Monday, August 31, 2009

TNIV Roundup: August 2009

A new convert to the TNIV takes the plunge with Okay, I Did It, I Bought a TNIV. The TNIV appears on the Amazon’s Christian Best Sellers of the Month list. Stan reviews his Cambridge TNIV and he likes it!

TC, a long time promoter of the TNIV, introduces A Reader's Hebrew and Greek Bible with TNIV Here is another satisfied customer, thanks to Rick Mansfield and TC Robinson. But who is Brian and what is the name of his blog?

Aberration blog is a new blog which seems to have a major focus on Bible translation and in particular the TNIV. A recent post presents a short History of Translating the Bible.

For those who are looking for a little more detail there is The Love of John 21 and the NIV/TNIV and Colossians, Doug Moo and the TNIV

Finally, Jeff has been working on marketing slogans for the TNIV. What do you think?

My summary thoughts are that the average TNIV supporter is young, male, good-looking and hip. I hope that won't do the translation to much harm.

Here are a few of the anti-TNIV folks speaking their mind. Piper, MacArthur, Grudem and Packer. Its pretty amazing but Piper's clip on the TNIV has 10,000 viewers, whereas other youtube clips on the TNIV have only a hundred or so. The youtube clip on the accuracy of the TNIV has only 90 views.

I hope to do provide this service every month or two, depending on the availability of new posts on this topic. Next time around I will ask for submissions ahead of time.

Sunday, August 30, 2009

Compassionate Mother: part 3

part 1
part 2

A commenter recently mentioned that the Holy Spirit is not always feminine in Syriac. This is true, and it is quite unusual that a word would change gender over time while otherwise retaining the same form. In this segment of Fire from Heaven: Studies in Syriac theology and liturgy by Sebastian Brock, we read,
    In the Acts of Thomas, belonging probably to the third century and one of the most important documents of early Syriac Christianity, we find a number of passages which describe the Baptism followed by Communion, of people who have been converted by the Apostle Thomas. In those passages the unknown author provides various liturgical invocations addressed to Christ and to the Holy Spirit, and it so happens that the original text of these is best preserved in the early Greek translation of the Syriac; thus in the Greek we read the following three passages:

      (Section 27) Come, hole name of Christ, which is above every name; come, Power of the Most High (cp Luke 1:35), and perfect mercy; come exalted Gift (i.e. the Holy Spirit_; come, compassionate Mother, ...

      (Section 50) Come, hidden Mother, ... come and make us share in this Eucharist which we perform in your name, and cause us to share in the love to which we are joined by invoking you, ...

      (Section 133, in the course of a Trinitarian convocation over the newly baptized) We name over you the name of the Mother ...

    In each of these passages the surviving Syriac manuscripts of the Acts of Thomas have slightly altered the wording, removing the word 'Mother". It is in fact clear from many different pieces of evidence, that towards the end of the fourth century Syriac writers began to become wary about addressing the Holy Spirit as Mother, no doubt due to abuse of this imagery by certain groups whom they regarded as heretical.

    One consequence of this reaction was a tendency to change the grammatical gender of ruha from feminine to masculine whenever ruha referred to the Holy Spirit. It is a fact that in virtually all Syriac literature before about AD 400 ruha d-qudusha)or more rarely, ruha qaddishta) "the Holy Spirit', is treated grammaatically as feminine, but after that approximate date the feminine came to be increasingly avoided. It is not without interest to follow the course of this process, both in the Syriac translations of the Bible, and among Syriac writers.
I don't see the reference to the Spirit as Mother as a heresy to be corrected, but simply as a natural metaphorical use of the gender of the Aramiac word ruha. It is astonishing that this word could later take on the masculine gender in Syriac but only when referring to the Holy Spirit. One has to suppose that the word used by Jesus in talking about the Spirit would have been feminine in gender.

There are many different ways of interpreting this, of course. Some people may see grammatical gender as having no value at all. Others may believe that it is part of the overall revelation of God about the nature of the divine being. Jesus does not talk about the Spirit as his mother, but he does make a more oblique reference to the Spirit as the Comforter, arguably a reference to the "spouse" in Wisdom of Solomon chapter 8.

Preaching the gospel for women in Africa

Update: I want to personally thank Carolyn for publishing this and subsequent comments. The comments are now closed but she has posted comments which question the teaching of authority and submission, so hats off to her for this. I will continue to read her blog.

As I have mentioned, I read Carolyn McCulley's blog with pleasure. She brings attention to the plight of families in Africa. I have commented there, but comments are moderated on her blog, and I know that Carolyn is very busy right now. So, I am posting a comment which I made there, here on my blog. Its an ad hoc comment protesting the teaching of authority and submission as a paradigm for marriage in Africa, - and anywhere in the world, for that matter. Deprivation of personal human rights is a cruel and unusual punishment. I wrote,


Thank you for responding. I have a somewhat different viewpoint.

As I see it, one cannot forcibly convert husbands. Another sad statistic is that domestic violence is not lower in church attending families than non-church attending families in North America. I think it is evident that women are not sheltered from violence by the church.

You may say that they would be sheltered by the husband living out the gospel. But in the meantime what? In fact, among abused wives I know are a very good number of minister's and missionary wives. Many Christian husbands in our churches here do not live out the gospel. Can we guarantee that they will in Africa?

In view of the fact that the gospel cannot guarantee a reduction of violence, there should be some way to enable women to have freedom from violence and to feed their children in the meantime.

If the authority and submission gospel is preached in Africa, then women will not be able to get loans, or employment since their money would be under their husbands control. This is enough of a difficulty here in NA for a woman who lives in submission. How does she save money, plan a pension, further her education, if her husband sees her as uniquely occupied within the house and under his "final say"?

I cannot agree with your recounting of the side effects [of women's liberation] either. Oddly, in industrialized societies, in western Europe, the birth rate is higher in countries with less rigid gender roles. Italy, for example, has by far the lowest birth rate but reinforces gender roles.

It is important also to realize that abortion rates in the US are several times higher than anywhere in Europe, where abortion is more available. Statistics on abortion are not availble pre-women's lib, as far as I know, but abortion was a major issue in patriarchal Greece, where men wanted to limit family size.

I cannot agree that the higher incidence of divorce is necessarily a negative, since in the 19th century, there was an enormous number of families living without enough food, children in orphanages, street children dying in all the major cities of North America. In some countries without easy access to divorce, many couples simply live with new partners outside of marriage and families are not cemented by marriage at all.

I believe that women being able to work, and being able to divorce, although not ideal, has made a huge improvement in the living conditions of children.

The statistics of street children and orphans in North America is often forgotten and we pretend that the masses lived in a middle class family environment. This is not the case. Many died in extreme poverty.

Women like Elizabeth Cady Stanton fought hard to enable women to have rights in order to feed their children. They were not anti marriage, but promoted the interests of women who needed to escape from physically violent situations, also lacking in basic needs for the children.

If the women of North America do not support equal participation in decision-making for women worldwide, then a very basic means of survival is being withheld, (one which we benefit from in civil law, even if it is muted by the church.) I do not think that authority and submission in marriage can be presented to the women of Africa as the "Gospel."

Surely our love of children should make us want to help women to participate fully in decision-making.

Grudem calls Calvin's translation "highly suspect"

Has Grudem even read Calvin's commentary? Probably, but no one can remember everything. Still, the statement of concern against the TNIV is an abomination unto the Lord. And it is a good way for signatories to reveal what they don't know.

A couple of years ago, Wayne Grudem made this statement,
    The TNIV in particular has changed the translation of many of the key passages regarding women in the church, and I would find it almost impossible to teach a Biblical “complementarian” view of the role of women in the church from the TNIV. It has gone further in supporting an evangelical feminist position than any other translation, as far as I know (see page 260 in Evangelical Feminism: A New Path to Liberalism? for more details). Of course, it is no surprise than that the TNIV has been very popular among egalitarian groups such as the Willow Creek Association.

    To take one example: in 1 Timothy 2:12 the TNIV adopts a highly suspect and novel translation that gives the egalitarian side everything they have wanted for years in a Bible translation. It reads, “I do not permit a woman to teach or to assume authority over a man” (italics added). If churches adopt this translation, the debate over women's roles in the church will be over, because women pastors and elders can just say, “I’m not assuming authority on my own initiative; it was given to me by the other pastors and elders.” Therefore any woman could be a pastor or elder so long as she does not take it upon herself to “assume authority.” Then in the footnotes to 1 Timothy 2:12 the TNIV also introduces so many alternative translations that the verse will just seem confusing and impossible to understand. So it is no surprise that egalitarian churches are eager to adopt the TNIV.
Now here is where the translation "assume authority" came from. First, here is Calvin's translation into Latin of 1 Tim. 2:12,
    Docere autem muliere non permitto, neque auctoritatem sibi sumere in virum,

    I do not permit a woman to teach or assume authority over a man,
Calvin then writes,
    But I suffer not a woman to teach. Not that he takes from them the charge of instructing their family, but only excludes them from the office of teaching, which God has committed to men only. On this subject we have explained our views in the exposition of the First Epistle to the Corinthians. 3939 See Commentary on the Epistles of Paul to the Corinthians, vol. 1, p. 467. If any one bring forward, by way of objection, Deborah (Judges 4:4) and others of the same class, of whom we read that they were at one time appointed by the command of God to govern the people, the answer is easy.

    Extraordinary acts done by God do not overturn the ordinary rules of government, by which he intended that we should be bound. Accordingly, if women at one time held the office of prophets and teachers, and that too when they were supernaturally called to it by the Spirit of God, He who is above all law might do this; but, being a peculiar case, 4040 Pource que e’est un cas particulier et extraordinaire.” — “Because it is a peculiar and extraordinary case.” this is not opposed to the constant and ordinary system of government.

    He adds — what is closely allied to the office of teaching — and not to assume authority over the man; for the very reason, why they are forbidden to teach, is, that it is not permitted by their condition. They are subject, and to teach implies the rank of power or authority. Yet it may be thought that there is no great force in this argument; because even prophets and teachers are subject to kings and to other magistrates. I reply, there is no absurdity in the same person commanding and likewise obeying, when viewed in different relations.

    But this does not apply to the case of woman, who by nature (that is, by the ordinary law of God) is formed to obey; for γυναικοκρατία (the government of women) has always been regarded by all wise persons as a monstrous thing; and, therefore, so to speak, it will be a mingling of heaven and earth, if women usurp the right to teach. Accordingly, he bids them be “quiet,” that is, keep within their own rank.

Not that I agree with Calvin, but to set the record straight, the TNIV is an accurate representation of Calvin's translation. The statement against the TNIV should be removed from the internet forever.

I had not thought much about the influence of Calvin's Latin commentary on Bible translation. Not as influential as Erasmus, I think, but significant, nonetheless.

The vow of obedience

Wedding vows used to contain this vow for the woman,

WILT thou have this Man to thy wedded Husband, to live together after God's ordinance in the holy estate of Matrimony? Wilt thou obey him, and serve him, love, honour, and keep him in sickness and in health; and, forsaking all other, keep thee only unto him, so long as ye both shall live?

The Woman shall answer, I will.

This article pretty much sums up the way I view this matter. Here is where I blogged about some sample wedding vows from I was not impressed.

Joel and Damian have written insightful posts on the issue of obeying one's leader, pastor or husband.

Friday, August 28, 2009

Compassionate Mother: part 2

In this section of Fire from Heaven, we can see that the spirit is metaphorically feminine because of the gender of the word in Aramaic and Syriac. The spirit is not refered to as masculine in the Greek NT so this does not go against the scripture as it has come down to us in the original language.
    In our modern context it is of some interest to recover that awareness - today all too often lost - of the feminine aspect of the Godhead, and it is here that the early Syriac tradition is of particular interest; here we find an openness to the use of female imagery in connection with the Godhead which is rare at other times and in other traditions. It is important to realise that this imagery is equally used of the Father and the Son, even though in the following pages our attention will be focused solely on the Holy Spirit, in whose case the feminine grammtical gender of ruha, "spirit"no doubt encouraged the use of such imagery.

    In a certain number of writings from the general area of north Mesopotamia, in both Greek and Syriac, we have specific references to the Holy Spirit as a 'mother. Two such passages, one from the mid fourth century Syriac writer Aphrahat, 'the Persian Sage". and the other from the unknown Greek author of the 'Macarian Homilies' (on the spiritual life), take as their basis the interpretation of Genesis 2:24, 'a man shall leave his father and his mother'. Thus Aphrahat writes:

      Who is it who leaves father and mother to take a wife? The meaning is as follows: as long as a man has not taken a wife, he loves and reveres God his Father and the Holy Spirit his Mother, and he has no other love. But when a man takes a wife then he leaves his (true) Father and Mother.

    Aphrahat is here addressing people who have chosen for themselves teh ascetic life of singleness in imitation of the Single, or Only-Begotten, Christ. The same passage is given a rather wider interpretation, to include all who seek to follow God, by the unknown author of the Macarian Homilies:

      It is right and fitting, my children, for you to have left behind all that is temporal, and to have set off for God: instead of an earhtly father, you are seeking the hevenly Father, and instead of a mother who is subject to decay, you have a Mother, the excellent Spirit of God, and the heavenly Jerusalem. Instead of the brothers whom you have left, you now have the Lord who has allowed himself to be called 'brother' of the faithful.

Not only is the trinity of mixed metaphorical gender, but there is a pair of Father and Mother, parallel terms, although one could argue that the Father is supreme. However, the Son is mentioned in a seemingly subordinate position to Father and Mother. If there is hierarchy, or perhaps one should say order, in the trinity, clearly this tradition views this order in quite different terms than the Greek tradition.

It seems that if there is hierarchy in the trinity it is related to the values of the metaphorical components of the imagery used to relate to God, and it does not necessarily communicate anything about actual relations in the Godhead.

That is, the Godhead is in reality neither gendered nor hierarchical, but we use these images to communicate something about God. The trinity can be talked about both as an all masculine cohort of Father, Son and Spirit; and as Father, Mother and Son. The image is not the reality.

Fire from Heaven, page 251

Thursday, August 27, 2009

Compassionate Mother: part 1

I have been intending for some time to continue my discussion of grammatical gender and pronouns. So far, I have noticed that there seems to have been an historical movement in the direction of using masculine pronouns in many places which formerly did not have a masculine grammatical reference of any kind.

The most notable of these places is in associaton with the "spirit" which is neuter in Greek, and feminine in Aramaic and Hebrew. We don't have any original Aramaic material from the NT, but we do have the Syriac translations of the Greek New Testament books and the literature of the Eastern church, written in Syriac. Syriac is an Aramaic language, written in the Syriac alphabet.

For the next little while, I am going to cite from Fire from Heaven: Studies in Syriac theology and liturgy by Sebastian Brock, page 250, from the chapter called "Come, compassionate Mother.
    In the Semitic languages the word for 'spirit' (ruha in Syriac) is grammatically feminine, and this grammatical detail has given rise, in the over-literalistic mind, to the inference that the role of the Holy Spirit (ruha d-qudsha) was solely a female one.

    Grammatical gender, of course, varies considerably from one language to another, and need have no bearing at all on ontological gender; thus the term for (Holy) Spirit is neuter in Greek and masculine in Latin. And in any cse, as Jerome pointed out long ago, 'there is no gender in the divinity.'

    Even though the Godhead is totally beyond gender, nevertheless metaphors and similes associated with either male or female characteristics have readily been used of God by religious writers of all times and all faiths. Thus in early Christian tradition we find, alongside the more familiar male imagery, references, to the Father's breasts being milked and to the Godhead as a wetnurse.

    Such images, which may strike the modern reader as surprising, or even bizarre, are in fact no less appropriate than the male imagery which we have (sadly) grown accustomed to expect, for any description of the Godhead which confines itself to solely male (or solely female) imagery is both inadequate and misdleading, seeing that the Godhead transcends all gender.

    As the great poet Ephrem, writing in the fourth century, pointed out,

      If someone concentrates his attention
      solely on the metaphors used of God's Majesty.
      he abuses and misrepresents that Majesty
      by means of these very metaphors with which God has clothed himself.

For footnotes, please refer to google books.

Fencing with a wet noodle

I know a lot of people think that we can deduce from context that authentein means "to have authority in church" but there is no evidence for this. This could actually be called the “wet noodle” hermeneutic. Here is the Steven Pinker, The Stuff of Thought, page 123,

    Language is a lever with which we can convey surprising facts, weird new ideas, unwelcome news, and other thoughts that a listener may be unprepared for. This leverage requires a rigid stick and a solid fulcrum, and that’s what the meaning of a sentence and the words and rules supporting them must be. If meanings could be freely reinterpreted in context, language would be a wet noodle and not up to the job of forcing new ideas into the minds of listeners.

So, when a theologian says,

    While what you say is generally true, in the case of the use of didaskein and authentein in 1 Tim 2:12, in conjunction with oude, it does not appear that these verbs are of such a nature that they transparently and unequivocally convey a positive or negative connotation apart from consultation of the context and syntax of the passage.” Kostenberger BF, Nov. 30, 2008


    The fact that lexical study in this case, owing to the limited data, of necessity remains inconclusive leads naturally to the next chapter in the book, where I consider the sentence structure” Köstenberger, Between Two Worlds, July 30, 2008
it is evident that he is fencing with a wet noodle.

Wednesday, August 26, 2009

For John Starke

I saw the misunderstanding on complegalitarian and since this will contain a citation or two I am posting my contribution here. I know that is not what you meant to say, but it is a little confusing.

There seems to be a misunderstanding about whether some think that "man" refers to all humans, or to "man" the male. I do think that this was intended to refer to human beings,
    “There is an intentionality expressed in these words indicating that man, more fully than any other part of creation, will reflect and represent what God is like. Although the heavens declare God’s glory (Psalm 19:1), only man is made in God’s image” (132).
However, I can't help but think that the confusion could have been avoided, since English has a perfectly good way to express the meaning of people, male and female. We are called "humans." Its a good word. I recommend it.

But here is what Bruce Ware wrote on male and female in the image of God,
    Second, in Gen. 5:2, God chooses to name both male and female with a name that functions as a masculine generic (i.e., the Hebrew term áa„d£a„m is a masculine term that can be used exclusively for a man, especially in Gen. 1-4, but here is used as a generic term in reference to male and female together).

    In Gen. 5:2, we read that God created man in the likeness of God, as male and female, and "when they were created he called themman'" (emphasis added). It appears that God intends the identity of both to contain an element of priority given to the male, since God chooses as their common name a name that is purposely masculine (i.e., a name that can be used also of the man alone, as distinct altogether from the woman, but never of the woman alone, as distinct altogether from the man).

    As God has so chosen to create man as male and female, by God's design her identity as female is inextricably tied to and rooted in the prior identity of the male.[18]
My understanding of the word adam is that it can refer to a single human being whose proper name was Adam, or it can refer to a human being, male or female. It indicates that the item being referred to is human.

Adam can, in fact, be used of women alone, as we see in Numbers 31,
    32 Now the plunder remaining of the spoil that the army took was 675,000 sheep, 3372,000 cattle, 3461,000 donkeys, 35and 32,000 persons (nefesh adam) in all, women who had not known man (zakar) by lying with him.
I really don't think that it is best overall to translate adam with the English word "man." It contributes to a very sad and entirely unecessary misunderstanding between the complementarians and egalitarians. It is difficult enough with the very uneven way that the ESV has translated the different Greek and Hebrew words for human beings already.

I think it is important to note that the Hebrew is very distinct in saying that the females were adam "human beings" who had not slept with zakar "males." The Hebrew uses these words in clear and explicit ways. But the ESV calls the zakar "man" and then wants elsewhere to call adam "man" and so on. It is entirely too confusing.


Back to how women are in the image of God. Ware appears to be saying that a single male is in the image of God. However, a woman who has not grounded her identity in man - the male - is not in the image of God.

This is problematic, since half of all women my age are single, and for many or us, our fathers have passed on. We don't feel that we need to ground our identity in another human being, any more than a man does. This doesn't appear to be a logical statement to us women.

Does this help explain why some of us older women are baffled, perturbed and irritated by Bruce Ware. I am so sorry that it makes us cranky. I looked at compegal, and I am sorry, John, but some of commenters are very cranky, actually.

Continued: Here is more of Bruce Ware,
    God's naming male and female ‘man' indicates simultaneously, then, the distinctiveness of female from male, and the unity of the female's nature as it is identified with the prior nature of the first-created man, from which she now has come. Since this is so, we should resist the movement today in Bible translation that would customarily render instances of áa„d£a„m with the fully non-gender specific term ‘human being'.[19] This misses the God-intended implication conveyed by the masculine generic ‘man,' viz., that woman possesses her common human nature only through the prior nature of the man. Put differently, she is woman as God's image by sharing in the man who is himself previously God's image. A male priority is indicated, then, along with full male-female equality, when God names male and female ‘man.'
We can now see that Ware wants three Hebrew words to be translated as "man" adam, ish and zakar. Let's add geber and enosh. Ware seems to be saying that God intends males to have priority, so let's translate all these words by "man." But, doesn't God want us to be able to communicate. Didn't he give us language for that purpose?

Julie Julia

It was a great movie! Paris never looked better. Julie Powell was a little petulant, but the segments of Julia Child and her husband were in praise of romantic love in the mature years. Meryl Streep is something of a comedian in this movie so be prepared for a little slapstick. And listen for the hot canelloni quip.

There are some interesting insights into the early blogging scene as well. But when I talk about having the book, I mean "Mastering the Art of French Cooking" not the book from the Powell's blog. You have to hand it Julie, however, that she has raised so much awareness for Julia Child.

Two upcoming conferences

First there is the CBMW Trinity Panel and then there is the blog conference on women in ministry.

The trinity panel will be upholding the belief that there is eternal functional authority and submission between essentially equal persons, God the Father and God the Son, and between husband and wife.

Dave, writing for the blog conference, claims,
    It was in the 1970s that the Anglican Church in Sydney Australia put forward the idea that there was a hierarchy within the Trinity that was reflected in creation, specifically between a husband and a wife. This has been fundamental to the development of “complementarianism” and the understanding that men and women are “equal but different” (before the argument was simply “not equal”!). According to Padgett there is no documentation of complementarianism prior to 1976. All this suggests that it is not Egalitarianism that has developed recently due to cultural pressure, but rather the Complementarian view of subordination based on the Trinity and the concept of “equal but different”! Complementarians like to say they are defending the traditional view…but this would not appear to be the case at all (unless of course you see no difference between hierarchical theology and complementariansism!)!

Tuesday, August 25, 2009

Helper or Helpee

I was reading about Elizabeth Elliot and that reminded me of when I heard her speak at Urbana, many years ago. Here is Brenda Salter McNeil, a speaker for Urbana 2009 on the helper and the helpee.

Ruth Padilla Deborst will also speak. That's neat.

Women wearing pants: Index

This is really about tranvestism and its various connotations.

Kent Brandenburg posted on this topic here and here.

I wrote about it here and here.

Dr. Claude Marriottini has several posts on the topic. This is his most recent and detailed post with lots of new insight. Here are his posts in order.

Transvestism in Ancient Israel
Women, pants and Deuteronomy 22:5 part 1
Women, pants and Deuteronomy 22:5 part 2

Paris on Piper

Jennel Williams Paris has her own take on John Piper. I like her writing, she has a good take on why women should study home ec. too. Or rather what women should study in home ec. This answers the question in the comment on my last post, so here goes Don't knock biblical home ec.,
    First, teach money: thrifty shopping, of course, but also purchasing a home, doing taxes and investing. A financial course could also teach women how to guide their husbands gently toward wise financial stewardship, which would contribute to a good outcome without violating patriarchy. (Even if men took a course in finances, 50% of them would be in the bottom half of the class and could use their wives' support.) Finances and sex are two taboos insufficiently addressed in families or communities, and they warrant classroom instruction.

    Second, the curriculum should include advanced topics related to the absence of men. "Cheating, Leaving, Dying: What To Do When He's Gone" would cover most of what I have in mind. Reserved for the 400-level is "On Your Own Two Feet or By Your Man: Where to Stand," in which women discuss strategies for coping with sexual addiction, gay husbands, straight affairs and financial scandal. Another is "Why the Bleep Am I Still Single?" Most homemaking students will be anticipating a future of mothering, wifing and home-schooling, but some will not marry, and some of those married will not parent.

    Third, there ought to be study for men, beyond a course in the theology of patriarchy. A few essentials: "Basic Home Repair," "Achieving Financial Stability" and "Being a Song of Solomon Lover." Perhaps egalitarians and complementarians can agree that women deserve satisfaction in things financial, sexual and electrical.

As a man wipeth a dish

I was hand washing some new dishes today and as I dried a plate, I turned it over and dried it on the back. Then I wondered if I usually did that, and what did this tell me about myself, about these dishes or about the situation.

Why would I ask that? Because when I was little I heard someone say that men are more thorough and better at details and that is why God said,
    and I will wipe Jerusalem as a man wipeth a dish, wiping it, and turning it upside down.
See, God is like a man who wipes a dish on both sides. God is thorough and careful like a man. God is like a man and not like a woman. And that is why men are in charge, because men are like God. Men are like God and women are not.

If a female is a hen or a bear, then the female is like God, but a human female is only the weaker vessel.

And that is how some women are raised. Everything they do is permeated with the notion that a man can do it better. Because he is a man - like God.

That's one more reason why a gender accurate Bible would be nice. It's important to be aware, of course, that there are lots of things in the Bible that really are there in the original languages that we want to reject anyway, like the she bears who mauled the 42 children who mocked Elisha. There's lots of that stuff too.

But we also want to know, we want to be aware that sometimes people will use anything at all to prove that men are better than women, or that women are better than men. Two can play at this game. But the Bible is more useful for men somehow.

Even though Bibles today do not have the word "man" in this verse, because it wasn't there in Hebrew, the notion that men are better at doing things is alive and well. This is from
    Because the wife is physically weaker, she depends on her husband for provision and protection. His task is to provide food, clothing, shelter, and defense, while she is especially adapted by God to bear children and to provide them with the warm affection and tender care which they need. However, the very equipment which God gave her to assume that role is likewise the cause of a second area of weakness—her emotions. A woman must sometimes struggle with sudden and unexplainable changes in mood. These are chemically precipitated by hormones which form part of her reproductive capacity. This emotional vulnerability makes her especially dependent on the man God gives her. It seems to be the underlying idea in God’s words to Eve: “You shall welcome your husband’s affections.”79 She looks to him with an inner yearning to meet her basic needs. She was made for him, and so her life centers in him.

In the interests of not completely ruining your dinner, I won't cite more. But - men don't have hormones? Men don't need women?? Men aren't emotionally vulnerable???

Okay I was going to read the rest of the article myself but I had to stop. The thing is that sometimes the Bible is woven into a tissue of misogyny that is enough to strangle a woman.

Monday, August 24, 2009

Language and the gender of God

This is what I have been thinking, roughly speaking, about language and the gender of God. It sounds very different in different languages.
    English - God/goddess
    French - Dieu/déesse
    German - Gott/Göttin
In these languages where the vocabulary developed, to a greater or lesser extent, within Christianity, the words have a marked contrast. But here is Latin,
    Latin - deus/dea
And, in fact, there was a common saying, (I just discovered it though) sive deus sive dea, 'whether god or goddess." It was a way of addressing a god, if you didn't know which god it was. Actually, these two only differ by the grammatical ending.

And in Greek,
    ὁ θεός/ἡ θεός (also ἡ θεά))
"god and ""goddess" are the same word with a different article, most of the time. However, the nomina sacra developed fairly early within Christianity and that meant that the name of God, ΘΣ, became graphically distinct from the word for "god." But this had no effect on pronunciation.

In Hebrew the word for God does not have two contrasting gendered forms. Elohim, אלהים, is a masculine plural form possibly of a word eloah, which has feminine grammatical gender in the singular. David Stein makes this comment in footnote 48 of On Beyond Gender,
    The term ’elohim does not require that its referent be male. As a common-gender (“epicene”) noun, it can refer to either a male or a female deity. In this passage it is a status term; like “pharaoh,” that status can be taken by either a man or a woman. As such, the gender inflections of verbs and adjectives would be expected to follow the semantic orientation (social gender) of the occupant.
In this article, David Stein makes several points regarding the gender of God. I highly recommend this as recent scholarly work on the topic. First, he challenges our understanding of a personal God. He writes,
    Stephen A. Geller characterizes biblical theology in terms of three dominant traditions, and he succinctly summarizes their views of God: “In each one of them, one aspect of the deity predominates.The God of the covenant tradition is a personality; of the priestly tradition, a force; and of the wisdom tradition, a principle."
Then he takes on the question which constantly prods me to write. How is gender rendered in other languages, and what does this say about universal truths about God.
    Linguistic considerations, it appears, further helped some of the ancients to view deity regularly through a non-gendered lens. In contrast with Hebrew and other Semitic tongues, a few Near Eastern languages did not differentiate personal nouns by grammatical gender; the mythic poetry, epics and inscriptions written in those languages speak about male and female deities without linguistic gender distinction.35 During the last two millennia bce, male elites among native speakers of Semitic tongues often learned a non-gendered language (Sumerian, Hittite or Luwian), because it enjoyed international scope and literary standing.36 Given the ancients’ concept of the inherent reality of words, this multilingualism had cognitive consequences: The reader became used to viewing deities without grammatical gender cues; and in this view their social gender would not have been part of their nature, for, as Assyriologist and translator Stephanie Dalley has pointed out, “the change in noun categories would mirror a change in the objects which these nouns represented.
Update: I haven't been very clear with this, but the Greek word
θεός and the Hebrew word Elohim, אלהים both have the lexical meanings of "God, god/goddess." In Greek and Hebrew the word for God does not primarily contrast with a feminine word for goddess. The one word can function for any god, either masculine or feminine. Unfortunately one cannot use the English word "goddess" and still remain within orthodox Christianity.

However, this situation does not occur Greek and Hebrew. In these languages one can talk of "God" who is both masculine and feminine, or neither masculine nor feminine. It works in Greek and Hebrew to do this. We are constrained in English, French and German.

Half the Sky

Nicolas Kristof and Sheryl Wudunn have recently published Half the Sky about the importance of educating and empowering women on a global scale. Carolyn McCulley has blogged about this book as well. Unfortunately she is conflicted about empowering women, but I am impressed by her involvement in these issues. She writes,
    If we preach equality because it's found on page one of the Bible, then we should be leading the charge in this area. But our solutions will be different because our end goals are different. Yes, we want to empower women. Yes, we want women to be educated. Yes, we want families to be healthier and more prosperous. But we don't want to do this by lifting up one person in the family at the expense of another.
I think there was a time when Christian women were leading the charge in this area, but no longer. I also find that Carolyn has resorted to straw man rhetoric. Where in Kristof and Wudunn's writing, do they "lift up women at the expense of men?" She does not offer an example of this, and I don't find it in Kristof's writing myself.

On the other hand, I think Carolyn has done a lot to bring global women's issues greater visibility, so I appreciate that very much.

Wearing pants

Dr. Mariottini has taken up the discussion of Deut. 22:5 again, responding to Kent Brandenburg's presentation of commentary on this verse. I had mentioned these posts in my recent post on holy transvestism, (which I misspelled).

In Holy Women of Byzantium, Talbot writes,
    The holy transvestite nun is an enigmatic, though compelling figure. Unified in her contradictions of the masculine and the feminine, indeed constituted by those very contradictions, the transvestite nun is a symbol of the ambiguities, tensions, and hostility that often comprised Early Christian attitudes toward women.10 Although these attitudes are difficult to characterize without caricaturizing, women were generally perceived as having to transcend their inferior feminine nature to attain spiritual virility and manliness. In this vertiginous conquest of manhood by woman, Mary/Marinos is a hero of virile temperament, and at the same time a hero who suffers, voluntarily accepting marginalization, victimization, and helplessness. Ironically, her exploits suggest that the feminine element is part of the ambivalence of virile strength, and that it may serve to balance and amplify that strength, as well as subvert its authoritative claims to dominance and hegemony.
On a contemporary note, Nicholas Kristof reports about the punishment determined for a woman wearing pants in Sudan.

Sunday, August 23, 2009

Arnobius and more intrusive pronouns, etc.

Its weird how we can make huge assumptions from the English language. For example, the word "godess" simply sounds pagan to us now. The divine feminine and all that. I truly believe in a God that is beyond gender so I am not seeking the eternal feminine or masculine. But "godess" still has that ring for me. Careful, don't go there.

So, what does it sound like in Greek? There is a word for "godess," but it is not really in opposition to the word for "god." It is used for Athena, who is "the" godess - thea. In many circumstances, the word for "god" - theos - was good enough for both gods and godesses, just change the article so the grammar is correct. I am not too certain how the frequency of the two words compare, that is for female gods - are they gods or godesses?

Here is an example.
    Let not any goddess nor yet any god essay this thing,

    μήτέ τις οὖν θήλεια θεὸς τό γε* μήτέ τις ἄρσην
It simply says,
    may not either any female god nor even any male [god]...
(Okay, I didn't translate the οὖν, but neither did the original translator of this piece - A. T. Murray, 1924) Now read this post from Joel's site. It makes you wonder exactly what was written in Greek.
    When we speak of God, we use a masculine word, but let no thoughtless person accuse us of saying that God, is a man. It is not gender that is expressed but rather his name, its customary meaning and the way in which we habitually use words. The deity is not male, even though his name is of the masculine gender. In contrast, [pagans] attribute gender to the gods, by calling them either “god” of “goddess.” We cannot believe that God has a body, because if he did, he would have to be either male or female. (Arnobius, Against the Nations, 3.8, ACD vol 1, p38)
What I am thinking is that the word theos has a grammatical masculine gender. However, it is not primarily a designation of a masculine god - it is not "god"as opposed to "godess" but "god" as opposed to "humans." This is the primary focus of the word.

[Another of my insomniac posts. As Kurk points out, Arnobius wrote in Latin and here is the phrase,

    ' sive tu deus es sive dea '

I am leaving up my rewrite, because I still think that the word "godess" has as certain pagan flavour to it, and contrasts with "god" in a differenct way from how dea contrasts with deus. For Latin and Greek, the endings were grammatical in function, whereas in English they are now purely semantic.]

I am going to rephrase this for fun. I don't actually know what the Greek was for this,
    When we speak of god, we use a masculine word, but let no thoughtless person accuse us of saying that god is a man. It is not gender that is expressed but rather the name, its customary meaning and the way in which we habitually use words. The deity is not male, even though the name is of the masculine gender. In contrast, [pagans] attribute gender to the gods, by calling them either “god (m)” or “god (f).” We cannot believe that god has a body, because if so, god would have to be either male or female. (Arnobius, Against the Nations, 3.8, ACD vol 1, p38)
What is really important to understand is that when I removed all the masculine pronouns in this passage, I am guessing that there is a distinct possibility that there are no pronouns at all in the Greek. The "he" and "his" was likely added by the translator, even though the original author is denying that god is male. It sounds quite different, doesn't it?

Saturday, August 22, 2009

The rapture?

Wordpress seems to be down. I got this familiar feeling like "it" had happened. The rapture. How else to explain the absence of so many Christians all at once.

Holy Transvestisism

I have just finished reading Joan of Arc by Mary Gordon. The author provides abundant historical background for many events in Joan's very short career as a visionary military leader and political prisoner.

One important aspect of her life is her public and frequent reference to her virginity as a defense of her right to participate in a manly occupation. She also followed in the tradition of holy transvestites, usually women who chose a monastic life in rebellion against their parents.

Joan made no attempt to disguise herself as a man, but still believed that her masculine attire (also cutting her hair) was a necessary precaution in remaining a virgin in military life. Other woman in history maintained a masculine disguise until their deaths. Some were thought to be eunuchs, and thus lived a marginalized life in which their gender was not challenged.

In view of this it is fascinating to read two posts which deal with the correct interpretation of Deut. 22:5.
    A woman shall not wear anything that pertains to a man, nor shall a man put on a woman’s garment; for whoever does these things is an abomination to the LORD your God.
Here is an example of the standard historical interpretation by Walter Kaiser,
The maintenance of the sanctity of the sexes established by God in the created order is the foundation for this legislation, and not opposition to idolatrous practices of the heathen. The tendency to obliterate all sexual distinctions often leads to licentiousness and promotes unnaturalness opposed to God's created order. Such a problem can arise in contemporary culture when unisex fashions are aimed at producing the bland person in a progressive desexualization of men and women. Thus, this provision aims mainly at one's clothes as an indication of one's sex.
There is an obvious contradiction. Historically, women have chosen to dress as men, with or without the intent to deceive, in order to remain virgins. This could be interpreted as unnaturalness, but hardly licentiousness.

Second, there is an informative post here which I warmly recommend. Dr. Mariottini has written many scholarly posts about women in the Hebrew Bible. He concludes,
    Although scholars have rejected the anti-transvestism law of Deuteronomy 22:5 to be a ban on Canaanite practices, I take the view that this Deuteronomic prohibition is a protest against the immoral practices of Canaanite fertility religion.

    My view is based on the statement in the text that the practice of transvestism in ancient Israel was considered to be “an abomination to the Yahweh.” The expression “an abomination to the Yahweh” generally refers to cultic practices which endanger the purity of the religion of Yahweh. Since the reason offered by the Deuteronomic writer for the prohibition of transvestism in Israel uses the strong argument that it is an abomination to Yahweh, then, the practice of cross-dressing suggests some kind of cultic offense.

David and the she bear

There has been quite a hullabaloo about Elisha and the two she bears who mauled 42 children. But to whom are King David and his mighty men compared? A she bear.

    They are enraged, like a bear robbed of her cubs in the field. 2 Sm. 17:8.

I was going to say that almost nothing is more dangerous than a she bear. Then I realized how wrong I was. A cougar is probably considerably more dangerous. Here is a good clip of a mama cougar taking on a bear.

Someone suggested that I blog about whether or not vulnerability is a predominantly feminine characteristic, and protectiveness a predominantly masculine characteristic. I would have to ask for clarification on the species. Do essential gender characteristics cross species and orders? That is, is there a similarity in masculine qualities that applies to God and humans, but not to animals, or is there supposed to be some consistency? Or did God create animals so that we would understand that essential gender characteristics flip flop back and forth by species? Or are we just barking up the wrong tree altogether?

Enough pseudo philosophy - enjoy this little clip.

Friday, August 21, 2009

The Tornado, John Piper and the TNIV

On the very same day that John Piper's sermon against the NIV and TNIV was uploaded onto the internet, a tornado hit Minneapolis. Can it be a coincidence?

Thursday, August 20, 2009

John Piper's Three Strikes

(In response to a request, I am trying to assemble these different posts.)

Strike One

John Piper mused about the fact that it might be possible to be too complementarian. The question is this. Is a wife required or not required to request permission from her husband to go to the bathroom? Piper now says this is "sick." The wife says that Piper is the one who taught her husband this,
    I dealt with a couple one time. They were sitting in front of me, and she said, "He learned from you that I have to get permission from him for everything I do." I said, "Really? Like what?" And she said, "To go to the bathroom! He won't let me leave the room without his permission. If I get up and walk out of the room, he says, 'Hey, you're supposed to ask me first.'"
In an extension of this discussion, Piper posted about wife abuse. He wrote,
    So if this man, for example, is calling her to engage in abusive acts willingly (group sex or something really weird, bizarre, harmful, that clearly would be sin), then the way she submits—I really think this is possible, though it's kind of paradoxical—is that she's not going to go there. I'm saying, "No, she's not going to do what Jesus would disapprove even though the husband is asking her to do it."
But short of the "really weird, bizarre, harmful" then what should she do? It really isn't a case of something harmful nor is it group sex to have to ask permission to go the bathroom. I mean, that would not be a weird or bizarre condition if you are a teacher talking to a five year old.

How was this husband supposed to know that he was asking for something that was not part of the biblical authority and submission arrangement between a husband and wife which is so honouring to God? If authority and submission, in and of themselves, glorify God, then what is wrong with this picture? If the husband is truly in touch with his wife's needs, won't this glorify God?

Personally, I don't think Piper handles discussion of wife abuse very well at all.

Strike Two

Piper attacks the TNIV and NIV for not having "therefore" in John 4:45. After requesting help, I found out that the Darby translation does have "therefore" in this verse, but most translations don't. Several commentaries support the notion that the Greek word oun, which may be under discussion, does not usually mean "therefore" in the gospel of John.

This suggests that Piper should not be handing out advice on Bible translations. I wrote an open letter and posted about it on the Desiring God blog.

Strike Three

Piper blogs about the tornado and homosexuality,
    The tornado in Minneapolis was a gentle but firm warning to the ELCA and all of us: Turn from the approval of sin. Turn from the promotion of behaviors that lead to destruction. Reaffirm the great Lutheran heritage of allegiance to the truth and authority of Scripture. Turn back from distorting the grace of God into sensuality. Rejoice in the pardon of the cross of Christ and its power to transform left and right wing sinners.
I also note that an 11 year old boy was killed by a tornado in Ontario this week. What does this mean?

John Piper's third strike

I'll let you read about John Piper and God's anti-gay tornado on on Doug's blog, Clayboy. There was a young boy killed in Ontario today by a tornado. I hope that his family have not heard of John Piper.

Open Letter to John Piper

Dear Dr. Piper,

I noticed that you were disappointed not to find the word "therefore" in John 4:45 in the NIV or TNIV. I was not able to find "therefore" in this position, in any translation at first, but eventually "therefore" was found in the Darby translation. (I was raised in the Darby Brethren and this translation saved me from KJV onlyism which was a good thing.)

I am going to guess, however, that you were referring to the fact that the Greek word oun was not translated and represented by the English word "therefore" in the NIV. Here is the verse,
    ὅτε οὖν ἦλθεν εἰς τὴν Γαλιλαίαν, ἐδέξαντο αὐτὸν οἱ Γαλιλαῖοι, πάντα ἑωρακότες ὅσα ἐποίησεν ἐν Ἱεροσολύμοις ἐν τῇ ἑορτῇ, καὶ αὐτοὶ γὰρ ἦλθον εἰς τὴν ἑορτήν.

    When he arrived in Galilee, the Galileans welcomed him. They had seen all that he had done in Jerusalem at the Passover Feast, for they also had been there. NIV
In the Liddell Scott Lexicon which is the standard and by far most comprehensive lexicon, one can see that there are three main entries for oun,

I certainly, in fact, really,
II. to continue a narrative, so, then
III. in inferences, then, therefore,

In fact, the combination of ὅτ'οὖν can be translated as "since" or "then." It seems that the meaning of "therefore" - that there is an inference involved - is only one possible interpretation among several.

I am disappointed to hear what you have said about the NIV and TNIV, based on the fact that you disagree with how they translate oun; considering that they have used a legitimate approach supported by the lexicons and suitable to the context of this verse.

It has been on my heart for several years now that there is a need for reconciliation between the translators of the TNIV and those who have chosen to publicly criticize this translation.


Suzanne McCarthy

PS Peter Kirk has just alerted me to the overuse of oun as an all purpose connective in the Gospel of John. I was able to find several references to this in recent commentaries through google books.

PPS Please read the comments here and on Piper's post for more details.

Wednesday, August 19, 2009

Fee and others on the TNIV

Aberration blog has some good posts on the TNIV, especially this one.


This is what I was missing the other day. I was going to post a link to Bruce Harkin's blog, with two posts on women's issues.

Piper's Mystery Translation

Can anyone tell me what translation John Piper is referring to in this recent clip where he claims that John 4:45 begins with "therefore?"I admit to being stumped!

He wrote a letter to one of the great supporters of the TNIV claiming that the "therefore" was missing from verse 45, as well as the "for" being missing from verse 44. Here is his first probem - the missing "for" at the beginning of John 4:44,
    (For Jesus himself had testified that a prophet has no honor in his own hometown.)ESV

    (Now Jesus himself had pointed out that a prophet has no honor in his own country.) (T)NIV
In fact, "now" does occur in the latest BDAG, as a translation of gar, so Piper is stating a definite preference here for something, but I am not sure what.

His next quibble is with verse 45,
    So when he came to Galilee, the Galileans welcomed him, having seen all that he had done in Jerusalem at the feast. For they too had gone to the feast. TNIV
He says that the "therefore" is not there in the TNIV. But it is also not there in the ESV either. Can anyone solve this mystery for me?.

Update: I checked the edited written sermon and "so" has been added to the text. Apparently Piper meant that the "so" had been dropped. I read through the paragraph and am having difficulty seeing how this changes the meaning in this context. What do you think? His written sermon is here. Here is his rationale,
    The second strange thing that needs explaining is the way verse 44 connects to what follows. He goes to Galilee, his own people, because he expects no honor there. Now verse 45: “So [therefore] when he came to Galilee, the Galileans welcomed him.” That isn’t what we expect. They’re supposed to dishonor him according to verse 44. How can John say, “A prophet has no honor in his own hometown, therefore they welcomed him”?

    The answer is that the “welcome”—the reception—is not what it looks like on the outside. There is a kind of receiving Jesus that has no true honor for his person in it. It’s just an interest in his signs and wonders.

Does the Greek oun in this context really mean "therefore" in English ? BDAG says that oun can be a marker of the continuation of the narrative. In this case, one can't translate it in this context. It is not necessarily a marker of inference.

Update #2:

If anyone knows the login sequence for the Desiring God blog, they might want to comment there. This is a recent post, from this Sunday's sermon, so the attack on the TNIV is live and well.

Piper on abuse

Piper responds to concerns about wife abuse.

    So if this man, for example, is calling her to engage in abusive acts willingly (group sex or something really weird, bizarre, harmful, that clearly would be sin), then the way she submits—I really think this is possible, though it's kind of paradoxical—is that she's not going to go there. I'm saying, "No, she's not going to do what Jesus would disapprove even though the husband is asking her to do it."

    She's going to say, however, something like, "Honey, I want so much to follow you as my leader. God calls me to do that, and I would love to do that. It would be sweet to me if I could enjoy your leadership. But if you ask me to do this, require this of me, then I can't go there."

    Now that's one kind of situation. Just a word on the other kind. If it's not requiring her to sin but simply hurting her, then I think she endures verbal abuse for a season, and she endures perhaps being smacked one night, and then she seeks help from the church.

    Every time I deal with somebody in this, I find the ultimate solution under God in the church. In other words, this man should be disciplined, and she should have a safe place in a body of Christ where she goes and then the people in the church deal with him. She can't deal with him by herself.

What do you think?

Bruce Ware and the Trinity: Response to John Starke

John Starke has mentioned an article by Bruce Ware ,written in 2006, which pertains to authority and submission within the trinity. My first reaction is that I am relieved to see him clearly differentiate the quality of the relationship which exists between human beings and the Father and the Son in the Trinity. He writes,
    The equality of essence among the members of the Trinity, then, is greater than the equality that exists among human beings or among any other finite reality. For example, my wife, Jodi, and I are equally human, in that each of us possesses a human nature. That is, her nature is of the same kind as my nature, viz., human nature, and so our equality surely is real as an equality of kind. But the equality of the three divine Persons is even more firmly grounded. Here, the Father, the Son, and the Holy Spirit each possesses not merely the same kind of nature, viz., divine nature; rather, the Father, the Son, and the Holy Spirit each possesses fully and eternally the identically same nature. Their equality, then, is not merely an equality of kind but an equality of identity.
This is much more representative of what Augustine writes in De Trinitate IV,
    In such wise that, whereas four things are to be considered in every sacrifice—to whom it is offered, by whom it is offered, what is offered, for whom it is offered,— the same One and true Mediator Himself, reconciling us to God by the sacrifice of peace, might remain one with Him to whom He offered, might make those one in Himself for whom He offered, Himself might be in one both the offerer and the offering. 8
    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. What wonder, therefore, if He is sent, not because He is unequal with the Father, but because He is a pure emanation (manatio) issuing from the glory of the Almighty God? For there, that which issues, and that from which it issues, is of one and the same substance. For it does not issue as water issues from an aperture of earth or of stone, but as light issues from light. For the words, For she is the brightness of the everlasting light, what else are they than, she is light of everlasting light? For what is the brightness of light, except light itself? 20
What I fail to understand is how the relationship between the Father and Son, both masculine, and one an emanation of the other; pertains to the way a husband would treat a wife, who is another distinct human being. As God provides the Son as an emanation of himself, to reveal himself to mankind and to be the offering for sin; does man send woman into the fray as a revelation to the world and an offering for sin?

I persist in viewing this as one of the most inhumane and ungodly teachings on the face of this earth, that the wife is to be sacrificed, willingly or not, at the will of the husband. Or was the Son not sent to be an offering? But Augustine says this was the purpose of his being sent.

My second observation is that Bruce Ware in no way demonstrates that he is dealing with the Latin text of Augustine. Ware writes,
    Finally, Augustine also affirmed that the distinction of persons is constituted precisely by the differing relations among them, in part manifest by the inherent authority of the Father and inherent submission of the Son.
This is directly contradicted by Augustine, when he writes,
    For he was not sent in virtue of some disparity of power or substance or anything in him that was not equal to the Father, but in virtue of the Son being from the Father, not the Father being from the Son.
Ware does not in any way acknowledge or respond to the simple fact that when Augustine wrote this in Latin, using potestas for "power", he was using the Latin word for "authority" in the Greek. That is, potestas is the translation in the Vulgate for exousia - authority. In the trinity, there is no disparity of authority, according to Augustine.

It is difficult to dialogue with an idea that contains such fundamental weaknesses. Ware does not acknowledge that as light is sent by the sun, so is the Son sent by the Father, but the sun has no need of authority over the light, because they are one in substance.

Tuesday, August 18, 2009

Women's ordination articles

There have been some good articles mentioned in the comments recently. Many thanks to commenters. This is a particularly one - Female Ministers - God's Will. (I seem to have lost track of the others.)

This article reminds me of the obituary for Bernice Gerard,

    Gerard was involved in Christian-initiated cooperative housing in Richmond and downtown Vancouver. Shiloh Housing was eventually taken over by Broadway Church, her place of worship in later years.

    When Parkinson’s Disease began to take its toll on her in 2000, she retired from Sunday Line. When she did appear in public, her gravelly voice was a little thinner; but the glint for Jesus still shone in her eyes.

    Bob Burkinshaw, a church historian at Trinity Western University, recalls her as a leader among leaders. “When she walked in, she commanded the room,” he told BCCN.

    Burkinshaw said that in working with Bob Birch to encourage the charismatic renewal, she helped bring to Vancouver such international leaders as Michael Green and David Watson, as well as Dennis Bennett, who advanced the movement on the American west coast.

    Given such a tireless career in Christ, it’s not hard to understand why Bernice Gerard topped the Vancouver Sun’s 2000 list of the 20th century’s most influential spiritual figures in B.C.

It isn't really a matter of whether God does provide Christian women as leaders in the church, as it is whether the church recognizes these leaders. Fortunately Gerard was very much recognized as a sober and dignified TV evangelist and preacher, as well as someone who was involved in the foundation of up to 200 churches.

On another note, someone was just telling me about their preaching class at Dallas Theological Seminary. When it was her turn to preach, the male students left the room, rather than recognize her. I don't know if this is a common practice there or just an isolated incident.

Monday, August 17, 2009

The Wisdom Jesus

I could not resist a book with this title. The Wisdom Jesus by Cynthia Bourgeault is not an orthodox Christian book. It is rather a series of contemplative studies of Jesus with insights drawn from eastern religions and a variety of mystic traditions. I appreciated the chapter on kenosis or self-emptying. Bourgeault writes,
    Within each person there is seen to reside a sacred energy of being (sometimes known as the "chi," or prana, the life force). This energy, in itself infinite, is measured out to each person in an finite amount and bestowed as our basic working capital when we arrive on this planet. The great spiritual traditions have always taught that if we can contain this energy rather than letting it leach away - if we can concentrate it, develop it, make it more intentional and powerful - then this concentrated energy will allow us to climb that ladder of spiritual ascent.

    There's another route to center: a more reckless path and extravagant path, which is attained not through storing up that energy or concentrating the life force, but through throwing it all away - or giving it all away. The unitive point is reached not through the concentration of being but through the free squandering of it; not through acquisition or attainment but through self-emptying; not through " up" but through "down." This is the way of kenosis, the revolutionary path that Jesus introduced into the consciousness of the West. (page 65)

Saturday, August 15, 2009

Sister Fidelma

Peter Tremayne has created a unique detective series which takes place in 7th century Ireland. The heroes, Sister Fidelma and Brother Eadulf, travel throughout Britain, Europe and as far as Rome at a time when Roman Christianity was becoming dominant over the Celtic traditions.

The Irish Sister Fidelma is the brilliant one, a princess, and daleigh of the Brehon court of Ireland. However, she represents Celtic Christianity, which historically lost out to Roman Christianity. This creates an interesting tension between her and her Saxon (Roman) partner, Eadulf.

Issues of gender equity and social justice are frequently in focus, although the plots are wide-ranging and inventive. The characters often communicate in Latin, sometimes classical Latin, and at other times, the contemporary spoken Latin of that time. I find Fidelma a little stiff and pompous at times, but Eadulf usually counters this with a reality check.

I was able to buy a signed copy of The Dove of Death in London. Here is an example of some of the stimulating dialogue,
    'The first degree of humility is obedience without question," returned the Abbot in a voice like thunder. 'Does not the Rule of the Blessed Benedict say that as soon as anything has been commanded by the Superior of the abbey, no delay in the excecution of that order is permitted. The order must be obeyed as if God Himself had commanded it. You will obey me without question.'

    'Obedience is never blind, Maelcar,' the Brother said quietly. 'Obedience requires the use of prudence in accepting rights and obligations. Decisions can only be made with knowledge, a free choice to do good and avoid evil. To ignore what had happened is to go down the path of evil and I will not tolerate it!'

    'Not tolerate . . . !' exploded the Abbot, but Brother Metellus had turned to them and pointed the way.
Later to Fidelma and Eadulf, Metellus confides,
    'It puts me in bad standing with Abbot Maelcar and those sycophants who obey him without question. I am not of their number. I believe in rules, that the religious life should be bound by constraints and authority, and I believe that the true path of the religious should be a celibate one, free from carnal desire . . . ' Then he shook his head. 'But I do not believe in blind obedience - obedience for the sake of obedience. If we pursue that path then we are denying God's greatest gift, denying what had made us in the image of Him - which is the right of making our own judgements.'

    Fidelma regraded him with some approval.

    'I agree that we must reflect and make our own choices, for obedience without question leads to abuse of power of the person giving the orders,' she said gravely.

    'While commending you on your stand, Brother,' Eadulf added, 'it does mean that your time at the Abbey of Gildas will not be a prolonged one.' (pages 82-83)
Thie wikipedia article has done a nice job of enumerating the various themes in this series,
    In the course of the series, Sister Fidelma journeys to many different parts of Western Europe, including Ireland, Wales, Northumbria, Hispania, Brittany, Francia and Rome. The differences between the societies she encounters and her native country is an ongoing theme throughout the series. Through Fidelma's adventures, Peter Tremayne introduces his readers to the current events and conflicts of the 7th century A.D. Major themes in the Sister Fidelma series include:

    Inter-Societal Themes: Differences between Celtic society and other societies of the time

    • The system of government, in particular the method of selecting a ruler. (Celtic society's semi-democratic system, versus the Anglo-Saxon system of primogeniture.)
    • Legal systems, conventions of legal proceedings (including methods of establishing innocence or guilt), and punishments for criminals.
    • Political alliances, truces, and disputes between different countries.
    • The legality of slavery.
    • The role of women. (Relatively unrestricted in Celtic society; much more restricted in Roman and Anglo-Saxon societies.)

    Intra-Societal Themes: Issues within Celtic society itself.

    • Conflict between local (the five provinces of Ireland) and central (the High King at Tara) political authorities.
    • Conflicts between different clans or regions of Ireland.
    • Various aspects of Irish society, including language, geography, history, medicine, professions, customs, food, and hygiene.

    Religious Themes

    • The ongoing struggle between Celtic and Roman forms of Christianity for supremacy in the British Isles.
    • The meeting of older pagan and newly-introduced Christian forms of worship (sometimes this occurs easily in the Fidelma series, other times bitter conflicts result).
    • The use of secular or traditional Irish law versus the Penitentials, a Church-introduced legal code.
    • The question of whether clergy should be celibate.
    • The value of superstition and astrology.

Thursday, August 13, 2009

another imaginary masculine pronoun

I honestly believe that those who have taught the importance of the masculine pronoun in the Bible have done a serious disservice to truth. Many of the masculine pronouns in the English Bible have no antecedent in the Greek, and yet, they are assumed to be communicating some part of God's truth.

I read this comment, posted on a blog article about Wade Burleson's recent sermon on women in ministry,
    Also, qualifications for elders/pastors says he must be "one who rules his own house well, having his children in submission with all reverence." 1 Timothy 3:4 (notice the word "his" . . . a man)
How can one argue with this? There is no "his" in the Greek. There is no word at all that underlies "his" - nada, nothing, blank space. If you tell one person this, the next person still doesn't know. The masculine pronoun has become the biggest urban legend in the Christian community for this decade, maybe this century.
    τοῦ ἰδίου οἴκου καλῶς προϊστάμενον, τέκνα ἔχοντα ἐν ὑποταγῇ μετὰ πάσης σεμνότητος:
Here we see the heresy of the masculine pronoun at work.

Wednesday, August 12, 2009

Vigee Lebrun

I have a high quality print of this painting and I am considering getting it framed so I can hang it properly. I have always loved the art of Elizabeth Vigée Le Brun, the most famous female painter of the 18th century. Here she is with her daughther, Julie.

I just bought an historical novel of her life, witten in French, to give me something to read in French. In any case, my daugher says she loves this print, so I will get it framed.

Tau Rho

When I blogged about the Lindisfarne manuscripts two years ago, I mentioned this symbol, which was identified by Michelle Brown of the British Library as a chi rho. However, it also closely resembles the tau rho.

Jim Hamilton has an excellent review of Hurtado's Earliest Christian Artefacts. This includes a discussion of the tau-rho symbol,
    Hurtado then takes up the scribal practice of writing a rho upon a tau to create a “staurogram,” which appears to be an early abbreviation for the terms “cross” and “crucify” (stauros/stauroo). This monogram apparently gave rise to others, such as the chi-rho (Christos), the iota-chi (Iesous Christos), and the iota-eta (Iesous). Here we have a fascinating discussion of where this early pictogram appears and how it arose. Hurtado is keen to the notion that “the tau-rho device was appropriated initially because it could serve as a stylized reference to (and visual representation of) Jesus on the cross” (151). The “t” shape of the tau with the superimposed “P” shape of the rho presenting a simple picture of a man on a cross. This is powerful physical evidence against claims that “visual references to Jesus’ crucifixion do not predate the fourth century” and the idea that “there was ‘no place in the third century [or earlier] for a crucified Christ . . .’” (153). The textual evidence comes from manuscripts “at least as early as the late second century” (154).
In the Lindisfarne Gospels, 7th century, this

Tuesday, August 11, 2009

The First Paul

I have been reading The First Paul by Crossan and Borg. Their central thesis is that Paul's letters must be read within the paradigm of a radical Paul, a conservative Paul, and a reactionary Paul. This notion has been around in other garb for a very long time.

Almost all scholars distinguish between the authentic Paul, the disputed Paul, and the “pastoral Paul.” That is, everyone agrees that the authentic Paul wrote seven letters: Romans, 1 and 2 Corinthians, Galatians, Philippians, 1 Thessalonians, and Philemon. Some dispute whether Paul wrote Ephesians, Colossians, and 2 Thessalonians. Outside of conservative evangelical circles, few scholars attribute the pastoral epistles, 1 and 2 Timothy and Titus, to Paul.

Crossan and Borg clain that authorship makes a huge difference. The socially conservative Paul, who tells women and slaves to submit to their masters is found in the disputed letters and the reactionary Paul is found in the pastoral epistles. However, the authentic Paul, according to Crossan and Borg, regards women as equals in ministry, promotes the freedom of slaves, and proclaims a gospel that confronts the present order with a community of equals empowered by the Spirit of the risen Christ.

In my view, it does not matter what one believes about the actual authorship of the Pauline letters in order to make use of the paradigm presented above. Perhaps these different approaches represent Paul at different time periods or in different situations.

The main point is that the authors focus first on the s0-called authentic letters to establish Paul's undisputed attitude to slavery and women. There we find that Paul asks Philemon to free Onesimus, and women pray and prophesy in the assembly.

There is an excellent discussion of 1 Corinthians 7, which is an unusual document at that time, as men and women are treated as equal agents with identical rights and responsibilities. 1 Cor. 11 establishes that women did participate in public worship, while the point is made that 1 Cor. 14:33b-36 is inserted into the text later.

Three reasons are given for this. First, the passage is about prophecy and has better coherence and continuity without the disputed verses. Second, these verses appear at the end of the chapter in some early manuscripts. This is unusual and many scholars, as well as the NET bible notes, agree that this means that these verses originated in the margin. Third, these verses directly contradict 1 Cor. 11.

If this is true then one can argue that the undisputed letters of Paul do not restrict women in the assembly, and they treat the female coworkers as true equals, not distinguishing their ministry from male ministry and not placing their ministry in a separate category.

This isn't really new but I find it well written and the treatment of Philemon is excellent.