Monday, June 29, 2009

Wisdom of Solomon 7:3-4

In the first couple of verses, there were three words which are near synonyms, θνητὸς ἄνθρωπος and γηγενης, meaning "mortal," "human" and "earthborn." They allude to Adam as one who was made from the ground, adam from adamah. This theme continues in the next few verses as the author emphasizes his common humanity.
    3 καὶ ἐγώ δὲ γενόμενος ἔσπασα τὸν κοινὸν ἀέρα
    καὶ ἐπὶ τὴν ὁμοιοπαθῆ κατέπεσον γῆν,
    πρώτην φωνὴν τὴν ὁμοίαν πᾶσιν ἴσα κλαίων·

    And when I was born, I breathed in the common air
    and on the like-natured earth I fell
    my first sound, like everyone else, crying

    4 ἐν σπαργάνοις ἀνετράφην καὶ ἐν φροντίσιν·
    5 οὐδεὶς γὰρ βασιλεὺς ἑτέραν ἔσχε γενέσεως ἀρχήν,
    6 μία δὲ πάντων εἴσοδος εἰς τὸν βίον, ἔξοδός τε ἴση.

    In swaddling clothes I was nursed, and with care,
    for no king has a different origin of birth
    all have one entrance into life and the same exit
These are the same swaddling clothes of Luke 2:7. Whether a king or Christ laid in a manger, the clothes a baby wears are more or less the same - diapers, perhaps. There is the repeated use of the word ἴσος , and although technically it means "equal" that would be too loaded a word for this passage. The author emphasizes that he is just "like" everyone else in his birth. ὁμοιος also means "like" or the "same."

I have tried to keep the word order whenever possible so you can read along with me if you like.

what was going on in Ephesus, and other good stuff

TC, Peter and a few of us have wound up a conversation on 1 Tim. 2 with a comment about what was going on in Ephesus. I am happy to introduce you to Tapestry: A Christian Woman's Collective, hosted by, where I found this post on 1 Tim. 2:15.

It contrasts nicely with the tone of the NET Bible note on 1 Tim. 2:15, which is one of the more misogynist passages in Christian literature that I have read. (I am not impressed with how these notes make the woman's role to be one of submission to male leadership, through which a woman works out redemption from the devastating effects of the role reversal in the garden. Childbearing is just one part of the total submission to the male thing.) Anyway, Tapestry is a breath of fresh air.

There have also been a few discussions about Mark Driscoll here and there. I think this article posted to the Egalitarian Christian Alliance forum may help to explain why he is so controversial.

James McGrath posted today on The Insufficiency of Scripture. I can offer a hearty amen to that notion. Here is a post explaining the events in the life of one of the members of the Saddleback church. This statement by the pastor is telling,
    “There’s something in me that wishes there was a Bible verse that says if they abuse you in this and such kind of way then you can leave them,” said Holladay, but sadly, he concluded, there wasn’t. "It’s not like you can escape the pain,” he said, since the “short-term solution” of divorce leaves the “long-term pain” of a failed marriage. Holladay further qualified that domestic abuse meant regular beatings, not simply a spouse who “grabbed you once.”
Yes, I think, in this case, Holladay needs a healthy if discreet belief in the insufficiency of scripture.

Sunday, June 28, 2009

Wisdom of Solomon 7:1-2

ΕΙΜΙ μὲν κἀγὼ θνητὸς ἄνθρωπος ἴσος ἅπασι
καὶ γηγενοῦς ἀπόγονος πρωτοπλάστου·
καὶ ἐν κοιλίᾳ μητρὸς ἐγλύφην σὰρξ

I also am a mortal human being like everyone else
and a descendant of the first formed earthborn,
and in a mother's belly carved into flesh

2 δεκαμηνιαίῳ χρόνῳ
παγεὶς ἐν αἵματι
ἐκ σπέρματος ἀνδρὸς
καὶ ἡδονῆς ὕπνῳ συνελθούσης.

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 thought I would work through a bit of chapter 7 and 8 of the Wisdom of Solomon. I find it especially intriguing since it is one of the texts which both the gospel of John and the Sefer Yetsira appear to make allusions to.

In the first part of this chapter, King Solomon (or the author) is taking pains to describe how he is like all other mortals in the circumstances of his birth. While I have played up the language a little, I think it is worth translating the Greek ἐγλύφην accurately as "carved" since the Hebrew word for "carved" figures prominently in the Sefer Yetsira, The Book of Formation.

There is no point in taking the anatomical terms too literally. The baby is formed in the belly or abdomen of the mother, and from the seed of the father. However, the word σπέρμα can just as easily mean "offspring." This word features as the seed of Eve in Gen. 3:15.

King James
Liddel Scott Lexicon

Saturday, June 27, 2009

the end of exegesis

Update: Here is a distinct problem. It turns out that wikipedia agrees with Grudem's argument and not Wallace's. (So now I am wearing egg all over my face, because I just used a wikipedia link for another matter recently.) Overall, the wikipedia article on the gender of the holy spirit is lacking some clarity.


In writing my previous post on the spirit, I was surprised to find out that the spirit has only been treated as masculine in Bible translation since the late 19th century. Romans 8:26 is an example of this.
    but the Spirit itself maketh intercession for us with groanings which cannot be uttered. KJV

    but the Spirit himself intercedes for us with groans that words cannot express. NIV
But what about John 14 and 16, where the Greek does use a masculine pronoun? Here is the explanation in the Systematic Theology, page 232, which I will divide into two arguments for the holy spirit being a masculine person,
    1) there are places where the masculine pronoun "he" (Gk. ekeinos) is applied to the Holy Spirit (John 14:26, 15:26, 16:13-14), which one would not expect from Greek grammar, for the word "spirit" (Gk. pneuma) is neuter, not masculine, and would ordinarily be referred to with the neuter pronoun ekeino.

    2) Moreover, the name counselor or comforter (Gk. parakletos) is a term commonly used to speak of a person who helps or gives comfort or counsel to another person or persons, but is used of the Holy Spirit in John's gospel. (14"16, 15:26, 16:7).
Dan Wallace deals summarily with Dr. Grudem's first point. (While I don't agree with Dr. Wallace when he is running against scholarly consensus, as he does with Junia, I believe that what he writes on the masculine pronoun for the holy spirit represents current scholarly consensus.)

In Greek Grammar Beyond the Basics, page 332,
    The antecedent of ἐκεῖνος, in each case, is παράκλητος, not πνεῦμα. John 14:26 reads, δὲ παράκλητος, τὸ πνεῦμα τὸ ἅγιον πέμψει πατὴρ ἐν τῷ ὀνόματί μου, ἐκεῖνος ὑμᾶς διδάξει πάντα ("the Comforter, the Holy Spirit whom the Father sends in my name, that one will teach you all things"). πνεῦμα not only is appositional to παράκλητος, but the relative pronoun that follows it is neuter! This hardly assists the grammatical argument for the Spirit's personality. ... Indeed, it is difficult to find any text in which πνεῦμα is grammatically referred to with the masculine gender.
While Wallace roundly dismisses any argument that the grammatical masculine refers to anything but pure grammatical gender, and has no significance for ontological gender, Grudem's second argument remains, that the parakletos could cause the spirit to be interpreted as a masculine person.

In order to test the validity of this argument, we can compare this passage with the Wisdom of Solomon. In chapter 7 Wisdom is identified closely with the spirit of God. She is also metaphorized as a bride.

In Wisdom 8:12, we read,
    I determined then to take her to live with me,
    knowing that she would be a good counselor for me,
    and a comfort in cares and griefs.
In this passage, wisdom, the bride, is also given the title of counselor - in Greek, σύμβουλος. While this word means a person who acts as a counselor, and has masculine grammatical gender, it does not have the effect of causing us to believe that wisdom is a male person. Wisdom is not usually interpreted as either a person, or male.

By the same token, when the spirit is called the comforter, παράκλητος, in John 14, this does not provide proof that the spirit is either male or a person. Exegesis does not deliver the goods, when it comes to systematic theology, in my opinion.

I am not concerned with influencing people's beliefs about the trinity as I write this. However, I do want to provide some example of how theology derived from grammatical arguments can be very tenuous. If, in fact, the text does not prove that the spirit is a male person in unequivocal terms, then this ought to remain a doctrine on which a variety of beliefs can be tolerated.

Above all, translations of the Bible should not represent the spirit as a male person without a note indicating that this is an interpretive translation of the Greek.

Read Joel's excellent response here.

Biblical battery update

Every once in a while I read the blogs on spousal abuse and fundamentalism. The Bible can certainly be used by either spouse to try and control the other. Sometimes I read about a husband who has left his fundamentalist belief and has been turfed out of the house. I suppose it is just an excuse. In any case, I am not oblivious to the fact that men can get the short end of the marriage stick just as easily as women.

But that is not excuse for a significant part of Christendom to continue to teach priority of the male, and masculinity over femininity, etc. The label is telling enough - "functional subordination." It means being fully aware that women are equal to men, and still making them live as subordinates. I don't know how that is a gentler reality than looking after them for their own good, because, after all, women aren't smart enough to look after themselves.

Here are some updates on articles and posts that have come out on the topic in the last 6 months.

(I deleted one link that was not in very good taste - sorry about that.)

The Purpose Driven Wife

Gracious Submission: Southern Baptist Fundamentalists and Women

A Theoretical Model of Spouse Abuse by Christian Fundamentalists

An open letter to those who have experienced abuse at the hands of religion

Southern Baptists at convention urge women to be submissive to their husbands.

excellent example of hermeneutics!

HT Aaron, this is a great article on hermeneutics. I loved this section,

    11. An OT scholar points out that there are a number of stylistic differences between the first and second half of the passage “STOP”. For example, “ST” contains no enclosed areas and 5 line endings, whereas “OP” contains two enclosed areas and only one line termination. He concludes that the author for the second part is different from the author for the first part and probably lived hundreds of years later. Later scholars determine that the second half is itself actually written by two separate authors because of similar stylistic differences between the “O” and the “P”.

    12. Another prominent OT scholar notes in his commentary that the stop sign would fit better into the context three streets back. (Unfortunately, he neglected to explain why in his commentary.) Clearly it was moved to its present location by a later redactor. He thus exegetes the intersection as though the stop sign were not there.

    13. Because of the difficulties in interpretation, another OT scholar emends the text, changing “T” to “H”. “SHOP” is much easier to understand in context than “STOP” because of the multiplicity of stores in the area. The textual corruption probably occurred because “SHOP” is so similar to “STOP” on the sign several streets back that it is a natural mistake for a scribe to make. Thus the sign should be interpreted to announce the existence of a shopping area.

For John Starke: Denny Burk vs Scot McKnight

Some time ago in my dialogue with John Starke, I mentioned that I was not the only one who had the distinct impression that Augustine did not teach the eternal subordination of Christ. In the comment section to this post, is a conversation between Denny Burk and Scot McKnight, debating that very thing.

This is the same question which I asked John Starke a while back and he says that he might be working on it this summer. John had earlier opened the dialogue with me by making this post, in which he challenges my understanding of Augustine's Latin text.

I am looking forward to John's next post on this topic. In the meantime, I am happy to have found this conversation which I promised to alert him to some time ago.

wisdom and word: some reading recommendations

For someone who wants to read a little Greek and learn something new at the same time, I would suggest taking a passage from a lesser known text than that of the New Testament. I had been studying Greek almost every day for 6 years before I took a class in exegesis of the NT. (I don't personally feel that reading the Biblical languages is the most important thing in life - it's just a thing that I can do, so it works out to be a good hobby for me.)

But here is my recommendation. Look at chapter 7 and 8 in the Wisdom of Solomon. Here are resources which you can find easily.

King James Bible
John's Wisdom by Ben Witherington

(You can see that I am not much of an elitist. There is nothing here that is difficult to find.)

I especially found this useful at Jewish Encyclopedia,
    Wisdom is described as a cosmic principle dwelling on the throne of glory next to God, and as knowing and designing all things (ix. 1, 4, 10), being identical with the creative Word (ix. 1) and the Holy Spirit (ix. 17).
A great deal of early Christian literature reflects this assumption, that wisdom, the word and the spirit are somehow the same entity. It is important at some point to accept this generalization as being true for a certain kind of literature, without worrying about whether you believe it to be true as a cosmic principle.

The question is this. If we suppose this to be a truism for early Christian writers, what can we learn from these writings about the beliefs of early Christians with regard to the holy spirit?

Now to return to gender for a few reflections, one cannot avoid the fact that wisdom was personified as a woman, a spouse and heavenly bride. She is the one you want with you through the night, the "comforter" when you are sick or in grief, and an "intimate companion." Let's compare this with the image of Christ as the heavenly bridegroom and advocate. He is also our comforter.

At this point, I can only ask what role sexual imagery plays in this literature. I don't have any particular answers. For me, this literature is not about gender at all. It uses the imagery of gender to talk about the desire we all have for the universe to be meaningful.

Septuagint Online

I use only online resources. It's cheaper that way. Recently I had to find a new online resource for the Septuagint including the deuterocanonical books. This site is the best I have seen so far, and I mention it, since it is not easy to google it in English.

Myriobiblos LXX NT

Wednesday, June 24, 2009

ESV and KJV: Is the kingdom of God become words or syllables?

I would like to recommend to you this informative post on the Aberration Blog - a new biblioblog - for those who are keeping count! It provides some useful insight into Leland Ryken's involvement in Bible translation.

Bryon discusses an article written by Ryken on Bible translation. First, Ryken lists the stated goals of many other recent translations and then discusses them. Bryon continues,
    Ryken seems to suggest indirectly that these people are sloppy.
    “It is easy to miss what is being denied in these statements…What is being denied is that the translator has any responsibility to translate the exact words of the original (poster's emphasis)
This is consistent with the preface of the ESV,

    The ESV is an “essentially literal” translation that seeks as far as possible to capture the precise wording of the original text and the personal style of each Bible writer. As such, its emphasis is on “word-for-word” correspondence, at the same time taking into account differences of grammar, syntax, and idiom between current literary English and the original languages. Thus it seeks to be transparent to the original text, letting the reader see as directly as possible the structure and meaning of the original.

The preface to the KJV, however, which the ESV seeks to emulate, states,

    An other thing we thinke good to admonish thee of (gentle Reader) that wee have not tyed our selves to an uniformitie of phrasing, or to an identitie of words, as some peradventure would wish that we had done, because they observe, that some learned men some where, have beene as exact as they could that way.

    Truly, that we might not varie from the sense of that which we had translated before, if the word signified the same thing in both places (for there bee some wordes that bee not of the same sense every where) we were especially carefull, and made a conscience, according to our duetie.

    But, that we should expresse the same notion in the same particular word; as for example, if we translate the Hebrew or Greeke word once by Purpose, never to call it Intent; if one where Journeying, never Traveiling; if one where Thinke, never Suppose; if one where Paine, never Ache; if one where Joy, never Gladnesse, &c. Thus to minse the matter, wee thought to savour more of curiositie then wisedome, and that rather it would breed scorne in the Atheist, then bring profite to the godly Reader. For is the kingdome of God become words or syllables?

The King James Bible did not have the goal of using "the same English word for important recurring words in the original" as the ESV does. This is a well known contrast, I am sure, but I hope it provides a good background for other thinking about Bible translation.

Tuesday, June 23, 2009

Great Stuff

There have been some rather fascinating posts on gender elsewhere that have been brought to my attention. I can assure you that they are on topics which I have never written about and are quite unique - not the same old stuff.

Judy has written some thoughts on Dynamic Equivalence in Translation and Dynamic Equivalence and Inclusive Language.

Bryon posted on The LORD is a Man?

Peter has two posts about the trinity which I wish to pick up on. The Trinity: he, she or they? and The Holy Spirit: he, she, it or they?

Monday, June 22, 2009

The Intrusive Pronoun 2: the spirit itself

I am not claiming to be a theologian. I would simply like to discuss some of the changes from bibles of the Reformation to today, and ask how these changes came about. In the introduction to my last series, I noted that the early English bibles have a neuter pronoun in John 1:3, which would normally be appropriate to refer to an inanimate object, the "word."

In this post, I want to signal the use of the neuter pronoun for the spirit in passages like Romans 8:26. As far as I can see, most Bibles used "the spirit itself" in this verse - Coverdale, Geneva, KJV, Mace, Wesley, Darby, Rotherham, and so on. The Tyndale, Bishop's and NRSV avoid the use of a gendered pronoun altogether. It wasn't until the English Revised Version, 1881, that the spirit was gendered in English.

Of course, in John's gospel, the spirit is often referred to as the "comforter" and, as this is a word with masculine grammatical gender, the pronoun which agrees with "comforter" is always masculine. However, for the early translators, this was no reason to assign the spirit masculine gender in passages where the Greek clearly used the neuter.

It appears that in the 19th century there was a trend to change the pronoun usage for the spirit, away from the neuter, which had agreement with the grammatical gender of the Greek, and assign a masculine personal pronoun to the spirit. The difficulty is that two doctrines are affected by this decision. First, the holy spirit is treated as a distinct person, and second, the spirit is designated as a masculine person.

The question is not whether this is true, but whether the text says the spirit is masculine or not. Or maybe this is a speculative interpretation. I suggest the latter. On the one hand, the comforter is masculine. On the other hand, spirit is a feminine word in Hebrew and Aramaic. It is almost certain that when Jesus spoke of his spirit, he used the feminine gender. More on that later.

I would simply like to bring to your attention the surpisingly late date for the introduction of a masculine pronoun for the spirit in Greek.

The Tyndale, Bishop's and NRSV avoid the use of a gendered pronoun.

ESV says no woman spoke from God

First off, let me offer this comment from Dave Ker to explain why I am moderated in my comments on the BBB.

    Please note that comments by Suzanne and John are both moderated. We try to approve comments as quickly as we can but there is sometimes a lag. When comments do not pertain to the post or involve disputes about gender issues or the ESV they are almost never approved.

    This was a decision made by the team of contributors at BBB. If you have questions about this feel free to email me directly.
Yesterday, by some quirk, I happened to note that John was not moderated and I assumed that I could post there as well. It turns out I can't. It also turns out that any comment which refers to gender will not be posted or will at least be removed later if requested.

Probably the more serious reason is that I often make comments to the effect that the ESV does not translate the Greek properly with respect to gender. A double whammy as far as being moderated is concerned.

Anyway, when I say that the ESV does not translate accurately with respect to gender, this is a further example of what I mean.

The ESV preface says,

    But the words “man” and “men” are retained where a male meaning component is part of the original Greek or Hebrew. Likewise, the word “man” has been retained where the original text intends to convey a clear contrast between “God” on the one hand and “man” on the other hand, with “man” being used in the collective sense of the whole human race (see Luke 2:52).
Here are some verses that are so familiar and well used that I have not included the references - perhaps later. As you read these verses think about the consequences for women if these verses are for men only, as the ESV preface clearly says.

    And Jesus said to them, "Follow me, and I will make you become fishers of men.

    And I tell you, everyone who acknowledges me before men, the Son of Man also will acknowledge before the angels of God

    In him was life, and the life was the light of men.

    Therefore, as one trespass led to condemnation for all men, so one act of righteousness leads to justification and life for all men.

    Therefore it says, "When he ascended on high he led a host of captives,and he gave gifts to men.

    For there is one God, and there is one mediator between God and men, the man Christ Jesus,

    and what you have heard from me in the presence of many witnesses entrust to faithful men who will be able to teach others also.

    For every high priest chosen from among men is appointed to act on behalf of men in relation to God, to offer gifts and sacrifices for sins.

    For no prophecy was ever produced by the will of man, but men spoke from God as they were carried along by the Holy Spirit.
    What, did no woman ever speak from God, not even Mary? Are no spiritual gifts given to women? Is there no justification for women, no life, no light? Is it not good enough to acknowledge the Christ before other women?

    Discussion is taking place now on Clayboy, the blog of Doug Chaplin.

    Update: Here is more from the ESV preface,

      Therefore, to the extent that plain English permits and the meaning in each case allows, we have sought to use the same English word for important recurring words in the original;
    In 1 Tim. 2:1 the ESV uses the word "people." One has to wonder why this word could not be used elsewhere, where the Greek uses the word anthropos (pl) which clearly means "people."

      First of all, then, I urge that supplications, prayers, intercessions, and thanksgivings be made for all people,

    Sunday, June 21, 2009

    Carolyn Ann Knight

    Carolyn Ann Knight is a preacher with a mission for her people. HT Theophrastus. This article reports,
      She is the founder and president of “CAN DO!” Ministries; a progressive, preventive youth advocacy ministry that is dedicated to the cultural, social, intellectual, and spiritual well-being of youth and young adults. For ten years, Dr. Knight served as assistant professor of homiletics at The Interdenominational Theological Center in Atlanta, Georgia where she had the primary responsibility for teaching and training students in the art and craft of sermonic design, development and delivery.

      A preacher/pastor with scholarly interests, Reverend Knight has served as adjunct professor at LaGuardia Community College and New York Theological Seminary. She served as the permanent part-time professor of preaching at her alma mater, Union Theological Seminary in New York City. Dr. Knight serves on numerous boards and committees; among them are Harlem Congregations for Community Improvement, the Breast Examination Center of Harlem, The Black Leadership Commission on AIDS, and the advisory board of the African American Pulpit of Judson Press.

    She grounds her sermons firmly in the gospels and the Hebrew Bible, and addresses social issues with direct talk and action. Here she is quoted as preaching,
      We are a great people with a great history. We must stop reciting the failure studies that have been done on our communities. We must never forget that God has always done great things through Africans. We are formed out of adversity. From it we have fashioned our unique perspective on humanity and divinity. They have us straw. We gave them bricks. They gave us seed. We gave them cotton. They gave us sorrow. We wrote songs....
    One of the things that really disturbs me is that the blogosphere is sometimes not very friendly to women or to those of other races. For example, why should we have to read comments like this,
      It's a good thing that slavery is gone and women have equal rights. But is the average African American young man or young woman better off now than their ancestors under slavery? I would hope so, but I am not so sure. What percentage of young black males are currently rotting in prison? What percentage of black children are borne out of wedlock, with all that often means? At the very least, it has to be said that the abolition of slavery solved some problems, created new ones, and left many others unresolved.
    In the time I spent in a church in Florida recently, I appreciated that the congregation was aware that racism was an ongoing issue. The problem is not the abolition of slavery. The problem is that the racism and global economic factors which contributed to slavery are ongoing. Isn't that rather obvious? Why blame the abolition of slavery?

      If you are unaware of the fact the vast majority of Christians around the world, who are not, it goes without saying, either white or male, have a *less* nuanced reading strategy vis-a-vis Scripture than does the Chicago Statement, I don't know what to say.
    How do we know this is true if we don't read their sermons and discuss them. Just because Carolyn Knight is neither white nor male, does this make her reading strategy "less nuanced?" Is there something fishy going on or is it just me?

    Here is one of my earlier posts about Samuel Crowther. The thesis written by his grandson Ade Ajayi had a strong effect on my own MA thesis on First Nations literacy in Canada. I have very emotional memories also of Redfern Louttit, who never did become a bishop, to the disappointment of his people.

    Sometimes the bibliosphere is an uncomfortable place. I am happy myself to work in a workplace that has standards about how one talks about those who are neither white nor male.

    All in a days work ..

    Twice in one day I have received a request to respond to comments on a blog where I am not allowed to post. Here is a second situation. I was asked to comment on the thread of this post on compegal. I wrote,


    I am afraid that I cannot read all of the comments here. However, let me address a couple,

    Eric wrote,

      FWIW, there are no instances of hupotassomai in the Greek New Testament. (There are instances of hupotassô with other middle and/or passive endings, but no instances of hupotassô in the present middle/passive indicative 1st-person singular – i.e., the -mai ending.)

    This disregards the fact that Greek scholars typically treat the middle/passive as distinct from the active forms and do, in fact, refer to the verb hupotassomai. In fact, in a recent thread on Mike Aubrey’s blog, Carl Conrad made the point that mid/passive verbs should have their own entry in lexicons.

    Eric wrote,

      From what I understand, there are very few true middles in the NT; i.e., if a verb has a middle/passive form, it is most likely a passive, though not always.

    A cursory glance at Carl Conrad’s article, linked to by Eric, will verify that Carl believes that many verbs which have been translated as passives could be middle in voice. He writes,

      While a “head-count” of verb-forms in either morphoparadigm in a particular literary corpus might well show that a majority of the verb-forms bear passive meaning, I personally doubt this very much and I would argue that Greek-speakers (at least in the Hellenistic and Roman Koine periods) felt that either one of these paradigms was inclusive enough to cover the range from intransitive to middle to passive semantics).
    In fact, I believe the focus is wrongly put onto the verb hupotassomai in the first place. The issue is whether the other person has authority. In Eph. 5:21, no authority is mentioned, in Luke 10 authority is an important issue. The verb hupotassomai does not give us the relevant information regarding authority.

    Note: I'll include the link to Mike's post when I find it.

    ESV says Christ is not a mediator between God and women

    A stray comment on the BBB brought to mind the fact that the ESV denies women basic access to God in clear and uncertain terms.

    Here is my comment in response to a thread on the BBB. First I address some general doctrinal issues in the ESV and then I indicate how it is that the ESV teaches that Christ is the mediator for men only.


    This is from the preface to the ESV,
      The English Standard Version (ESV) stands in the classic mainstream of English Bible translations over the past half-millennium.The fountainhead of that stream was William Tyndale’s New Testament of 1526
    Let's have a look at a few key verses,
      John 1:3

      All things were made through him, and without him was not any thing made that was made.

      All thinges were made by it and with out it was made nothinge that was made.

      Romans 8:16

      The Spirit himself bears witness with our spirit that we are children of God, ESV

      The same sprete certifieth oure sprete yt we are the sonnes of God. Tyndale

      John 1:18

      No one has ever seen God; the only God, who is at the Father's side, he has made him known. ESV

      No ma hath sene God at eny tyme. The only begotte sonne which is in ye bosome of ye father he hath declared him. Tyndale

      Romans 3:25

      whom God put forward as a propitiation by his blood, to be received by faith. This was to show God's righteousness, because in his divine forbearance he had passed over former sins. ESV

      whom God hath made a seate of mercy thorow faith in his bloud to shewe ye rightewesnes which before him is of valoure in yt he forgeveth ye synnes yt are passed which God dyd suffre Tyndale
    Let me note the introduction of the term "propitiation" instead of "mercy seat" the attributing of gender to Logos and to the Holy Spirit, the lessening of the position of the Son vis-a-vis the Father, from his bosom to his side, and the fact that only "sons" are peacemakers and not all of God's children.

    Add to this the well known changes to 1 Cor. 11:10, Romans 16:7, Matt. 5:9, etc. and I doubt whether there is any doctrine which the ESV has not taken into consideration in altering the English of Tyndale and the KJV.

    It is no longer possible to preach even the basic salvation of half the human race from the ESV,
      For there is one God, and there is one mediator between God and men, the man Christ Jesus" 1 TIm. 2:5
    The ESV preface says,
      But the words “man” and “men” are retained where a male meaning component is part of the original Greek or Hebrew. Likewise, the word “man” has been retained where the original text intends to convey a clear contrast between “God” on the one hand and “man” on the other hand, with “man” being used in the collective sense of the whole human race (see Luke 2:52).
    A dispassionate analysis of this paragraph can only lead to the conclusion that while "man" can include women as part of the human race, the word "men" cannot.

    Therefore, the ESV states clearly that Christ Jesus is not a mediator between Christ and women.


    I make this comment here instead of on the BBB since the powers that be there have decided to block me from commenting. And frankly, why should a woman have her say when men are so ready to speak on her behalf.

    Saturday, June 20, 2009

    Saint Afra, who knew no theology

    Actually Afra, 4th century, may have known quite a bit of theology. A prostitute, who ran a brothel, would have mixed with many men. Eventually a bishop stayed with her, for protection, the same as happened to Rahab, (reminiscent, that is) - since an inn and a brothel may not be clearly differentiated in those days - or our days.

    She was burned for the protection she gave the bishop, and before she died, she prayed,
      O Lord God Almighty, Jesus Christ, who didst come to call not the just but sinners to repentance, thus confirming the promise thou didst vouchsafe to make saying, "In the hour when the sinner shall repent of his sins, in that same hour I will no more remember them," accept at this hour my martyrdom as a penance, and by the material fire prepared for my body deliver me from the everlasting fire which burns both body and soul.

      I give thee thanks, Lord Jesus Christ, that thou hast vouchsafed to accept me as a victim for the glory of thy name, thou who wast offered as Victim on the cross for the salvation of the whole world, the Just for the unjust, the Good for the wicked, the Blesses One for the cursed, the Innocent for the guilty. I offer my sacrifice to thee, who with the Father and the Holy Ghost livest and reignest God for ever and ever. Amen.
    But her prayers do not reflect the theology of an ignoramus(a), converted as she was led from brothel to pyre. Here is the prayer of Bishop Basil, the Great, 4th century,
      Lord Jesus our God, King of the ages and Creator of all, I thank You for the blessings You have granted me and for the communion of Your pure and life-giving Mysteries. I pray You, therefore, gracious Lord and Lover of Mankind, guard me under Your protection and within the shadow of Your wings; and grant me with a clear conscience till my last breath worthily to partake of Your sacred Gifts for forgivenes of sins and for life eternal. For You are the Bread of Life, the Source of Holiness, the Giver of all that is good, and to You we send up the glory, with the Father and the Holy Spirit, now and ever and to the ages of ages. Amen.
    And here is Chrysostom, 4-5th century, who gives his defence for praying to Christ,
      I believe, O Lord, and I confess that You are truly the Christ, the son of the Living God, Who came into the world to save sinners, of whom I am the chief. And I believe that this is Your pure Body and Your own precious Blood. Therefore, I pray to You, have mercy on me and forgive my transgressions, voluntary and involuntary, in word and deed, known and unknown. And grant that I may partake of Your Holy Mysteries without condemnation, for the remission of sins and for life eternal. Amen.
    These prayers are taken from Praying to our Lord Jesus Christ: Prayers and Meditations through the Centuries by Benedict Groeschel. This post is written for Cheryl, who was so distressed in the past to read, Father, Son and Holy Spirit, page 153,
      Prayer, then, follows a paradigm that reflects the taxis of the Trinity. The Father has absolute and uncontested supremacy, including authority over the Son and the Spirit, so we pray to the Father.
    Ware goes on to explain that the taxis in the eternal Trinity, the relationships of authority over and submission to, form the basis of all biblical worship and life in the church. Funny, though, I was brought up in the Brethren, its a while back now, but the existance of a clergy, the presence of an earthly hierarchy, was labelled as the 'sin against the holy spirit.' Its hard not to think, sometimes, that theologians are having a bit of a game at our expense, always peddling their own particular version as the one true religion.

    (I am not sure yet where Ware gets the notion of taxis from. While it is a word which means "order" I don't know the original text from which Ware is deriving his meaning.)

    Wednesday, June 17, 2009

    A theology of wisdom and word

    Damian has asked about a theology of wisdom and word. I can't answer it but I can share some of the paths my quest has taken me along. First, Damian cites Polycarp (Joel),
      I believe that the Logos and the Sophia are uniquely connected, both coming from Jewish speculation about God. I believe, for now, that Wisdom is seen easily as feminine because she is the giver of life, while the pre-incarnate Word is seen as masculine because it is active apart from life. I may better say it such, that Sophia is the unseen creative force, while the logos is God speaking. Two sides of the same coin, whole, unique, of God, and God.
    This came from the middle of our discussion on logos and sophia, exploring the notion that they are of opposite gender. But in the end, I preferred Joel's post that they are the two hands of God,
      Theophilus the sixth Bishop of Antioch, preceded Irenaeus by a half a generation, but promoted the same idea – that the Wisdom and Word of God was His hands, as opposed to the develop notion that they were Persons themselves.
    Damian''s post concluded with this,
      What I’m curious about, is the concept that Logos/Sophia are connected because their source is speculation concerning the nature of God. Regarding them like this (correctly, I suspect), is in a way regarding them as a precursor to the Kabbalistic understanding of God’s emanations. But what does this speculation as applied to Christ mean for Christians?

      That’s an honest question. I really don’t know, beyond making some point in an argument on gender bias. Does anyone who reads here have a working understanding of this relationship, and what it means for a Christian? Does anyone have a theology of wisdom and word?

    First, let me respond and say that one does not talk about gender bias in order to know how to bias a text in terms of gender. One discusses gender bias in order to strip a text of bias and discover its true meaning. It helps if logos and pneuma and some other things are not translated as "he" - it lets in a little light.

    Now I would like to offer some other texts on logos (reason) and sophia for consideration. The first is the Allegory of the Cave by Plato. Here is the full text. Socrates concludes,

      This entire allegory, I said, you may now append, dear Glaucon, to the previous argument; the prison-house is the world of sight, the light of the fire is the sun, and you will not misapprehend me if you interpret the journey upwards to be the ascent of the soul into the intellectual world according to my poor belief, which, at your desire, I have expressed whether rightly or wrongly God knows. But, whether true or false, my opinion is that in the world of knowledge the idea of good appears last of all, and is seen only with an effort; and, when seen, is also inferred to be the universal author of all things beautiful and right, parent of light and of the lord of light in this visible world, and the immediate source of reason and truth in the intellectual; and that this is the power upon which he who would act rationally, either in public or private life must have his eye fixed.

    The next text is the opening lines of the Tao Te Ching,

      TAO (logos) can be talked about, but not the Eternal Tao (logos).
      Names can be named, but not the Eternal Name.

      As the origin of heaven-and-earth, it is nameless:
      As "the Mother" of all things, it is nameable.

      So, as ever hidden, we should look at its inner essence:
      As always manifest, we should look at its outer aspects.

      These two flow from the same source, though differently
      And both are called mysteries.

      The Mystery of mysteries is the Door of all essence.
    Dao (tao) is used to translate both logos (word) and hodos (way) from Greek into Chinese and contributes to a great deal of meditation on the relationship between Christianity and Chinese philosophy.

    The third text is from 1 Corinthians 2,
      Yet among the mature we do speak wisdom, though it is not a wisdom of this age or of the rulers of this age, who are doomed to perish. But we speak God’s wisdom, secret and hidden, which God decreed before the ages for our glory.
      The next text is from the Sefer Yetzirah, the Book of Creation,
        1.By means of thirty-two wonderful paths of wisdom YH, YHVH of Hosts, Elohim of Israel, Living Elohim, and Eternal King, El Shadhai, merciful and gracious, high and uplifted, who inhabits Eternity, exalted and holy is His Name engraved. And He created His universe by three signs: by border, and letter, and number
        9. There are Ten Intangible Sefiroth. One: Spirit of Living Elohim,
        blessed and blessed is the Name of Him who lives forever, Voice and Spirit and Word. This is the Holy Spirit (Ruach HaQodesh).
      Although I would love to write about this, I want even more to link to this passage in Tillich,
        Spiritual self-affirmation occurs in every moment in which [humankind] lives creatively in the various spheres of meaning. page 162
      Wade explains further,
        Doubt comes into play and the spiritual life attempts to maintain itself by looking to those areas that doubt has not yet undercut. But this cannot be sustained and to save oneself, says Tillich, people look to something beyond themselves to sustain them – something he calls “transindividual.” (p. 49) Answers are given to the person authoritatively (by the Bible or the Koran, perhaps?) and freedom is sacrificed to regain meaning.

        The result we see all around us: fanaticism. The person who has sacrificed their freedom to this transindividual something becomes consumed with the anxiety it was designed to conquer because to admit doubt becomes a threat to the sustaining of the regained meaning. Such a person can do violence on those who disagree with the authority he or she has accepted. The person threatening this authority has a power over the person trying to sustain it because that latter has to suppress the former and persecute dissent. Think biblical fundamentalists or Islamic extremists.

        The problem becomes most acute when the symbols of the traditional systems lose their power to be understood in the traditional ways. Tillich gives the doctrinal symbols of Christianity as an example of this. “[Humankind’s] being includes [its] relation to meaning,” says Tillich indicating that ontic and spiritual self-affirmation cannot be wholly separated. We are “human only by understanding and shaping reality … according to meanings and values.” (p. 50) This shaping and understanding is present in our most primitive expressions. All meaning and value is potentially present in even our first formations of sentences and therefore meaninglessness and emptiness threaten our very being. It is why, he says, despair over the meaninglessness of life can even lead to one taking one’s own life. “The death instinct is not an ontic but a spiritual phenomenon.” (p. 51) The phenomena feed on themselves and non-being threatens from both sides – the ontic and the spiritual.
      Read the rest of Wade's post here.

      Now some readers will despair for my soul, that I understand logos and sophia as the way in which language is used by God to create the world. Ultimately logos is the fact that the world was created with meaning, and wisdom means that there is a good. Meaning is the ultimate good. But we only perceive these in relation to our human constitution. And by reading broadly we may come to understand our own humanness better.

      We can declare that the universe was made by letters and meaning, but can we really talk about it, or is it only something to be lived? If, the familiar text we know so well, has become unwisdom in the hands of those who have interpreted it to us, then we rest simply on the belief that wisdom still exists in creation, and may be still hidden in the text.

      The human need for meaning may be met in the Christ (word), but it cannot be the Christ of someone else's mediation, created in the image of someone else's humanity. The notion that the logos/tao/davar are first, along with sophia/hokmah, means that meaning is before and has priority over every interpretation that is known to man or woman.

      We can listen to the interpretation of others, but, going back to the allegory of the cave, we must not mistake the human interpretation for the actual meaning of reality. The lesson is that intepretation does not create meaning. Meaning precedes intepretation and not the other way around.

      So, here is a another set of five texts which can influence how we read the Bible.

      Great Stuff

      I need to link to some of the many great posts around. And interject my unasked for opinions and reactions,

      Here is Aristotle`s FS`s list of books Very feminist and I haven`t read that many feminists but now, thanks to AFS, I know the names of a few. Thank you, AFS for nominating me. Here is his earlier list. I share a few books on this list, specifically, the LXX and Pike.

      Here is WILF Aristotle and I was just going to nominate him, but here is his list now hot off the press. I share Augusine`s Confessions and The Zohar with him, and bits and pieces of the rest. Another noteworthy post from WILFA is Ordaining Women.

      Here is James McGrath`s list and you can follow the meme back from there.

      On another tack, I thought I would mention John Starke`s blog for his careful analysis of Millard Erickson 1 and 2. And of Steve Tracy. Even though I disagree with him, I think he has done a valuable and dispassionate analysis of several books of interest lately. Good stuff.

      On the Courage to Be, Wade, who is the husband of another blogger, is continuing to write on this topic. I am enjoying it very much. As always, it is nice to share thoughts on a common book.

      Tuesday, June 16, 2009

      Five Books Meme

      Here are five books -

      • Aristotle's Politics. I was familiar with at a young age, and could hardly believe how closely certain passages of the Bible echo it.
      • Pedagogy of the Oppressed by Paolo Freire. I read this book at SIL in relation to Indigenous peoples of America, and slowly as I read, I came to realize that there was a class of people who wanted me to comply because I was persuaded that I should. I realized that I had been deceived. I experienced a deep sense of betrayal by many who had given me false expectations of the Bible. Reading this book was a deeply emotional time, realizing that fundamentalism had a profoundly disturbing effect on my life.
      • Poet and Peasant and Through Peasant Eyes. Kenneth Bailey. This book is a linguistic and poetic delight. I notice that several other bloggers have mentioned it but I can't take it off the list for that reason.
      • Opression and Liberty. Simone Weil. Another profoundly touching book.
      • Gospel Women by Richard Bauckham. I wouldn't recommend this book to everyone, but for me, with my interest in script and transliteration, it was a lovely read, intricate and involved, speculative and imaginative.
      • And I would like to mention a few other books mentioned elsewhere - the Septuagint, The Sparrow and sequel by Mary Doria Russell, (which James McGrath also mentioned)
      • Middlemarch by George Eliot. An important afterthougt.

      Monday, June 15, 2009

      Dialogue with John Starke 3

      I have found the article by Kovach, Stephen and Peter Schemm called A Defense of the Eternal Subordination of the Son. In reading through the first part, I could not help but feel that there are some points which should be clarified.

      Within the first section, subordination is defined in this way, "the subordinate, depends upon another for direction," and "Voluntary subordination is always necessary to the establishment of genuine community." There is stress on the fact that the submission is voluntary.

      So my first is whether submission is voluntary if it is submission to an authority. In Ephesians 5:21,"submitting to one another out of reverence for Christ." This submission is not a submission to the authority of the other person, but it is voluntary mutual submission out of respect for Christ's authority.

      I would like to refine the two positions then. I understand that the Son can voluntarily submit to the Father, but he does it freely and not because he is UNDER God's authority. One possible piece of evidence for this is that these words can be interpreted as speaking of Christ,
        Then I heard the voice of the Lord saying, "Whom shall I send? And who will go for us?"
        And I said, "Here am I. Send me!" Is. 6:8
      I believe it is orthodox to say that the Father sent the Son, but I don't think it is orthodox to say that the Father did this because he has authoriy over the Son. The Father and the Son are considered to have one will in this matter. The Son is sent to suffer and die. He doesn't do this because this work is delegated to him as God's submissive assistant, but he does it because he is himself God. But as a human, Christ then takes on the form of a servant in relation to both God and humanity.

      However, the way I interpret the teaching of the eternal subordination of the Son is that the Son is under the authority of the Father. So I will be looking for evidence in the early church fathers, that within the Godhead the Father has eternal authority over the Son.

      Dialogue with John Starke on authority 1 & 2

      (Note: There is a nice little tie-in to the word as wisdom in this post.)

      My dialogue with John Starke began last December when he picked up a comment I made on Denny Burk's blog and ran with it. (I am excerpting here a very small part of the interaction, but John may refer back to other points that he raised),

      On Denny's blog, I had written.
        Since, in Greek “power” and “authority” are one and the same word, how can Christ be equal to God in power, but not in authority. If the Son is eternally in submission, he is not equal in power and glory.
      John responded,
        This is sort of a perplexing argument since the Greek word for power is usually “dunamis” and authority is “exousia”. The common way of expressing the power of Christ or God the Father is using the word “dunamis” , not “exousia”.
      At the time I was not sure of the reason why "power" in English means the same thing as "authority" in Biblical texts. However, I did finally realize that the creeds come to us through Latin, and in Latin the Greek word exousia was translated as potestas, and this word was then translated into English as "power."

      Therefore, in any creed which descends from an original Latin creed, or through Latin from the Greek, the word "power" is a translation of exousia, which we now would translate as "authority." In the Latin Vulgate, exousia was always translated as potestas, and dunamis was almost always translated as virtus.

      In Theodore Beza's Latin translation of the NT exousia was translated as auctoritas. In the KJV then, we can see that exousia was translated into English as both "power" and "authority." There was no apparent attempt to differentiate the two. Here is an example,

      And it came to pass, when Jesus had ended these sayings, the people were astonished at his doctrine: For he taught them as one having authority, and not as the scribes. (Matt. 7: 28-29). KJV

      Compare this with the parallel text in Luke, again from the KJV:

      And they were astonished at his doctrine: for his word was with power. (Luke 4:32)

      In Greek, both of these passages have the Greek word exousia. And this is why I claim that "power" and "authority" are the same word in Greek - exousia. Perhaps I could have phrased it better. I would say that in the KJV both "power" and "authority" translate the Greek word exousia. I also claim that since the creeds are descendent of Latin documents, "power" has the meaning that it had in the underlying Latin. And that would be potestas - exousia.

      Last fall I expressed surprise and some incredulity that many of those who sign the doctrinal statement of the ETS, which says "equal in power and glory," do not believe that Christ is equal to the Father in authority.

      Part 2

      A further part of our discussion relates to Bruce Ware's claim, in Father, Son and Holy Spirit page 80, that Augustine affirms the subordination of the Son with the trinity. Ware writes,
        Augustine affirmed, the distinction of Persons is constituted precisely by the differing relations among them, in part manifested by the inherent authority of the Father and inherent submission of the Son.
      I claim just the opposite, that Augustine, De Trinitate iv:20, affirms that the Son is equal in authority to the Father,
        because He was not sent in respect to any inequality of power*, or substance, or anything that in Him was not equal to the Father; but in respect to this, that the Son is from the Father, not the Father from the Son; for the Son is the Word of the Father, which is also called His wisdom.
      *Since the underlying Latin for "power" is potestas, I understand it to mean "authority."

      In conclusion, I understand the dialogue between John Starke and myself in this way. I suggest that the early church fathers and the doctrinal statement of the ETS affirm that the son is equal to the father in authority within the trinity. John does not.

      From my point of view, this limits the discussion enough that we don't have to wrangle over every exegetical point, or make extravagant truth claims about the trinity; but simply discover whether there is any support in the early church fathers for the relationship of authority and submission existing eternally within the Godhead.

      John commented recently on this post,
        I am convinced that when the early fathers spoke of eternal generation, this would be equivalent to our understanding of authority in function.
      John has also suggested that I read Peter Schemm on this topic, and I intend to do that, as possible.

      Mozi and universal love

      I am an avid reader of James McGrath's blog and I want to contribute this thought to his recent post on compassion, which I will copy out here and then link to. Read the comments there and see how this fits in.

      Over the last year I have spent a bit of time reading various volumes which compare Chinese philosophy and Christianity. I'll give my little reading list later. For today, here is something on Mozi (fifth century BC) which sums up my response,
        The doctrine of univeral love is the most famous and original of Mozi's contributions to Chinese thought. We have already noted the negative side in his condemnations of offensive warfare, condemnations which could just as well have been made by thinkers of the Confucian or Daoist schools. But Mozi alone of all Chinese thinkers was not content merely to condemn acts that are harmful to others. He went a step further to proclaim that men should actually love the members of other families and states in the same way that they love the members of their own family and state, for all are equally the creatures and people of God.

      Sunday, June 14, 2009

      Women speaking out

      When I first started blogging in the bibliosphere over three years ago, I was not aware of very many other women of my heritage and with similar concerns also speaking out. That has changed drastically. Here are some updates.

      Cheryl has posted about Barb Orlowski's upcoming book. I met Barb last year and it was an encouragement to me to benefit from the experience of another woman who had worked through some of the "women's issues" in the conservative church. Cheryl also posts a very touching email she received recently.

      Waneta Dawn is someone I haven't mentioned before. She blogs here and has been covering topics which I also went through in detail. I recognize the fervour and agony of deconstructing gender-based authority.

      Kathryn Joyce has taken up the cause, writing about the Biblical Battered Wife Syndrome and Quiverfull. Vyckie, of No Longer Quivering, is documenting her journey in and out of patriarchy.

      Other names are Danni Moss, Jocelyn Andersen, and Barbara Roberts who recount similar painful experiences. Here is the blurb from Quivering Daughters,
        I am a lover of God, a follower of Jesus, a wife, and a writer. I am passionately writing my first book, Quivering Daughters, which offers hope to weary, struggling women oppressed by Christian fundamentalism, authoritarianism, fear, and shame.
      Another site is by artist Kathy Isler. Friends of my own site are Adventures In Mercy, A Wife's Submission, Under Much Grace, and many more.

      I personally believe that the number of women will grow to the point that we can no longer be written off as the odd unlucky woman who has suffered abuse because of her own character flaws.

      In fact, what these women, and myself, are writing is not abuse, not the failure of a relationship, the sorrow of emotional abandonment, sad as that is. No, we are writing about how the teaching of the church attaches our private misery to doctrine and tells women that God will reject them if they do not submit.

      To heck with the pain and humiliation of being stripped of human dignity. This is common to humankind. No, the crime is that we were stripped of God.

      Now, we deal with it in different ways. Some women have discovered a woman-friendly literalist approach to the scriptures through which they continue in their relationship with the God of their younger years. Other women frankly admit the insufficiency of the scriptures for their own life issues.

      Friday, June 12, 2009

      How to translate gender

      There are two contrasting approaches to translating grammatical gender. The first is to regard grammatical gender as language specific and not translate it at all. This is by far the most common approach going from Hebrew into Greek and many other European languages. There is no attempt to maintain the masculine gender of the Greek word logos, or the feminine gender of the Hebrew word ruach.

      The second approach is to infer that grammatical gender reflects an underlying gender which is could be ontological, representative or metaphorical, but, which, in any case, ought to be translated. While there are a few times when this kind of gender can be translated, we need to be aware of its illusory nature. It is a part of the poetry of the language and exists on the same level as imagery, personification and alliteration.

      For example, Israel is both God's wife, and God's son or servant. Israel has no constant gender in relation to God. Neither the spirit nor the word have a constant gender. In fact, many adjectives, even some which appear to be gendered in English, come from a common root in Hebrew or Greek. So the "mighty man" and the "noble wife" both derive from the same Hebrew word chayil.

      Although the connotation of male and female may drastically influence how we view something, gender is notoriously unstable across languages. In addition, using a gendered pronoun can alter the literal meaning of a clause, as it appears to do in John 1:3.
        3All things were made by him; and without him was not any thing made that was made.
      I feel that we should err on the side of literalness and only translate gender when the antecedent to the pronoun clearly has biological gender, or is attributed biological gender in an unambiguous way.

      If we want to understand the church fathers, writing in Greek and Latin, then we will have to read the texts themselves in Greek and Latin, or read some commentary which explains the connotations of grammatical gender.

      So I agree with John Starke, on this post, when he comments,
        I think too much is being put into the gender of the nouns. In Hebrew and in Greek, interpreters should not put too much stock in the gender of nouns or pronouns, other than discussing antecedent parts of the argument (especially in Greek). The gender of sophia and logos has nothing to do with the Personhood of Jesus. Any Greek grammar will first warn students not to put too much emphasis on the gender.
      And Joel,
        I believe that by using ‘it’, we allow John to breathe a bit, free of theology and dogma.

        I like Irenaeus, when he said that the Word and Wisdom were the two hands of God.

      Thursday, June 11, 2009

      Grammatical and biological gender

      Joel wrote about sophia in a comment,
        Perhaps unseen is not the best word that I could have used. Instead, perhaps I should have said heavenly versus earthly? By that, I mean, that John interacted on a very personal level with the Logos, while Wisdom has yet to interact with humanity on the personal level, as the Logos has.
      I really appreciate Joel's interaction on this and it has got me thinking about reason and wisdom, or logos and sophia. If I look back at the passage from Gregory of Nyssa, then it appears that "word and spirit" and "reason and wisdom" are couplets that contain two terms which refer to the same entity. At least that is what I think.

      So what does this suggest to me about gender?

      First, there is grammatical gender - in those languages which have grammatical gender - which we can identify almost all the time by visible linguistic elements. Second, there is biological gender, which is largely, but not absolutely, stable. For the purposes of this discussion, I regard grammatical and biological gender as simple, observable phenomena, although I recognize that for the purposes of other discussions, they may not be.

      In my view, we cannot verify the gender of any other thing beyond our observable reality. I believe that both logos and sophia are equally considered the preincarnate Christ by the early church fathers. The gender of these terms did not bother them. Christ was male in his physical and biological being, but he is neither the "eternal masculine" nor is he the "pre-existant feminine."

      Only this view makes sense of the fact that logos becomes feminine in French and neuter in German without losing meaning. Only this view accounts for the fact that the spirit is feminine in Hebrew, neuter in Greek and masculine in Latin.

      Here is another example. Some say that as the Father is to the Son, so is man to woman. Right away this contravenes gender. But if we think of Christ as the Logos of God, as His expression, the earthly incarnation of God; then once again gender is contravened. Woman is never treated as the logos of man - would that she were!

      However, I do believe that the gender of words contributes to metaphorical meaning. It is a strong component of the poetic force of any language with grammatical gender. As humans we are very susceptible to arguments using gender since sexuality is a strong force in our life.

      Gender in language should be treated as a beautiful and powerful poetic device which rouses our feeling and draws us close to what is beautiful and good. Gender in language should call to mind the love of our mother and father, the closeness of a community of siblings, the friendship of others, and the life-creating power of intimacy.

      I'll write about what I think are the implications for translation in another post.


      My position on women's issues

      I want to put out there a very simple representation of my views on women's issues.

      1) I believe that a patriarchal (male authority) marriage is in the same category as slavery. It should not be allowed and women should not have to use exegesis to prove this anymore than a slave should be required to use exegesis to disprove the justness of slavery. IMO it is morally wrong to use exegesis, moral suasion, doctrinal teaching or any other argument or moral or physical force to subjugate a woman.

      2) I believe women should be able to fill all positions in the church, as men are. However, I do not regard it as an injustice when this is absent. I don't really have a strong position on this but I do attend an egalitarian church.

      3) I don't think men and women are the same, and I don't think I have met anyone who does think that.

      Wednesday, June 10, 2009

      Courage to Be 2

      The next paragraph after my previous quote from Tillich goes as follows,
        There should be no question of what Christian theology has to do in this situation. It should decide for truth against safety, even if the safety is consecrated and supported by the churches. Certainly there is a Christian conformism, from the beginning of the churches. Certainly there is a Christian collectivism - or at least semi-collectivism, in several periods of Church history.

        But this should not induce Christian theologians to identify Christian courage with the courage to be as a part. They should realize that the courage to be as oneself is the necessary corrective to the courage to be as a part - even if they rightly assume that neither forms of the courage to be give the final solution.
      I know how hard it is to give up the "courage to be as a part." However, one must never assume that this courage - to be as a part - brings one closer to God, and that the the courage to be as oneself, takes one away from God.

      More later from this text.

      why is sophia silent?

      I am responding to Joel's posts here, here and here, excerpting passages from Wisdom literature and comparing them to John's prologue.

      It doesn't bother me one bit that they are not in the original languages. They provide inspiration enough for the moment. But Doug mentioned the importance of the Septuagint for this purpose and I would like to show you something that you might not otherwise see. Here is Psalm 33:6-9,
        6. τῷ λόγῳ τοῦ κυρίου οἱ οὐρανοὶ ἐστερεώθησαν
        καὶ τῷ πνεύματι τοῦ στόματος αὐτοῦ πᾶσα ἡ δύναμις αὐτῶν

        By the word of the Lord the heavens were made firm
        and by the breath (spirit) of his mouth all their host (power)

        7. συνάγων ὡς ἀσκὸν ὕδατα θαλάςης
        τιθεὶς ἐν θησαυροῖς ἀβύςους

        He gathers the waters of the sea as a wineskin
        and places the abysses in the vaults

        8. φοβηθήτω τὸν κύριον πᾶσα ἡ γῆ
        ἀπ' αὐτοῦ δὲ σαλευθήτωσαν πάντες οἱ κατοικοῦντες τὴν οἰκουμένην

        Let all the earth fear the Lord
        and by him let all the dwellers of the dwelling be shaken

        9. ὅτι αὐτὸς εἶπεν καὶ ἐγενήθησαν
        αὐτὸς ἐνετείλατο καὶ ἐκτίσθησαν

        Because it was he that spoke and they were brought forth
        and he commanded and they were created

      Here we can see that creation is brought about by the "word" and the "spirit", or the breath of God. God speaks and it is brought forth. If this is read in Hebrew then the pair, דְבַר davar and רוּחַ ruach, are masculine and feminine.

      Some might say that this is the spoken word and the life-giving spirit, but I read this as "articulation" and "airflow," two mechanisms working in consort to express meaning.

      Now let's come back to an earlier conversation. I wrote,

      If the logos is the sophia, then we need to signal that sophia, the pre-incarnate “expression” of God is feminine; just as Jesus, the logos become flesh, is masculine.

      And then Joel wrote,

        I believe that the Logos and the Sophia are uniquely connected, both coming from Jewish speculation about God. I believe, for now, that Wisdom is seen easily as feminine because she is the giver of life, while the pre-incarnate Word is seen as masculine because it is active apart from life. I may better say it such, that Sophia is the unseen creative force, while the logos is God speaking. Two sides of the same coin, whole, unique, of God, and God.

      I can only ask why the feminine should be unseen and unheard. Why is sophia/wisdom silent? In my paradigm, true expression is when the masculine and feminine act in harmony.


      PS For some reason I can't seem to comment on Joel's blog. It says I have an invalid email address.

      Online Resources

      Here are some of the free online resources that I use.

      Bible Gateway
      Look Higher
      Greek NT
      Greek Septuagint
      NETS English Septuagint
      Liddell Scott Lexicon

      Reason and Wisdom in Gregory of Nyssa

      Here Polycarp (Joel) continues to write about Logos and Sophia. I will respond to some of his ideas in a future post.

      Earlier I wrote,
        English readers are cut off from the diverse ways that this passage could be read at the time it was written. We are cut off from how this passage is read in other modern European languages. The English translations are also committed to an interpretation which is foreign to a Jewish understanding of the text.
      An example of this can be found in the following passage. Gregroy of Nyssa wrote,
        The existence of God's Word* and Spirit is unlikely to be contested either by the Greek whose notions are those common to mankind or by the Jew with his notions derived from Scripture. Byt the dispensation by which the divine Word became man will be rejected by both alike as an incredible and improper thing to affirm about God. So on this issue we will have to take a different starting-point in order to conivince our opponents.

        They believe that all things were created by the reason and wisdom of him who constructed the whole universe - unless they have difficulty in believing even that! But if they will not grant that reason and wisdom govern the structure of things, that would amount to setting up unreason and unskillfulness as ruling principle of the universe. And that is surely both absurd and impious; so there can be absolutely no question about their admitting that reason and wisdom govern existing things,

        * Gregory's argument depends on the two meanings of the Greek word, Logos - reason and word. In translation a choice between them has to be made. Also where the personal sense of 'divine Word' seems uppermost we have used a capital W and the masculine rather than the neuter pronoun - distinctions not present in the Greek.
      Documents in Early Christian thought By Maurice F. Wiles, Mark Santer page 101

      Gregory of Nyssa says that the Greeks and the Jews believe in reason and wisdom, that is logos and sophia, but they do not believe that they could become man. Without some understanding of the origin of the reference to logos, as the alter ego of sophia, this passage would not be clear.

      We have to know that logos and sophia are a pair, and understand that the passage in John is ambiguous in the Greek, not actually saying unambiguously that "he," the man Jesus, was the logos.

      Whatever we believe that this passage says, we have to accept that others have to this text and, with equal honesty, understood something different.

      Thanks to David Reimer for mentioning the works of Maurice Wiles.


      Tuesday, June 09, 2009

      Gender and translation: an introduction

      I shall simply present a few examples to show how grammatical gender works in Greek.
        οὐδὲ καίουσιν λύχνον καὶ τιθέασιν αὐτὸν ὑπὸ τὸν μόδιον Matt. 5:15
        Nor do people light a lamp and put it under a basket
      In this case, the lamp λύχνον has a masculine gender and so does the pronoun αὐτὸν which refers to it. However, there is no reason to translate the pronoun as "him." The lamp is inanimate - it is not a person but an "it."

      In French this passage is as follows,
        on n'allume pas une lampe pour la mettre sous le boisseau,
        you don't light a lamp to put it under a bushel
      However, in French the word for "it" is feminine because la lampe is feminine. In German the lamp is neuter,
        Man zündet auch nicht ein Licht an und setzt es unter einen Scheffel,
      In spite of the fact that the pronoun referring to lamp is masculine in Greek, feminine in French and neuter in German, we have to translate this pronoun as "it" in English because the lamp is not a person, it's an "it."

      The truth of the scripture is not in any way changed because the grammatical gender of the word for lamp is different in each language.

      Even within the Greek language, sometimes there are two words for the same thing, and one word is masculine and the other feminine. But they may refer to exactly the same thing.
        καὶ εἰσῆλθεν εἰς τὸν οἶκον Ζαχαρίου καὶ ἠσπάσατο τὴν Ἐλισάβετ. Luke 1:40
        and she entered the house of Zechariah and greeted Elizabeth

        καὶ εἰς ἣν ἂν οἰκίαν εἰσέλθητε, ἐκεῖ μένετε καὶ ἐκεῖθεν ἐξέρχεσθε. Luke 9:4
        And whatever house you enter, stay there, and from there depart.
      The word for house is masculine in the first verse and feminine in the second, but I don't think there is any reason for this beyond the fact that words with a certain ending tended to be masculine, feminine or neuter. In this case, there are two words and they are often used interchangeably.

      Although the pronoun in John 1:3 is masculine, it is only masculine because the word logos is masculine.
        πάντα δι' αὐτοῦ ἐγένετο
        all things were made by it
      There is no particular reason to translate it into English as,
        all things were made by him
      This kind of interpretive translation cuts us off from how the early Greek fathers would have read this passage. On the other hand, not knowing that the "it" is masculine in grammatical gender also cuts us off from some of what may have been written about this passage.

      The question is whether we can afford to be out of step with translations into other European languages, and out of step with the literal meaning of the text, which clearly says "all things were made by it" (meaning the word.)

      Monday, June 08, 2009

      The Messianic daughter

      One of the important passages to be aware of in thinking about the logos who was with God in the beginning, is Proverbs 8. Here, in the NETS version from the Septuagint, is the song of wisdom, or sophia, who was in the beginning with God,
        23I was set up from everlasting, from the beginning, or ever the earth was.

        24When there were no depths, I was brought forth; when there were no fountains abounding with water.

        25Before the mountains were settled, before the hills was I brought forth:

        26While as yet he had not made the earth, nor the fields, nor the highest part of the dust of the world.

        27When he prepared the heavens, I was there: when he set a compass upon the face of the depth:

        28When he established the clouds above: when he strengthened the fountains of the deep:

        29When he gave to the sea his decree, that the waters should not pass his commandment: when he appointed the foundations of the earth:

        30Then I was by him, as one brought up with him: and I was daily his delight, rejoicing always before him;

        31Rejoicing in the habitable part of his earth; and my delights were with the sons of men.

      But verse 30 is the one that I am having the most difficulty with. In the Greek, the first clause is ἤμην παρ' αὐτῷ ἁρμόζουσα ἐγὼ. This is translated in the NETS as "Then I was by him, as one brought up with him" but it could also read, "Then I was with him as the joiner" - as the one who crafts creation. The participle is in the feminine form agreeing with sophia, wisdom.

      There is a broad range of offerings for this verse, and I will post only a representative smattering,
        Then I was by him, as one brought up with him: KJV
        then I was beside him, like a master workman ESV, NASB, RSV
        Then became I beside him, a firm and sure worker, Rotherham
        then I was by him [his] nursling Darby
        Then I was by Him, as a nursling JPS
        Then was I with him as a nourisher, Geneva
        I was with him ordring all thinges Bishop's, Coverdale
      This poses lots of questions. Why does our English translation represent sophia, clearly feminine, as a "workman?" Was the pre-incarnate Christ feminine or masculine? Is there some metaphorical significance to the movement from the feminine sophia to the masculine logos?

      Perhaps the author of John's gospel had a choice of whether to write about sophia or logos, who had been there in the beginning; and chose to write logos, because it was masculine. But that is no reason for modern English Bibles to dress sophia in the clothes of a man and disguise her gender, labeling her a "workman."

      For me, "God" is beyond gender, and I have no quibble with accepting that Jesus was a male. But, is there some theological weight to gender? I don't think so. I'll leave it at that. However, as a translator, we need to do justice to metaphorical gender when appropriate. Gender is expressive and speaks to us.

      If this is the case, then we need to share what gender is saying to us, we need to allow the feminine voice, without paganizing it or subjecting it.

      If the logos is the sophia, then we need to signal that sophia, the pre-incarnate "expression" of God is feminine; just as Jesus, the logos become flesh, is masculine.

      I'll pass you along to El Shaddai's post on this topic, Reflections on the Messianic daughter and the image of God.

      The Intrusive Pronoun: An Index

      When I first wrote about the intrusive "his" and "him" in the prologue to John's gospel, I had intended this passage to be one of three places where we see the masculine singular pronoun intrude into the English text with little or no justification. Since this first case still warrants some discussion, I will index these posts with a view to adding the other two passages later.

      To clear up any misconception, let me explain that the underlying Greek for "him" in John 1:3 - πάντα δι' αὐτοῦ ἐγένετο - does, in fact, have a masculine grammatical gender. There is no evidence whatsoever for either the feminine or neuter in the Greek linguistic structure.

      However, the German, English and French Bibles of the Reformation translated John 1:3 so that the pronoun would agree grammatically with the antecedent, λόγος, the word. In German it is neuter to agree with das Wort, in French it is feminine to agree with la parole, and in English it used to be translated as "it," an inanimate pronoun, as best fits the inanimate noun "word."

      However, from the time of the KJV on, in Christian translations, this phrase has been translated with "him" instead.

      I am not writing about theology here. You may choose your theology. But you cannot choose the history of interpretation, you can only study it. For some reason, a chasm has opened up between the Greek, as well as other European languages, and modern English translations, with respect to this passage, and we would do well to reconsider it.

      If, as some have suggested, the logos can be equated to sophia or hokmah (wisdom), then we also need to compare the representation of gender in passages dealing with sophia. Enough of that for now. Here is a tentative index of posts.

      Posts here.

      John 1:3
      Posts Elsewhere

      Aristotle's Feminist Subject

      Gentle Wisdom
      The Church of Jesus Christ
      Ecce Homo
      Castle of Nutshells