Thursday, February 16, 2006

Dr. Packer and 2 Timothy ...

or What can slow down a manuscript copying project

On Jan. 28 I posted about our manuscript copying project. A few of us were copying out the second epistle of Timothy for Rick Brannan of Ricoblog. This is what I posted.

I copied word for word except for some small phrases, where I read the article or prepostion together with the following word. Sometimes I understood the Greek and sometimes I didn't. I started off trying to make sure that I understood it all the time but that meant I had to stop and think. Better not do that.

Now I find that it has been reported on the ESV Bible Blog here that I did not stop to understand what I was copying as that would slow me down. And it did slow me down. However, I would like to explain why.

I had learned this epistle and studied it extensively in our Christian Fellowship at university, some time ago. But one does not forget scripture learned as a young person easily.

I remembered this experience vividly when I got to the second verse of the second chapter of 2 Timothy,

    The things which you have heard from me in the presence of many witnesses, entrust these to faithful men who will be able to teach others also. NASB
I had originally memorized this chapter in the New American Standard Verison so this is what I have shown. At that time I understood 'men' in its generic sense and was comfortable with it. I certainly would never have memorized this chapter if I had not thought that it applied to women too. After all a Christian woman had spent a considerable amount of her time teaching me Greek in high school starting at 8:00 several mornings a week for 3 years.

However, I knew that the ESV, the English Standard Version, has now translated anthropos as 'people' in many cases, instead of 'men'. The following statement is from the ESV Translation Philosophy.

    “People” rather than “men” is regularly used where the original languages refer to both men and women. But the words “man” and “men” are retained where a male meaning component is part of the original Greek or Hebrew.
So I looked up 2 Tim. 2:2 in the ESV,

    And what you have heard from me in the presence of many witnesses entrust to faithful men who will be able to teach others also.
I had actually finished the second chapter of 2 Timothy by now and was really enjoying it because I did understand it well. But at that point, after looking at the ESV translation, I lost interest in copying. I finished the project as quickly as possible and mailed it off the Rick. Hence no fancy calligraphy.

Then I took my copy of the Vamva Greek Bible to work with me to read 2 Timothy with a Greek friend of mine at lunch. I asked her to listen to my pronunciation and correct it, which she did. Then I asked her to read some of it in English. She quietly read a little to me in English, reading 'people' for anthropois in 2 Tim. 2:2. My friend attends the Greek Orthodox Church, which does not ordain women. We know this. However, she did not let that affect her translation.

I had already read a copy of the Colorado Springs Guidelines and borrowed a copy of The TNIV and the Gender Neutral Controversy by Wayne Grudem and Vern Poythress. On page 426 of their book I learned that they had not looked up adelphos in the major Greek Lexicons until after they drafted the Colorado Springs Guidelines and not before. This leads to the possibility that they had not looked up aner or anthropos either, if they were working in alphabetical order.

I was still not sure of how to understand 2 Tim. 2:2 in the ESV. Was 'men' intended here as 'men only', or was it an unrevised snippet, a leftover from when 'men' was generic. So I phoned Dr. Packer, the general editor of the ESV and asked to meet with him.

I met with Dr. Packer last Friday and interviewed him on many aspects of the TNIV controversy. I have written about part of our conversation here and here.

Now I shall write about how he responded when I asked him about 2 Tim. 2:2.

Suzanne: I have to ask you about 2 Tim. 2:2. Did you think that anthropos referred to 'men' in this verse?

Dr. Packer: I think it means 'men' exegetically. We think that it means 'men'. You know surely that one of the rules of linguistics is that the meaning of any word in any sentence is that which adds least to what is already there in the sentence.

Suzanne: I was brought up with that verse in our Christian Fellowship and I always thought that it was 'men and women'. It was quite a shock to me to find that people would think that it was 'men only'.

Dr. Packer: Well, Paul doesn’t say that it was 'men only', he just says 'men', but in the situation, it was to the teachers, surely it is obvious from the context that they were men.

Suzanne: But isn’t it adding something. If I sit down with a Greek woman today and I ask her to read that verse back to me in English she will say it is 'people' in plain English.

Dr. Packer: Plain reading by a contemporary Greek, well, 1900 years have a gone by, you can’t take it out of the situation.

Suzanne: Luther translated it mensch. He didn’t add the masculine meaning. It was a disappointing verse for me.

Dr. Packer: Remember though until very recently the word, that the masculine word 'men' was understood as generic, 'men' was including women when the context implies it. Are you saying that the context implies women teachers especially in light of the second half of the second chapter of 1 Timothy?

Suzanne: I would have thought that taking meaning from the context would be an interpretation and would not turn up in the translation.

Dr. Packer: Let me say straightaway, we will have to agree to disagree. I get to specifics from the context. I start with the flow of the context, what is the whole thing about, the paragraph, things like that.

Suzanne: Thank you. You have anwered my question.


In any case, this verse had not been translated by the ESV in such a way that it is 'transparent to the Greek.' I want it on the record that this is why I did not stop to understand and enjoy the rest of 2 Timothy. The ESV translation committee did not consider that it was written for women.

However, in light of the final verses of 2 Timothy I would be interested in hearing if there is another way of interpreting this epistle so that women could be included.
    Greet Prisca and Aquila, and the household of Onesiphorus. Erastus remained at Corinth, and I left Trophimus, who was ill, at Miletus. Do your best to come before winter. Eubulus sends greetings to you, as do Pudens and Linus and Claudia and all the brothers. ESV
The incongruous 'brothers' should also be reconsidered. 'Brethren' was marginally possible, but 'brothers' is downright odd in this context.

My apologies to those who thought I might soon be posting more on Greek pronunciation, a Greek Byzantine font and other writing systems projects of interest.

1 comment:

Cheryl Schatz said...

Hello Suzanne,

Dr. Packer's comments on the verse in 2 Timothy as being "men" as in "males" apparently comes from his belief that only men are allowed to teach in the church. However his view that Paul is stopping godly women from teaching biblical doctrine (in 1 Timothy 2) has clouded his interpretion of 2 Timothy 2:2. Clearly the Holy Spirit has inspired "anthropos" and not "aner" in 2 Timothy 2:2 because the competent teachers are indeed men and women. Even if we believed that women are only to teach other women and children, certainly these women teachers would also be competent and able to teach others and would fit perfectly into 2 Timothy 2:2.

The basic problem though is that 1 Timothy 2 is taught as a passage that restricts women when the context is completely ignored that Paul has been writing to Timothy about stopping deceived teachers who are teaching error. In 1 Timothy chapter 2 Paul ties in the deception of Eve, further proving that the prohibition has to do with stopping false teaching and not a prohibition against all godly women teaching correct biblical doctrine. Lastly, Paul comments about the salvation of those who are teaching false doctrine. "She" and "they" will be saved if .... once again the reference goes back to the deceived teacher(s) as Paul continues the context about stopping those who are teaching error.

We have a teaching on the hard passages of scripture that includes an entire hour session on 1 Timothy 1 & 2. I think that you would enjoy it and get a much more detailed understanding by the DVD which goes through the two chapers verse-by-verse to consider the complete context surrounding the prohibition. The context and Paul's reference back to Genesis explains why Paul brings up the importance of the first creation of Adam and why the Holy Spirit connects this first creation to why Adam was not deceived. The DVD also ties in 1 Timothy 2:15 to the complete context and why the Holy Spirit inspired both the words "she" and "they" in 1 Timothy 2:15. You can view a preview of "Women in Ministry Silenced or Set Free" at and there are also reviews of the this 4 DVD set on the hard passages of Paul on this page as well.