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Monday, May 26, 2008

Mutual Affection

I have really enjoy having Dave blog along with me. I'll be away for a bit so I hope he will have more great insights. Just before I pack I want to mention a few comments and responses that I have noticed.

Jane commented recently,
    On a more general point I live in one francophone country - France - and work in another - Switzerland - they have rather different approaches to inclusive language - the Swiss churches certainly make much more effort to use inclusive language and to use the term La pasteure for a woman minister. Try to find a French translation of sisterly in a dictionary though and you'll come up with "fraternité"!
I blogged on Sisters in Resistance last year remarking,
    One of the central quotes in this movie is from André Malraux, "Face au mal absolu, une seule réponse : la fraternité." This phrase is often translated "The only response to absolute evil is fraternity."
I am happy to report that the TV translator of this piece chose not to translate the relationship of real sisterhood in time of intense suffering as fraternité but as a 'bond of friendship' or just 'friendship.' Tim suggested at the time, that 'solidarity' would be an excellent choice.

And in a related post, TC writes,
    With all these exciting and, at times, controversial discussions surrounding gender-accuracy in bible translations, I wonder if we need to reinterpret Philly, you know, Philadephia, that city on the East coast, "The City of Brotherly Love"?

    Well, both the NRSV and TNIV have "mutual affection" or something like that for the Greek φιλαδελφία, philadelphia, wherever it appears in the New Testament (Rom 12:10; 1 Thess 4:9; Heb 13:1; 1 Pet 1:22; 2 Pet 1:7).
Now some may wonder why all this fuss. For a start, I was raised Plymouth Brethren and understood that the Brethren were the collective, the group as a whole. But as boys turned 18, they began to attend the "brothers" meetings and they were recognized as "brothers." A young woman was recognized as a sister, but only as a silent and covered attendee. There were no "sisters" meetings.

I was, in many ways, very happy raised in the Plymouth Brethren since there were many university educated women in my own family and a lot of Bible teaching was centred in the home, where, in my case, women were not subordinated. As I get older, I am more and more aware of how blessed I was to have parents who, although they had different roles, operated without hierarchy, as functional equals. (It was not until later that I experienced complementarianism in an extremely negative way.) But I digress.

In the Brethren, the word "brothers" was a term of absolute exclusion. A woman could never attend a "brothers" meeting and could never have the privilege of speaking that a "brother" had. It was impossible. In fact, I have never been part of a group where the term 'brothers" included women.

Now I realize that it is incredibly petty for me to want the Bible to speak to me as an individual, but oddly I do. I am not aware of anyone who would feel excluded by the use of "brothers and sisters" although clearly this offends some people, but does not exclude them. However, an old fashioned fundy-raised woman like myself can probably attend a reeducation retreat and be instructed in how "brothers" means women also, as long as they do not want to do any of the things that "brothers" who are men get to do.

But I was especially encouraged and touched by Nathan's post on this topic,
    While I have my own opinion on how to translate adelphoi I can hardly claim to be an expert on Greek vocabulary and grammar. I believe that the generic masculine still has a place in the English language, and will for some time. However, I view inclusive renderings as having an eye to the future when this will cease to be the case.
Of particular interest in Nathan's post are his scripture comparisons of the TNIV, ESV, NEB and the Inclusive Bible. I highly recommend his insightful post.

I am really grateful for all the great posts on Bible translation and have been reading, well, everyone on our blogroll. Thanks for all the "mutual affection."

11 Comments:

At Mon May 26, 08:39:00 PM, Blogger David Ker said...

The feeling is mutual, beloved sister!

An interesting phenomenon that I've noticed recently is that in Chewa and Nyungwe I am hearing "abale" used for men and "amai" used for women. Thus, "brothers" and "mothers." But even yesterday I saw "abale" in the translation used as the generic term for believer regardless of sex. And when it came to translating "τις πιστὴ" in 1 Tim 5:16 the translators had to use quite a long phrase "a woman who has faith."

I will continue to be swamped until sometime early next week so I probably won't have any puzzles to publish but you never know!

 
At Mon May 26, 09:33:00 PM, Blogger David Ker said...

Well, your absence and mine inspired a post... ;-)

 
At Mon May 26, 10:00:00 PM, Blogger Suzanne McCarthy said...

Should give everyone something to chew on.

 
At Tue May 27, 04:09:00 AM, Blogger Peter Kirk said...

Since you pick up what Nathan wrote about English, here is my comment on that.

Nathan wrote:

I believe that the generic masculine still has a place in the English language, and will for some time.

That may be true in conservative Texas. I think that you [Nathan] will find that in other areas, the UK and Australia and perhaps on the east and west coasts of the USA [and, I would have thought, Vancouver], it has much less place remaining. Just as in Texas y’all have a separate second person plural pronoun which the rest of us don’t have, so there are other subtle differences in the pronoun system between English dialects.

 
At Tue May 27, 04:10:00 AM, Blogger J. K. Gayle said...

Suzanne,
Thank you very much for speaking with candor. This is a particularly touching and compelling thing to say:

"However, an old fashioned fundy-raised woman like myself can probably attend a reeducation retreat and be instructed in how 'brothers' means women also, as long as they do not want to do any of the things that 'brothers' who are men get to do."

Nathan,
Thank you also for sharing your experience, a struggle around these issues, not in the abstract but personally:

"Now you might be scratching your head wondering how this affected the lesson. To be honest, it didn’t, at least nothing that was said aloud. Our conversations focused more on . . . I am not a woman, so I have no idea if the wives present would have felt excluded (or rather, not included) had I chosen to read from the [other translation] instead."

Glad to know of and read what Jane, Tim, and TC have offered too.

Now, personally, I'm going to see what David Ker (on the fly again) has put up on the latest BBB post; ready to chew.

 
At Tue May 27, 05:56:00 AM, Blogger Nathan Stitt said...

Suzanne,
Thank you again.

Peter,
Happy Birthday.

JK,
I replied to both Peter and yourself on my blog, I didn't realize you had left comments here for me. I won't bother to repost, just pointing you that way. Anyways, off to read David's massive post.

 
At Tue May 27, 06:46:00 AM, Blogger Glennsp said...

Peter, with all due respect, I, like you, live in the UK and I find that the 'generic masculine' still has a place in the UK english.
This finding applies outside my Church setting and across age and gender.
As such it would be more accurate for you to say that "where I live it may have lost usage", but you cannot speak for the UK as a whole.
In many publications (secular) it still has much mileage as well.

 
At Tue May 27, 11:43:00 AM, Blogger Tim said...

The problem with the "generic masculine" is that even people who claim to understand it and use it automatically have been shown in repeated tests to require longer to process them in inclusive ways. The evidence suggests that we read "men" first as exclusive, then processing the text realise that it must also in this case include women... extra processing burden. So if the Greek or Hebrew intended to be inclusive use inclusive language.

The real issues come when one reasonably concludes that the original probably did not intend to be inclusive - and how we tell the difference.

 
At Thu May 29, 06:50:00 AM, Blogger Nick Steffen said...

My own church continues to use the KJV bible in worship, which has created some interesting uses of various terms. One of the results has been that the use of "brother" is taken as gender exclusive, but that the use of "brethren" is commonly considered to have a much wider field. Calling it gender inclusive would be going too far (there's still an implicit understanding that this refers to males), but it is commonly used in our church to refer to the entire body.

I'd probably compare it to the ease with which some preachers will apply any example of the second person plural in the New Testament texts to us (the people in the pews). We know (implicitly) that it wasn't written to us, but at the same point, there's another sense in which it was.

 
At Tue Jun 03, 07:39:00 PM, Blogger Bill said...

Absolutely, 'adelphoi' means brothers AND sisters. No question about it. Another great example (though I'm going backwards through posts here...)

Btw, my house church roots were just partly descended from certain brethern traditions and we did have "brothers" and "sisters" meetings. (No "elders" meetings, though!)

In our group, the sisters told us when they wanted to lead for a while, and they told us when they wanted us to lead for a while. Most of the time, actually they were too polite to tell us directly how they wanted us to lead more. And yet, man, whenever they took over, it was awesome!

Awesome in a whole different way, of course. Naturally! And thank God...

Anyway, that was our experience. Oh, and sisters had complete veto power over anything the brothers decided.

Don't know if any of that's necessarily scriptural, but it's just what we did. :)

 
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