my comment on Iyov's blog. I wrote,
    Thanks for this excellent post. I am persuaded that many who used to preach from the RSV would be more comfortable with the NRSV than any other translation.

    My own pastor explained that he could not preach from the TNIV because of John 12:50.

    "I know that his command leads to eternal life." TNIV

    "And I know that his commandment is eternal life." NRSV, ESV, RSV

    "And I know that his commandment is life everlasting:" KJV

Doug at Metacatholic also has a good post on translation, On liking a bad translation.

Hesed cont.

In his post on Rereading Isaiah 40:6, Dr. Claude Mariottini writes,
    The word that appears in the Hebrew of Isaiah is hesed. The word hesed is related to the covenant God established with Israel at Sinai. The word hesed refers to the commitment that binds two parties to a relationship.

    In his book, The Word Hesed in the Hebrew Bible (Sheffield: Sheffield Academic Press, 1993), Gordon Clark says that hesed is an “action performed, in the context of a deep and enduring commitment between two persons or parties” (p. 267). Since faithfulness to a relationship is a character of God, God also expects his people to be as committed to the relationship as he is.

    When the word is applied to God, it refers to his faithfulness to the relationship. Thus, the word is best translated “faithfulness,” “unfailing love,” “loyalty.” When the word is applied to human beings, it refers to the loyalty and commitment that people should bring to that relationship. In this case, a good translation of hesed should be “commitment,” “loyalty.” A strong relationship is built on commitment. Israel should be as loyal and committed to the covenant as God was.

    The New Revised Standard Bible has a much better translation of this verse: “A voice says, ‘Cry out!’ And I said, ‘What shall I cry?’ All people are grass, their constancy is like the flower of the field” (Isaiah 40:6)

    The Today’s New International Version also reflects the intent of the writer: “A voice says: ‘Cry out.’ And I said, ‘What shall I cry?’ ‘All people are like grass, and all human faithfulness is like the flower of the field.’”

    God promised to be faithful to the relationship and he was. The people of Israel promised to be faithful to the covenant, but they were not. Thus, what the prophet is trying to communicate is that the people’s commitment is like the flower of the field, which is here today and gone tomorrow. This is the same idea expressed by the prophet Hosea: “What shall I do with you, O Ephraim? What shall I do with you, O Judah? Your love (hesed) is like a morning cloud, like the dew that goes away early” (Hosea 6:4).

    In Isaiah 40:6 the prophet is saying that the commitment of Israel to the covenant was like the flower of the field: it did not last very long. He is also saying that God’s word, his promises to Israel, endure forever because he is faithful to his commitment to the relationship.

    We must reread Isaiah 40:6 from a different perspective and learn anew that God does not want “goodliness.” God wants the commitment of his people.
In this post Dr. Mariottini emphasizes commitment, loyalty, and constancy. Bauckham talked of caring responsibility. These were the qualities found in both Ruth and Boaz. My sense from this post is that hesed exists as a reciprocal commitment. God shows hesed to his people and they are to respond with hesed.


In a comment on my post, Wiki vs the NOAB, Teknomon drew my attention to Katherine Bushnell, author of God's Word to Women.

    Katharine C. Bushnell (1856-1946) was a courageous and gifted servant of God who modeled her life’s motto “I can do all things through Christ who strengthens me.” (Phil 4:13). She was a physician, missionary, crusader, reformer, author and speaker as well as a brilliant and original scholar who spoke seven languages and was grounded in Greek and Hebrew. Bushnell left medicine to do what she considered the more important work of reforming conditions of human degradation through leadership in the Women’s Christian Temperance Union (WCTU) ofthe 19th century women’s movement. The scriptural status of women was of intense concern to Bushnell who came to believe that mistranslations were responsible for the social and spiritual subjugation of women. She left the WCTU in 1896 to spend her remaining years writing and sharing the biblical truth of God’s original and unchanging intent of full equality for women.

Although I was aware of this site, I had previously only taken a brief look at her book. This time I went back and spent some time on the lessons 77, 78 and 79, titled Sex Bias Influences Translators.

I am not going to revisit points previously blogged about. However, I have wanted to write about Ruth for a while and will be drawing on material both from this book by Bushnell and Gospel Women, by Richard Bauckham. I will also be venturing into the Hebrew scriptures for a bit.

חסד hesed (Koehler-Baumgartner) - obligation to the community in relation to relatives, friends, guests, master & servants, etc. unity, solidarity, loyalty, between father and son, wife and husband, relatives, people who do favours for each other, faithfulness, protection, etc.

Bauckham writes, page 6-7,
    The law of gleaning provides one means of support for those who could not grow their own crops, while the laws of redemption and levirate marriage enable a widow without a son to acquire economic security by marrying and bearing a son who can inherit her first husband's property. But the narrative shows these legal provisions operating for the benefit of Naomi and Ruth only because Ruth, Naomi and Boaz them so operate - only because Ruth acts with חסד (loyalty or caring responsibility) only because both women act with initiative and mutual support, and only because Boaz responds with חסד. He allows Ruth to glean beyond her legal right, and, as the example of the nearer kinsman (4:6) shows, he had the legal option not to marry her. In both cases he meets Ruth's initiative with חסד. Thus the legal structures over which the elders in the gate preside operate for the good of the women when both the women and the man make them do so.
Bauckham uses the translation "caring responsibility" for חסד and indicates that it is a characteristic which governs every party in a relationship. God shows חסד to us, women show חסד to their husbands in Gen. 20:13, they show חסד to guests, Gen. 24:14, and men also show חסד Gen. 21:23.

חסד is more than just a kindness; it is a caring provision which is demonstrated by God, and men and women alike in community, to guests, friends and in family and marriage relationships. חסד is usually translated as either "kindness" or "loyalty". There is nothing controversial about this translation, but it gives some background for my next post which is about a much more problematic translation issue which Katherine Bushnell handles well.

In חסד we see an ethic which binds people together with a common bond. It might be possible to imagine that showing חסד is one way for both men and women to reflect the image of God.

Wednesday, June 27, 2007

Subtle heresies in Hebrews 2:14

Prompted by a discussion on the b-trans list, I looked at some versions of Hebrews 2:14, and was startled to discover two different heresies!

Here is the verse in KJV:
Forasmuch then as the children are partakers of flesh and blood, he also himself likewise took part of the same; that through death he might destroy him that had the power of death, that is, the devil;
What is the problem here, you may well ask? This is certainly hard to understand, especially for modern readers, but where are the heresies? Look carefully at "took part of the same". "The same" must be "flesh and blood", human nature. So does this verse say that Jesus took only part of human nature, not all of it? That would clearly be heresy, by the standard of the ancient creeds. But the verse certainly doesn't mean that in the original Greek. And almost certainly the KJV translators (who were certainly orthodox Trinitarians) didn't intend the meaning "part of human nature". Rather, in the English of that time "took part of" meant what we would now say as "took part in" or "partook of". The problem here is with language change: what in the 16th or 17th century was an accurate translation has become an inaccurate and misleading one.

So then, what is the alternative? I am sorry to say that the translators of NIV and TNIV expunged this heresy but retained another one which is even more subtly present in the KJV rendering. Here is the verse in TNIV (the relevant part is the same in NIV):
Since the children have flesh and blood, he too shared in their humanity so that by his death he might break the power of him who holds the power of death—that is, the devil—
ESV, following RSV, is no better:
Since therefore the children share in flesh and blood, he himself likewise partook of the same things, that through death he might destroy the one who has the power of death, that is, the devil,
What is the problem here? It is very obvious when you spot it! The words "shared in their humanity" or "partook of the same things", with the past tense, implies that Jesus no longer shares humanity. But the teaching of the Bible and the church has always been that the risen Jesus was human, "flesh and bones" (Luke 24:39, compare "flesh and blood" in Hebrews 2:14), and remains so in heaven. Is the author of Hebrews in fact saying anything different? I don't think so. The Greek verb here, μετέσχεν meteschen, is in an aorist tense, not an imperfect which would imply that Jesus shared humanity for a time. The meaning is rather that Jesus came to share with us in humanity, became incarnate, with no suggestion that this situation ended with his death or resurrection.

So the New Living Translation gets this right:
Because God’s children are human beings—made of flesh and blood—the Son also became flesh and blood. For only as a human being could he die, and only by dying could he break the power of the devil, who had the power of death.
Indeed, as Hebrews 4:14-16 teaches us, it is important for our continued Christian walk that we still have a human Jesus in heaven, not "a high priest who is unable to empathize with our weaknesses" (4:15 TNIV US edition), but one who remains human as well as divine and so to whom we can draw near with confidence.

Sunday, June 24, 2007

innovative Bible format

Click here to read about a new publication format for the text of the Bible. While the format can be used with any version of the Bible, it will first appear with the text of the TNIV.

I believe that the new format will bring increased understanding to inductive Bible study.

The new format will be available for sale in August. IBS will begin taking pre-orders July 1.

Saturday, June 23, 2007

Close to his heart

There are some interesting new posts on Bible translations. Iyov introduces The Inclusive Bible and Gary Zimmerli blogs about the NRSV. (HT: Iyov) I have to say that the NRSV should get more attention on this blog.

I recently looked at one of my favourite verses, and one that is basically slaughtered in most modern translations, I might add, and noticed that the NRSV does, in fact, know what it is doing.
Here is John 1:18 in the King James Bible.
    No man hath seen God at any time, the only begotten Son, which is in the bosom of the Father, he hath declared him.
In the Greek the word "bosom" is κολπος and might also be translated over literally as "in the fold of". In any case, it denotes great affection and tenderness. Let me write first in favour of the word "bosom". In spite of what might leap to mind, the dictionary does honour a wider range of meanings.

From we get,

  • the chest considered as the place where secret thoughts are kept; "his bosom was bursting with the secret"
  • a person's breast or chest
  • cloth that covers the chest or breasts
  • embrace: a close affectionate and protective acceptance; "his willing embrace of new ideas"; "in the bosom of the family"
  • heart: the locus of feelings and intuitions; "in your heart you know it is true"; "her story would melt your bosom"
  • hide in one's bosom; "She bosomed his letters"
  • breast: either of two soft fleshy milk-secreting glandular organs on the chest of a woman
  • embrace: squeeze (someone) tightly in your arms, usually with fondness; "Hug me, please"; "They embraced"; "He hugged her close to him"

In God's Secretaries, Adam Nicolson often writes about the intensity with which the translators expressed affection and tenderness. He records a line from a letter written by one of the translator's, Sancroft, as a young man to his roommate at college who had just been sent home with TB.

    O lett me bosome thee, lett me preserve thee next to my heart and give thee so large an interest there, that nothing may supplant thee.

We should feel this warmth and closeness between the Father and Son when we read John 1:18. A quick scan of citations from the King James offers some insight into how "bosom" is used.

This word is engraved in my imagination because, as a child, I had a plaque on the wall with a picture and this text,
    He shall feed his flock like a shepherd: he shall gather the lambs with his arm, and carry them in his bosom, and shall gently lead those that are with young. Isaiah 40:11.
Many modern translations, the NIV, HCSB, ESV replace "in the bosom of the father" with "at his side" and the TNIV and NET Bible has "in closest relationship with the father ". Neither of these really does it for me. The first seems just downright inaccurate, and the second a little too much like legalese.

I note that the TNIV has translated Is 40:11 as,
    He tends his flock like a shepherd:
    He gathers the lambs in his arms
    and carries them close to his heart;
    he gently leads those that have young.
But only the NRSV has used this expression in John 1:18.

    No one has ever seen God. It is God the only Son, F5 who is close to the Father's heart, F6 who has made him known.

Surely one test of a good translation is that it stirs our hearts with an understanding of God's love for his Son, and engenders in us affection and tenderness for God and for others. The NRSV has my vote.

Friday, June 22, 2007

Wiki vs the NOAB

Forgive me - I know it is time to let Junia sleep but this has got to be one of the oddest items in Bible interpretation. The other day, Iyov contributed excerpts from these volumes, New Interpreter's Study Bible (NISB), The 2nd edition of the Harper Collins Study Bible (HSB), The Augmented 3rd edition of the New Oxford Annotated Bible (NOAB), to the comment section

    The NRSV has footnotes at Rom 16:7 giving alternatives of "Junias" or "Julia" for the name and the alternative of "compatriot" for "relatives."

    The NISB says "If Junia, a common Latin name for females, is indeed a woman, she is the only woman in the NT who is called an apostle Special Note: The best available mss of Romans have Junia, a feminine name. Several later mss substitute 'Junias,' a masculine name. Some early Christian scribes evidently altered the spelling from Junia to 'Junias' in order to make the individual a male apostle."

    The NOAB has: Junia, a woman; many manuscripts read 'Junias,' an otherwise unattested male latin name; our earliest manuscript reads 'Julia.' Relatives, fellow Jews (vv. 11,21; 9:3). The apostles, Paul uses the term to mean more than the twelve (see 1 Cor 15:5,7; Phil 2:25)."
Now I confess that in the past I have made fun of wikipedia. However, more recently I used it as a reference after checking several other sources first. I simply found that the wikipedia entry had information in it that I knew was reliable from cross-checking with books.

Now here is part of the wikipedia entry for Junia.

    Epps gives a tedious but thorough textual critical evaluation of the history of Junia in the Greek text and also the search for Junias (the alleged masculine form of the name, which doesn't seem to be found in New Testament times and rarely there after) in non-Biblical Greek literature. He points out that the earliest copies of the Greek texts for Romans 16.7 are majuscules (the Greek is letters are all capitals). There are no accent marks in them. The importance of this is that the gender of the name depends on the accentuation. Hence, the earliest texts are inconclusive and we are very dependent on Patristic interpretation for the gender of Junia.

    When the minuscules (using lower case Greek letters) appeared, Junia was accented with a character which indicates the feminine form of the name. Despite the Roman Aegidus, the feminine form of the name was in the Greek text of Erasmus' critical text in 1516 and in all critical Greek texts, with the exception of Alford's 1858 edition, until 1928 when Nestle inexplicably (read, he didn't explain it in the apparatus) went to the masculine form. This remained the case until the 1998, when the edition just as inexplicably went back the other way and the masculine is dropped as even an alternative (not in the apparatus). Hence, the textual weight is for the feminine name Junia, which most scholars accept.

However, the study Bibles depended on the older, 1966, 1968, UBS text which clearly and explicitly stated that the name was accented as a masculine name, when, in fact, it wasn't. This was corrected in 1998. You can see in the image above from this page that it wasn't. It is ἰουνίαν feminine. Also note the diaeresis over the ï to show a syllable/word break between "kai" and "iunia". The image reads ἀνδρόνικονκαιϊουνίαν -Andronikon kai Iounian.

You can now look at some of the manuscripts online here, #676 image 250, top left hand corner second line. and see for yourself. So the primary sources are the manuscripts themselves, as well as the lexical evidence found in other literature archived in Perseus and elsewhere. Neither the critical text nor the lexicons constitute primary sources, but secondary sources. What does that make the study Bibles and wikipedia?

This isn't so much about Junia as it is about what constitutes a primary source and what is likely to be a reliable secondary or tertiary source. What are those things which we can agree on?

It is nice that some of us have an agreed upon a fallback with the King James Bible as a consensus text, even if it is not always the most accurate.

PS This isn't really supposed to be a post about Junia. Maybe it is more interesting to note the use of the diaeresis. Choose what you like out of this post and discard the rest. I don't want to be contentious.


Thursday, June 21, 2007

ESV reprieves wizards

Rick Mansfield has started a series detailing the recent revisions to ESV. Most of the changes, at least as far as he has got so far (Genesis to Esther), are rather trivial. Some are welcome as minor adaptations towards more natural modern English.

The most interesting change is a consistent one from "wizard" to "necromancer", about which I have written a post, deliberately in a style to attract popular attention.

By the way, note the singular "they" in Leviticus 20:27 KJV and ESV, referring back to "a man also or a woman" which is treated as a singular subject ("is") in the first part of the verse. So "they" refers back to an indefinite singular referent, a classic example of singular "they". In the Hebrew, the verbs and pronouns are plural throughout this verse; a literal translation is "a man or woman that there is in them a familiar spirit or a spirit of knowledge dying will die (plural), with a stone they will stone them, their blood on them".

Tuesday, June 19, 2007

WLBA 14: Conclusions

It is time to wrap up the Women's Literal Bible Assessment. With the help of "Michael" (blocked blogger profile) I have come up with a short list of potential translations for the verses in dispute. I still feel undecided about the details but here are the options.

Rom. 16:1 deacon(ess)/servant
Rom. 16:2 Patron(ess) benefactor
Rom. 16:7 outstanding/noted among the apostles
1 Cor. 11:10 power/authority/permission on her head
1 Tim. 2:12 domineer/usurp authority

The notes should only be for the purpose of indicating the possible interpretations fairly. They should not put forth interpretations that cannot be supported with evidence. They could recount for historic interest that a phrase has been interpreted in a certain way, but the notes should not recommend something which has no lexicon support since readers cannot be expected to check the lexicons every time. I know that readers should regard Bible notes as a secondary source and treat them with suspicion but I doubt that most people will do that. People can be very gullible.

Notes should not be used to parade out favourite teachings one way or another. Therefore, there would be no note suggesting Phoebe was an ordained minister, and likewise no note suggesting that childbearing is a symbol of the proper subordination of women. There should not be any notes saying that only men can be leaders - because the scriptures clearly say that there were leading women among the Greeks. And certainly no notes saying that only married women can be leaders! But maybe there should be a note that only married men can be leaders. I'll have to think about that one. No doubt Paul and John Stott would disagree.

I could not recommend a Bible with notes that went too far one way or the other. Better leave it all out.


Monday, June 18, 2007

WLBA 13: 19th and 20th centuries

I would like to treat two different sets of Bibles in this post. And thus hasten the termination of this series. But first, many thanks to Doug of Metacatholic for a very nice commentary on the discussion, and to Michael for the ongoing dialogue in the comments to the preceding post. I will refer to these again.

The endpoint of this series will not be proof that a woman can be an ordained minister. I see that as a derivative practice. Rather we must simply focus on finding a common text.

I will openly admit that, for me, one of the consequences should be that woman is found to be of equal ability and acceptability to God in spiritual, moral and intellectual leadership. That she not be styled "the follower", the net receiver and responder. That a woman be recognized as a participant in her own right, as a sister, not as a subordinate to man.

But I would not want to go so far as to enter church polity here.

On Rom. 16:2

defender Rotherham
leader Young's Literal
leader CEV

These translations are important to show that there is a way to demonstrate basic respect for women. It is not necessary to call woman a follower, to reserve leadership to men. There is a way to be human about this debate and not look down on woman. And when I think about it, what kind of stress must it be to imagine that one must always be the leader.

We are all just people, not one set of leaders and another set of followers. That's it. Forget about resolving matters of church government for ever after. Rotherham and Young weren't threatened by women leaders, so why are people today?

Next, all the Bibles translated in the last century which have Junia as a man, and 1 Tim. 2:12 with "nor have authority over a man" were simply copying each other, or the lexicons or the critical text. They weren't out of line. They aren't of great interest to me apart from that. They are of historic relevance only.

On 1 Cor. 11:10. What that means I know not, but I sincerely doubt that thou knowest either.

ESV breathed out, 2 Timothy 3:16

"Metacatholic" (actually Anglican) Doug Chaplin makes some interesting comments Eisegesis in Overdrive on the ESV rendering of 2 Timothy 3:16,
All Scripture is breathed out by God and profitable for teaching, for reproof, for correction, and for training in righteousness
Doug also quotes this comment apparently from the ESV website (no URL given):
The Bible says every word was “breathed out by God” (2 Timothy 3:16). For this reason, the ESV seeks to translate the original Greek and Hebrew words with the greatest possible accuracy and precision. (their emphasis).
Then he writes:
We’ve moved from the traditional “inspired” of most translations, through the “God-breathed” of the NIV (whether into or out of) to the “breathed out by God” of the ESV text, to this gloss of “every word was breathed out by God”, presumably one at a time! And all this justifies a translation theory, which in a number of places, not least the verse under consideration, the ESV doesn’t even stick to.

Is this a translation for those who don’t care what the Greek text says, as long as the English reinforces their prejudices?

I wouldn't have dared to put this quite so strongly, but this is not the only place in ESV where one might suspect something like this.

Sunday, June 17, 2007

WLBA 12: Junias

If you are finding this tedious think of my position. Here I am writing about something as unimaginative as the petty diminishment of women by Bible translators in my series on the Woman's Literal Bible Assessment, the WLBA. Fortunately I am resurrecting my personal blog to save myself from this dreariness. But sometimes a boring job just has to be done.

The Junia of Rom. 16:7 was recognized as Junia, a feminine name, in the printed versions of the Greek New Testament from the time of Erasmus until 1927. In that year the Nestle-Aland text accented the name Ἰουνιᾶν so it would be masculine in form, Junias. Since the name is in the accusative case in Greek text it appears as either masculine Ἰουνιᾶν or ᾿Ιουνίαν, feminine. That means that, of course, the early texts without accents did not indicate whether it was masculine or feminine. However, no male name Junias has been known in Greek.

From 1927 until 1998, the name had been accented as masculine and entered as a possible masculine name in some lexicons. Now there is a scholarly consensus that it is a feminine name.

I do not find it surprising or out of the way that any translation from 1927 until 1998 has Junias in the masculine. In fact, the Revised versions of 1881 also had Junias. It was certain from the notes of the various Bibles texts and commentaries and from meetings for the RV translation, the N-A 1927 and the lexicons, that the only reason that Junias as a masculine was suggested was because of the belief that a woman could not be an apostle.

Eldon Jay Epp notes that it was the belief that a woman could not be an apostle which influenced translations, lexicions and critical texts. He provides this example from the Hastings Dictionary of the Bible article, 1899, by A. C. Headlam,

    There is little doubt as to whether the two [Andronicus and Junia(s)] are to be included among the apostles-probably they are ... In that case it is hardly likely that the name is feminine, although, curiously enough, Chrysostom does not consider the idea of a female apostle impossible.
About more recent translations Epp writes,

    What may be more difficult to understand now is that such a socio-cultural environment, one imbued with a view of a limited role for women in the church, still could influence some editors of the Greek New Testament in the mid-1990's to the extent that they could impose the masculine form upon an unaccented Greek name (unaccented at least for the first several centuries of Christianity) (a) when all church writers of the first millenium of Christianity took the name as feminine; (b) when there was ample evidence that the name in question was a very common female name at the time of earliest Christianity; and (c) in face of the fact that the alleged masculine forms are nowhere attested in the Greco-Roman milieu. *
Epp quotes James G.D. Dunn who writes,

    The assumption that it must be a male is a striking indictment of male presumption regarding the character and structure of earliest Christianity.**
If readers find fault in my concern that there is now male bias in some of the contemporary Bible translations, they need to be cognisant of the fact that male bias in Bible translation has a proven history; it is not a recently invented conspiracy theory. It did happen and it still happens.

I find it unremarkable that translations such as the RSV, NIV, NEB, NASB, and NRSV, those prior to 1998 have a male Junias. This is in accordance with the critical text, commentaries and lexicons. The translations themselves must be treated as derivative, only guilty in the second degree. But this is not a case of ambiguity, Junia was female.

About the Wallace - Burer hypothesis, that Junia was only "well-known to" the apostles, Epp comments on Belleville's analysis, which I recreated and writes,

    So far, this leaves Burer and Wallace's "working hypothesis" somewhat in a shambles and with exceptionally minimal data.
Burer did write to me last month indicating the intent to respond to the critique by Belleville, Epp, Bauckham and points brought up here. In the meantime, this hypothesis is undefended.

It is crucial to realize that a conservative element today does not only want to keep women from being ordained, but they want to restrict the exercise of the very qualities of leadership to men, and relegate women to being receivers and responders or followers. Thus a female apostle is less acceptable now than in the days of Chrysostom and cannot be allowed to remain in the text.

*Epp, Eldon Jay. Junia, The First Woman Apostle. 2005. Augsburg Fortress.
**Dunn, James D.G. Romans 9-16. WBC 38. Dallas. Word, 1988.

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Saturday, June 16, 2007

WLBA 11: Authentein

I wish to wind up this discussion shortly so I will briefly look at why so many Bibles translate 1 Tim. 2:12 with "have/exercise authority".

The following Bibles contain "have/exercise/use authority." Tyndale, Coverdale, Darby, Rotherham, RSV, NRSV, NKJV, ESV, NASB, NIV, HSCB, NLT, NET, ISV and D-R.

Variants are as follows:

Vulgate - dominare
Gothic - fraujinon (herrschen uber)
Wycliffe - have lordship over
Luther - herr sein
Rheims 1582 - have dominion over
Daniel Mace - dictate
Young's Literal - rule

The lexicons have traditionally contained the following entries, "usurp authority," "domineer" "have power over". The BDAG 1979 entry is "have authority, domineer." However, there have been a number of recent studies done on this word which appears only once in the Greek scriptures, and at most twice in literature contemporary to the epistles. BDAG, 3rd ed., 2000, has "to assume a stance of independent authority, give orders to, to dictate to."

The NET Bible note quotes the BDAG 3rd ed. and then translates this word as "exercise authority." Bibles which were translated before 2000 were consistent with the lexicon at that time. However, evidence does not support the meaning "have authority" and this meaning has been dropped from the lexicon. It seems that this meaning should not be used in a Bible translation today without evidence to support it. It is difficult to know to what extent a translation should include translations not supported by evidence or lexicons, even though they have a fair amount of tradition behind them.

I would suggest, however, that the balance of tradition is with "domineer" and the lexicons have come down on that side. There is very little contemporary evidence for this word but what little there is also supports the sense of "domineer". See Evangelical Feminism and Biblical Truth, 2004.

I particularly regret the translation of αυθεντεω with any phrase containing the word "authority". The Greek word is in no way related to "having authority" but rather relates to "using independent power."

For an interesting exercise I looked up the English word "authority" in Woodhouse's English-Greek Dictionary. Click on this image to enlarge it and read the results. αυθεντεω ia notable by its absence.

Although 1 Tim. 2:12, translated with "nor domineer over man" may well be compatible with a wide range of beliefs concerning women, one cannot derive from it the position of woman as being permanently "under male authority" or "not permitted by God to have any rightful authority or leadership role." One can imagine here the influence of Aristotle, who wrote unambiguously that woman is ακυρος - without authority.
As an aside I wonder if those who say that woman must be "under male authority" would not permit a woman to be the best in her field. Is she obliged to be second best to a man? May she never be the "authority"?

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Friday, June 15, 2007

WLBA 10: The Geneva Bible Notes

Here are our five verses in the Geneva Bible with the relevant notes.

Rom. 16:1

    Commend unto you Phoebe our sister, which is a servant of the Church of Cenchrea;
Rom. 16:2

    for she hath given hospitality unto many, and to me also.
Rom. 16:7

    Salute Andronicus and Junia my cousins and fellow prisoners, which are notable among the Apostles, and (*) were in (d) Christ before me.

    (*) They were grafted in Christ by faith afore I was called, and were well esteemed of the Apostles, and of the Churches.
    (d) Engrafted by faith.
The Geneva Bible notes indicate that Junia was only "esteemed of" the apostles. Luther believed that Junias was a male and translated the phrase with the German equivalent of "who were famous apostles." It is hard to believe that this discrepancy was not motivated by the belief that women could not be leaders. However, I find it interesting that the Puritans had this conviction but did not alter the actual translation of the phrase accordingly. They were willing to leave the Bible translation itself ambiguous and literal.

1 Cor. 11:10
    10 (9) Therefore ought the woman to have (c) (*) power on her head, because of the (10) (♣) Angels.

    (9) The conclusion: Women must be covered, to shew by this external sign their subjection. (c) A covering which is a token of subjection.
    (*) Something to cover her head in sign of subjection. (10) What this meaneth, I do not yet understand.
    (♣) To whom they also shew their dissolution, and not only to Christ.
The notes on this chapter are, taken as a whole, quite fascinating and I cannot do them justice here. It is enough to notice that these notes state that woman is one degree beneath man, and unequal, and that man is preeminent and superior. Two further remarks are of interest. One is that "mutual conjunction may be cherished." Women may not be equal but the conjunction of man with woman is still to be thought of in terms of affection.

A note on 1 Cor. 11:4 is as follows,
    Every (b) man (*) praying or (♣) prophesying having anything on his head, (♠) dishonoreth his head. is as follows,

    It appeareth that this was a politic law serving only for the circumstances of the time that Paul lived in, by this reason, because in these our days for a man to speak bareheaded in an assembly is a sign of subjection.
I have found the notes on 1 Tim. 2: 12-15 to be the most enlightening.
    12 (*) I permit not a woman to teach, (8) neither to usurp authority over the man, but to be in silence.

    (*) 1 Corinthians 14:34 .
    (8) The first argument, why it is not lawful for women to teach in the Congregation, because by this means they should be placed above men, for they would be their masters; which is against God's ordinance.

    14 And Adam was (♣) not (g) deceived, but the woman was deceived, and was in the (♠) transgression.

    (*) Genesis 3:6 .
    (10) Then because that after sin God enjoined the woman this punishment, for that the man was deceived by her.
    (♣) The woman was first deceived, and so became the instrument of Satan to deceive the man; and though therefore God punisheth them with subjection and pain in their travel, yet if they be faithful and godly in their vocation, they shall be saved.

    15 (11) Notwithstanding, through bearing of children she shall be saved, if (*) they continue in faith, and love, and holiness with modesty.

    (11) He addeth a comfort by the way, that their subjection hindereth not, but that women may be saved as well as men, if they behave themselves in those burdens holily and modestly, with faith and charity.
This affords us more insight into the thinking of the various annotators of the Geneva Bible. First, there is the recognition that the central circumstance of a married woman's life is "travel" that is, travail or labour, which in the past meant a very real risk of dying. In these notes we see the logical conjunction of subjection and travail as a punishment and a burden.

So subjection is not a role that woman was created to fulfill, but a punishment for her sin in being deceived first. Although this is not explicitly stated in the notes, it may be worth considering whether the annotators had in mind that it is subjection to a husband in the fulfillment of marital duties which makes a woman vulnerable to childbearing, pain and possibly death. Subjection and pain are inextricably linked as a burden and a punishment.

And verse 15 is therefore the comfort that a woman receives, the reassurance that she will be saved if she bear herself in these burdens with modesty, faith and charity.

I could not help but reflect on the fact that the male annotators of this Bible enjoin women to be subject and accept their circumstances in life, to bear their punishment for the sin of Eve with forbearance. But the Puritans as a party ultimately stifled their own scruples regarding the subjection of men to a ruler. Some left for America, some captured and beheaded their king and eventually some revolted in a second mutiny against the monarchy and set up self-government. Subjection was not for man but for woman.


I leave behind the Bibles of the 16th and 17th century with regret but hope to return to them again later in a fresh context. From the study of these bibles, I learned that although there was a firm belief in the subjection of women, based on their inequality and lower degree, the text of the Bible itself was not altered.

The literal translation of Rom. 16:7, 1 Cor. 11:10 and 1 Tim. 2:12 was not doctored to line up with the belief in women's subjection.The Bishops', Geneva and King James Bible had a relatively similar translation for the women's verses. It is significant that the KJV, which became the enduring translation, was devoid of interpretive notes refering to women's subjection.

I found it of interest that the notes in the Geneva Bible reflect a very different view of childbearing than what is taught by some theologians today. For 1 Tim. 2:15, there was a reference to the burden and travail of childbearing as a punishment from God. How different this is than the view widely written about now, that childbearing saves women in that they are preserved from temptation by staying either under their husband's authority, or within the domestic sphere, or in submission to male leadership.

Frankly I find the notes of the Geneva Bible preferable. They demonstrate recognition of the suffering of women in childbirth and no more posit subjection of the female to the male as a circumstance of rejoicing than the subjection of citizens to a tyranical ruler.

The 1582 Rheims Bible, contributed by Iyov, follows the Latin Vulgate very closely and does not in any way show that the notes, although particularly prejudiced against women, have influenced the translation itself. Junia was "noble among the apostles," and the other phrases are likewise literal, "have power upon her head" and "nor to have dominion over the man".

I especially enjoyed the many delightful phrases refering to women as "great talkers of scripture and promoters of heresie," as well as the rule of repression of "the saucinesse of contentious ianglers."


Generic "man" being misunderstood

The word "man" is used regularly in its gender generic sense in several current Bible translations, such as NIV and RSV, as well as KJV. There has been some discussion in recent comments here on how widespread this use is for RSV and KJV, but undoubtedly NIV is still in widespread use. But this gender generic sense of "man" is no longer clearly understood.

This misunderstanding is in fact nothing new. At least since the 1960s the primary sense of "man" for most English speakers has been the male-only one. I have previously suggested here that one explanation for Dr Wayne Grudem's strongly complementarian understanding of the Bible is that, as a young man in the 1960s, he misunderstood "man" in English translations as gender specific; when he later learned Greek he did not allow this to correct his theology, but rather reinterpreted Greek words to fit his theology.

But now, 40 years later, the generic sense of "man" is so little understood that people can completely misinterpret English Bibles without realising it. I came across an example in a comment on Dave Warnock's blog 42, where Theodore A. Jones wrote:
God has said that he requires an accounting whenever any male human's life is taken by bloodshed
When I asked Theodore
Where is the restriction to males?
he replied by referring to Genesis 9:5b NIV, which reads:
And from each man, too, I will demand an accounting for the life of his fellow man.
It didn't seem to have occurred to him that "man" in this passage is intended to be gender generic, as clarified (by the same translation committee) in TNIV:
And from each human being, too, I will demand an accounting for the life of another human being.
The Hebrew word for "man" here is 'adam which is almost always used in a gender generic sense. (In fact 'ish is also used here, but not meaning "man", but "each".) So there is no justification at all for Theodore's gender specific exegesis.

The sooner IBS and Zondervan phase out NIV and replace it by TNIV, the better.

Thursday, June 14, 2007

WLBA 9: Geneva and Bishops'

Here are the verses relating to women in the Bishops' Bible and Geneva Bible along with the KJV.

Rom. 16:1 Phoebe

minister Bishops' Bible
servant Geneva
servant KJV

Rom. 16:2

hath suckoured many Bishops'
given hospitality unto many Geneva
succourer of many KJV

Rom. 16:7 Junia

well taken among the apostles Bishops'
notable among the apostles Geneva
of note among the apostles KJV

1 Cor. 11:10 - all

have power on her head

1 Tim. 2:12 - all

usurp authoritie

The translations for 1 Cor. 11:10 and 1 Tim. 2:12 are constant, indicating a reluctance to offer an interpretive rendering in the text but a preference to reserve it for the marginal notes.

However, Rom. 16 is more interesting. In Rom. 16:1 the KJV opted for the Geneva version, in verse 2 for the Bishops' Bible. In verse 7, the KJV opted for an ambiguous reading.

It is interesting to see that both the Bishops' Bible and the Geneva Bible did have some difficulty with Junia being an apostle. In light of this information, I feel that I should briefly reconsider the evidence for Junia being among the apostles. They are in the shortest summary form,

1. en plus the dative most commonly means "among" in Koine Greek
2. Crysostom, a native Greek speaker, considered Junia to be one of the apostles
3. The Latin Vulgate has "noble among the apostles"
4. The Greek Vamva versions reads unambiguously "among"
5. The Wallace - Burer hypothesis hangs by this thread,
    P.Oxy. 1408 speaks of “the most important [places] of the nomes” (τοῖς ἐπισημοτάτοις τῶν νομῶν). [Ed. - A “nome” was a province in Egypt.] In this text that which is ἐπίσημος is a part of the nome; the genitive is used to indicate this. On two other occasions this same idiom occurs, each time with a genitive modifier: τοῖς ἐπισημοτάτοις τόποις τ[ῶ]ν κωμ[ῶν] (“the most conspicuous places in the villages”) in P. Oxy. 2108 and τ[οῖς ἐπι]σήμοις τοῦ νομοῦ τόποις (“the well-known places of the nome”) in P. Oxy. 2705. In each of these instances, that which is ἐπίσημος is compared to its environment with a partitive genitive; it is a part of the entity to which it is being compared. This was a sufficiently common idiom (though occurring only these three times in the Oxyrhynchus papyri) that the editors conjecture the reading in the lacuna at P. Oxy. 3364, line 22: [τ]ῆς ἐπιστολῆς τὸ ἀντίγραφον ἔν τε ταῖς π[όλεσι καὶ ἐν τοῖς ἐπισήμοις τῶν νομῶν τόποις ([Place] “the copy of the letter in the c[ities and in the public places of the nomes]”).

    The phrase in P.Oxy. 1408 is governed by ἐν, and the word τόποις is not in the text of the papyrus (although the editors do suggest that its omission was a mistake on the part of the original author of the papyrus); this is a nice parallel to the text in Ps. Sol. 17:30. Thus there appeared to be an idiom in Hellenistic Greek which allowed the adjective ἐπίσημος when it referred to a place to stand alone, the noun τόπος being elided.
I would appreciate some help in ascertaining if I have made an error. However, the way I understand this argument is the following. This phrase τοῖς ἐπισημοτάτοις τόποις τ[ῶ]ν κωμ[ῶν] occurs three times in Greek literature. In two cases it occurs in full and once it occurs as τοῖς ἐπισημοτάτοις τῶν νομῶν with τόποις omitted. The editor of this text considers that the omission is an error and the text is usually presented with τόποις inserted. There were other irregularities in this text to support the notion that the omission was a copyist's error.

However, Burer assserts that the idiom allows τόπος to be elided, in spite of the fact that there is only one instance of this in all Greek literature. This example is two and a half centuries after the text in Psalm of Solomon which Burer claims is a parallel. But we know that the idiom usually occured without the elision. The P Oxy. example is from a text composed in Greek and the example in Psalm of Solomon is a translation of a Hebrew or Aramaic original two and a half centuries earlier. There has been no proposal for understanding the phrase from Psalm of Solomon as a translation of a Hebrew original.

The other problem is that any proof showing that using an adjective with a genitive is inclusive has no bearing on whether the adjective is inclusive or exclusive when it occurs with en plus dative. That is, proving that A is green does not prove that B is red.

I find the various convolutions necessary to follow Burer's argument to be the strongest argument in favour of Junia being one of the apostles. I do not wish to draw any other conclusions as to women in ministry from this verse but would suggest that an ambiguous text at best is the only fair way to deal with the Greek. I believe that this has been a stumbling block for many translators.

There was a disagreement, Junia was force to cross-dress for several centuries to resolve the difficulty, she has been recognized as female once again, now what?

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Wednesday, June 13, 2007

WLBA 8: KJV conclusion

If you want to read something effusive about the language of the King James Bible then I recommend this short commentary on the Psalms by Kathleen Norris who writes about,

    "the music of the language in the ear, the pleasurable mouth-feel of words spoken aloud."
I am more interested in the King James Bible as a shared document, a consensual text. This Bible was conceived in the reign of Elizabeth I, created during the reign of James I and came into general use during the Restoration period in England, the 166o's . It was not the Bible of Shakespeare or of the founding colonies of the United States.

The value of the King James Bibles as literature is established. But its acceptance may originally have more to do with what it was not - the Bishop's Bible on the one hand, or the Puritan's Geneva Bible on the other.

James commented,

    Could never yet see a Bible well translated in English; but I think that, of all, that of Geneva is the worst. I wish some special pains were taken for an uniform translation, which should be done by the best learned men in both Universities, then reviewed by the Bishops, presented to the Privy Council, lastly ratified by Royal authority, to be read in the whole Church, and none other.
And resolved,

    That a translation be made of the whole Bible, as consonant as can be to the original Hebrew and Greek; and this to be set out and printed, without any marginal notes, and only to be used in all churches of England in time of divine service.
The new Bible was drafted by a committee of 47 men, from both Cambridge and Oxford, half of whom were of Puritan and half of Episcopal persuasion. It was technically a revision of the Bishops' Bible; the translators were handed out copies of the Bishops' Bible to write on and revise. Ecclesiastical words were to be followed and no marginal notes were to be included, except to explain the Hebrew or Greek words.

I find the fourth instruction to be of particular interest,

    When a Word hath divers Significations, that to be kept which hath been most commonly used by the most of the Ancient Fathers, being agreeable to the Propriety of the Place, and the Analogy of the Faith.
The King James Bible is not a shared text by chance. A consensus was carefully created. The translators came from the two opposing camps, the highest scholars were consulted, the interpretive commentary was eliminated, and tradition was to be followed. There was no role for innovation or private interpretation.

The full set of instructions can be read here. Consensus was created through the choice of the translators, the process of translation, the ground rules which were laid down, and especially through the omission of the marginal notes. It was not by chance but by intent that this Bible became the standard translation of the scriptures for 4 centuries.

However, the King James Bible did not enjoy immediate success. It was intended to contribute to internal peace and nationbuilding in its own era. It was planned as an irenicon, a thing of peace. But the second decade of the 17th century led to the third and England was immersed in bloody combat culminating in the execution of Charles I. Cromwell's Bible was naturally the Geneva Bible, the text of the reformers.

It was only during the enforced uniformity of the Restoration under Charles II that the King James Bible became the accepted text. And the rest is history.

I would argue that although the King James Bible did not provide instant peace, it has nonetheless become a shared text because of the qualities invested in it by the strict instructions of the king.

We would do well to consider these qualities. A Bible should bring together scholars of different communities. It should exclude all notes except commentary on the meaning of the Hebrew and Greek words. It should avoid innovation without consensus. If the translators know that there is no consensus on a particular translation then it should not be included. If there is an innovative translation that has the consensus of the scholarly community then this should be included with explanation and support.

Tradition does not prevent new meanings coming into the translation but provides the wording for an obscure original when there is no new consensus. By a carefully agreed upon process, a text could be created which would not surprise and cause undue consternation.

In a new translation today, I would look for agreement with the current lexicons and grammars, support by the most well recognized scholars, consensus across community boundaries and honouring tradition where new theories are not yet generally accepted. Above all interpretive translation would be largely excluded or well footnoted. Sadly, many new translations fall short of this.

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Tuesday, June 12, 2007

WLBA 7: KJV Cont

I am taking my sweet time getting down to the point and writing a serious post about the KJV. In the meantime, another story from the woman's world of Suzanne. I work in a secular environment where it is fine to be Buddhist, atheist, etc. etc, also married, single, gay or transgendered. We even have stay at home mothers who come back once in a while to visit with former colleagues over lunch. There are incidently a few men, young and old.

At the end of a meeting this morning I was listening in on this conversation, between a man, first speaker, and a woman, second speaker.

"She's taking a week off to go east with her husband who has some job interviews."

"So we get a new consultant next year?"

"Looks like it."

"Is she looking for a job there too?"

"No, I don't think so. I truly doubt it."

"She isn't?"

"Um, she is, you know, um - 'great with child.'"

"Oh yeah, right - she's expecting - of course, now she can take some time off."

If you are a man, and you are at loss for words in a mixed environment, you can't go too far wrong if you quote the King James Bible. For some reason, this man stumbled over, "she's expecting,"but he had a fallback - from the KJV. In our secular workplace it passes without remark. It is a shared text.


In the interests of complete disclosure. I will admit that the man in this conversation is an older man and a Christian. He attends Gordon Fee's church. However, my point is this. He assumes that the staff, composed of Jewish, Catholic, atheist, etc. etc. will recognize his quote because they are all anglophone. Not that the others would quote the KJV themselves, or any biblical text. But they accept it.

However, I used to consider the KJV to be the text of a fundamentalist minority, rather than a shared text of the anglophone community.

Two other incidents this year have reinforced this. Our Jewish librarian spoke in a positive fashion of the KJV recently. On another occasion I observed a large banner in the headquarters of the municipal police, "Blessed are the peacemakers: for they shall be called the children of God."

Our city is the usual multicultural mix and considered a rather liberal environment as well. However, I am convinced that the KJV is the only Bible version which can pass without remark.

I am trying in ethnographers fashion, to recount incidents where the Bible is mentioned in a secular environment, without my suggesting it. This is what I observe. It is an alternative to putting out a poll or survey.


Monday, June 11, 2007

Well...It ain't gonna sell!

One of the great difficulties Bible translators have is marketing their translations. People are picky. People measure accuracy in terms of words, or, possibly, at best, verses. And if the translation says something different than they're use to, out comes the interlinear, and, after matching the words, the great "Aha!!" is heard throughout the land. So, what if the thing people are use to isn't accurate? How does a Bible translator improve the translation? How do we get to a Better Bible?

Let me give you a case in point that I recently tripped over. It was one of those, "I hate it when it's obvious" events. But, in any case, you're not going to like it.

Here is a very familiar passage to anyone who has spent a fair amount of time in the Greek. It's fairly simple Greek (which is not meant to demean anyone). But, there's something here that will surprise even most experts--few see it. I was surprised by it.
ἐν ἀρχῇ ἦν ὁ λόγος, καὶ ὁ λόγος ἦν πρὸς τὸν θεόν, καὶ θεὸς ἦν ὁ λόγος. οὗτος ἦν ἐν ἀρχῇ πρὸς τὸν θεόν. πάντα δι' αὐτοῦ ἐγένετο, καὶ χωρὶς αὐτοῦ ἐγένετο οὐδὲ ἕν. ὃ γέγονεν ἐν αὐτῷ ζωὴ ἦν, καὶ ἡ ζωὴ ἦν τὸ φῶς τῶν ἀνθρώπων: καὶ τὸ φῶς ἐν τῇ σκοτίᾳ φαίνει, καὶ ἡ σκοτία αὐτὸ οὐ κατέλαβεν. (John 1:1-5).
John is the master of ambiguity. He uses it to fascinate, entertain, and snag his reader. He does so here.'re not going to like it.

In fact, 'it' is the whole problem.

You see, the word λόγος (LOGOS) is the subject of the first clause. In fact, literally rendering the text, we would have: "In the beginning the word was." (EIMI generally places the subject after the verb; even more so when it's articular. Also, I prefer 'message', thinking it is more accurate; and I will be using it for the rest of this posting.) So, John, in this gospel, immediately introduces the concept of 'message'. He then refers back to λόγος, quite a number of times, using a specific word, namely, αὐτός (AUTOS). OK, fine, so what's the big deal about that?

Well, αὐτός can be translated as 'he', 'she', or 'it', depending on whether its referent is masculine, feminine or neuter. Well, here it refers back to λόγος and λόγος is masculine. However, that's Greek. In English λόγος is translated as 'message' (or word), and 'message' is an 'it'; it's not a 'he'. In other words, to be accurate, the translator should translate all these αὐτός words as 'it'. You see, 'it' is the whole problem (pun intended). I told you you weren't going to like it (no pun intended). In fact, you've probably dismissed me at this point for promoting heresy.

Please give me a few more minutes of your time to rescue myself from the pit. Or, more correctly, I think, to let the message of God rescue me (as he has so many times before).

John, as I said, is a master of ambiguity. And these 5 verses must be read within their unit of interpretation since it is within the whole text that the ambiguity is resolved. However, we should not read the end back into the beginning while we are reading the beginning. To be accurate, we should let the text say what the text is saying. If John is going to fascinate, entertain, and snag, then we should let him.

This unit of interpretation continues through verse 18. And, even more importantly, these 18 verses form a chiasm. What that means, among much more I'm not going to develop, is that verse 18 completely disambiguates what the 'message' really is. John wants to make absolutely sure that no one walks away from this unit of interpretation with the wrong interpretation -- that somehow, the message is an 'it'. So, let me state it clearly: this 'message' is the very Son of God; and, in fact, it is God himself. (All discussions holed up in John 1:1 must battle the fact of John 1:18; since the one kisses the other like two halves of a folded hinge. That's how a chiasm works. And a whole other translation issue.)

Furthermore, verse 14 states quite clearly that this message became flesh: καὶ ὁ λόγος σὰρξ ἐγένετο καὶ ἐσκήνωσεν ἐν ἡμῖν. That is, "The message became flesh and entered a Temple-residence among us." (See the recent discussion regarding σκηνόω. My view is that here John is again purposely using double meaning to make a point. σκηνόω is an unusual word to be used here. Therefore it ends up referring to the Temple as well as referring to what one does when one resides somewhere. 'Temple-residence' is also an unusual word, so I've chosen it. In any case, only God could reside in the Temple.)

So, the ambiguity is completely resolved within the interpretive unit. To push this just one more time: John the Baptist also says so. I'll not develop that. It's there in the text.

Why then does John start off with this ambiguity?

He wants to emphasize what his gospel is about. It's a message about the Message. He is setting the stage for his whole gospel. The ambiguity raises the interest. The gentle movement from 'message' to 'person' pulls the reader into the text: it entertains, it fascinates, it snags.

The whole point of John's gospel is this message; but, it's a personified message; a God-human message. It's a message from God, about God, who, in fact, is God. But, the only way for God to communicate that message to human beings is to personify--that is, to enflesh--that very message. That is, God had to become a human being and thereby express in perfect accuracy who he is.

John is saying, "Let me introduce you to the message of God. He's living. He's breathing. And he walked among us. I'll provide you with signs as evidence to prove it."

Well, OK, I lied. Maybe, you do like it.

But, I bet many of you don't like how I got here. But, it seems to me, that is how John gets us here. He starts with some ambiguity. And then, through a masterful construction, resolves it. That focuses the attention on the resolution and yet, the reader wants to know more about this message. To me: That's brilliant!

You see what I mean.

One of the great difficulties Bible translators have is marketing their translations. People are picky. People measure accuracy in terms of words, or, possibly, at best, verses. And if the translation says something different than they're use to, out comes the interlinear, and the great "Aha!!" is heard throughout the land.

Who would accept:
"In the beginning was the message; the message was with God; the message was purely divine. It was in the beginning with God. It created everything, and apart from it not one thing came into being. In it there exists life and this life has continued to provide light to human beings. And the light lit up the darkness and the darkness did not withstand it."
Maybe we should stop picking disagreements over words (or even the case endings) and start dancing with whole interpretive units. Maybe more and Better Bibles would be bought with the very living lives of people.

I'd like that. Even if some of what I said here is totally ridiculous, I think many of you would like that result, too.

Around the blogosphere

Wayne is away right now and I am too busy to do justice to what I want to write about so here is a glance at what I am reading.

Mike Bird writes about something funny he would like to see at SBL next year. Amen, Mike.
    I give a paper at the Christian Origins seminar under the pseudonymn Vladamir Luedemann (Joseph Stalin Professor of Biblical Studies at University of Wisconsin) and tout the superiority of the feminist, marxist, atheist, secular, eco, eskimo, and post-colonialist approach to biblical studies and insist that everyone else is a pseudo-scholar.
Except if I did this it wouldn't be a joke.

Ivob writes on a more serious note about books to buy during Jewish 'publishers book week. And Peter writes about forgiveness. Therefore, I forgive Mike Bird for making fun of my aspirations. Chris and Metacatholic respond to John's posts about the canon.

Saturday, June 09, 2007

WLBA 6: The KJV cont

There is a nice little dialogue going on in the comment section at This Lamp between Rick and Iyov on the King James Bible. For once I am not in the middle of it. Rick said, "And I don't know of a worse Bible to give to a child than the KJV."

Rick's is my favourite blog and the closest one in theme to this blog. I count Rick among my friends. But . . . . this comment set off so many memories that I would like to share.

My father read out of the King James Bible every night at the dinner table. My mother provided the commentary and often recounted to us some part of the life of one of the Wesleys, or Whitfield or John Newton. After dinner and some discussion of the chapter I could wander into the living room and carefully open the dictionary to make sure I gleaned the last scrap of information from the story. And so I learned what a concubine was, and what kind of trouble filled Dinah's life and why mandrakes were so important.

From the King James Bible, my sisters and I acted out the book of Esther and read the story of Naaman and the little maid. My sister and I decided that Naaman did not look quite right in the picture of him washing in the river with spots still covering him, so we happily defaced that page. Poor guy. I read about Samuel and Moses' sister and Josiah, all the stories of children in the Bible. We played charades from the stories of the King James Bible, fighting over who would be Rebekah and who the camel.

We talked about David in Sunday school and I remember coming home and opening up the King James Bible with great eagerness to read the whole story of David and Michal. I remember the feeling of horror and misery I had as I scanned ahead to find out how the story ended. I simply could not believe it. She complained once about how he behaved and was evermore a castoff - played as a pawn and never a queen, to secure David's throne - while Bathsheba, the bathing beauty, bore the crown prince. Abigail simply disgusted me. What was she doing chasing a married man?

Do I remember not understanding anything in the stories? No. Do I remember the difficult langauge? No, I don't. The same goes for the gospels and acts.

I will, however, admit that when I read the Good News Bible, it occured to me that Paul's epistles were quite possibly intended to be understood. In fact, they never made much sense to me until I started reading them in Greek - justification and propitiation were as opaque to me as to the next person. However, δικαιοσυνη and ιλασμος were not so improbable. But going back now I can see and appreciate the clear literalism of the King James Bible, the respect for the simple unadorned Greek words and the resistance against interpreting an obscure construction.

What use is it now for me to open up Bibles labeled literal and find that if the verse has a teaching about women in it, more than likely it is translated in an interpretive fashion. The translator had imposed himself between God and the reader. The King James Bible offers the most literal translation of the verses in the epistles which apply to women. The King James Bible offers peacemakers who shall be called the "children of God", and the King James Bible really meant people when it said "men". I never doubted it - I never thought that "men" meant only the males.

As for the language and literary quality of the King James Bible, I simply took it for granted.

I was incredibly fortunate to grow up with the King James Bible and it is a very sad thing that most young girls today won't have that experience - or boys too.

The Canon and other thoughts

There are some new directions in the bibliosphere as John Hobbins opens a discussion about the canon. Metacatholic and others participate.

Mike Bird writes about inerrancy. I also enjoy his comments elsewhere. And here is a new blog on biblical studies by Iyov.

Friday, June 08, 2007

WLBA 5: the context

Before continuing with the King James Bible I want to address a literal and global understanding of the 5 verses I am using for this assessment explaining how I read them in context.

There are certainly different ways to interpret the following verses with respect to the role of women. I read these verses Rom. 16:1,2 and 7 along with 1 Cor. 11:10, 1 Tim. 2:12 and Eph. 5:21-33, and understand them as follows.

First, in the greater context women are servants of the church, hold many of the same offices men hold, are coworkers and help men out from their own resources and position. This is consistent with the role of women in Acts and the other epistles where women are leaders in their society, they host housechurches, and they bring their households to faith, they are prophets and apostles. People are addressed as singles, married couples, two women, two men and in groups.

From Eph. 5 we learn that a husband and wife are in a sacrifice - submission relationship. This is consistent with the physiological constraints placed on women through childbearing. Women are closely tied to the children and sacrifice physically for them. They are typically at this time physically and financially dependent on someone else for support, usually the father of the children. During the childbearing years, the husband and wife are in a provider-dependent relationship, just as the church is with Christ. The dependent should respect the provider and the provider must recognise the dependent, the wife, as being one with himself as the mother of his children. This is the only interpretation that "head" suggests to me.

In 1 Cor. 11:10 it is likely that women were expected to wear a head covering as was usual at the time. A head covering is symbolic of many different things and does not have a consistent and universal significance. Hence the queen may wear a hat for whatever reason she wishes. If a woman wore a veil it established her status in society. It is linguistically possible that εχουσια meant a symbol of authority such as a crown. There is, however, no evidence that the expression "having authority" ever meant to "have a symbol of being under authority." Although context may suggest which of two or three possible interpretations one should choose, it does not justify choosing a linguistically impossible interpretation.

Finally, 1 Tim. 2:12 does not mention "authority" as we understand it. It clearly says that a woman may not set herself up as an 'independent authority'. It is probably best to avoid using the word "authority" altogether and go with something like "dominate" as Jerome did.

Nowhere in any of these verses is it written that men have God-given authority over women. Neither does it say that a husband has the right to make decisions for his wife. Nor does it say that a husband is doing his wife a favour by making decisions for her. And yet this was recently preached and posted on the internet.

There was also a recent post by a woman who declared that she had decided to wear a hat to church from now on. This was praised by a man who declared that in his church women don't teach or exercise authority over men. In his church it is taught that in marriage women get to submit and men lay down their lives. He went on, positing the basic male - female dyad as one of godly authority and feminine embrace of submission.

But is the basic male - female dyad one of authority and submission in the scriptures, rather than one sacrifice and submission, love and respect? And is this dyad applicable to men and women regardless of whether they are married or not? Should an unmarried woman symbolize her submission to male authority?

On the other hand, if the dyad is one of sacrifice and submission, understood uniquely within a marriage, this then serves as a metaphor for understanding Christ and the church. It is not, however, a universal model for how men and women interact.

The scriptures are certainly using marriage and male and female differences to teach us something about God. But what they don't do is teach that all men and women are in a universal and permanent authority-submission relationship. It should not be a govenrment - citizen situation where all the men set up rules for all the women. And should marriage be defined as a ruler - subject relationship in any case?

I was shocked recently to read in an interview of an single adult Christian female that she sought "spriritual covering and protection" from Christian males. I find each and every suggestion that women are in a different relationship to men in the church than men are to men, to be highly sexualized and offensive. It is dangerous for women to seek authority, approval, protection and "covering" from men outside of either family relationships or professional capacity. Women can find what they need from other women. A woman can find a female lawyer, counsellor, and mentor, she doesn't need to think of men as necessary to her spritiual self-esteem, the authority in her life.

When will those who preach this nonsense wake up and realize that the Bible strictly teaches men and women to treat each other as siblings? This means treating each other as equals, not setting up boundaries and restrictions and lists for one class of humans, and certainly not teaching that being in submission to male leadership is going to further a woman's redemption!

Teenage girls need to be protected from this kind of teaching. It is an unmitigated evil in the Christian community that young females are not taught and modeled that they should resist the need for male sanction.

The verses relating to women should not serve as proof texts for male advantage, but be read within the context of the chapters and books in which they occur and in accordance with the narrative passages in scripture. Let's read what these verses say rather than what some translator wants us to think that they say.

Just in case you are wondering - what you see on this blog is the tip of an iceberg. Women write to me more than they comment. I read the blogs of other women, and they read what I am writing here. I listen to women and read books by women. A lot of what goes on in my posts on women is inspired by real women and written for real women.

At least I know that you know that I never suggest that men and women are the same.

Update: Dr. Mariottini blogs about pornography. I share his heartfelt concerns. I also experience any objectification of woman in the church as a form of pornography. The more men engage with women as equals the less they will treat them as objects. Putting women under male authority or male power is a form of evil.

If women feel they need to wear a head covering to ward off the lust of the angels that is fine with me, but to signal submission to male power in a blanket fashion encourages the wrong ideals.