Thursday, July 23, 2009

Carter and the interpretation of scriptures

Here is the last part of Carter's essay on religion and discrimination against women,

I understand, however, why many political leaders can be reluctant about stepping into this minefield. Religion, and tradition, are powerful and sensitive area to challenge.

But my fellow Elders and I, who come from many faiths and backgrounds, no longer need to worry about winning votes or avoiding controversy - and we are deeply committed to challenging injustice wherever we see it.

The Elders have decided to draw particular attention to the responsibility of religious and traditional leaders in ensuring equality and human rights. We have recently published a statement that declares: "The justification of discrimination against women and girls on grounds of religion or tradition, as if it were prescribed by a Higher Authority, is unacceptable."

We are calling on all leaders to challenge and change the harmful teachings and practices, no matter how ingrained, which justify discrimination against women. We ask, in particular, that leaders of all religions have the courage to acknowledge and emphasise the positive messages of dignity and equality that all the world's major faiths share.

Although not having training in religion or theology, I understand that the carefully selected verses found in the holy scriptures to justify the superiority of men owe more to time and place - and the determination of male leaders to hold onto their influence - than eternal truths. Similar Biblical excerpts could be found to support the approval of slavery and the timid acquiescence to oppressive rulers.

At the same time, I am also familiar with vivid descriptions in the same scriptures in which women are revered as pre-eminent leaders. During the years of the early Christian church women served as deacons, priests, bishops, apostles, teachers and prophets. It wasn't until the fourth century that dominant Christian leaders, all men, twisted and distorted holy scriptures to perpetuate their ascendant positions within the religious hierarchy.

I know, too, that Billy Graham, one of the most widely respected and revered Christians during my lifetime, did not understand why women were prevented from being priests and preachers. He said: "Women preach all over the world. It doesn't bother me from my study of the scriptures."

The truth is that male religious leaders have had - and still have - an option to interpret holy teachings either to exalt or subjugate women. They have, for their own selfish ends, overwhelmingly chosen the latter.

Their continuing choice provides the foundation or justification for much of the pervasive persecution and abuse of women throughout the world. This is in clear violation not just of the Universal Declaration of Human Rights but also the teachings of Jesus Christ, the Apostle Paul, Moses and the prophets, Muhammad, and founders of other great religions - all of whom have called for proper and equitable treatment of all the children of God. It is time we had the courage to challenge these views.

Watch the Youtube segment here.

Friday, July 17, 2009

Ruha d-Qudša

James McGrath has just mentioned his interest in the Mandaeans. This is perhaps as good a time as any for me to bring up the gender of the holy spirit in Aramaic. The holy spirit for the Mandaeans was a female deity of ambiguous moral nature. Jorunn Jacobsen writes,

    Mandaeism presents Ruha (Spirit) largely as a leader of the forces of darkness opposing those of the Lightworld. Traditionally, most scholars have labeled her as evil, and it is true that she possesses abundant negative traits. One of her epithets is Ruha d-Qudša (Holy Spirit), a devalued Christian Holy Spirit, it seems. A mistress of the detested Jewish god Adonai, Ruha is also the mother of the malignant zodiac spirits and of the planets.

    Still, there are good reasons to see Ruha as a fallen wisdom figure, resembling Sophia (Wisdom) in other Gnostic traditions. Mandaean materials testifying to such a view of Ruha include passages in which she speaks and behaves in ways one would not expect of a force hostile to the Lightworld. She displays dramatic mood swings, suffers, and utters revelatory speeches uncharacteristic of a figure of darkness. Instead of seeing these passages as atypical occurrences thwarting a scholarly, imposed negative pattern, I think it is useful to take them as clues to Ruha's own ambivalence and to her ambiguous personality. This chapter, therefore, offers a sustained examination of the stories in which Ruha appears as ambiguous or in a downright positive light. Four sets of mythological traditions, taken from a variety of texts, will serve to illustrate my point.

Both Greek and Aramaic gnostic groups had a feminine divine character, either Sophia or Ruha. In fact, the Holy Spirit did not become unambiguously masculine in English Bible translations until the 19th century.

Colorado Springs gender guidelines

Here is a fun piece of history.

On June 2, 1997, when the initial Colorado Springs Guidelines were agreed on, Guideline B 1 originally read,
    "Brother" (adelphos) and "brothers" (adelphoi) should not be changed to "brother(s) and sister(s)."
In The TNIV and the GNB, 2004, p. 425 - 426, Poythress and Grudem write,
    "Examination of further lexicological data (as indicated in chapter 12) showed that this guideline was too narrow."
So then the following refined guideline was approved on Sept. 9, 1997,
    "Brother" adelphos should not be changed to "brother or sister"; however, the plural adelphoi can be translated "brothers and sisters" where the context makes clear that the author is referring to both men and women.
What was the 'further lexicological data'? In Poythress and Grudem's own words,
    "in fact, the major Greek lexicons for over 100 years have said that adelphoi, which is the plural of the word adelphos, 'brother" sometimes means "brothers and sisters" (see BAGD, 1957 and 1979, Liddell-Scott-Jones, 1940 and even 1869).

    This material was new evidence to those of us who wrote the May 27 guidlines - we weren't previously aware of this pattern of Greek usage outside the Bible. Once we saw these examples and others like them, we felt we had to make some change in the guidelines."
Do Grudem and Poythress actually say that these lexicons contained "new evidence?" Is it true that those who wrote the gender guidelines had never looked up these 'gender terms' in Liddell - Scott or BAGD?

Lawrence Hill

I have just finished reading The Book of Negroes by Lawrence Hill. He is a very accomplished writer and easy to read at the same time.
    Lawrence Hill's novel is inspired by a fascinating but little known historical document called the Book of Negroes, copies of which can be found in the USA at the New York Public Library, the Rockefeller Library at Colonial Williamsburg (Virginia) and the U.S. National Archives in Washington D.C. In Canada, copies of the same historical document can be found in the Nova Scotia Public Archives and in the National Archives of Canada. Lawrence Hill wrote a feature article called "Freedom Bound" about the historical document The Book of Negroes in the February/March 2007 edition of The Beaver: Canada's History Magazine.
I look forward to reading some of his other books, which I hear are very funny and touching. There is an hilarious excerpt here on being black and white in Toronto and going to an Italian barber! I hope to read this one soon.

The Book of Negroes sticks close to historical fact and comes with an excellent bibiography. His books are highly informative and have a warm human tone to them. Considering the subject matter this may seem hard to achieve, but I think Hill has found just the right balance.

Wednesday, July 15, 2009

Wisdom of Solomon 7:12 - 14

    12 εὐφράνθην δὲ ἐπὶ πᾶσιν, ὅτι αὐτῶν ἡγεῖται σοφία,
    ἠγνόουν δὲ αὐτὴν γενέτιν εἶναι τούτων.

    I rejoiced in them all, because wisdom goes before them
    but I did not know that she was their originator

    13 ἀδόλως τε ἔμαθον
    ἀφθόνως τε μεταδίδωμι,
    τὸν πλοῦτον αὐτῆς οὐκ ἀποκρύπτομαι·

    I learned without guile
    and I communicate without grudging
    I do not hide her wealth

    14 ἀνεκλιπὴς γὰρ θησαυρός ἐστιν ἀνθρώποις,
    ὃν οἱ χρησάμενοι πρὸς Θεὸν ἐστείλαντο φιλίαν
    διὰ τὰς ἐκ παιδείας δωρεὰς συσταθέντες.

    for it is an unfailing treasure for human beings
    those who use it obtain friendship with God,
    commended for the gifts that come from learning.
I haven't changed much from the NETS translation of these verses. However, there are a couple of interesting features.

First, the word γένετις doesn't translate very well. It means "begetter" or "progenitor" in the feminine, possibly the "originator" of a family. It closely resembles the word γένεσις - origin or source, or beginning.

The verb ἡγέομαι (edited) means "lead" but, I think in this context refers to bringing something with oneself, or possibly preceding. Wisdom precedes, that is, goes before, all these good things, (see KJV for this) and it turns out that she is also their originator. From these lines ideas later arose that Wisdom was the divine mother, and for some the "consort of God." For others she was the manifestation of God.

It is particularly interesting to note that it is a male author, so it appears, who develops the notion of wisdom as the female progenitor, the imagery of a divine and powerful feminine ideal. She is spoken of in chapter 8 as a bride and counselor, "a comfort in cares and sorrow."

Women in Christianity have a masculine God, and historically for many nuns, a heavenly bridegroom. But men have a God in their own image, a masculine God for their masculine self. When Jesus spoke of the Holy Spirit, if he spoke in Aramaic, he spoke of a feminine entity. The comforter he referred to was a divine feminine entity, and surely a much needed comfort in care and sorrow.

I believe that on the one hand, Jesus is wisdom, the manifestation of God. But, on the other hand, the Spirit is wisdom, the companion (spouse) of God. In writing this, I am not talking about theological truths, but about literary allusions. I am referring to linguistic cues which get picked up in later writings.

Here is a related article by R. R. Ruether. I haven't had a chance to read it yet.

King James
Liddel Scott Lexicon

Jimmy Carter on Women

Losing my religion for equality

I HAVE been a practising Christian all my life and a deacon and Bible teacher for many years. My faith is a source of strength and comfort to me, as religious beliefs are to hundreds of millions of people around the world. So my decision to sever my ties with the Southern Baptist Convention, after six decades, was painful and difficult. It was, however, an unavoidable decision when the convention's leaders, quoting a few carefully selected Bible verses and claiming that Eve was created second to Adam and was responsible for original sin, ordained that women must be "subservient" to their husbands and prohibited from serving as deacons, pastors or chaplains in the military service.

This view that women are somehow inferior to men is not restricted to one religion or belief. Women are prevented from playing a full and equal role in many faiths. Nor, tragically, does its influence stop at the walls of the church, mosque, synagogue or temple. This discrimination, unjustifiably attributed to a Higher Authority, has provided a reason or excuse for the deprivation of women's equal rights across the world for centuries.

At its most repugnant, the belief that women must be subjugated to the wishes of men excuses slavery, violence, forced prostitution, genital mutilation and national laws that omit rape as a crime. But it also costs many millions of girls and women control over their own bodies and lives, and continues to deny them fair access to education, health, employment and influence within their own communities.

The impact of these religious beliefs touches every aspect of our lives. They help explain why in many countries boys are educated before girls; why girls are told when and whom they must marry; and why many face enormous and unacceptable risks in pregnancy and childbirth because their basic health needs are not met. Continued...

I referred to Carter's views on women here also.


I acknowledge a C-factor or 47 %, which will surprise some of you. My inner conservative is not yet dead. The fine print indicates my extraordinary ambivalence.

You are somewhat of a Calvinist. Some of your points of view make you look like a Calvinist. However, you live your life in a lighter way than Calvinists do, which allows you to enjoy it more.
52Work86%You sure have a Calvinistic working ethos. You never work hard enough; work for you is your bounden duty. You are the type of employee any company desires, but the balance between your work and private life may get disturbed.
55Strictness20%You know how to enjoy life. You don't always spend your time in a useful way. Mind the balance!
57Sobriety17%You were not born to be a Calvinist. Catholicism suits you better � slightly hedonistic, loose and emotional.
56Relationships0%In your relationships you are not very reserved. One might say: uncalvinistic. You let yourself go too easily to be a Calvinist.
53Beliefs60%You are an unconcerned believer, who doesn't worry too much.

Tuesday, July 14, 2009

"Not of blood"

While reading this post at Church-Discipline, I realized that I had not previously understood the meaning of "blood" in John 1:13,
    But to all who received him,
    who believed in his name,
    he gave power to become children of God,
    who were born,
    not of blood
    or of the will of the flesh
    or of the will of man,
    but of God.
CD-host writes,
    If I were translating I personally would mix dynamic and formal here. I wouldn't want to lose John's clausal structure but I think the "bloods"to "blood" translation is far too literal, and men rather than husband is just plain wrong. The reference to bloods here is critical, but it relies on the Greek idiom that the fetus grows on blood which is not an American English idiom. You could translate it keeping blood with a technical term, something like "not from fetoplacental circulation" but that shifts the tone too much. The key is to retain the spirit vs. flesh theme from John while changing idioms i.e. being dynamic to be made more explicit. Anne Nyland's The Source Bible does a great job for this verse,

    "children not born from a woman
    nor from the purposes of the natural realm
    nor from the purposes of a man,
    but born from God."
What's happening here? Here is the Greek,
    οἳ οὐκ ἐξ αἱμάτων
    οὐδὲ ἐκ θελήματος σαρκὸς
    οὐδὲ ἐκ θελήματος ἀνδρὸς
    ἀλλ' ἐκ θεοῦ ἐγεννήθησαν.
If Nyland is right then, ἐξ αἱμάτων refers to the womb of the mother. I mught try
    children not born from the womb of a mother
    nor from the will of the natural body
    nor from the will of a father,
    but born from God.
This reminds me of a passage in Wisdom of Solomon 7:1-2,
    καὶ ἐν κοιλίᾳ μητρὸς
    ἐγλύφην σὰρξ
    2 δεκαμηνιαίῳ χρόνῳ
    παγεὶς ἐν αἵματι
    ἐκ σπέρματος ἀνδρὸς
    καὶ ἡδονῆς ὕπνῳ συνελθούσης.

    and in a mother's belly
    carved into flesh
    For the time of ten months
    fit together in blood
    out of the seed of a man
    and the pleasure
    which comes together with sleep
I always wondered what it meant to be born "of blood." And yet, this should be perfectly obvious to me as a woman. I wonder now how I missed that meaning in John 1:13.


Some discussions around the blogosphere have got me thinking. Is a universalist a Christian, and is a universalist just as motivated to help others as those who believe in limited atonement?

Two great women suggest that the answer might be in the affirmative. Florence Nightingale and and Clara Barton, founder of the American Red Cross, were both universalists. These two amazing women started organizations of immense importance. In addition, Henri Dunant, founder of Red Cross International was also a universalist, as well as Albert Scweitzer.

Universalism is the theological doctrine that all people will eventually be saved, while evangelicalism stresses the importance of personal conversion as the means of salvation. Here are some scripture verses which support universalism,
  • and I, when I am lifted up from the earth, will draw all people to myself John 12:32
  • so that by the grace of God he might taste death for everyone. Hebrews 2:9
  • who gave himself a ransom for all 1 Tim. 2:6
  • and he died for all, so that those who live might live no longer for themselves, but for him who died and was raised for them. 2 Cor. 5:15
  • Therefore just as one man’s trespass led to condemnation for all, so one man’s act of righteousness leads to justification and life for all. Romans 5:18
My question is whether an evangelical can honestly point to evidence that universalism is a) not based on scripture and b) not able to motivate people to serve others sacrificially. I am asking if it is useful to lay down boundaries.What if we simply responded to people on the basis of their actions, whether they were doing good or harm to others?

Monday, July 13, 2009

The pope on birth rates

I blogged recently about birth rates, but I had not yet read the pope's opinion on this issue,

    44. (second paragraph) Morally responsible openness to life represents a rich social and economic resource. Populous nations have been able to emerge from poverty thanks not least to the size of their population and the talents of their people. On the other hand, formerly prosperous nations are presently passing through a phase of uncertainty and in some cases decline, precisely because of their falling birth rates; this has become a crucial problem for highly affluent societies. The decline in births, falling at times beneath the so-called “replacement level”, also puts a strain on social welfare systems, increases their cost, eats into savings and hence the financial resources needed for investment, reduces the availability of qualified labourers, and narrows the “brain pool” upon which nations can draw for their needs. Furthermore, smaller and at times miniscule families run the risk of impoverishing social relations, and failing to ensure effective forms of solidarity. These situations are symptomatic of scant confidence in the future and moral weariness. It is thus becoming a social and even economic necessity once more to hold up to future generations the beauty of marriage and the family, and the fact that these institutions correspond to the deepest needs and dignity of the person. In view of this, States are called to enact policies promoting the centrality and the integrity of the family founded on marriage between a man and a woman, the primary vital cell of society[112], and to assume responsibility for its economic and fiscal needs, while respecting its essentially relational character.

The experience of France, Sweden and the US suggests that enabling mothers to remain in the workplace at least part-time is vital to encouraging women to have children. In Europe the northern countries overall have a higher birth rate than the southern and more Catholic countries. In commenting on this phenomenon, David Willits is cited in this article,

    On the surface there are economic explanations for why this phenomenon has occurred in southern Europe. Italy, for example, pays the lowest starting wages of any country in the E.U., which causes young people to delay striking out on their own. And as the British politician David Willetts has noted, “Living at home with your parents is a very powerful contraception.” But the deeper problem may lie precisely in the family-friendly ethos of these countries. This part of the self-definition of southern European culture — the “My Big Fat Greek Wedding” ideal — has a flip side. “In all of these countries,” Billari said, “it’s very difficult to combine work and family. And that is partly because, within couples, we have evidence that in these countries the gender relationships are very asymmetric.”

    There, according to waves of recent evidence, is the rub — the result of a friction between tectonic plates in modern society that has been quietly at work for decades. The accepted demographic wisdom had been that as women enter the job market, a society’s fertility rate drops. That has been broadly true in the developed world, but more recently, and especially in Europe, the numbers don’t bear it out. In fact, something like the opposite has been the case. According to Hans-Peter Kohler of the University of Pennsylvania, analysis of recent studies showed that “high fertility was associated with high female labor-force participation . . . and the lowest fertility levels in Europe since the mid-1990s are often found in countries with the lowest female labor-force participation.” In other words, working mothers are having more babies than stay-at-home moms.

    How can this be? A study released in February of this year by Letizia Mencarini, the demographer from the University of Turin, and three of her colleagues compared the situation of women in Italy and the Netherlands. They found that a greater percentage of Dutch women than Italian women are in the work force but that, at the same time, the fertility rate in the Netherlands is significantly higher (1.73 compared to 1.33). In both countries, people tend to have traditional views about gender roles, but Italian society is considerably more conservative in this regard, and this seems to be a decisive difference. The hypothesis the sociologists set out to test was borne out by the data: women who do more than 75 percent of the housework and child care are less likely to want to have another child than women whose husbands or partners share the load. Put differently, Dutch fathers change more diapers, pick up more kids after soccer practice and clean up the living room more often than Italian fathers; therefore, relative to the population, there are more Dutch babies than Italian babies being born. As Mencarini said, “It’s about how much the man participates in child care.”

Sunday, July 12, 2009

Software and the intrusive pronoun

I have had this happen a few times. When discussing a passage like 1 Tim. 3 :1, (also 1 Tim. 5:8)
    Here is a trustworthy saying: If anyone sets his heart on being an overseer, he desires a noble task.

    Πιστὸς ὁ λόγος: εἴ τις ἐπισκοπῆς ὀρέγεται, καλοῦ ἔργου ἐπιθυμεῖ.
someone will say that it is clearly referring to a man because it says "he." I have asked if they think "anyone" is masculine only, and immediately they assure me that they have, in fact, checked the Greek and yes τις is masculine.

Try it - go to and choose 1 Tim. 3:1 and click on τις - there it is, masculine. However, in the lexicons, τις is masculine and feminine, it is of common gender.

I daresay that a lot more men refer to software than to lexicons. I wonder what the leading retail software says about τις. I can just see a bunch of guys sitting there saying that since they designed the software, they could chose to make τις mean whatever they wanted it to mean. I think this is pretty shabby.

First Female Black Rabbi

Alysa Stanton is the first black female rabbi. Here are some insights from the article on her ordination,
    Twenty percent of the U.S. Jewish population, or about 1.2 million people, are diverse, meaning black, Asian, Latino or mixed race, according to the Institute for Jewish and Community Outreach in San Francisco.

    "What's important here is not that this is the first black woman rabbi but rather that it's a symbol of a great change in the American Jewish community, which is becoming much more diverse because of things like conversions, intermarriage and adoption," said Jonathan Sarna, an expert on U.S. Judaism at Brandeis University in Boston.

    "That is a change that is really significant," Sarna said. "That a community that even 50 years ago was rather monolithic, so much so that people thought they could look at someone and see if he 'looked Jewish.'

    "This is a reminder that the chosen people, so to speak, is not one race or another race but are in fact a range of races," he said. "While Jews remain united by a bond of peoplehood as well as religion, that bond is not characterized in racial terms."

HT Renita Weems

Saturday, July 11, 2009

Outwitting History 2

Here is a review of Outwitting History by Aaron Lansky,

    When Aaron Lansky's grandmother emigrated to America, she arrived with "a single cardboard valise packed with all her life's possessions" - including a photograph of the parents she would never see again. Her older brother met her at Ellis Island, took her to the Manhattan ferry and threw the case overboard. "You're in America now," he told her. "It's time to leave the Old Country behind."

    Jews like the older Lanskys, keen to reinvent themselves as Americans, felt it essential to jettison much of their heritage, and specifically to abandon Yiddish and embrace English. It fell to Aaron, "American through and through", to (metaphorically) "go back to the harbour to reclaim what was lost". In 1980, at the age of 23, he boldly decided "to save the world's Yiddish books". Experts guessed there were about 70,000 volumes still in existence. By the end of this gripping account of a remarkable rescue operation, he and his colleagues at the National Yiddish Book Centre (NYBC) had assembled a collection of one and a half million. While this obviously included multiple copies of star Yiddish authors and translations of world classics, they also found a political dictionary believed to have been lost forever, Russian Revolutionary tracts, even a chronicle of Yiddish-speaking ostrich farmers in Africa.

    On one level, Lansky's motives were purely practical. He was keen to study Jewish social history, where many of the primary sources are in Yiddish, and so (like lots of other students) needed to get hold of copies. At the same time, there were many Yiddish-speaking old-timers who had hundreds, sometimes thousands, of books that their children often couldn't read and certainly had no interest in. And libraries in areas where Jews no longer lived were throwing out their Yiddish holdings.

    So Lansky's task was to link supply and demand. It sounds simple, but it often meant rushing out at a moment's notice into a rainy New York winter night, for example, to pick up a consignment of discarded books, only to find many "soaked beyond any hope of salvage, floating in a fetid, dye-stained pool at the bottom of a Dumpster". Others were so fragile they crumbled in readers' hands. But those worth saving were stored in a warehouse which had recently been used to teach wallpapering, where "the crowing roosters of a kitchen pattern alternated with the seashells of bathroom, the tumbling astronauts of a kid's bedroom..."

    As news of the project got out, dozens of elderly Yiddish speakers, thrilled that some youngsters were interested in their long-forgotten world, would invite Lansky and his friends to give their books a safe home. They would prepare meals so gargantuan that one of the collection team had to be appointed Designated Eater. Many offered to serve as volunteers and one even suggested that the best way of obtaining books was to hang around intensive care units and put pressure on all the expiring Jews.

    Most of this older generation was also keen to talk, at great length, about their early immigrant years. Although some were still obsessed with ancient ideological quarrels, many were passionate "homegrown intellectuals" who represented to Lansky "everything that was good about the old Yiddish world: humour, generosity, intelligence, kindness, social consciousness, and an almost preternatural sense of Yiddishkeit [Jewishness]".

More here.

Comedy is wrapped around each sweet and sad moment when the books are passed on. This is a book lovers treat. I'll write soon about what I thought was particularly important about this book.

Phoebe and the gender of deacon

I have noticed that when a discussion of Phoebe comes up, the Greek word diakonos comes in for some interesting analysis. Some report firmly that this word is masculine, arguing that her office was the same as the other "deacons;" and some report that it is feminine, and Phoebe was only a servant. Sometimes the argument is organized in the reverse. I am not sure how, but almost every permutation turns up.

However, one thing I can assure you of, and that is that in software, the Greek word diakonos is technically tagged as feminine in Romans 16:1.

Συνίστημι δὲ ὑμῖν Φοίβην τὴν ἀδελφὴν ἡμῶν, οὖσαν [καὶ] διάκονον τῆς ἐκκλησίας τῆς ἐν Κεγχρεαῖς,

Try this one out. Here are the results
    Case A
    Number S
    Gender F

    διάκονος,n {dee-ak'-on-os}
    1) one who executes the commands of another, esp. of a master, a servant, attendant, minister 1a) the servant of a king 1b) a deacon, one who, by virtue of the office assigned to him by the church, cares for the poor and has charge of and distributes the money collected for their use 1c) a waiter, one who serves food and drink
However, the reason why the word διάκονον (sing. acc.) is labeled feminine is because οὖσαν also feminine, agrees with it. The word refers to Phoebe, and if there were an article, it would be the feminine article. The word is in every way identical to the masculine word διάκονος. It is the same word and has the same singular form, and the same form in all cases.

When a word behaves in this way, it is said to have a "common gender." It is both masculine and feminine at the same time.

I have been reading this article on Phoebe from SBL. HT Ecce Homo (It was nice to see so many articles on gender and translation.) I enjoyed reading this but I am not sure whether it adds to previous treatments of diakonos and prostatis. I saw Bruce Waltke today and I remember well the rousing discussion we had on whether an analysis of the related verb can elucidate the meaning of prostatis.

About prostatis, it does appear in other Greek literature as "protectress" or "presiding" so I am doubtful as to whether it is a hapax legomenon, in the true sense of the word. Perhaps someone could comment on that.

Also the masculline form of the word is common enough, prostates is used for the temple leader in the Septuagint, and for Christ, our defender in 1 Clement. The meaning falls somewhere in the range of ruler, leader, benefactor, succourer, and so on.

However, from the Wycliff translation on, it has been translated as "help" or "great help." There is some wordplay going on in the Greek that should be mentioned in this regard. Its a little too detailed for this post. In any case, I really like Rotherham's translation of Romans 16:1-2,
    And I commend to you Phoebe our sister, - being a minister also of the assembly which is in Cenchreae;

    In order that ye may give her welcome in the Lord in a manner worthy of the saints, and stand by her in any matter wherein she may have need of you; for, she also, hath proved to be a defender of many, and of my own self.
Update: I remember now that I had once translated Romans 15:30 - 16:2 in order to demonstrate the wordplay. Here it is,
    30 παρακαλῶ δὲ ὑμᾶς ἀδελφοί διὰ τοῦ κυρίου ἡμῶν Ἰησοῦ Χριστοῦ καὶ διὰ τῆς ἀγάπης τοῦ πνεύματος συναγωνίσασθαί μοι ἐν ταῖς προσευχαῖς ὑπὲρ ἐμοῦ πρὸς τὸν θεόν

    31 ἵνα ῥυσθῶ ἀπὸ τῶν ἀπειθούντων ἐν τῇ Ἰουδαίᾳ καὶ ἡ διακονία μου ἡ εἰς Ἰερουσαλὴμ εὐπρόσδεκτος τοῖς ἁγίοις γένηται

    32 ἵνα ἐν χαρᾷ ἐλθὼν πρὸς ὑμᾶς διὰ θελήματος θεοῦ συναναπαύσωμαι ὑμῖν 33 ὁ δὲ θεὸς τῆς εἰρήνης μετὰ πάντων ὑμῶν ἀμήν

    16:1 συνίστημι δὲ ὑμῖν Φοίβην τὴν ἀδελφὴν ἡμῶν οὖσαν καὶ διάκονον τῆς ἐκκλησίας τῆς ἐν Κεγχρεαῖς

    2 ἵνα αὐτὴν προσδέξησθε ἐν κυρίῳ ἀξίως τῶν ἁγίων καὶ παραστῆτε αὐτῇ ἐν ᾧ ἂν ὑμῶν χρῄζῃ πράγματι καὶ γὰρ αὐτὴ προστάτις πολλῶν ἐγενήθη καὶ ἐμοῦ αὐτοῦ

    30 I urge you, brothers, by our Lord Jesus Christ and by the love of the Spirit, to struggle together with me in prayers on my behalf to God.

    31 that I may be rescued from the unbelievers in Judea and that my ministry which is for Jerusalem may be acceptable to the saints,

    so that I may come to you with joy by God's will and together with you be refreshed. 33 The God of peace be with you all. Amen.

    16:1 I stand Phoebe with you, being a minister of the church at Cenchrea, 2 that you accept her in the Lord, in a manner worthy of the saints, and stand beside her in whatever matter she may have need of you; because she also has stood before many, even me.
I am sure this is boring, but I think the wordplay shows that Paul was thinking of Phoebe's ministry in a way that was analogous to his own - in some way.

Driscoll and Mothers working outside the home

Does this clip mean that women are not supposed to work outside of the home? Isn't Driscoll saying that 1 Tim. 5:8 applies exclusively to men?

France's high birth rate

In view of the inaccurate teaching by some preachers that the Bible mandates fathers to work outside the home, and mothers to stay at home, I wanted to see if this would benefit the birth rate or suppress it.

The latest trends based on comparing the birth rate in European countries is that creating a climate in which women can continue to work while they also have children causes the birth rate to reach replacement levels, while reinforcing a traditional pattern of gender roles, causes the birth rate to decline dangerously.

One example of this is the extremely low birth rate in Italy, now at about 1.2 and the climbing birth rate in France at 2.1. Here are some relevant articles.
    In 2007, France’s national statistical authority announced that the country had overtaken Ireland to boast the highest birthrate in Europe. In France, the fertility rate has risen from 1.7 in 1993 to 2.1 in 2007, its highest level since before 1980, despite a steady fall in birthrates among women not born in France. France’s National Institute of Demographic Studies reports that the immigrant population is responsible for only five percent of the rise in the ­birthrate. Muslim Birthrates Falling Worldwide

    According to APM, France has Europe's second-highest birth rate in part because of incentives offered by the government. Such incentives include:
    • Three-year paid parental leave with guaranteed job protection upon returning to the workforce;
    • Universal, full-time preschool starting at age three;
    • Subsidized daycare before age three;
    • Stipends for in-home nannies; and
    • Monthly childcare allowances that increase with the number of children per family.

    Juliette LaFont, spokesperson for the French Ministry of Family Affairs, said that what distinguishes France from other European countries is its "policy of giving women the choice to work or not by giving them all of the services and financial means." APM reports that France spends $57 billion annually, nearly 15% of its total budget, for family and child services. The APM segment also includes comments from French women who have received the benefits ("Marketplace," APM, 9/21). Medical News Today.

    There is abundant evidence that if you want women in modern economies to have more babies, you need to help them reconcile work and childbearing, not encourage their subjection. In developing countries a lower status for women is associated with higher fertility, but once societies become highly industrialized and women taste a certain amount of liberation, the opposite is true.

    Yale political scientists Frances A. Rosenbluth, Matthew Light, and Claudia Schrag came to the same conclusion in a 2002 paper. “To put our thesis in the simplest terms, fertility is low where vested interests keep women out of the workforce, and higher where easy labour market accessibility and child care support make it easier for women to balance family and career,” they wrote. Michelle Goldberg page 206

    Italian males, even the young, are ill adapted to this new equality of genders. Even those who shared school classes with girls from early childhood are not prepared for family life in which women are on equal footing with men ... The link between these attitudes and fertility behavior is direct. A woman who engages in repeated childbearing runs the risk of being relegated to roles from which young Italian women struggle to escape. Jean-Claude Chesnais in Michelle Goldberg page 216

Friday, July 10, 2009

Calvin and Servetus

My interest in Servetus dates back to when I started to research the Pagnini Latin Bible of 1528. It was the first full translation from the Hebrew into Latin since Jerome's translation, and benefited from rabbinical commentary from the Middle Ages.

From the Cambridge History of the Bible, page 70,
    Pagnini was criticized by Luther and others for having leaned too much on Jewish scholarhsip, and for having followed the targums in his rendering of the Hebrew text. Perhaps this and its literalism made it the only Christian Latin version which the Jews seem to have respected. His interpretion of Job xix.25 at any rate is nearer to that of modern scholarship than to that of either the Vulgate or the English Authorized Version.

    Servetus revised Pagnini's version for the printer Hughes de la Porte of Lyons, 1542; it is possible that the emendations derive from those which Pagnini had made by hand in a copy of the edition of 1528. Because of the matter in some of the marginal notes which Servetus had added, this Bible was put on the Index and suppressed - Servetus had entered deeper into his covenant with death.
On October 27, 1553 John Calvin, had Michael Servetus, burned at the stake just outside of Geneva for his doctrinal heresies.

Here is an explanation of the interaction of Calvin and Servetus,
    Servetus remained outwardly a conforming Catholic while pursuing his private theological studies. He soon published at Lyon his most important work, Biblia sacra ex Santis Pagnini tra[ns]latione (1542), notable for its theory of prophecy.

    Servetus forwarded the manuscript of an enlarged revision of his ideas, the Christianismi Restitutio, to Calvin in 1546 and expressed a desire to meet him. After their first few letters, Calvin would have nothing more to do with him and kept the manuscript. He declared to his eloquent French preacher colleague Guillaume Farel that if Servetus ever came to Geneva he would not allow him to leave alive.

    A rewritten version of Servetus’ manuscript was secretly printed in 1,000 copies at Vienne in 1553. In discussing the relationship between the Spirit and regeneration in that book, Servetus almost incidentally made known his discovery of the pulmonary circulation of blood. In the book, Servetus argued that both God the Father and Christ his Son had been dishonoured by the Constantinian promulgation of the Nicene Creed, thus obscuring the redemptive role of Christ and bringing about the fall of the church; Servetus felt he could restore the church by separating it from the state and by using only those theological formulations that could be proved from Scripture and the pre-Constantinian fathers.

    When some of Servetus’ letters to Calvin fell into the hands of Guillaume de Trie, a former citizen of Lyon, he exposed Servetus to the inquisitor general at Lyon. Servetus and his printers were seized. During the trial, however, Servetus escaped, and the Catholic authorities had to be content with burning him in effigy. He quixotically appeared in Geneva and was recognized, arrested, and tried for heresy from Aug. 14 to Oct. 25, 1553. Calvin played a prominent part in the trial and pressed for execution, although by beheading rather than by fire.

    Despite his intense biblicism and his wholly Christocentric view of the universe, Servetus was found guilty of heresy, mainly on his views of the Trinity and Baptism. He was burned alive at Champel on October 27. His execution produced a Protestant controversy on imposing the death penalty for heresy, drew severe criticism upon John Calvin, and influenced Laelius Socinus, a founder of modern unitarian views.

Unavoidable Gender Ambiguities:

A Primer for Readers of English Translations from Biblical Hebrew by David E. S. Stein

David has emailed a few people today to let us know that this article has just been uploaded to the internet. I think anyone interested in the translation of gender from Hebrew into English will find this of interest. Here is one clarification that he makes,
    Previously I claimed that English idiom does not normally state the referent's gender if it is understood. As we now see, there are exceptions. Gendered rendering can arise because of the needs of English, quite apart from the Hebrew text.

Thursday, July 09, 2009

Calvin and the intrusive pronoun

(Obligatory Calvin post.) Twice recently, I have heard an interpretation of 1 Tim. 5:8. Here it is.

    εἰ δέ τις τῶν ἰδίων
    καὶ μάλιστα οἰκείων οὐ προνοεῖ,
    τὴν πίστιν ἤρνηται καὶ ἔστιν ἀπίστου χείρων.

    If anyone does not provide for his relatives,
    and especially for his immediate family,
    he has denied the faith and is worse than an unbeliever.
Three masculine pronouns give the average English reader the notion that this verse is addressed to men. However, in the Greek there are no masculine pronouns, and only one masculine plural ending. Not an indication of a male only subject.

But I have listened to two sermons lately where the preacher just assumed that the original Greek was addressed to men.

First, Mark Driscoll says that this is the perfect memory verse for men. And here is what he said in his sermon on 1 Tim. 5:1-16 at minutes 36-38,
    If you men don’t take care of your family you are worse than a pagan. … We don’t have any member in the church who is married and is a mother who works outside of the home.
And in another sermon, a more egalitarian preacher said that, although this verse was originally addressed to men, women can provide also. Both of these seminary educated men, who believe they have the credentials to interpret the scripture for their congregation, have misunderstood the Greek.

So, what did Calvin write about this verse?
    Erasmus has translated it, “If any woman do not provide for her own,” making it apply exclusively to females. But I prefer to view it as a general statement; for it is customary with Paul, even when he is treating of some particular subject, to deduce arguments from general principles, and, on the other hand, to draw from particular statements a universal doctrine. And certainly it will have greater weight, if it apply both to men and to women.

Jose Saramago

By happenstance, I had to drive all over town this evening to buy this book, The Gospel of Jesus Christ, for someone else. Then I had time to read the first half before delivering it to its destination.

It is a beautifully well-written book, with an in depth psychological description of Joseph's emotions as all the other children of Bethlehem were killed while his child was spared. As I read, it was as if I could actually hear Rachel weeping for her children.

The use of scriptural allusion is complex and accurate - this author really knows the text. I highly recommend this book. Here is an Amazon review,

Some topics always provoke controversy even though they shouldn't. Religion and religious convictions are one. If one has faith, then that faith, by its very definition, should be able to withstand a work of fiction even though that work of fiction is very well written. Jose Saramago's THE GOSPEL ACCORDING TO JESUS CHRIST has, I think, provoked much more controversy-and condemnation-than it ever should have. But the very fact that it has, I think, is testament to its greatness and its ability to provoke thought.

I think there is much to admire in this beautiful book...and it is quite beautiful. The prose is lyrical and poetic and, at times, magical and heartbreaking. People who say Saramago is "difficult reading" may just not like his style of writing. The only punctuation he uses are commas and periods and his sentences and paragraphs go on for pages and pages and pages. Saramago tells his stories in torrents of words...wonderful words...and if a reader lets himself get caught up in those words, they carry him along, effortlessly, through the book. Saramago is far too good a writer to be "difficult." He's so good-a definite master-that his writing appears to be effortless.

THE GOSPEL ACCORDING TO JESUS CHRIST tells the story of Christ from Christ's own point of view. This causes him to be supremely human, something that is missing from most other accounts of Christ's life. Jesus, in this book, is a fully realized human being, one who has desires and temptations, one who sometimes fails and one who, above all, questions his life and its meaning and even comes to doubt Judaism and its intense focus on sacrifice and suffering.

Saramago, himself, has said that he writes to understand and to question and so, it makes sense, at least to me, that he would question the institution of organized religion and the gospels in this book. I'm Catholic and the book only deepened my faith; I wasn't in the slightest bit offended by it. I do think, however, that some more fundamentalist Christians might be offended and perhaps they should simply skip this book and read something else, instead.

In THE GOSPEL ACCORDING TO JESUS CHRIST, Saramago lavishes much empathy on Jesus as a fellow human being who is filled with doubts and suffering. The author's view of Jesus and his contemporaries is quite compassionate and almost tender. I don't know how people can object to Jesus' love for Mary Magdalene; Saramago portrays this love as very sincere and very deep. One can see that, above all, Saramago was trying to understand how Christ felt, not as God or as the son of God, but as a man, a man who lived as a human being and interacted with his fellow human beings.

Saramago is not, however, so generous and compassionate in his portrayal of God. Saramago's God is a vengeful one, one who causes the men He created to sin and then punishes that sin without mercy. In fact, in this book, Jesus doesn't choose to become a martyr and the salvation of all mankind; he is tricked into it by God, Himself. There are two lovely set pieces in which we can see just how much Saramago questions God's mercy: one in the desert and another that occurs years later in a boat surrounded by fog. In those set pieces, God goes to any length to trick Jesus into becoming a martyr so that He, God, can widen His realm and become, not only the God of the Jews, but the God of all mankind.

THE GOSPEL ACCORDING TO JESUS CHRIST is the most compassionate, human and profound look at the life of Jesus I have ever encountered, surpassing even Nikos Kazantzakis's THE LAST TEMPTATION OF CHRIST. I found this book very human and very compassionate and both heartbreaking and healing as well.

I would definitely recommend THE GOSPEL ACCORDING TO JESUS CHRIST to anyone who would not be offended by a look at Christ that questions, but not necessarily contradicts, that found in the gospels of the bible.

Tuesday, July 07, 2009

Outwitting History

I am currently reading Outwitting History by Aaron Lansky of the National Yiddish Book Centre and hope to blog about it soon. It is inspiring and humourous, a great read. There are also some important themes that deserve attention. More later.

Monday, July 06, 2009

Junia and Michael Burer

The Better Bibles Blog has posted today on the NET Bible, and Michael Burer's three principles of Bible translation,
  1. Just because something has always been translated a certain way does not mean that it is correct.
  2. We should always value the light ancient documents shed on our understanding of the Scriptures, even for an issue as mundane as the meaning of a single, obscure word.
  3. We should always use the most up to date, accurate tools available. (In this instance, HALOT has the more accurate information as opposed to the other well-known Hebrew lexicon BDB.)
Michael authored the article Was Junia Really an Apostle with Dan Wallace. Subsequent to this article the NET Bible, ESV and HSCB have all translated Romans 16:7 as "Junia ... well-known to the apostles." My detailed response is here, please read from the bottom up.

Two years ago, I wrote a post on the BBB, at length recounting the many grammatical difficulties in the article by Wallace and Burer.

Michael Burer emailed me two years ago saying that he had been asked to respond to the work of Linda Belleville and J. Epp with respect to Junia. His response is now posted on CBMW,
    My schedule has not permitted me time to develop an in-depth response to any of these reviews. What I can say at this point is that I have not read anything in any of them that has dissuaded me from the viewpoint Wallace and I advanced in the original article. (In the next few years I hope to develop a suitable response to these critiques.)
Yes, you read it right. At least three reformed Bibles have removed evidence from the English Bible that a woman was "among the apostles" - whatever that means, and there is no reaction, just - "my schedule does not permit." This is the level of interest in defending women - yawn.

In the meantime, the Vamva version of the NT, a revision of the Greek NT done by an orthodox Greek bishop, says clearly μεταξὺ - "among." However, it appears that Americans think they know better than the 19th century clergy of Greece, they know better than the translators of the KJV, better than Luther, better than Calvin, better than Jerome, better than Chrysostom, better than ... Burer and Wallace have based their surmise, that Junia was not an apostle, on these three principles,
  1. Just because something has always been translated a certain way does not mean that it is correct.
  2. We should always value the light ancient documents shed on our understanding of the Scriptures, even for an issue as mundane as the meaning of a single, obscure word.
  3. We should always use the most up to date, accurate tools available. (In this instance, HALOT has the more accurate information as opposed to the other well-known Hebrew lexicon BDB.)
Let me address them.

1) There is little regarding doctrine that has been hidden for 20 centuries and revealed in the last few years. The two big ones are that teshuqa means that it is the rebellion of women to want to control their husbands, and this is the main cause of divorce in our day. The second is that all the early church fathers, and native speakers of Greek were mistaken regarding Junia being an apostle. She was not. How convenient!

2) Wallace and Burer's argument from the Pss. of Solomon contains several serious errors.

a) They stated that Pss. 2:6 is a "close parallel" with Romans 16:7. They now admit that it is not.

b) They argued that en plus the dative is not usually inclusive, but that a genitive would be expected. In the NT these two structures are used synonymously and there are exact examples of this.

c) They say that when used "in collocation with words of perception" it means "to." However, there is NO word of perception in Romans 16:7.

Here is how they state their main argument,
    When, however, an elative notion is found, evn plus a personal plural dative is not uncommon. In Pss. Sol. 2:6, where the Jewish captives are in view, the writer indicates that “they were a spectacle among the gentiles (ἐπισήμῳ ἐν τοῖς ἔθνεσιν)

    Semantically, what is significant is that (a) the first group is not a part of the second—that is, the Jewish captives were not gentiles; and (b) what was ‘among’ the gentiles was the Jews’ notoriety.
Clearly, it says that the Jews were captives in a "place" that was among the Gentiles. It is inclusive. Episemos does not relate back to the Jews but to the place. Episemos with en plus the dative does have the meaning "among." Junia is episemos, that is, "among" the apostles.

3) When Burer and Wallace state that we should use the most up to date tools available, they may be referring to the use of a computer database search, in which snippets of lines of Greek are excerpted from the text and lined up in a list for analysis, without reference to the original context. Does this seem useful?

I posted a Response to Michael Burer on the BBB two years ago. In the comment section I posted this,

    Suzanne McCarthy
Posted May 30, 2007 at 7:40 pm | Permalink

Mike Burer has written to say that he will eventually be preparing a response to Epp, Belleville, Bauckham, and myself.

I have no timeline. As he intends to publish this as a paper, I appreciate that this could take some time.

And then in the spring of 2008 he posts that his schedule "has not permitted" him to look at this. But, even more shocking is that this passes without comment. Nobody cares. Nobody holds his toes to the fire. Nobody will face up to Wallace and Burer and ask "What about Junia?"

Basically, as it only affects women - let's plaster over the disagreement and carry on.

Sunday, July 05, 2009

Reflections on ESV onlyism

I am just going to jot down some of my thinking on ESV onlyism. First off, because this translation so closely resembles the RSV, it appeals to those who do not like change. And I am one of them. I understand this fully. I am not surprised to see many people use this Bible.

However, I am surprised that the translation committee made some of the decisions that they made, and said some of the things they said. In any case, here are a few stray thoughts to wrap up what I have been thinking as I wrote the previous posts.

1) Some ESV supporters have taken a strong stand against women's ordination and they prefer to use a particular variation of 1 Tim. 2:12, as in the ESV, as evidence against it. They also prefer to believe that although women were prophets and judges in the Hebrew Bible, Christian women are created for submission, and cannot be real deacons, prophets, or apostles.

2) Some ESV supporters believe that women are designed by God to be in the image of God only within male headship relationships. These people support male leadership, male representation and the priority of male over female. As Ware says,
    Does this masculine language not intentionally link God's position and authority as God with the concept of masculinity over femininity?
They do not mince words about the priority or supremacy of the male.

3) ESV supporters also believe that all human relationships are that of authority and submission. The role of authority is assigned by gender and other innate characteristics of an individual and are not shared with the one who submits. This sets up all relationships as a place where one person has rule over another. Authority is not first assigned by ablity, morality, availability, proximation to the problem, but by gender. Authority belongs permanently to one person, and submission belongs permanently to the other person.

I am aware that many people who use the ESV have no association to these beliefs and many who hold to these beliefs use other Bibles. However, many of those who were involved in the ESV have widely published on the topics above.

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.

Grudem and ESV onlyism

On Feb. 20, 2006, Ben Witherington blogged about his concerns regarding the ESV. He said, that a member of the TNIV translation committee had told him,
    "The ESV we owe chiefly to one particular scholar who has spent much of his career opposing the idea of women being involved in minstry. I am told that this scholar did everything he could possibly do to scuttle the TNIV, in the main because he abhorred the idea of the use of inclusive language in the translation even where it was fully warranted and did better justice to who was being spoken of in particular cases. A good example would be when the Greek term 'anthropoi' ('human beings')is used to refer to a mixed group containing both women and men. To translate the term 'men' in such a case is in fact to misrepresent the meaning of the word in such a case since there were also women present who were not mere ciphers or appendages of the men who were there.
Witherington concluded his post, by saying,
    Why am I mentioning this now? Because I have been told that the Southern Baptist Convention is considering endorsing the ESV as the one true Baptists ought to use. I hope this will not happen, but it is a twilight zone kind of possibility.
While Witherington withdrew his post, I am reproducing these statements, first because I know them to be true, since I was involved in a translation seminar at Regent College in the fall 1997, where I was told exactly this same information, and because much of Witherington's post is cited in this post on the Bayly blog. (I saved Witherington's post at the time, so I could refer to it without error.)

After Witherington had posted this, Wayne Grudem responded on Justin Taylor's blog,
    Dear Ben,
    Regarding your blog about the ESV Bible on Feb. 20th, 2006, I suspect I am the “one particular scholar” to whom you refer in your second paragraph. ...
    But contrary to what you reported from your friend on the TNIV committee (which I think was his speculation), the ESV grew out of the appreciation of many scholars for the merits of the old RSV and a desire to see it updated, and not out of opposition to the TNIV Bible. The reason for my own involvement with the ESV was a long-standing desire to see an updated RSV, and had little or nothing to do with the TNIV controversy.
Tim Bayly then responded with a post of his own, citing from an article he had written in 1999,
    The second translation hoping to pick up some of the Bible share lost by the NIV is the English Standard Version (ESV), announced in February by Crossway Books. The version had its roots in discussions that took place before the May 1997 meeting called by James Dobson at Focus on the Family headquarters to resolve the inclusive NIV issue.

    The night prior to the meeting, critics of regendered language gathered in a Colorado Springs hotel room to discuss the next day's strategy. During the course of the evening it became clear their concerns with the NIV extended beyond gender issues. The group discussed the merits of the Revised Standard Version, first published in 1952 by the National Council of Churches and recently replaced by the New Revised Standard Version, a regendered update.

In 2002, 100 scholars signed a statement against the TNIV. Among those who signed were several men on the translation committee of the ESV.

It is a puzzle to many people why Wayne Grudem continues, through publishing books and talking on the radio, to criticize the TNIV, and at the same time denies that this has anything to do with the inception and promotion of the ESV as a more transparent and accurate Bible. Well, Dr. Packer has exactly the same position. He has published a paper on stopping the ordination of women, he signed the protest against the TNIV, and he is the editor of the ESV. It is hard to deny that this is something of a package.

ESVonlyism and Packer

Dr. Packer has also criticized the TNIV, both by signing the statement of concern against the TNIV, declaring it "not trustworthy" and by expressubg his views in this interview,

    Dr. James I. Packer of Regent College in Vancouver served as general editor and chair of the 12-member Translation Oversight Committee. He told BCCN the translation grew out of discontent with other modern translations – which, he asserted, tend to “deviate from what was said in several thousand places,” in the interests of lucidity or easy readability.

    In particular, there was discontent with translations such as the New Revised Standard Version (NRSV) and Today’s New International Version (TNIV) which make such deviations to achieve gender-neutral renderings.

    Packer said these translations may have presented “what was meant but not what was said. The reader should know what Paul or Isaiah said.”

    Packer said some other translations are particularly frustrating for expositors who, in explaining what the text means, have to pause and first explain that what was translated is not actually what the text originally said.

    In contrast, the ESV attempts to be what he termed a “transparent” translation – in that the reader can see through it to what was originally written. Another word Packer used repeatedly was “precision.” He said: “We think we have produced a version more precise than any of the alternatives.”

    The ESV is a word-for-word rather than a ‘thought-for-thought’ translation. The ESV website states that the latter translations are “of necessity more inclined to reflect the interpretive opinions of the translator and the influences of contemporary culture.”

But later in the interview we can read,

    Packer said the producers were very careful to not make extravagant claims or get into a competition with other translations. He said the ESV was not launched with the “trumpets and drums” of certain other translations.

    Rather, the ESV was released quietly and soberly and allowed to “find its own level.” ESV’s natural audience is “serious evangelicals who want a translation they can trust to be transparent to the original.”

When I interviewed Dr. Packer in 2006, he denied that the TNIV was untrustworthy, although he did not offer to withdraw his signature from the statement of concern. My interview with Dr. Packer is no longer posted on the internet, although pieces are represented in the archives of the BBB.

However, as I left the room, after interviewing Dr. Packer for an hour, he added,

    "The scholars of the TNIV are extremely learned men. They are my colleagues here, you know."

It is a very sad thing, and revealed to me that much of what esteemed theologians have to say, is not particularly worthy of our trust. I feel sorry for them all.

ESV onlyism and Sproul

There is renewed talk about the ESV, which began, I am surmising, in the wake of some favourable posts about this translation a few weeks ago. CD-host took up the topic, and then Aberration blog, and now Polycarp and Onward, Forward, Toward.

In a comment on Aberration blog, I wrote,
    This is from an article called “Evangelical Lap Dogs”, by R. C. Sproul, which appeared in the November 2002 issue of Tabletalk:

      Actually, the TNIV appears to be a move not toward greater accuracy but away from it. One example: In the Sermon on the Mount, Jesus says, ‘Blessed are the peacemakers, for they shall be called sons of God.’ (Matt. 5:9). The TNIV changes sons to children. But the Greek word huios in its plural form means ’sons,’ not ‘children. ‘My Latin Bible translates it ’sons’ (filii). My German Bible, my Dutch Bible, and my French Bible translate it ’sons.’ Likewise, every English Bible I own translates it ’sons.’ Indeed, from the first century until today, the whole world has understood what the Greek says.

    I am not sure if you know but the Tyndale, KJV, Luther and the Dutch Bible all say “children of God.” I think he is right about the Latin and French Bibles though. 2 out of 5 is not so bad, I guess.

That the KJV has always used "children of God" has particular significance for me, since this verse is represented in an enormous banner in the police headquarters of my city. That the KJV was gender neutral in this respect, is one feature which has made it possible to use Bible verses in public places. Not only that, but female police officers play an important role in combatting domestic violence.

It is disappointing to me that those who support the ESV and denigrate the TNIV, are basing their criticism on a false memory of the Tyndale, KJV and the Luther Bible.

Please click on the images below to read R.C. Sproul's comment in context.

Wisdom of Solomon 7:10-11

According to Lester Grabbe, Wisdom of Solomon, 2004,
    It is probable that the Wisdom of Solomon had several aims. One of the main ones is likely to have been encouragement of the Jewish community, expecially the young men, in the face of dangers from the larger Greco-Roman society, including the attractions of the mystery and other religious cults.

    Another would have been to teach members of the community the importance of seeking and gaining wisdom. The moral aim of the book is also clear. It cannot be ruled out that the author also wanted to reach a Greco-Roamna readership, but this would have been a secondary aim at best.
The Wisdom of Solomon is considered to have been written in Greek, anywhere from the second century BCE to the first century CE, and most likely in Alexandria, although this cannot be confirmed.

Here are some examples of how the language reflects original Hellenistic Greek rather than a translation of Hebrew, while still borrowing from Hebrew style. The following couplet is an example of a chiastic structure, AB, BA, with the added feature of a matching root occurring in A.
    προέκρινα αὐτὴν σκήπτρων καὶ θρόνων
    καὶ πλοῦτον οὐδὲν ἡγησάμην ἐν συγκρίσει αὐτῆς·
The same root - κριν - occurs at the beginning of the first line, in προέκρινα αὐτὴν, and at the end of the second line, in ἐν συγκρίσει αὐτῆς. This feature of repeating the root is also found in Romans 16:1-2, Συνίστημι δὲ ὑμῖν Φοίβην ... παραστῆτε αὐτῇ ... αὐτὴ προστάτις πολλῶν. So, even though the overall pattern is Hebraic, in its detail it depends on features of the Greek words.

Another stylistic device that is typical of Greek is the hyperbaton, separating two elements that belong together, usually in order to emphasize the first word. An example is in verse 1 -
καὶ γηγενοῦς ἀπόγονος πρωτοπλάστου· Another example in verse 10 below is ὅτι ἀκοίμητον τὸ ἐκ ταύτης φέγγος, where ἀκοίμητον "sleepless" and φέγγος "daylight" are separated.

Some phrases from Wisdom of Solomon are alluded to in the New Testament. Kevin keeps a webpage of allusions to the apocrypha and pseudepigrapha on his blog to help locate these. In Acts 14:15, this line, "we are humans of like nature with you" - καὶ ἡμεῖς ὁμοιοπαθεῖς ἐσμεν ὑμῖν ἄνθρωποι - uses vocabulary found in Wisdom of Solomon verses 1 and 3. Another allusion is found in Eph. 1:17, πνεῦμα σοφίας, spirit of wisdom.

Here are the next two verses,
    10 ὑπὲρ ὑγίειαν καὶ εὐμορφίαν ἠγάπησα αὐτὴν
    καὶ προειλόμην αὐτὴν ἀντὶ φωτὸς ἔχειν,
    ὅτι ἀκοίμητον τὸ ἐκ ταύτης φέγγος.

    I loved her more than health and beauty
    and chose to have her before light
    because her radiance is sleepless

    11 ἦλθε δέ μοι τὰ ἀγαθὰ ὁμοῦ πάντα μετ᾿ αὐτῆς
    καὶ ἀναρίθμητος πλοῦτος ἐν χερσὶν αὐτῆς.

    But all good things together came to me with her
    and uncounted wealth in her hands.

Friday, July 03, 2009

Grudem, Ptolemy and kephale

This post is a review of what Grudem wrote in his Open Letter to Egalitarians. Grudem wrote,
    But we have never been able to find any text in ancient Greek literature that gives support to your interpretation. Wherever one person is said to be the "head'' of another person (or persons), the person who is called the "head'' is always the one in authority (such as the general of an army, the Roman emperor, Christ, the heads of the tribes of Israel, David as head of the nations, etc.) Specifically, we cannot find any text where person A is called the "head'' of person or persons B, and is not in a position of authority over that person or persons.
I think it is important to make it clear that of these examples, none use the word kephale to say that any person was the "head" of anything. For example, the citation about the general says that the general is like the head of the body. There is no instance in ancient Greek where the general is called the "head of the army" as we might say in English.

Two of the examples here, David, and the "heads" of tribes, are both embedded in obscure translation Greek, and in fact, one says "heads of rods" and the other says "head of gentiles/nations."

There is only one case in all of Greek literature where kephale is used to say that a person was a leader, and this is in reference to Jephthah. He was called the head of the tribe.

In another case, in Recovering Biblical Manhood and Womanhood, Grudem cites Philo. Here is the Greek and the English, from Fitzmeyer, page 86,
    Philo speaks of Ptolemy II Philadelphus as one who was outstanding among the Ptolemies and expresses it thus,

      genoumenos kathaper en zōō to hēgemoneuon kephalē tropon tina tōn basileōn

      being, as the head is the leading part in a living body, in some sense the head of kings [of the Ptolemaic dynasty]. (De Vita Mosis 2.5.30)

Grudem perhaps is depending on the same interpretation as Fiztmeyer. Here are my concerns with this text.

First, in Philo, we do see the head - kephale - used as the ruler of the body. The question is whether a person who is referred to as a kephale, is a ruler, or just a very prominent person.

1) Philadelphus II, is, as his name suggests, NOT the head of the Ptolemaic dynasty at all - his father was. So, Ptolemy is referred to as kephale, but he is not in authority over his father.

2) Philadelphus is being described in this passage as more illustrious than the other kings for doing a good deed, for having the Hebrew scriptures translated into Greek. There is no reference in this passage to Philadelphus being the ruler over other kings.

3) Philadelphus is not actually called "head" - this has been inserted in translation. Its a comparison or analogy. There is no phrase here which can be translated as "head of kings" or "head of the nation."

4) The Greek phrase en zōō to hēgemoneuon is extremely obscure and has been translated elsewhere as "leader of the herd." [edited] It says, "just as the head is the leading place of the living creature, so [Philadelphus] of kings."

I hope this gives you some idea of how obscure and tenuous these citations are. Although the head is considered the leader of the body in Philo, there is no expression in Greek which uses the word "head" for a person who is a leader. There is no expression "head of state" or "head of the army." It is not until a century after the NT, that there occurs only once in all of Greek literature, the expression "head of the house." This appears to be a passage written in Rome and perhaps influenced by Latin, which uses caput frequently to denote a person who is a leader.

I don't think that the examples of kephale in Greek literature support Grudem's thesis. However, that does not mean that the author of Ephesians does not see the wife as having a different status than the husband. It is quite possible he does. This is the way it was then. Does that justify it?

In my opinion, we should not seek to put the wife on a different level from the husband, any more than we should aspire to return to slave labour. Perhaps the author of Ephesians does think of a wife as entirely dependent on her husband, as someone who must fear and reverence her husband. Each generation has to work out how to translate this into a relationship that is not based on "fear."

Autonomy and Self-Advocacy

TC asked in this post Why can't she end an abusive marriage? and Damian's post on the disabled offers an answer by analogy. Women are discouraged from developing Individualism, Independence, Autonomy and Self-Advocacy. Sometimes, women are taught that these things are sinful and will lead them to hell.

Here is a post which expresses an extreme (I hope) view of relations between men and women. Gerald writes,
    Thus masculinity as a concept equates to dominance and autonomy, while femininity equates to deference and dependence.
For Gerald, women are not to have independence and autonomy. They are also not worthy of receiving from men the deference that a man is to receive from women. This paradigm is not usually described so explicitly, but many Christian women do live in it just the same.

But Damian is saying that even the disabled need autonomy, independence and self-advocacy. I too have worked for many years with disabled children and have sensed their need to develop personal dignity and agency. They need to know that they can make a decision, and act, and carry out an intention. They need to see themselves as actors, as subject and not object.

Now that it is July, I have said good-bye to some students and will meet new ones soon. Here is a piece I wrote a while back about a girl with Down's Syndrome. She left us this spring for high school.

Back to Damian's post. He writes,
    That is, there is a human need for a degree of autonomy, individualism (in the sense of feeling an individual), independence and self-advocacy.

    Whilst I agree whole-heartedly, that the churches ministry should ‘offer the dignity of shared life’, the importance of community in Ministry to the Disabled should not overshadow the realisation that this ministry should facilitate autonomy, independence, a sense of feeling an individual, and the ability to self-advocate. This is because, as much as a given person with a disability might need help with activities of daily living such as showering, dressing, or food preparation, they gain as much from the facilitation of autonomous activities of daily living (for example through funding home modifications) as they do through ’shared life’. Dignity hinges both on the ability to be respected through the disability, and the ability to stand on one’s own abilities as much as possible.

Now listen to this paragraph rewritten to give women these attributes,

    That is, there is a human need for a degree of autonomy, individualism (in the sense of feeling an individual), independence and self-advocacy.

    Whilst I agree whole-heartedly, that the churches ministry should ‘offer the dignity of shared life’, the importance of community in Ministry to Women should not overshadow the realisation that this ministry should facilitate autonomy, independence, a sense of feeling an individual, and the ability to self-advocate.

    This is because, as much as women might need help with activities of daily living such as providing for the children, they gain as much from the facilitation of autonomous activities of daily living as they do through ’shared life’. Dignity hinges both on the ability to be respected through being a woman, and the ability to stand on one’s own abilities as much as possible.

    Ministry should provide women a taste of the power of God that works through them, as well as the love of God that comes through the church.
Women who are trained in submission, have difficulty with autonomy and self-advocacy. The overall notion that human relationships are composed of rule and submission undermines the dignity and autonomy of the disabled as well.

An egalitarian ministry

I feel that there is some doubt that a preacher can be godly, passionate, evangelical and egalitarian at the same time. Perhaps these two preachers from Vancouver will give you something to reflect on. Neither of them have sermons on youtube but they are still well known.

Bernice Gerard was the most well known religious personality in my province in the 20th century. I watched her on television for years. She is the only TV evangelist that I have watched for more than five minutes. But I can't share that experience with you. Here is a small excerpt from her obituary. She was a social conservative who brought deep respect and recognition to Christianity.

    Gerard became a teacher in the public school system, ending up in the interior mining town of Rossland. There, she met two Pentecostal evangelist sisters, Velma (later Chapman) and Jean McCall. They took the young woman under their wings. Velma was the pianist; Jean, the preacher; and Bernice played a big fiddle, nicknamed ‘Junior.’

    Eventually, when Jean McCall married and moved to the United States, Gerard took over the preaching duties. Chapman was the behind-the-scenes organizer.

    They toured in both eastern and western Canada, using a big white tent dubbed the Cloud Cathedral. In the process, Gerard was ordained to the Pentecostal ministry.

    Many of the visits of the Gerard-Chapman Team to Canadian and American cities resulted in the planting – directly or indirectly – of some 200 new churches. Read the rest here.

Next, I want to mention Gordon Fee. While Gerard was well known to non-Christians in this province, Fee is better known in the international evangelical community. I cannot find a youtube sermon of his either, although this is a brief segment on books.

Here is an excerpt from the notes on one of his sermons. Fee really does speak with passion and a burning heart.
    1. I come to the task of teaching in a place like this as a man
    with a single passion:

    > to see the Word of God ministered in our world
    and in the church with power

    > to see lives changed,
    homes healed,
    the church built up,
    and encouraged to do its proper task in the world

    > and to see that done prophetically:
    “Thus saith the Lord”

    2. How can this happen?
    a. Have the touch of God on your life –

    > I don’t care what you call it, or how you get it,
    — but have it
    You must know the fullness of the Spirit, whatever else
    – and a life of prayer
    – a life of obedience

    > Your teachers cannot do this for you
    (thus must constantly be doing it for themselves,
    and thus modeling something for you)

    > The great danger here:
    – to become “professional” in the bad sense

    to analyze texts
    to talk to others about God

    – but no longer have a burning heart,
    never (no longer) let them speak to you,
    call you to repentance, praise, worship
    to bow the knee before the living God

    > And there is only one way to cure that when it happens

    — to get apart for awhile, alone with God,
    and let him overwhelm you again
    with his love and mercy

    — and then to do the next thing —
    reprioritize your life,
Read the entire sermon here. It is true that there are other famous evangelicals who live here, but these two are the best I know.

I think there are a wealth of role models, if a pastor is seeking to have an egalitarian ministry.