Sunday, September 25, 2011

Women's orientation to work: part 5

Spinning was something that occupied every woman in ancient culture. It could be taken with you everywhere, in the same way that the women of my mother's age all knit. I anticipate your protest, that women today knit. That is true, but often the cost of the materials is equal to the cost of a finished product so there is no commercial value to knitting. It has lost the function that it had in the last generation.

However, in addition to spinning, women wove. Weaving was an essential skill that all women and some men learned. Clothes, bedding, carpets and tents were all woven. Weaving made up a major part of commercial production in ancient societies. While all women would have to know how to weave, some weavers, men and women, were apprenticed for several years to a master weaver to specialize in the art.

Woven products supplied the household with a major part of the furnishings. Woven products, garments and fabric, had a religious function and were dedicated to the building of the tabernacle which was a tent, after all. Woven products were traded between groups, and were presented to royalty. Purple yarn or fabric was on the same level as gold as a commodity. According to strict laws in the Roman Empire only the imperial family could wear all purple. Magistrates and officials, as well as Roman priests could wear purple bands woven into their togas and robes. The production of purple yarn was a specialized industry.

Weaving was a skilled artisan activity and was undertaken in groups. It brought income into the family. No woman today can imitate the function of weaving in ancient nomadic society by setting up a loom in her home. I know many women who weave, and most do it as a hobby, an expensive hobby. A very few design and sew custom clothing which they sell at a premium.

Although men also were involved in the weaving industry, it was a domain where women participated fully. We see in Proverbs 31 that weaving was an important skilled activity. In the New Testament, Dorcas was known for sewing for the poor, and Lydia was known as a trader in purple. This may have been purple yarn, fabric or clothes - I can't tell for sure.

Not only was weaving extremely important - essential, that is - it was also a highly creative activity. This article gives you some idea of the complexity of fabric and carpet production. This was the domain of women.

In short, if we were to imitate biblical womanhood today, it would not be about staying at home to care for the children in isolation from society and commerce. The woman would still be integrated into the commercial life of the community. Its hard to think of how we could imitate that today and stay at home. Some women renovate their house, taking on building tasks, and then reselling, or buying and renovating rental property. Others work in education so that their hours of work imitate the hours that their children are in school. In my view, there are no hard and fast rules about how women today can reconcile different commitments. However, I do know that staying at home, raising children and creating a supportive atmosphere for one's husband by keeping an attractive home, worthy as all this is, does not imitate the lifestyle of a biblical woman.
Biblical women were driven by the entrepeneurial spirit, to work, to initate and complete their projects. We need to follow that model.

Monday, September 05, 2011

refuting female superiority

After writing about 1 Tim. 2:12 on the BLT, in response to this post about Wright's explanation of this passage, I found myself asking a few questions about 1 Tim. 2:14. It seems counterintuitive. Women are crafty, women are gullible, which sexist notion is more easily supported by the biblical text?

1 Tim. 2:14, "And Adam was not the one deceived; it was the woman who was deceived and became a sinner," is one of the most puzzling verses in the Bible. It does not describe the women of the Bible at all. In fact, quite the reverse. First, women who considered wise counsellors, and second, women deceived men all the time in the Bible. Let's look at these two situations.

First, the wise women of the Bible are the wise hearted חַכְמַת-לֵב or skilled women of Ex. 35,
25 Every skilled woman spun with her hands and brought what she had spun—blue, purple or scarlet yarn or fine linen. 26 And all the women who were willing and had the skill spun the goat hair. NIV

25And all the women that were wise hearted did spin with their hands, and brought that which they had spun, both of blue, and of purple, and of scarlet, and of fine linen. 26And all the women whose heart stirred them up in wisdom spun goats' hair. KJV
Clearly, women had skill (wisdom) in the same way that men had skills (wisdom.) Other women who give much needed and respected advice are Deborah, Esther and Huldah. But recently my attention was drawn to the wise woman of Abel.
16Then cried a wise woman out of the city, Hear, hear; say, I pray you, unto Joab, Come near hither, that I may speak with thee.

17And when he was come near unto her, the woman said, Art thou Joab? And he answered, I am he. Then she said unto him, Hear the words of thine handmaid. And he answered, I do hear.

18Then she spake, saying, They were wont to speak in old time, saying, They shall surely ask counsel at Abel: and so they ended the matter.

19I am one of them that are peaceable and faithful in Israel: thou seekest to destroy a city and a mother in Israel: why wilt thou swallow up the inheritance of the LORD?

20And Joab answered and said, Far be it, far be it from me, that I should swallow up or destroy.

21The matter is not so: but a man of mount Ephraim, Sheba the son of Bichri by name, hath lifted up his hand against the king, even against David: deliver him only, and I will depart from the city. And the woman said unto Joab, Behold, his head shall be thrown to thee over the wall.

22Then the woman went unto all the people in her wisdom. And they cut off the head of Sheba the son of Bichri, and cast it out to Joab. And he blew a trumpet, and they retired from the city, every man to his tent. And Joab returned to Jerusalem unto the king. 2 Samuel 20:16-22.

Is there any suggestion here that women are more vulnerable to deception than men? Did the ancient Israelites believe that? I find it hard to accept that it was a pervasive belief that women were more prone to being deceived than men. However, perhaps this had shifted by the time 1 Timothy was written.

On the other hand, since women had less political and legal power than men, they often attempted to exert control over men in other ways. A man could overrule his wife, and it would be thought of as normal and right. But a woman could not overrule her husband. If desperate, she must resort to some other means. She did not have the same legal power as a man.

Some women who deceived men, and in this way furthered the narrative in the Hebrew Bible, and possibly the will of God, are Rebecca, Leah, Tamar and Delilah. Perhaps you can add to this list.

An alternative reading for 1 Tim. 2:14, then, is that, instead of declaring female inferiority, it simply refutes female superiority. This view is well represented here,

Paul follows his ban on women teachers by reiterating sound teaching that counters the false teaching. For Adam was formed first, not Eve, like the cult of Artemis and the gnostics taught. He then points out that Eve became deceived and sinned. This is hardly the basis upon which to claim female-superiority and divine knowledge. Eve did not do a noble thing or liberate the world; she was tricked into violating the command of God. It’s important to note that Paul is not arguing for male superiority, just refuting female superiority by pointing out the facts of the creation account. He is not implying that because Eve was deceived all women are prone to deception or because she was created second that women may never be entrusted with the ministry of the word. Directly after refuting this false teaching, he moves onto the childbirth subject.

Sunday, September 04, 2011

New blog on the block!

I am delighted to announce the debut of a new blog, BLT - Bible*Literature*Translation at BLTnotjustasandwich. The bloggers are Theophrastus, of What I learned from Aristotle, also long known as an erudite commenter on many biblioblogs; Kurk from Aristotle's Feminist Subject, now #24 in the top 50 biblioblogs, and Craig R Smith, translator of the The Inclusive Bible, The First Egalitarian Translation.

Theophrastus introduces the blog and its purpose here,

Welcome to the blog named BLT. It is not just a sandwich. It stands for a set of topics that we hope to discuss: Bible, Literature, and Translation. We’ll talk about the Bible as literature and the literature of translation and the translation of Bibles and the translation of literature and literature of translation and Bible as a translation and literary translations of Bibles and so on. And we are certain to throw in the arts, the sciences, philosophy, mysticism, religion, and pretty much everything else.

The initial crew of bloggers represents a diverse set of viewpoints but one that is unified in our openness to new ideas and a fundamental belief in the dignity of all humans. This blog is open to all: Jews, Catholics, Mainliners, Evangelicals, Eastern Christians, Atheists, Theists outside the Judeo-Christian tradition, etc. For me a strong underlying theme of this blog is that everyone has a voice — especially people that have been traditionally marginalized.

I’ll let my co-bloggers (currently J. K. Gayle, Suzanne McCarthy, and Craig Smith) introduce themselves, but I’ll simply mention that I am a professor at a US university with strong interests in applied issues in linguistics.

There won’t be any bacon or other treif meat in my posts, but there will be lots of substance. I look forward to hearing from you.

And here is a provocative first post about translation.

The original 1926 title of this artwork is La Négresse blonde, which SFMOMA translates as “The Blond Negress.”

Is this a good translation of the French title? How women of African descent feel when they see this title? The word “Negress” in 2011 is shocking to see – certainly it does not have the same meaning that Négresse had in 1926. Or is the title meant to be ironic (in the same way that the sculpture certainly is)?

What do you think would be a better way to translate the name of this sculpture into English?

(Bonus question: what is the best translation of Ἰουδαῖος (Ioudaios) as it occurs in the New Testament into English?)

I am going to hop over and continue commenting. Come join us!

Saturday, September 03, 2011

Sky Burial

I have just read Sky Burial by Xinran. In The Blue Sweater, I read about Africa, and in Sky Burial, about Tibet. Surprisingly, there are few constants in gender roles globally. In Africa, women till the ground and harvest. They run businesses and provide for the children. The real problem has been that they were often not able to carry out banking or take out loans without the signature of their husband. In Tibet, according to Sky Burial, women carried water, cared for animals, made butter and cooked, but the men acted as midwives and undertook complex embroidery. This contrasts with China, where the detailed embroidery is done by girls and women. In Egypt men wove, but in Israel, usually women wove.

Women's orientation to work: part 4 - the spinster

Originally, the term spinster did not mean a single woman, but any woman spinning. And women spun. If you want to refer to the mother's side of the family, you could refer to the distaff side. This was work that was firmly in the woman's domain. However, once it came to dyeing and weaving, that could belong to either men or women, depending on the technology and culture.

In agricultural societies, women spun and wove flax. In nomadic societies they spun wool. The traditional belief about women and work has always been that just as men had work, so did women have work, and women also nursed their babies. That's just the way it was. There was no contrast between the orientation of men and women regarding work. Both worked with their hands. If the family was wealthy, neither worked with their hands.

The notion that it is right and good for men to go out to work and seek a career, that men are generally oriented to work; and that women, by contrast, are generally oriented to relationships of support and companionship, is about one generation old.

The man as provider, and the woman as receiver, is a paradigm that does not exist anywhere in the Bible, or even in history, until now. Perhaps, at this point in time, where women are equal before the civil law, some are trying to find a way to withdraw women from the mainstream.

Friday, September 02, 2011

Women's orientation to work: part 3 - the tent peg

In the ancient world women harvested, threshed and ground grain as well as preparing and cooking meals. Women also cared for animals and carried water. Everyone worked. It's the same on a farm today. Rebecca cared for animals, and provided water for Eliezer's camels. This is the kind of work that all women were responsible for.

But women also specialized. Many were midwives and nurses, and a few were prophets, judges, musicians and queens. At least one woman built cities, 1 Chronicles 7:24, "His daughter was Sheerah, who built Lower and Upper Beth Horon as well as Uzzen Sheerah."

In times of crisis, women worked alongside men, repairing the walls of Jerusalem, Neh. 3:12, "And next unto him repaired Shallum the son of Halohesh, the ruler of the half part of Jerusalem, he and his daughters." Jael put a tent peg through the enemy's head. It was woman's work to set up the tents.

Woman's work was comparable to man's work. Both were physical and tiring, requiring strength and endurance. For those living a subsistence lifestyle, many tasks, those of both men and women, were repetitive and mindless. The goal was survival.

For those with wealth, there were different patterns. In Proverbs 31, the husband was a scholar or judge, and the wife was a business woman with a household of servants or slaves under her direction. Both held positions of influence and dignity. Among slaves, men and women both worked hard. But even then, among the poor there was specialization, some women adept at being midwives, others at composing songs, performing music and dancing. Women were known for their specialization, just as men were.

The children were not simply cared for. They worked alongside their parents. Young children were often cared for by grandparents as is the case in many cultures today. This frees up the mother to work at a wage-earning job and contribute financially to the family. Women in the Bible were not simply consumers of goods, and carers of children. They contributed economically to the family.

I am hardly advocating that we return to this state of affairs. I had a friend who grew her own wheat and ground her own flour. But she had the advantage of technology. I wouldn't want to work in the fields all day, or carry water on my head, or grind grain. But this is a large part of women in the Bible did. We can't all of us be judges, prophets and musicians.

One thing is clear, however. Women have an orientation to work. At least, they should have. Just as men should. Women need to work to provide for their family. The only catch is that they have to do this while also bearing and nursing children.

Women, like men, are driven to work. It is a part of being human. They are like men in this way. However, they are unlike men, in that they also have to figure out how to do this at the same time as reproducing.

A curriculum which contrasts men and women, and teaches that men have an orientation to work, and women have an orientation to nurture, is not honest. It does not prepare women for the reality of both work and children.

Unfortunately, not all women resolve the tension between working and bearing children. Some women never do have children, and other women stay home and restrict their work to caring for their husband and children. But many women have the opportunity, or the need, to combine an expanded working life with raising children. It is not always possible to control the pattern that your life will take.

The only thing we can say about a woman's life in the Bible and today for a certainty, is that it includes both an orientation towards nurturing and an orientation towards work.

The Blue Sweater

I am reading The Blue Sweater by Jacqueline Novogratz. She has worked in Africa and Asia for over 25 years, learning how to administer funds, providing grants and loans to small businesses. She is the CEO of the Acumen Fund. The Blue Sweater is a must read for anyone interested in donating funds.

This book is an account of one woman whose energy for work and innovation has contributed to changing the lives of hundreds of thousands of people. She speaks solemnly of the waste and detrimental effects of donated funds unless they are properly invested in income producing industry which is shaped by the recipients themselves, and creates and sustains profit. She openly discusses many failures that she has seen or been a part of, as well as the successes. This is a book rich in detail and example.

Monday, August 29, 2011

Women's orientation to work: part 2 - the hoe culture

I had no intention of discussing women tilling the soil when I first thought of women working in the Bible. This is for the very simple reason that women of the Bible did not typically participate in this labour. As I mentioned, it is not a universal truth that women do not till the soil. But it is particular to certain cultures, including the cultures of the Bible.

This is the general pattern internationally and historically. When tilling the soil is a task accomplished with a hoe, then women tend to be the major workers in the field. When tilling the soil is done with a plough and oxen or slaves, then men are the major workers of the soil. Plough cultivation is male dominated, and hoe cultivation is female dominated.

Although we cannot imagine that Adam and Eve had oxen and plough, the narrative of Adam and Eve was composed within a culture in which farmers did use oxen and plough. Tilling the soil was a male dominated activity as a consequence of the technology available in the Middle East at that time.

Today, hoe cultivation dominates globally, and women make up the majority of those who work the soil. It is therefore not a universal truth that women are oriented to the family, in contrast to men who are oriented to work in the fields. The pattern that is most prevalent in the world today is that women are oriented to their family and to the soil at one and the same time. These patterns are dependent on culture and technology.

We might, on the other hand, think of Adam and Eve as occupying the transition era between hunter-gatherers and farmers. In this case, it is likely that men were still hunting and women both gathering and experimenting with the cultivation of plants and intiating the first planned crops. In this case, Eve would likely be the first farmer, and not Adam.

These are speculative thoughts that present some of the difficulties in imagining that Adam and Eve exited the Garden of Eden, whereupon Eve stayed in the home and cared for her children and Adam tilled the soil with a hoe. Such a scenario presents serious questions and is not consistent with what we know about the development of agriculture. But as I said, this is speculation.

I cannot fill in more details since little is known about the very early origins of agriculture. However, we can say for sure that the participation of women in agriculture is a culturally diverse paradigm. While the subordination of women is near to universal, the dominance of men in tilling the soil is far from universal.

In conclusion, I will soon discuss the work that women did in an agricultural economy, but I will not contest the cultural pattern found in the Bible, that men tilled the soil. However, I do contest the notion that there is any sense of universality in this pattern. We are unlikely to persuade the world today that women should not be full participants in all areas of agriculture.

Sunday, August 28, 2011

Women's orientation to work: part 1

The Council of Biblical Manhood and Womanhood links to a curriculum designed to teach children and teens the essence of being male and female along these lines,
While God created men to be generally oriented toward work, God created women to be generally oriented towards relationships of helpfulness and companionship.
This is often taught in conjunction with the notion that women stay home and nurture the children and create an environment that is supportive to the husband's career. The major tasks of women would be to bear and raise children, to cook and clean the house, and see that the family is well supplied with clothes and other goods. These clothes and goods are bought with money earned by the husband, who is the "provider." The main teaching role of women in this model is to teach younger women to fulfill these tasks.

The following verses are often used in this connection, Gen. 2:15, 18 and Gen. 3:16-19,
2:15And the LORD God took the man, and put him into the garden of Eden to dress it and to keep it.

18And the LORD God said, It is not good that the man should be alone; I will make him an help meet for him.

3:16Unto the woman he said, I will greatly multiply thy sorrow and thy conception; in sorrow thou shalt bring forth children; and thy desire shall be to thy husband, and he shall rule over thee.

17And unto Adam he said, Because thou hast hearkened unto the voice of thy wife, and hast eaten of the tree, of which I commanded thee, saying, Thou shalt not eat of it: cursed is the ground for thy sake; in sorrow shalt thou eat of it all the days of thy life;

18Thorns also and thistles shall it bring forth to thee; and thou shalt eat the herb of the field;

19In the sweat of thy face shalt thou eat bread, till thou return unto the ground; for out of it wast thou taken: for dust thou art, and unto dust shalt thou return.

While it is true that women bear children, there has been no civilization in which men's participation in agriculture was dominant over women's participation in agriculture. Women worked the soil in ancient Israel and they continue to be participate in farming and agriculture today. In many countries women participate in agricultural work at a far higher rate than men.

So I want to look at alternate interpretation for Gen. 3:16. The consequences of the fall for the woman relate to childbearing and her relationship to her husband. The consequence of the fall for the man relates to the soil. The most obvious interpretation is that just as woman was taken out of man, so the fall returns her to man. And in the same way, as man was taken out of the soil, so he is returned to the soil. We need to consider that the story of Adam and Eve has internal plot coherency that is not necessarily related to universal truths about men and women.

Women work the soil and we can't get around that. Women share the physiological makeup of men, and die and decay in the same manner as men. Eve returns to the soil, just as much as Adam does. But the story is not about that. The story contains the plot line that man came from the soil and returned, just as woman came from man and is returned to him.

However, the woman also suffers in childbearing. Children are the main asset of women. Women wanted to produce children in order to establish their value to the family. The chief asset of a man was land. Just as Rachel schemed to bear children, and Rebekkah manipulated Isaac in Jacob's interest, so men schemed over land.

This does not mean that men bear an intrinsic relationship to the land that women do not share. Far from it. But it does mean that, in the creation narrative of Gen. 2 and 3, the male bears a relationship to the land that the woman does not. This reflects the legal and political situation in ancient societies where women were not typically landowners.

We are left now with the fact that women exclusively do bear children, but men do not exclusively own land or work the soil. Perhaps I need to qualify this last sentence. Women have a very specific but time-limited exclusive role in raising a child. Just as women are connected to the land, fathers have a close relationships to their children. A father as well as a mother suffers when a child dies. Fathers are equally invested in their children and children are the asset of both parents as is land.

We can safely say that both men and women are oriented to relationships, and both men and women are oriented to work. This may look different according to the sexes, there is some truth to the varying availablity of women to work, but this is slight when we consider that women globally partipate in physical labour full time in addition to bearing children.

I hope to blog about women's orientation to work and how this plays out in the Bible and in undertanding women's leadership in the epistles of Paul. I feel that it is important to respond to the teaching that men are to provide, protect, work and initiate, and that this is what makes men leaders, and women the receivers and affirmers of male leadership. My focus will be on certain areas of women's work in the biblical narrative.

Tuesday, August 23, 2011

Rachel Held Evans

Rachel is taking her place as a prominent female Christian blogger, and I am delighted. It is refreshing to see a woman take the lead in so many areas of blogging. I just want to express my appreciation for her blog. Here is today's post. She approaches the issue of women in the church with civility and persistence.

Thursday, August 18, 2011

The Help, implausible and preposterous -

but I enjoyed it! The plot was implausible - would black maids really have told their story in this way? It seems way too dangerous, truly frightening. And second, the subplot was preposterous. Suspend disbelief, tolerate some hokey and enjoy it anyway.

In my view, the main character, Aibileen held centre stage with little challenge from Skeeter. She expressed the tragedy, danger and enduring pain of the maids' social situation. Aibileen was the only well-rounded character, although Celia came in a close second. Skeeter was a little too good to be true, but she drove the plot - that was her role. She is how the story came to be written.

Here are two reviews that I found worth reading, Natasha Robinson and April Scissors. I chose this image because I feel that this is the pose that should have been used to publicize the movie. Aibileen is in her own home, wearing her own clothes, writing her own story. If I have any criticism it is this - that the publicity should have focused on this image of Aibileen. (This is how I would like to be portrayed.) In my mind, Aibileen is real, and Skeeter is a construct. We need to see Aibileen writing her own story, a painful one with no happy ending.

Equality Effect

For a long time, I have been reading and researching groups which are attempting to meet the needs of women worldwide - that is, both here and elsewhere. Today, I read an article about Equality Effect in the latest Chatelaine Magazine. Unfortunately, I can't find the article online so the Equality Effect website will have to speak for itself. The story was almost too sad to repeat, but it involves providing legal representation for little girls raped by fathers, grandfathers and other older men seeking a stylish engagement or a cure for AIDS.

I also listened to Xue Xinran being interviewed on the radio. I had read The Good Women of China a few years ago, and it was extremely helpful to me to read of other women also discovering how to respond to abusive circumstances. Xinran was being interviewed this week on Message from an Unknown Chinese Mother: Stories of Loss and Love. Here is one of the stories from her book,

Visiting a peasant family in Shandong, she sees a newborn baby girl snatched from her mother and dumped headfirst in the chamber pot: the head of the family demands a son and, because of the one-child policy, will not let the daughter live. Two years later, the young couple pays Xinran a visit. They, along with the rest of the young people, have left their village to look for work in cities. The mother says she had two more daughters but her father-in-law gave them away to foreigners for adoption. “Have you seen any foreigners?” she asks Xinran, fearfully. “Do you think the foreigners know how to hold my baby?”

At the tiny restaurant where Xinran eats lunch, the waitress tries to kill herself twice, each time after a little girl’s birthday party. The woman is tortured by the happy faces because, thinking it her duty to produce a male heir, she had smothered her baby daughters. She survives because, as well as the bottle of agricultural fertiliser she swallowed, she drank one of washing-up liquid, thinking that any chemical in a bottle was poison. The detergent diluted the fertiliser’s fatal dose.

Cycling to work one winter’s day, Xinran has a flat tyre. The woman who repairs her bicycle turns out to have been a midwife. Under the author’s patient questioning, she reveals the pricing system of her trade: three times the normal price for a first-born son; six times more if the father is first-born, too; yet more if a daughter is “done”. The trick is to strangle the baby with the umbilical cord as it emerges, and call it stillborn.

Most of Xinran’s mothers submit stoically to the cruelties of “son preference” and the one-child policy. But a few go to extraordinary lengths to have more than one child. On a train journey she meets one of China’s so-called “extra-birth guerrilla troops”—families with daughters who leave home and move secretly from city to city, hoping to escape the birth-control regulators long enough to produce a son. The father rocks his daughter tenderly to sleep, as he explains the dangers of their life. At the next stop, Xinran sees the young girl talking to a food seller on the platform and waves goodbye, assuming the family has got off. But later she meets the father on the train: he has abandoned his beloved daughter to strangers because his wife is expecting another child and the family cannot hide more than one. She was the fourth daughter they had given up.
My life is full of strong Chinese women. Are we providing any kind of model for women in our western world with a presidential candidate who claims to be a submissive wife? I think not. But I have benefitted from watching and learning from the financial intiative and solidarity of Chinese women.

Mercifully, here we are not in the same situation with regard to our babies. But let us raise our sons and daughters to have mutual respect, and to have equal value to their families.

Sunday, August 14, 2011

Removing mighty men from the NIV

Complementarianism has surely gone to the very top of the public consciousness by now. Those women friends of mine who claimed that it would never impact on the larger society are now beginning to scratch their heads in dismay. That is not because they are not conversant with the Bible. It is because they are.

For example, Denny Burk writes against the NIV 2011 pointing out various changes from the NIV 1984, which he claims are "inaccuracies,"

12. Removing "man" when the original Hebrew means "a male
human being" ('ish, gibbor, zaqar, bahur, and also 'adam [but only
when 'adam refers to a specific male person]) (247 inaccuracies)

a. The Hebrew nouns gibbor and gibborim when previously
translated "mighty man/men" (21 inaccuracies)

But in the Genesius Lexicon, 1846, (click on the image to enlarge) "mighty warrior" which is what the NIV 2011 uses, is indeed found among the usages of gibbor. In fact, we can see that gibbor does not actually mean "man" at all, since it is used of a lion. Why should one translation be called inaccurate just because the choice among the several possible ways to render a Hebrew or Greek word in English varies from one translation to another?

I have to say that I feel Dr. Burk is misleading his readers in accusing the NIV 2011 of inaccuracies. It is sad to see so many comparisons between the NIV 1984 and the NIV 2011. We were once raised to think of 1984 as the dystopian future, but according to Dr. Burk, it may be thought of represented as the gold standard of Bible translation.

Michele Bachman's Submission

Conservative columnist Byron York put this question to Michele Bachmann in last Thursday’s Presidential debate,

In 2006, when you were running for Congress, you described a moment in your life when your husband said you should study for a degree in tax law. You said you hated the idea. And then you explained, “But the Lord said, ‘Be submissive. Wives, you are to be submissive to your husbands.’”

As president, would you be submissive to your husband?

Bachmann responded,
Marcus and I will be married for 33 years this September 10th. I’m in love with him. I’m so proud of him. And both he and I — what submission means to us, if that’s what your question is, it means respect. I respect my husband. He’s a wonderful, godly man, and a great father. And he respects me as his wife.
There has been a lot written on this topic, and I can't begin to discuss it all. Here are the posts that I have read so far by Denny Burk, Kurk and Wayne.

My view on this is fairly simple. I don't think anyone who has made a vow of obedience to someone else should be elected to public office. I don't think anyone who has made a vow of obedience to someone else should be allowed to vote. We need to make it clear that vows of obedience cannot coexist with democracy.

So, yes, I think Bachmann gave a reasonable answer. Mutual submission is fine, unilateral submission of the wife is wrong, and a vow to obey should be outlawed.

Saturday, August 13, 2011

Cave of Forgotten Dreams

This movie is a must see. Absolutely. Think what you like about it, but you should see it. It really takes you out of this world, this reality that we call history. All scholars of biblical studies should see this movie for historic context.

Whether these cave paintings are 20,000 years old or 32,000 years old, hardly matters. Viewing this art will reorganize your view of the history of civilization, or perhaps one's view of the human brain. How sophisticated does one need to be in order to produce this art?

I will suggest some alternate thinking not mentioned in the movie. In the absence of activity in one sense, another will grow out of proportion. Stress also produces chemical change that heightens sensitivity. I have seen one website that suggests that the art is primitive and resembles the art of an autistic child. I also see similarities to the art of a young hearing impaired child that I knew. Was this artist simply expressing prehistoric artistic sense, or was he or she deaf, or isolated, perhaps stranded from the rest of the group, and experiencing psycholgical trauma of some kind, perhaps a sort of hypergraphia? Or is this a product of sophistication and training? In any case, it stretches one's view of the human race.

On other movies, I also loved Midnight in Paris, for the sheer silly fun of it. Besides a tourist's view of Paris, there is also the maxim that if we go back in time to experience our "golden age" we will find others in that epoch who want to go back in time to their own "golden age."

And Kurk has written about The Help here and here. As it happened, I saw Cave of Forgotten Dreams instead of The Help, and now I am not sure about whether to see it or not. Lots of other good stuff on Kurk's blog as well. I can't possibly respond to all of it, but great writing. Thanks, Kurk!

Thursday, August 11, 2011

Deleting the story

In an almost unpredented move, Don Miller has deleted two posts and issued an apology for what he wrote about men and women. I am impressed. Today he wrote,
If anything I said personally offended you, will you accept my deepest and most sincere apology?
This is the sequence from my viewpoint. Don Miller wrote two posts on how to live a good love story, part one for girls and part two for guys. The gist of his posts, still available in cache, are that guys initiate, write the story, make it happen, and are responsible. Girls have a story happen to them.

Rachel Held Evans responded here and here. Then Don deleted his posts and wrote and explanation with apology.

The dicussion on Rachel's blog is about how to have a disagreement in an appropriate way. The message that I am getting is that sexism is such an integral part of the way people interact that those who say and write these things are not intending to hurt women, but they are simply not aware of the affect of what they are writing.

I am truly pleased that Don Miller took down his posts. I have no idea what he will write in the future about men and women. It is truly wrong to talk about men as those who make things happen and women as those to whom things happen. That is not Christianity, and we need to make people aware of how wrong it is to talk this way.

But we need to learn not to demonize those who do talk this way. They are mislead by the overwhelming sexist atmosphere in the Christian community which devalues the intitiative and responsibility that women take every day of their lives.

Thanks to Don Miller for deleting his posts. Thanks to Rachel Held Evans for her honest portrayal of women as actors and agents.

Another Rachel responds to Miller's post with these words,

Interestingly, I have always dated “good Christian men.” I’ve kept myself above board in all aspects in my relationships with them. But if I’m honest, I have never been treated worse than I have in those relationships. For some reason, whether it be expectations, pressure or nerves, it seems like I leave each relationship feeling ugly, worthless and stupid. One relationship in particular left me feeling like a whore. And I don’t use that term lightly. For more than a year after it ended, I felt like a whore. And would you believe I didn’t even kiss that guy? In the three months we were together, we never even kissed. He believed it was important to wait a year before going down that road. But his words cut me deep, and it took years to repair that wound.

I write this only because Mr. Miller’s blog stirred up some of the same physiological reactions I had in that three month relationship. No matter how “pure” I was…it wasn’t enough. I needed to tone down my personality. I needed to change my humor. I, who doesn’t wear revealing clothing because I don’t want imaginations to run wild, needed to cover up even more. But ladies…please hear this…that isn’t love. That isn’t grace. That isn’t mercy. That isn’t God.

So, I ask that you throw that blog out the window. Sure, chase after the good things, the righteous things, the holy things. And when it comes to love, look for a man who forgives. Who extends grace when it seems like there is none to be offered. Who gives mercy when you’re certain you’re unworthy. And hold yourself to the same standard. Look for opportunities to offer forgiveness, grace, mercy and understanding. THAT is God. THAT is good. And THAT, my sweet friends, is what a great love story is.

Jesus is my helpmeet

In a follow-up to my last post Kurk writes,
Just as the woman is designed to be the helpmeet of the man, so Jesus is naturally born according to the writer of Hebrews to be the helpmeet of the offspring of Abraham, the people, those who are tempted. Here it is:

16For surely it is not angels that he helps, but he helps the offspring of Abraham. 17Therefore he had to be made like his brothers in every respect, so that he might become a merciful and faithful high priest in the service of God, to make propitiation for the sins of the people. 18For because he himself has suffered when tempted, he is able to help [βοηθῆσαι] those who are being tempted. (Hebrews 2, ESV)
And that is how Clement understood it also, that Jesus is our help βοηθος, as Phoebe was a helper πρστατις to Paul. These two words βοηθος and πρστατης are used as titles for Christ alongside "saviour" and "high priest." Here is how the words were used in 1 Clement 36:1.
Αυτη η οδος, αγαπητοι, εν η ευρομεν το σωτεριον ημων, Ιησουν Χρστον, τον αρχιερεα των προσφορων ημων, τον προστατην και βοηθον της ασθενειας ημων.

This is the way, beloved, in which we found our salvation; even Jesus Christ, the high priest of our oblations, the champion and defender of our weakness. tr. Charles Hoole 1885

This is the way, dearly beloved, wherein we found our salvation, even Jesus Christ the High priest of our offerings, the Guardian and Helper of our J. B. Lightfoot.
If we feel that the scriptures are turning hierarchy upside down, let us follow suit.

Tuesday, August 09, 2011

The Help

I certainly enjoyed reading The Help. It treats a solemn subject with some lightness and humour and I will be attending the movie soon, maybe tomorrow.

There is no doubt that the word "help" here refers to a separate and subordinate class of people. And we regard this today as an injustice.

This sentence is the way one talks now about women. "The woman is to be the helper." It refers to a different and subordinate class of people. Some call it oppression and others deny this.

Vicky Beeching shared this on her facebook page,
“Anyone thinking the ‘women in ministry’ battle is over & done, we still have a long way to go. Complementarianism, even when delivered with trendy clothes & a cool haircut, is still merely the oppression of women. My heart aches to see younger women grow up free from this teaching, so they don’t have to doubt their leadership gifting, their equality in the Body of Christ, or their equality within marriage.”
She then blogged
So what I’m wanting here is BIBLICALLY BACKED UP, theologically well explained comments!
Denny Burk replied,
Helping speaks to difference. The text says that God created her to be a “helper”–a role that involves aiding and supporting the leadership of her husband. God did not assign this role to the man. He assigned it only to the woman. Thus before there is any sin in the world, God creates man and woman to be equal with respect to their humanity (being created in the image of God) but to be different with respect to their roles. The woman is to be the helper.
As we all know, in the Bible, God is our help.
Hide not thy face far from me; put not thy servant away in anger: thou hast been my help; leave me not, neither forsake me, O God of my salvation. Psalm 27:9
In this verse, the human is the servant and God is the help. But in his Systematic Theology, Wayne Grudem writes,
Whenever someone helps someone else the person who is helping is occupying a subordinate or inferior position with regard to the person being helped.
That is not what the Bible says. The Bible both supports hierarchy and turns it upside down.

Monday, August 08, 2011

On women

There has been a lot of chatter in the biblioblogosphere on women once more. Amanda has been blogging about female theologians, as well as sharing other thoughtful reflections in her Girly Girl Week. Yeah Amanda! Her blog experiment is quite informative.

In response to her writing on theologians who happen to be female, let me mention some women, most of them Canadian, whose writing has influenced me - Maxine Hancock, Edith Humphrey, Linda Belleville, Renita Weems, Berenice Gerard. Some of the female Bible bloggers that I read regularly are Shirley Taylor, Waneta Dawn, Carolyn McCulley, Rachel, Shawna, Hannah, Mara and Wendy. Charis is closing her blog which makes me sad and happy for her at the same time. There are many others that I read occasionally, or hope to read in the future.

Some of the male bloggers who have been especially supportive are chronologically Wayne, Peter, Theo, Kurk and Jeff. Overall, I find most male bibliobloggers to be highly supportive of women as equals both on the blogs and in all domains of life. There is no question that most of the bibliobloggers I have encountered have an ethic of treating women as equals.

So why is there such an ongoing inequity in participation? I can only relate what I see going on. Amanda has expressed her views here, and Tonya here. Whatever I say here is only how I perceive it.

First, women have already experienced bias and negativity regarding what it means to be a Christian and a woman long before coming to the internet. This is a given. Here is an example.

I have a PhD in ministry. I studied under Wayne Grudem, and did so well that Wayne Grudem urged me to get a PhD. I asked him what I could do with a PhD? He said “Teach children in Sunday school.” I told him that I don’t need a PhD to teach children. Finally Wayne Grudem could only come up with this: I could write books under the authority of some man.

I attended John Piper’s church. I told John Piper of my calling into full time preaching/teaching. John Piper said, “You are just like the homosexual, right desire, wrong gender.”

Another example - I googled 1 Corinthians 14:34-36 and ended up reading the "G-word" again. Even Tim Challies finds women do not like his interpretation of submission.

I have often been challenged with the subject of submission and how it relates to the role of women in a marriage relationship. In particular, I have been challenged to understand and then prove that the submission prescribed by Scripture is inherent in God’s created order. In other words, the fact that women are to submit to their husbands is not merely the product of the Fall of the human race into sin, but is a product of God’s creation. Even if sin had never entered the world, a wife would still be expected to submit to her husband. Having studied this issue I believe that is a fair statement and wrote this brief article in an attempt to prove my understanding.

I have discussed this topic with several women and have been a little bit surprised by their reactions. It seems to me that women would be glad to know that the idea of submission precedes the fall. This shows us that the headship of the husband is not rooted in a punishment, and perhaps even an unfair punishment where woman was given the harsher penalty of having to submit, but is rooted in the very purpose and creation of mankind. Yet women have told me that they prefer to think that submission is a product of the Fall. Perhaps this shows just what a poor job the church has done in teaching this subject and what a poor job husbands have done in making submission joyful. Or maybe this is simply society echoing even in the church.

Wendy disagrees with the way a woman's desire is turned against her
Conservative, complementarian evangelicals (of which I am one) regularly interpret the next to last line to mean that her desire will be to rule over her husband. But that simply is not what Scripture says.
Women, whether egalitarian or complementarian, experience much of theology relating to women as negative.

We can also read some of the horrifying efforts to indoctrinate children with the notion of female submission and male leadership here and here. Men are characterized by work and initiative, and women by submission and helpfulness.

Just reading these views about women is deeply hurtful. And if male bibliobloggers, who may themselves treat women as equals, then turn around and express approval and acceptance of those who speak of the submission of women in these terms, the consequence is that women are left out. Women have no acceptable way to express how truly awful it is to be talked about as a sexual subordinate in public.

I truly believe that the tolerance many show to those who speak of women in this way is neither conscious nor deliberate but it is deeply ingrained and very unpleasant. Here is series of posts which exemplify this. First, the original post, where the obedience of the wife is mentioned in the first comment by someone else but I myself am not supposed to discuss gender in any way, and then Kurk's representation of this conversation with some of the deleted comments still in place. HT Theophrastus.

I honestly think that when a gender issue is mentioned by a man among other men, no bells go off. But when a woman responds and mentions gender, it's as if the fire alarm was pulled. She is breaking the peace, that peace which is preserved when men talk about gender among men - peace because that thing that is being discussed - subordination - is the subordination of women - it is not about them, it is thank goodness not about their subordination, but only about the subordination of a woman. And would that woman please not talk about it. Such bad manners.

Tuesday, August 02, 2011

John Stott

Like many others in the bibliosphere, I too heard Stott preach and read his books and mourn his passing. I always looked up to him and felt more than anything that he spoke with dignity of others, and presented a dignified image of evangelicalism. Here is a post which discusses his views on the ordination of women.
As an evangelical John Stott was also surprisingly progressive. Famously he incurred the ire of some evangelicals by coming out in support of the annihilationist view of hell as opposed to the classic conservative eternal-conscious-torment view. He was also reasonably progressive in supporting the ordination of women deacons and ‘presbyters’ (essentially local ministers), while not believing that they should be in a position of full headship over men.
Another great post on Stott has been that of Nicholas Kristof. He writes,

Mr. Stott didn’t preach fire and brimstone on a Christian television network. He was a humble scholar whose 50-odd books counseled Christians to emulate the life of Jesus — especially his concern for the poor and oppressed — and confront social ills like racial oppression and environmental pollution.

“Good Samaritans will always be needed to succor those who are assaulted and robbed; yet it would be even better to rid the Jerusalem-Jericho road of brigands,” Mr. Stott wrote in his book “The Cross of Christ.” “Just so Christian philanthropy in terms of relief and aid is necessary, but long-term development is better, and we cannot evade our political responsibility to share in changing the structures that inhibit development. Christians cannot regard with equanimity the injustices that spoil God’s world and demean his creatures.”

Mr. Stott then gave examples of the injustices that Christians should confront: “the traumas of poverty and unemployment,” “the oppression of women,” and in education “the denial of equal opportunity for all.”

I know that there are those who say that evangelical Christianity has lost its integrity. But it is not that simple. Christianity has been a vehicle of oppression for many, but it has also been a vehicle for the expression of empathy, for sharing one's worldly goods, and for loving one's fellow human being as oneself. Empathy, as part of our basic human nature, is found to a lesser or greater degree in everyone, animals included, but Christian teaching and example can serve to foster empathy and exend it.

Saturday, July 30, 2011

Rod Decker's review of the NIV 2011

Update: I said that I would comment on the treatment of Romans 16:7 in Decker's review. Above all, I felt that it lacked clarity. What he does not state clearly is that while early manuscripts lack accents, there is no manuscript with masculine accents for Junia and many with the feminine. All references to Junia in Greek from the early church to present day are feminine. Junia was a common Latin name for a woman, and Junius for a man. There is no instance of a masculine name Junias in Latin or Greek. The one exception is in a text attributed to Epiphanius, who also turned Prisca into Priscas. This is routinely discounted.

Decker also cites the NET Bible note on 'well-known to' without a critical assessment of this note. Since the note does not treat the citation from Pss. Sol. 2:6 consistent with its context, this note is invalid. Decker does not discuss this. He gives the impression that there is a reasonable chance that Junia was not a female apostle, but, in my opinion, the review does not offer adequate support for this. I appreciate that it is difficult to treat such a complex issue in a comprehensive review.

Rod Decker has just posted his review of the NIV 2011. Overall it is a favourable review. I notice that he has cited Calvin with regard to "assume authority" in 1 Tim. 2:12. The Committee on Bible Translation also cited Calvin on this point in their response to the CBMW on June 9, 2011. I have some reason to believe that it was my mention of Calvin's translation of 1 Tim. 2:12 that enabled this point to become widely known.

I have written about this here, here, here, here and here. I am not sure how it happened but somehow, by this June, Douglas Moo had become aware of Calvin's translation auctoritatem sumere and was able to encorporate this into his response.

Decker also comments on Romans 16:7. However, I am having some difficulty understanding his discussion of Junia, so I will work on it tomorrow.

Friday, July 29, 2011

Dan Wallace on 1 Tim. 2:12

Dan Wallace has finished his four part review of the NIV 2011. Overall it has been a positive review of the NIV 2011, giving the NIV as a tradition top marks for readability and 8 out of 10 for accuracy. My major disagreement with his review is the remarkable fact that he assigns a 10 out of 10 for accuracy to the NET Bible, when it contains certain interpretations of verses referring to women that do not have scholarly consensus.

The question of accuracy is crucial here. Is accuracy something attained by a revelation from the Holy Spirit to an individual translator? Is accuracy a hypothesis put forward in the hopes that other scholars will recognize it? Or is accuracy the consensus of scholars in the international biblical studies community?

I would appreciate any contributions on this especially if possible also from those in the scholarly community.

Accuracy in Bible translation seems like a modernist notion that is in reality unattainable. I can say that both tradition and scholarly consensus lead us to believe that several choices made in the NET Bible, either in the text or in the notes, were not made according to either tradition or consensus. How, in this case, does Dan Wallace measure the accuracy of a Bible?

If you notice the thread on this post, you will see that Dr. Wallace declines to discuss 1 Tim. 2:12. This was a passage that I attempted to debate with him on his blog. But that is not allowed according to the rules of his blog. I was blocked not long after that.

I wonder if Dan Wallace is aware that the word in 1 Tim. 2:12 is best translated as either "dominate" or "usurp/assume authority" but for some reason, he has decided not to share this on his blog.

However, that is conjecture. I wish I knew what was really happening. I think you can see that some people feel that the phrase "assume authority" instead of "exercise authority" is reason enough to reject the NIV 2011. I wonder if that means that the same people will also reject Luther, Calvin and the King James Bible, which use "be the lord of" "assume authority" and "usurp authority" in that order.

Night Train to Lisbon

This Swiss novel by Pascal Mercier is proving to be my reading highlight of the summer. The main character, a professor in a gymnasium, (a university prepratory high school) is experiencing middle age existential angst. He is a professor (or teacher, as we would say in English) of Hebrew, Latin and Greek. Of course, one question is why he never became a university professor.

But the central theme revolves around our connectedness to others, and our freedom to think for ourselves, to express ideas which stand in tension with those around us. It is written by a man, about a man, who is researching the life of a man. Yet the message is about the human soul, and whether such a thing exists.

Gregorius is a middle-aged divorcé, who through a series of happenstances, encounters a book written in Portuguese by Amadeu de Prado, a Portuguese physician who lived in Lisbon during the dictatorship of Salazar. He leaves his home and his job by night train to Lisbon to pursue the life and times of Prado. In order to do so, he must use his skills as a linguist, as one who reads Hebrew, Greek and Latin, and who speaks German, French, English and Spanish - in order to learn Portuguese.

In this book the Biblia Hebraica features as a central point around which much of the action takes place. Imagine Gregorius in the headmaster's office in the abandonned lycée which Prado had attended years before. He finds the Hebrew Bible in a desk drawer and wraps it in a sweater against the damp. With the light from a single round window and a camp stove, he sits and reads the papers of Amadeu de Prado.

Imagine this scene then, and the main character, Gregorius, reading the words of Amadeu de Prado's valedictorian speech as a 17 year old. Here are excerpts from the opening,
I would not like to live in a world without cathedrals. I need their beauty and grandeur. I need them against the vulgarity of the world. I want to look up at the illuminated church windows and let myself be blinded by the unearthly colors. I need their luster. I need it against the dirty colors of the uniforms. I want to let myself be wrapped in the austere coolness of the churches. ... I want to read the powerful words of the Bible. I need the unreal force of their poetry. I need it against the dilapidation of the langauge and the dictatorship of the slogans. A world without these things would be a world I would not like to live in. ...

But there is also another world that I don't want to live in: the world where the body and independent thought are disparaged, and the best things we can experience are denounced as sins. The world that demands love of tyrants, slave masters, and cutthroats, whether their brutal boot steps reverberate through the streets with a deafening echo or they slink with feline silence like cowardly shadows through the streets and pierce their victims in the heart from behind with flashing steel. What is most absurd is that people are exhorted from the pupit to forgive such creatures and even to love them. Even if some really could do it: it would meand an unparalleled dishonety and merciless self-denial whose cost would be total deformity.
And the closing paragraph,
I would not like to live in a world without cathedrals. I need the luster of their windows, their cool stillness, their imperious silence. I need the deluge of the organ and the sacred devotion of praying people. I need the holiness of words, the grandeur of great poetry. All that I need. But just as much I need the freedom and hostility against everything cruel. For the one is nothing without the other. And no one may force me to choose.

Tuesday, July 26, 2011

Junia, the apostle: Index

I note that I remain the "go to" person for Junia, an apostle. Here is the index to my posts on the Better Bibles Blog. Here are some follow up posts on this blog. Somebody told me that I have written at least 37 posts on Junia altogether so searching both the BBB and here might produce more results.

In brief, Greek literature from the church fathers, to modern Greek Bibles, all reflect that Junia is an apostle. Information in the NET Bible note is inaccurate. Here is the short version,

When, however, an elative notion is found, ἐν (en) plus a personal plural dative is not uncommon (cf. Pss. Sol. 2:6).

In Pss. Sol. 2:6, the word episemos does not seem to mean "well-known to" but rather "with a mark." Here is the Greek with a literal translation,
    οἱ υἱοὶ καὶ αἱ θυγατέρες ἐν αἰχμαλωσίᾳ πονηρᾷ, ἐν σφραγῖδι ὁ τράχηλος αὐτῶν, ἐν ἐπισήμῳ ἐν τοῖς ἔθνεσιν

    The sons and daughters were in harsh captivity
    their neck in a seal, with a mark among the nations
    Psalm of Solomon 6:2 NETS
I am aware that there is a suggestion that this can be translated as "in a prominent [place]" among the Gentiles, but the result is the same - the suggested "place" is still among the Gentiles.

Although ἐν plus a personal dative does not indicate agency, in collocation with words of perception, (ἐν plus) dative personal nouns are often used to show the recipients.

There also does not seem to be any word of perception in the Greek. It would help if the word of perception could be pointed out.

The Net Bible notes - full of unpleasant little surprises

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

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

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

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

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

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

Homosexual orientation is "deeply sinful" CBMW

The Council of Biblical Manhood and Womanhood has upped the ante. No longer is homosexuality a pathology to be cured, but rather homosexual orientation itself is now "deeply sinful."
The New Testament reveals that a homosexual sexual orientation, whatever its shape or causation, is essentially wrong, contrary to the Creator's purpose, and deeply sinful.
Please read the entire article. As one who works with children, I am primarily concerned for children with an innapropriate sense of their own entitlement. Children who consider their needs to be important enough to cause harm to others. These children flail out, hit and cry, bully and intimidate. My concern for the boy who dons a dress to play in the toy kitchen is that he not be bullied.

In case you ask why the views of CBMW are so important, I will explain. I had never heard the name of the Council of Biblical Manhood and Womanhood mentioned in my church. I did not think of it as having a significant influence. But when I challenged the view of the clergy on the subordination of the wife in the home, the minister cited from Wayne Grudem verbatim. I later learned of his connection to Bruce Ware. The CBMW and those associated with it have a broad influence. Mark Driscoll also credits these two men with influencing him. Unfortunately it all happened in my own home town.

Monday, July 25, 2011

Dan Wallace compares the NRSV and the ESV

I am not too sure what to make of this. In part 3 of his series on the NIV 2011, Dr. Wallace compares a list of translations with respect to elegance, accuracy and readability. He suggests that elegance and readability exist in tension with each other. He writes,
By choosing clarity and readability above the other objectives (even though accuracy is listed as its first priority), the NIV stumbles over elegance. One can’t have everything in a translation, but it is possible to have two of the three major features. The NIV is strong on readability and somewhat strong on accuracy, while the ESV is strong on elegance and somewhat strong on accuracy and, less so, on readability. The NET is strong on accuracy, somewhat strong on elegance (though this is patchy), and semi-strong on readability. Perhaps a chart of major English translations with these objectives in mind would help the reader.
The following is an excerpt from his chart showing only the rating out of 10 for the NRSV and the ESV. I am surprised to find that the NRSV is considered to be both less elegant and less readable than the ESV, although equally accurate. I will explain the reason for my surprise.












A few years back, the difference between the NIV and TNIV was discussed and researched. Two charts were produced which indicated that the ESV and NRSV are considerably more similar to each other than the NIV and TNIV. Here are the two charts thanks to Mike at ΕΝ ΕΦΕΣΩ.

I am not sure if I am imagining things, but I sometimes get the impression that somewhat unfavourable things are said about the NRSV simply because it is not an "evangelical Bible" or perhaps because it was the trail blazer for gender inclusive translations. What do you think?

These charts only measure similarity to each other. They do not measure any specific features, if I understand correctly. Look at how similar the NRSV and ESV really are.

Thursday, July 21, 2011

Two posts on gender

Tonya and Kurk have written fantastic posts about gender and blogging.

Gobsmacked at Dan Wallace

I have not yet finished reading this post. HT BBB. (Thank you, Peter, for your own response to this post.) But so far, I am astonished!

Dr. Wallace rightly critiques a choice of wording in the NRSV. He writes,
In Matt 18.15, the NRSV is an ugly translation. This is due to an overriding principle of making the translation gender inclusive, even if the English ends up being terrible. Who speaks like this: “If the member listens to you, you have regained that one”? In this respect, the NRSV has gone retro, mimicking the homeliness of the old RV, but without its accuracy. Ironically, the NRSV committee’s attempt at avoiding sexual connotations by replacing ‘brother’ with ‘member’ results in creating sexual connotations of another sort! (One of the major tasks of Bible translators these days is to get rid of what one scholar calls the ‘snicker factor’—those places where bathroom humor or sexual innuendo need to be changed, making the translation junior-high-boy foolproof. The NRSV succeeded on several fronts, changing what the RSV had—e.g., Ps 50.9 [“I will not accept a bull from your house” vs. “I will accept no bull from your house”]. But not all: see, for example, Matt 8.20.) Further, by stretching the limits of gender inclusiveness to the breaking point, the NRSV distorts the text here: ‘brother’ is a familial term, and in the context of church discipline has connotations of warmth and commitment to each other that ‘member’ lacks. What is left is a cold harshness in the context of discipline, far removed from what the Matthean saying originally intended to convey.
All very well and logical. A little funny even. But I didn't laugh. Am I a humourless feminist? Some days I am. Here is why.

Early on, I had read some of what Dr. Wallace had written. I came accross this essay called "Biblical Gynecology". I do read Greek, it wasn't that. So far in my life, I have never used the word without spreading my legs. I think of the gynecological theologians as "spread leg" theologians. That is, they spread the legs of women, they measure women by their womb, or by extension, by their submission to the man. Here is the note for 1 Tim. 2:15 in the NET Bible. "The idea of childbearing, then, is a metonymy of part for the whole that encompasses the woman’s submission again to the leadership of the man." It evokes a certain view of sexuality that I cannot bear to read.

I am writing about how it feels for this woman to read the words of a "respected" theologian.

Let me be clear here. There are few enough women who have not had an unknown male grope, grab or pinch their private parts in a public place. And I don't mean the cheeks. No, I mean intrusive sexual grabbing of the private parts. How many men have been groped and had their "member" grabbed in public by an unknown female? But I am a woman, and I know all about being grabbed in public while wearing modest clothes. Men need to be sensitive to the fact that women are subject to the crude violence of males in their every day life. And it isn't funny.

I appealed to Dr. Wallace to change the title of his essay and he did not. Some time later, in response to a male biblioblogger, Dr. Wallace did change the title. But the question is why did Dr. Wallace not respond to a request from a female.

And my next point is that being called a "brother" evokes absolutely zero "warmth." It reminds me that some believe that the Bible is written for men, and women exist in harsh subordination. I have suffered enough outrageous deprivation of my own self, body and soul from subordination. I cannot bear to know that some people have no idea how painful this kind of writing is.

I can't interact with Dr. Wallace's post because I have been blocked for not backing down on points of accuracy in Latin and Greek, or something like that. But there is no way on earth that reading "brother" and "he" gives me the feeling of a family or recalls in any way at all, my own family, which was an old-fashioned, Brethren family of "brothers and sisters."

There is a need for women to wake up and say that they are not "brothers" and what is more important is that nobody treats us like brothers. In fact, most places where men predominate, women are not treated as one of the men. There is a family with all the females left out. That does not make me feel very good.

It breaks my heart. We are "sisters" expunged from the text, or we are "brothers" but not treated as brothers, or we are wombs and child-bearers, in the gynecological position.

In conclusion, I acknowledge that Dr. Wallace writes fairly and favourably about the TNIV and NIV 2011. He writes,
Finally, the TNIV (2005) and NIV 2011 should be mentioned. These are gender-inclusive translations or perhaps gender neutral, but not nearly to the extent as the NRSV. And on the translation committee—indeed, the chairman of the Committee on Bible Translation, Douglas Moo—are those who would be styled ‘complementarians.’ That is, these translators (by no means all, but a good portion of them no doubt) generally believe in male leadership in the home and church. The opposing group is known as egalitarians, those who believe essentially that men do not have the sole rights as leaders in the home or church. The remarkable thing about these two newer translations is that such scholars could work together to produce them. And all of them are evangelicals. This speaks very highly for the TNIV and NIV 2011 and serves as an implicit endorsement of the translation by both groups. Although ‘over 100 scholars’ seems like overkill for a good translation (a much smaller group could do as good a job if not better), the NIV’s multinational and multidenominational workforce removes it from any charges of sectarian bias. This really has to go for the gender issue, too, because of both complementarians and egalitarians on the translation committees.
All this does is break my heart all over again. How could he write such sensible words, when he is the one responsible for removing Junia from her position as apostle, on a misreading of the Greek? I just don't get it. Link

Wednesday, July 20, 2011

Scriptio Continua

Early Greek manuscripts were written without word breaks or spaces between the words. This is consistent with writing in many different languages today. Word spaces are not a universal feature of writing or advanced literacy in society. Neither are word breaks a feature which emerged with the printing press.

The evolution of features of writing and writing systems are not unidirectional as Tim Bulkely comments,
The changes in chunking and in extra textual cues have not at all been unidirectional, and are fascinating to track.
In order to provide some context for Tim's remark, I offer these two images. The first is the Cuthbert Gospel, more information here, a 7th century Latin text in the style of the Lindisfarne Gospels. In this Latin text, there are word spaces as well as line spacing which reflects phrasing in the text.

The second is the Khitrovo Gospel, 14th century. In this text, there are no word breaks although there are punctuation marks and other diacritics. It is evident, however, that the lack of word spacing does not reflect a need to conserve paper. It is difficult to draw conclusions about the function of literacy in a society by the presence or absence of word spacing. However, it is safe to assume that as a particular style developed, it became an identifying feature of writing for that culture or subculture.

Note. I had orginally found this image of the Khitrovo Gospel on this site. However, it is no longer there, but I have retained a copy of this image since 2005.

Tuesday, July 19, 2011

Early Christian Literacy

I attended a lecture by Larry Hurtado at Regent College last night, and enjoyed hearing a lot about early Christian literacy. I only wish I had access to the images he used for his presentation. However, I have found a couple of examples of what he was talking about. On a post of his dating back to last August he writes,
There is a constellation of features that mark off early Christian manuscripts in the book-culture of the time. I have proposed that these comprise our earliest evidence of an emerging early Christian “visual and material culture”. Some of these manuscripts are dated as early as the late second century CE, making them perhaps the earliest (and certainly among the earliest) physical artifacts of early Christianity.

The early Christian preference for the codex, the curious scribal devices known as “nomina sacra”, the various features that comprise what appear to be “readers’ aids” (e.g., early forms of punctuation, wide line-spacing, use of spaces to mark off sense-units) all are noteworthy features of early Christian book-production.

The only example I can provide at the moment is this image from the first page of the Gospel of John in P66 about 200 CE. Here we can see wide line spacing, and several high dots, the first in line 2 after ὁ λόγος and the second is in line 3 before the καὶ. There is also a blank space in line 7 marking off a sense unit between verse 5 and verse 6 beginning Ἐγένετο ἄνθρωπος. There is a diaresis over the "I" at the beginning of John's name, Ἰωάννης, in line 9 ad in line 2 there is a nomen sacrum for God, a theta and sigma with a line above.

PS Click on the image to enlarge it. Right click to open it in its own window.

Friday, July 15, 2011

Junia with a moustache

Kurk has always made blogging so much fun. He writes again about Junia, giving her a moustache, and links to many of my far too long and detailed posts on the topic. Not to bore you any longer, I just wanted to supply the actual photo and not some mock up girl with a fake moustache. Why not have the real McCoy, Kurk?

Ah yes - the point. The point is that male bias is a reality of life in Bible translation. It always has been and perhaps it always will be. What a pain!

top biblioblogger

The Top 10 Biblioblogs reports that I have been voted number 1! (No artwork, though.) I don't know how to interpret this, since I have no idea how many people vote. But let me say that I sincerely appreciate the response.

I take this two ways. First, I personally should keep on blogging. In spite of my single issue blogging, some people still want to read it. Second, I choose to read into the results that the biblioblogosphere wants to affirm the participation of women. I don't think I am far off there.

There are still few women biblioblogging, and there certainly is a lack of women with an academic background blogging in biblical studies. No doubt. I can't fill that slot, and I won't try. I can only be myself. I have many other things on my plate, that have no relation to biblical studies, so I can't expand much in that direction.

I truly feel that there is a great deal of friendship and empathy expressed for women in the biblioblogosphere. Thanks to James for this comment,
Congratulations to Suzanne McCarthy of Suzanne’s Bookshelf for being Number 1 on the June 2011 Top 10 Biblioblogs. Certain conservative Christians have moderated her out of their blogs, or have shed crocodile tears over her spiritual condition. It is for both of these reasons that I root for her success as a blogger! Anyone who draws gasps from right-wing Christians cannot be that bad!
So, lots of friendly interaction and I appreciate that. But the question remains, why would anyone blog about my spiritual condition? Women, effeminates, and atheists routinely draw fire in some very unpleasant ways. There are nasty things said about our status and right to exist and function alongside the "real men" all the time. Although only a very small proportion of bibliobloggers are mean, this has some dampening effect. Most of the negative comments are said by those who are not actually bibliobloggers, but these more outspoken authors are often affirmed by bibliobloggers.

On the up side, here are some positive things being said. Bob Cargill wrote,
The use of religion to suppress women is wrong regardless of the religion used to do so. This – THIS! – is precisely why non-Christians hate fundamentalist Christians: because they use scripture to keep women down, when all Jesus ever wanted to do was lift them up.
Steve Caruso wrote about the qualifications to be a biblioblogger,
3) Civility – It must — barring traditional sarcasm or banter — keep proper decorum, free of disrespect for other bloggers. Direct personal attacks against other bloggers will result in disqualification.
On the other hand, Mark Driscoll is now going to redouble his efforts to get across his views. He writes,

So, we are working on a new website where I can speak to these real issues in a fuller context. Lord willing, sometime in September, after my trip to Europe with my family and a lot of other people, and then some recovery time, we will launch a new website.