UPON THE GROUND OF MEN?
The seemingly endless versions of words that oppose other versions of words in the myriad of Bible translations, gave me thought as to why this is happening, even today. A variant multitude of Bible translations exists, each with their name and individual trademark upon their version of the Bible. The reason for this should be more than obvious to us. It is because of the many opinions of the various words that are used to express what each of the translation’s authors “felt” or “thought” were most important, or most accurate in their own understanding, or their own interpretation, and were not “felt” to be in agreement or privy to other Bible versions. While we appreciate the great effort that goes into each translation, the fact remains that they desired their own version in accordance to what they considered to be accurate in each of their minds.
The Bible Says
We must appreciate the fact that most people are dependent on English translations, and pretty much assume that what they read is accurate. As Leland Ryken has pointed out:
Readers who do not know the original biblical languages assume that an English translation reproduces what the Bible really says . . . . People naturally and legitimately appeal to the English translation in their hands as constituting “what the Bible says” . . . . Readers of the English translation operate on the premise that they are reading what the Bible actually says (The Word of God in English: Criteria for Excellence in Bible Translation, Crossway Books, 2002, p. 136).
So then, may we be diligent in truth so that when we discover a bias, or a mindset, that has changed the meaning from the Greek word so that it then implicates something other than the intent of the original Author, should we not then perk up our ears to hear truth? Or should we be satisfied with an ear tickling from the opinions of the scribes according to the scribed version in which we agree? Do we just say “Pick your favorite version, any version,” and ignore the reality that not one of the multitude of versions are totally accurate?
May we seek the heart of our Father above the opinions of humans. When light is shed upon an inaccuracy or deflection from the Greek, may we have eyes to see and ears to hear Him. I have quite a few different versions myself, a whole entire shelf of them. And I’m thankful for them, but I also know I need to seek Him as I read, and times do come when He points to a certain word or words, and so I then check out the Greek. Ultimately, He is our Teacher by the Spirit, just as He stated.
Examples of Personally Transmitted Bias Written into Translations
The basic Greek word for “humanity” is “anthropos.” This is a gender-inclusive word – it encompasses both men and women. In many translations, “anthropos” (singular) and “anthropoi” (plural) are translated as “man/men.” Unfortunately, these renderings often do not lead to clarity, but contribute to confusion and misunderstanding. Here are some examples.
Partial Sentence of Paul’s Correspondence Labeled as Ephesians 4:8:
“Therefore it says, When He ascended on high, He led captive a host of captives, And He gave gifts to men.” (NASB version)
The Greek word here is “anthropois,” the plural form of “anthropos.” It is not a gender-specific word.
“Therefore it says, “When He ascended on high, He led captive a host of captives, And He gave gifts to people.”
The above may not seem important, but let’s remember that in his letter to the saints in Ephesus Paul writes about important gifts of function in the body of Christ – “apostles, and some as prophets, and some as evangelists, and some as pastors and teachers.” (Ephesians 4:11) Are only males included in these functions? Phoebe was a deacon in the ekklesia in Cenchrae; Junia was an apostle (Romans 16:1, 7); Philip had four virgin daughters who were prophetesses (Acts 21:9).
A Sentence of Paul’s Correspondence Labeled as 2 Timothy 2:2:
“The things which you have heard from me in the presence of many witnesses, entrust these to faithful men who will be able to teach others also.” (NASB)
The Greek word here is “anthropois” (plural), and it is an inclusive word which embraces men and women. Again, it is not a gender-specific word.
“The things which you have heard from me in the presence of many witnesses, entrust these to faithful people who will be able to teach others also.”
Partial Sentence of Peter’s Correspondence Labeled as 1 Peter 3:4:
“But let it be the hidden man of the heart, in that which is not corruptible, even the ornament of a meek and quiet spirit, which is in the sight of God of great price.” (King James Version)
The Greek word here is “anthropos,” which means this passage would more accurately read as “person.” Again, it is not a gender-specific word.
“But let it be the hidden person of the heart, in that which is not corruptible, even the ornament of a meek and quiet spirit, which is in the sight of God of great price.”
Partial Sentence of Paul’s Correspondence Labeled as Ephesians 3:16:
“That He would grant you, according to the riches of His glory, to be strengthened with power through His Spirit in the inner man.” (NASB version)
The Greek word here is “anthropon.” Again, it is not a gender-specific word.
“That He would grant you, according to the riches of His glory, to be strengthened with power through His Spirit in the inner person.”
Sentence of Paul’s Correspondence Labeled as 1 Timothy 5:8 :
“But if any provide not for his own, and specially for those of his own house, he has denied the faith, and is worse than an infidel.” (King James Version)
In the context, Paul is speaking to women, specifically widows. The Greek phrase here is “ei tis,” which means “if anyone.” Thus, even though females are being addressed, this translation of verse 8 has “his own,” “his own house,” and “he has denied.”
“But if anyone does not provide for their own, especially those of their own household, they have denied the faith and are worse than an unbeliever.”
Sentence of Paul’s Correspondence Labeled as 1 Corinthians 14:26 :
“What then, brothers? When you come together, each one has a hymn, a lesson, a revelation, a tongue, or an interpretation. Let all things be done for building up.” (English Standard Version)
The Greek word here is “adelphoi.” When “adelphoi” is used with reference to the body of Christ, it is always an inclusive word. Again, it is not male-specific.
“What then, sisters and brothers? When you come together, each one has a hymn, a teaching, a revelation, a tongue, or an interpretation. Let all things be done for building up.”
Upon the Ground of Men?
“Men are God’s method. The church is looking for better methods; God is looking for better men. What the church needs today is not more machinery or better, not new organizations or more and novel methods, but men who the Holy Spirit can use – men of prayer, men mighty in prayer. The Holy Spirit does not come on machinery but on men. He does not anoint plans, but men — men of prayer.” (E. M. Bounds)
I’m not implying for a second that E. M. Bounds was intentionally excluding parts of the body of Christ. It is just that when the gender-specific word is used, all else follows that same gender divide. Even those who have a powerful revelation of Christ can communicate in a biased expression merely because of the wrongly translated words that are throughout the many versions of the Bible. Even when there is no intentional exclusion by the speaker or writer, the bias and wrongly translated non-gender words of the Bible versions dictate that such biased expressions become the norm. It becomes a common way of speech, because those are the words we read, over and over again in the versions of the New Testament Writings. And usually no thought is ever given to the actual divisive implications for the body of Christ.
The Everyday Reality of Our Lives
Now, if you are thinking that it doesn’t matter, because women always consider themselves to be included in that word, that the word “men” means both sexes in our minds and hearts, I think the reality of our lives shows the opposite.
For only two examples, I ask you the following questions: Do you, dear sister, open a door labeled “men”? Or do you, dear brother, open a door labeled “women”? Do you, my sister, generally shop for all your clothing needs in a store area labeled “men”? Or do you, my brother, generally shop for all your clothing needs in a store area labeled “women”? If you do, then never mind about this Greek word that is inclusive to both genders. However, if you do not, then imagine what else hides in the recesses of our perceived reality when we are exposed to such biased translations in the many Bible versions. It has entered every facet of our lives together, it has deeply and subconsciously planted a bias into our minds, and we have accepted it as the reality of Christ. The implications are devastating and far-reaching, corrupting even the foundation of our everyday Life. Is it any wonder that the majority of the church has followed this biased mindset of unreality in its form?
The Walls of the World
There is a great barrier created when we use these gender biased words that are not accurate in accordance to the original inspired words, nor the mind of Christ. In the West, this barrier may appear as a mere vague shadow of difference, but this gender divide has become a hidden thought that plays out in the reality of our everyday lives together. We can only see the results of this gender divide if we step back and see with new eyes. And behold, there it is! Can you see it? It’s everywhere, it is here among us. It’s in the words we speak, it’s in the things we do. It’s in the way we raise our children. It’s in the reasoning of our thoughts, and it’s in the sight of our view.
We have become accustomed to this bias of gender distinction, and we accept it all the time without even realizing it, because we no longer see the wall dividing us. We have been blinded to the secret power of the way of the darkness of this world. Thus, we cannot see that the wall is built from the perspective of the unbelieving world. This bias has no ground in Christ. He broke all the barriers, all the walls came tumbling down, by Christ in us we are whole and complete. In Christ there is no divide, no walls, no hills, no valleys, but level ground. Even in the so-called “good” that we sometimes do, such as when we bring attention to the gender or race of other saints in appreciation for their expression of Christ, is misguided. The intent is to free and honor others, but in actuality, this is building upon the wall that divides us. Our Ground is level, all other ground is faulty, and will be shaken till it is level or no longer exists.
The One New Human
Paul’s correspondence labeled as Ephesians 2:14-16 reads, “For He Himself is our peace, who made both groups into one and broke down the dividing wall of the barrier, by abolishing in His flesh the enmity, which is the Law of commandments contained in ordinances, so that in Himself He might create the two into one new man, thus establishing peace, and might reconcile them both in one body to God through the cross, by it having put to death the enmity.” (NASB)
The word translated here as “man” is the Greek word “anthropon.” Yet again, not a gendered word of the flesh. This Greek word is more accurately translated as “human” or “person.”
Reality, “so that in Himself He might create the two into one new human.”
When the above Greek word is translated without bias, far more meaning is given to Paul’s words in his writing to the saints in Galatia —“There is neither Jew nor Gentile, neither slave nor free, nor is there male and female, for you are all one in Christ Jesus” ( Galatians 3:28, NIV).
And keep in mind that women were portrayed in the worst ways and functionally eliminated from church life in the period AD 250 – 1600. The only version of the Bible available from AD 400 – 1400 was the Latin Vulgate, translated by Jerome, who was no friend to females. A few early church fathers even suggested that when women experience salvation in Christ, they are then made complete by becoming male (Joy Bussert, Battered Women, LCA, 1986, p. 9). So the idea that in Christ women really had an “inner man” was not far from the truth, as they saw it.
Our Unshakeable Ground
If there is any hope for the ekklesia (church) on earth today, it must begin with the foundation of everyday Life in our homes, in our families, so that when we as families come together as one family in Christ, we will know the reality of the fact that we are all priests in equal standing in the freedom we have in Christ. I see no other alternative but to stand upon the one unshakeable Ground everyday of our shared Life. Christ Jesus is to be our only Ground, at all times, upon which we stand together as God’s people. We cannot stand upon fallow ground and not falter when all other ground than Christ is being shaken and burned.
“It’s a Man’s World”
We need to understand that there are women all over the world who deeply resent men, because of how they have taken advantage of them and sinned against them. In many parts of the world, women live in the cruel bondage of ownership by men. Thus, when they come to the Bible and see verses like, “For the grace of God that brings salvation has appeared to all men,” and “God commands all men everywhere to repent,” they figure the Scriptures are for men, not for them. Most women in the world are taught to think that it is an advantage to be male, and a minus to be born female. You can suggest that when women see the word “men” in Scripture, they see themselves included in it. But the truth is, to use the word “men” (in generic contexts) in the Bible today is unnecessary and extremely misleading. The inspired reality of the translated Greek words would be best served with designations like “people,” “humans,” “men and women,” “persons,” “folks,” and “brothers and sisters.”
In our day, Zondervan’s TNIV (Today’s New International Version) probably does the best job of a solid translation which uses gender-inclusive words that more accurately reflect the original inspired Greek words rather than “man/men.” For example, the TNIV in Ephesians 4:8 has, “when he ascended on high, he led captives in his train and gave gifts to his people.”
(A storm of controversy surrounded the release of the TNIV in 2002. Ann Nyland has documented how certain evangelical leaders have tried to control what Bible versions are published in More Than Meets the Eye: The Campaign to Control Gender Translation in Bibles (2004). When a revision of the NIV was released in 2011, then Zondervan discontinued Bibles containing the TNIV. For further information see Christian Examiner).
The image of God is both male and female (Genesis 5:2). In order for Christ to be expressed in His fullness, the manifestation of the Spirit in each part of the “new humanity” must be living and active. As God’s people, may we be aware of any divisive bias that has influenced our thinking, so that together we may have the mind of Christ, and be found standing upon the one unshakeable Ground.
— Kat Huff & Jon Zens, November, 2012
For Further Reflection
Laurie Fasullo, “What about the word Kephale (‘head’) in the New Testament?”
Frank Viola, “God’s View of A Woman,”
Jon Zens, What’s With Paul & Women? Unlocking the Cultural background to 1 Tinothy 2
The same conversation can be found at: Harvest of Pearls