Friday, February 22, 2008

Head of the house

I have had a question in the comments regarding another citation of kephale in Greek literature. It is found in Shepherd of Hermas, SIMILITUDE 7 as η κεφαλη του οικου - "the head of the house," referring to the father of a family.

This citation seems to demonstrate that kephale can refer to the organizational leader in an unequivocal way. However, it is worth pointing out that Grudem did not choose to make a reference to this citation when he presented his evidence that kephale meant authority.

The first reason for this that comes to my mind is that this citation is from the 2nd century AD and, therefore, might not be thought of as evidence for the meaning of kephale in the scriptures.

Another reason might be that this reference to the "head of the house" does not seem to entail authority. The character in Shepherd of Hermas who is mentioned as being the head of the house, suffers for the sins of the members of his house. And yet, there is no suggestion that he has sinned himself in allowing them to sin. This passage is not about authority but representation.

Nevertheless, this single use of "head of house" in Greek referring to a person, deserves to be mentioned. However, I remain unconvinced that in 1 Cor. 11, the phrase "man is the head of woman" refers to authority and submission.

What concerns me most in all attempts to align authority with gender is that this does not reflect the real world either now or at the time of the epistles. Now "head of the household" is a technical term for the person who contributes over half of the household income and has at least one dependent.

In our present day many women are the "head of the house" whether they want to be or not. In the Greek scriptures many women also appear to have been the "head of their house" - Lydia, Nympha, Chloe, Phoebe, the elect lady, etc.

The main difficulty for me is that most people agree that responsibility and authority should be linked. If you are responsible for your children in law, then you should have some authority over them. It is frankly impossible to deprive women of responsibility and therefore, of their authority.

In my opinion, for what it is worth, 1 Cor. 11 is saying something about gender. However, it is not, in the real world, possible to attribute responsibility and authority to men only. Many women care for their husbands and/or children. Therefore, the meaning "man is the head of woman" must have some other meaning, which can be gender-based.

I believe that this passage refers to Christ as the second Adam. God is the head of Christ (Adam), Adam is the head of Eve, and Christ (Adam) is the head of man. Or, conversely, Christ is of God, Eve is of Adam, and man is of Christ (Adam). This links us all as one in nature.

On the other hand, if we make God the ruler of Christ, and man the ruler of woman, we then deprive woman of being ruled by Christ as man is. We deprive woman of her relationship to the divine - we impair the function of woman as an individual in direct relation to God. She no longer has the same citizenship rights as man, since these depend on the fact that God has created each human as an individual in relation to him.

I claim that making man the ruler of woman, defaces our humanity, both man and woman. Man is the head of woman, mandates that man treat woman as one who is of the same genus and species as himself.

We can, after all, say that man is the ruler of dog, but we cannot, nor does the scripture allow, that man is the head of dog. Man is not of the same genus or species as dog. To say man is the head of dog, defaces man and dog. To say man is the ruler of woman defaces man and woman. Woman cannot be in the same relation to man as dog is without man losing his humanity.

That doesn't mean that I don't love my dog as many people do. My affection does not lessen the fact that I am his mistress. However, we are simply not able to extend this relationship between me and my dog to a relationship between man and woman without redefining our terms.

Monday, February 18, 2008

Who can you disagree with?

Here is a snippet from the debate at CARM.

Grudem sent P.G.W. Glare a copy of his 1990 article on kephale. In reply, the editor says “I am in broad agreement with your conclusions... Kephale is the word normally used to translate the Hebrew r'osh,
It is the editor of the LSJ that Metacrock now disagrees with. “The very editor of the LJS makes the claim that Kephale is the word normally used to translate the Hebrew r'osh.”

Let me just add that it doesn't matter who Glare is. Kephale is not the word normally used to translate r'osh, when r'osh is used in a figurative sense. But that's a fine point.

Gordon Fee says in his book on First Corinthians (pg. 502 & 503)

“Indeed, the metaphorical use of kephale to mean “chief” or “person of the highest rank” is rare in Greek literature------so much so that even though the Hebrew word “ros” often carried this sense, the Greek translators of the LXX, who ordinarily used kephale to translate ros when the physical head was intended, almost never did so when “ruler” was intended, thus indicating that this metaphorical sense is an exceptional usage and not part of the ordinary range of meaning for the Greek word. “

Out of 180 times that r'osh reference to a person, kephale was only used a few times. Maybe Glare was unaware of this. Who knows?

Saturday, February 16, 2008

Which Bible?

With reference to gender issues in the text, I was asked,
    How does an ordinary person who doesn't know Greek trust the scriptures anymore?
I don't think it is all that difficult. Without any Greek at all, one can simply cross-check three translations and find much of the bias against women exposed. Take the King James Version as a base, compare it to the ESV and then compare that to the TNIV. You can basically assume that the one with the meaning more favourable to women is accurate.

Here are some examples,
    Rom. 16:2

    That ye receive her in the Lord, as becometh saints, and that ye assist her in whatsoever business she hath need of you: for she hath been a succourer of many, and of myself also. KJV

    that you may welcome her in the Lord in a way worthy of the saints, and help her in whatever she may need from you, for she has been a patron of many and of myself as well. ESV

    (Both of these are possible. The word does not mean subordinate help, but rescue. The masculine of the same word meant officer in the temple.)

    Rom. 16:7

    Salute Andronicus and Junia, my kinsmen, and my fellow-prisoners, who are of note among the apostles, who also were in Christ before me. KJV (more literal)

    Greet Andronicus and Junia, my kinsmen and my fellow prisoners. They are well known to the apostles, and they were in Christ before me. ESV

    1 Cor. 11:10

    For this cause ought the woman to have power on her head because of the angels. KJV (more literal)

    That is why a wife ought to have a symbol of authority on her head, because of the angels. ESV

    1 Tim. 2:11

    Let the woman learn in silence with all subjection. KJV

    Let a woman learn quietly with all submissiveness. ESV (more literal)

    1 Tim. 2:12

    But I suffer not a woman to teach, nor to usurp authority over the man, but to be in silence. KJV (more accurate)

    I do not permit a woman to teach or to exercise authority over a man; rather, she is to remain quiet. ESV

    Titus 2:4-5

    That they may teach the young women to be sober, to love their husbands, to love their children,To be discreet, chaste, keepers at home, good, obedient to their own husbands, that the word of God be not blasphemed. KJV

    and so train the young women to love their husbands and children, to be self-controlled, pure, working at home, kind, and submissive to their own husbands, that the word of God may not be reviled. ESV (more literal)

    Col. 4:15

    Salute the brethren which are in Laodicea, and Nymphas, and the church which is in his house KJV

    Give my greetings to the brothers at Laodicea, and to Nympha and the church in her house. ESV (more accurate, except that brothers should read brothers and sisters!)

    Psalm 68:11

    The Lord gave the word: great was the company of those that published it. KJV

    The Lord gives the word;
    the women who announce the news are a great host: ESV (more literal)
In each of these cases the one which is more favourable to women is more literal and IMO more accurate. There is no reason either of these translations would offer a translation favourable to women if it wasn't literal.

The TNIV is particularly useful for demonstrating when the Greek says "man" and when it says "people".
    2 Tim. 2:2

    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. ESV

    And the things you have heard me say in the presence of many witnesses entrust to reliable people who will also be qualified to teach others TNIV (more literal)

    Rom. 16:1

    I commend to you our sister Phoebe, a servant of the church at Cenchreae, ESV

    I commend to you our sister Phoebe, a deacon of the church in Cenchreae TNIV
Overall, one can see a trend towards more silence and obedience for women. Women are demoted from being the host of a church and an apostle. If we think of Christianity as being counter cultural and something which confronts human tradition, then it is worth realizing that the bias of the human translator is to increase obedience and silence for women. This trend goes with culture. The question is: what does Christ actually teach?

I hope this helps.

Metacrock's Debate

I have added a link to Metacrock's blog. Joe is debating Simple Theist on the women's issue. View the debate here.

Friday, February 15, 2008

Women of the Bible

A very good friend of mine, a Jewish woman, exclaimed in the staffroom today,

"Do you realize that there is not one word in the Bible against slavery? Out with that book! Let's just get rid of that."

But haven't people learned to read for millenia from the Bible. Haven't readers of the book eventually taken action against dictatorial government and slavery. Where has the impetus for social change come from, if not from readers of the book?

What do I enjoy in the Bible? Well, there are the stories of Sarah, and Rebekah and Ruth. Not your average submissive wives. In fact, almost every single woman mentioned in the Bible has a major disagreement with her husband (those that had husbands) or initiated the action - under the blanket, so to speak. Can you see a story that goes like this,

"And David the king thought it right to invade the north, and his wife agreed with him."

Not much use in that! No, if a woman agreed with her husband, if she obeyed her husband, it went unmentioned, unless your name is Sapphira. Of course, Michal is a tragedy, but you have to read the bad with the good. This is the way it happened. Michal is not there to teach women to condone silly behaviour on the part of husbands. No, the story of Michal is there because some women experience what it is to be Michal.

Now, men, men always think they are David, but actually many men may be Uriah or Paltiel. Men don't have such a good time in the narratives either.

So, in all, no, I don't have difficulty reading the narratives of scripture. Tamar, Ruth, Rehab, Hannah, Abigail (I don't much like Abigail) and other women initiated the action.

Most of the women in the Greek scriptures seemed to be single. Their stories are interesting too.
I have to sign off, but tomorrow, what translation is good for a woman to read?

Thursday, February 14, 2008

1 Cor. 13

If with the tongues of humans,
I talk, and even of angels -
but love, I have not,
I am become a timbring gong
or a tinkling cymbal.

And if I have prophesy
and fathom all mysteries
and all knowledge
and if I have faith
to remove mountains

But do not have love

I am nothing.

And if I give away all my belongings
And surrender my body to suffering
for the sake of self glory

But do not have love

I gain nothing.

Love is generosity of spirit
Love is acts of kindness. Kindness in deed is love.

It does not envy


does not brag
does not puff up
does not act shamefully
does not seek self
does not get irritated
does not find fault

does not delight at injustice
but rejoices along with truth

always sustains
always trusts
always hopes
always supports


never fails.

Whether prophesies, they will be left aside
or tongues they will end
or knowledge it will be left aside.

For in part we know
and in part we prophesy
but when that which is complete comes the end comes

that which is in part will be left aside.

When I was a child
I talked like a child
I thought like a child
I argued like a child

But when I became an adult
The things of a child I left aside.

Now we see
through the looking glass
in riddles
but then face to face.

Now we know in part
But then we will know
Even as we are known.

As so remain faith, hope and love,
these three things
but the greatest of these



I translated this some time last summer and Kurk has posted it alongside the Greek for Valentine's day. It was an exercise to demonstrate a translation which maintained a fair degree of formal equivalence, certainly more than any of the published translations IMO. It is intended to maintain a consistent literary style and reveal some of the word play derived from this chapter. (I forget if this is where Lewis Carrol got the title for his second Alice book.)

I have been posting here over the last few days.

Sunday, February 10, 2008

Ezer: aid or succour

In French there are two acceptable ways to translate 'ezer. We see the first in Gen. 2:18,
    L'Éternel Dieu dit:
    Il n'est pas bon que l'homme soit seul;
    je lui ferai une aide semblable à lui
And we see the second, secours in Psalm 46,
    Dieu est pour nous un refuge et un appui,
    Un secours qui ne manque jamais dans la détresse.
Clearly, the woman is an aid, help as assistant; and God is succour, or help as rescue.

English bibles are more even-handed, translating both woman and God as "help". It is only the reader that has turned one into "the help" and the other into "Help."

I haven't been educated in the hermeneutic of suspicion, but I am suspicious nonetheless. Apparently, the thinking goes something like this. A word is translated according to its context. We know that when 'ezer describes woman it must mean subordinate help because woman is subordinate. Later, the reader comes along and says, the word means subordinate, so woman must be subordinate.

However, this is not the case in either the English or German translation. The notion of subordination is added by the reader.

Saturday, February 09, 2008

Ezer as warrior and Carolyn Custis James

Carolyn Custis James makes the claim,
    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.
Some people are calling this nonsense. I have no desire to be a warrior or to imagine that women are the rescuers of men. However, facts must defended. It doesn't matter if they are not to my taste. And so let us explore further into the meaning of 'ezer.

In the LXX, it is translated as boēthos, that is "help" or hyperaspistēs, that is the "one who holds a shield over, protector, champion." (LSJ) We find another word that occurred along with it was antilēmptōr, "protector."

In a passage about God as our refuge, J. F. D. Creach writes,
    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.
I haven't much to say about woman as warrior and personally I find the expressions "defender," "ally," "champion" for 'ezer to be somewhat better. Alter's use of "sustainer" is also interesting. I hope that this is not considered a one way street, but that men and women can champion each other. However, I find myself in writing this to be a champion of Custis James, in saying 'ezer often denotes a warrior or champion.

Friday, February 08, 2008

Teaching Women to Submit

A few years ago I met a young Anglican priest who worked in a small village on the outer reaches of our society. It was a town immersed in financial depression and alcoholism. The priest noticed that on Saturdy evenings in the summer, a group of young women met and sat to talk on his doorstep. They did not knock on the door, they did not attract his attention, they sat on the steps until late into the night, talking.

It was not until some time later that he was told that the porch of the priest is the place of sanctuary for women. It is the place to go to avoid being raped and beaten. It was only available to the women who had no children or could leave their children in a safe place to sleep.

How many women are there even now, who need a place of sanctuary. And what does the church actually offer?

I was overwhelmed recently to read a book in which the author tells this story about himself. He was translating the Bible for a group that had never had it, and coming to a passage on submission, he realized that he could put this into action and use it to teach.

A young couple that he knew were living in violence, and now the translator felt himself to be empowered to take the man aside and tell him he must love his wife. And the wife, he comforted her with these words - you must submit.

I wish the story had a better ending. I wish this book had not been written in the last few years. I wish that every minister knew that he or she exists to tell women that they are not "under authority" but that everyone submits within the proper framework of a mutual and healthy relationship.

Monday, February 04, 2008

Dead Sea Squirrels and Sappho

I want to respond to and appreciate a couple of comments on one of my recent posts but I don't have too much time, so I have to lump this all together. You will know what kind of a cook I am from this mixture.

First, Kurk has written a lovely post for me which brings me to read Carolyn Custis James blog for the first time. I had just jumped in the other day at the deep end defending her use of the term "warrior" for 'ezer.

I went to Carolyn's blog and immediately I read about "dead sea squirrels." Ha! A couple of years ago, my daughter overheard me talking to a friend, and later she said, "Mom, that is just gross! Why would you want to see dead sea squirrels? Is it the name of a rock band or something?" She must have thought I had lost my mind. Never mind, she picks up pieces of it lying around the house all the time.

From Carolyn's post on hesed and submission I read,
    Hesed and submission are not soft words. They are attributes of Jesus that every one of his followers—female or male—is called to emulate. Neither hesed nor submission are about “giving in” to the whims and wishes of others. Both are all about “giving out” from the completeness we have in Jesus and our passion for His kingdom. Ruth, Naomi and Boaz embody both of these words as they freely make thoughtful, determined, costly sacrifices for each other. Together they cause the light of the gospel to shine brightly from the pages of the Old Testament.
It sounds as if she has read Clement who wrote, 1 Clement 38,
    So in our case let the whole body be saved in Christ Jesus, and let each man be subject unto his neighbor, according as also he was appointed with his special grace. Let not the strong neglect the weak; and let the weak respect the strong. Let the rich minister aid to the poor;
That is submission. Okay, enough for dead sea squirrels.


Now for Sappho,

a woman I love to read. She wrote not only for herself but for others, for weddings, for groups of women sitting around thinking of love. Hmm. If women are expected to read Solomon, then men should read Sappho. This post is for Dave, who thinks biblical languages are impossible. Carl Conrad put this in his comment,
    ἔλθε μοι καὶ νῦν, χαλέπαν δὲ λῦσον
    ἐκ μερίμναν, ὄσσα δέ μοι τέλεσσαι
    θῦμος ἰμέρρει, τέλεσον, σὺ δ' αὔτα
    σύμμαχος ἔσσο.

    Come to me now, loose me
    from hard care, and all
    that my passion longs to fulfill,
    fulfill. You, Aphrodite,
    be my ally.
And there is the word "ally," the σύμμαχος, the "co-warrior." But this is a love poem. (I am a little early for Valentine's Day. Oh well.) In any case, we find the word "co-warrior" in this love poem. Sappho asks Aphrodite to be her "co-warrior," just as the psalmist asks God to be his "ally/supporter/ helper."

In fact, when I look in the little Liddell, I can see that βοηθος and σύμμαχος have almost identical meanings - assistant, ally, helper, supporter.

Two questions about σύμμαχος.

Does this refer to a subordinate?

No. She is Aphrodite.

Does this word always relate to war?

No, here it deals with love.

So, the meaning of "ally" is not "subordinate," and we can also see that this same term suits both love and war. The word σύμμαχος can mean "ally" in either love or war. And yet, it does come from the word "warrior" and is most literally translated as "co-warrior."

The problem is that we have set up a dichotomy in English between one who strives for us, and one who battles for us. In Greek μαχη is war, and battle, and quarrel and contest. The one who battles with us is our σύμμαχος or even our βοηθος.

You don't need to use a separate word for "ally" in love and "ally" in war. And you don't want a weak and subordinate "ally." So βοηθος is both the God of our trouble and the Christ of our weakness, and σύμμαχος is our co-warrior in love and war. The one who fights for us.

Is this what woman is to man, or should we be "co-warriors" for each other? In Paul's writings, we see the term συνεργος, or "co-worker." This is how he addressed women, "my co-workers." We are colleagues in study, co-workers in mission, co-warriors for each other. Adam and Eve were co-warriors.

And that is what we can learn from Sappho tonight. Eve was not Adam's warrior, she was his co-warrior.

Saturday, February 02, 2008

What if ....

What happens when, in a happy marriage, a wife disagrees with her husband on certain aspects of the male authority teaching? If she hides this, she lives under tension. If she voices her disagreement to others, he may feel a loss of face.

It is good to know that many couples disagree on this issue and still model a faithful and enduring love for each other. This is from J. I. Packer Answers Questions for Today with Wendy Murray Zoba. page 106.
    She's Welsh, he's English. She highlights that point. When they take walks together, she meanders (still sometimes barefoot), carrying binoculars, watching the chickadees, and tracing the flight of the bald eagle, he bolts, wanting to get there and back again. He keeps his shoes on.

    She moves comfortably into "the debating mode" (Packer notes: "She's not sure she can see coherence in my position on women in ministry"). He demurs, "I'm an analyst. I'm not a debater."
Along a similar line, here is a comment from the CBE blog on a post about Eph. 5,

    I’m just hanging out, lurking a bit, enjoying people’s posts and their different takes on this. I don’t have much to say on this thread, but thought it was a perfect place to insert what I heard a wise old preacher once say about this passage in scripture.

    He said that he didn’t read the parts that didn’t apply to him.

    i.e. He focused on the “Husbands love” and let his wife work out “Wives submit.” He didn’t feel a need to explain it to her, define it for her, or beat it into her head. He knew that she loved Jesus and would do what Jesus impressed on her heart concerning scripture, even Ephesians 5.

    I guess you could say he trusted her and her faith in Jesus and the scriptures. And he trusted Jesus to speak to her.

    I can’t even tell you if this man leaned more hierarchal or egalitarian. I just know that his words hold a wisdom that transcends far above the pettiness of those wanting to force their views of “God’s divine order for the family” on others.

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.