Better Bibles Blog has moved. Read our last post, below, and then
click here if you are not redirected to our new location within 60 seconds.
Please Bookmark our new location and update blogrolls.

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.



At Thu Jun 21, 03:46:00 AM, Blogger Iyov said...

I disagree with you rather strongly on notes. According to ancient Catholic tradition, for example, Bibles are always supposed to contain interpretative notes, and certainly we all benefit from textual notes.

But I thin that modern study Bibles contain very interesting notes at the these points. I think that these notes add considerable light for someone struggling to read the Bible in English translation. I would not want to use a Bible in which they were omitted.

Rom 16:1

The NRSV footnotes Rom 16:1 by giving the translation "deacon" with the alternative "Or minister" in the textual notes.

In the New Interpreter's Study Bible (NISB), it adds "The concluding list of names in chap. 16 is the longest farewell in the NT. Twenty-nine individuals are mentioned, twenty-seven by name, of which one-third are women. Leadership roles ascribed to women include deacon (v. 1), fellow-workers in Christ Jesus (vv.3, 6, 12), saints (v. 15) and one prominent among the apostles.... Phoebe heads the list perhaps because she was the bearer of Paul's letter to Rome."

The 2nd edition of the HarperCollins Study Bible (HSB) says "Phoebe, probably the bearer of the Letter (see Introduction). Deacon, probably a recognized leadership role, though not a yet a specific rank of clergy. See Phil 1:1; cf. 1 Tim 3:8-13.

The Augmented 3rd edition of the New Oxford Annotated Bible (NOAB) says "Some early manuscripts do not include 16:1-24; these verse nevertheless appear to be an authentic part of the letter (see also 16:25-27 n.) Paul commends Phoebe, an officer of a nearby church, to the hospitality and support of the Roman Christians, thus honoring his obligations to her as his benefactor. On the early Christian office of deacon, see Phil 1:1; 1 Tim 3:8,12; Titus 1:9."

Rom 16:2

The NRSV has no footnote for Rom 16:2, and the NISB and NOABs footnote were quoted above.

The HSB has "As benefactor (lit. 'patron'), Phoebe was evidently a woman of means (cf. Lk 8:3, Acts 16:14-15; 17:12); the patron-client pattern was common and basic in Hellenistic society.

Rom 16:7

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 HSB has "Junia, a woman's name, Junias, (see text note) a man's. Relatives, perhaps simply fellow Jews (see text note). In Christ before I was, i.e., before Paul's conversion, no later than 35 CE, and thus among the earliest Christians. When, where, or why they were imprisoned with Paul is uncknown. The woman Junia, like Andronicus (her husband?) was a prominent apostle herself, not simply highly regarded by apostles. On what it meant for Paul to be an apostle, cf 1 Cor 9:1-2; 2 Cor 11-12."

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)."

1 Cor 11:10

The NRSV footnotes "Greek lacks a symbol of" and adds "Or have freedom of choice regarding her head."

The NISB says "The NRSV has added symbol of to make sense (the term translated authority is found in 7:37; 8:9; 9:4-6; 12, 18). Because of the angels Perhaps a reflection of Gen 6:1-4; otherwise the referent is unclear.

The HSB says "There is no scholarly consensus about the translation of this vers (see text notes) or about its interpretation. The angels (see also 4:9; 6:3; 13:1), probably not to be identified with the 'sons of God' mentioned in Gen 6:2."

The NOAB says "Because of the angels is probably an allusion to women's claim that in their prophetic inspiration or ecstasy they have 'authority' to let their hair flow freely, so that their head is 'uncovered.'"

1 Tim 2:13

The NRSV gives alternatives "wife" and "her husband".

The NISB says "These disturbing verses, often associated with the radically conservative ethic of 1 Cor 14:34-35, are influenced by the household codes, or code of proper domestic behavior, in antiquity's popular moral treatises."

The HSB says "Women's silence is also demanded in 1 Cor 14:34-35; cf. 1 Cor 11:5. Submission of wives to husbands is demanded in Eph 5:22, Col 3:18, Titus 2:5, 1 Pet 3:1; see also Gen 3:16. Here the demand is probably not limited to married couples (cf. text notes).

The NOAB says "Very similar to the contested passage 1 Cor 14:34-35 (see note there)."

At Thu Jun 21, 05:07:00 AM, Blogger Peter Kirk said...

The NISB says "... 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."

Surely this is not accurate; nor is NOAB's "many manuscripts read 'Junias'". As I understand it (indeed according to the textual apparatus of NA27 which has the masculine name in the text) there are no Greek manuscripts with the masculine name, only 20th century printed editions. The earliest manuscripts, being unaccented, are ambiguous. For "early Christian scribes", read "20th century editors".

Also I would object to the reading "deaconess" for Romans 16:1, as this is the regular translation of a different (later) Greek diakonissa which refers to a member of an order of deaconesses which was considered of lower status than the order of deacons. The Greek in Romans 16:1 is the same word diakonos used of male deacons, and so there is no justification for using a feminine version of the word which could be misunderstood as implying a lower status.

At Thu Jun 21, 10:03:00 AM, Anonymous Anonymous said...

Cheryl Schatz ( this view on the "because of the angels" question:

So Paul is saying in verse 10 that the woman should have “the capablility or the right or the liberty” over her own head (regarding whether she wears a veil or doesn’t wear a veil, whether she cuts her hair or she doesn’t cut her hair); because in the next life she will also be judging the angels. Paul is repeating what he has already said in 1 Corinthians 6:3. He is saying that in this life we need to learn to make our own mature decisions. After all, Paul said, we will be making some very important decisions in the next life because we will be judging angels. Since women will also be judging the angels, she should have the right in this life to make the decision about what she does or doesn’t wear on her head.

At Thu Jun 21, 03:04:00 PM, Blogger Peter Kirk said...

Thank you, Teknomom and Cheryl. This is the most sensible and simple explanation of "because of the angels" that I have seen.

At Thu Jun 21, 06:28:00 PM, Blogger Suzanne McCarthy said...


Rom. 16:1

NISB - the note comments on what is there but doesn't add to the information. It could be dispensed with. It is verbose commentary and an irritant no doubt to "Michael". In fact, it sounds like I wrote it! :-)

HSB - more or less a cross-reference, that makes sense.

NOAB - is interpretive and I am not sure how useful it is. How do we know that she offered hospitality rather than paid for legal counsel for example. We don't know what she did.

Rom. 16:2

HSB - lexicons differ on this. I'm not sure.

Rom. 16:7

NRSV, NISB, NOAB (I wasnt sure what the full HSB not was.)

This is the biggest argument againgst notes. All these notes are completely false. There was emphatically never any Greek manuscript evidence for a masculine Junias, nor did the name even exist. Yet, these notes, in what are thought of as scholarly works will influence people to believe that there is some kind of manuscript evidence for a male Junias. This is astounding! 'How did this happen. Did the annotators trust secondary sources?

1 Cor. 11:10

NRSV NISB - this note would not be necessary if "symbol of" were left out of the translation.

HSB, NOAB - not particularly useful IMO.

1 Tim. 2:12

I would be interested in seeing notes for this verse if you would share them.

Given the uneven nature of these notes, and the rather worse case of the notes in the NET Bible, I hold my ground, notes are significant nuisance and a distraction. They give the impression of imparting rather more information than they actually contain.

If notes were done properly they might not be so bad, but if these are any example, less than half of them are of any use at all.

At Sat Jun 23, 05:28:00 PM, Blogger Iyov said...

I think your criticism of these study Bibles is too harsh.

First as to the length of some notes; this is the fault of my excerpting methods. The study Bibles contain lengthy introductory remarks and special notes designed to highlight particular points -- they are designed as teaching texts and not merely as references. One could compare this to the synopses found in many theater and opera programs. Certainly, these synopses add nothing to the performances -- they at best only summarize the action seen on stage. Still, some people seem to find these synopses useful in reading the text.

My understanding (which may be mistaken) is that there was some manuscript support for Junias found quite late (in the 13th c.) Perhaps my understanding is wrong -- this is not my area of expertise. However, I think that the reading of Junias should be noted if only because it has played an important role in recent reception history -- and reception theory is as valid a way of reading Scripture as any critical method.

In terms of notes being unnecessary if certain terms were in the original translation, I am not sure anything can be done about this. As I understand it, the licensing terms do not permit the annotating authors to change the NRSV translation, only to add notes. Thus, they must work with what the translators have given them.

Finally, I had a typo above -- I should have typed 1 Timothy 2:12 and not 13. The notes are those for v. 12, however.

At Sat Jun 23, 07:03:00 PM, Anonymous Anonymous said...

You're quite welcome, Peter. Cheryl Schatz seems to have a pretty good handle on these issues, and I highly recommend the video series available at her website.

Occam's Razor to the rescue again, eh? Sometimes I think we all spend too much time staring into a microscope and forget to step back and remember that these are letters, written from people to people about issues that needed attention. While the truth remains that God did "breathe out" the words through the filter of human beings, and for that reason we need to pay attention to the details, I think we tend to keep the scriptures in test tubes instead of remembering that they are "alive and active".

Considering all aspects of context can carry as much weight as whether there's an accent in a certain spot. One thing I've found helpful is to try to put myself in the writer's shoes, to ask what prompted the letter and how someone today might respond to the situation (presuming being "carried along" by the Spirit). Another is to remember the very heart of all Jesus and the apostles taught: freedom from the law and that there is only one Head, the rest of us all being spiritual siblings of equal worth and unique gifting. I cannot fathom how any believer would even want to be in charge of another, even if there were Biblical sanction for it. It flies in the face of mutual submission and the priesthood of all believers. I'd say that general principle renders the whole "Are men over women in the church" issue moot.


Post a Comment

Links to this post:

Create a Link

Subscribe to Post Comments [Atom]

<< Home