Friday, February 8, 2019

Jesus, God's Kingdom, and the Church, Pt 2

         Now as George E. Ladd, Robert T. Henderson, Ralph P. Martin, Ronald J. Sider, N. T. Wright and other NT scholars have shown[1], these OT and NT texts that prophesy both the coming of Messiah and the coming of God’s kingdom point to the fact of a three-stage unfolding or development of this kingdom—based on Jesus’s own teaching in the Gospels—which is best understood and expressed in terms of a kingdom that is “already  present” in the life and ministry of Jesus and his Church, and “yet not fully manifested” in all its power and glory until Jesus returns at the end of history.   Robert T. Henderson explains as follows:

                Jesus and the New Testament writers speak of the kingdom of God in three different
         tenses:  As having already come, as now present;  and as yet to come.  Other Christians
         today speak of the “already-but-not-yet kingdom.”  When Jesus the Lord came he did in
         fact come to inaugurate his kingdom.  That is his first advent.  At the present time we are
         between the ages in the sense that while this present age is still with us, the age to come
         has come upon us so that the kingdom of God is dynamically present.  But the kingdom is
         not consummated until Jesus returns.  This understanding [of God’s kingdom] is critical
         for wholesome discipleship.  It gives us a sense of history, of calling and identity, of
         purpose and ultimate triumph.[2] 

        As we look further at what Isa. 61:1-4 and Joel 2:28-32 have to say about the Messiah and his work of liberation and healing, we see that after he suffers terrible things under the hands of his own people who reject him, the Messiah pours out the Holy Spirit upon his new community. And it is this community which not only continues to proclaim the coming of God’s kingdom, but which also continues to carry on a ministry of liberation, healing, and restoration, resulting in a new model of human society—human society as God always meant it to be.  On this, Stephen C. Mott comments:

                  Because the church is a manifestation of the Reign of God, the norms that guide it
          must exemplify the highest vision of human community.  It cannot leave to another group
          the effort to live wholly according to the teachings of Jesus.  In the Pauline letters a direct
          consequence for the ethical life of the church is drawn from the fact that, as “the fullness
          of him who fills everything in everything” (Eph. 1:22-23), it is the instrument of Christ’s
          work.  When “Christ is everything and in everything,” then all external distinctions of
          status cease to exist:

                   “Put on the new nature [literally, the new human being]…where there is neither
           Greek nor Jew, circumcised nor uncircumcised, Barbarian, Scythian [the savage par
           excellence], slave, free person, but Christ is everything and in everything.” (Col. 3:9-11)

                  The unique character of this new nature derives from the fact that, when the body of
          Christ (v. 15) truly acts as Christ’s body, it is totally ruled by him...In three passages Paul
          states that the putting on of Christ, the putting on of the new human being, or the creation
          of the new human being, abolishes status distinctions in the church: Colossians 3:9-11;
          Ephesians 2:14-16; and Galatians 3:27-28 (cf. Gal. 6:15 [“new creation”]).[3]

        Now, since the ethical norms of the Church are the ethics of God’s kingdom, or new covenant ethics, which are designed to promote the flourishing of the “new humanity” in Christ—this means that elitism, racism, sexism, and nationalism are not to be tolerated or promoted in Messiah’s community

[1] Ladd, The Gospel of the Kingdom; Henderson, Joy To The World: Spreading the Good News of the Kingdom; Martin, Reconciliation: A Study of Paul’s Theology; Sider, One-Sided Christianity?  Uniting the Church to Heal a Lost and Broken World; Wright, Justification:  God’s Plan and Paul’s Vision.  
[2] Robert T. Henderson.  “The Gospel of the Kingdom of God,” Joy To The World: Spreading the Good News of the Kingdom (Zondervan, 1991), p. 41.
[3] Stephen C. Mott.  “The Church as Counter-Community,” Biblical Ethics and Social Change, pp. 131-132.

Jesus, God's Kingdom, and the Church, Pt 1

Jesus, God’s Kingdom, and the Church

The Spirit of the Sovereign LORD is
                                                                                               on me,
                                                                                         because the LORD has anointed me
                                                                                         to proclaim good news to the poor.
                                                                                  He has sent me to bind up the
                                                                                         to proclaim freedom for the captives
                                                                                         and release from darkness for the
                                                                                          to proclaim the year of the LORD’s favor….

                                                                                                        Isaiah 61:1-2, NIV

        In a number of NT passages, it is Jesus who—by his proclamation of the Good News of God’s Kingdom; his performance of signs and wonders; his miraculous healings and exorcism of demons—is shown to be the fulfilment of OT prophecies regarding “the Servant of the LORD,” who is also Reconciler, Liberator, and Healer (cf.  Isa. 61:1-4 and Joel 2:28-32 with Lk. 4:1-44; 7:1-30; Matt. 11:1-14; John 3:31-36; Acts 10:24-48).  Yet many in Jesus’ own day refused to recognize this.  For instance, Jesus tells the Pharisees, when they accuse him of being an emissary of Satan and doing miraculous works in his power: 

                             “Any kingdom divided by civil war is doomed…And if Satan is casting out Satan,
                      he is divided and fighting against himself.  His own kingdom will not survive.  And if
                      I am empowered by Satan, what about your own exorcists?  They cast out demons, too,
                      so they will condemn you for what you have said.   But if I am casting out demons by
                      the Spirit of God, then the Kingdom of God has arrived among you” (Matt. 12:25-28,
So it is clear that God’s kingdom has begun with Jesus life and ministry, breaking into and challenging the predominant powers of this Present Evil Age.
        Yet at the same time, Jesus also teaches that God’s kingdom, or reign, is not fully manifested and consummated until the end of history.  This future manifestation and consummation is spoken of in a number of Jesus’ teachings on God’s kingdom, such as the following:

                            “The time is coming when you will long to see the day when the Son of Man returns,
                     but you won’t see it.  People will tell you, ‘Look, there is the Son of Man,’ or ‘Here he is,’
                     but don’t go out and follow them.  For as the lightning flashes and lights up the sky from
                     one end to the other, so it will be on the day when the Son of Man comes.  But first, the Son
                     of Man must suffer terribly and be rejected by this generation…And the world will be as it
                     was in the days of Lot.  People went about their daily business—eating and drinking,
                     buying and selling, farming and building—until the morning Lot left Sodom.  Then fire and
                     burning sulfur rained down from heaven and destroyed them all.  Yes, it will be ‘business
                     as usual’ right up to the day when the Son of Man is revealed” (Luke 17:22-30, NLT).

Thursday, February 7, 2019

The ESV and Genesis 3:16b: Revision or Perversion? Pt 3

The ESV Revision: A Stratagem to Biblically Legitimize 1 Corinthians 14:34-35?

        So what was really behind this new ESV rendering, since it lacks strong historical and textual support, and since there are no current linguistic changes in English that require it?  I could be wrong, but I can’t help but suspect that this was a veiled attempt to give what appears to be a more legitimate, biblical ground for the prohibition against women in leadership and ministry found in 1 Corinthians 14:34-35.   Thus, by this “fixing” of OT and NT Scripture to agree with each other, the anti-egalitarian, male dominance socio-political agenda of Complementarianism would thereby be better legitimized and enabled. As rendered in the ESV, the text of 1 Corinthians 14:34-35 reads as follows:

          …the women should keep silent in the churches. For they are not permitted to speak
 but should be in submission, as the Law also says.  If there is anything they desire to learn,
let them ask their husbands at home. For it is shameful for a woman to speak in church.

                                                                                                    1 Cor. 14:34-35, ESV

              Now, in English Bibles, it has been customary to translate tos nomos in the Greek New Testament either as “the law” or “the Law”—with the former translation (depending on the context) being used to designate references to the OT as a whole; Jewish oral tradition; or Greco-Roman law, while the second form is used to refer to the Mosaic Law in particular.  
      So by translating tos nomos as “the Law,” the ESV intends for us to understand that this prohibition is based on “the Law,” i.e. the Law of Moses.  The only problem with this translation of 1 Cor. 14:34-35, as Egalitarians have often pointed out, is that nothing either in the Law of Moses in particular, or in the OT as a whole, constitutes an absolute and universal prohibition from women proclaiming God’s Word or leading God’s people in worship. 
              Moreover, it makes an ambiguous appeal to “the law” for women to be silent—which is strange, in light of the fact that the OT highlights and affirms the leadership and prophetic ministry of Miriam, Deborah, and Huldah.  Though Jeremiah and Nehemiah condemn certain false male and female prophets (cf. Jer. 28:1-17; Neh. 6:11-14), there is no OT text that clearly forbids women from leading the people in worship, nor from proclaiming the “word of the LORD” to the people of Israel. And other than barring them from the temple priesthood, the Law of Moses certainly confirms and approves the fact that Miriam and the other women led Israel in worshiping and praising God for their deliverance out of Egypt (cf. Exodus 15:19-21 with Ps. 68:11-14, NIV 2011).
         So, again we ask, what “law” is being appealed to here?  And why is the reference to this “scriptural” source so vague?   Normally, Paul will quote a specific text when he wants to affirm that a particular teaching or command has OT support, such as he does in 1 Cor. 10:6-8  and 1 Tim. 5:17-18.  Yet he does not follow his common practice here.   If he had actually meant Genesis 3:16b, then we would have expected him to quote it.  Why does he not do so here?  
        Then, as noted by several NT scholars, there is the additional problem of the disjunctive conjunction eta in 1 Cor. 14:36, which the ESV does not translate or footnote at all.[1] When eta is used as a disjunctive conjunction, it is used “to distinguish things or thoughts which either mutually exclude each other, or one of which can take the place of the other,” and that when used “before a sentence contrary to the one just preceding, to indicate that if one be denied or refuted, the other must stand: Mt. xx.15; Rom. iii.29; 1 Cor. ix. 6; x.29; xi.14; xiv. 36; 2 Cor. xi.7.”[2]  Consider the following translations of 1 Corinthians 14:34-36:

 …the women should keep silence the churches. For they are not permitted to speak, 
but should be subordinate, as even the law says.  If there is anything they desire to know, 
let them ask their husbands at home.  For it is shameful for a woman to speak in church. 
What!  Did the word of God originate with you, or are you the only ones it has reached?

                                                                                           1 Corinthians 14:34-36, RSV

…the women must keep silent in the churches. They are not allowed to speak out, but 
also must place themselves in submission, as the oral law also says. If they want to learn
anything, let them ask their own husbands at home, for it is inappropriate for woman 
to speak out in church. Did God's word originate with you? Are you the only people it 
has reached?
                                                                                           1 Corinthians 14:34-36, ISV
                 The RSV translates the disjunctive conjunction eta as “What!,” which indicates that in verse 36, Paul is clearly and firmly repudiating the prohibition given in vv. 34-35; while the ISV translate tos nomos as “the oral law,” making it very clear that the prohibition of vv. 34-35 is based on Jewish oral traditions, and not on the Law of Moses itself. 
                 Indeed, it is the ISV translation which perhaps gives us the best clue as to who might have been the true source of this prohibition—a Judaizing element in Corinth that evidently wanted the Jewish regulations and customs of the synagogue to be enforced, contrary to Paul’s own teaching and practices in all the churches he had previously established.
                 But neither of these translations supports the widespread Complementarian idea that Paul himself was the originator of this prohibition in 1 Cor. 14:34-35, nor do they support the idea that he clearly made an appeal to Genesis 3:16b as its basis.  Moreover, as Kirk R. MacGregor so brilliantly argues in his article, both on the basis of the disjunctive conjunction and grammar of this text, 1 Cor. 14:33b-38 is a quotation-refutation device Paul uses to rebuke this Judaizing element:  "Far from attempting to silence women, therefore, Paul is rebuking the Corinthian men for prohibiting women from speaking in the assemblies, for he regards such a restriction as tantamount to alleging that the word of God belongs properly to the men and derivatively to any woman married to one of them. Paul summarily exposes the absurdity of this allegation with each part of this rhetorical question, whose form, (not to mention the context) requires a negative answer to each part." [3]  


                 So, considering all these things we have discussed, I suspect that this new ESV revision of Genesis 3:16b is nothing more than a very clever and subtle stratagem, designed to give Complementarianism a more clear and firm biblical foundation in both Moses and in Paul than it really has a claim to.  If this is indeed the reason behind this rendering of Genesis 3:16b, I am amazed that Crossway Publishers and the ESV Translation Oversight Committee have not considered the warning of Jeremiah 8:8-9:

                                 How can you say, ‘We are wise because we have the 
                                                               word of the LORD,’
                                                when your teachers have twisted it by writing lies?
                                  “These wise teachers will fall into the trap of their
                                                               own foolishness,
                                            for they have rejected the word of the LORD.
                                                    Are they so wise after all?”                            
                                                                                                       Jeremiah 8:8-9, NLT

                Therefore, a more clear and convincing case as to the necessity of this change to the ESV text needs to be made to persuade me, and many others as well, that this was a genuine attempt to faithfully preserve God’s Word as originally handed on to us—and not a veiled attempt to enforce a strict patriarchal ideology upon the people of God that, in fact, has no true biblical warrant at all.

[1]  Dennis J. Preato, “Did Paul Really Say, ‘Let Your Women Keep Silent in the Churches?” An excellent article on this Pauline text, brought to my attention during an online group discussion at the BCE site on Facebook, 09/16/16.
[2] Thayer’s Greek-English Lexicon, 3rd Edition (Zondervan, 1970), p. 275.
[3] Kirk R. MacGregor, "1 Corinthians 14:33b-38 as a Pauline Quotation-Refutation Device," Priscilla Papers, Vol. 32, No. 1, Winter 2018.

Wednesday, February 6, 2019

The ESV and Genesis 3:16b: Revision or Perversion? Pt 2

The ESV Revision of Gen. 3:16b and Its Theological Bias

       What we must understand is that, behind this new ESV rendering, there is a theological precommitment or bias: A theological bias which both assumes and asserts the idea that a) man ruled over or dominated woman before the Fall; b) that as a result of the Fall, instead of submitting to male rule, woman would now have a strong urge to achieve dominance over man and would attempt to do so; and c) that God has decreed, instead, that male rule or dominance of the woman should prevail.
       However, Genesis 1 and 2 do not support this theological bias and its assumptions. Let us look again at Genesis 1:26-27:

Then God said, "Let us make mankind in our image, to be like us.  Let them 
 be masters over the fish in the ocean, the birds that fly, the livestock, everything
 that crawls on the earth, and over the earth itself!" So God created mankind in 
 his own image; in his own image God created them; he created them male 
 and female. God blessed these humans by saying to them, "Be fruitful, multiply,
 fill the earth, and subdue it! Be masters over the fish in the ocean, the birds that fly,
 and every living thing that crawls on the earth!"
                                                                                      Genesis 1:26-28, ISV

       These verses clearly teach that both the man and woman were originally created in God’s image; that they were both equally authorized to share the mastery and management of the earth, its resources, and animal life; and that they were expected to do so as equal partners and coworkers under God. And the fact that, in the ISV, the terms “mankind” and “these humans” are used synonymously certainly makes clear that being “male” or “female” neither diminishes Adam and Eve’s common “human essence,” nor does it obviously give one gender intrinsic priority or authority over the other. Therefore, there is no basis in these verses for our assuming any hierarchical authority/submission structure had ever been put in place prior to the Fall, and which was to eternally define the relationship between men and women. 
       Then in Genesis 2, after God has placed the man in the Garden of Eden to govern and manage it for him, he decides that it is “not good” for the man to be alone. There we read:

The LORD God said, "It is not good for the man to be alone. I will make for him 
a companion that is a suitable match for him." After the LORD God formed from
the ground every wild animal and every bird that flies, he brought each of them to
the man to see what he would call it. Whatever the man called each living creature 
became its name. The man gave names to all the livestock, to the birds that fly, and
to each of the earth's animals, but there was not found for the man any companion
corresponding to him, so the LORD God caused a deep sleep to overshadow the man. 
When the man was asleep, he removed one of the man's ribs and closed up the flesh 
where it had been. Then the LORD God formed the rib that he had taken from the man 
into a woman and brought her to the man. So the man exclaimed, "At last! This is bone
from my bones and flesh from my flesh. This one will be called 'Woman' because she
was taken from Man." (Therefore a man will leave his father and mother and cling to
his wife, and they will become one flesh.)    
                                                                                                Genesis 2:18-24, ISV

       The fact that God created woman as “a companion” who is “a suitable match” for the man (v. 18); that she alone was created as a “companion corresponding to him” (v.20); and that the man, with great joy, acknowledged her alone as the companion who corresponded to himself and was the best match (v. 23)—all this clearly conveys that God’s original intent was that men and women would have a relationship that not only involved shared authority and responsibility for the governance and management of the earth and its creatures, but also true companionship, mutuality, and intimacy. 
       But there is no clear and unambiguous indication, in this passage from Genesis 2, that it ever involved male dominance and female subjugation. In fact, this idea is reading back into Genesis 1-3 a questionable interpretation of 1 Tim. 2:12-15, which is beset with interpretative problems of its own, as Jamin Hubner has recently demonstrated.[1] 

[1] Jamin Hubner.  “Revisiting the Clarity of Scripture in 1 Tim. 2:12,” Priscilla Papers, Vol. 30, No. 3, Summer 2016, pp. 18-25.

Wednesday, August 29, 2018

The ESV and Gen. 3:16b: Revision or Perversion? Pt 1

The Story behind This Critique

        On September 14, 2016, Crossway Publishers and the ESV Translation Oversight Committee announced that they would be making 52 permanent word changes in 29 verses of the ESV text, and no others.[1]  They also announced that not only would these changes remain for as long as the new ESV remained in print and was used, but no further revision was to be permitted or done in the future. 
        Of the several changes to the ESV that had been proposed, the one to be made in Genesis 3:16b was of the greatest importance for biblical and systematic theology. The new rendering of Genesis 3:16b, “Your desire shall be contrary to your husband, but he shall rule over you,” certainly made clear the Complementarian view that the woman’s “desire” (teshuqa) for her husband is a negative one—a “desire” that is against or contrary to submitting to male dominance, and to dominate man, instead.  And the main preposition (‘el), normally translated either as “for” or “towards,” was now rendered “contrary to,” so as to strengthen this viewpoint.    
        Consequently, there appeared a flurry of critical articles protesting this erroneous and dangerous rendering to Genesis 3:16b.  At first, it appeared that Crossway was reconsidering a reversal of its plan to change this text.  Unfortunately, in the 2017 edition of the ESV, this rendition of the text was incorporated despite its general criticism. Still, three questions remain:  Was the proposed revision of Genesis 3:16b justified?  Was it the best way to translate the Hebrew text of Genesis 3:16b?  And was it some socio-political agenda, rather than any major linguistic issue, that lay behind this intended change of the ESV text?  

                         How Should Teshuqa and ‘El Be Best Translated in Gen. 3:16b?

        At the turn of the 20th century, Katherine C. Bushnell—medical doctor, Bible scholar, and social reformer—first raised questions about how the Hebrew word teshuqa (“desire”) in Gen. 3:16b is best translated.  In her book, God’s Word to Women (first printed in 1921), Bushnell (fluent in biblical Hebrew and Greek), carefully examines and analyzes a number of ancient translations, along with several lexical sources.  As she carries out this careful examination and analysis, she demonstrates, on the basis of the resources available to her, that through both Jewish rabbinical traditions and poor translation practices by certain early Christian translators, who were influenced by these Jewish oral traditions, teshuqa came to have the negative connotations of “lust, craving, urge”—false meanings and connotations taken up and promoted by later Bible commentators and translators influenced by their work.[2] 
       Then, after going on to demonstrate from the Hebrew OT, the Septuagint, the Old Syriac, and the Peshitta that in 3:16 teshuqa has to do with the woman’s “turning away” from reliance on God to reliance on the man, concludes with a final argument that the best translation of Gen. 3:16b is “Thou art turning away to thy husband, and he will rule over thee.” [3]   In this way, Bushnell confirms that God is giving Eve a word that is both a prediction and a warning, not a legal decree or mandate:  By her turning away from himself and turning to her husband, she will experience, not a loving and selfless partner, but a man now inclined to be selfish and domineering towards her.
        So the emphasis of teshuqa here appears to be more on Eve’s turning away from God and turning to her husband, with some ambiguity as to the nature of the turning itself—which could be her trust, her devotion, as well as a longing for mutual affection and intimacy, such as the word has in the context of Song of Solomon 7:10.  Therefore, it is context, and not merely semantic range, which determines whether teshuqa should be translated “desire, longing, devotion.”

        But there is further, more recent evidence that teshuqa can mean something other than “desire” or “longing.”   In a recent comparison I made of several modern English translations, I discovered that they confirmed Bushnell’s proposal for providing an alternate translation of Genesis 3:16b that made clearer the true nature and direction of the woman’s desire, which had, in the past, been wrongly understood and interpreted either as “sensual lust” or as a “desire to dominate” the man.  So let us look at three modern English translations of this verse, and see what we can glean from them:

“But you will still desire your husband, and he will rule over you.”  Gen. 3:16b, CEV  

“Your trust turns toward your husband, yet he will dominate you.”  Gen. 3:16b, ISV

“Your desire will be for your husband, and he will rule over you.”   Gen. 3:16b, TNIV

         None of the above translations agrees with the new ESV rendering that the woman’s “desire” was one of “being contrary to” her husband, or of one of seeking what we might call “reverse domination” of the man.  Rather, they indicate that she will have a strong desire to experience the comradery, mutuality, and intimacy that existed prior to the Fall; a desire, as indicated by the CEV rendering, which had not changed even though her relationship with Adam had.  Yet the woman, to her great sorrow, will find—as all three of these translations indicate—that, instead, her husband tending to take advantage of this desire, treating her like a master would treat an inferior. 
        Of the three translations, the ISV most clearly indicates that the nature of the woman’s teshuqa can also be understood in terms of “trust, devotion,” and not simply as “desire, longing.” In addition, these translations do not support the new ESV rendering of the Hebrew preposition ‘el (which modifies teshuqa) as being properly translated as “contrary to.”  Nor, in fact, do most biblical scholars regard this a legitimate rendering of ‘el.  

        Sam Powell (himself a Complementarian), in a critique of the ESV revision of Genesis 3:16b, after surveying several authoritative Hebrew lexical aids, demonstrates that ‘el can only be translated as “against” or “contrary to” if the context and verb used show hostility between two parties.  Therefore he concludes his article, saying, “To summarize this rather complicated survey, the basic meaning of the word is to or towards.  Sometimes, if the context and the verb used are hostile, ‘against’ would be a proper meaning.  But this does not mean that we can pick and choose whatever meaning we want.  ‘Contrary to,’ in the context of Genesis 3:16 or 4:7 cannot be justified.  Only if we make the assumption that the word ‘longing’ indicates hostility can we make the phrase mean ‘against her husband’.”[4] (Italics mine)
        And as Scott McKnight points out in another recent article on the ESV changes, the assumption that Eve’s “longing” is hostile leads to some undesirable consequences:

The ‘desire’ of the woman in Genesis 3:16 is understood, as the result of the fall and God’s curse on them, to be a desire to rule or dominate. They want to usurp the man’s authority. The man’s task—as part of God’s prescriptive design—is to rule, guide, and lead the woman. I do hear at times softer versions: women desire to be with men and it is the man’s job to mentor and rule women.  Either in the harder or softer form, this is God’s design for women and men during at least the Fall period of history. Hierarchy of some sort and patriarchy of some sort are designed by God for fallen human beings. This translation turns women and men into contrarians by divine design. The fall means women are to submit to men and men are to rule women, but women will resist the rule. This has moved from subordinationism to female resistance to subordinationism.[5]   

          Therefore, there is no good historical textual and lexical evidence that justifies this understanding and translation of Genesis 3:16b, and so the new ESV rendering now is completely unjustified.  And to accept it will have negative consequences. 

[1] Announcement made on 09/14/16 by representatives of the ESV Translation Committee and Crossway Publishers.

[2] Katherine C. Bushnell. Cf. “Lesson 17: Ancient Renderings of Teshuqa” and “Lesson 18:  History of the Translation of Teshuqa,” God’s Word to Women, pp. 57-66.  Though some might disagree with her, based on the sources available to her, I think Bushnell proves that teshuqa should never be understood or translated as a lust or craving to possess or dominate the male.

[3] “Lesson 16: God’s Warning to Eve,” God’s Word to Women, pp. 56-57.

[4]Sam. Powell.  “Genesis 3:16,” article at,. (Italics are mine)

[5] Scott McKnight. "The New Stealth Translation,"