Sunday, February 26, 2006

Garrison Keillor

I have been wanting to write a post about the comedian, Garrison Keillor, for some time. He grew up in the Plymouth Brethren and is the age of my older sisters. However, we don't remember meeting him.

What I do remember is that about 10 years ago my sisters and I were together at a cottage in Ontario and we rented some Garrison Keillor videos and watched them, hooting at how often he got it right.

Shawn Cuthill has a good post of an interview with Keillor.

KEILLOR Religion is rigorous and significant. Whether a lot of people see it that way or not, it just is. That's not to excuse at all the cruelties that have been done in the name of rigor and doctrinal purity. If those people had really been rigorous themselves, they wouldn't have been intolerant.

I hope to add a few more links to the sidebar here in a week or two. I have heard from some interesting people and would like to link up.

I also see that I have missed out on being linked up to the Plymouth Brethren blogosphere because I do not have Plymouth in the blog title, only Brethren. Hmm.

Saturday, February 25, 2006

The Hiccup Lady

The truth is that I am silent in the church, very silent. I am not one of those that leads in prayer, or sings a solo, or leads the children in the worship circle. I do not make announcements. I have been silent in the church my entire life.

In the Brethren no woman ever speaks. In the Plymouth Brethren no woman ever gave testimony, or prayed during prayer meeting, opened a hymn, (without any musical instrumetns this can be a crucial role) or even shushed their children audibly. Mothers sometimes carried little bags of candy, no, that was the lady who sat in the row behind us. Oops. Sometimes when we were kneeling in prayer, she would sneak me a candy. My mother never knew that.

However, there was one exception. This was the hiccup lady. She was an elderly single woman. She had a disorder that caused her to hiccup sometimes for 20 minutes without stopping. No one ever shushed her and she was not excommunicated. They knew she could not help it. For some reason God had sent her to show the assembly that woman can never be entirely silent in the church.

Detective Tales

What can I say? I found this here. Not exactly the angel of the Lord. But, you know, kind of scary just the same.

Wednesday, February 22, 2006

Our new kitten

Our cat died over Christmas. I was feeling a little sad. However, yesterday we got a new kitten. Just sitting around dangling a tassle, getting her to romp. That seems like enough to do after work.

More knitters. One 10-year-old boy has Tourette's but when he sits and concentrates on knitting he is calm and focused. He is an above average student - and very sweet when he is knitting but not too great in the classroom, I understand.

Fortunately these kids don't care much about gender roles. Maybe they just have culturally different ones. It is hard to say really. Helping me on the website, helping knit a blanket, what is the difference?

Lots of cheering for Cindy Klassen!!!

Sunday, February 19, 2006

Staying Home with the baby

Yesterday I posted "I believe that a hierarchical relationship in marriage is simply wrong." So when we drove to church this morning I was expecting an Angel of the Lord to be standing at the door of the church with a flaming sword in one hand and a loud-speaker in the other. I thought that he would put the trumpet to his lips and bellow "Suzanne, you have been kicked out of the garden."

Well, it didn't happen like that. We trooped in the same as ever and sat down in our pew. Paterfamilias, materfamilias, puerfamilias, but puella was away at a youth retreat. Then my husband picked up the program and gave me an odd look. There was the first hymn of the service,

Now there is no male or female,
Now there is no free or slave
Now there is no Jew or Gentile
In the earth Christ died to save
Christ has set us free for freedom
We no more sing slavery's creed
Old submissions cannot claim us
Christ has set us free indeed.

Crucified with Christ the Saviour
Baptized in his holy death
And as Christ was raised to glory
We have new life on this earth
Power of water and God's naming
Turning us from dark to light
Joins us to those who before us
Ran the race and fought the fight

Death has no dominion o'er him
So for us death holds no power
Life's own waters now have marked us
Born to God this very hour
From this moment and forever
Dead to sin, alive to Christ
Born of water and the Spirit
Now in Christ we find our life.

So my husband looks at me as if to say, "You are not only not submissive, but you must be telekinetic as well." Actually this is yesterdays news to him.

After the service we went for coffee and there was Fiona and Jim with a one year old baby. Fiona has been a practicing accountant for 25 years, a real professional woman. She and her husband have just adopted a daughter. I held the child for about five minutes and then she swiveled her head, screwed up her face and held out her chubby little hands to her father of two weeks. The recognition on her face as she strained in his direction brought tears to our eyes. There will be a lively discussion in that home about who will get to stay home with the baby!

Saturday, February 18, 2006

Physical Abuse

I made a comment today on the Better Bibles Blog,

As far as authority in marriage goes, we hold that that is a private matter, subject to the absence of abuse.

To tell the truth I wasn't thinking too seriously about it. However, I have since heard for the second time this week of a case of physical abuse. I am also aware of another case of psychological abuse. I cannot talk about this freely as some of these people are connected to me.

However, I can mention a brief conversation that a group of us had with our pastor the other day. He said that the church did not marry divorced people, and I reacted, thinking that this was very conservative. Then he continued, "except in the case of adultery, abuse and abandonment, in these cases the marriage has been broken by the other partner."

In Canada the abused partner does not have to lay charges. The police may be informed by a neighbour or anyone who is aware of the abuse. The police arrest the abuser and the crown charges the abuser with assault. If it is a first offense the abuser does not usually get a criminal record.

If a woman is being abused and neither she nor others who know this information do anything about it to stop it, they are contributing to a crime in the same way as if you saw someone steal and did not do anything to stop it. This is an extremely serious situation.

If I see someone physically harming someone else and I decide to pray for that person but do not take immediate action to stop it I am in the wrong. If I saw someone drowning would I pray for that person or attempt to use a physical means of saving them.

I realize that it is very difficult for some people to accept that there is no other way, but there is no other way. Everyone should have read at least one book about abuse so that they can be prepared for such a situation. Every church needs to be informed.

Here is a list of books as a good start.

The Battered Wife

No Place for Abuse

Christian Men who Hate Women

Domestic Violence: What every Pastor Needs to Know

About my opening comment, I said it carelessly. There is a statistical correlation between physical abuse in marriage and beliefs about authority and submission. Read Headship with a heart. I believe that a hierarchical relationship in marriage is simply wrong. Submission destroys intimacy. I can't imagine what the purpose is. Fidelity is something I understand.

Some people may be able to interpret authority and submission in such a way that it does not destroy the marriage. Common sense simply steps in and protects them. But on the whole I believe it is a great danger.

Personally I am not too interested in dissecting the many different possible meanings of headship. I am not a marriage counsellor but a pragmatic person. If you are in an abusive relationship, you will never reform your partner without leaving, accept that now. If, after a period of separation, things change then by all means discuss starting over with a professional counsellor.

I may be talking mainly to women, but I do know that men can be the victims of abuse as well, if not physical then psychological. They must leave the marriage and/or get counselling.

Friday, February 17, 2006

Woman's Work

Someone has the impression that I think Greek and Hebrew is more important than woman's work. That teaching men is more important than teaching women and children. How would I know? I am an elementary school teacher.

So... the most important work I have ever done is helping a deaf girl learn to speak. This is like taking a child of 10 and letting them go through being age 0, 1, 2, 3, 4, 5, 6, 7, 8 and so on. I wouldn't say that a man couldn't do a job like this, because I have worked with men as teachers of the very young and I believe the differences between men and women are simply overrated. But this falls into what might be described as 'woman's work'. And it cannot be rated too highly.

I am married and have two children, but they are growing up. If woman are at home with children then they must love every minute of it. That is the only thing to do. Because those children will one day grow up.

Faithful Women

And what you have heard from me through many witnesses entrust to faithful people who will be able to teach others as well. 2 Timothy 2:2 NRSV

The notion that women were not among the teachers in 2 Timothy 2:2 would never have crossed my mind, if I had not talked to Dr. Packer last week. Experience had taught me otherwise. Of course, I understood that women must be silent in the church. But there was no rationale attached to that, not that I was aware of. I simply lived in many worlds at once. In one world only the men spoke in church. In another world the women taught Greek and Latin. These worlds were adjacent but not congruent.

One of the women who influenced me as a teenager was Grace Irwin. This influence was indirect, she never actually taught me herself. She had retired by the time I got to high school. However, she taught my older sisters and was a family friend.

Grace Irwin taught Latin and Greek for 38 years at our high school in Toronto. She is an author, poet, public speaker, patron of the arts, and ordained minister. She also received an honourary doctorate of Sacred Letters from Victoria College, University of Toronto.. She is a very petite, beautiful and outspoken women. I drove her to a speaking engagment last spring. Now 97, she is still a great speaker. She is in good health and lives on her own. I think she gave up driving a couple of years ago.

Among her books are Servant of Slaves, about John Newton; and The Seventh Earl about Lord Shaftsbury. She is an important Christian author, and the winner of a Leading Women award in 2002.

When Grace Irwin retired from teaching high school, a group from a local church which was looking for a minister, simply went over to her house and asked her if she would please honour them with her ministry. And so she became a minister.

She has written her autobiography and I will be getting a copy of it soon. Then I will write more about her.

When people write about Evangelical Feminism like it was some regrettable aberration of our contemporary culture, they simply don't know what women really are. There were no men fussing about whether Grace Irwin could teach men.

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.

Tuesday, February 14, 2006

Last Greek Scholar

I never once thought in all these years that what happened to Mr. Willis was about doctrine. That people would parse Christ's blood like a Greek verb. I always thought that it was because he was the last Greek scholar in the Exclusive Brethren.

When he died lots of families left and some went in different directions. There are many other kinds of Brethren to become after that. Open, tight open, tight, and so on. So it wasn't much better, but a little better.

When I was 17 and went to university I could be in classes with my best friend. We had known each other since we were very young. Now she took Greek too, and Hebrew. I would never have taken courses in the Near Eastern Studies Dept. if it weren't for her. We were best friends and now there were two of us. It was much safer that way. We had a lot of fun together.

Monday, February 13, 2006

Why we renounced theology

I was about 12 years old when one of my older sisters went to Hong Kong to work with a small group of Brethren missionaries. One of those missionaries, Mr. Christopher Willis, was in Canada at that time and he came to the house for supper one evening. For some reason everyone else was out of the house until about 6:00, but he would turn up before they returned. I was comissioned to make supper, a roast, potatoes, and vegetables. I was told that he was allergic to wheat so I made rice crispie squares on my own intiative. I do not remember him actually eating them but he could see that it had been my own idea, not my parents, and expressed the appropriate gratitude. He had many grandchildren of his own so he was well able to say the right thing.

Mr. Willis was a self-taught Greek scholar and a missionary in China for many years. He had brought with him that evening a book which he gave me called Treasures of the Greek New Testament. It was written for children and I accepted this gift as an honour.

Not long after that he returned to Hong Kong and then several years later he retired to a small town in Canada.

Here is what my sister wrote about this time when she was living in Hong Kong with Mr. Willis' sister Helen Willis.

    In 1972, an event taking place in the meeting in Canada turned the world upside down for Mr. Collier and the Hong Kong mission. Mr. Christopher Willis, older brother of Helen Willis and the leading missionary of the Brethren's China mission, was suddenly expelled from the Exclusive Brethren Fellowship. He had been living in retirement with his daughter in Canada, when certain brothers in the meeting where he worshiped decided that something that he had written was heretical and succeeded in having him excommunicated from the fellowship. This was a rare occurance among the Brethren, usually taking place only when some sexual misdemeanor had been exposed. Expulsion in one place meant that the individual was excluded from fellowship in all meetings arond the world. The heresy of which Mr. Willis was accused was on an abstruse point, having to do with the saving power of the blood of Christ on the cross. Was it the blood flowing from his side, or from the nail prints in his hands? Mr. Willis was convicted of preaching a "bloodless salvation" because he insisted Christ's words on the cross "It is finished." meant that salvation was achieved before the soldier had pierced his side.
In Toronto, Mr. Willis' son, a doctor and his wife, close friends of our family came to visit. We were in the other room but we could hear their exasperation as the nonsense of the heresy accusation was described over and over and the futility of arguing with the men who had excommunicated their father. To this day I am afraid that I will get it wrong. Is it the blood from Christ's hands or his side?

The house was turned upside down as our father became the leader in defense of Mr. Willis's integrity. He attended meetings and took phone calls day and night. He stewed for hours over obscure isolated Bible verses. This went on for over a year.

I was 16 and the only one at home who read Greek well. More than once my father sat down with me at the dining room table with the Greek New testament and we reviewed Matt. 18:18-20.
    18 Verily I say unto you, Whatsoever ye shall bind on earth shall be bound in heaven: and whatsoever ye shall loose on earth shall be loosed in heaven.
    19 Again I say unto you, That if two of you shall agree on earth as touching any thing that they shall ask, it shall be done for them of my Father which is in heaven.
    20 For where two or three are gathered together in my name, there am I in the midst of them.
He wanted to know how to undo the excommunication that had taken place. He asked again and again about the tenses of the verbs, was it the perfect or the pluperfect, in each case, and the meaning of each word. "Dad, it doen't mean any more in Greek than it does in English. That's all there is. I can't make it mean any more than that."

Mr. Willis was never unexcommunicated and then he died. That is all. Then we left. Don't ever ask me if you should study Greek. It will not save you. But you should learn the right answer to whether it is the blood that flowed from Christ's hands or his side.

Sunday, February 12, 2006

A Classical Education

I picked up my older sister's biography last night to see how she experienced growing up.

"It was an intense and demanding programme, reputed to be similar in its curricular structure to the "Greats" in Classics at Oxford. Every year we read major texts in the original, both Greek and Latin: the Iliad of Homer, several complete tragedies including the Agamemnon of Aeschylus, Antigone and the Oedipus Rex of Sophocles, the whole of Plato's Republic as well as the Apology of Socrates, the Poetics and other works of Aristotle, large chunks of both Herodotus and Thucydides, the Greek historians, Pindar and other poets in the later years; for Latin we read the poetry of Horace and Catullus, the whole of the Aeneid of Virgil, Cicero, the comedies of the Hellenic era, ad the Histories of Tacitus. These were all required reading..."

I don't know why she wrote out such a list but there it is in her biography and easier for me to copy than remember it all. I covered most of this Greek curriculum but read Euripides instead of the poets. I had had enough Latin by the end of high school so I studied German instead.

When I decided to switch to studying Greek in the Near Eastern Studies Dept. I soon learned that we had to take Hebrew as a prerequisite so I signed up and bought my Hebrew Lexicon at the age of 19. German too I learned by spending the summer with the family of a Pentecostal preacher near Tubingen.

Reading Hellenistic Greek we were seldom allowed to read anything for which we had previously seen the English. We read the 4 books of Maccabees. That was not particularly edifying but it was considered good training for Septuagint studies. The didache and gnostic gospels were a little odd too. Then an essay on comparing Hebrew and Greek grammatical structure in the gospel of Matthew and commentary on the Aramaic primacy.

This had to be done by taking courses in linguistics which I took in French mostly to make sure that I had a French major. This way I could get a job when I graduated because I could become a French teacher and that was an acceptable thing to do for a woman.

My best friend studied Syriac and Aramaic as well as Greek and Hebrew. She was really brilliant and when she finished her MA in Near Eastern Studies, her father signed her up for law school so she could get a good job. She has practiced law ever since.

My older sister whose biography I am reading, moved away when she was 21 and I was 12. She later received a diploma in theology in the Anglican Church, and then she took a vow never to discuss theology again. (That is a painful story - one that we both share.) She became a professor in another field and is now a successful educator. But I have never heard her discuss theology. I too am reluctant. The only problem with this is that it gives people the impression that you don't know theology. However, that is usually a good thing.

Shortly after I graduated from university the term "Biblical Womanhood" turned up.

Around that time my husband and I were living in a small town. A woman came to me and told me that she had told the leaders of our church that she had been beaten and raped by her husband. But the leaders said that she should be more nurturing. The medical doctor took the case to court. We were able to make sure that the case didn't go before the provincial court judge who was also an elder in our church. The husband was convicted and we moved out of town. Before we left someone took my spiritual health under consideration and gave me the book Recovering Biblical Manhood and Womanhood by John Piper and Wayne Grudem. That would help me to understand that women must fill the nurturing role. Pies is what they said. The elders told her to bake pies.

I had almost forgotten about all this until recently someone loaned me The TNIV and the Gender Neutral Controversy by Vern Poythress and Wayne Grudem.

All us girls put down our Greek, Latin and Hebrew at the age of 21 and entered the adult world. But it is never gone for good. I can still read my way through the Colorado Springs Guidelines and figure out pretty quickly that the authors, Vern Poythress and Wayne Grudem, don't know one end of a Greek Lexicon from the other.


This post is in response to this, a post about a book by Wayne Grudem.
    Speaking of which, everyone ought to know about Wayne Grudem's recent book Evangelical Feminism and Biblical Truth: An Analysis of More Than 100 Disputed Questions. (Sisters, Ore: Multnomah, and Leicester, England: InterVarsity Press). It is a tour de force. In it, Wayne pours in much of what he has learned from over twenty-five years of close involvement in the controversies over men's and women's roles in the home and church. CBMW hosts an on-line site that allows you to access some of this material, and where Dr. Grudem will answer any "new" evangelical feminist arguments for "egalitarianism." You can find it here.
Now some might say, ahh but you are a feminist. How so, my mother studied Greek, my grandmother studied Greek, and my great aunt taught Greek at university. Their mother was a governess and a member of the Swiss Darby Brethren. I still have their lexicons untainted by modernism and feminism.

I commented on this post today and someone might come and say, "You are a school-teacher, you cannot teach an adult male." I don't really want to "teach" these men anything. It strikes me that they are not ready to learn anything.

My husband leaned over the screen and read enough of this to give me his blessing. Thank you, dear.

Friday, February 10, 2006


If I have readers who have not noticed, I should mention that I have been posting on the Better Bibles Blog this week. I have interviewed Dr. Packer and we covered a lot of ground. Now I have most but not all of it transcribed but I see that I need to go back over it and review it to be accurate. It was a pleasant discussion between two evangelical Christians with a mutual interest in classical Greek and Bible translation. When the conversation moved to women as "teachers" we quickly agreed to disagree and moved on. On the issue of the nature of Biblical womanhood he claimed he couldn't quite remember having said some of what I mentioned. That seemed fair enough to me.

On the knitting front, we are going gangbusters with 20 kids knitting such delights as teddy bear scarves and blanket strips. This consists of each child knitting what I thought was reasonable which is about 8 stitches wide and 16 inches long. Then I sewed all the pieces of different colours together, trimmed it with a crocheted border and called it a teddy bear blanket. We have a dolls crib set up in the display case. It is full of teddy bears wearing scarves and the blanket is draped over the side. When they have finished that we go on to other projects. We have started a blanket for our sick room.

These kids are autistic, deaf, dyslexic, speaking little to no English, etc. A couple of boys who usually help with the website are also knitting, since my computer with the school website software has been down for a few weeks. It is lunchtime mayhem.

I also have a new Byzantine Greek beta font with 635 different characters in it. I will post on this soon but it needs some solid attention paid to it. Sorry to bore you all.

Saturday, February 04, 2006

Jefferson on Greek Pronunciation

There has been a bit of discussion around the pronunciation of classical Greek at Evangelical Textual Criticism. In my quest for fluency and a non-English sounding intonation, I have decided simply to opt for the modern pronunciation. However, Thomas Jefferson presents a more nuanced view in this letter.

    Very early in my classical days, I took up the idea that the ancient Greek language having been changed by degrees into the modern, and the present race of that people having received it by tradition, they had of course better pretensions to the ancient pronunciation also, than any foreign nation could have. When at Paris, I became acquainted with some learned Greeks, from whom I took pains to learn the modern pronunciation.

    But I could not receive it as genuine in toto. I could not believe that the ancient Greeks had provided six different notations for the simple sound of {i}, iota, and left the five other sounds which we give to n, v, {i-i}, {oi}, {yi}, without any characters of notation at all. I could not acknowledge the {y}, upsillon, as an equivalent to our {n}, as in {Achilleys}, which they pronounce Achillevs, nor the {g}, gamma, to our y, as in {alge}, which they pronounce alye. I concluded, therefore, that as experience proves to us that the pronunciation of all languages changes, in their descent through time, that of the Greek must have done so also in some degree; and the more probably, as the body of the words themselves had substantially changed.
He concludes,

    And in fact, we find that no two nations pronounce it alike, although all pretend to the Erasmian pronunciation. But the whole subject is conjectural, and allows therefore full and lawful scope to the vagaries of the human mind. I am glad, however, to see the question stirred here; because it may excite among our young countrymen a spirit of inquiry and criticism, and lead them to more attention to this most beautiful of all languages.

His closing sentiments still have resonance today.

Thursday, February 02, 2006


I read this blog often because it best represents the way I was brought up. The frequent mention of J.N. Darby and open-air preaching, guests in the home and spiritual dinner table conversations bring back with rich detail the atmosphere that was once home. I cannot say that I feel a nostalgia for it, but only that it was cultural experience which gave on the one hand and took away on the other.

Here is a delightful post and the comment section which expresses the deep dichotomy in which Brethren young people live. Thank you Matthew for your honest and open blogging.

Generic Pronoun 'he' III

In my last post on the generic pronoun 'he', I misunderstood a technical detail. I shall correct that now and continue. I said that there was no 'he' in the Liddell-Scott online dictionary. Debbie pointed out that 'he' was one of the "stop words", words too common to be indexed, and that is why it was not in the dictionary. That is true. However, I shall continue with my argument that αυτος in Greek, the word that is usually translated into 'he' in English, is not necessarily 'he' in English, but could equally be 'he or she' or 'they'.

In the Liddell-Scott dictionary entry for αυτος, one finds this.

II he, she, it, for the simple Pron. of 3 pers as well as 'self', or 'the same one'.

So αυτος means not 'he' but 'he, she or it'. If we eliminate 'it' since we are talking about how the pronoun is used for people in the NT we end up with 'he or she'. However, αυτος does have a masculine grammatical ending, -ος, which is usually not translated.

Since Poythress and Grudem, in this book which I am now reading, claim that the masculine ending should be translated, I want to look at why αυτος has a masculine ending in the first place.

In the Bauer Lexicon, BAGD, αυτος "refers with more or less emphasis to a subject, often resuming one already mentioned." And later, "The oblique cases of αυτος very often take the place of the third person personal pronoun," "with reference to a preceding noun" and "with reference to a noun to be supplied from the context."

Now consider this verse.

    Behold, I stand at the door and knock. If anyone hears my voice and opens the door, I will come in to him and eat with him, and he with me. ESV Rev. 3:20
In this verse, 'anyone' is τις in Greek. The form is both masculine and feminine at the same time; it is unspecified. If one asks from the context who τις refers to, one would have to say that it refers to a human, either male or female.

The word for human is ο ανθρωπος, a word with a masculine grammatical ending. However, this word means 'a human being', or 'a person'. The Liddell-Scott dictionary says that it denotes 'man' both generically and as individuals. In the BAGD, it refers to 'man' generically, as a class, in contrast to plants and animals, in contrast to the gods, etc. These dictionaries all use the term 'man' generically, and the word applies to people, both men and women. There is another word for 'man' in Greek, ανηρ.

In any case, Poythress and Grudem do believe that women are candidates for salvation, that is not in question.

However, ανθρωπος has a masculine grammatical ending, so αυτος must have a masculine grammatical ending, as well, to agree. In Rev. 3:20 αυτος refers specifically to 'anyone', 'the human being', who hears the voice of Christ and opens the door to him. There is no necessary equivalence between αυτος and 'he' in English. There is a grammatical reason why αυτος has a masculine ending, not a semantic reason.

So what is the most natural way to translate this. Here is an English sentence in three variations. Which one is correct?

    1. If I drop by someone's house for tea at 5:00 I hope he will invite me to stay for supper.
    2. If I drop by someone's house for tea at 5:00 I hope he or she will invite me to stay for supper.
    3. If I drop by someone's house for tea at 5:00 I hope they will invite me to stay for supper.
Now let's reverse the social situation, to check and see if there is a female bias to the previous sentence.

    1. If anyone comes to visit at 5:00 I will invite him for supper.
    2. If anyone comes to visit at 5:00 I will invite him or her for supper.
    3. If anyone comes to visit at 5:00 I will invite them for supper.
Didn't change much. I would still say that only #3 is accurate.

For me, only one of these is correct. And so the TNIV has translated Rev. 3:20 as follows,

    Here I am! I stand at the door and knock. If anyone hears my voice and opens the door, I will come in and eat with them, and they with me.
    However, a statement signed by 100 Christian leaders said this.

      We believe that the TNIV has gone beyond acceptable translation standards in several important respects.

    • The TINV translation often changes masculine, third person, singular pronouns (he, his and him) to plural gender-neutral pronouns. For example, in Revelation 3:20, the words of Jesus have been changed from "I will come in and eat with him, and he with me" to "I will come in and eat with them, and they with me," Jesus could have used plural pronouns when he said this, but he chose not too. (The original Greek pronouns are singular.) p. 100

    First, of course, Christ, spoke in Aramaic, not Greek. Second, the Greek says αυτος, and the lexicons give 'he or she' as the meaning of αυτος, depending on the noun it refers to. Third, it does refer to a person, any person, not only a male person. And forth, Poythress and Grudem themselves now accept that 'they' has been used as a generic singular in English since the days of Chaucer.

      Language Log in particular delights in demonstrating the merits of the generic singular 'they'

        The pronoun form 'they' is anaphorically linked in the discourse to 'this person'. Such use of forms of 'they' with singular antecedents is attested in English over hundreds of years, in writers as significant as Chaucer, Shakespeare, Milton, Austen, and Wilde. The people (like the perennially clueless Strunk and White) who assert that such usage is "wrong" simply haven't done their literary homework and don't deserve our attention.

      Here is an example from Shakespeare.

        There's not a man I meet but doth salute me
        As if I were their well-acquainted friend (Language Log here.)
      The statement against the TNIV continues,

          In hundreds of such cases, the TNIV obscures any possible significance the inspired singular may have, such as individual responsibility or an individual relationship with Christ.
          But we can see that English speakers have used and understood 'they' as a singular in an individual relationship at least since Shakespeare, without ambiguity. So what is the real reason that Poythress and Grudem want to retain the generic masculine?

            On the one hand, in the original, the net effect of the masculine marking may be subtly weaker than in English, because grammatical gender occurs in other uses besides the cases that identify the sex of the referent.

            But on the other hand, in generic statements, masculine forms tend to occur more frequently in Greek and Hebrew than in English (because most nouns, adjectives, and participles are gender-marked in Greek and Hebrew, and verbs are marked in Hebrew). This greater frequency of gender-marked words referring to persons may push listeners in the opposite direction, toward reinforcing the impression of a predominance of male orientation in generic statements. These two effects are both extremely subtle. Because they work in opposite directions, the net effect is probably still similar to the use of generic "he" in English. p. 451
          For this "extremely subtle" and "probable" reason, having to do with the need for "frequency" and "predominance of male orientation", 100 Christian Leaders signed a statement that the TNIV was not sufficiently trustworthy. That, and it uses the language of Shakespeare.

          Poythress and Grudem say that it is feminism which is to blame.

            Feminism replaces Biblical honour with a misguided attempt to wipe out the differences in people with respect to prominence, order, leadership, and representation. p. 257
          Since woman has no right to any of the above, she must not seek to be represented in the Bible on the same basis as man.

            And we must emphasize again that the Bible does teach the dignity of all human beings. Men and women alike are created in the image of God, and all have fallen into sin. But the Bible also indicates that there are differences in the gifts that God gives them and the roles that he assigns to them in this life. Feminism and egalitarianism fight against those differences. p. 255

          Wednesday, February 01, 2006

          Philip's Daughters

          I have quoted a fair bit of writing to demonstrate what I think is wrong about complementarian ideology. However, that does not mean that I wish to paint all fundamentalism or conservative Christians with the same brush. Not at all. I consider the upbringing that I had as 'classic fundamentalism' and it was in some ways more Victorian than a complementarian point of view could ever be.

          Here is an example of one possible approach toward the issue of women and teaching in a Brethren Assembly. This is a true story - not a generalization, but it happened this way - think what you will.

          Several years ago, shortly after my mother died I took my two young children and went to stay with my father for a few weeks in the summer. One Sunday I attended the morning service, which had about 3oo people in attendance, with my father, leaving the children in the nursery. The preacher was a friend of my father's, also a parent of daughters, and had chosen to speak on Acts 21, which includes the mention of Philip's four unmarried daughters who prophesied.

          When he got to the relevant passage about Philip's daughters, he drew a deep breath and shook his head, and commented that we did not know why the Lord had prohibited women from teaching. He then leaned forward in the pulpit and scanned the congregation. His eye found my father and he addressed him by name. "This must be a hard thing for you to accept, Mr._ , knowing your daughters. "

          My first thought was, "Oops, and I forgot to wear a hat!" and then I realized that women had been mentioned in the service without any reference to the hat issue. You might think from this that my father has only daughters, and no sons, to carry on the teaching tradition. In fact, my father has six daughters, (I am one of the younger ones, and not well-known to the preacher), but my father also has two sons, one of whom was a recognized Bible teacher by this time.

          I honestly believe that this Brethren preacher was saying that he recognized that the daughters were the equals of the sons and inherited the same abilities; that they were true siblings, not complementary in their gifts but similar in their gifts. However, God, in his sovereignty had forbidden women from teaching and so it must be.

          Here is another example of this kind of thinking, written in 1888,

            I also believe [women] have a right in a quiet way to teach the men the way of life and salvation, but not publicly in the church for when the women get up publicly in the church of God to teach, then they disobey the apostolic injunction "Let your women keep silence in the churches for it is not permitted unto them to speak." 1 Cor. xiv: 34.

            So while I believe that Philip's four daughters did prophesy and to prophesy is to speak unto men to edification and exhortation and comfort," still I also believe that Philip's daughters could and did exercise their gifts of prophecy without doing it publicly in the churches of Christ. A. A. Bunner
          There was no talk of complementary gifts, but only the injunction against exercizing gifts in public. The dining room table and parlour were the woman's domain.

          I do not advocate this position - I support the ordination of women. However, at least it is an honest position, a recognition of who women are and the simple acceptance that we will know in heaven why God wants them to be quiet in the assembly. Complementarian thinking not only restricts women's activities, but it distorts the very essence of who women are.

          F. F. Bruce provides further insight into the Brethren position in his article on Women in the Church.