Tuesday, September 07, 2010

Faithful in little ...

‘Whoever is faithful in a very little is faithful also in much; and whoever is dishonest in a very little is dishonest also in much.' Luke 16:10.
This is in response to T.C.'s post on Dan Wallace's recommendation on a Bible version. I might have resisted commenting on his post except that I believe that the NET Bible is a translation which should never be recommended to a woman. I don't think women need to be exposed to this level of misogyny. Some of the notes misrepresent the original so seriously that I hope that my own daughter never discovers that this Bible version exists.

But I won't go into that tonight. I want to look at the simple inaccuracy of one note. Here is one of the notes for Romans 16:7.
6:7 Greet Andronicus and Junia,6 my compatriots7 and my fellow prisoners. They are well known8 to the apostles,9 and they were in Christ before me.
My remarks are in blue.

8tn Or “prominent, outstanding, famous.” The term ἐπίσημος (epishmo") is used either in an implied comparative sense (“prominent, outstanding”) or in an elative sense (“famous, well known”).

This is open for debate. It is not a "fact" that there are two contrasting uses of this word.

The key to determining the meaning of the term in any given passage is both the general context and the specific collocation of this word with its adjuncts. When a comparative notion is seen, that to which ἐπίσημος is compared is frequently, if not usually, put in the genitive case (cf., e.g., 3 Macc 6:1 [Ελεαζαρος δέ τις ἀνὴρ ἐπίσημος τῶν ἀπὸ τής χώρας ἱερέων “Eleazar, a man prominent among the priests of the country”]; cf. also Pss. Sol. 17:30).

The commentator says "frequently, if not usually." We can conclude from this that is would be at least equally likely that the dative would be used for a comparative notion. In fact, there are times when the genitive and the dative are used synonymously.

ὁ δὲ μείζων ὑμῶν Matt. 23:11 (genitive)
the greatest among you

ὁ μείζων ἐν ὑμῖν Luke 22:26 (en plus dative)
the greatest among you

When, however, an elative notion is found, ἐν (en) plus a personal plural dative is not uncommon (cf. Pss. Sol. 2:6).

Pss. Sol. 2:6 has not been shown to contain an "elative" use of the word ἐπίσημος.

Although ἐν plus a personal dative does not indicate agency, in collocation with words of perception, (ἐν plus) dative personal nouns are often used to show the recipients.

ἐπίσημος is not a word of perception.

In this instance, the idea would then be “well known to the apostles.”

There is no support for this.

See M. H. Burer and D. B. Wallace, “Was Junia Really an Apostle? A Re-examination of Rom 16.7,” NTS 47 (2001): 76-91, who argue for the elative notion here.

Mike Burer and Dan Wallace are fully aware that their argument is not supported by the facts. I look forward to seeing if the note for this word is altered when the NET Bible undergoes a revision. In the meantime, the authors have not responded to those who have countered their article, Bauckam, Epp and Belleville.

I feel strongly that even if a commentator knowingly misrepresents only a few verses of the Bible, he or she should not be trusted on the rest of the Bible.


Don said...

I can use the NET knowing that they use masculinist arguments. But if one did not know this, watch out.

Bob MacDonald said...

I don't use this Bible but when I looked recently I was glad to see a note on Psalm 139:18 - a dreadful unsubstantiated note unworthy of scholarship, but still a note that explained recent changes to this text that are awful. See my argument here - There may be a good argument in favour of emendation but they didn't make it.

Suzanne McCarthy said...


First, your translation of Psalm 139 is very beautiful. It is an excellent post.

Second, you have expressed exactly my reaction. What on earth does someone living today have to say about what "makes sense" and what does not make sense in the Bible. We should be open to what it is telling us about the people of that culture, rather than someone deciding that now, after all this time the "true" meaning is finally revealed, in Texas of all places.

Here is the same expression in note 48 for Gen. 3:16,

"However, this interpretation makes little sense in Gen 3:16."

The note then references Susan Foh's article which is utter nonsense, as she carefully explains how she uses observation of women she knows to decide what does and does not make sense in Genesis 3:16.

And again in 1 Tim. 2:15, the commentator writes,

"This view also is unlikely, both because it has little to do with the context and because it is not true to life (especially life in the ancient world with its high infant mortality rate)."

Of course, in those days, as in any day, women might just wish to be delivered from dying in childbirth. It is possible if unlikely in the commentator's terms.

The translation contains many such notes, and I am always surprised by those who are seduced by the technological features of this version.

andrewbourne said...

I agree my check for a decent Bible is Romans 3:25. If the translation is `expiation` it`s OK. If the translation is mercy-seat I buy. As you say the point of a Bible translation is to convey the truth of the Koine Greek for those who do not read into the corresponding language appropriate. I groan often inwardly often at Mass as they use the Jerusalem Bible for the Word of God a translation of a translation. My preferred New Testament is actually the NAB I can recommend it, though usually I stick to my Inter-linear which I know is cheating. Hello from this side of the pond

Anonymous said...

Andrew, I have taken to reading the inter-linear to check everything, so I can relate!


Iris said...

Sue, just a note here to let you know I so appreciate you and the scholarship you bring to discussions. I have been following you on TC's New Leaven blog, and have learned.
I do not use, nor do I recommend the ESV nor the Net Bible, due to their mistranslation of Romans 16:7. I am a student of the Greek (probably the rest of my life) and I cannot, in all good conscience, use a translation, nor recommend one whose translators knowingly translated into the text what they wanted it to say instead of what the Greek actually says. If they do it once, they will have no problem doing it again.