Wednesday, April 05, 2006

Did Scribes Edit Women Out of the Bible?

This excerpt from Bart Ehrman's recent book has been published as an article. I haven't read the book but it has been reviewed here.

Did Scribes Edit Women Out of the Bible? Early scribes altered certain New Testament texts to downplay women's role in the church. From Misquoting Jesus. By Bart D. Ehrman
    We might consider briefly several other textual changes of a similar sort. One occurs in a passage I have already mentioned, Romans 16, in which Paul speaks of a woman, Junia, and a man who was presumably her husband, Andronicus, both of whom he calls "foremost among the apostles" (v. 7).
      This is a significant verse, because it is the only place in the New Testament in which a woman is referred to as an apostle. Interpreters have been so impressed by the passage that a large number of them have insisted that it cannot mean what it says, and so have translated the verse as referring not to a woman named Junia but to a man named Junias, who along with his companion Andronicus is praised as an apostle.

      The problem with this translation is that whereas Junia was a common name for a woman, there is no evidence in the ancient world for "Junias" as a man's name. Paul is referring to a woman named Junia, even though in some modern English Bibles (you may want to check your own!) translators continue to refer to this female apostle as if she were a man named Junias. Read in context on page 2

    Now look at Romans 16:7 in the KJV and the ESV. Strange to say the least. In the ESV Junia is still a woman, but not an apostle.

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

      Greet Andronicus and Junia, my kinsmen and my fellow prisoners. They are well known to the apostles, and they were in Christ before me. ESV
    There are only a few relatively minor reasons why I wouldn't want to use the ESV as a translation. This is one. 2 Tim. 2:2 is another. There the word in Greek is 'anthropos' in the plural, but the ESV insists it means 'men', because the context is about teaching, something women are not supposed to do. Then there are all those 'sons of God' instead of the 'children of God'. Brothers also seems odd to me, as a generic term. I did grow up Brethren, but I never once thought of myself as a 'brother'.

    The TNIV on the other hand makes the mistake of saying "People of Athens" instead of "Men of Athens" in Acts 17:22. I am not quite sure what the theological significance of this is but it could be argued that in Greek it says men, although this word is sometimes used generically. However, it doesn't strictly speaking say 'people.' But just to be clear about this, the problem with the TNIV, according to Dr. Packer, is not that it is inaccurate, but rather that it is a concession to modern cultural demands.

    Update: I have found a responding article to Bart Ehrman here. However, this does not explain the ESV translation. When I find an article that explains that I will add it here.


    Suzanne McCarthy said...

    I shall comment on my own blog here and put in some links for Junia on both sides.

    Kevin Knox said...

    Thanks for the links.

    The last one was overwhelming, and the name Daniel Wallace means nothing to me. He seems to grasp at every straw, but I don't have any framework to guess whether his arguments are desparate or compelling. My instinct is that his is a baffle them with brilliance approach, but I will have to leave it lie.