Sunday, June 21, 2009

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.


Rod said...

Yeah, this is why I definitely prefer the NRSV. Thanks for the heads up.

Nathan Stitt said...

Why have you been blocked from commenting at the BBB? If it's a touchy subject no need to reply, but that seems a bit odd...

Theophilus said...

I think women should be happy with the fact that pronouns regarding males are are so vague and all-encompassing, versus female pronouns, which are quite specific.

Hasn't anyone ever said, "Hey, you guys, come here"? And did the ladies in the group follow? Historically speaking, "men" has always been used to include the entire human race.

Suzanne McCarthy said...


That is a nice way to put it and I see what you mean.

However, there used to be women in the pulpit of the church I attended and now there aren't. There are young women in the leadership training program who are wondering if they need to relocate.

Now there is a verse to exclude women from the activity of your choice. If the pastor preaches that every word is law - good luck.

The language is not really the problem. The problem is that women are not treated as equals, and the language is an instrument in removing women from leadership.

Theophrastus said...

I would like to call on the BBB to allow some diversity. While I do not mean to imply that BBB should have a quota system or that every possible permutation of characteristics should be represented, as it stand now, the membership of BBB consists of

7 men, 0 women
7 whites, 0 African-Americans, 0 Asians, 0 Hispanics
7 people of European descent, 0 Native peoples
7 Protestants, 0 Catholics, 0 Jews

It is telling to me that John is a featured commenter on that blog, even after a series of highly sexist and racist remarks (such as his recent remark that the end of slavery created more problems than it solved and was responsible for poverty and social problems in the African-American community), while Suzanne -- the only woman ever to have been on BBB, remains blocked.

R. Mansfield said...

I'm confused. Why is Suzanne blocked on BBB?

Suzanne McCarthy said...

I tried to explain it on my post today.

It appears that I am moderated and my comments will only pass moderation if I do not mention the ESV or gender, or any combination of these two. Also if I mention the name of a woman or female or any other such thing, my comments are also not passed. Its a new rule.

Josh said...

Suzanne, you said: "The language is not really the problem. The problem is that women are not treated as equals, and the language is an instrument in removing women from leadership."

Within the church, God has already removed women from leadership (1 Timothy 2:12).

Suzanne McCarthy said...

Thanks for this, Joshua.

Are you aware of any occasion where the Greek word authentein referred to church leadership. I am not.

Josh said...

Nope, but the "authentein" part of the verse is not what I'm referring to. It says, "Now I am not permitting a woman to be teaching ... man." The authentein only comes in as, "to be teaching or to be domineering [authentein]," so it is a separate prohibition connected with the conjunction "or."

This is consistent with 1 Corinthians 14:34-35 (and this is in the context of church order starting in verse 26). V. 35 even explains, "it is shameful for woman to speak in church." And, as if to put an exclamation point on it, Paul says in v. 37, "the things which I write to you are the commandments of the Lord"! It is therefore abundantly clear that woman are not to be teachers in the church, even so much that they are to be silent.

Katherine said...

JR: the problem is that sometimes male language is all-encompassing, and sometimes it's not. Kristina LaCelle-Peterson relates an incident where a man told her in no uncertain terms that Proverbs 27:17 (NIV) "as iron sharpens iron, so one man sharpens another" didn't refer to women, despite the fact that the verses "man does not live on bread alone" and God wants "all men to be saved" do apply to women. Why? Because of "common sense", which told him that while women could be saved and needed more than bread to live, they obviously couldn't "sharpen" a man's intellect. It's a kind of linguistic invisibility where women are at the mercy of men's interpretation of whether they should be included or not. We're smuggled in quietly under the language's coattails, but can be easily shaken off or cast aside if the male language "obviously" doesn't actually include women.

It would be on these grounds that I would challenge your assertion that "men" has "always" been used to include the entire human race in human history. Not always--sometimes it includes women, sometimes it doesn't. Aristotle defined man as a rational animal, but he didn't mean women because they weren't rational; "all men are created equal" didn't include women when it was written--it didn't even include all men! It does now only because we decided to interpret it that way.

Also, having man/men refer to male human beings in addition to human beings in general reinforces the thinking that male is more basically human than female. The default human experience closely correlates with the male experience of life, whereas women are "other" and you have to use special language to refer to them that you don't need to refer to men. What is it about "men" that is generic in a way that "women" must be specific? And, sadly, all too often in history women's otherness has been interpreted as less-than, ignorable, and even contemptible.

So, I'm not happy at all that male language is used to (sometimes) include women, because in reality it is only pseudo-generic, and continuing to believe it is genuinely and harmlessly generic only obscures the ways in which it is used to exclude and diminish women. All that being said, I want to reiterate that I only disagree with what you say, JR, and by no means attribute any ill motives to you as a person. I believe you said what you said in all good faith and sincerity. I also use "guys" generically too; I think in current usage it is more inclusive than men/man, but even so not always.

I agree, Suzanne: the core problem is the unequal treatment of women, but this pattern of language enables and reinforces it in.

Suzanne McCarthy said...


Thank you and well put.


This is a blog. You are welcome here. I appreciate your concern.

A.Admin said...

Thank you for an informative post. This isn’t really related to your main point, but I’ve always been uncomfortable with the ESV rendering of John 1:18. I thought I was alone in this.

Peter Kirk said...

Suzanne, I note that three comments of yours on BBB were allowed today, all mentioning gender and/or ESV. I'm sorry that that hasn't always been the case. But I hope you can see why the rejected comment which became this post was considered too controversial for BBB, although I did post a link to this post.

Theophrastus, as I have written also on your blog and at BBB, there is no favour or endorsement being given to John Hobbins at BBB. In fact his comments are moderated and several have not been approved. He is actually mentioned more on your blog than on BBB.

As for the gender and ethnic makeup of the BBB team, this is by no means deliberate. But it is in fact hard to find suitably qualified women and people from ethnic minorities (or indeed any suitably qualified people) to join the team.

Suzanne McCarthy said...


I left the BBB voluntarily and in food faith because I sensed that my posts on gender were no longer welcome. I am not happy to see that John's comments on gender are welcome there.

Peter Kirk said...

John's comments on gender are currently not welcome on BBB. When I approved some recent ones I was asked to take them down again until I had edited out the parts about gender. And then I get complaints from you and from Theophrastus for doing this. Please, give us a break.

Suzanne McCarthy said...

Thanks Peter, I think we are each seeing a different view of this, and I can't explain further.

Suzanne McCarthy said...

I am sorry that this has been a nuisance for you.

Dorcas (aka SingingOwl) said...
This comment has been removed by the author.
Dorcas (aka SingingOwl) said...

Suzanne, I was not aware of the change at BBB (haven't been there for a while--haven't been much of anywhere in cyberspace due to emergencies at home), and I am distressed. And surprised. And a bit shocked.


J.R.S. said, "Historically speaking, 'men' has always been used to include the entire human race." Ummm...sort of. I agree with you that the issue is exclusion of women, also that we must remember that today's society is used to gender-inclusive language and when they read "men" they think "men." I would agree that in general "Man" or "mankind" has been used to include both genders....but I see a profound difference in "there is one mediator between man and God" and "there is one mediator between MEN and God." Does anyone else? I have never used the ESV personally or from the pulpit, and now I certainly will never do so!

Dannii said...

Although "men" may more commonly be gender-specific, it is by no means always that way. Think of the "age of men" by Tolkien. Who has more examples?

Suzanne McCarthy said...


How would you explain the preface to the ESV? I can't.

Dannii said...

An honest mistake on their part? I imagine that they spent a lot more time and effort getting the text rather than getting the preface right. Maybe the 1 Tim example is an isolated case the preface writers forgot or didn't know.

I'd rather put a preface out than a whole translation.

Suzanne McCarthy said...

Actually there are lots of verses that use men where the Greek has anthorpos in the plural and ought to include all humans.

See this post.

Oc course, they could change the preface, but the translators of the ESV have made the same claim that they make in the preface elsewhere.

Grudem and Poythress have written a book on the TNIV and Gender Neutral Language and they have also published the Colorado Springs Gender language Guidelines.

I don't think it is possible for them to withdraw their doctrine that "men" means male, without seriously contradicting these other publications.

Peter Kirk said...

For further thoughts on the ESV rendering of 1 Timothy 2, see my new blog post.

Wayne Leman said...

I make this comment here instead of on the BBB since the powers that be there have decided to block me from commenting.

Suzanne, you are definitely not blocked from commenting on BBB. As you can see in the BBB guidelines, posted at the top of the blog margin, we do exercise the right of moderating some comments. But that is very different from blocking someone from commenting. I happened to be on a trip without access to the Internet when the unfortunate things happened at BBB that caused you distress. I am sorry about that distress and I hope that by now you have read all the pertinent information about it.

Please do not post on your blog that you are blocked from posting on either the Complegalitarian or BBB blogs. Such statements lead to misunderstanding for those who read your blog. You are always welcome to post on either blog. As moderators we always have the option of moderating any comment which does not follow the blog guidelines. But we never censor dissenting opinions. In fact we welcome them.

Wayne Leman said...

Suzanne, I should also mention that comments that relate to Bible translation of gender continue to be welcome on the Better Bibles Blog. We only ask that each comment follow the blog guidelines which have been developed, often painfully, over time.

Suzanne McCarthy said...

As I explained in my previous comment being moderated in a busy thread is the same as being blocked. Since I was many times assured that another commenter was also moderated, and I saw his comments appearing regularly and mine being held back for several days, I had no choice but to assume that I was blocked.

Repeatedly I was told that the other commenter was also moderated as I was. However, that turned out not to be true. In view of the many misrepresentations of who was and who was not moderated, my confusion grew. I would recommend that in such a case, the truth ought to be ascertained, and then someone should communicate with me directly by email to clear up the confusion. Unfortunately only one person from the BBB contacted me and he seemed to be as confused as I was.

Wayne Leman said...
This comment has been removed by the author.
Wayne Leman said...

Suzanne, I am so sorry for the confusion that occurred on BBB. I am the one responsible for it, due to a senior moment on my part. Fortunately, that moment lasted not much longer than a moment because another BBB blogger caught my error and corrected it. Unfortunately, I was traveling and did not have access to the Internet, so not all BBB bloggers knew about my mistake. As soon as anyone could they addressed the confusion as best as they knew how. We humans err, confusion occurs, and I am so sorry. You continue to be welcome at BBB and it continues to be true that your status is the same there as that of the commenter with whom you have had difficulties. The equal status was only changed for a very short time, due to my mistake, and, as I said, that was quickly correctly. So sorry.

Suzanne McCarthy said...

Yes, there was quite a bit of confusion.

Anonymous said...

"Who for us men and for our salvation. . ."

Oops. Guess "men" *can* include women!