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Sue

"Mortals" sounds to somber for Christmas and "humankind" doesn't scan. But I disagree that mankind and "men" are in the same category as sexist language.

I can demonstrate that most evangelical pastors interpret "men" - used in contemporary literature - as meaning males, but I don't know of anyone at all that thinks "mankind" are all males. So, I don't know if my language is sexist or not.

JohnFH

Sue,

I don't think your language - "mankind" - is sexist. But plenty of others do, which is why the term is studiously avoided by a number of recent translations.

I'm sure you're right that at least some evangelical pastors, for proof-texting purposes, over-interpret "men" in their Bible translation of choice in select instances.

That's their problem. Everyone - including them - knows a male generic "men" when they see it. Examples:

The best laid plans of mice and men often go askew.

Of Gods and Men (a recent TV mini-series)

I comment further on this on the NIV versus TNIV thread in response to a remark like yours from David Ker.

Sue

I don't think your language - "mankind" - is sexist.

So why did you label it sexist?

I'm sure you're right that at least some evangelical pastors, for proof-texting purposes, over-interpret "men" in their Bible translation of choice in select instances.

That's their problem.

No it is not their problem. It is the problem of the women who live under their influence. It is a problem that is both terrible and serious. It causes a lot of harm.

Everyone - including them - knows a male generic "men" when they see it. Examples:

The best laid plans of mice and men often go askew.

Robert Burns

Of Gods and Men (a recent TV mini-series)

The Iliad.

But mankind, refers to humanity in the universal sense, so one doesn't really need to worry about a part of the human race being left out, either the female portion or the non-Christian portion, or whoever. It works. The point is that God intended wholeness for everyone.

Kirk's is also very good. Perhaps "mankind whom God wants to bless" would be a good translation.

JohnFH

I label "mankind" "sexist" for the reasons I state: because the label reflects the opinion of those I indicate. My other labels are of exactly the same kind: it is Calvinism falsely so-called that needs to read Luke 2:14 as Calvinist (the "Calvinist" flavor of most modern translations is recognized by non-Calvinists: see T. C. Robinson's post).

I don't agree with you about "men," but that's all right. These are things reasonable people disagree about.

For the rest, if you are proposing that translations be adjusted in order to stop people from doing "great harm," I have my doubts. I assume you are referring to rape or something like that; translations will always be justifications for such heinous acts, not causes.

If you are referring to the exclusion of women from the pulpit, I don't think it makes sense to accuse the vast majority of churches (which, unlike my denomination, exclude women from some leadership roles) of complicity in "great harm" on that account.

Or perhaps you want to accuse religious formations which favor traditional or neo-traditional marriage arrangements of causing "great harm." You already know how much I disagree with you on that one. We've hashed that one out at great length on other occasions. There's no point in doing it again.

I am reminded of those who regard NRSV as a heretical translation because it reads "Wives, accept the authority of your husbands" in 1 Peter 3:1. Of course it takes spiritual discernment to apply such a passage in a culturally sensitive fashion, and with sufficient attention to specific circumstances. If the goal is to make the Bible a book that cannot be misused by the ill-intentioned, wrongheaded, or simply literal-minded, you are going to have to scrap the whole Bible and start over. It's an impossible task, unless the true goal is make the Bible into an innocuous text except insofar as it comes up to "our" standards.

Sue

If the goal is to make the Bible a book that cannot be misused by the ill-intentioned, wrongheaded, or simply literal-minded, you are going to have to scrap the whole Bible and start over. It's an impossible task, unless the true goal is make the Bible into an innocuous text except insofar as it comes up to "our" standards.

I reluctantly suspect you may be right. I haven't decided yet.

But I take heart in the fact that many other women are voicing the same views as mine. Here are a couple.

http://submissiontyranny.blogspot.com/2009/12/complementarians-insist-on-roles.html

http://strivetoenter.com/wim/2009/12/08/comp-spiritual-abuse/

JohnFH

The witness of those who have escaped from some version of patriarchy, like the witness of those who escaped from some version of authority-less egalitarianism, is riveting, and rightfully so.

Complementarians and egalitarians who have their hierarchy of truth in good order are capable of respectful dialogue on these matters. It cannot be expected that ex-comps and ex-egals, except for unusual exceptions, do likewise. The witness of exes is to be heard, but also, put into perspective.

For what I consider to be more a truth-filled understanding of the basic isssues, I recommend works like Boundaries, by Henry Cloud and John Townsend; Sacred Marriage, by Gary Thomas; and Love & Respect, by Emerson Eggerichs. On the exegetical front, I recommend Sarah Sumner.

Sue

One minor correstion. I know that you like to honour the way people self-identify, so I would like to note that myself and those I link to self-identify as having escaped from those who self-identify as complementarians. You have your own opinions about this but I would like you to please honour self-identification.

I would be interested in any websites where women self-identify as escaping from those who self-identify as egalitarians. Thanks. I think these details are important.

I feel that this is off topic so I really don't want to discuss it further. Thanks.

Sue

You also implying that anyone who converts to Christianity, and is therefore an "ex-nonChristian," also cannot be expected to be capable of respectful dialogue.

Are you saying that no one at all who is an ex-anything, and has converted from one belief to another can be expected to be capable of respectful dialogue? You imply that there are two kinds of persons - those who have a hierarchy of truth in good order, and those who are converts.

JohnFH

Thanks for the clarifications, Sue.

The easiest place to find the witness of those who have journeyed out of a bad experience in the egal world are in hard-line comp resources. No surprise there. I will not link to relevant websites and such because it is a world that is far from my own, about which I have serious misgivings.

What I see rather often are young people raised in an egal setting who are looking for more structure and find it in soft complementarianism.

It is hard, I think, for exes to engage in respectful dialogue. Not impossible, but hard.

For example, if someone has risked everything to leave Islam and become a Christian, they are going to have a hard time listening to someone who made the reverse journey.

The contradiction is grievous. It requires making a clear distinction between subjective and objective truth, and the willingness to accept the fact that truth is always subjective, and only more or less in accord with objective truth.

If you believe in truth that is beyond your own. I realize that this is not the case with many.

Sue

I feel that you are privileging the testimony of those who have only ever lived in one paradigm rather than those who have lived in more than one paradigm. As you may imagine, I find this inhibits dialogue. However, if that is your opinion, then I appreciate that you have made it explicit. I did not comment here to reopen this issue, believe it or not. I was simply once again taken aback at your propensity for labeling and wanted to respond to that.

Back to the main point, I think the universal import of Luke 2:14 overides and completely makes the sexizt/non-sexist dimension irrelevant. I am sorry that you did not pick up on that. That was, to my mind, our point of agreement.

Have a good Christmas.

Justin (koavf)

John,

This is a very tenuous link, not the purpose of your post, and an interruption into the conversation you are already having, but: are you a Universalist?

-JAK

Will Fitzgerald

I taught on this passage this Sunday, prompted by the discussions. I think the universalist/non-universalist wording choice is prompted by the syntax and semantics of English relative clauses (and, of course, the theology of the translator). There is no such distinction required in the Greek, I think.

This is what I wrote in my teaching notes:

Now, there is (to my mind) a bit of a strange controversy going on over this expression. Some want to translate it as something like “just those people with whom God is pleased,” or “just those people whom God favors,” and some what to translate it as “all people, whom God has blessed.” It like if I said, “My brother from Florida,” vs. “My brother, from Florida.” In the first case, I’m telling you which brother I mean—the one from Florida. In the second case, I’m just giving you a little additional information about my brother—he’s from Florida. So, it is “people with whom God is pleased” or “people, with whom God is pleased”? Well, the thing is—this is a distinction being introduced by putting the ‘well-favored’ after ‘people,” which is not even what is happening in the Greek. There’s no long phrase here: just an adjective and a noun. If I say, “My Florida brother,” I can’t make the distinction I can make with “my brother, from Florida” and “my brother from Florida.” And the Greek is just the same here. We just don’t have a great word to use, but I think “well-favored” will in fact work: “well-favored humanity” or “humanity, so well-favored.”

My translation of Luke 2:14 is: “Glory to God in the highest heavens! Peace on earth to people so well favored!”

The whole teaching can be found at:

http://kmenno.org/teachings/advent_4_2009.html

JohnFH

Hi Justin,

On the contrary, your question is right on target.

No, I am not a Universalist if that means that there is one way, the way of life, and everyone finds it, in their own way.

I am not a Universalist because Universalists neuter, for all practical purposes, passages like Matthew 7:13-14.

But I am a Universalist in the sense that I believe that the call of Abraham and the Nativity and other examples of divine grace, are good news for everyone. Even those who reject God's benevolence benefit from the good it has brought into the world.

JohnFH

Sue,

I wish you a very merry Christmas indeed.

The universal import of Luke 2 and Luke 2:14 in particular is important to me. I see this same universalism in John 1:1-14 and 3:16. It needs to be emphasized just as much as the opposite, that the Gospel is a sign spoken against, a stumbling block to many who are heavily invested in very different ideologies treated by them as the true means of salvation and emancipation.

I'll try once more on the matter of dialogue. It is easy to find examples in real life, online, and in print resources, of people who have escaped from very conservative paradigms, orthodox Judaism, evangelical Christianity, a form of Islam, you name it.

It is just as easy to find examples of people who grew up in very liberal emancipated paradigms but found a home and the structure they were looking for in orthodox Judaism, evangelical Christianity, a confessional form of Catholicism, a version of Islam, etc.

It is often the case that such people have little comprehension of those who have made choices diametrically opposed to theirs. In fact, they have sometimes dedicated their lives to fighting the paradigm which once held them in thrall.

Fine, but crusaders of this kind do not believe in dialogue. They do not wish to build bridges. They wish to burn them.

That's all I'm saying. Know thyself, said Socrates. Don't pretend.

Hi Will,

Thanks for bringing your thoughts to our attention. I think the point in Luke 2 is that the Nativity is a turning point in the relationship of God and man, the actualization of divine favor on long-suffering humanity of which the shepherds are representatives.

Sue

Fine, but crusaders of this kind do not believe in dialogue. They do not wish to build bridges. They wish to burn them.

That's all I'm saying. Know thyself, said Socrates. Don't pretend.

You csn't leave off the final insult even at Christmas. I feel sorry for you, John. Peace, brother.

JohnFH

Sue,

I didn't mean it as an insult. Are not these words your own, "I am both spark and tinder"? Have you not compared yourself to the heroines of Greek tragedy?

You have cast yourself in a role full of pain and struggle. It is not the path of dialogue or reconciliation. It is a path full of confrontation.

That I take you at your word in this sense is meant as a sign of respect. But in that case, when you cast yourself in the role of a person of dialogue, committed to self-criticism and intent on finding common ground, I have to object.

JohnFH

Sue,

If you want to amuse yourself with incendiary comments, feel free. On your own blog. Your readers know where to find you.

Sue

Using "mankind" to denote humanity is not sexist. Sexism involves discriminating on the basis of sex. When DTS cites Eph. 4:8 with "men" in it to say that only men may be teachers and apostles. that is sexism. When I use the word "mankind" to denote a univeral sentiment of peace toward all of humanity, it is not sexism, it is the use of a male generic which is fully understood by every English speaker to mean humankind. It is the use of gendered language and it is not PC but it is not sexist.

JohnFH

Sue,

I agree with you that "mankind" is not a sexist term. PC people, however, consider it to be precisely that.

I do not agree with you that religious formations which exclude women from some kinds of leadership - you give the example of DTS - are thereby sexist. At the very least, that is not how they see it, and you show no inclination to even try to understand their point of view.

I have friends who are Roman Catholic, eastern Orthodox, conservative evangelical, orthodox Jewish, Muslim, Hindu, Buddhist, etc. In my view, it is wrongheaded, hurtful, and counter-productive to call these people, men and women, sexist, because of their complementarian views.

Thank you for giving me the opportunity to stand up for zillions of people with whom I have disagreements, on this issue and others, people nonetheless who would feel unjustly insulted, and rightfully so, by the adjective you use.

If you want to be in dialogue with traditional and neo-traditional Christians, Jews, Muslims, Buddhists, and Hindus, more respect is called for. If you just want to tar and feather them, that's fine, too. I simply ask that you do it somewhere else.

Sue

I point out that DTS uses "men," as a translation of anthropoi - which means "humans" - in Eph. 4:8 to order to restrict women from the teaching role. This can legitimately be called "sexist." At least one can argue that it is by some definitions, sexist. It is the use of a male generic with the purpose of excluding women.

It is in a different category than using "mankind" to say that God wants peace for all humanity. There is a qualitative difference between the two. If I use the word "mankind" to include everyone, I don't want this use to be put in the same category with those who use "he" or "men" in order to say that women are restricted from providing for their family, or from teaching adult males. It is, in my view, the use of the term, and a linguistically incorrect use, which brings the label of sexism.

And I just checked and found that I have never used the word "sexist" on my blog, and only did so here today to respond to your use of it.

JohnFH

Thank you, Sue, for stating your point of view so clearly. Those who want to know more about your views are kindly directed to your blog.

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  • The Biblia Hebraica Blog
    a blog about Hebrew Bible/Old Testament, the history of the Ancient Near East and the classical world, Syro-Palestinian archaeology, early Judaism, early Christianity, New Testament interpretation, English Bible translations, biblical theology, religion and culture, philosophy, science fiction, and anything else relevant to the study of the Bible, by Douglas Magnum, PhD candidate, University of the Free State, South Africa
  • The Forbidden Gospels Blog
    by April DeConick, Professor of Biblical Studies, Rice University
  • The Naked Bible
    by Mike Heiser, academic editor at Logos Bible Software
  • The Reformed Reader
    by Andrew Compton, Ph.D. student in the Department of Near Eastern Languages and Cultures (focus on Hebrew and Semitic Languages) at the University of California, Los Angeles (UCLA)
  • The Sacred Page
    a blog written by three Catholic Ph.D.s who are professors of Scripture and Theology: Michael Barber, Brant Pitre and John Bergsma
  • The Talmud Blog
    a group blog on Talmud News, Reviews, Culture, Currents, and Criticism
  • Theological German
    a site for reading and discussing theological German, by Mark Alter
  • theoutwardquest
    seeking spirituality as an outward, not an inward quest, by David Corder
  • This Lamp
    Incisive comment on Bible translations in the archives, by Rick Mansfield
  • Thoughts on Antiquity
    By Chris Weimer and friends, posts of interest on ancient Greek and Roman topics (archive). Chris is a graduate student at the City University of New York in Classics
  • Threads from Henry's Web
    Wide-ranging comment by Henry Neufeld, educator, publisher, and author
  • Tête-à-Tête-Tête
    smart commentary by "smijer," a Unitarian-Universalist
  • Undeception
    A great blog by Mike Douglas, a graduate student in biblical studies
  • What I Learned From Aristotle
    the Judaica posts are informative (archive)
  • Bouncing into Graceland
    a delightful blog on biblical and theological themes, by Esteban Vázquez (archive)
  • Weblog
    by Justin Anthony Knapp, a fearless Wikipedian (archive)
  • Writing in the Dust
    A collection of quotes by Wesley Hill, a doctoral student in New Testament studies at Durham University (UK), and a Christian who seeks the charism of chastity
  • גֵּר־וְתוֹשָׁב
    by David Miller, Associate Professor of New Testament and Early Judaism, Briercrest College & Seminary, Caronport, Saskatchewan, Canada
  • ואל-תמכר
    Buy truth and do not sell: wisdom, instruction, and understanding - a blog by Mitchell Powell, student of life at the intersection of Christ, Christianity, and Christendom
  • משלי אדם
    exploring wisdom literature, religion, and other academic pursuits, by Adam Couturier, M.A. in Old Testament/Hebrew Bible (graduate of Gordon-Conwell Theological Seminary)

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  • Ancient Hebrew Poetry is a weblog of John F. Hobbins. Opinions expressed herein do not reflect those of his professional affiliations. Unless otherwise indicated, the contents of Ancient Hebrew Poetry, including all text, images, and other media, are original and licensed under a Creative Commons License.

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    Copyright © 2005 by John F Hobbins.