Gender Bias in the NLT

For Mabel

At first glance, the translators of the New Living Translation (NLT) give the impression that they are very supportive and encouraging of Christian women.  This is because they have frequently translated the common Greek word adelphoi into “brothers and sisters”; instead of the typical translation of “brothers” (or the more archaic “brethren”.)[1]  However, the translators have drawn a very distinct line as to how far the New Living Translation is designed to encourage and include women.

Gender Bias in the New Living Translation (NLT)

As for salvation, the translators of the NLT make it clear that both brothers and sisters, that is, both men and women, are completely equal before God.  As for church leadership, the translators of the NLT make it clear that, in their opinion, leadership is a possibility only for men.  The translators have allowed this opinion to influence their translations. They have deliberately translated certain passages to make it seem that women  cannot have spiritual authority, and that the Scriptures do not allow for women to be church leaders.  They have even taken a few liberties in their translation to promote the concept of male authority.

For this article I will look at a few Bible verses that have been tainted by the bias of the NLT translators.  I have also included the corresponding verse(s) from the NIV 2011 as a comparison.  The NIV 2011, however, is not my point of reference.  I have used the (UBS) Greek New Testament as my main reference for this article.

1 TIMOTHY 3:1-2

Here is a trustworthy saying: Whoever aspires to be an overseer desires a noble task. Now the overseer is to be above reproach . . .  (NIV 2011)

Most English translations of 1 Timothy 3:1-6 give the impression that these qualifications only refer to and apply to men. Yet in reality, this passage is remarkable gender neutral in the Greek.[2]  The NLT gives the most biased English translation of this passage.

This is a trustworthy saying: “If someone aspires to be an elder, he desires an honorable position.” So an elder must be a man whose life is above reproach . . .  (NLT 2007, my underlines.)

The NLT translators have taken an enormous liberty with their version of verse 2 and inserted the phrase “an elder must be a man”.  This phrase simply does not appear in any Greek manuscript.[3]  It is a fabrication.

Their bias against women church leaders is so strong that they have added a phrase to assert their opinion, even though that opinion is not stated in any manuscripts or faithful translations of the Bible.[4]

The NLT translation of the phrase “a noble task” (or “a good work”) into “an honorable position” is also a worry.[5]   Do mature Christians aspire to become church leaders so that they can better meet the noble task of selfless service; or do they aspire to become leaders so that they can attain the rank of “an honorable position”?  I would be very wary of a Christian leader whose motivation for ministry is an honourable position.

I believe that by referring to the role of church leadership as an honourable position, the NLT is in fact misrepresenting the function and role of church leaders (elders, overseers, etc), and distorting the ideal of  sacrificial service exemplified and taught by Jesus.

Perhaps the NLT translators have used the phrase “an honorable position” to distance themselves further from the concept of Women in Ministry.  Some Christians who hold firmly to traditional, restrictive gender roles may think that women are more eligible to aspire to “a good  work” than to “an honorable position” in the church.  Thus the phrase, “an honorable position” may appear to exclude women.  [More on 1 Timothy 3:1ff and Paul’s Qualifications for Church Leaders here.]

Elsewhere the NLT also reveals their bias against women church leaders.

2 JOHN 1:1, 5

The elder, To the lady chosen by God and to her children . . . And now, dear lady, I am not writing you a new command . . .  (NIV 2011)

John’s second letter was written to “the chosen lady” (2 John 1).  The Greek word for “lady” used here is kuria. Kuria is the feminine form of kurios meaning “lord” or “master”.   Kuria was a title of nobility, authority or respect.  John used the word kuria twice in his letter, first in verse 1 and then again in verse 5. [More about the word kuria here.]

The plainest reading of 2 John gives the understanding that the lady was a leader and “her children” were the Christian community she cared for and led.  Yet, the NLT (2007) have chosen to translate the second occurrence of kuria as “dear friends” in verse 5.[6]

This letter is from John, the elder. I am writing to the chosen lady and to her children . . . I am writing to remind you, dear friends . . . (NLT 2007, my underline.)

There can only be one reason for translating “lady” as “dear friends”: To hide the fact that the chosen lady was probably a female church leader.

The NLT translators treat the the word “lady” as a metaphor for a congregation.  However this metaphor does not work.  If the chosen lady is a congregation and “her children” are a congregation, then John is redundantly addressing the same group twice.

The NLT have added a footnote to “the chosen lady and to her children” in verse 1 where they give a spurious, alternate translation: “the church God has chosen and its members”.   Modern Christians may see the church as being a separate entity from its members, but in fact the church is its members – its people.  The first Christians certainly saw the people as being the church; especially as there were no church buildings and few organisational structures in place to distract from the real purpose and function of congregational life.

I have yet to see a Bible study or commentary that includes “lady” among the usual metaphors for the universal or local church.[7]  Moreover, it is unlikely that very early church congregations were referred to using this term of nobility and authority.  The only reason why some suggest that the “chosen lady” was a metaphor for a congregation is because they cannot accept that a woman was a church leader.  The NLT suggests that the chosen sister (mentioned in 2 John 13) is also a metaphor for a congregation.  However it was this sister’s “children” who were a congregation.[8]  [More on The Chosen Lady in 2 John here.]

It may seem trivial to comment on the mistranslation of “lady” (kuria) into “dear friends” in 2 John 5; and yet there can be no doubt that the NLT translators put thought into their decision to translate 2 John 5 this way.  The NLT translators may find it difficult to admit that women were church leaders, yet the New Testament mentions a few women who were house church leaders.  These women include Priscilla, with her husband Aquila, (Ac 18:26; Ro 16:3-5, etc), Nympha (Col 4:15), Apphia (with Philemon and Archippus) (Phl 2), and possibly Chloe (1 Cor 1:11), and others.  It was not unusual for churches in the early days of Christianity to be led by women.

1 CORINTHIANS 11:10

It is for this reason that a woman ought to have authority over her own head, because of the angels. (NIV 2011)

1 Corinthians 11 is notoriously difficult to exegete.  All New Testament scholars admit that we cannot know with certainty all that Paul was trying to tell the Corinthian church in this passage.  Moreover, we cannot even be truly certain which words are Paul’s and which are the words of a letter that Paul was quoting from and responding to. Perhaps the clearest statements in this passage are in verses 11 and 12 where Paul writes (and seems to correct the preceding thoughts), “so neither is a woman apart [separate/estranged/distinct] from a man nor a man apart [separate/estranged/distinct] from a woman in the Lord.  For just as the woman [came] from the man, thus also the man [comes] through the woman; but all people [come] from God.”

The preceding verse, verse 10, enigmatically states (literally) that “a woman ought to have exousia upon her head”.  The Greek word exousia is usually translated into English as “authority”; however it is also translated as liberty, right or power in the New Testament.[9]  A woman has the authority, liberty, right, freedom and even the power to minister.  The NLT paraphrase of this verse, however, gives a very different impression.

For this reason, and because the angels are watching, a woman should wear a covering on her head to show she is under authority.  (NLT 2007, my underline.)

In this translation, the NLT translators have crafted their words to infer that a woman is under someone else’s authority and that she needs to wear a head covering to show that she is under authority.  Yet this is not what the Greek text says here.  Firstly, the Greek word exousia is always used to mean one’s own authority or right, not someone else’s.  The NLT translators have tweaked the meaning of 1 Corinthians 11:10 to fit with their understanding of male authority and leadership.  This idea of male authority is a widespread belief in Christianity and yet it has no real basis in New Testament Scripture.[10]  Secondly, there is no word meaning “head covering” or “veil” in the Greek text of this passage.[11]

1 PETER 3:5-6

For this is the way the holy women of the past who put their hope in God used to adorn themselves. They submitted themselves to their own husbands, like Sarah, who obeyed Abraham and called him her lord. You are her daughters if you do what is right and do not give way to fear.  (NIV 2011)

In 1 Peter 3:5 the apostle encourages the women to be submissive to their husbands.  In some churches, wifely submission has been greatly exaggerated.    A distinction must be made between military submission and non-military submission. In its military sense, submission (hupotassō) means to “arrange under” or “subordinate”; but the non-military sense can simply mean “cooperate”.[12]  Submission in marriage really has the implication of being cooperative and loyal. [My articles on Submission here.]

This is how the holy women of old made themselves beautiful. They trusted God and accepted the authority of their husbands.  For instance, Sarah obeyed her husband, Abraham, and called him her master.  You are her daughters when you do what is right without fear of what your husbands might do.  (NLT 2007, my underlines.)

Instead of translating hupotassō literally, the NLT translators have written that the holy women “accepted the authority of their husbands”.  Why would the NLT translators make up this phrase to translate hupotassō? The answer must be that they want to give the impression that the Bible sanctions the idea of male authority over wives.

1 Corinthians 7:4 is the only verse in the New Testament which states that husbands have authority (exousia) over their wives; however it also states that wives have authority (exousia) over their husbands:  “The wife does not have authority over her own body but yields it to her husband. In the same way, the husband does not have authority over his own body but yields it to his wife.” (NIV 2011)[13]  Biblical evidence of male authority in New Covenant relations is, in fact, very flimsy.

Peter also mentions that Sarah referred to her husband Abraham as her “lord” (Greek-kurios).  (Interestingly, Rebekah calls Abraham’s servant ”sir” (kurios) in Genesis 24:18 LXX.)  The word “lord” (kurios) is used many times in the New Testament.  Kurios can simply be a term of respect such as “sir”.  It can also be a term of nobility “lord”.  It can also mean “master”.  In keeping with their agenda to promote male authority, the NLT have chosen to translate kurios using the strongest sense of this word; they have translated it as “master”.  To modern ears the word “master” sounds like someone who has all the control and power over subordinates who have few, if any, rights or powers. [My articles on Submission and Respect in 1 Peter 3:1-8 here and here.]

EPHESIANS 5:31-32 

“For this reason a man will leave his father and mother and be united to his wife, and the two will become one flesh.”  This is a profound mystery—but I am talking about Christ and the church.  (NIV 2011)

Verse 32 is genuinely difficult to interpret, and it can be helpful if translators make the meaning clearer to readers, but the NLT’s paraphrase presents a dangerously misleading premise.

As the Scriptures say, “A man leaves his father and mother and is joined to his wife, and the two are united into one.” This is a great mystery, but it is an illustration of the way Christ and the church are one. (NLT 2007, my underline.)

Is marriage an illustration of the unity between Christ and the church as the NLT states?    Some complementarian Christians believe this to be the case.  Furthermore, they wrongly believe that husbands and wives are to abide by certain narrowly prescribed gender roles, otherwise they will fail in their duty to display the beauty of Christ’s relationship with the church to the cosmos (cf 1 Cor.7:29).  This faulty teaching has caused too many Christians to become overly concerned about their “roles” or “rank” in marriage.  (This introspection is often at the expense of reaching out in ministry outside of the family.)

Kristin Rosser argues that verses 32-33, and the entire passage of Ephesians 5:22-33, show that the NLT translators have got it the wrong way round and that it is the unity between Christ and the Church which is the illustration.  Her articles are herehere and here.  And I have an article on Paul’s main point in Ephesians 5:22-33 here.

Interestingly, the NLT puts the Ephesians 5:21-33 passage under their given heading of “Spirit-Guided Relationships: Wives and Husbands”.  Verse 21 states: “Submit to one another out of reverence for Christ.”  The NLT translators correctly see that submission is required of husbands too: Mutual submission, one to the other, is the ideal.  They have made some interesting choices of wording in this passage, however, which makes it sound as though mutual submission is just for husbands and wives.  Rather, it is for all Spirit-guided relationships, that is, mutual submission should be a feature of the relationships between all Christians.

GENESIS 3:16b

Your desire will be for your husband, and he will rule over you.  (NIV 2011)

This verse lists one of the ramifications of sin entering the world.  Eve’s desire (teshuqah) would be for her husband, but he would rule over her.[14]  Before the Fall,  Adam and Eve – husband and wife – were equal; but sin would result in men taking the upper hand and ruling their wives. Despite the loss of harmony and equality between the sexes, most women have still desired marriage and motherhood.

And you will desire to control your husband, but he will rule over you.  (NLT 2007, my underline.)

The NLT translators have added the words “to control” in their version of Genesis 3:16.  Susan Foh was the first to suggest that the Hebrew word teshuqah might mean a desire to control.[15]  In particular, she suggested that, because of sin, women would seek to control their husbands.  Following Foh’s thesis, the NLT’s version of Genesis 3:16b seems to promote male authority while simultaneously implying that women who want to function with any kind of authority, where men are involved, are being sinful.  In reality, patriarchal social structures, which favour male dominance and primacy, have given most women little control over their own lives, let alone control over their husbands’ lives.

Conclusion 

I actually love much of the language of the NLT and the way it expresses certain verses and theological thoughts.  And I can see that the NLT may be useful for those readers who find the language and expressions of more accurate Bible translations dry and difficult to comprehend.  However, it is important for readers to be aware of the NLT’s promotion of male authority, and its blatant and unjustified bias against women church leaders.

The few verses which I’ve highlighted in this article are incorrectly translated from the Greek, and are misleading in the NLT.[16]  Other verses, such as 1 Timothy 2:11-12, are also paraphrased in a way that departs signifIcantly from a literal translation.

Sadly, the NLT translators cannot make the same claim that Paul made in 2 Corinthians 4:2b:  “. . . we do not use deception, nor do we distort the word of God. On the contrary, by setting forth the truth plainly we commend ourselves to everyone’s conscience in the sight of God.”

The NLT translators have stated that their goal in translation “was to be both faithful to the ancient texts and eminently readable.” The NLT is eminently readable; however, several of their passages about men, women and ministry are not faithful to the ancient texts. 


Verses marked (NIV 2011) are taken from The Holy Bible, New International Version®, NIV® Copyright © 1973, 1978, 1984, 2010 by Biblica, Inc.™ Used by permission. All rights reserved worldwide.

Verses marked (NLT 2007) are taken from Holy Bible, New Living Translation, copyright© 1996, 2004, 2007 by Tyndale House Foundation. Used by permission of Tyndale House Publishers Inc., Carol Stream, Illinois 60188. All rights reserved.


Endnotes

[1] The precise meaning of adelphoi is “brothers”.  Traditionally, English translations of the New Testament have translated the word as “brothers”; however it is clear by the use of this word in the New Testament and other early Christian writings that adelphoi can refer to both believing men and women. Several modern English translations of the New Testament (including the NLT, TNIV, NRSV, CEB, NIV 2011, etc) translate adelphoi as “brothers and sisters” or simply as “believers”.

[2] Please see my article Paul’s (Gender-neutral) Qualification for Church Leaders here.

[3] “The translators of the New Testament [of the NLT] used the two standard editions of the Greek New Testament: the Greek New Testament, published by the United Bible Societies (fourth revised edition, 1993), and Novum Testamentum Graece, edited by Nestle and Aland (twenty- seventh edition, 1993). These two editions, which have the same text but differ in punctuation and textual notes, represent the best in modern textual scholarship.”  http://www.newlivingtranslation.com/05discoverthenlt/faqs.asp?faq=5#go5

Neither of these Greek texts contain the phrase, “an elder must be a man” (or anything remotely similar.)

[4] Perhaps the NLT translators are so sure of their position against women pastors and church leaders that they think they are doing the church a favour by altering the scriptures to align with their view.

[5] Kalos translated as “noble” in the NIV, may also be translated as “fine”.  An implication of the adjective kalos is that the thing it is describing looks outwardly beautiful, fine or respectable.  Ergon translated as “task” in the NIV, may also be translated as “work” or “activity”, but not “position”.
Why do the translators of the NLT bring in the concept of “position”, or “rank”, into this passage?
Consider: The woman who anointed Jesus with the costly perfume is described by him as doing a kalon ergon (Mark 14:6).  The NLT translates kalon ergon in Mark 14:6 as a “good thing”.

[6]  In the NLT, “dear friends” in verse 5 is footnoted so that people can see that  the Greek really means “lady”.  However, many people do not check the footnotes.  If you’re reading this footnote, you a rare person. ;)

[7] Metaphors for the church usually include: Body, bride, army, etc, but not “lady”.

[8] Calling the children in 2 John 13 a “sister church” comes from reading non-New Testament concepts into the text.

[9] I liken the meaning of exousia to having a driver’s licence.  When you have a driver’s licence you have the authority, right and freedom to drive a vehicle on public roads.

The following are a sample of most of the verses from 1 Corinthians (New American Bible Version) where exousia appears.  (I have italicised the English translation of exousia.)

The wife doesn’t have authority over her own body, but the husband.  Likewise also the husband doesn’t have authority over his own body, but the wife (1 Cor 7:4.) [Compare this translation with the very good NLT version in endnote 13.]

But he who stands steadfast in his heart, having no necessity, but has power over his own heart, to keep his own virgin, does well (1 Cor 7:36).

But be careful that by no means does this liberty of yours become a stumbling block to the weak (1 Cor 8:9).

Have we no right to eat and to drink? (1 Cor 9:4.)

Have we no right to take along a wife who is a believer, even as the rest of the apostles, and the brothers of the Lord,and Cephas?  (1 Cor 9:5.)

Or have only Barnabas and I no right to not work? (1 Cor 9:6.)

If others partake of this right over you, don’t we yet more? Nevertheless we did not use this right but we bear all things, that we may cause no hindrance to the Good News of Christ (1 Co 9:12.)

Then the end comes, when he will deliver up the Kingdom to God, even the Father;  when he will have abolished all rule and all authority and power (1 Cor 15:24).

[10] The  husband (or man) is never called the “leader” or “authority” of the woman in the New Testament; nor is he referred to with any other word which suggest that man has primacy.  The husband is called the “head” (kephalē) of his wife (1 Cor 5:23).  While “head” can mean “leader” or “chief person” in English, it did not usually have these meanings in Classical or Hellenistic Greek.  It is interesting to note that the most exhaustive and prestigious lexicon of Ancient Greek by Liddell and Scott does not offer “authority” or “leader” as a possible translation of kephalēIt is only in Greek lexicons influenced by church conventions which include the word “authority” as a possible translation.  More information on the  Kephalē and “Male Headship” in Paul’s Letters here.]

[11] Because 1 Corinthians 11 is difficult for us to understand, translators have traditionally included the words “head covering” or “veil” in an attempt to make sense of this passage.   However it is likely that Paul was instructing women not to have their hair hanging down loosely which was culturally inappropriate at that time and suggested sexual promiscuity.  I have more information about 1 Corinthians 11:2-16 here.

[12] “Hupotassō: A Greek  military term meaning ‘to arrange [troop divisions] in a military fashion under the command of a leader’. In non-military use, it was ‘a  voluntary attitude of giving in, cooperating, assuming responsibility, and  carrying a burden’.                                                                                                                                    http://www.biblestudytools.com/lexicons/greek/nas/hupotasso.html

[13]  “The wife gives authority over her body to her husband, and the husband gives  authority over his body to his wife.”  (NLT 2007)  More on 1 Corinthians Chapter 7 here.

[14] It is unclear what sort of desire is being spoken about in Genesis 3:16.  Perhaps the wife’s desire is merely for the companionship from her husband, or the desire to have children with him.  Sadly, because of the fall, many women have to put up with a husband lording over them if they want to see their desires being met.

[15] What is the Woman’s Desire? by Susan T. Foh, The Westminster Theological Journal 37 (1974/75) 376-83 is online here.

[16] The NLT claims to follow a dynamic-equivalence translation philosophy. While all translation involves a degree of interpretation, I believe the NLT translators have deliberately translated certain passages about women with a bias that goes beyond objective interpretation.                                             http://www.newlivingtranslation.com/05discoverthenlt/faqs.asp?faq=18#go18

Their translation is not as simple or as literal as they indicate in this statement: “The translators of the New Living Translation set out to render the message of the original texts of Scripture into clear, contemporary English. As they did so, they kept the concerns of both formal-equivalence and dynamic-equivalence in mind. On the one hand, they translated as simply and literally as possible when that approach yielded an accurate, clear, and natural English text. Many words and phrases were rendered literally and consistently into English, preserving essential literary and rhetorical devices, ancient metaphors, and word choices that give structure to the text and provide echoes of meaning from one passage to the next.”


More articles on Bible translations here.

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Posted October 11th, 2011 . Categories/Tags: Bible Translation and Interpretation, Equality and Gender Issues, Equality in Ministry, , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , ,

20 comments on “Gender Bias in the NLT

  1. EricW says:

    Marg:

    You wrote:

    1 Corinthians 11:10

    It is for this reason that a woman ought to have authority over her own head, because of the angels. 1 Corinthians 11:10 (NLT, 2011)

    I think you meant to write (NIV, 2011), not (NLT, 2011)

  2. Marg says:

    Thanks Eric. All fixed.

  3. Kristen says:

    Excellent point-by-point analysis! I had not known that part about “kuria” in 2 John. Interesting that the translators want “kurios” to be “master, man in charge” but won’t translate “kuria” as “mistress, woman in charge.”

  4. Marg says:

    Thanks Kristen.

    I find the gender bias of the NLT striking. As you pointed out, they choose arguably the strongest word to translate “kurios” to promote male authority; and they translate “kuria” as “dear friends” to obscure the likelihood that Kuria Electa (or the Chosen Lady) was a female church leader. Sheesh!!!

  5. [...] The New Living Translation (2007 edition) translates “kuria” in 2 John 5 as “friends”!  This incorrect “translation” obscures the ideas that kuria was an individual, a woman, and probably a church leader.  [...]

  6. [...] The English Standard Version (ESV) and the New Living Translation (NLT), in particular, are notorious for down-playing the ministries and roles of New Testament women in their translations. [...]

  7. John says:

    What about the inference in 1 Tim 3:2 That if a person desires to be an elder he must be a man of one wife. I don’t see anything in the Greek that implies that a person must be faithful to their spouse, rather it explicitly states a man that is faithful to his wife. I like all your points but I find this point troubling. And while your points seem valid, you seem to only highlight verses in the Greek that could be questionable and not ones say like in v.2 above that clearly state the man wife relationship. Some clarity? Thanks for your insight.

  8. Marg says:

    Hi John, I write about this topic here http://newlife.id.au/equality-and-gender-issues/pauls-qualifications-for-church-leaders/
    In this other article I discuss two of the qualifications from Paul’s lists. This is because these are the two that some people think apply only to men. They think that only men can manage/lead their households and only men can be a one-woman-man. No one questions that godly, responsible women can fulfil the other qualifications. So I have not mentioned them.

    I make the point that a “one-woman-man” is an idiom, and that idioms cannot be taken literally. For instance: A person who is very hungry cannot eat a whole horse on their own. Yet people say, “I’m so hungry I could eat a horse.” The point is being hungry. The point is not the horse.

    Similarly, a “one-woman-man”, because it is a common Greek idiom, should not be taken literally. The point is marital faithfulness.

    This idiom does not exclude women. Much smarter people than me – including complementarians such as Douglas Moo and Thomas Schreiner – maintain that 1 Timothy 3:2 cannot be used to exclude women.

    I hope that makes things a little clearer.

  9. John says:

    Hmmm…. It seems as though we have a forgone conclusion about what is meant in v.2, then applying that to the interpretation and application. Wouldn’t it be fair to say that it is possible that the reason Paul writes a man of one wife is because he was speaking about an actual man? Wouldn’t it also be reasonable to say that when Jesus picked 12 men as his disciples, he also endorsed the idea of male leadership in the church? Especially in light of the command for women not to have authority over a man? Even if we say things like the submission of women you talked about early to their husbands maybe being closer to cooperation in meaning and the idea of a leader being a man of one wife being an idiom, you have to also hold the opposite might be true. With an honesty of conscience, women might be commanded tO submit to the authority of their husbands. This has been grossly abused and maligned over the years true. But it seems like much work is going into proving our conclusions instead of gaining conclusions from knowledge. To be sure, I am partial to your case, but these are tough questions when viewed as unbiasedly as possible. I couldn’t answer them when asked of me and felt uncomfortable when I really sat and thought, what if I am looking at this wrong. Is that possible? Am I ok realizing that? In the end we all have Jesus as our denominator. Thank you for your thoughtful answers

  10. John says:

    Also, when do we stop ascribing idioms to the word if they make us uncomfortable with our position? Did God really create the world in 6 days and rest on the 7th? Did Jesus figuratively or literally rise from the dead? Is Hell a literal place? I get uncomfortable to think we can do easily ascribe the solid truth of Gods word to metaphor. Maybe it is an idiom hahaha but if it is, it makes me wonder how much else are we looking at wrong and can we even know the truth then?

  11. Marg says:

    John, the fact that a “one-woman-man” is an idiom is not debated by New Testament scholars because of the overwhelming evidence from Greek inscriptions (So in that regard it is a “forgone conclusion”, but I would not use those words.) The other things you have mentioned are not idioms. I think you may have a misunderstanding of what an idiom is.

    An idiom is (1) a group of words established by usage as having a meaning not deducible from those of the individual words (e.g. raining cats and dogs); and also (2) a form of expression natural to a language, person, or group of people. (You can easily find these definitions by googling “idiom”.)

    Here is an except from BDAG (arguably the most comprehensive Greek lexicon on New Testament Greek) about a one-woman-man:

    The phrase, a one-woman man, is an idiom found on numerous sepulchral [gravesite] inscriptions celebrating the virtue of a surviving spouse that had not remarried. By noting that he or she was married only once, it suggests the virtue of extraordinary fidelity. (A Greek-English Lexicon of the New Testament and Other Early Christian Literature, 3rd Edition, Walter Bauer, revised & edited by F.W. Danker, University of Chicago Press, 2000, p292.)

    I’m not sure that it is correct to say that Jesus endorsed the idea of male leadership (and not female leadership) in the Church. [Did Jesus endorse the leadership of Judas in the church? Judas died before the Church even came into existance.] Jesus never said that women cannot have the authority (authorisation) to be leaders or teachers. I have written more about the precedent of the 12 apostles and male leadership here: http://newlife.id.au/equality-and-gender-issues/the-twelve-apostles-were-all-male/

    Paul didn’t have a problem with godly and capable women being house church leaders. He valued his women colleagues in ministry. Though, it seems that he did have a problem with an incapable and misguided woman who was teaching in Ephesus.

    I don’t think men or women should have the kind of “authority” (authentein) that Paul mentioned in 1 Timothy 2:12. It is not the ordinary word for “authority” (exousia) used elsewhere in the New Testament. More on this here: http://newlife.id.au/equality-and-gender-issues/1-timothy-212-in-context-4/

    Nowhere does it say in the New Testament that husbands (or men) have authority(exousia) over their wives except in 1 Corinthians 7:4; and here the authority is vice-versa.

    I do believe that people read many verses about men and women from a cultural or traditional perspective. And many rely on English translations which, as I’ve shown in the article about the NLT, are not always accurate, and may even have evident biases.

    My hope is to be as unbiased as possible and to rely on the Greek texts.
    And like you, I am keeping my mind open. :)

  12. [...] Other Bible translations refer to her teaching as: an inspired utterance (NIV), a vision (WYC), a declaration (YLT), a prophecy (KJV), etc; translated from the Hebrew word massa. Massa is used frequently for Isaiah’s prophecies (e.g. Isa 13:1).  Massa is also used for Nahum’s, Habakkuk’s and Malachi’s prophecies (Nah 1:1; Hab 1:1; Mal 1:1).   The New Living Translation (NLT) inadequately translates massa simply as “message” in Proverbs 31:1.  [...]

  13. Don Johnson says:

    I like the NLT is some places and dislike it greatly in some of the gender verses. I cannot believe that they do not see their own bias.

  14. [...] More about the word exousia and its meaning and usage in 1 Corinthians in endnote 9 here. [...]

  15. Sharon says:

    John, re your two comments/questions:

    “Wouldn’t it be fair to say that it is possible that the reason Paul writes a man of one wife is because he was speaking about an actual man?”

    My answer – NO, because other scripture makes it highly unlikely if not impossible (Marg has referenced those ‘other scriptures’ already so no need to repeat them here).

    “Wouldn’t it also be reasonable to say that when Jesus picked 12 men as his disciples, he also endorsed the idea of male leadership in the church?”

    My answer – HOW? The apostles had other things in common than gender – are we to conclude that all church leaders are to be Jewish, amongst other things?

  16. […] Articles on issues relating to Bible Translations including Gender Bias in the NLT […]

  17. John (#2) says:

    I am not a fan of the NLT, but I do think that some of your interpretations are being taken out of context. In reference to women being church leaders in the Bible:

    1) 2 John 1, 5: Your quote: “There can only be one reason for translating “lady” as “dear friends”: To hide the fact that the chosen lady was probably a female church leader.” You gave no support for this. Being a lady or authority or nobility was probably from within the community, not as a church leader. There is no support for her being a church leader, just one having authority. I don’t agree either with the translation of “dear friends” either, but it could have been referring to her and her children as in verse 8 says: “Watch yourselves…” referring to more than one person and this letter is addressed to the elect lady and her children. Lady/Nobility doesn’t meant a church leader.
    2) Priscilla: I read your article on her and its all speculation as there is no formal reference to her being in a leadership role in the church over a man. Paul left them in Ephasus, her and her husband correct Appolos, Aquila and Prisca have a church in their house (his name first if it has any speculative significance), they are fellow workers who risked their necks for Paul. Those are all the facts that are given. She could have taught just the women, but that is also just speculation. Speculation is NOT proof of female leadership in the early church.
    3) Chloe: Chloe’s people make a report about the quarreling. You interpret this as Chloe is leading the church there. That is not a phrasing Paul usually uses (such as “the church at…”, or “the saints”) in reference to a church. Chloe’s people could just be her friends or family or business associates or household members who sent the message. Again you’re trying to use speculation to support evidence for a female led church
    4) Nympha: The church met in her house, but does not mean she led the church there
    5) Apphia: Only referred to as “our sister.” Why is she mentioned? She was probably important, but not necessarily led the church there.
    6) Etc: Pray tell other women as proof of female-led churches, not just speculation.

    I am not supporting the NLT, and I do not use it, but I do think that your arguments should be based on more than mere speculation. You are so convinced that you interpret scripture through that lens. What about a passage you didn’t include? such as 2 Timothy 2:12 “I do not permit a woman to to teach or exercise authority over a man; rather, she is to remain quiet.” I do believe that women play a crucial role in the church, but not in the way you are presenting. It seems you are trying to force a particular interpretation.

  18. Marg says:

    Hi John #2,

    I do not think that I am taking verses out of context. In fact it is the context that provides the clues for the meaning.

    Kuria: I provide links above to other articles about the chosen lady: one which looks at how the Greek word kuria is used in papyri letters (kuria was a very common form of address for respected women), and another which is a more in depth look at 2 John. The second article is where I give support for her being a church leader.

    Priscilla: I agree that there is no evidence that Priscilla had a leadership role where she had authority over a man. I think that all godly authority in the church is the authority to function in a ministry; it is not an authority “over” another person, man or woman. Unfortunately some English translations add the word “over” in verses that speak about leadership in the church. But this is misleading. I think we may have a different idea of authority in the church. More on this here.

    I see no reason to speculate that Priscilla taught women. But we do know that she taught at least one man – one well-educated man who was also a minister. And she taught him on a topic related to theology: Christian baptism. (Other Bible women also taught on theological topics.)

    Chloe: I speculate that Chloe may have been a leader of a house church. While I acknowledge that this is conjecture, one thing is certain: she had the authority to send some men with a report to Paul. The men are identified in the Greek New Testament as being “of Chloe” (1 Cor. 1:11).

    Nympha: Nympha is undoubtedly the host of the church. Most people who have thought that Nympha(s) is a masculine name have assumed that this person was the host and the house church leader. I make a similar assumption as it seems unlikely that the host, but not the leader, would receive a greeting. Similarly I assume that Aquila and Priscilla led the house churches that they hosted. If they weren’t the leaders, who were? In many parts of the Greco-Roman world, it was perfectly acceptable for women of higher classes to have leading roles and functions within a household setting. Being a house church leader was an extension of this custom.

    Apphia: When referring to specific individuals, Paul uses the word “brother” and “sister”, in a special way.

    “The designations most often given to Paul’s fellow workers are in descending order of frequency as follows: coworker (synergos), brother (adelphos) [or sister (adelphē)], minister (diakonos) and apostle (apostolos).” E.E. Ellis, “Paul and his Coworkers” in Dictionary of Paul and his Letters, Editors: Gerald F. Hawthorne and Ralph Martin (Downers Grove: InterVarsity Press, 1993) p183.

    Note how Paul speaks of Timothy as a brother in 2 Cor. 1:1, 1 Thess 3:2, Phm 1:1 and Col 1:1. Cf Titus (2 Cor 2:13); Sosthenes (1 Cor. 1:1) Tychicus (Eph. 6:21; Col.4:7); Epaphroditus (Phil. 2:25); Onesimus (Col. 4:9); an unnamed brother (2 Cor. 8:18, 22; 12:18); Apollos (1 Cor. 16:12); Quartus (Rom. 16:23). I imagine that you do not doubt that these men were involved in influential ministries and may have led house churches or church meetings at times. I add Phoebe (Rom. 16:1-2) and Apphia (Phm 1:2), who Paul refers to as our sisters, to this list. All these verses, where Paul uses “brother” or “sister”, are about individuals involved in various important ministries; and ministry “titles” are often given alongside the word “brother” and “sister”.

    I do not speculate that the chosen lady was a person, she was a person and she was a Christian leader. See my other articles where I explain this more fully, if you’re interested. (She was not “dear friends”.)
    I do not speculate that Priscilla taught a man, she did teach a man.
    I do not speculate that the men who brought a report to Paul from Corinth were from, or of, Chloe. This is clearly stated.

    I also do not speculate that women such as Junia, Phoebe, Euodia and Syntyche and others were involved in gospel ministry in the same way as Timothy, Epaphroditus, and other men were. (This is evident when we see precisely what Greek words and phrases Paul used to described their ministries.)

    I do not disregard, or dumb down, verses about women ministers on the basis of one scripture passage. It is dangerous to use one passage or one verse (especially a verse or passage that contains a word with an uncertain meaning) to base a doctrine on. I see lots of evidence in the Bible that God has no problem whatsoever with godly women leaders. Why do you assume that there were no women leading, or co-leading, house churches in the 1st century?

    You weren’t clear as to what lens you think I interpret scripture through. Do you interpret all verses about women in ministry through your understanding of 1 Timothy 2:12?

    I have written about 1 Timothy 2:12 here and here. It is wrong for a man, as well as a woman, to teach and usurp authority over another person.

    I do not see evidence in the New Testament that gender was an important distinction in the early decades of the church. Both men and women played crucial roles and engaged in important ministries in order to the spread and establish the Christian faith, some as leaders, some as church leaders. What crucial roles do you think women such as Junia, Phoebe, Lydia, Priscilla, Philip’s daughters, Euodia and Syntyche played?

    Churches were so different in the first few decades of the church – many were more like cell groups – and I have no doubt that several of them were led by women, or co-led by men and women.

  19. […] Several modern English translations of the New Testament (including the NLT) frequently translate the Greek word adelphoi as “brothers and sisters”.  Adelphoi is grammatically masculine, and in older Bible versions the word was translated simply as “brothers”.  However, it is obvious from its usage in the scriptures, and in other writings, that adelphoi can refer to both men and women believers. The NLT translators (and others) have translated most occurrences of the very common word adelphoi as “brothers and sisters” and painstakingly included an explanatory footnote each time.  The NLT also translates the literal “sons” (huioi) into “children” when speaking about children of God, i.e. believers.  This commendable inclusion of women reflects the true Biblical understanding of the words adelphoi and huioi. However the views of the NLT translators towards full gender equality and inclusivity clearly stops short of allowing women to be church leaders (overseers and elders). [More on gender bias in the NLT here.] […]

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