Thursday, July 21, 2011

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


Kristen said...

I find it trouble that Dr. Wallace labels as "extreme" egalitarianism, what I would think is just egalitarianism. Then he labels soft complementarianism as "moderate" egalitarianism.

The problem is that the use of the word "extreme" to label the basic egalitarian stance, marginalizes it. No one wants to be considered "extreme."

Also, surely the opposite of "andrology" is not "gynecology" but "gynology"? Wouldn't the opposite of "gynecology" be something like "androcology"? In other words, surely there is some way of differentiating between the study of one sex in general, and the study of the sexual organs of that particular sex. If there is no such differentiation, there certainly ought to be!

Peter Kirk said...

Suzanne, thanks for the link. I preferred to respond to what Wallace wrote in this review. I agree with you in having serious issues with other things he has written.

Kristen, it is all a matter of Greek. These ologies are typically named from the genitive case in Greek. From aner "man" we have the genitive andros, hence "andrology". The genitive of the irregular gune "woman" is gunaikos, hence with regular orthographic changes "gyn(a)ecology".

I understand "gynaecology" and "andrology" both as primarily about reproductive biology and medicine, related to the physical differences between men and women. Social differences would come under "gender studies", as I suppose would any suggested psychological differences.

Suzanne said...


Thanks for writing about this. I am no longer interested in a community which does not address sisters. I just don't want to be a part of the brotherhood, as a sort of junior and subordinate member. It is all too disgusting. This sex inuendo stuff is just nonsense. Of course, it would be funny if it was not about subordination and worse.


Andrology and gynecology are about sexual dysfunction. That's it. Erectile dysfunction is the main issue in andrology.

Donald Johnson said...

Wallace's labels tell us more about him than about reality. He frames things using his blue lenses so that he calls comps as moderate egals. This is Orwellian and he needs to repent for this deliberate obfuscation.

Shirley Taylor said...

I am so glad to see you say this. One of the first letters I wrote to my pastor was about 1 Timothy 2:15. I called it "Spread your Legs Theology" - or "Two-part Salvation Plan for Women. Have a Baby and Be Good."

It's all about sex,couched in Biblical terms. Surely women see themselves as much more than that. Why we put up with this denigration is beyond me.

Why men are so obsessed with the words authority and submission is beyond me also. However, I suspect it, too, has something to do with sex. They find validation in scriptures such as these, and do not bother to think how it affects women.

Suzanne McCarthy said...


Thanks for letting me know that you have the same reaction to this stuff. I wonder if the men who talk this way have any idea how they come across!

Anonymous said...

I can only wonder how it is that you can insult homosexuals and hurt them deeply as if man were not created equal or in gods image and while man has interperted the bible all along .you must look withn your beliefs that stand in the way of what is true and just.......CGJames....the son.....

Anonymous said...

Oh good grief, gyneacology is in its modern sense a medical term and you're right Suzanne it has unhelpful connotations today. If men are determined to bring everything back to genitalia then let's at least be honest about it. I propose girls that we talk about vagina and penis theology. Comp men have issues with talking about vaginas.