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Biblical and Theological Studies

In previous two posts, we saw that, for Paul, discipleship to Christ is more fundamental than marital status or gender identity. Paul makes this even more explicit in Galatians 3:26-29 (all biblical references are to the NIV) when he writes: So in Christ Jesus you are all children of God through faith, for all of you who were baptized into Christ have clothed yourselves with Christ. There is neither Jew nor Gentile, neither slave nor free, neither male nor female, for you are all one in Christ Jesus. If you belong to Christ, then you are Abraham’s seed, and heirs according to the promise. This passage in Galatians not only speaks to the fact that our fundamental identity is in Christ rather than our gender or nationality, but by calling those in Christ children of... Read more
In the previous post, we saw that, for Paul, the ideal Christian existence is not a fulfilling marriage but is fully committed discipleship to Christ. When we begin to view discipleship to Christ as the chief aim of the Christian life rather than happy families, a couple other insights regarding singleness and marriage emerge. To draw out these points, consider Paul’s final greetings to the church in Rome found in Romans 16 (all biblical references are to the NIV): I commend to you our sister Phoebe, a deacon of the church in Cenchreae. I ask you to receive her in the Lord in a way worthy of his people and to give her any help she many need from you, for she has been the benefactor of many people, including me. Greet Priscilla and Aquila, my co-worker... Read more
Paul offers these instructions about marriage and singleness in 1 Corinthians 7 (all biblical references are to the NIV): Now for the matters you wrote about: “It is good for a man not to have sexual relations with a woman.” But since sexual immorality is occurring, each man should have sexual relations with his own wife, and each woman with her own husband. The husband should fulfill his marital duty to his wife, and likewise the wife to her husband. . . . I say this as a concession, not as a command. I wish that all of you were as I am. But each of you has your own gift from God; one has this gift, another has that. Now to the unmarried and the widows I say: It is good for them to stay unmarried, as I do. But if they cannot control themselves, they should marry,... Read more
6. The πρεσβύτιδας (presbytis) of Titus 2:3 can be translated “women elders”: Though Titus 2:3 is the only place where the feminine form of elder occurs, Aida Spencer has noted that many translations do not translate the word πρεσβύτιδας (presbytis) (2:3) as “female elders” or πρεσβύτας (presbytes) (2:2) as “male elders.”[1] Though πρεσβύτιδας is related to the word for elder (presbyteros) that is used in to denote a title of honor of overseeing the well-being of church affairs (1 Tim. 5:17, 19; Titus 1:5), the semantic range of presbytis has been na... Read more
In regard to certain passages of scripture that can serve to either empower women or subordinate them, one can sometimes identify misleading changes in translation with the use of these methods: adding of words (interpolations), removal of words, withholding of information that would alter translation decisions, and inconsistencies in translation in which identical words in similar contexts are defined differently. Other important differences may simply be gaps in translation. 1. The interpolation of “a veil, a symbol of” before “authority” in 1 Cor. 11:10: In 1 Corinthians 11:10 instead of translating the word exousia (ἐξουσία) for authority in the active sense as it has been translated throughout the letter (1 Cor. 7:37; 8:9;... Read more
Have you ever dismissed or overestimated someone on first meeting? Has that happened to you? Once when I was speaking at a church, I saw in the bulletin that I was to be introduced as "The Reverend Doctor John R. Kohlenberger III." When I tried to explain that I was neither ordained nor had an earned doctorate, but was just "John," I was simply answered with "we like to be formal here." Formal I can understand, but not incorrect. On the other end of the spectrum, because I was first published at age twenty-eight, I used to hear "I enjoy your father's books." But now I look enough like a big boy to have written on my own. Bible translators have to fight presumption and bias, as do preachers and teachers, to be sure they communicate what the Bib... Read more
Christians around the world are struggling to grasp the spiritual implications of gender. To what extent does being male or female impact our spiritual life? How does gender shape our identity as a person or as a Christian? Put another way, would I be a completely different person if I had been born a different gender? If so, what would change? Would that change be of a fundamental, essential nature? Would it change something eternal about my being? To answer these questions, we could attempt the following thought experiment. Want to try? Okay, if you are male ask yourself would you be a completely different person if you had been born female? And, if you are female, ask yourself the same question… would you be essentially the same person if you had been born male? Would you hold... Read more
"She is really cool." How many ways can you understand that short statement? Is it referring to someone's temperature as below average? Is it referring to someone's attitude as aloof and impersonal? Is it referring to someone doing well under pressure? Is it referring to someone's popularity? All of these are common understandings of the word "cool," but only one would be the correct understanding in a specific situation. To determine which was correct, you would need to know something about the situation and the subject to determine the speaker's intended meaning. Bible translators face choices like this on a regular basis. As with many words in English, words in Hebrew, Aramaic, and Greek can have more than one meaning and only careful study of t... Read more
This post originally appeared on Scot's blog Jesus Creed on August 5, 2014: What we believe and how we behave are not quite perfectly matched, at least not this side of the kingdom, but it is not unfair to say that what one believes is seen in how one lives. If you say you believe in God but never pray, or if you say you believe in forgiveness and hold grudges, or if you say you believe God loves all but your circle of friends is restricted to folks like yourself — well, your acts reveal what you really believe or you have acted outside the bounds of your beliefs. Sometimes, however, it works another way: sometimes what we believe needs praxis to reveal what the beliefs entail. Sometimes the beliefs are... Read more
As a person with an undergraduate degree in biblical studies, completing an MA in theology, I am quite concerned about English versions of the Bible I use and recommend. For years I have been loyal to the New American Standard Bible (NASB), because of its dedication to remaining close to the Greek grammar. A few months ago, however, I was genuinely bothered reading 1 Timothy 3, which begins, "It is a trustworthy statement: if any man aspires to the office of overseer, it is a fine work he desires to do" (3:1). What was behind the word translated as "man" in this passage? Was it anēr, meaning "man" or "husband"? Or was it anthrōpos, which may mean "man" but more commonly refers to "humanity"? In my mind, if the word was a... Read more