Saturday, February 02, 2008

A sustainer beside him

Recently on the Bayly Blog, there was a post about Carolyn Custis James with regard to her use of the term "warrior" to translate ezer kenegdo in Gen. 2:18. There were some interesting comments and disagreements. However, one commenter posted this from Robert Alter,
    The Hebrew 'ezer kenegdo is notoriously difficult to translate. The second term means alongside him,opposite him, a counterpart to him. "Help" is too weak because it suggests a merely auxiliary function, whereas 'ezer elsewhere connotes active intervention on behalf of someone, especially in military contexts, as often in the Psalms.
Alter translates the phrase as "sustainer beside him." Here is what Carolyn Custis James writes,
    Usually, in commentaries and also in books on both sides of the debate on the role of women, the discussion of the word ezer ends with a breakdown of the twenty-one times this word appears - similar to what I have done. Two for women, sixteen for God, and three for military powers. But when I reexamined each of the sixteen references to God, I discovered to my surprise that powerful military language permeates every passage. God is the helper, deliverer, shield, and sword of his people. In battle he is more trustworthy than chariots and horses. He personally stands on sentry duty, guarding his own from their enemies. His strong arm overthrows all their foes. ...

    The military language associated with the word ezer ties the same bold imagery to the strong helper. She is a valiant warrior conscripted by God, not to fight against the man but to fight at his side as his greatest ally in the war to end all wars. (Pages 186-187)
When Life and Beliefs Collide. Carolyn Custis James. I haven't read this whole book but it looks like a worthwhile book on this theme.

28 comments:

Carl W. Conrad said...

It appears comparable to the usage of σύμμαχος, "ally" -- as in Sappho's prayer to Aphrodite (LP1):
ἔλθε μοι καὶ νῦν, χαλέπαν δὲ λῦσον
ἐκ μερίμναν, ὄσσα δέ μοι τέλεσσαι
θῦμος ἰμέρρει, τέλεσον, σὺ δ' αὔτα
σύμμαχος ἔσσο.

Jayne said...

There is no linguistic justification for translating "ezer" as "warrior".
I quote from _A Grammar for Biblical Hebrew_ by C.L. Seow:
"Every Hebrew word is theoretically characterized by (a) its root, usually comprised of three consonants called "radicals" and (b) by its pattern, the combination of the radicals with various vowels, prefixes, and/or suffixes, if any."

Seow gives the example of words coming from the root "mem lamed kaf". In English, they mean "he reigned," "he will reign," "reigning," "one who reigns," "king," "queen," "kingship," "reign," "kingdom," and "sovreignty." He then makes the statement that "Words having the same root tend to fall within the same semantic range."

This has highly significant implications for translation. When discerning the best translation for the words "ezer" and "knegdo" we consider, not simply other instances of the word, but other words derived from the same roots. Mrs. James did not do this in her articles on "ezer" that I saw.

A key work in this field is the _Brown-Driver-Briggs Hebrew and English Lexicon_ which organizes words by root. When we look up the root of "ezer" "ayin zayin resh" we find many, many instances of words with this root, not the mere two dozen or so addresed by Mrs. James. Here are some samples of their meanings: the verbs "help" and "succour" in various tenses/aspects, "he who is helped" "I am helped," nouns "help" and "succour," "assistance," "one who helps". Every derivative of this root falls within a semantic range around the notion of help.

And these are not all within a military context. For example, in Is 50:9 the context is help against an accuser bringing charges. Perhaps we should we translate "ezer" as "lawyer".

If James wanted something with more connotations of strength than "helper" she might have made a case for translating "ezer" as "rescuer". But "warrior" is just wrong.

Suzanne McCarthy said...

Thanks Jayne for finding me.

I am not Mrs. James and have no investment in the term "warriors." I am simply trying to illuminate the true meaning, and I don't think that using the term "help" is very helpful.

I might have suggested "advocate" and I think that is very close to what you suggest. Here is the list of what I actually did propose on the Bayly blog,

- defender
- champion
- guardian
- patron
- benefactor
- protector

I think "rescuer" is good too. My point is that Eve was in no way subordinate to Adam. I think you agree with that.

However, it is also interesting that Carl Conrad has posted the use of συμμαχος which means "fellow warrior" or "ally."

What seems to have happened is that James has given precedent to the use of usage over etymology in determining the sense of ezer. I think you are aware of the term etymological fallacy. It does nobody any good to emphasize etymology over usage. They both have to contribute.

The clear conclusion is that the ezer is not subordinate and this is what the Bayly brothers will not accept. Or am I wrong about this?

Jayne said...

"My point is that Eve was in no way subordinate to Adam. I think you agree with that."

No, I do not agree with that. I would agree that the use of the word "ezer" alone is not sufficient to show that Eve was subordinate to Adam. However, for Christians, the Old Testament is interpretted through the New Testament. Consider I Tim 2:11-13 - "A woman should learn in quietness and full submission. I do not permit a woman to teach or to have authority over a man; she must be silent. For Adam was formed first, then Eve."

This seems to indicate that the creation of Eve after Adam shows that she had a subordinate position even before the Fall. While the next verse is about the Fall, The order of creation is also given as an independent reason for Eve's subordinate position.

If I were translating Genesis 2:18 I would render "ezer knegdo" as "crucial helper corresponding to him". Of all the alternatives you list above, "ally" is my second choice. All of your suggestions carry connotations of superiority for which I see no justification. The connotation of "ezer" seems to me to be neither one of superiority nor inferiority, but rather that the help involved is critical, even life-saving.

When James translates it as "warrior" she goes beyond giving precedence to usage over etymology. The usage does not justify her translation either. She really destroyed her credibility as far as I am concerned.

Suzanne McCarthy said...

Jayne,

I am sure that if we were discussing a Bible translation neither "warrior" nor "crucial helper corresponding to him" would be in the running. But "ally" probably would be.

I presented the list above as an indication of how the word had been translated in other contexts. This is valid evidence. I have never seen any evidence to support the notion that an 'ezer can be a subordinate. A subordinate would be a vassal state and not an ally. Someone who is equal or stronger is a suitable ally.

I made it quite clear on Bayly blog, that in my thinking, men and women are to be helpers to each other, that it is a term of reciprocity, just as "friend" is. If one is a friend to the other, the other is also a friend.

Regarding 1 Tim. 2:12, there is no evidence to support the translation "have authority." Have you seen how this verse was translated in the Vulgate? That gives a more accurate impression. Here is how Chrsystom used the word,

Do not therefore, because your wife is subject to you, act the despot;(αυθεντεω) nor because your husband loves you, be thou puffed up. Hom. 10 on Colossians.

So, a woman may not authentew a man, nor can a man authentew a woman. This is how the word was understood.

A woman may not dominate a man, just because she gives life. The man was created first and the first man gave life to woman. Man and woman are interdependent.

Suzanne McCarthy said...

However, if you wish to defend the subordination of woman, you are welcome to post further comments. I appreciate that you bring some study to this.

Jayne said...

"I presented the list above as an indication of how the word had been translated in other contexts. This is valid evidence.

"That was a list of how "prostatis" might be translated. That is not valid evidence for translations of "ezer".

"I have never seen any evidence to support the notion that an 'ezer can be a subordinate."

I question the conclusiveness of negative evidence in a corpus this size.

"Regarding 1 Tim. 2:12, there is no evidence to support the translation "have authority." Have you seen how this verse was translated in the Vulgate?"

It looks to me like both "authenteo" and "dominari" have a semantic range that includes the neutral "exercise authority" and "domineer". Since the preceeding verse refers to women's "full submission" it does not seem reasonable to limit this passage to excessive exercise of authority.

Suzanne McCarthy said...

Here is a post which presents some of the literature to establish a possible range of meaning for boethos and prostatis. No doubt, it can mean any kind of help from God right on down. But the word "help" does not consign women to subordination.

Of course, we are only discussing the possible range. But I have some evidence that this is part of the range.

Since the preceeding verse refers to women's "full submission" it does not seem reasonable to limit this passage to excessive exercise of authority.

It seems perfectly reasonable to me. Everyone submits to their position, if a student then act like one. And, no matter what, nobody should dominate. What makes you think it refers to the neutral "exercise authority?" I suppose it could but I have forgotten the evidence.

Do you yourself believe that a woman cannot teach a man Greek or Hebrew? I have the impression those who take this verse literally would let a woman teach classical Greek but not Hellenistic Greek, and Latin but not Hebrew to a man? What do you think?

Suzanne McCarthy said...

PS I may not have made it clear earlier but I have no intention of either suggesting the superiority of women over men, or of denigrating housework.

I just don't find that the evidence which is usually presented to prove the subordination of women is accurate.

Jayne said...

"some of the literature to establish a possible range of meaning for boethos and prostatis"

There is some limited relevance of boethos to understanding ezer. There is no relevance at all of prostatis. Greek words just don't tell you very much about Hebrew. When the Septuagint uses boethos that tells you that it has a semantic range that overlaps that of ezer and is the best (in the mind of the translators)word to capture its meaning in that context. You cannnot automatically transfer all the possible meanings of boethos to ezer.

You can't even claim that any specific instance of ezer includes the full semantic range of ezer. Meaning is limited by context. Furthermore, Mrs. James, and you too, to a certain extent, are confusing connotations with denotations. In general, a translator ought to use a word that matches the denotation of the original language. It is not always possible to find a word that has the right connotations as well. (This is an inherent weakness of translation.) I consider it sloppy work to sacrifice the denotation to emphasize a possible connotation.

"What makes you think it refers to the neutral "exercise authority?"

When I looked them up in a lexicon and dictionary, they included that meaning.

As I understand I Tim 2:11-13 it means that a woman should not teach a man in a situation that gives her authority over him. This probably means in any formal setting. It is probably ok for me to informally tell my husband things about Hebrew or Greek or to post about them online where men will read them.

I live on an experimental organic farm and gave a couple of talks about it at this year's agricultural fair. There were men in the audience. However this was more sharing experiences than teaching and I had no authority over the audience. I didn't think that this was imcompatable with Scripture.

Speaking of taking things literally, I'm wondering about your view of Scripture. I believe that a high view of Scripture is not compatable with denying male authority. In my experience, those who take that positon while claiming a high view are forced into rather convoluted uncompelling exegesis. The more coherent arguments against male authority assume a lower view of Scripture.

Suzanne McCarthy said...

Jayne,

I don't remember Custis James saying that "warrior" should be used in a Bible translation for the word 'ezer. But it is possible that she has said this, and if you give me a quote on that I would be interested.

I certainly don't think it should be translated that way.

The question seems to me to be whether a Christian woman can rightly refer to women as "warriors." It wouldn't be my preference but I don't think Custis James has said anything worthy of criticism.

I would support the use of this term, as derived from scripture, for several reasons.

First, 'ezer is usually used in the context of rescue and support by someone strong for someone else who is in need or weakness.

Second, the most common context for using 'ezer is military.

Third, there is not a distinct differentiation in Greek and Hebrew between words relating to war and words for striving and contest. (which I would like to take up later.)

Fourth, words which we interpret as military, tsaba, and hayil are used of women in scripture.

Fifth, women do contribute to military effort in scripture, Deborah, Jael, Judith, and Serah in Numbers 26:46.

So, overall, I find Custis James use of the word "warrior" for women quite acceptable in a metaphoric way.

I believe that the larger discussion here is not whether one can metaphorically refer to women as spiritual warriors, but whether woman is subordinate to man.

On the issue of lexicon entries, it is always good to progress to direct evidence in literature, and we could discuss this if you were interested. I would be happy to share with you some of my former work on authentew.

I understand from your personal anecdote that you feel that for a woman to present information on farming to men does not go against scripture. However, I am guessing that you might think that a woman teaching Greek in the university would be going against scripture. Have I understood you correctly?

Regarding scripture, I believe that a high view of scripture is quite compatible with denying male only authority. The essential understanding of those who put scripture over tradition is that the word itself is the authority, rather than the human who interprets it.

J. K. Gayle said...

>Carl:
You give σύμμαχος as an interesting translation choice. The Jews translating the Hebrew Genesis 2:18 phrase in the LXX, of course, chose βοηθός. This Greek term means helper almost always in the contexts of some powerful one (namely a warrior or God himself) defending and protecting. Moses even plays off the Hebrew word when naming his son (Exodus 18:4, which loses the pun in Greek translation: καὶ τὸ ὄνομα τοῦ δευτέρου Ελιεζερ λέγων ὁ γὰρ θεὸς τοῦ πατρός μου βοηθός μου καὶ ἐξείλατό με ἐκ χειρὸς Φαραω) as he remembers how God the God of his father had been his help and deliverer from the sword or hand of the Pharaoh.

>Jayne:
You said "There is no linguistic justification for translating 'ezer' as 'warrior'". But if the Jews translating their Scriptures into Greek in Alexandria, Egypt used βοηθός, then there is a sense of warrior. For example, several hundreds of years later, in the Illiad book 13, there's the battle Aineias is engaged in; the word Homer uses for his back up warriors is βοηθόος, and these are the ones who finally would take out the spear-famed Idomeneus. And this Greek epic use of βοηθός continues after the New Testament is written; in The Dionysiaca, written by the Byzantine poet Nonnos of Panopolis around 500AD, there's the warring dragon to protect the virgins, including the nymph Chalcomeda: Παρθενικης αγαμοιο βοηθοος.

>Suzanne:
Thanks for the post and the discussion here. You say:

"Regarding scripture, I believe that a high view of scripture is quite compatible with denying male only authority. The essential understanding of those who put scripture over tradition is that the word itself is the authority, rather than the human who interprets it."

But surely you don't mean to imply that scripture stands apart from it's interpretation somehow? And "high view" seems to suggest that you believe the "interpretation" of scripture can be "high" as to include both male and female authority? But then a "low" view would be the other kind of interpretation: that there's "male only authority."

Just as Karen H. Jobes has been doing some important translation work from the "high" view of scripture, so are others. You and Carolyn Custis James are among the ones who are saying very important things. I think you're getting us to look not only at alternatives to weak translations of Hebrew and Greek words, but you are also getting us to consider the implications of the translations and the methods for translation. So I blogged on that here.

Suzanne McCarthy said...

Kurk and Carl,

Thanks for the comments and contributions on boethos and summachos. I am thinking about them and hope to post in response.

Definitely a "low" view of scripture is where you decide ahead of time that something which is counter intuitive to Christ's teaching on earth, like the permanent subordination of one part of the human race to another part, must be true, and then you set out to prove it.

Jayne said...

"Definitely a "low" view of scripture is where you decide ahead of time that something which is counter intuitive to Christ's teaching on earth, like the permanent subordination of one part of the human race to another part, must be true, and then you set out to prove it."

Do you know anybody who claims to do this or do you just read minds?

Suzanne McCarthy said...

That is my point, Jayne, people don't usually claim to have a "low" view of scripture. I don't know of anyone why claims a low view of scripture.

Do I know of people who believe in the subordination of women and then go to scripture to prove it? I think I do, but I wouldn't care to prove it.

For me, and many of those I have as friends, we love the languages and we committed to learning Greek, Latin and Hebrew in our teen years (or later) for the sake of the language. We love the languages for their own sake and we are later drawn into a discussion or debate about the interpretation of the Bible after we have learned the languages. This would be my way to express a high view of scripture - to use a knowledge of the languages to find what is in scripture, rather than thinking that we know what is there already and we want to prove it. Reading literature in the original languages becomes an ongoing way of life, something that one engages in as a daily habit.

Maybe I have misunderstood you. What do you mean by a "high" or a "low" view of scripture?

I guess I am also still wondering if you think that women can participate in the academy.

Jayne said...

"But if the Jews translating their Scriptures into Greek in Alexandria, Egypt used βοηθός, then there is a sense of warrior."

That is incorrect. Translation involves finding the word that is the best fit. The semantic range will overlap but not necessarily be identical. You cannot assume that the connotations of the Septuagint word are an exact match of the Hebrew. This principle is at the heart of the almah/parthenos controversy.

Suzanne McCarthy said...

Jayne,

I don't think there is a dichotomy between the use of "ally" in wartime and in other contexts in Hebrew and Greek. Have you read my most recent post? I think this is a false dichotomy, between warrior, champion in wartime, or ally, champion in peacetime. I wouldn't chose "warrior" as the best translation today, but I think it would work very well historically, and in a metaphorical sense now.

On what basis do you disgree? What do you think would be the best? Ally?

Jayne said...

"I don't remember Custis James saying that "warrior" should be used in a Bible translation for the word 'ezer."

Neither do I. In http://whitbyforum.blogspot.com/2005/12/return-of-ezer.html she claims:
"Based on the Old Testament’s consistent usage of this term [ezer], it only makes sense to conclude that God created the woman to be a warrior." This is nonsense.

"So, overall, I find Custis James use of the word "warrior" for women quite acceptable in a metaphoric way."

If she likes warrior imagery then she can reference several passages that clearly use it in regard to Christians. But she should not go around telling people that ezer means warrior when it does not.

By high view of Scripture I refer to the position that it is literal, inerrant and authoritative. I thought this was a common term for this position. I know many Christians who claim to have views that differ from this.

"...we love the languages and we committed to learning Greek, Latin and Hebrew in our teen years (or later) for the sake of the language. We love the languages for their own sake and we are later drawn into a discussion or debate about the interpretation of the Bible after we have learned the languages."

This describes me as well. I have always loved languages. I studied Latin, Greek and Hebrew in my teens. While still a child, I found a copy of the Greek alphabet in a book and memorized it because it fascinated me. And, as I said before, I majored in linguistics as an undergrad and took Hebrew and Greek courses as electives towards my MDiv. (And I don't think there was anything wrong with me, a woman, studying.) I was drawn into discussion of Mrs. James claims about ezer because I was shocked to see her abuse of language.

I was also a bit shocked when you apparently claimed that ezer shared the semantic range of prostatis. This is such a glaring error on such a basic level that it left me questioning your competence.

For what it is worth, I think that a strong case can be made that ezer does not carry any connotations of subordination as the word "helper" can (but does not necessarily)in English. (I nevertheless think that "helper" is a perfectly reasonable translation.) I do not think that acknowledging this about ezer has any effect on believing the Bible teaches that men have authority over women when in the position of husbands or of teachers of doctrine.

I am not interested in discussing "subordination of women" with you. I would not even express my beliefs using that phrase. I have the impression that we do not share enough common assumptions to have a productive discussion.

Suzanne McCarthy said...

I was also a bit shocked when you apparently claimed that ezer shared the semantic range of prostatis. This is such a glaring error on such a basic level that it left me questioning your competence.

It is very odd that this bothers you since 'ezer and prostatis are both translated as "helper" in the RSV which is thought to be one of the most literal Bibles ever produced. I find myself in good company.

Thank you for giving me the quote from Custis James. I find what she says to be quite reasonable. I have shown you how Hoole translates boethos as "defender."

Defender:

Synonyms: These verbs mean to make or keep safe from danger, attack, or harm. Defend implies repelling an attack: defending her territory; defended his reputation.
Protect often suggests providing a barrier to discomfort, injury, or attack: bought a dog to protect the children; wore sunglasses to protect her eyes.
Guard suggests keeping watch: guarded the house against intruders.
To preserve is to take measures to maintain something in safety: ecologists working to preserve our natural resources.
Shield suggests protecting with a piece of defensive armor: hid the newspaper to shield me from the bad news.
Safeguard stresses protection against potential danger: The Bill of Rights safeguards our individual liberties.

I have no difficulty with 'ezer being translated as help as long as this is not used in the subordination of women. This is not an either or sort of argument for me.

Naturally believing in the scriptures as literal should make us more interested in understanding all the nuances of each Greek or Hebrew word, rather than narrowing down the translation equivalents to only the traditional choices.

Suzanne McCarthy said...

I am also curious as to whether you feel a woman should not teach in the university.

Peter Kirk said...

Jayne, read carefully the words you quote from Seow: "Words having the same root tend to fall within the same semantic range." Read that again and note the word TEND. That is, there is a higher probability that they have that meaning than some other meaning. But it by no means requires that they must have this meaning, what you seem to misunderstand Seow as saying. Indeed the position you take seems to be the etymological fallacy that the meaning of a word is determined by its etymology - an issue which you really should have noted as a linguistics major. So this is not a sound argument against James' interpretation. Do you have any arguments against it which are sound, to justify your ad hominem comment that "She really destroyed her credibility"?

Would James have higher credibility in your sight if she were a man?

Suzanne wrote:

Do I know of people who believe in the subordination of women and then go to scripture to prove it? I think I do, but I wouldn't care to prove it.

If you did want to look for evidence, you might start with the opening of A Vision for Biblical Complementarity by John Piper, chapter one of his book with Wayne Grudem "Recovering Biblical Manhood and Womanhood". Piper's "biblical" vision is in fact rooted not in the Bible but in his upbringing in the southern USA in the 1950s. Clearly Piper believed in the vision of his idyllic childhood and then went to the Bible to justify it.

Lin said...

"The essential understanding of those who put scripture over tradition is that the word itself is the authority, rather than the human who interprets it."

This is what I do NOT understand. How can a woman can be in authority over a man when teaching or preaching. The 'Word' is the authority. Not the messenger...unless of course, you are in a state church with magistrates. :o)

Jayne said...

"It is very odd that this bothers you since 'ezer and prostatis are both translated as "helper" in the RSV which is thought to be one of the most literal Bibles ever produced. I find myself in good company."

When words in two different languages are translated into a third language with the same word it does not mean that the words have an identical semantic range. It just means the ranges overlap. I do not understand how someone who has done significant study of language as you apparently have can be unfamiliar with this principle.

Jayne said...

"But it by no means requires that they must have this meaning, what you seem to misunderstand Seow as saying. Indeed the position you take seems to be the etymological fallacy that the meaning of a word is determined by its etymology . . ."

You seem to have misunderstood what I was saying. I was pointing out that James apparently did not consider etymology at all in her analysis. While, of course, usage is the determining factor, etymology is often relevant, especially in Hebrew. That was the point I was making with the Seow quote. James seemed to not even mention the etymology, which gave an appearance that she was ignorant of or ignoring this feature of Hebrew.

"Do you have any arguments against it which are sound, to justify your ad hominem comment that "She really destroyed her credibility"?"

Claiming that a weak argument destroys the credibility of the person making it is not an ad hominem comment. See the article at:http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Ad_hominem
which includes: "An ad hominem fallacy consists of asserting that someone's argument is wrong and/or he is wrong to argue at all purely because of something discreditable/not-authoritative about the person or those persons cited by him rather than addressing the soundness of the argument itself."

To say "Mrs. James must be wrong about her Hebrew translation because she does not cook and is only looking for an excuse for this," would be an ad hominem.

To say "Mrs. James has done such a poor analysis of Hebrew in this instance that I have doubts about her ability to do Hebrew translation and possibly even scholarly work in general," (which was the intended meaning of my comment) is not an ad hominem fallacy. I was addressing the soundness of her argument.

"Would James have higher credibility in your sight if she were a man?"

I would have the same reaction to translating ezer as warrior and James's argument for doing so if a man had done it. Or a Martian. Or an elephant. I think it is a bad translation and a bad argument. (Although I would probably be prepared to make some allowances for the Martian and the elephant.)

Suzanne McCarthy said...

Jayne,

There must have been some lack of precision on my side. If I said that they have "identical" semantic range (which I don't remember saying), that is certainly not so.

I think we agree that they have an overlap in the semantic range.

However, I have forgotten why this is significant, since certainly prostates does not mean warrior at all but officer in the temple, or protector, guardian and benefactor.

Let me just say that I had not heard of woman as warrior before the Bayly blog, but I think it deserves consideration for a variety of reasons that I have mentioned in some of my recent posts.

Here is Jerome Creach, who writes on the use of boethos et al. in the Psalms.

"Mahseh and related words may be even more strongly affected by the presence of 'ezer/'ōzer (see Pss. 33.20; 115.9, 10, 11; 118.7-8; 121), terms translated in LXX, boēthos or hyperaspistēs. These Hebrew terms often denote a warrior or hero. As Ps. 10.14b shows, 'ōzer refers to one who 'defends the orphan'. a role of the ancient oriental king. It is perhaps because of the popularity of this image of Yahweh that terms of refuge, fortress, and stronghold are often translated as boēthos or hyperaspistēs in LXX." Yahweh As Refuge And the Editing of the Hebrew Psalter, page 35.

Look in the K-Baumgartner - it mentions the context of war.

I wouldn't use the term "warrior" myself. However, I don't feel that it is something that someone else should not do.

I am not sure if the term warrior for woman is not acceptable because woman is supposed to be under man, or if it is a battlefield image, or if it is because warrior belongs to the male domain.

Certainly Paul and Moses both used the imagery of male leader as nursing parent. I don't feel offended at that.

Women are described as hayil and tsaba, mighty and in battalions, so the Hebrew has no inhibition against the warrior language for women.

The ezer - warrior equivalence is not exact, but I do not perceive why it is offensive. I would gladly learn why James has offended so seriously. It is not because it is not literal. The Bayly brothers are happy to use the NASB for 1 Peter 3:7 and that omits a word - it is not literal, but that does not offend them.

I really doubt that James has ever said that "warrior" should be the translation for ezer. I don't remember that being quoted. However, I do think of it as more accurate by a long shot than the insistence of some that "head" means leader/authority. Many insist on this equivalence although they would not translate the word that way.

I would really be interested in hearing more of the why behind the level of feeling against James.

Corrie said...

Suzanne,

What a fascinating conversation. I am learning a lot and it is causing me to dig even deeper. I am certainly out of my league in this group and I probably would not have much to contribute but I do have a lot I can learn.

Certainly translating ezer as "helper" is not sufficient since, in so many minds, it carries with it the connotation of subordination or "junior assistant". Most patriarchalists use the term ezer to signify subordination.

I also like how you say that this relationship is reciprocal. Translating ezer as close to the original Hebrew meaning as possible is not automatically saying that people are trying to say that women are superior to men. That makes me laugh! Especially when the very same people have no problem using the loftiest of language to describe the role of man in a woman's life! I mean really. They assign the role of Christ in all of His glory and God the Father to that of the husband. Warrior is NOTHING compared to the liberties patriarchalists take with the English language!

I think your list:

- defender
- champion
- guardian
- patron
- benefactor
- protector

is well within the range of what ezer kenedgo can mean.

I especially like the term "ally". None of these have the implication that they are superior positions. I also like Ecclesiastes 4:9 as a description of the marriage relationship. That is just my opinion, though.

Elsewhere the Greek refers to the woman, keeper at home, as the guardian (or despot) of her home and it is the same word used in Greek literature for a serpent that guards the entrance to a pagan temple. Seems consistent with your labels and even Carolyn Custis James' use of warrior.

When someone defends me, that does not mean they are my superior. This may be threatening to some who do believe that a defender automatically means superior, though?

The women who traveled with Christ supported His ministry from their own means. That would be the role of benefactor. Certainly the women were not in a position of authority over Christ because they played the part of benefactor?

Whatever word we want to define ezer with, we should make sure that it carries with it the implication of strength and one who stands opposite or face to face. Helper falls far short of that mark. Helper does imply lower rank and ability so I can see why some like that term.

I can also see why James used the term warrior. I don't understand the volatile reaction of some towards that term, especially when the same people do the same things with words like kephale and the like.

If the Bible referred to a man as an ezer, would there be so much controversy? Or is the warrior language in the Bible only reserved for the males of the kingdom?

I don't see James saying that women must fight like men, either. I see her using this more as metaphorical than anything.

When all else fails, they could always ask. The Baylys and those who follow them say some very slanderous things about Custis James and her husband but they never seem to get around to asking her for clarification. I have found, when I have had a question with something she has said, that she is very willing to explain what she meant and I am basically a kitchen theologian who has a deep passion for the Word of God and for studying it in order to know the Truth. I am certainly no one special and I am unlearned compared to many of you here.

BTW, Suzanne, I am proud of the way you conducted yourself on the Bayly blog even though you were treated less than courteously under the guise of guarding sound doctrine which is standard operating procedure. You set a very good example. It was certainly not you who has lost credibility!

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