The challenging complexity of the ministry of Bible translation should spark humility, among translators themselves and among those who critique them. I pledge to keep such humility in mind as I describe four types of shortcomings that can be found in Bible translations, using 1 Corinthians 14:34–35 as a test case.
Egalitarians believe the Bible promotes two senses of equality: equality of nature and equality of opportunity. Neither requires or even hints that women and men are or should be identical. Egalitarians don’t deny difference, we deny that difference is destiny.
Recently, CBE lost a dear friend and a most gifted intellectual, John Kohlenberger III, after a thirteen-year battle with cancer. A humble but brilliant scholar, John published over sixty study Bibles and reference books. Serving CBE as a board member and advisor, John contributed to our scholarship, vision, and CBE’s “egalitarian speak” for more than fifteen years. A leader in Bible translation, John’s burning passion was to help people understand God’s word, especially as it addressed gender and power.
In 1 Corinthians 11:2-16, Paul is concerned that both men and women should exercise their leadership gifts—with appropriate authority—while presenting themselves in a manner that celebrates the uniqueness of their respective genders.
We are shaped by our stories. In fact, our stories, once in place, determine much of our behavior without regard to their accuracy or helpfulness. Once these stories are stored in our minds, they stay there largely unchallenged until we die. And here is the main point: these narratives are running (and often ruining) our lives. That is why it is crucial to get the right narratives.
For me, one of the most compelling arguments for egalitarianism is in the creation and fall passages of Genesis 1 and 3. God’s command that they, male and female alike, are to “be fruitful and increase in number; fill the earth and subdue it. . . rule over. . . every living creature” (Gen 1:28) provides a charge for men and women alike to contribute to the continuation of family and to exert authority over God’s creation
Within evangelical circles, we are seeing increasing discussions about the need to address racism. Meanwhile, organizations such as Christians for Biblical Equality stress the importance of addressing sexism. What tends to be missing is analysis of how racism and sexism intersect with each other, which contributes to the marginalization of women of color. The experience of Native American women illustrates this intersection and provides a powerful vision of justice for all people.
Often, those outside of the social justice activist community can feel overwhelmed by the concepts and terminology of justice work. Many Christians want to understand these terms and concepts so they can do justice well in their communities and in the world.