Tuesday, July 26, 2011

The Net Bible notes - full of unpleasant little surprises

I feel that somehow the clickability of the NET Bible makes it very attractive to some people. I have to admit that it is a lot of fun.

But I don't like it. I find that there is significant bias, and the notes do not give equal space to egalitarian views, but are tilted strongly in the direction of complementarianism. Here are some examples.

The note on Romans 16:7 on Junia contains a significant amount of completely inaccurate material. I just don't understand how it remains up there. I refuse to discuss it today.

In Eph. 4:8, we read "he gave gifts to men." I actually expected the note to mention that the word translated "men" is, in fact, in the Greek, the gender inclusive word for "people." But no, that information is not there.

In Gen. 3:16, the woman will "desire to control" her husband and he will "dominate" her. Not only is "desire to control" a dubious translation, but the note for "dominate" (mashal) leads the reader to believe that it has a negative and sinful connotation and "is part of the baser human nature." Not so! Here is an example of a purely innocent use of the word, "And Abraham said unto his eldest servant of his house, that ruled (mashal) over all that he had," Gen. 24:2. The fact that a man rules his wife, in any way at all, is wrong, and occurs here as part of the consequences of the fall.

I refuse to continue with this. How can I communicate that this is insulting and degrading to women? The NET Bible notes are full of unpleasant little surprises. I don't like reading them.


15 comments:

Jay said...

Hmm, so maybe the NET Bible translators should have translated Song of Solomon 7:10 as "I am my beloved’s,and he desires to dominate me!" :-/ NOT

Don said...

Translators have a worldview and it can be expected that this worldview will be expressed in their actions. So it is no surprise to me that comps translate verses in comp ways. But I wish more people knew this.

P.S. As an egal, I admit to translating verses in an egal way.

CD-Host said...

Well you asked for the comment here

Romans 16:7 note indicates there is a debate about the sex of Junia

Eph 4:8 They indicate they are harmonizing with Ps 68:18. 68:18 uses adam which can also be people so that doesn't help but they are indicating there is an issue.

Gen 3:16 I don't think they could be clearer they are translating this in a complementarian way:

It does not depict the NT ideal, where the husband sacrificially loves his wife, as Christ loved the church, and where the wife recognizes the husband’s loving leadership in the family and voluntarily submits to it.

I don't see they being sneaky. I agree they are wrong but I don't see the sneakiness.

believer333 said...

I find it very difficult to find one Bible that I can carry around that has scholarly notes that are mostly accurate.

CD-Host said...

believer333

If you are looking for a one book solution and don't want to go electronic and want scholarly notes. You might want to consider the NISB. The NRSV is a very good translation and the study notes are excellent.

Suzanne said...

Hi CD,

Welcome and thanks for commenting here.

Romans 16:7 note indicates there is a debate about the sex of Junia.

That is a side issue which favours complementarians. The note presents innacurate information to persuade the reader that Junia is not one of the apostles. There is no indication in the note that this information is questionable in any way. In fact, it is wrong information. The reader is not given the necessary information to understand that in all liklihood, Junia was among the apostles.

In Eph. 4, there is no indication that this does not refer to men, males. Sorry but that information is simply not there. You have referred back to Ps. 68 and have looked up the Hebrew for yourself, but this note does not mention adam to my knowledge.

In Gen. 3, they present as fact, that mashal refers to the baser human level. There is no indication that mashal is used for righteous rulership, or rulership in a neutral sense.

I do not see that the notes present both sides. The notes do not let the reader decide between two options.

Perhaps whoever wrote the notes was honestly convicted on the subordination of women, and really believes that these verses support it. But in fact, the notes do not provide accurate lexical and grammatical information.

CD-Host said...

I do not see that the notes present both sides. The notes do not let the reader decide between two options.

I'm not arguing they do. On a scale from worst to best:

a) Present the traditional position with no note
b) Present the traditional position with a short note
c) Present the accurate position position with no or a short note
d) Present the traditional position with a long explanatory note sufficient to find the other side easily.
e) Present a detailed note indicating the history of the debate and don't really present either position or go with accurate.

The ESV is a (a) or sometimes a (b). The NET is fairly regularly at least a (d) and sometimes an (e).

Do I wish the notes were more balanced absolutely. But the NET does claim to be an evangelical translation, that is it specifically warns the reader its going to mistranslate the bible in line with Christian teaching.

Suzanne said...

CD,

I am honestly trying to understand your position. But d) does not apply to the passages about women.

d) Present the traditional position with a long explanatory note sufficient to find the other side easily.

First, in Gen. 3:16 and Romans 16:7, they do not present the traditional position. They present a novel complementarian position.

And the notes do give any explanation that leads to the oposite, and in this case traditional position, regarding either mashal, or episemos. The notes present certain details as if they were facts, when they simply are not facts.

Where does the note say that there are two interpretations of mashal? Where does the note say that Pss of Solomon 2:6 contains no parallel with Romans 16:7. The notes pretend to be offering factual evidence. Perhaps the author was not being sneaky and is simply limited in his knowledge of languages. I really don't know.

On non-gender issues the NET Bible may be outstanding. And that makes it all the worse. That just draws people in and makes them trust the notes.

I feel completely alienated from evangelical Christianity. I don't see how an educated women can accept this kind of treatment of women in the Bible.

This really hurts. The notes tell me that the author believes that subordinating women is more important to him than telling the truth. What kind of Christianity is that? It really hurts. I was subordinated and it almost killed me, and I feel that this is the best that these people want for women.

CD-Host said...

This really hurts. The notes tell me that the author believes that subordinating women is more important to him than telling the truth. What kind of Christianity is that?

The kind of Christianity that has existed for most of its history in most times and in most places, The purpose of religion is class suppression. In general religions that receive state sanction and support are those that support the social order. Religion in the popular sense exists so as to justify political exploitation. "All modern religions and churches, all and of every kind of religious organizations are the organs of bourgeois reaction, used for the protection of the exploitation and the stupefaction of the working class." (Vladimir Lenin)

I'm sorry it hurts. But at least you know the truth. One of the primary reasons Evangelical Christianity exists in America is to provide a vehicle to resist rethinking gender in a feminist framework.

I feel completely alienated from evangelical Christianity. I don't see how an educated women can accept this kind of treatment of women in the Bible.

Its worse than that. The vast majority of regular church goers are women. The people who by and large pick churches for their family are women. The people who demand attendance and obedience are women. Women aren't accepting complementarianism they are facilitating and encouraging it.

Start asking yourself the real question. Why are large numbers of American woman seeking out other men to encouraging their husbands to believe in male headship?

On non-gender issues the NET Bible may be outstanding. And that makes it all the worse. That just draws people in and makes them trust the notes.

I suspect that's part of the reason you and I see the NET so differently. I have many many issues with evangelical translations and gender is just one of them. On my Objective measure of translation accuracy I am using Romans 16:7 so the NET will get nailed for sexism. But we weigh this issue differently. The Republican party (the white evangelical party essentially) is problematic on so many fronts.

In terms of the notes. Generally I look up verses in the NET and I scan the notes for "issues". The notes alert me to an issue. Next I determine is the issue relevant to what I what I want the verse for. Generally I don't care, I'm talking about another topic. If I do care, the thing I care most about is that they gave me enough to start googling and figure out where people are on this issue.

Just to prove to you I'm not being a hypocrite. Here is a post where I complement the NET even though I think they are 100% on the wrong side of the issue, Venus and translation

I've come to expect books by evangelicals to be full of lies and misrepresentation. This isn't specific to gender, pick anything and you run into unmitigated BS. For example just yesterday I was discussing the two words for water in Gen 1:2 vs 1:6. The NET is denying the pagan words but at least is honest that there is something going on there.

When I want scholars to give me their honest opinion on religious topics, I go to liberal Christians and atheists. What evangelicals are good for is quantity and ease of access, not accuracy of their arguments.

Deliberate mistranslation of prophecy so as not to have the prophets be dead wrong was my original hobby horse.

Suzanne said...

CD,

I don't think you are being hypocritical. I am not saying that. However, you write about Venus,

"I have no trouble with a bible saying in a note, "This is understood by the church as being a spiritual vision of being with God". I have a huge problem with a bible saying "The Greek means a place where God lives""

If you read the NET Bible note on mashal, it does not say, "this is understood by the church as being control that is part of the baser nature of man."

It says,

"The Hebrew verb מָשַׁל (mashal) means “to rule over,” but in a way that emphasizes powerful control, domination, or mastery. This also is part of the baser human nature. The translation assumes the imperfect verb form has an objective/indicative sense here. Another option is to understand it as having a modal, desiderative nuance, “but he will want to dominate you.” In this case, the Lord simply announces the struggle without indicating who will emerge victorious."

It says that mashal means domination. It does not offer this as an interpretation.

Suzanne McCarthy said...

The NET notes give the impression that there is "loving leadership and wifely submission" which is a good thing, and "domination" which is a bad thing. This verse says no such thing.

CD-Host said...

Suzanne --

The NET notes give the impression that there is "loving leadership and wifely submission" which is a good thing, and "domination" which is a bad thing. This verse says no such thing.

I agree, and further I'd argue the NET indicates that. The sense note is clearly theological and pointing to other verses:
This passage is a judgment oracle. It announces that conflict between man and woman will become the norm in human society. It does not depict the NT ideal, where the husband sacrificially loves his wife, as Christ loved the church, and where the wife recognizes the husband’s loving leadership in the family and voluntarily submits to it. Sin produces a conflict or power struggle between the man and the woman, but in Christ man and woman call a truce and live harmoniously (Eph 5:18-32).

Now getting to the main point. I'm not sure if I understand how the treatment of mashal in this verse you are objecting to is different than the treatment of 3rd heaven I approved of. Obviously I like the NISB's treatment best, that's the one I defended and expanded on in the article. But the NET was almost alone in present the argument.

If I grab my Reformation Study Bible (ESV with openly Calvinistic notes) there is no hint of an alternate translation. They just move on to tie to complementarian philosophy explicitly. While with the NET I see there is an argument at least and why they translated the way they did.

NLTSB has a long note tying the reasoning together: Either you will desire to control he will rule or because you desire to control he will rule.

The Clear Word actually puts this right in the translation: "And because you desired to control your husband, you will be subject to him"

And when I investigate (non evangelical bibles note):
NEB/REB he shall be your master
NJPS he shall rule over you -- study bible note: explication of subjugation
NJB: he will dominate you

The NET offers two meanings:
a) He will dominate (in line with the above)
b) He will attempt to dominate which is a unique read to the NET / Wallace.

The (b) note is tied to a theological harmonization explicitly

In general when the NET has a long note they are arguing against an imaginary opponent. You infer the opponent's position as the opposite of the one they are saying.

I'm treating this like reading any kind of propaganda. You are treating it like academic literature where the standards are higher. I'm saying it's well within the acceptable norms for propaganda, unlike the ESV; you are saying its well outside the norms for academic literature.

I'm not saying it's good. I'll agree on women's issues the NIV2011 is better. But I'm having a hard time seeing where the NET is particular bad here. Wallace indicates that he thinks wifely submission is command in Eph 5:18-23 and indicates the reader should read the passage in terms of that cross-ref.

Suzanne said...

In general when the NET has a long note they are arguing against an imaginary opponent. You infer the opponent's position as the opposite of the one they are saying.

Okay, now I understand what you are saying.

I'm treating this like reading any kind of propaganda. You are treating it like academic literature where the standards are higher. I'm saying it's well within the acceptable norms for propaganda, unlike the ESV; you are saying its well outside the norms for academic literature.

Very well put. Thank you for explaining this so well.

Gem said...

The NET note at least mentions sexual desire and the cross reference in Solomon (albeit dismissively). Their addition of "control" to a woman's desire makes for a weird kinky dominatrix reading IMO!

Hermenuetics must have changed since I attended seminary in the late 80's. I learned that context is king. Increased childbirth and pregnancy is mentioned twice in the immediate context of Gen 3:16, which IMO is undeniable evidence that increased sexual desire of the woman is at least a component of the Gen 3:16 desire. (This should not be seen as a negative. It is not a "curse" any more than increased conception is a "curse". It's a "consolation" and a blessing in the face of broken intimacy with God)

CD's comments regarding Wallace's interpretation confirm what I see in Genesis- a parallel with Ephesians 5. Wallace claims Eph 5 COMMANDS wife submission, which is not accurate. In Ephesians 5, hupotasso is not in the imperative but passive indicative (5:24) and passive participle (5:21).

And Suzanne, your observation that husband rule need not be understood as having a negative "sinful" connotation fits the way I see this. I think that husbands- all husbands of any religion, culture, throughout history ever since Gen 3:16 - have power to nurture and cherish, or to poison and wilt, their wives who are all- of any religion, culture, and time- subject to their husbands "IN EVERYTHING" (per Paul) in an unconscious, non-volitional manner.

That husbands have this building up or tearing down power over the spirits of their wives is neutral (and unconscious on the part of most husbands). So, how should a man handle this? Paul is clear how in Eph 5- first reminding the congregation that wives are subject to their husbands in EVERYTHING, and then repeatedly adjuring agape (using "command" grammar).

Gem said...

QUOTE NET note on Gen 3:16: Many interpreters conclude that it refers to sexual desire here, because the subject of the passage is the relationship between a wife and her husband, and because the word is used in a romantic sense in Song 7:11 HT (7:10 ET). However, this interpretation makes little sense in Gen 3:16. First, it does not fit well with the assertion “he will dominate you.” Second, it implies that sexual desire was not part of the original creation, even though the man and the woman were told to multiply.

Too bad they don't check with any women about what "makes sense"! The desire/longing of women for their husbands is the reason we lay down our Gen 1:26-28 inheritance and put on burkas!

Of course sexual desire was part of the original creation! (I imagine it was seasonal, during fertile periods and they did not need that for intense satisfaction and pleasure. They had heavenly intimacy with God and each other)

Contra the straw man assumption of the note, her sexual desire did not BEGIN at Gen 3:16. But when death entered that fateful day, the hormones of both changed and sexual desire, conception, and childbirth INCREASED.