Friday, October 17, 2008

ESV Study Bible

Here is an example from Gender Blog of the complementarian bias of the ESV Study Bible.
The ESVSB takes a decidedly complementarian position on texts that are pertinent to gender roles in the home and church. For example, S.M. Baugh, New Testament professor at Westminster Seminary California, wrote the study notes for the book of Ephesians. Of Ephesians 5:22-33, Baugh writes, "The first example of general submission (v. 21) is illustrated as Paul exhorts wives to submit to their husbands (vv. 22-24). Husbands, on the other hand, are not told to submit to their wives but to love them (vv. 25-33)." Baugh then carefully unpacks, in verse-by-verse fashion, the structure of that section of Ephesians, pointing out the significance of the original language where pertinent. He also provides a helpful chart-the study Bible is filled with these-that offers biblical principles of marriage "at a glance." These color charts alone are profoundly useful teaching aids and typify the entire ESVSB package.
I would not recommend this Study Bible. I realize that others have found me to be unnecessarily negative towards complementarianism. Some believe that defending equal rights for complementarians is as important as defending equal rights for women. Complementarians are those who believe that women do not have the same roles and functions as men. (Complementarians do not believe that women function as equals.)

I would like to take a practical step to reduce the impact of complementarianism. I am personally against wedding vows including "obey" or "follow" on the part of the wife. I believe that these should be outlawed but I don't know whether that would be productive.

Perhaps putting this into the mental cruelty list of examples in Canadian law,
  • persistent criticism and belittlement;
  • persistent and willful withdrawal of companionship;
  • refusal to have sexual relations; and
  • domineering or tyrannical behaviour.
And there should be a forth bullet,
  • asking the other person to obey
For complementarians, asking the wife to be obedient is not considered "tyrannical" behaviour, so it has to be spelled out. Then sermons should include this list as possible grounds for divorce.

Clearly many people who experience things on this list will not want to divorce, for the sake of their children and their family or because of a joint social and collegial lifestyle which they consider to be more significant at the time than companionship in marriage. I don't think this would cause any rush to divorce. But I would like to see the concept of "the wife must obey her husband" repudiated in law and in the church. Theoretically even complementarians should not have difficulty with this, because they do not always define "submit" as "obey." There are many semantic games played in this sandbox.

Kinda sad, isn't it?


J. K. Gayle said...

Yours is a helpful post, with quite a positive set of suggestions about the law!

Like you, Jesus "would not recommend [the Pharisees'] Study Bible." He said something like: "I realize that others have found me to be unnecessarily negative towards [divorce]."

Mark's gospel chapter 10 has Jesus saying something about complementarianism, as I imagine it. I'm playing a bit with the ESV translation of Mark's translation of Jesus. Forgive me, but I do think the Pharisees with their "translation" of Moses have more right than S.M. Baugh and his ESVSB.

Without much of a stretch, here's Jesus:

2 And Pharisees came up and in order to test him asked, "Is it lawful for a man to [require unilateral submission and obedience of] his wife?"

3 He answered them, "What did Moses command you?"

4 They said, "Moses allowed a man to write [wedding vows] and to [force] her [to follow him]."

5 And Jesus said to them,
"Because of your hardness of heart he wrote you this commandment. 6 But from the beginning of creation, 'God created [earthling] in his own image, in the image of God he created [earthling(s)]; God made them male and female.' What therefore God has [made equal] together, let not man separate [into complementary roles. We all know how that turns out--but let's not get into race just yet, when we've got to get gender right. "

Don said...

One of my quick checks for a Bible's bias is to see how they handle Eph 5:21-22. If they make it 2 sentences, it is non-egal; as it is one sentence in the Greek.

Judy Redman said...

Well, there's probably not much problem in having "submit" in the vows as long as both partners promise to submit to one another (as in Eph 5: 21 - Be subject to one another out of reverence for Christ). :-)

My denomination, however, has got rid of both vowing to submit and anyone giving the bride away, on the grounds that no-one owns her in the first place. In its place, we have various options for family members from both sides of the family to give their blessing on the marriage.

Tim said...

Doesn't matter what's in the vows. It's what's in the heart that matters.

Don said...

As the ESV is a masculinist translation, so the ESVSB is a masculinist study Bible.

It is useful for to see how masculinists interpret the Bible and the lengths they will go sometimes to achieve it. They are also the foil for egal interpretation, as iron sharpens iron. I study both sides, but I admit I have to limit my consumption of non-egal stuff in one sitting.

Kevin D. Johnson said...

My two cents.

Stay away from study Bibles regardless as to the opinion of the editors and writers who provide the notes. They all have their biases and you are just safer to read and study the Bible for yourself - we don't trust enough in the work of the Spirit in our lives.

In regards to the ESV - I don't like the translation in the first place. It takes liberties where it simply doesn't need to.

Kevin D. Johnson