Sunday, July 05, 2009

Why ESV onlyism

I have two theories about ESV onlies, or ESV onlyism.

The first is that the ESV supporters believe that certain verses, as they are translated in the ESV, are more efficient in preventing the ordination of women. These verses would be Romans 16:7, 1 Cor. 11:10 and 1 Tim. 2:12. (Oddly, the TNIV is much closer to the KJV for all these verses.) While many groups who use the KJV and TNIV do not ordain women, some would like a foolproof translation. See this post.

My second theory is with regard to something much more serious. Bruce Ware has described the status of women in the image of God in this way,
    What this suggests, then, is that the concept of male-headship is relevant not only to the question of how men and women are to relate and work together, but it seems also true that male-headship is a part of the very constitution of the woman being created in the image of God. Man is a human being made in the image of God first; woman becomes a human being bearing the image of God only through the man. While both are fully and equally the image of God, there is a built-in priority given to the male that reflects God's design of male-headship in the created order.
Poythress and Grudem, Gender Neutral Bible Controversy, page 218, express their conviction that
    in both Hebrew and English, a term with male connotations designates the whole human race.
They continue,
    Gender neutral translations, while preserving the main point of God's creation of the human race, nevertheless leave out the connotation of a male representative by translating Genesis 1:26-27 and 5:1-2 with "humankind," "human beings,"or "people" instead of "man."
Poythress and Grudem believe that adam must be translated as "man" in Gen. 1-2 and 5:2 because, they say, adam has male semantic content in Hebrew, and must be translated by a term with male semantic content in English. This appears to be because male representative language communicates the God's intent that male representation is significant to our existence as sexual beings.

But we know from the fact that the 32, 000 girls of Numbers 31 were called adam that this word does not have male semantic content, and can just as easily refer to a group of females as to a group of males or a mixed group of males and females.

However, this false notion, that the word adam is an example of God inspired male representation, lines up well with Ware's notion that male headship is part of the constitution of women as they are created in the image of God.

This deprives women of self-advocacy and puts them at the mercy of men, either the men of their own family, or at the discretion of men they may have appealed to for help. Women who do become independent and self-supporting in their private lives must, at least nominally, acknowledge male headship in church.

I believe Bruce Ware when he says that male headship is about built-in male priority. No doubt, many readers of the ESV are not aware of the intent of the translators, nor are they aware of the very significant differences between the ESV and the KJV. However, those of us who are aware of these differences, may see that the doctrine of "male representation" or "male priority" contravenes the notion that women are not second class citizens and deprives women of self-advocacy.


J. L. Watts said...

Would it be wrong to say that the ESV is a 'gimmick' translation? That their main purpose - which is what makes it a gimmick - is to reinforce male headship?

Kate Johnson said...

What is always interesting to me is that these translators say they have no bias and are being "true to translation." Yet, everywhere we read their bias. How does it not influence their translations? Just once I wish they would be honest about it, stop with the games and deception. I have been reading the TNIV and find it very welcome.