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“…and many other women"

old bible
On November 20, 2013

"…and many other women"

Luke 8:1-3 reads as follows: “Soon afterwards he went on through cities and villages, proclaiming and bringing the good news of the kingdom of God. The twelve were with him, as well as some women who had been cured of evil spirits and infirmities: Mary, called Magdalene, from whom seven demons had gone out, and Joanna, the wife of Herod’s steward Chuza, and Susanna, and many others, who provided for them out of their resources” (NRSV).

This text gives us a snapshot of a typical group of Jesus’s companions. These companions included men (The Twelve), women (Mary, Joanna, Susanna), and “many others.” Presented with essentially any English translation, the reader cannot readily tell whether these “many others” were men, women, or both. As a result, English readers tend to assume this paragraph presents Jesus’s companions in Luke 8 as comprised of twelve men, three women, and many other men—or, at best, twelve men, three women, and many other people. But this is clearly not the case! The Greek phrase for “many others” (héterai pollaí) can in this context only mean “many other women.” This is elementary Greek grammar. The manuscripts show no confusion on this point. I have to wonder, therefore, why I have had to look so hard to find an English translation that says “many other women.” It is no surprise that we find this gender oversight in pre-twentieth century translations such as Tyndale’s New Testament (1534), Douay-Rheims Bible (1582), Bishops’ New Testament (1595), The Geneva Bible (1599), KJV (1611), Young’s Literal Translation (1862), The Revised Version (1881), and The Darby Bible (1884). We continue to find the genderless “many others” or its equivalent as we move forward in time: ASV (1901), Moffatt (1913), NAB (1941), RSV (1946), Phillips (1958), The Living Bible(1967), NASB (1971), NKJV (1979), NJB (1985), NRSV (1989), NLT (1996), The Message (1993), HCSB (1999), ESV (2001), and the Common English Bible (2010).

All versions of the NIV, including the TNIV, take an insufficient step in the right direction. They add “these women” to the following clause: “Mary (called Magdalene) from whom seven demons had come out; Joanna the wife of Cuza, the manager of Herod’s household; Susanna; and many others.These women were helping to support them out of their own means” (italics added). The Voice (2012) includes a similar expansion.

In the end, I’m sorry to say that Today’s English Version (1966, also known as the Good News Bible) and the New World Translation of the Christian Greek Scriptures (1950, Watch Tower Bible & Tract Society) are the only English translations available to me that render héterai pollaí as “many other women.”

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