Translations are like women. Si elles sont belles, elles sont infidèles, mais si elles sont fidèles, elles ne sont pas belles.1
(Fifth in a series.)
For several decades now, Evangelical Bible scholars translating Scripture have proven themselves women lacking the male capacity to stand the heat of battle, and fight. This is true of Zondervan’s New International Version (2011), and too often it’s also true of Crossway’s English Standard Version.
Zondervan’s New International Version 2011
The Committee on Bible Translation (CBT) is paid to produce all translations bearing the name “New International Version” which translations are then licensed and sold by the News Corps publishing company, Zondervan. CBT’s members typically include2 men like Craig Blomberg, Gordon Fee, Dick France, Doug Moo, Bill Mounce, Mark Strauss, and Bruce Waltke, all possessing the terminal degree.
Being scholars, we may safely conclude it’s not out of ignorance of Hebrew or English that their Bible product, the New International Version 2011, mistranslates the Hebrew ishshah (אִשָּׁה) as “weaklings” in each of the texts… below (w/thanks to Andrew D.):
In that day the Egyptians will become weaklings. They will shudder with fear at the uplifted hand that the LORD Almighty raises against them. (Isaiah 19:16)
A sword against her horses and chariots and all the foreigners in her ranks! They will become weaklings. A sword against her treasures! They will be plundered. (Jeremiah 50:37)
Babylon’s warriors have stopped fighting; they remain in their strongholds. Their strength is exhausted; they have become weaklings. Her dwellings are set on fire; the bars of her gates are broken. (Jeremiah 51:30)
Look at your troops—they are all weaklings. The gates of your land are wide open to your enemies; fire has consumed the bars of your gates. (Nahum 3:13)
When God made Eve from Adam’s rib and presented her to Adam as his wife, Adam exclaimed: “This is now bone of my bones, And flesh of my flesh; She shall be called Woman (ishshah; אִשָּׁה), because she was taken out of Man (ish; אִישׁ)” (Genesis 2:23). So in the hands of Doug Moo and his colleagues, why has this verse not been translated, “She shall be called Weakling, because she was taken from Weak”?
Even readers who know nothing of Hebrew easily understand that the name Adam gave his wife is pregnant with meaning: ishshah indicates derivation from ish. So also in English, ‘woman’ indicates derivation from ‘man,’ and it’s for this reason some feminists change the spelling of “woman” to “womyn.”
What the Holy Spirit does in each of the texts above is to shame fighting men, pointing out their weakness and cowardice by calling them “women.” Will our highly educated translators let the Holy Spirit say this to us in English?
And why not?
We all understand it’s not politically correct to shame weak and cowardly men by calling them “women.” As the CBT men see it, such a usage is beneath the Holy Spirit. It’s unworthy of Him, so they correct Him lest anyone today, disinclined to honor the Holy Spirit, would read His inspired words here and think less of Him. It would not be right to put such a stumbling block in readers’ paths, so these men delete it.
Of course, the real issue is not the Holy Spirit. These men of the Committee on Bible Translation are worried about themselves.
Translation is an aspirational vocation. Translators use their work of translation to demonstrate their own sophistication. What sort of sophistication would people think they possessed if they allowed such a statement into their translation associated with their own name?
So it is that thousands of words throughout the Holy Scriptures are changed by men who tremble at offending feminists and being thought rubes.
Rupert Murdoch3 needs to fire these guys and hire himself some real men who are able to stand the heat of battle, producing a genuine Bible that says what the Holy Spirit Himself inspired. Do any of our readers know Rupert Murdoch?
But beyond the aspirations of CBT men running roughshod over the text of Scripture, almost as distressing is how many of these men officially claim to hold to the Chicago Statement on Inerrancy. They sign statements of faith declaring their allegiance to the “plenary verbal inspiration” of Scripture, and then turn right around and replace the word ‘women’ with ‘weaklings.’
But what of…
Crossway’s English Standard Version
Again, translation is an aspirational vocation that’s heavily influenced by what the translator wants his colleagues to think of him.
Some years back I wrote the ESV men pointing out how bad a job they’d done on 1Timothy 4:7. The Holy Spirit inspired the Apostle Paul to command Timothy to have nothing to do with γραώδεις μύθους—literally “old women’s fables.” But note how the ESV men gagged Him:
NASB95: But have nothing to do with worldly fables fit only for old women. (1Timothy 4:7a)
KJV: But refuse profane and old wives’ fables… (1Timothy 4:7a)
NLT: Do not waste time arguing over godless ideas and old wives’ tales. (1Timothy 4:7a)
ESV: Have nothing to do with irreverent, silly myths. (1Timothy 4:7a)
What’s with these guys? I mean really…
Just like the NIV’s Committee for Bible Translation, the men paid to produce the ESV also felt keenly how gauche it is to refer to “old women’s fables.” What would people think of them if they allowed such an archaic construction into their own text of their own translation of their own Bible? Their peers might think they were hicks living in double wides!
It’s not difficult understanding what they’re doing. This temptation is constant among translators whether of Scripture, Twain, or Gogol:
High-flown, pompous, elegant, or regal forms of language in the source are generally represented by terms of corresponding social rank in the target. Real difficulties arise only when the class register is low, and especially when the language of the source represents the speech forms of uneducated folk.
(T)ranslators shy away from giving …uncouth forms of language in the target text. The reason is obvious—grammatical mistakes, malapropisms, and other kinds of “sub-standard” language must not be seen to be the translator’s fault.
(David Bellos, Is That a Fish in Your Ear?: Translation and the Meaning of Everything, p. 194-195.)
Keep in mind this post was written and published in 2013, at which time there had been two ESV revisions issued—first in 2007 and second in 2011[/fn]—but they still refused to allow God’s Holy Spirit to say “old wives’ tales.”
Recently, preaching through 1Corinthians, I’ve come upon another place where the ESV translators placated feminist sensibilities. (While I don’t use the ESV myself, a few in our congregation do and they alerted me to this.)
In 1Corinthians 11:3-16, there is an extended presentation of the doctrine of the Creation Order. Here the Apostle Paul applies this order of Adam first, then Eve, to length of hair and men’s and women’s head coverings. This text is an extended presentation of the doctrine of sexuality—the meaning and purpose of God creating man and woman.
The two Greek words aner and gune (and cognates) are used throughout this text. Normally, these words are sex-specific—referring specifically to a member of the male or female sex. As subsets of the male or female sex, on occasion the context in which these Greek words aner (ἀνήρ) and gyne (γυνή) are used in a way that indicates the proper translation is not “man” or “woman,” but “husband” or “wife.” In rare cases, aner may also be used to refer to all men—that is, as a male inclusive of both men and women, just as the Hebrew adam (אָדָם) is often used in the Old Testament as God’s chosen male inclusive for the entire race bearing His image and likeness.
So then, see how the NASB95, KJV, and ESV translate this passage:
NASB95: But I want you to understand that Christ is the head of every man (aner), and the man (aner) is the head of a woman (gyne), and God is the head of Christ. 4 Every man (aner) who has something on his head while praying or prophesying disgraces his head. 5 But every woman (gyne) who has her head uncovered while praying or prophesying disgraces her head, for she is one and the same as the woman whose head is shaved. 6 For if a woman (gyne) does not cover her head, let her also have her hair cut off; but if it is disgraceful for a woman to have her hair cut off or her head shaved, let her cover her head. 7 For a man (aner) ought not to have his head covered, since he is the image and glory of God; but the woman (gyne) is the glory of man (aner). 8 For man (aner) does not originate from woman (gyne), but woman (gyne) from man (aner); 9 for indeed man (aner) was not created for the woman’s (gyne) sake, but woman (gyne) for the man’s (aner) sake. 10 Therefore the woman (gyne) ought to have a symbol of authority on her head, because of the angels. 11 However, in the Lord, neither is woman (gyne) independent of man (aner), nor is man (aner) independent of woman (gyne). 12 For as the woman (gyne) originates from the man (aner), so also the man (aner) has his birth through the woman (gyne); and all things originate from God. 13 Judge for yourselves: is it proper for a woman (gyne) to pray to God with her head uncovered? 14 Does not even nature itself teach you that if a man (aner) has long hair, it is a dishonor to him, 15 but if a woman (gyne) has long hair, it is a glory to her? For her hair is given to her for a covering. (1Corinthians 11:3-15)
KJV: But I would have you know, that the head of every man is Christ; and the head of the woman is the man; and the head of Christ is God. 4 Every man praying or prophesying, having his head covered, dishonoureth his head. 5 But every woman that prayeth or prophesieth with her head uncovered dishonoureth her head: for that is even all one as if she were shaven. 6 For if the woman be not covered, let her also be shorn: but if it be a shame for a woman to be shorn or shaven, let her be covered. 7 For a man indeed ought not to cover his head, forasmuch as he is the image and glory of God: but the woman is the glory of the man. 8 For the man is not of the woman; but the woman of the man. 9 Neither was the man created for the woman; but the woman for the man. 10 For this cause ought the woman to have power on her head because of the angels. 11 Nevertheless neither is the man without the woman, neither the woman without the man, in the Lord. 12 For as the woman is of the man, even so is the man also by the woman; but all things of God. 13 Judge in yourselves: is it comely that a woman pray unto God uncovered? 14 Doth not even nature itself teach you, that, if a man have long hair, it is a shame unto him? 15 But if a woman have long hair, it is a glory to her: for her hair is given her for a covering. (1Corinthians 11:3-15)
ESV: But I want you to understand that the head of every man is Christ, the head of a wife is her husband, and the head of Christ is God. 4 Every man who prays or prophesies with his head covered dishonors his head, 5 but every wife who prays or prophesies with her head uncovered dishonors her head, since it is the same as if her head were shaven. 6 For if a wife will not cover her head, then she should cut her hair short. But since it is disgraceful for a wife to cut off her hair or shave her head, let her cover her head. 7 For a man ought not to cover his head, since he is the image and glory of God, but woman is the glory of man. 8 For man was not made from woman, but woman from man. 9 Neither was man created for woman, but woman for man. 10 That is why a wife ought to have a symbol of authority on her head, because of the angels. 11 Nevertheless, in the Lord woman is not independent of man nor man of woman; 12 for as woman was made from man, so man is now born of woman. And all things are from God. 13 Judge for yourselves: is it proper for a wife to pray to God with her head uncovered? 14 Does not nature itself teach you that if a man wears long hair it is a disgrace for him, 15 but if a woman has long hair, it is her glory? For her hair is given to her for a covering. (1Corinthians 11:3-15)
Some readers may find the above translations confusing. They may get lost trying to trace which aner is translated “man,” and which the translators switched to “husband;” which gyne is translated “woman,” and which the translators switched to “wife.” They may find themselves asking the question why? What was the translators’ rationale for leaving this gyne “woman” while changing this other gyne to “wife?”
Let’s simplify matters by pulling the curtain back a bit. In their footnotes, the ESV men claim the proper translation of gyne (and by extension, aner) is determined by the context of headcoverings. They assure us headcoverings were only for married women, and so any time the word gyne is used in connection with headcoverings, it must not mean “woman” but “wife.”
Is our patience with professional scholars wearing thin?
As soon as the reader examines what the translators did with each aner and gyne in the text above, it becomes painfully clear the translators’ decisions had everything to do with their embarrassment concerning God’s Order of Creation of man and woman, and nothing to do with headcoverings.
But then each vocation has its temptations, doesn’t it? Princeton professor and award-winning translator Bellos again:
(There is a) general tendency of all translations to adhere more strongly than any original to a normalized idea of what the target language should he. To put that a different way: translation always takes the register and level of naturally written prose up a notch or two. Some degree of raising is and always has been characteristic of translated texts—simply because translators are instinctively averse to the risk of being taken for less than fully cultivated writers of their target tongue.
(Ibid. p. 195.)
“Translators are instinctively averse to the risk of being taken for less than fully cultivated writers of their target tongue”—in this case English. No surprise, then, that the men paid to translate the ESV balked at the Holy Spirit’s declaration,
But I want you to understand that Christ is the head of every man, and the man is the head of a woman, and God is the head of Christ. (1Corinthians 11:3).
How humiliating it would be for one’s name to be attached to such a troglodyte construction. They couldn’t—they simply could not—allow readers of the ESV to see their own revered names attached to such a self-evidently patriarchal and sexist declaration from the ancient world. Why, they’d be taken for rubes by their sophisticated contemporaries reading their work in the target tongue of contemporary English.
Thus “But I want you to understand that Christ is the head of every man, and the man is the head of a woman, and God is the head of Christ” was silenced and replaced by “But I want you to understand that Christ is the head of every man, and the husband is the head of a wife, and God is the head of Christ.”
At what cost?
At the cost of the world and God’s people being taught and led to understand that man first, then woman, is the universal law of God for all time in all places among all men. It is the warp and woof of manhood and womanhood, unconstrained in its splendor. It is the cornerstone of sexuality and man will either build his happiness and contentment upon it, or be crushed by it.
This is true Christian faith.
Tragically, this is not part of the Christian faith of the men who got paid to revise the Revised Standard Version into the English Standard Version. They flinch and cower at the thought of confessing this Biblical faith.
This is the reason they gag the Greek words of 1Corinthians 11:3-15. They tremble to think of being salt and light in our desperately wicked generation, and so they refuse to allow the doctrine of sexuality to be given expression here in this text, pronouncing from their great eminence as modern-day scribes:
We tell you: it’s husband and wife—not man and woman!
But of course, they’re wrong. What the Holy Spirit actually inspired the Apostle Paul to write here is,
But I want you to understand that Christ is the head of every man (not husband), and the man (not husband) is the head of a woman (not wife), and God is the head of Christ. (1Corinthians 11:3).
What is dealt with here is man and woman as man and woman—not husband and wife. His source being Scripture’s record of God’s Creation Order there in the perfection of the Garden of Eden prior to the Fall, the Apostle Paul here teaches truths that are universally applicable to the two sexes, to every last man and every last woman until the end of time.
Thus Calvin writes:
It is asked, whether he speaks of married women exclusively, for there are some that restrict to them what Paul here teaches, on the ground that it does not belong to virgins to be under the authority of a husband. It is however a mistake, for Paul looks beyond this — to God’s eternal law, which has made the female sex subject to the authority of men. On this account all women are born, that they may acknowledge themselves inferior in consequence of the superiority of the male sex. (On 1Corinthians 11:10)
Good readers, in this statement by the great reformer, John Calvin, you see everything our venerable scribes refuse to say. You here read everything they fear being spoken, today. By God. By themselves.
Poor Church. Poor world.
(Fifth in a series.)
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(NOTE: This post titled “The womanish translators of the NIV (2011) and ESV…” was originally published January 25, 2013, on Baylyblog.com. It has been edited slightly.)