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Tuesday, March 18, 2008

Bible translation and keys to the kingdom

Are you using the "right" Bible? Maslow claimed that one of the most basic human needs is the desire to belong, to be part of a group. I have noticed that one of the marks of religious solidarity is often what version of the Bible is used. In some churches it is a requirement that only the King James Version be used. In others it is the NASB. It appears that there is a recent movement toward using the ESV as a mark of group solidarity and doctrinal purity. I suspect that there is a reaction among some to use the TNIV as a mark of group identity.

We often create shibboleths which are "keys to the kingdom", social doors through which applicants must pass in order to be fully accepted within the group or church. Some Bible translation shibboleths which have developed are:
  1. Does this Bible say "young woman" or "virgin" in Is. 7:14?
  2. Does this Bible say "blood of Christ" or is it sometimes translated as "death of Christ"?
  3. Does this Bible retain "theological terms" such as "grace", "righteousness", and "sanctification"?
  4. Was this Bible version translated according to the Colorado Springs Guidelines?
  5. Is this Bible version gender inclusive?
  6. Does this version use "church" or "assembly"?
  7. Does this version use the name of God, "Yahweh" or "Jehovah"?
  8. Does this version retain literal translations of biblical idioms, such as "doing what is right in God's eyes", "son of perdition"?
I just came across a blog post titled “Proper” and “Rightly”: How Conservative Evangelicals Creatively Manage the Scriptures. Although this post is not directly about what Bible version we use, we can find within the post the idea that the use of certain "Bible" words can divide us into factions.

Paul noted a problem like this in the Corinthian church:
10 I appeal to you, dear brothers and sisters,* by the authority of our Lord Jesus Christ, to live in harmony with each other. Let there be no divisions in the church. Rather, be of one mind, united in thought and purpose. 11 For some members of Chloe's household have told me about your quarrels, my dear brothers and sisters. 12 Some of you are saying, “I am a follower of Paul.” Others are saying, “I follow Apollos,” or “I follow Peter,*” or “I follow only Christ.”

13 Has Christ been divided into factions? Was I, Paul, crucified for you? Were any of you baptized in the name of Paul? Of course not! 14 I thank God that I did not baptize any of you except Crispus and Gaius, 15 for now no one can say they were baptized in my name. 16 (Oh yes, I also baptized the household of Stephanas, but I don't remember baptizing anyone else.) 17 For Christ didn't send me to baptize, but to preach the Good News—and not with clever speech, for fear that the cross of Christ would lose its power. (1 Cor. 1:10-17, NLT)
What are some Bible version shibboleths you are aware of? Which ones are used in your faith community? Which ones do you yourself tend to use?

What are the advantages and disadvantages of using Bible translation shibboleths for group identity?

45 Comments:

At Tue Mar 18, 09:41:00 AM, Blogger Nathan Stitt said...

Shibboleths... for me it is when I see someone carrying The Message to church, or if I find out that it is their only Bible. The Living Bible would also fit that category but I don't know anyone who uses it. I have yet to discover a useful way of approaching people using The Message so I haven't.

The majority of people in my church use the NIV I suspect. Sadly, very few people seem to be aware of what translation they use, or even read their Bibles. Outside of KJV, NKJV, NIV, and Message I don't think most of the other translations are even heard of by the majority. Certainly not with anyone I've had a conversation with in the last few months (minus my Pastors).

I was raised using the NIV. I asked for, and received, a KJV for Easter as a teen and my comprehension was very low with it (and still is). I've been trying to settle on a single translation but have found myself empty handed. I own all of the major translations now and find myself using them all throughout the week. The one I use more than any other right now is The Books of the Bible (TNIV) as I've found it excellent for daily reading.

I don't really see any advantages in using Bible translation shibboleths for group identity. Honestly I'd be happy if more people read their Bibles in any translation. Also, if there was some way of helping people use their paraphrases as a reference instead of their main Bible that would be awesome. Though admittedly a paraphrase is better than nothing at all.

Finally, this blog and others that discuss the same topics have inspired me to go to the Greek text underlying our English translations. I've started a blog to record my experience in learning Greek and I want to thank you for the dialog here that is so thought provoking. My hope is to be able to read the NT in Greek within five years, and hopefully I'll have a better perspective then.

 
At Tue Mar 18, 10:32:00 AM, Blogger ScriptureZealot said...

I've never been one to use a translation or do anything to be a part of a group.

One personal shibboleth is I really want my translation to use the word propitiation instead of sacrifice of atonement, atoning sacrifice or expiation.

I switched from NIV to NRSV but didn't realize NRSV doesn't use the word propitiation until after I had switched. I almost immediately went to ESV but came to my senses. I still prefer NRSV.

However I will most likely switch to HCSB which brings up another personal shibboleth which is capitalizing pronouns for the persons on the Trinity. I know that there are some interpretation issues that come up with that but I much prefer it.
Jeff

 
At Tue Mar 18, 01:55:00 PM, Blogger Richard A. Rhodes said...

Jeff,
Your comment about propitiation brings up an important point. We read Scripture through the lens of 2000 years of theological history. Paul's theological ideas were not anywhere as well honed as ours. Paul was literally making up the terminology as he was going. (And, horror of horrors, he's not always consistent!) I'm not discounting the role of the Spirit in guiding him in how to do so. And I'm certainly not challenging inerrancy (at least not a sensible version thereof). I'm only saying that Paul was not pulling down off-the-shelf technical terminology. I think we misread Scripture because we come to it anachronistically.

If you insist on propitiation, which is only a technical term in theology now in English, then you're missing that Paul was using the analog of something his audience was familiar with (in the sacrifices that satisfied offended gods) to try to communicate just what it was that Jesus did. He used what Don Richardson called a redemptive analogy. (BTW, for all those who get their knickers in a knot about contextualizing the Gospel, it's worth noting that that was exactly what Paul spent his whole career doing. Judaizing was not just about circumcision. Paul opposed the imposition of Jewish culture on Gentiles, and by implication the tying of Christianity to any cultural practice, including those of 21st century Euro-American/Euro-Canadian evangelical culture.)

 
At Tue Mar 18, 02:23:00 PM, Blogger tc said...

Richard,

I'm a big fan of the TNIV while I wasn't of the NIV. Most of the problems that I had with the NIV, the TNIV has corrected.

But I wished the TNIV would have kept more of the traditional renditions of "huios" and its cognates as "son" and so on.

Why am I saying this? Well, I've been sitting at the feet of Dr. Don Carson for sometime now, and I quite agree with the father/son motif as seen in the OT and carried into the NT. The TNIV has taken this motif by replacing "son/son" with "child/children."

The TNIV should have kept "man of God" in 2 Tim 3:17. In his commentary on the Pastorals, while using the TNIV as his primary text, Philip Towner, associate of I. Howard Marshal, makes a great argument for "man of God" rather than TNIV's "God's people."

I still love the TNIV.

 
At Tue Mar 18, 03:21:00 PM, Blogger Peter Kirk said...

But I wished the TNIV would have kept more of the traditional renditions of "huios" and its cognates as "son" and so on.

TC, what specific verses do you have in mind? I ask because these changes are in fact very rare.

I accept that "all God's people" is a dubious rendering in 2 Timothy 3:17. I note the marginal reading "the servant of God", which is better at first sight because it implies something special about this gender-generic "man of God". But then I ask myself, is this verse really intended to apply only to a special class of super men and women of God, including Timothy, or is it intended for every Christian? I think the TNIV translators preferred the latter interpretation, which is probably correct, and chose wording which makes this clear.

 
At Tue Mar 18, 03:42:00 PM, Blogger tc said...

Peter,

I'm thinking of Matt 5:9 and the argument advanced by Dr. Carson, keeping the Father/son motif.

Why after rendering huiothesia as "adoption of sons" in Rom 8:15 do we read simply "adoption" in v.23? In the NIV both verses have "adoption of sons."

Regarding 2 Tim 3:17, I think you should read professor Towner's arguments and thought that 1 Tim 3:11 should have been "deaconesses" as in the 2001TNIV, so you know that the professor is onto something when he argues for "man of God" in 2 Tim 3:17.

Several places in the pastorals we have "man of God" in the TNIV (1 Tim 6:11).

I do agree with the TNIV on 2 Tim 2:2, "reliable people."

 
At Tue Mar 18, 09:46:00 PM, Blogger Suzanne McCarthy said...

Okay, I am lost. A translator of the ESV told me that they had kept the term "propitiation" in part because it was in the Tyndale translation but I am pretty sure that it was not in the Tyndale translation. So I don't know why it is so popular.

TC,

Why should women be excluded from 2 Tim. 3:17 but not from 2 Tim. 2:12? Unfortunately the "person of God" is not acceptable to many for stylistic reasons but that is what it means. "Person" is the singular for "people."

1 Tim. 6:11 refers directly to Timothy, who is a man, and cannot correctly be called a "person" according to English style, since we do know his gender. This is very correct of the TNIV.

In Matt. 5:9 "children of God" is the term used in Tyndale, KJV and Luther (Kinder) and it is concordant with "children of Abraham" and "children of Israel." It is impossible in English to maintain concordance across the spectrum. "Son of man" means "one of the humans" in any case, a mortal. It is important to realize that ben in Hebrew really did refer to a child generic.

Regarding huiothesia, Luther also just translated this as Kindschaft, "adoption." I really do think that the concern about these words matching the grammatical gender in Greek is very much mistaken linguistically. We cannot maintain some kind of perfect concordance of vocabulary and grammatical gender and this would not communicate the meaning in any case. There is no Bible translation which maintains concordance of gender terms, that I know of.

I respectfully disagree with Dr Carson.

 
At Tue Mar 18, 11:33:00 PM, Blogger Kevin Sam said...

I will break from the topic in this thread of comments and attempt to answer your questions Wayne. You asked: "Which translation shibboleths do you yourself tend to use? What are the advantages and disadvantages of using Bible translation shibboleths for group identity?"

Interesting and challenging questions! I will try to answer them. I fully agree that these exists when they really shouldn't. The disadvantage is that they discriminate against others who are outside the circle of insiders. Personally, I try not to use them and would discourage others from accepting sibboleths as a group identity. When I preach, I try to refer to different translations, e.g., T/NIV, NLT, Message, and N/RSV. I also encourage people to read from a translation they find comfortable reading. I do this in a denomination where the NRSV is the sibboleth. To go against the tide of accepted sibboleths is not easy.

 
At Wed Mar 19, 12:20:00 AM, Blogger tc said...

Suzanne,

I'm not arguing for perfect concordance. When context calls for such, I think it would be a good translation practice to do such (that's one of the reasons why I favor the TNIV).

Translating ὁ τοῦ θεοῦ ἄνθρωπος "man of God" is no more excluding of women than what we find in 1 Tim 6:11, ὦ ἄνθρωπε θεοῦ , "O man of God."

By the way, Paul was addressing Timothy directing in 2 Tim 3:17, which can be seen from the contrast made from v.14.

So did the NIV get it wrong on huiothesia in Rom 8?

We are "son of God" at Matt 5:9 not "children of Abraham."

I'll have to go with Dr. Carson on this one still, in keeping the father/son motif.

 
At Wed Mar 19, 01:36:00 AM, Blogger Suzanne McCarthy said...

Translating ὁ τοῦ θεοῦ ἄνθρωπος "man of God" is no more excluding of women than what we find in 1 Tim 6:11, ὦ ἄνθρωπε θεοῦ , "O man of God."

1 Tim. 6:11 is clearly the vocative and means specifically Timothy.

By the way, Paul was addressing Timothy directing in 2 Tim 3:17, which can be seen from the contrast made from v.14.

The "person of God" here is generic and does not mean only Timothy but any person of God. These cases are not at all parallel.

So did the NIV get it wrong on huiothesia in Rom 8?

I am with Luther on this, "placing the child" Kindschaft, it doesn't really matter, this is a fuss about nothing. We are saved whether we are called "sons" or "children". Women are usually more comfortable being called children than sons, and the Hebrew vorlage banim meant children. This is the normal word for "children."

We are "son of God" at Matt 5:9 not "children of Abraham."

Do you think then that all Bible translations in French, German and English up until 1881 translate this verse wrong?

Most of the Reformers used gender neutral terms. This modern preoccupation with gender language is an affectation IMO and a sign of our society's unhealthy obsession with sex.

 
At Wed Mar 19, 05:46:00 AM, Blogger Peter M. Head said...

What are the advantages of using Bible translation shibboleths for group identity?
a) having a positive sense of belonging to a group is necessary for all Christians;
b) reading in community is easier if there is a Bible common to that community (as confirmed through history);
c) memorisation is easier in a group if there is an agreed translation;
d) preachers and teachers can anticipate issues which may need to be addressed if their is a clear group translation;
e) small group Bible study is simpler on the basis of mono-translation;
f) Christians in an agreed-translation group-identity reinforcing community can resist the consumerist pressures to always up-date to the most recently published Bible or to own lots of different translations (the average Christian would be better off simply reading the Bible they already own a whole lot more rather than buying the latest special interest Bible).

 
At Wed Mar 19, 06:16:00 AM, Blogger Peter Kirk said...

Thanks, tc.

I'm thinking of Matt 5:9 ...

But in that verse TNIV has reverted to the traditional KJV rendering "children of God", against the non-traditional RSV and NIV "sons of God".

Why after rendering huiothesia as "adoption of sons" in Rom 8:15 do we read simply "adoption" in v.23?

This may simply be stylistic, avoiding repetition of the longer phrase. But personally I would drop "to sonship", the actual TNIV reading in v.15, as unnecessary detail, "adoption" is quite specific enough - and so both NIV and TNIV have got it wrong.

In 1 Timothy 6:11 TNIV "man of God" is an address to Timothy. But some kind of concordance with 2 Timothy 3:17 would have been good. But, I'm sorry, at least here in the UK "man of God" in the latter verse absolutely IS excluding of women in a context where this is not the author's original intention, and so is A TRANSLATION ERROR. Yes, Paul is addressing Timothy, but with the words mistranslated "man of God" he is not referring to Timothy but to any Christian who wishes to serve God. I have not read what Towner has to say here; if he argues differently I suspect he is wrong but he just might convince me. Perhaps you can summarise his argument for the benefit of those of us who do not have access to it.

 
At Wed Mar 19, 07:24:00 AM, Blogger Milton Stanley said...

What are some Bible version shibboleths I'm aware of?

One that shows up in my tradition from time to time is the insistence that logiken latreian in Rom. 12:1 be translated "reasonable service" rather than "spiritual worship." That insistence rules out the NIV, NASB, NRSV, ESV, and most other translations. Those who insist on this translation are pretty much limited to the KJV, NKJV and (in some cases) the ASV of 1901.

Actually, this translation of Rom. 12:1 is more than a shibboleth. A whole series of doctrinal distinctives depend on what Paul's talking about in that passage not being called worship.

 
At Wed Mar 19, 08:49:00 AM, Blogger ElShaddai Edwards said...

That's a good list, Peter (M. Head). As much as it would be an interesting development to have a truly common Bible across all branches and denominations of Christianity, we can at least strive for a resemblance of unity on an individual church level. And certainly that's implemented in the practicality of a "pew Bible", which should correspond to what the pastor primarily teaches out of.

That's at least one reason for me to keep the (T)NIV in active duty: my church uses the NIV as its "shibboleth". While I much prefer other translations, my individual choices are not as important as corporate unity.

 
At Wed Mar 19, 08:52:00 AM, Blogger J. K. Gayle said...

Mr. Edwards says, "the gender crew has taken over the comments section with the usual bickering" about mistranslations. He sees "blood in the water" and it's not shed by those men of Gilead who could care less about any meaning of “shibboleth” (שיבולת) other than its mispronunciation by forty-two thousand enemies falling dead.

On a lighter note, and back on topic here, my pastor from the pulpit tells us in the congregation to read and to bring to church with us the Bible translation that speaks best to us. He's got an undergrad degree in Greek and two advanced degrees in theology that use the NT language (and Hebrew as well), so we hear lots of analysis of the words. He calls those of us who bring Greek (with English) Bibles, "nerds." :)

So, speaking of Greek, why doesn't any English translation ever do what the LXX does with the HEbrew in Judges 12:6? The word שיבולת is actually translated (i.e., στάχυς meaning "a head or ear (of grain)") and isn't just transliterated (i.e., "shibboleth").

 
At Wed Mar 19, 11:54:00 AM, OpenID transubstantiation said...

Very nice little blog you have here. You might find mine of interest:
http://transubstantiation.wordpress.com/

 
At Wed Mar 19, 02:06:00 PM, Blogger prozacstan said...

Thanks to you all for helping me get out from under a fairly heavy shibboleth or two.

A few years ago when gender wars began again with the TNIV, I was one of the casualties who quickly ordered a copy of the ESV. After a cross country move, I found myself attending a church which used the updated NASB so I purchased a nice one of those (which I still love). However, over the past several years I may have become a bit of a snob. Funny, considering I speak/read neither Hebrew nor Greek. Even if I did I still would have no right to be a snob of course. I must say it is truly amazing how many uneducated snobs (similar to me in this regard) there are.

Thanks in large part to the work and comments here, I now own and joyfully read the NLT, REB, and TNIV. The book "How to Choose a Translation for All Its Worth" was a big help as well.

Keep up the good work. You've been a great encouragement.

 
At Wed Mar 19, 02:30:00 PM, Blogger tc said...

Suzanne,

Have you read Towner's arguments for "man of God" at 2 Tim 3:17? He goes beyond the actual words to the "man of God" motif as seen in the OT.

So what justification is there for the TNIV to footnote "servant of God" as an alternative to "God's people"? It doesn't add up, since we already have "Lord's servant" at 2:24, reflecting the Greek δοῦλον δὲ κυρίου not ὁ τοῦ θεοῦ ἄνθρωπος.

I accept your point on the vocative of 1Tim 6:11.

Regarding Matt 5:9 I'll stick with professor Carson on this one ("Matthew," in EBC, p.135).

It's actually possible that those versions got it wrong. For example, consider the NET and the HCSB on John 3:16. What are they telling us with their rendering of οὕτως γὰρ ἠγάπησεν ὁ θεὸς τὸν κόσμον?

In the TNIV, whatever choice they made for huiothesia at Rom 8:15, they should have for v.23. Though stylistic, the average reader is not going to pick up on that.

 
At Wed Mar 19, 02:40:00 PM, Blogger tc said...

Peter,

Towner suggests that "anthrwpos of God" is a technical term, relating to the functionality of Timothy's ministry. Furthermore, he points out that "man of God" is applied over 30x to Moses and the prophets and therefore sees a link with Timothy and Moses, as mentioned in vv.8,9.

Whatever decision we make on huiothesia, I think we should translate it consisently in the Pauline letters. That's my argument. The average reader must see this.

 
At Wed Mar 19, 04:29:00 PM, Blogger Suzanne McCarthy said...

TC,

The question is then whether ανθρωπος του θεου, refers to a closed set of people, all of whom are males, or whether it refers to an open set of people who function as God's special messengers. I would argue that the latter.

Have you read David E. S. Stein's work on ish?

Stein would respond that ish ha-elohim is not exclusively male.

In fact, there is little concordance between the gender terms in the Hebrew and LXX. One cannot say that adam is always anthropos, and ish is always aner.

One reason for this is that ish and aner are not exclusively male terms. Stein argues that ish means a full member of a community and Plato uses aner the same way. So for Plato, if women are citizens, they are also aner.

The only way to exclude women from any of the instructions of the NT would be to deny women full citienship in the kingdom of God.

For the translators of the KJV "man" meant simply person and referred to any person at all. Modern masculinizing translations have created an oddity and do not represent the original languages.

 
At Wed Mar 19, 04:46:00 PM, Blogger Peter Kirk said...

So, TC, in the light of Suzanne's comments, what would you think of a consistent "person of God" in OT and NT for Moses and Timothy as well as in 2 Timothy 3:17? I guess the problem is that macho American men, unlike macho Spanish speakers, don't like being called "person(a)".

 
At Wed Mar 19, 05:32:00 PM, Blogger Suzanne McCarthy said...

TC,

I think that the points you have brought up about the use of man of God in 1 and 2 Timothy are quite interesting. I disagree with Towner and Carson, but at least now I understand better why I disagree with them. These were good verses to discuss.

 
At Thu Mar 20, 04:11:00 PM, Blogger tc said...

Suzanne said:

The only way to exclude women from any of the instructions of the NT would be to deny women full citienship in the kingdom of God.

The instruction to be an elder in the NT is exclusively addressed to males. This, however, should not be viewed as an ontological difference, but simply functional.

I guite agree with the inclusive use of both ish and aner, and we see that in the OT, LXX and classical Greek.

But I want you to keep in mind that Dr. Carson is complementarian while Dr. Towner is Egalitarian, yet Towner argued for "man of God" in 2 Tim 3:17.

 
At Thu Mar 20, 04:14:00 PM, Blogger tc said...

Peter said:

So, TC, in the light of Suzanne's comments, what would you think of a consistent "person of God" in OT and NT for Moses and Timothy as well as in 2 Timothy 3:17? I guess the problem is that macho American men, unlike macho Spanish speakers, don't like being called "person(a)".

That's that culturally based influence on language, from which we can never truly extricate ourselves.

 
At Thu Mar 20, 04:55:00 PM, Blogger Wayne Leman said...

The instruction to be an elder in the NT is exclusively addressed to males.

That's what I was taught also. But after getting some biblical language study done, I've come to realize it really is open to debate as to whether or not those elder instructions are only addressed to males. And that is why we have the complementarian / egalitarian divide. Different people read the same text, but understand it differently. Sometimes we are influenced by the assumptions we bring from our backgrounds or theology. But sometimes there are honest differences based on how the Greek text can be understood. Exegesis is often not clearcut. That's why we need grace toward one another about how to understand what the text is saying, just as we need grace toward each other in many other areas.

And grace to you,
and me,
Christ is risen!

 
At Thu Mar 20, 07:20:00 PM, Blogger Suzanne McCarthy said...

TC,

I appreciate your bringing the Towner article to my attention. I could only find references to it but not the full article on the internet.

The trouble is that each individual person wishes to keep concordance with the original language in a different way. It can't be done. However, everyone tries. I do too sometimes.

For example, I much prefer "atonement" to "propitiation" because it maintains concordance with the word in same word in the Hebrew scriptures, the "mercy seat/day of atonement". For me, the word "propitiation" just messes up all the associations present in the Greek.

But others disagree.

Another example would be El Shaddai as either transliteration or "Almighty". Almighty is in no way a translation of El Shaddai. However, some people are used to it.

These matters of personal preference have no connection to being either egal or comp.

So I consider that concordance and traditional translation equivalent interact very strongly with literalness and desire for masculine representation.

There are so many variants. Without reading Towner's article I am in the dark here. But I appreciate the notion that there is an association of ανθρωπος του θεου in both places.

Tell me more about Towner's argument. Does he say that it must be translated as "man of God" or just that there is an association. Can you quote something of Towner's? I am interested in which variables are important to him. Carson also.

 
At Thu Mar 20, 08:10:00 PM, Blogger tc said...

Suzanne said,

The trouble is that each individual person wishes to keep concordance with the original language in a different way. It can't be done. However, everyone tries. I do too sometimes.

Translating the sacred Scriptures is no easy task. But I do believe in being consistent, culturally relevant, and readable.

Then we can get into that biblish syndrome of what "words" are biblical and so on.

I do agree with the NIV/TNIV choice on hilasterion, "a sacrifice of atonment." But our theologies favor "propitiation," and along with "expiation," there're no few debates.

Well, the average reader doesn't really understand what is a translation and what is a transliteration.

Towner's source material is his commentary in the NICNT on the Pastorals. I believe I pointed that out in an earlier post (I'm sorry you missed it).

So I consider that concordance and traditional translation equivalent interact very strongly with literalness and desire for masculine representation.

Isn't instructive that Paul when quoting Isaiah 52:7 he pluralizes (Rom 10:15), but the source text is a grammatical singular?

 
At Thu Mar 20, 08:27:00 PM, Blogger Suzanne McCarthy said...

I am poor so I don't own the NICNT. Does Towner argue simply that the one phrase refers back to the other; or, does he say that anthropos tou theou *ought to be* translated as "man of God?" I am curious.

Regarding Rom 10:15, that is one more example that the ancients did not have the goal of a concordant or exact translation. I think this case argues very much for a footnote rather than just translating 2 Tim. 3:17 as "man of God". That really misses the connection with 2 Tim. 2:2, which is "faithful people".

 
At Thu Mar 20, 08:45:00 PM, Blogger Suzanne McCarthy said...

I have found an article which quotes Towner here. However, the author has written,

"Together they draw a silhouette of a 'man [person] of God.'

I do not think that the original languages were saying anything at all about gender in this expression, either in Hebrew or Greek. So the only question is which concordance and which semantic components seem important to translate and which ought to be in the footnotes.

 
At Thu Mar 20, 11:39:00 PM, Blogger tc said...

Wayne said,

But after getting some biblical language study done, I've come to realize it really is open to debate as to whether or not those elder instructions are only addressed to males. And that is why we have the complementarian / egalitarian divide. Different people read the same text, but understand it differently. Sometimes we are influenced by the assumptions we bring from our backgrounds or theology.

Give me some of the results of your studies on the matter.

Regarding a person's background and how it affects this whole debate, you will be glad to know that I've going through the OT with the TNIV this year.

I've gone through the Pentateuch and now working my way through the Historical books, and I've notice this one thing: each clan had elders who were at the gates to advise the people. In each case, these elders were males.

We see this model carried over into the Gospel narratives in the days of Jesus and into the narrative of Acts, and provided the model for eldership in the NT church and I see no change in gender in this regard.

Maybe you can prove me wrong.

 
At Thu Mar 20, 11:47:00 PM, Blogger tc said...

Suzanne said,

Regarding Rom 10:15, that is one more example that the ancients did not have the goal of a concordant or exact translation. I think this case argues very much for a footnote rather than just translating 2 Tim. 3:17 as "man of God". That really misses the connection with 2 Tim. 2:2, which is "faithful people".

I'm appropriately impressed with this argument. At any rate, I don't think we can just dismiss male leadership as seen in the OT.

For example, when a person was chosen from each tribe/clan to spy out the Promised Land, we find that only males were chosen (Num 13). And with the exceptions of Miriam and Deborah, males were the prophets and judges and I believe the ancients knew this while they were penning sacred Scripture.

We cannot successful divorce this male element from the penmanship of the ancients.

 
At Fri Mar 21, 01:02:00 AM, Blogger Suzanne McCarthy said...

TC,

I will keep my discussion strictly to the text. We have no indication that God intended to exclude women from 2 Tim. 2:2 or 2 Tim. 3:17. I am referring strictly to these scripture verses and the vocabulary they contain. A translation which opts for "man of God" in 2 Tim. 3:17 is going to obscure the fact that the author of the LXX has not translated ish literally into aner, and a stylistic aspect of the text will be lost. The translation will quite simply be less literal and less faithful to the original. I do think that the translation that would best reflect the original would be person of God.

The annotator could add that this is a translation of ish ha-elohim. IMO the reader will miss the connection with Moses in any case if there is not a footnote, so I think a footnote or cross reference is a good point.

Personally I would favour the "person of God" with a footnote for the OT connection.

I am trying to be strictly literal here. I do not think that we should just assume either that it refers only to men, or to both men and women. I prefer something that everyone can agree is literal.

 
At Fri Mar 21, 01:14:00 AM, Blogger Suzanne McCarthy said...

The ESV already has a note of considerable length,

"That is, a messenger of God (the phrase echoes a common Old Testament expression"

I do not think that there is any point in obscuring the fact that the LXX did not create a correspondence between ish and aner here. This would just be a case of the English translators editing the text in order to make the NT appear to agree with the OT even when it doesn't.

 
At Fri Mar 21, 01:47:00 AM, Blogger tc said...

Suzanne said,

I will keep my discussion strictly to the text. We have no indication that God intended to exclude women from 2 Tim. 2:2 or 2 Tim. 3:17. I am referring strictly to these scripture verses and the vocabulary they contain. A translation which opts for "man of God" in 2 Tim. 3:17 is going to obscure the fact that the author of the LXX has not translated ish literally into aner, and a stylistic aspect of the text will be lost. The translation will quite simply be less literal and less faithful to the original. I do think that the translation that would best reflect the original would be person of God.

From my devotional reading in 2 Kings, I ran across quite a number of "man of God" expressions. Well, here's one from the LXX at 5:9:

καὶ εἶπεν ἡ γυνὴ πρὸς ,τὸν ἄνδρα αὐτῆς [her husband] Ἰδοὺ δὴ ἔγνων ὅτι ἄνθρωπος τοῦ θεοῦ ἅγιος οὗτος [this holy man of God] διαπορεύεται ἐφ᾿ ἡμᾶς διὰ παντός.

Yes, I see your point with 2:2 and 3:17, and the needed annotation. I can live with that.

I believe you have made a believer out of me on that issue.

O woman of God!

 
At Fri Mar 21, 06:21:00 AM, Blogger J. K. Gayle said...

I believe you have made a believer out of me on that issue, TC says to Suzanne in public.

What? No bickering, no blood in the water, no shibboleth?

Sounds as pathetic as Zondervan's recent book (which pays all too much attention to verses 3,5,6, & 18 of Matthew chapter 1 and neglects the majority of the verses flowing through the geneaology):

"Naomi is no longer regarded as a bitter, complaining woman, but as a courageous overcomer. A Female Job. Ruth (typically admired for her devotion to Naomi and her deference to Boaz) turns out to be a gutsy risk-taker and a powerful agent for change among God’s people. She lives outside the box, and her love for Yahweh and Naomi compels her to break the rules of social and religious convention at nearly every turn. Boaz, the Kinsman Redeemer, is repeatedly caught off-guard by Ruth’s initiatives. His partnership with her models the kind of male/female relationships that the gospel intends for all who follow Jesus."

 
At Fri Mar 21, 09:37:00 AM, Blogger Suzanne McCarthy said...

What? No bickering, no blood in the water, no shibboleth?

That was all just hype from the peanut gallery. :-)

 
At Fri Mar 21, 09:40:00 AM, Blogger Suzanne McCarthy said...

Kurk,

I think I'll buy that book on Ruth for my daughter's birthday. Just what I wanted!

 
At Fri Mar 21, 01:43:00 PM, Blogger Wayne Leman said...

tc wrote:

Give me some of the results of your studies on the matter.

Sorry I wasn't clearer, tc. I am in the process of studying these issues. I have discovered that what I was taught is not always as clearcut as I previously thought.

For a start, notice 1 Tim. 5:2. The first word in the Greek is feminine. It means 'women elders'. It is the feminine counterpart to the masculine Greek word for elders.

Some exegetes believe that Paul restricts eldership to men. I have not yet seen any explicit biblical texts which make that clear. How about you?

 
At Fri Mar 21, 03:19:00 PM, Blogger tc said...

Wayne said:

For a start, notice 1 Tim. 5:2. The first word in the Greek is feminine. It means 'women elders'. It is the feminine counterpart to the masculine Greek word for elders.

Or it means "elder women" in the Christian assembly. Are we then to have separate "office" for the youner women?

If these women are to be understood as elders, why weren't they considered in chapter 3?

I hope you're having a blessed Easter.

 
At Fri Mar 21, 04:15:00 PM, Blogger Wayne Leman said...

Or it means "elder women" in the Christian assembly.

Right, that's the other exegetical option. If we choose that option, then we also would need to choose the non-office option for the men of 1 Tim. 5, and that would make sense in this context.

Are we then to have separate "office" for the younger women?

I don't understand your question. I mean, I understand it, but I don't logically understand how it follows. ISTM, it only logically follows if we know, for sure, that 1 Tim. 5:1-2 is only referring to old men and women, not to assembly elders (who may not have been much of a developed "office" at the time that 1 Tim. was written). In any case, we have the exegetical option here. I, personally, do not the evidence to be very strong in 1 Tim. 5:1-2 for these verses to be referring to spiritual offices in the assembly, but since you asked about evidence (remember, I'm in process, not convinced one way or another; I'm seeking truth), I'm giving evidence that has been claimed by some exegetes.

If these women are to be understood as elders, why weren't they considered in chapter 3?

Well, I think the claim from some exegetes would be that they are so considered, including in 3:1. Notice that there is no gender to the indefinite pronoun of 3:1, tis. It is simply translated to English as "whoever".

Then here's a fun one, notice that the office this person aspires to is grammatically feminine, episkope. I'm pulling on your leg a bit here when I say that if we take grammatical gender as seriously as some do (e.g. Grudem), then those who are the feminine gender who be the best fit to fill an office which is referred to in Greek by feminine grammatical gender! :-)

I don't know of anything in the Greek pericope (1 Tim. 3:1-7) on those who desire the office that says that these people are men, do you? Even the phrase mias gunaikos andra of 3:2 is said to have been semantically extended to refer to both men and women, i.e. to anyone who is faithful to their spouse.

What Greek evidence are you thinking of in 1 Tim. 3 that excludes women from the office of episkope?

Happy Easter to you, as well.

Christ is risen!

 
At Fri Mar 21, 07:11:00 PM, Blogger tc said...

Wayne said,

ISTM, it only logically follows if we know, for sure, that 1 Tim. 5:1-2 is only referring to old men and women, not to assembly elders (who may not have been much of a developed "office" at the time that 1 Tim. was written).

Not even the distinguished Fee, who is also Egalitarian, argues this in his commentary on the Pastorals in the NIBC series.

One of the arguments against Pauline authorship of the PE is that surrounding church polity. I think it has been convincingly answered.

At the outset of his second missionary effort, we find Paul and Barnabas ordaining elders in each church (Acts 14:23, TNIV). This is some 10-15 years before the writing of 1 Timothy.

Then here's a fun one, notice that the office this person aspires to is grammatically feminine, episkope. I'm pulling on your leg a bit here when I say that if we take grammatical gender as seriously as some do (e.g. Grudem), then those who are the feminine gender who be the best fit to fill an office which is referred to in Greek by feminine grammatical gender! :-)

I used Grudem's systematic in seminary--a good work, but he's no authority on NT Greek.

I don't know of anything in the Greek pericope (1 Tim. 3:1-7) on those who desire the office that says that these people are men, do you? Even the phrase mias gunaikos andra of 3:2 is said to have been semantically extended to refer to both men and women, i.e. to anyone who is faithful to their spouse.

The episkope qualities extend even to his authority over his household (vv.4, 5). Do you believe this is ambiguous too?

Regarding mias gynaikas andra, a similar construction is used of widows, henos andros gyne (5:9). Now you'll have to make the same argument there. Not even Fee ventures such arguments.

Even closer still is 3:12 is respect to the diakonoi who were to be mias gynaikos andres. But here's the issue: if mias gynaikos andres is ambiguous to the point of referring to either gender, Why the separate treatment of women, gynaikas, in v.11?

 
At Fri Mar 21, 07:58:00 PM, Blogger Suzanne McCarthy said...

I don't think it matters in the least whether there were women elders in the NT times. There are many things that have changed considerably. Women are perfectly capable of learning and teaching biblical lgs. theology, exegesis, etc. in the church and I think all talk of restricting women is a great affront to God's design and his wisdom in creation.

Just my opinion, but I don't think I would want to read anything but the plain meaning into the Greek myself. This is why the Junia hypothesis shocked me so much. It is utter nonsense to have changed the translation for that. Of course she was called an apostle, whatever that means. And authentein has no "plain meaning". Ultimately I don't think there is any reason why women should be restricted to a list made up by another human being somewhere. We are all responsible to God.

I am pretty conservative on what the text says, and I think far too much is made of some very ambiguous verses. Naturally it says for men to be the husband of one wife. I don't think polyandry was in style at the time. There is always room for men who have no wife at all, although this is strictly against the plain reading of the text. If we want to exclude women we should exclude Paul as well, who had no wife at the time.

Anyway, TC, hang around. I am here to talk about the text not about church polity.

 
At Fri Mar 21, 09:09:00 PM, Blogger Wayne Leman said...

tc, I need to make something clear. I have not been saying that the exegetical options I have presented are what I believe. I need to repeat that I am in process. I am studying these issues. I do feel that the categorical position I was taught when I grew up is not as clearcut in the Bible itself as I previously thought.

I have tried to respond to your categorical claim that women could not have been elders by pointing out what some exegetes have said. What I'm trying to do is point out that there is evidence in the Greek of the N.T. text about gender issues that can call into question some categorical statements about women's roles in a local assembly. There are good exegetes who argue for different positions in the gender debates today.

As a Bible translator I need to be aware of those different possibilities and not translate in a way that cuts out an option that has exegetical evidence which can support it, or an option which discredit a translation in the eyes of a local church which might consider using that translation.

I don't think that Paul wrote ambiguously. I am suggesting that we today do not always understand what Paul meant by what he wrote. (Lack of clarity is technically different from ambiguity.)

I do not know of any Bible passage which teaches that women cannot be elders in an assembly of believers. I thought that you had claimed that it was clear from the Bible that women could not. I'm sorry if I misunderstood you. If I did understand you correctly, however, I think it would be helpful for you to support your claim by citing any specific Bible passage which says that women cannot be elders, or that only men can be elders. I know that the Bible nowhere says that woman *can* be elders. But I also do not know of any passage that says that they cannot be. Those who believe that women cannot be elders, ISTM, are basing their belief on inferences drawn from a number of passages, none of which directly address the issue of whether or not women can be elders.

 
At Sat Mar 22, 08:47:00 AM, Blogger Peter Kirk said...

TC put forward as an apparent argument against women elders:

[In the Old Testament] each clan had elders who were at the gates to advise the people. In each case, these elders were males.

We see this model carried over into the Gospel narratives in the days of Jesus and into the narrative of Acts, and provided the model for eldership in the NT church and I see no change in gender in this regard.


In other words, the early church continued the customs of their culture which were not explicitly taught as normative in Scripture. This was a good thing in that culture, but before we consider anything like that normative for our own very different culture we need to consider whether this model is without exceptions, or whether the exceptions are condemned in Scripture:

with the exceptions of Miriam and Deborah, males were the prophets and judges

Well, there were other female prophets like Huldah, and other women leaders like Athaliah (but she is condemned). God accepted Miriam, Deborah and Huldah as leaders of his people, and thereby proved that there is no general rule against women being leaders.

So, TC, your own evidence actually implies the opposite to your conclusion.

 
At Sat Mar 22, 05:50:00 PM, Blogger tc said...

Peter, I'd love to engage you some more in these matters, but we need to get back to translation issues.

I believe that is the impression I got.

 

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