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Esteban Vázquez

Thanks for the nod, John, and for the reminder: I have to get cracking and finished my promised post! In the meantime, this post of yours has given me much to think about, and I thank you also for this.

Mitchell Powell

I think one has to be overthinking to take offense with "God and men" as a good literary use. (I say this not as a Hebrew scholar, which I am not even in my most irrational dreams, but as someone with a fair command of English). As nice as gender-inclusivism sounds as an idea, we can't let it destroy perfect good, and often superior, readings. As a layman (layperson?) I'm with you on God and men. And although I don't use it regularly, there is something utterly delicious about the King James Version when read aloud liturgically. As always, you're post is articulate, and a pleasure to read.

JohnFH

Esteban,

I'm convinced that you of all people are in a position to shed light on this issue.

Mitchell,

Thanks for your kind words. None of these things are deal-breakers for me, by the way. The Kingdom of God has zero to do with whether one reads e.g. from the KJV, the ESV, the (T)NIV, or the NRSV.

Wendy

ESV 1 Sam 2:26 and Luke 2:52 are felicitous in a translation that stands in the KJV tradition:

What do you think of the ESV version of Luke 2:14?

"Glory to God in the highest, and on earth peace among those with whom he is pleased!"

JohnFH

Hi Wendy,

That's an example of ESV avoiding a gender-inclusive use of "men" in translation. Who would have thought? TNIV, as expected, does the same thing. Contrast:

Glory to God in the highest,
And on earth peace among men
with whom he is pleased. (NASB 1995)

Glory to God in the highest,
and on earth peace to men
on whom his favor rests (NIV)

I don't think NIV quite works. It sounds sexist to me, even though it tried hard to avoid that by using the same preposition twice to bind together the "x + y" collocation: to God / to men.

NASB works better.

My criticism of virtually all translations of this passage: inattention to the poetic structure, which is tripartite: see Nestle-Aland's formatting of the Greek. The formatting of NASB and NIV above is my own, not that of the translations themselves.

I will always love the KJV of this passage, and hope it continues to be used. I prefer that it be read, as opposed to a modern (and more accurate) translation of the source text, at least on a few special occasions. That's because I believe tradition is an excellent thing. Not all tradition, but a tradition like this, very definitely.

Wendy

I do think that the KJV is appropriate for traditional celebrations and ritual. It is also very present in contemporary English literature.

However, I don't think that one can simply count out two syllable words per se. We accept the word "angel" for example.

It seems that the rhythm was developed with the words "God" and "men" but could also be redeveloped with the word "people" as Doug Chaplin has in his post.

Glory to God
In the highest heaven
And on the earth peace
To people of good will.

The serious problem with the expression "men
with whom he is pleased" is that it is not clear to me if it means

A "only those men with whom he is pleased", in which case it really means just the guys,

OR B "all human beings, and God is pleased with all human beings."

I wouldn't get through a midnight mass without worrying this one to death. Actually it turns out that I don't know if this phrase refers to all human beings, or only select human beings.

I think this is the real issue. If sexist language, or non-sexist language, obscures the intended meaning of the text, then there is a problem.


JohnFH

I agree with everything you say, Wendy. I am little bit wary of the argument about sexism because in my church context, I am sometimes told by members of CUSS that the use of Our Father is sexist, not to mention Father, Son, and Holy Spirit. Which is clearly true in more than one sense. Still it seems to me that somehow those who clamor for such changes lack spiritual discernment.

I understand Luke 2:14 to make use of universalizing language like John 3:16. On the one hand, there is God in the highest; on the other, there is humankind on earth, on whom God's favor now rests, and to whom peace is granted.

But I note that NLTSB and ESVSB take the Greek to make use of particularizing language. I'm a Calvinist which means Matthew 7:13-14 is in my Bible (univeralists practically speaking have expunged this passage and many others from Scripture), but universal language expressing God's benevolence toward all is appropriate in Luke 2. I think NLTSB and ESVSB are not context-sensitive enough.

By the way, if Luke 2:14 is making use of John 3:16-like language, "God" + "people of good will" doesn't cut it.

I'm liking KJV more and more. It's imperfect as a literal translation, but it captures the essentials of the passage far better than any modern translation I can think of.

In short, I care more about preserving what I understand to be the universal thrust of the source text than whether a translation adopts "men" or "humankind" or something else I haven't thought of which communicates that.

Wendy

I had been wondering if "peace on earth" was only for a chosen few. I do find the univeral force much better. Thanks.

My puzzle tho' over sexism is that I do see, in other contexts, a growing misunderstanding of the text. For example, there is now widespread use of 1 Tim. 5:8,

"If anyone does not provide for his relatives, and especially for his immediate family, he has denied the faith and is worse than an unbeliever."

as a proof text for the male primary provider and head of the house. I have seen several bloggers cite it with an exclusively male meaning.

Even more surprising is that I found Eph. 4:8 listed in the Dallas Theological Seminary Doctrinal Statement to support the notion that leaders are chosen from among "men."

My view is that not only the layperson, (excuse me for being a CUSS on your blog) but also many preachers have completely lost touch with male generics UNLESS they know that the text they are reading is the KJV.

How do you think this could be remediated? Should there be a pastor's institute for reteaching the male generic, or should we just cave in to CUSS's for every day stuff?

I still prefer the KJV because it allows one to not be a CUSS, but some people don't want to use it for every day. I like traditional language but there are some pragmatic issues that perhaps need to be resolved.

JohnFH

I prefer not to cave to CUSS or the proof-texters who misconstrue 1 Tim 5:8. If the proof-texters read with more attention to context, they would be saved from such nonsense.

Still, your point is well-taken. If people regardless of ideology misconstrue male generics as male specifics in a reasonably obvious example like 1 Tim 5:8, you begin to have a case for avoiding them.

On the other hand, it's best to field test these expressions among ordinary people most of whom are not troubled by or prone to misinterpret male generics. At least that is my experience. If I listen to talk radio (NPR, BTW), I hear male generics all the time. Off campus, this is normal.

David Ker

The translations we have grown accustomed to through long acquaintance often cloud our judgment as to what is most communicative for modern speakers. I share with you a respect for the heritage of our English Bible translations but differ with you in holding to inaccurate renderings just because of tradition. Luke 2:14 is an example of that for textual reasons and also for reasons of clarity. A brief survey of Christmas carols referring to "goodwill" will show that this verse has been misunderstood for centuries.

Regarding male generics I think we need to tease out the different usages. "Man" can stand for humanity. But "men" can't refer to men and women collectively. I agree with you on not liking "people" as a translation of anthropois in some instances preferring instead everyone.

JohnFH

Hi David,

You hold to inaccurate renderings, in the sense you mean, whether you like it or not, because the NT has its fair share of them in quoting the Old. You accept the NT ones as good ones, and the post-NT as bad ones. You know the NT ones are good ones, because you trust that the NT authors got the essentials right regardless.

I am more optimistic than you, a true charismaniac who believes that God keeps his hand in translations from Tyndale to KJV to CEV (the translation my wife Paola's church uses, bursting at the seams with young families: count this confession, a bit difficult for me to make, as a Christmas present in your direction).

The trouble about sweating the small stuff, something I do as much as the next person, is that the larger picture is easily missed. KJV gets the essentials right in Luke 2:14 whereas most modern translations do not. I truly believe that.

You can accuse me if you wish of just wanting to agree with Sue and Kurk around Christmas, but the agreement was unplanned. It's just the HS up to his usual tricks.

Was it Burns who said that "the best laid plans of mice and men go often askew"? The Bible, you know, is an old book with lots of quaint things in it, so quaint that it makes Burns' diction seem positively modern. I'm not ready to kiss the generic use of "men" away just yet. But I agree that it is becoming more and more difficult to use.

I know: CEV and people like you (on alternate days) seem to think that we should make the Bible sound as if someone a bit unchurched from middle America with a limited vocabulary wrote it. In that case, out with generic "men," I suppose. But even that statement may unconsciously depend on ideological premises. It seems to me that generic "men" continues to be used among ordinary English-speaking people, though not in the same range of contexts as once upon a time.

David Ker

A treasured Christmas gift indeed! Kiss your wife for me.

We will continue to struggle with "man" because our language is shifting to keep up with our culture. We can leave the Bible on the top shelf with all the other beautiful but irrelevant books from days gone by or we can try to ride the crest of the wave because that's where the tide is heading.

Until I studied Greek, I honestly never knew that Christ was a perfect mediator in 1 Timothy 2 as a human rather than a male. I realize that phrases like "himself a human" sound weird to our old ears but "the man" is worse because we think it means one thing and anyone who might be interested in that mediator will never make it past what is now sexist language.

JohnFH

Really? The whole idea that Christ is a perfect mediator as a male, apart from however 1 Tim 2:5 is translated, is a total non-starter I would have thought. What pastor or theologian teaches that it is not the Word made flesh that saves us, but the Word made male? That is weirder than weird.

On the other hand, I grant that NIV at I Tim 2:5, which uses a string of "man"'s and "men," sounds not so much sexist as simply off-key.

But REB would not grate on the ears of anyone off campus I know in the upper Midwest:

For there is one God, and there is one mediator between God and man, Christ Jesus, himself man, who sacrificed himself to win freedom for all mankind.

It grates a little bit on my ears, though, having gone to all the right schools and such. I don't like TNIV 1 Timothy 2:5 because "people" sticks in my poet's craw (this is a poetic passage after all). How about this?

For there is only one God,
and there is one mediator between God and man,
Christ Jesus, himself human,
who gave himself a ransom for all.

I think the new NIV will be wise to split the difference, as I have done, in passages like these.

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