Exploring the biblical theology of Christian egalitarianism

Biblical manhood and masculinity

Introduction

My friend Bronwen Speedie recently pointed out to me that the word “manhood” is in the Bible. It occurs twice in the English Standard Version (ESV): in Ephesians 4:13 and in Hosea 12:3. Is “manhood” really the best word to convey the sense the biblical authors wanted to express in these two verses?

“Manhood” is a loaded term in some Christian circles. Wayne Grudem, who is on the Oversight Committee of the ESV, has even co-edited a book entitled Recovering Biblical Manhood and Womanhood.

Wayne Grudem and some other Christians, including several of the translators of the ESV, believe in an ideology called complementarianism. Complementarians are Christians who place a great deal of importance on gender differences which they believe boils down to male-only leadership (“manhood”) and submission from women to male authority (“womanhood”). This ideology seems to have affected the ESV’s translation of various passages of scripture in various ways. One of the ways the ESV supports the concepts of male-only leadership, as well as male primacy, is by using masculine language rather than gender-inclusive language.

Masculine Nouns and Pronouns in the ESV

The ESV follows the translation principles set out in the Colorado Springs Guidelines. These guidelines give preference to masculine language such as “men,” “brothers,” “sons,” and “fathers” even in many instances where the biblical context and meaning is broader humanity: men and women, brothers and sisters, sons and daughters, parents or ancestors and not just fathers. (The guidelines can be viewed here.) [1]

Masculine nouns, such as “brothers” when the meaning is “brothers and sisters,” effectively distance women from the text. I experienced this a while ago when I read the book of Hebrews in the ESV. It felt like nothing in Hebrews was relevant to me as a woman. It was unpleasant and disconcerting to feel distant from the Word of God that I love so much.

Here are just three examples of masculine nouns in gender-inclusive verses:

That is why [Jesus] is not ashamed to call them brothers . . .
Therefore he had to be made like his brothers in every respect, so that he might become a merciful and faithful high priest in the service of God . . .
Therefore, holy brothers, you who share in a heavenly calling, consider Jesus, the apostle and high priest of our confession (Hebrews 2:11, 17; 3:1 ESV, italics added).[2]

The ESV also prefers masculine pronouns such as “he” and “him” even if the intended sense is gender-inclusive (e.g., 2 Cor. 5:17 ESV). Wayne Grudem and Vern Poythress, both on the ESV Oversight Committee, have written against gender-inclusive Bibles (the TNIV in particular) and state, “’He’ includes both men and women, but does so using a male example as a pictorial starting point.”[3] They admit that “In a subtle way, this use brings along with it an unequal prominence to men and women.” (Italics added)[4] By choosing to use masculine pronouns, the ESV makes men more prominent than women, even in Bible passages that, potentially, apply equally to women in the original languages.

“Act Like Men” in 1 Corinthians 16:13 ESV

It’s not just nouns and pronouns that are given a masculine feel in the ESV. 1 Corinthians 16:13 is an example where an inadequate translation of a verb alters its sense and makes it seem especially relevant to men. 1 Corinthians 16:13 applies to men and to women, but in the ESV (and several older translations) it sounds as though Paul is advocating for uniquely masculine behaviour.

In the ESV, Paul tells the Corinthians to “act like men.” This verse contains the Greek verb andrizomai which the ESV translates according to the word’s etymology, rather than its actual usage and meaning in Paul’s day. The CSB, NIV, NLT, NRSV and other English Bibles correctly translate the meaning of andrizomai as “be courageous.” Paul was not telling the Christians in Corinth to behave as men, he was telling them to be brave, and Paul follows this with “be strong.”

Here is how the NRSV translates 1 Corinthians 16:13-14:

“Keep alert, stand firm in your faith, be courageous, be strong. Let all that you do be done in love.”

These words are to be heeded by both male and female followers of Jesus and do not require women to copy the mannerisms of men. Ephesians 4:13, which includes the word “manhood” in the ESV, likewise applies equally to male and female followers of Jesus.

“Manhood” in Ephesians 4:13 ESV

In Ephesians 4:11-13, Paul writes about believers, and the church as a whole, becoming mature, that is, becoming like Jesus.

Here’s how the CEB renders the meaning of verse 13:

“God’s goal is for us to become mature adults—to be fully grown, measured by the standard of the fullness of Christ.”

Here’s how the CSB translates the last part of verse 13:

“. . . growing into maturity with a stature measured by Christ’s fullness.”

This verse contains the Greek word anēr which typically refers to an adult male person. (The exact form in Ephesians 4:13 is andra.) Occasionally, however, anēr can refer to an adult person who may be either male or female (e.g., Rom. 4:8: Jas 1:12). One principle in the Colorado Springs Guidelines (A4) is that anēr should almost always be translated as “man,” but here the ESV translators have chosen not to use the word “man” but “manhood.”[5]

The ESV reads,

“. . . to mature manhood, to the measure of the stature of the fullness of Christ.” (Italics added)

For a translation that prides itself on being a fairly literal translation, why didn’t the ESV translators use the word “man” which they admit in a footnote is the literal translation of the Greek word anēr? Why didn’t they follow the recommendation of the Colorado Springs Guidelines concerning anēr? Why didn’t they, like most other modern versions, translate the sense of andra teleion which is “a mature adult”?[6]

Most English translations do not include the word “man” in verse 13. This is because Paul’s meaning has nothing to do with manhood or masculinity, but with being a grown-up. Most translators have understood that this verse applies to women believers as much as it does to their brothers.

Why “Man” in Ephesians 4:13?

So why did Paul use the Greek word anēr (“man”) rather than the more inclusive word anthrōpos which means “person” or “human”? Here are some reasons why “man” makes better sense than “human” in Ephesians 4:13.

~ Paul used the Greek word for “man” to contrast with the word “infants” which comes up in the following verse (Eph. 4:14). Men are adults and are therefore physically mature, infants are physically immature, but both men and infants are human.[7] So a word that just means “human” or “person” is not satisfactory. LSJ, the most exhaustive lexicon of Ancient Greek, shows that anēr is often used opposite, or in contrast to, (I) a woman, (II) a god, or (III) a youth. (See here.) Paul uses it in Ephesians 4:13 to contrast with a very young person, an infant.

~ In the first-century world, women, generally speaking, were not regarded as models of maturity. Women did not have the educational and social advantages that free men had, and so were hindered from developing and maturing. But Paul is not contrasting men with women. He wants “all” to be mature. This “all” includes men and women.

~ Another factor to consider is that in the ancient world, the male sex was considered by some to be the primary sex or the normative sex.[8] Moreover, it was considered to be the superior sex.[9] Given this understanding, “man” rather than “woman” or even “human” makes Paul’s point clearer.

~ Lastly, Jesus Christ became a male human. He is a man, even though he is rarely referred to as an anēr in the Greek New Testament. (He is typically referred to as an anthrōpos.) Jesus is the model for mature humanity.

For these reasons, anēr (“man”) is rhetorically stronger and a more apt word than anthrōpos (“person/human”) in Ephesians 4:13. Paul chose to use “man” to make a point about maturity; his point was not about masculinity or manhood. Jesus is just as much the role model for his female followers as for his male followers.

Conclusion

If “manhood” wasn’t such a loaded term, it might not be a problem. But some Christians are heavily invested in their ideas of manhood and womanhood, despite the fact that the Bible does not describe what it means to be a man or a woman. Thankfully, “womanhood” does not occur in the ESV.

The Word of God is for all followers of Jesus. But by deliberately choosing to use masculine language, the translators of the ESV are obscuring the fact that many Bible passages include women just as much as their brothers.


Footnotes

[1] The original version of the Colorado Springs Guidelines had to be amended when someone looked at a Greek lexicon and discovered that the common Greek word adelphoi can mean “brothers and sisters” and not just “brothers.” Wayne Grudem and Vern Poythress, who were signatories to the original and amended guidelines, explain:

. . . the major Greek lexicons for over 100 years have said that adelphoi, which is the plural of the word adelphos, “brother,” sometimes means “brothers and sisters” (see BAGD, 1957 and 1979, Liddell-Scott-Jones, 1940 and even 1869). This material was new evidence to those of us who wrote the May 27 guidelines—we weren’t previously aware of this pattern of Greek usage outside the Bible. Once we saw these examples and others like them, we felt we had to make some change in the guidelines.
Vern Poythress and Wayne Grudem, The TNIV and the Gender Neutral Bible Controversy (Nashville, TN: B&H Academic, 2000), 425–426.

In his review of the CSB, Mark L. Strauss makes the comment that it was Daniel Wallace who alerted the men that adelphoi can include sisters.

However, Dan Wallace, New Testament professor at Dallas Seminary, sent the formulators of the Guidelines examples from secular Greek where ἀδελφοί clearly meant “brothers and sisters.” For example, a passage from the Oxyrhynchus Papyri (713, 20–23; AD 97) reads, “My father died leaving me and my ἀδελφοί Diodorus and Theis as his heirs.” While Diodorus is a man’s name, Theis is a woman’s name. The Greek term is thus fully inclusive in this context, meaning “brother and sister” or “siblings.” Guideline B.1 was subsequently revised as follows: “the plural adelphoi can be translated ‘brothers and sisters’ where the context makes clear that the author is referring to both men and women.”
Strauss, “A Review of the Christian Standard Bible,” Themelios 44.2 (Source)

The fact the adelphoi can mean “brothers and sisters” is fairly common knowledge for those who have studied Greek. It is astonishing that Wayne Grudem, who has been arguing about the meaning of the Greek word kephalē (“head”) since the ’90s did not know this simple fact.

[2] See also Hebrews 3:12; 5:1; 10:19; 13:22 ESV, etc. This use of “brothers” and “men,” etc, continues in the ESV’s translation of other books of the Bible.

[3] Wayne Grudem and Vern Poythress, The Gender Neutral Bible Controversy (Nashville, Tennessee: Broadman and Holman, 2000), 145.

[4] Grudem and Poythress, The Gender Neutral Bible Controversy, 145.

[5] Carolyn Custus James gives a more amusing example of inconsistency in the ESV’s translation of “man” here.

[6] William Barclay comments on the Greek word teleios in Philippians 3:12 and 15, but it also applies to Ephesians 4:13:

Teleios in Greek has a variety of interrelated meanings. In the vast majority of them, it signifies not what we might call abstract perfection but a kind of functional perfection, adequacy for some given purpose. It means to be full grown as distinct from underdeveloped; for example, it is used of a fully grown adult as opposed to an underdeveloped youth. It is used to mean mature in mind, and therefore means one who is qualified in a subject as opposed to someone who is still learning.
William Barclay, The Letters to the Philippians, Colossians and Thessalonians, The New Daily Study Bible, (Edinburgh: Saint Andrew Press, 1975, 2003),77.

[7] In Hosea, where “manhood” occurs one more time in the ESV, Jacob’s actions as an unborn baby and as an adult are mentioned side by side (Hos. 12:3 ESV).

[8] Based on the work of Thomas W. Laqueur, presented in his book Making Sex: Body and Gender From the Greeks to Freud (Cambridge: Harvard University Press, 1990), Susan Hylen explains, with some caution, that in the mind of some ancient thinkers there was one sex, not two.

In 1990, Thomas Laqueur argued that the ancient Greeks and Romans conceived of sex and gender very differently from people today. Instead of two distinct biological sexes, there was only one. The male sex was normative, and females were simply a subset of the male. Laqueur showed that authors like the fourth-century B.C.E. philosopher Aristotle and second-century C.E. physician Galen understood male and female reproductive anatomy to be identical—except that the female’s was interior instead of exterior to the body. “Instead of being divided by their reproductive anatomies, the sexes are linked by a common one.” Laqueur concluded that in these centuries “woman does not exist as an ontologically distinct category.” This conception was very different from modern formulations of sex and gender. The ancient conception of sex that Laqueur traced was also different from modern notions because it was inherently hierarchical. It assumed that women were biologically inferior to men. In a classic example, Aristotle wrote, “The female is as it were a deformed male (Gen. an. 2.3 [737a28]). As Laqueur argued, “The ancients saw women as “inverted and hence less perfect men.” This hierarchical understanding was widely shared in ancient sources. . . .
Although the one-sex model can help modern readers encounter some of our own biases, it is limited in helping us understand the lives of ancient women. This model may not have been the only way ancient people understood sex and gender.
Susan E. Hylen, Women in the New Testament World (New York: Oxford University Press, 2018), 5-6, 8. (Google Books)

[9] This is quite different from what Genesis 1 tells us, that humanity was made as male and female and that both men and women have the same status, the same authority (i.e. authorization from God), and the same purpose. Paul did not seem to think that males were superior and females inferior. In Galatians 3:28 he wrote that, in Christ, there is neither male and female. In 1 Corinthians 11:11-12 he wrote that men and women need each other and are mutually interdependent. But Paul did understand the ancient mindset and wrote with it in mind.

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Photo by Khaled Reese from Pexels


Podcast: The challenges of being a woman in male-dominated American Evangelicalism

I love this Theology in the Raw podcast with Dr Lynn Cohick and Preston Sprinkle, here. At the 22.10 minute mark, Lynn shares that she cried when reading the many masculine pronouns in 1 Corinthians in the NIV 1984, and asked, “Where am I in the text?” I cried when I realised that the masculine pronouns in Romans 12:6-8 in the NIV 1984 were unwarranted and misleading, and that these verses in the Greek do not exclude women.

Most modern English translations, such as the NIV 2011, do not contain the plethora of masculine pronouns that previous translations and, to a lesser extent, the ESV have which distance women from the text. The Colorado Springs Guidelines and Bible translations that adopt these guidelines, such as the ESV, hurt women.


Related Articles

Which Bible Translation is Best?
Why Masculine Pronouns can be misleading in English Bible and in the Church
The ESV Bible’s Men-Only Club
Junia in Romans 16:7 (ESV)
Gender Bias and the New Living Translation (NLT)
Why does Mary Kassian think the new NIV is bad for women?
The New Testament Household Codes are about Power, not Gender
25 Biblical Roles for Biblical Women

Further Reading

The Bible as a Product of Cultural Power: The Case of Gender Ideology in the English Standard Version by Samuel Perry (on Academia.edu)
Eternal Subordination of the Son and the ESV Study Bible by Rachel Green Miller (here).
Contrary Women: Genesis 3:16b in the (now non-) Permanent ESV by Matt Lynch (on Theological Miscellany)

29 thoughts on “Manhood and Masculinity in the ESV

  1. So, many churches that cling to traditional or complementary views also believe that women are more easily deceived and more irrational then men.

    Then those churches turn around and make everything seem to revolve around men. The verses seem to apply to men only, Christ was for sure a Heman, etc.

    If we are unable to grasp many of these subtilties of the faith, then why are they attempting to confuse us brain fogged women folk more by not spelling out where women are included or not included. I asked that of a few people and the answer is usually along the lines of, “Well, everyone knows who each verse refers to.” So, I ask – are women then a lot more able to use rational thought than you have been saying?

    Ah, fun times. I usually get a non-answer such as my conversationalist needing more coffee, or he has someone else to talk to, etc.

    1. Mary Kassian is one such person who thinks women should just know which “man/men” verses apply to them and which don’t.

      But surely this is mostly guesswork. Why resort to guessing? Why not translate the Greek more carefully?

  2. My take is the ESV is by far the most masculinist English translation. What they have done is every example I have seen with essentially all verses related to gender/sex is to select the most masculinist choice that they think is able to be argued as plausible to their comp. followers. It can be used as a canonical example in a classroom of how much power translators have to bias the result through their translation choices.

    1. Of the modern and popular English translations, the ESV is very masculinist. The NLT doesn’t fare much better.

  3. Marg, You ring my bells here… Some fifty years ago two very active bible studies, one suburban, one inner city, merged and made an independent church in Syracuse, NY where we determined that the Word of God would be the basis of our preaching and teaching and that our teaching and preaching would be based upon the critical text as best we could handle it. There were several latinos and North American Natives Romans in the mix, enough so that no one group was a majority. We were all about diversity… and Romans 12 and First 1 Corinthians Chs. 12-15 shaped our polity. Yes the name of the church is Greater love in Christ Church, GLICC for short. Don’t you love acronyms? The Romans Ch. 6 passage referenced above, in context was core to the issue of women in the church who had many gifts distributed severally by God the Holy Spirit, teaching and preaching; wisdom and knowledge; and administration being among them. True the terms man, brother etc… are in the masculine gender in Romans 6, but they are all, be they in the verb form or pronouns, are all used collectively, and so used are consistent with the Genesis theology, “Let us make man in our image. Male and female made he them.” The male in the Garden got it right, “Bone of my bones, flesh of my flesh, (i.e., another one just like me…) Here in Romans Paul; makes no distinction as he uses language that reflects the common Greek syntax of the day. Connotation of any term depends upon context… DUH… Here, Paul clearly is comfortable that his readers think the same way. The collective idea is no big deal, we use it idiomatically in our culture all the time… of man or brother… ‘guys’ as a kind… male or female. Think about it, the idiom “youse guys” is inclusive of women in all kinds of cultural contexts… until it isn’t… Indeed, AT Robertson, the great American grammarian said notably, “The genius of language lies within those who use it. Back in the day in GLICC’s organizational stages we spent a lot of time here and other places where scripture is, for lack of another term, “abused”… Note Manfred Beauch in “The Abuse of Scripture, IVP Academic, 2009 (a tip read by Marg a year ago or so… The Preface (Where he uses the term “over/under’ abuse of power is powerful) and Introduction are worth the price, $8.00 +/- US, on Amazon dot com…). By doing the math it is easily seen that it has taken the academic world a while to get on board with what some of the the local churches had already become well aware. I and my now dearly beloved wife, Irene (meaning ‘Peace’ in the koine Greek, and a great teacher and powerful preacher) would have been so comforted by someone like our Marg…!!! We were soo alone… and not “learned”, rather “untaught” as I was reminded from time to time. and our pastor also, who, as a kid had picked cotton in the Mississippi delta and much later went on to get an MSW and serve as Adjunct Professor in Maxwell School of Sociology at Syracuse University. Out of the Black tradition he was a very powerful preacher of this gospel, this Word of freedom in Christ for all, not just the males… In the Sixties and later years, and yes even sadly to this day, few traditional Evangelicals had little use for black or female preachers… Yes the church grew and many went on to do great things by any standard… having been set free as persons in Christ, neither Jew nor Greek, bond nor free… male and female… BTW, Irene loved to remind all who had ears to hear that she loved to know that she was a son of Abraham… Love you all..

    1. Thanks, Russell.

      Yes, “over” and “under” should be banned when talking about fellow believers.

      The ESV show their bias in Romans 12:6-8. Is that the passage you meant?

      The ESV reveals its bias in Romans 12:6-8. The five masculine articles with the participles in Romans 12:6-8 (= “the one who xyz”) are translated gender-neutrally and inclusively in the ESV, but the masculine pronoun “his” has been inserted in the two phrases about teaching and exhorting. Masculine pronouns have not, however, been inserted in the other phrases even though the grammatical construction of the three following phrases is almost identical with the teaching and exhorting phrases, and similar to the ministry/service phrase (in that it includes ἐν τῇ).

      “Having gifts that differ according to the grace given to us, let us use them: if prophecy, in proportion to our faith; if service, in our serving; the one who teaches, in his teaching; the one who exhorts, in his exhortation; the one who contributes, in generosity; the one who leads, with zeal; the one who does acts of mercy, with cheerfulness” Romans 12:6-8 ESV (bold added).

      The ESV translators have chosen to insert the masculine pronoun “his” in regards to teaching and exhortation, but not for serving, contributing, leading, and doing acts of mercy. This translation choice is not based on the Greek text. (From here.)

      Compare with the same passage in the CSB:
      “According to the grace given to us, we have different gifts: If prophecy, use it according to the proportion of one’s faith; if service, use it in service; if teaching, in teaching; if exhorting, in exhortation; giving, with generosity; leading, with diligence; showing mercy, with cheerfulness.”

  4. Thanks again Marg, for an excellent article! One thing that stood out from the “Colorado Guideline” was the amount of fear in feminine pronouns, and the fear of being wrong. They admit that the noun most associated with Jesus is gender-neutral, yet try to make Jesus as masculine as possible.

    Btw, I really appreciate your footnotes. I read the articles linked in your footnotes, and I love Carolyn Curtis’ comeback 🙂 “all men are liars.”

    1. Hahaha, I like Carolyn’s observation too.

      I think I’ve only seen Jesus referred to as an anēr twice in the Greek New Testament. He is consistently referred to as an anthrōpos (“human”).

      It is because Jesus became a human that he can be our perfect saviour and mediator: “For there is one God and one mediator between God and humanity, the human Christ Jesus” (1 Tim. 2:5).

  5. I think all of the examples given from the ESV actually make sense..

    – The reference to “brothers” in Hebrews 2-3 highlights the fact that the followers of Jesus share in his priestly ministry (3:1), and within the old covenant Levitical context that the author is reflecting on, the priests would have been exclusively male. Of course, in the new covenant both men and women share in this priesthood, but it makes sense for the language to remain somewhat ambiguous in order to reinforce the theological connection being established by the author.

    – 1 Corinthians 16:13 – As I understand it, andrizomai doesn’t simply mean “be courageous” but also has the sense of acting like an adult rather than a child. “Act like men” gets this sense across in a way that “be courageous” doesn’t. Of course “act like an adult” wouldn’t work either as this wouldn’t necessarily convey the notion of courage.

    – Ephesians 4:13 – “Manhood” here works better than “man” since the verse describes the church as growing up into the maturity of *the* man (Christ) but without saying that the church is actually becoming Christ. “Manhood” is a good middle ground between a generic “adulthood” (which loses the reference to Christ) and a specific “man” (which conflates Christ and the Church as his body).

    1. Hi Chris,

      The examples given do make sense in the ESV, but I do not believe they are the best translations. This seems to be demonstrated by your interpretation of these verses.

      ~ I do not read “brothers” as alluding to priests in Hebrews 2-3, but as referring to Abraham’s offspring, that is, to all followers and coheirs of Jesus, male and female:
      “For it is clear that he does not reach out to help angels, but to help Abraham’s offspring. Therefore, he had to be like his brothers and sisters in every way, so that he could become a merciful and faithful high priest in matters pertaining to God . . .” (Heb. 2:16-17 CSB; cf. Gal. 3:28-29).

      ~ Andrizomai means “be courageous” or “be valiant” even if a sense or nuance is “be a grown-up.” The cognate adjective andreia is used of both men and women in the Septuagint. It is used of the Proverbs 31 woman, for example, where it doesn’t mean “a grown-up” but refers to valour. Esther and Judith are described as andreia in 1 Clement 55:3-6.

      ~ It’s not Jesus’ maleness, as such, that we aspire to, but his level of maturity. “Man,” and not “adulthood” or “manhood,” is a literal and accurate translation of anēr. But “maturity” is also a good translation of andra teleion. With or without the word “man,” we don’t lose the reference to Christ, because the word “Christ” is clearly stated in Eph 4:13. Jesus Christ is our standard. And this has nothing to do with “manhood” as it is defined by Grudem and others.

      1. Hi Marg,

        I still think the ESV translations make sense.

        – Hebrews 2-3 – the book of Hebrews often weaves together different themes. The theme of believers as a priesthood is there alongside the Abrahamic language. In 3:1 “faithful service” is spoken of and I believe this refers to priestly ministry. The theme is brought out more later in the letter (chapter 10 especially) but it is present here too. The reference to “seed of Abraham” also prefers “brothers” too since although both men and women were the seed of Abraham, the rite of circumcision only applied to males.

        -1 Corinthians 16 – If it’s true that the term here has a sense/nuance of “be a grown up” then surely it makes sense to convey that sense in some way? I want translations to convey as much of the meaning as possible (whilst recognising that there are limitations to language).

        – Ephesians 4:13 – “manhood” doesn’t just mean maleness, it means maturity (it has the sense of “coming or age”). The issue is not so much that we would miss the reference to Christ with ”maturity” but rather that the poetry of the passage is undermined, since each other statement in that section refers to Christ in some way and as you point out the word is simply “man” even if it is used to mean something like “maturity” in context.

        That’s not to say, of course, that the ESV is a perfect translation or lacks biases. I just don’t think its translation choices are all that unreasonable, even if there are other options.

        1. Hi Chris,

          I agree that these verses make sense. I said as much in my previous reply. I’m not saying the ESV doesn’t make sense.

          ~ Are you saying that adelphoi in Hebrew 2-3 doesn’t really include female followers of Jesus?

          ~ “Be courageous” is the meaning of andrizomai. It’s unrealistic for a translation to bring out every nuance of a word. But if there is any doubt about the meaning, the word in its immediate (and broader) context is always helpful: “Keep alert, stand firm in your faith, be courageous, be strong.” I do not believe Paul was trying to convey a sense of “maturity,” as such, in 1 Corinthians 16:13, but of strength and courage, etc.

          ~ Wayne Grudem and others have a different definition of “manhood” to you. This is why “manhood” is problematic in the ESV. If the word wasn’t so loaded, it would not be a problem. Though I would still prefer a more inclusive word. I have never thought of myself as achieving manhood, though I am a mature adult.

          There are many other verses where the ESV reveals their gender bias, not just in these verses.

          1. Hi Marg,

            – I’m not suggesting that “adelphoi” in Hebrews 2-3 doesn’t include women. But there’s a trade-off between (1) the intended audience (both male and female) and (2) the old testament allusions to circumcision and male Levitical ministry. The Greek word “adelphoi” preserves this ambiguity since it can mean both “brothers” and “siblings”, much like the French word. English doesn’t work that way, so there has to be some kind of compromise either way.

            – On 1 Cor 16:13, I agree that the primary meaning is “be courageous” in context. But I would reject the idea that words cannot have differing shades of meaning and I think translators should do their best to preserve them. I suppose this is where the real debate happens in the “dynamic” versus “literal” translation arguments. Dynamic translators want to get the primary sense across as clearly as possible, whereas literal translators want to retain ambiguity and multiple shades of meaning as much as possible. Ultimately I think both kinds of translations can be valuable in different contexts.

            – I was not aware of differing understandings of “manhood”. I have always understood it to involve “coming of age” and a quick google search confirms this. How do you believe Wayne Grudem et all understood the term?

          2. Chris, I don’t think you’re hearing me.

            It seems we are basically in agreement that adelphoi includes women in Hebrew 2-3. And we are in agreement on what andrizomai actually means, “be courageous,” plus nuances. So I wonder why your comments sound as though you’re disagreeing with me.

            I appreciate that nuance is important, that’s why learning the Bible in its original languages is important, but the ESV doesn’t give extra nuance or extra shades of meaning to either adelphoi or andrizomai. So I’m not sure why you are bringing up this point.

            There is no ambiguity about the meaning of andrizomai. Also, I don’t think the meaning or interpretation of adelphoi in Hebrews, or in any other NT book, should be only or primarily influenced by concerns about the intended audience. Rather, the context of the actual sentences, paragraphs, and chapters is key. With all this in mind, I strongly doubt that the author of Hebrews was addressing only men, only brothers (in the English sense of the word).

            Concerning adelphoi in Hebrews 2, the context is that men and women are offspring of Abraham (Heb. 2:16-17 CSB). Circumcision and Levitical priests are not mentioned at all in the first few chapters of Hebrews, unless I’ve missed it. It seems the only thing we disagree on is that you think Hebrews 3:1 CSB alludes to the service of Levitical priests and I don’t. But even if it does, the writer is not addressing only Levitical priests. He may not be addressing any Levitical priests when he uses the word adelphoi.

            However, Jesus is called high priest (Heb. 3:1-2; 4:14-15 CSB), and men and women, brothers and sisters, who share in the heavenly calling are called to contemplate him (Heb. 3:1 CSB). Furthermore, men and women are part of God’s house mentioned in Hebrews 3:6 CSB. There is nothing to be gained by using the word “brothers” in preference to “brothers and sisters” in Hebrews 2-3.

            Also, I explain briefly how Wayne Grudem and others define “manhood” in the article. It is their understanding and their emphasis of “manhood” that is the problem. It is a shame they have put this highly loaded word into the biblical text. If “manhood” wasn’t a buzz word used by Grudem and others, there would be no problem.

            I’m not understanding your concern, if there is one. If your concern is that I don’t think Hebrews 3:1ff alludes to the service of Levitical priests, then we are at a stalemate as I can’t see how it is possible that the author of Hebrews is addressing priests in Hebrews 3:1ff. Either way, this point is not crucial to my overall thesis that the ESV translation has a masculine bias that distances women from the text. I am not the only woman who experiences this.

  6. Thank you for the many hours you spent in researching this particularly, important matter and then crafting a well-planned article that alerts us to these concerns. I value your balanced views.

    I had not heard of the Colorado Springs Guidelines. I do recall the fear here in the US that the biblical feminists (an oxymoron to any fundamental evangelical) were getting the upper hand and that something better be done before we all careen over the cliff to our death.

    The later ‘apology’ about adelphos/adelphoi is suspect in my mind. If the team honestly did not know this information then all their work should be suspect.

    More upsetting is the thought that they knew, and simply spouted out their own cultural views without actually studying the matter? I find it difficult to believe they didn’t know–these are trained scholars. This begs the questions of what is really going on? The more I study this subject (exclusion of women in ministry) the more I see a stubbornness at work and not a genuine submissiveness to the Word of God. (See, this is why it’s good you wrote the article! You have a gift for writing without all the emotion!).

    The guidelines are troubling indeed…especially after I have studied Greek and Hebrew and have gained a better understanding (yet have a long way to go) of the task of translation. I’m curious if the committee members and the others attached to that group still hold to those precise principles today?

    Another troubling factor in all of this is that the everyday person in the pews is discouraged by the whole translation issue. I teach and preach in a small church. I have tried to address this when we all read from a variety of translations and encounter differences. The responses are mixed: it doesn’t matter (because they don’t trust it anymore) or they simply pick the one that supports their views.

    Take care…

    1. Thanks, Brenda.

      There seems to be a lot of fear in some quarters of the church. I’m more optimistic.

      It is astounding, to say the least, that neither Grudem or Poythress had an adequate understanding of the Greek word adelphoi when they first contributed to the Colorado Springs Guidelines. I’m amazed they can be so candid about their previous ignorance regarding this common word.

      1. Ann Nyland’s “Against Grudem: Aner and Masculinist Misprisions of New
        Testament Meaning” explains in detail why Grudem does not know basic things taught in a 1st year Biblical Greek class. I sent it to you in case you did not have it. P.S. This was the first article where I had to look up the definition for 2 words in the title, Masculinist and Misprisions.

        1. I’m also puzzled over the way Grudem repeatedly handles hypotassomenoi allēlois (Eph. 5:21) in his paper The Myth of Mutual Submission. I have note on that here: https://margmowczko.com/mutual-submission-is-not-a-myth/

          You’d think someone who was involved in translating Bibles would have a better grasp of Greek.

          Thanks for sending me Nyland’s paper!

          1. It’s surprising that Wayne Grudem is a Harvard grad with the lack of scholarship. I wish him well.

          2. Dr Grudem earned an economics degree from Harvard. He earned his doctorates from Westminster Theological Seminary and the University of Cambridge.

  7. I just want to say “thank you!”. I am so deeply grateful for your scholarship and sharing it via your blog and emails. You are an amazing encouragement to me as a disciple of Jesus, the Christ!

    1. You’re welcome, Katherine.

  8. I’ve received many comments in various places on the internet in response to this article. Some people, all men, have not understood my concerns. They think it’s fine to tell a woman to “act like a man” and that she will understand what that means and how to apply it. They think that women will feel completely included when the word “brothers” is repeatedly used.

    I can’t speak for all women, but I do not know how to “act like a man.” I do not relate to the word “brothers.”

    Paul and the other NT writers used language their audiences could relate to. We need to find ways to do the same while knowing, however, that there will be compromises when translating an ancient text into a modern language with modern idioms. For example, some ancient ideas, such as the adoption of sons, may need to be retained so that we don’t water down the significance of this doctrine. But ESV’s deliberate insistence on using masculine language obscures the inclusivity of the New Covenant.

    I hope those who don’t understand my concerns might have a quick look at this article: https://margmowczko.com/feminine-words-images-powerful/

    1. In response to the gentlemen (Chris Wooldridge) above who states that a quick google search confirms the definition for ‘manhood’ to mean that of ‘maturity’.

      I’ve enjoyed the comments on this blogpost.

      I did a quick google search and found five possible definitions given at https://www.merriam-webster.com/dictionary/manhood–
      1 : the condition of being a human being
      2 : qualities associated with men : MANLINESS
      3 : the condition of being an adult male as distinguished from a child or female
      4 : adult males : MEN
      5 : PENIS .

      Clearly, using the idea of ‘manhood’ in today’s culture to convince women that it carries the idea of “maturity” is naive and problematic, just as the idea of ‘womanhood’ would be for men.

  9. Thanks again for another great article! I had heard of Grudem’s complementarianism but hadn’t understood it in the context of bible translation. I’d love to hear your opinion concerning Jesus being subordinate to the Father as the ‘root’ of complementarianism.

    1. Hi Abby,

      Trinitarian debates and how it relates to gender is something I’m leaving to others. But I have written two short posts on this topic.
      One here: https://margmowczko.com/the-trinity-and-marriage/
      And another here: https://margmowczko.com/separate-spheres-roles-in-trinity-and-marriage-john-5_18-30/

      I should point out that many, perhaps most, complementarians do not believe Jesus is subordinate to the Father, and they regard this idea as heresy. Grudem does not speak for all complementarians.

  10. I’m a little late coming into the discussion. I just had to note the following re: 1 Cor 16:13: One of my favourite uses of andrizomai occurs in Micah 4:10 in the Septuagint, “Suffer pain, and be courageous [andrizomai], and draw near, O daughter Sion, like one in labor . . .” [NETS translation]. Here andrizomai is used for a feminine subject [daughter of Sion] and we have suffering pain and being courageous/andrizomai being linked to being in labour! So one could say, using ESV’s translation of andrizomai, that a woman in labour should act like a man!

    1. Thanks, Murray. This is pertinent information. Love it!

      I’ve included Malachi 4:10 here for people to check if they wish: ὤδινε καὶ ἀνδρίζου καὶ ἔγγιζε, θύγατερ Σιων, ὡς τίκτουσα. And I may add a note about this verse in my article above.

      There’s also Jeremiah 2:25 in the LXX, which is literally translated as, “She said, ‘I will embolden/fortify myself'” (ἡ δὲ εἶπεν Ἀνδριοῦμαι). But it’s not as interesting as Micah 4:10.

      For the curious, here are all the verses in the LXX that contain the word andrizomai: Deut. 31:6, 7, 23; Jos. 1:6, 6, 9, 18; 10:25; 2 Sam. 10:12; 13:28; 1 Chr. 19:13; 22:13; 28:20; 2 Chr. 32:7; Psa. 27:14; 31:24; Jer. 2:25; 18:2; Dan. 10:19; Mic. 4:10; Nah. 2:1.

      Andrizomai is often paired in the LXX with ischuō (15 times)and is occasionally paired with krataioō (3 times). Both words have the meanings “to strengthen” or “to be strong.” Andrizomai is paired with krataioō in 1 Corinthians 16:13. These pairings help to clarify the meaning of andrizomai. Bringing “men” into modern translations of andrizomai clouds the meaning.

      Esther and Judith are described as andreia in 1 Clement 55:3-6, as is the Proverbs 31 woman in the LXX.

  11. I clicked on this to read about your take on biblical manhood, but the “be strong and courageous” part stopped me short. I mean, Paul was all about the OT, right? He loved the Hebrew Bible and was just marinated in it. When I was reading the OT in English for the first time, I started to make a count/tally of every time the words, “Be strong and courageous” appeared. I lost count at some point, but there were a LOT. When I got the New Testament, the references Paul makes to “Be strong and courageous” are multiple unless I’m remembering incorrectly.

    Why would anyone want to erase that parallel language from our reading of Paul’s letters? I LOVED that he said “Be strong and courageous” because it pulled me back into the Hebrew Bible from the Greek Bible. Is the language in the Greek testament different in some way from all those strong and courageous lines in the OT?

    I’m babbling I think, but my main question is this: I love “Be strong and courageous.” I say it to myself whenever I am anxious, and I latched onto that repeated phrase VERY early in my Bible reading. I have always assumed Paul’s “be courageous, be strong” phrases were a mirror of the same words in the OT. I cannot read the ancient languages. Since you can, I was hoping you might tell me if the words are somehow different or unrelated…if I have been making an association between the OT and NT that isn’t really there.

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