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Thursday, October 26, 2006

Generic use of "son"

As I was revising my translation of Luke’s gospel, I noticed the Greek term son (huios) in Luke 20:34, where the Revised Standard Version translates it literally:

… the sons of this age marry and are given in marriage. RSV

The context indicates that Jesus is referring to marriage in general, so other versions clarify this by translating sons generically as children, people, or men and women:

… the children of this world marry and are given in marriage. KJV
… the people of this age marry and are given in marriage. NIV
… the men and women of this age marry. TEV
… the people in this world get married. CEV

This verse presents a problem for Bible scholars who insist that masculine Greek terms refer only to males. If we applied their view to this text, we would conclude that Jesus meant it was customary for men to marry other men at that time. People who tend to pull verses out of context might consider using this verse to support homosexual marriage, at least between men. But I don’t think the scholars I referred to would be very pleased about that, so I hope they realize that masculine Greek terms don't only refer to men, and I hope they reconsider how they interpret other texts in the Bible where masculine Greek terms are used.

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At Thu Oct 26, 09:44:00 AM, Blogger Peter Kirk said...

Thanks for this good example which proves that "sons" is not gender specific. The second verb here in the Greek, the passive of gamisko, must have a bride as the subject, and so the subject must include men and women. Although homosexuality was not rare among Greeks, I don't think they had any such custom as homosexual marriage and probably no language to use about it.

At Fri Oct 27, 06:22:00 AM, Blogger JT said...


Can you provide examples of evangelical scholars who think that all masculine Greek terms apply only to males?

Frankly, the debates deserves better than this caricature.


At Fri Oct 27, 01:04:00 PM, Blogger Peter Kirk said...

JT, you have put the word "all" into Dan's mouth in "think that all masculine Greek terms apply only to males". Dan was referring to certain masculine Greek terms, obviously including the one he uses here as an example, huios. Concerning several such terms, I can refer you to the infamous Colorado Springs Guidelines, which state the following about huios:

2. "Son" (huios, ben) should not be changed to "child," or "sons" (huioi) to "children" or "sons and daughters." (However, Hebrew banim often means "children.")

The implication of this is that the signatories of these guidelines do not accept that huioi can have the gender generic meaning "children" or "sons and daughters", but only the gender specific one "sons". (Of course their statement says nothing about places like Matthew 5:9 where huioi has been rendered "children" at least since 1611, although the TNIV rendering here which is almost the same as the KJV one is listed by CBMW as a "translation inaccuracy".)

Of course you be in doubt whether the signatories of these guidelines, including such people as Wayne Grudem and Vern Poythress, can properly be called "scholars".

At Fri Oct 27, 02:29:00 PM, Blogger JT said...

The distinction, Peter, is between translation and meaning/application. Dan referred to the latter, which is incorrect.

Your closing line reflects your customary level of maturity. "Blog posts and comments should focus on Bible translation issues, not personalities. Support claims with evidence. Do not question the spirituality, beliefs, or motives of anyone, including Bible translation teams or those who post or comment on this blog."


At Fri Oct 27, 04:57:00 PM, Blogger Dan Sindlinger said...

JT, There has been a fair amount of discussion on this blog regarding this subject. I didn't want to take the time or use up the space to duplicate what's already been presented.

I'm not sure what you mean by "the distinction is between translation and meaning/application." The purpose of translation is to convey the meaning of a text.

Peter, Thanks for providing the information for JT.

At Sat Oct 28, 04:59:00 AM, Blogger Peter Kirk said...

JT, isn't your comment about my "customary level of maturity" an example of "question[ing] the spirituality, beliefs, or motives of anyone, including Bible translation teams or those who post or comment on this blog"? On the other hand, my point was that you asked for evidence about "evangelical scholars" and I realised that it might not be entirely self-evident that the statement I quoted came from such scholars.

So, if "The distinction... is between translation and meaning/application", do you or the Colorado Springs Guidelines thereby imply that it is wrong to translate huioi as "sons and daughters" even in case where the meaning is undoubtedly "sons and daughters"? In other words, do you and the Guidelines want to promote deliberately incorrect and misleading translations? I certainly hope not, but I can't get any other meaning out of your comment.


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