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Published Date: August 30, 2014

Published Date: August 30, 2014

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Translation Differences Every Woman Minister Should Know (Part 2)

Translation Differences Every Woman Minister Should Know (Part 1)

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 narrowed to only refer to age.[2] The Synod of Laodicea (343-81) indicates that the term had frequent and standard use for women elders because they said that they would not allow any more presbytides to be ordained.[3] This could have only referred to women elders (not men elders) and does not refer only to age as recent translations indicate (NRSV, NLT, NASB, NIV, CEB, CEV, ESV, GNT, HCSB, TLB, ASV). The Geneva Bible of 1599 translated these words as “elder men” (2:2) and “elder women” (2:3).

7.  The Septuagint (LXX) interpolated an explanation for Barak in Judges 4:8:

The LXX translators added the words: “for I [Barak] never know what day the angel of the Lord will give me success” to Judges 4:8.[4] These added words indicate that translators perhaps saw a need to explain why Barak hesitated to go to battle without Deborah.

8.  Psalm 68:11 refers to a great army of women preaching God’s word:

There seems to be three ways that the meaning of this passage has been hidden: 1) changing the activity of God or of the women, 2) changing the third person (to first person or second person) and 2) keeping the gender of this group hidden. Katharine Bushnell has noted that the company proclaiming God’s word in Psalm 68:11 refers to a group of women (old revised): “The Lord giveth the word; the women that publish the tidings are a great host.”[5] Unable to change the gender of this group, she identified how expositors tried to change the meaning of “the word of God” to mean “church customs.”[6]  

Similarly, recent translations (CEV 1995, CEB 2011, NRSV, NASB 1995) translate אֵמֶר (omer) as “command” implying that God is giving a command, though it is generally defined as “utterance, speech, word” (cf. Psalm 19:2, 19:3).[7] Though translations differ in describing the women’s activity (told, brings, tell, cry, announce), the Hebrew word בָּשַׂר (basar) is the same word used for announcing good news, proclaiming and preaching.[8] It is the same word used in Isaiah 61:1 “the Lord has anointed me to preach good news [basar] to the poor” and 2 Sam. 1:20, Psalm 40:9, 1 Chron. 16:23, and Isaiah 52:7. The LXX captures them as a powerful throng announcing God’s word: κύριος δώσει ῥῆμα τοῖς εὐαγγελιζομένοις δυνάμει πολλῇ.

In the two following translations the third person of “the Lord” is changed. The CEV (1995) states: “You gave the command, and a chorus of women told what had happened” and the CEB (2011) states: “My Lord gives the command—many messengers are bringing good news” (italicized). Lastly, the NIV (1984), CEB (2011), NLT, and NRSV do not indicate this is a group of women, though the NLT has “Or host of women” and the NRSV has “Or a company of the women” in the footnotes. The Living Bible even added the words “at home” for their translation (“the women at home cry out the happy news”) and changed the order by placing “The enemy flees” right after “The Lord speaks.” Perhaps this public declaration had to be toned down by emphasizing they were at home.

9.   The Apostle Junia was erased with an unexplainable name change (Rom. 16:7):

For the first 1,000 years of Christian history it was the consensus of Greek and Latin scholars that Junia was both an apostle and a woman (Origen, Peter Abelard, Peter Lombard, Jerome, John of Chrysostom).[9] Despite this early attestation, at some point various translations inserted the name “Junias” as a hypothetical name for the person in Rom. 16:7 without any explanation.[10] Though some complementarians have argued the name Junia is not common in Greek literature, a total of 250 Greek and Latin inscriptions of Junia have been found in Rome alone.[11] The only 5 variant manuscripts have “Julia” which is also a feminine name.[12] In contrast, there is no evidence that the name “Junias” ever even existed in antiquity.[13] Translations that have inserted the unsubstantiated name “Junias” in either their actual translations or as a valid option in the footnotes include: NIV (1984), NASB (1995), NRSV, NLT, NLV, CEV (1995), GNT, HCSB, ESV, ASV. Though the NIV 2011 corrected the 1984 translation, they added the words “are esteemed by.” Similarly, the Mounce-Interlinear added the circumflex (which supports the contracted name theory for the hypothetical Junias) and translated the dative case “well known to [ἐν] the apostles.”[14]

[1] Aida Besancon Spencer “Leadership of Women in Crete and Macedonia as a Model for the Church” Priscilla Papers 27 (Autumn 2013): 9-10.

[2] Verbrugge, Verlyn D, ed., New International Dictionary of New Testament Theology: Abridged Edition (Grand Rapids, MI: Zondervan, 2000), 489, 488.

[3] Spencer, “Leadership of Women,” 10.

[4] Younger Jr., K. Lawson, NIV application: Judges, Ruth (Grand Rapids, MI: Zondervan, 2002), 141. Judges 4:8 (LXX): καὶ εἶπεν πρὸς αὐτὴν Βαρακ ἐὰν πορευθῇς μετ᾽ ἐμοῦ πορεύσομαι καὶ ἐὰν μὴ πορευθῇς οὐ πορεύσομαι ὅτι οὐκ οἶδα τὴν ἡμέραν ἐν ᾗ εὐοδοῖ τὸν ἄγγελον κύριος μετ᾽ ἐμοῦ .

[5] Katharine Bushnell, God’s Word to Women, 94.

[6] Ibid., 94.

[7] Brown, Francis, S.R. Driver and Charles A. Briggs. The Brown-Driver-Briggs Hebrew and English Lexicon. (Peabody, MA: Hendrickson Publishers, 2007), 56.

[8] Ibid., 142.

[9] Eldon Jay Epp, Junia: The First Woman Apostle (Minneapolis, MN: Augsburg Fortress, 2005), 32.

[10] Ibid., 66. See p. 66  for a chart of changes from the Tyndale Bible (1525) to recent translations.

[11] Piper and Grudem, Recovering biblical manhood and womanhood, 80. Epp, Junia: The first woman apostle, 54.

[12] Epp, Junia: The first woman apostle, 31.

[13] Ibid., 41; cf. Bauckham, Richard, Gospel Women: Studies of the Named Women in the Gospels (Grand Rapids, MI: William B. Eerdmans Publishing Company).

[14] Mounce Interlinear, 637. If the name cannot be altered, changing the grammar is another historic strategy of erasing Junia identified by Katharine Bushnell, God’s Word to Women, 284. See Epp for the contraction name theory using the circumflex (p. 40) and how manuscripts did not have the circumflex (p. 45).

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