Exploring the biblical theology of Christian egalitarianism

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New Living Translation


For Mabel

At first glance, the translators of the New Living Translation (NLT) give the impression that they are supportive of Christian women. This is because they have frequently translated the common Greek word adelphoi into “brothers and sisters” instead 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.

As for salvation, the translators of the NLT make it clear that both brothers and sisters, 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 appear to have allowed this opinion to influence their translation choices. 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 taken several liberties in their translation to promote the concept of male authority in the church and also in the home.

In this article, I look at a few Bible verses that are biased in the NLT, and I include the corresponding verse(s) from the NIV 2011 or CSB as a comparison. The NIV 2011 and CSB, however, are not my points 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 this passage is fairly gender-neutral in the Greek.[2] The NLT, however, gives one of the most biased translations 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 2015 is identical except it has replaced “elder” with “church leader.”)

The NLT translators (or publishers) have taken an enormous liberty with their version of verse 2, especially 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 they have added “a man” to assert their opinion.[4]

The NLT translation of the phrase “a noble task” (NIV, NRSV, ESV) or “a good work” (NET, KJV) 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 wary of a Christian leader whose motivation for ministry is an honourable position.

While it is true that the qualifications in 1 Timothy 3:1-6 are about social respectability, I believe that by referring to the role of church leadership as an honourable position, the NLT may be misrepresenting the function and role of church leaders (overseers) 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 ministers. 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 also appear to exclude women.

More about 1 Timothy 3:1ff and Paul’s qualifications for overseers 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 and to her children” (2 John 1, italics added). The Greek word for “lady” used here is kuria. Kuria is the feminine form of kurios which means “lord” or “master.” Both kuria and kurios were terms usually used for people of elevated rank and power. However, the words were also used as terms of 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 person and that “her children” was the Christian community she cared for. 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 & 2015 my underline.)

“Dear friends” in verse 5 obscures the fact that the lady (kuria) is singled out for mention twice in the letter and that she was a real woman and likely a host and leader of a house church.

The NLT translators treat 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 has added a footnote to “the chosen lady and to her children” in verse 1 where they give an 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 referred to themselves using this term denoting rank and respect. I suspect the main reason why some today suggest that the “chosen lady” was a metaphor for a congregation is because they have difficulty accepting that a woman looked after and cared for a congregation. The NLT suggests that the chosen sister (mentioned in 2 John 1:13) is also a metaphor for a congregation.[8]

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

More about the Chosen Lady in 2 John here.

1 Timothy 2:11-15

The NLT translation of 1 Timothy 2:11-15 incorrectly uses several plural words which potentially broadens the scope of the passage.

Women should learn quietly and submissively. I do not let women teach men or have authority over them. Let them listen quietly. For God made Adam first, and afterward he made Eve. And it was not Adam who was deceived by Satan. The woman was deceived, and sin was the result. But women will be saved through childbearing, assuming they continue to live in faith, love, holiness, and modesty. (NLT 2007 & 2015, my underlines.)

In the Greek of this passage, the words for “woman” and “man” and the verb for “s/he will be saved” are singular, not plural. And the inclusion of the plural word “them” is unjustified. It is entirely possible that Paul is speaking about a certain couple in the Ephesian church in 1 Timothy 2:11-15, and not women and men more generally, but the NLT does not convey this possibility.[9]

In this instance, I have chosen the Christian Standard Bible as a comparison as it is slightly more faithful to the Greek text than the NIV.

A woman is to learn quietly with full submission. I do not allow a woman to teach or to have authority over a man; instead, she is to remain quiet. For Adam was formed first, then Eve. And Adam was not deceived, but the woman was deceived and transgressed. But she will be saved through childbearing, if they continue in faith, love, and holiness with good sense. (CSB)

Considering the importance and (undue) priority these verses are given in discussions about women in ministry, it is disappointing the NLT has not translated them more accurately.

More about 1 Timothy 2:12 and its context here.

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 here. Some even say we cannot be truly certain which thoughts are Paul’s own thoughts in the passage, and which are the thoughts of some Corinthians that Paul quotes from and responds to. Perhaps the clearest statements in this passage are in verses 11 and 12 where Paul seems to correct, or expand on, the preceding thoughts: “Nevertheless, in the Lord woman is not independent of man, nor is man independent of woman. 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 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.[10] A woman has the authority, liberty, right, freedom and even the power to determine how to present her head (or, hairstyle). 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 & 2015, my underline.)

In this translation, the NLT translators have crafted their words to say that a woman is under someone else’s authority and that she needs to wear a head covering to show that she is under that authority. Yet this is not at all what the Greek text says here. Firstly, the Greek word exousia is typically used to refer to 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-only authority is a widespread belief in Christianity and yet it has no firm basis in New Testament Scripture.[11] Secondly, there is no word meaning “covering” in the Greek text of this passage.[12]

More about “authority” in 1 Corinthians 11:10 here.
More about 1 Corinthians 11:2-16 here.

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 married women in Asia Minor to be submissive to their mostly unsaved husbands. In some churches, wifely submission has been greatly exaggerated. In its military sense, submission (hupotassō) means “to be subordinate.”[13] However, there are a range of nuances and forces in the use of hupotassō in ancient Greek. In the intimate relationship of marriage, and also in Christian relationships, more severe forms of submission and subjection can be unhelpful and harmful. [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. The NLT 2015 is identical except for the sentence, “They put their trust in God and accepted the authority of their husbands.”)

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 impression here is that the Bible sanctions the idea of male authority over wives.

1 Corinthians 7:4 is the only verse in the New Testament that states husbands have authority (exousia) of their wives; however it also states that wives have authority (exousia) of 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)[14] Evidence of a Biblical mandate for male-only authority in New Covenant relations is flimsy.

In his letter, Peter also mentions that Sarah referred to her husband Abraham as her “lord” (Greek-kurios). The word “lord” (kurios) is used many times in the New Testament. Kurios can mean “master” but it can also be a term of respect such as “sir.” Interestingly, Rebekah calls Abraham’s servant ”sir” (kurios) in Genesis 24:18 LXX. And Mary Magdalene called Jesus “sir” (kurios) in John 20:15 when she thought he was the gardener! In keeping with their agenda to promote male authority, the NLT translators 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. Was this the relationship between Abraham and Sarah? Was this dynamic of control and subordination what Peter wanted to promote? I doubt it.

More about the instructions to wives and to husbands 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)

It can be difficult to work out why Paul juxtaposes verses 31 and 32, but the NLT’s paraphrase presents a 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 & 2015, my underline.)

Is marriage an illustration of the unity between Christ and the church as the NLT states? Some 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 sometimes 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, not husbands and wives. Her articles are herehere and here. [I also have articles on Ephesians 5:22-33 here, and (a shorter one) here.]

Interestingly, the NLT puts the Ephesians 5:21-33 passage under their heading Spirit-Guided Relationships: Wives and Husbands. Verse 21 states: “Submit to one another out of reverence for Christ.” The NLT translators recognise that submission is required of husbands too, and they have made some interesting choices of wording in this passage which makes it sound as though mutual submission is just for husbands and wives. However, submission should be a feature of all Spirit-guided relationships, that is, mutual submission should be a feature of the relationships between all Christians and not just in marriage.

More about Paul’s words to wives and to husbands in Ephesians 5:22-33 here.

Genesis 3:16b

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

This verse mentions one of the ramifications of sin entering the world. Eve’s desire (teshuqah) would be for her husband, but he would rule over her.[15] 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, many women have still desired marriage and motherhood.

And you will desire to control your husband, but he will rule over you. (NLT 2007 & 2015, 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, because of sin, women would seek to control their husbands.[16] 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 have given many women little control over their own lives, let alone control over their husbands’ lives. The NIV translation presents a more accurate picture of the behaviour of women and men throughout the centuries than the NLT translation.

More on the meaning of the Hebrew word teshuqah (“desire”) in Genesis 3:16 here.

Genesis 16:13

Genesis 16:13, where Hagar gives God a name after an extraordinary encounter with the Angel of the Lord, is another verse translated poorly in the NLT.

Thereafter, Hagar used another name to refer to the LORD, who had spoken to her. She said, “You are the God who sees me.” She also said, “Have I truly seen the One who sees me?” (NLT)

Compare this with Genesis 16:13 in the CSB.

So she named the LORD who spoke to her: “You are El-roi,” for she said, “In this place, have I actually seen the one who sees me?” (CSB)

A formulaic combination of qara, a Hebrew verb that means “call,” and shem, a noun that means “name,” is used frequently in Genesis when naming a person, place, or thing. This naming formula is used in Genesis 16:13 (and in Genesis 16:11). Hagar gave God a name, a name that is recorded in scripture, but this is not what the NLT says.


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 other Bible translations difficult to comprehend. However, it is important for readers to be aware that the NLT promotes male authority in the church. It also seems to promote male authority in the home but, at the same time, acknowledges that mutual submission and honour in marriage is the biblical ideal (cf. 1 Pet. 3:7 NLT).

The few verses which I’ve highlighted in this article are incorrectly translated from the Greek; they are misleading in the NLT.[17] Sadly, the NLT translators cannot make the same claim that Paul made in 2 Corinthians 4:2b: “. . . we don’t tamper with God’s word . . .” (CEB).

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. © 1973, 1978, 1984, 2010 by Biblica.

Verses marked (NLT 2007 & 2015) are taken from Holy Bible, New Living Translation. © 1996, 2004, 2007, 2015 by Tyndale House Foundation.

Verses marked (CSB) are taken from The Christian Standard Bible. © 2017 by Holman Bible Publishers.


[1] Traditionally, English translations of the New Testament have translated the word adelphoi 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, CSB) translate adelphoi as “brothers and sisters” or simply as “believers”. More on adelphoi as “brothers and sisters,” here. (The NLT inexplicably translates adelphos as “someone” in Matthew 5:22.)

[2] See my article on Paul’s qualification for church leaders in 1 Timothy 3 here.

[3] On the New Living Translation website it states, “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.” (Source)
Neither of these Greek texts, however, contains a phrase that says an elder must be “a man”, or anything remotely similar in 1 Timothy 3:1-2.

[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] The Greek kalon ergon (“good work”) is sometime used as an idiom that refers to benefactions. More on this here.

[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, family, 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 also wonder at the NLT’s choice of words “afterward,” “Satan,” and “assuming.” These words seem to give a heightened sense of the creation order and Eve’s deception, which I do not believe was Paul’s intention, while at the same time giving a sense of uncertainty about the ability of women to behave themselves. [More about 1 Timothy 2:13f here.]

[10] 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.
Gordon D. Fee has observed that there is no known evidence that exousia is ever used in a passive sense. Fee, The First Epistle to the Corinthians (NICNT; Grand Rapids: Eerdmans, 1987), 519. That is, the usage of the word indicates that a person can have and can exercise exousia (authority/power/freedom) in an active sense, and that the word is not typically used in the sense of a person or people being under, or being affected by, someone else’s exousia in a passive sense. More on exousia in 1 Cor. 11:10 here.

[11] The husband is called the “head” (kephalē) of his wife (Eph 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 that include the word “authority” as a possible translation. [More information about the Greek word kephalē is here.]

[12] 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, or some other hairstyle, which was culturally inappropriate at that time and suggested sexual promiscuity or the renunciation of sex. [More about 1 Corinthians 11:2-16 here.]

[13] “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.'” (Source)

[14] “The wife gives authority over her body to her husband, and the husband gives authority over his body to his wife” (1 Cor. 7:4 NLT 2007 & 2015).” I have more about 1 Corinthians 7:4, including its context, here.

[15] It is unclear what sort of desire is being spoken about in Genesis 3:16. Perhaps the wife’s desire is merely for companionship with 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 these desires being met. More on “desire” in Genesis 3:16 here.

[16] Susan T. Foh, “What is the Woman’s Desire? The Westminster Theological Journal 37 (1974/75), 376-383. This paper is available online here.

[17] The NLT claims to follow a dynamic-equivalence translation philosophy. While all translation involves a degree of interpretation, I believe some NLT translators have deliberately translated certain passages about women with a bias that goes beyond objective interpretation. 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 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. (Source)

Postscript July 11 2022: Micah 6:4

The NLT has Moses, Aaron, and Miriam as “helpers” in Micah 6:4:
“For I brought you out of Egypt and redeemed you from slavery. I sent Moses, Aaron, and Miriam to help you.”
Compare this with the NASB:
“Indeed, I brought you up from the land of Egypt, I redeemed you from the house of slavery, And I sent before you Moses, Aaron, and Miriam.”
Moses, Aaron, and Miriam were leaders. God sent them before Israel. More about Miriam here.

Other verses of concern are Exodus 20:7 NLT which is too vague, and 1 Samuel 8:22 NLT which includes a phrase that is not present in the Hebrew or Greek.

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22 thoughts on “Gender Bias in the New Living Translation (NLT)

  1. 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.”

  2. 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 conversely they translate “kuria” as “dear friends” to obscure that Kuria Electa (or the Chosen Lady) was a woman and likely female church leader.

  3. 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.

  4. Hi John, I write about this topic here https://margmowczko.com/pauls-qualifications-for-church-leaders/
    In this other article I discuss two of the qualifications from Paul’s lists because these are the two that some people think apply only to men. They think 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. 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 from leadership ministries.

    I hope that makes things a little clearer.

  5. 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

  6. John, the fact that a “one-woman-man” is an idiom is not debated by New Testament scholars. What exactly the idiom means is not altogether clear, however. It seems 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 excerpt from BDAG (arguably the most comprehensive Greek lexicon on New Testament Greek) about the usage of “one-woman-man”:
    “μιᾶς γυναικὸς ἀνήρ a husband married only once (numerous sepulchral ins[criptions] celebrate the virtue of a surviving spouse by noting that he or she was married only once, thereby suggesting 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), 292.

    Jesus says nothing about either male leadership or female leadership, in the church. Jesus never referred to his male disciples as “leaders.” And Jesus never said that women cannot be leaders or teachers. I have written more about the precedent of the 12 apostles and male leadership here: https://margmowczko.com/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.

    Neither 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, but refers to domineering and controlling behaviour. More on authentein here.

    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. More on 1 Corinthians 7:4 here. And nowhere in the New Testament are husbands told to lead their wives.

    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. 🙂

    1. Yes, keep it open as there is rhyme and reason to much of what Paul taught. First thing, your understanding of 1 Corinthians 7:4 is a bit off as here Paul is speaking only of’sexuality benevolence authority’. This is were we get the vow in marriage, “Do you promise to give yourselves to each other” This is serious and not to be taken as anything but a warning as “satan is the tempter”, verse 5.

      To gain understanding of the male role that Paul was admonishing in 1 Timothy 3, one must see his reasoning that goes clear back to the fall in 1 Timothy 2:13,14. Here is both the protocol and reasoning behind his teaching of male authority.

      Be careful and discerning. Thank’s

      1. My point is that 1 Corinthians 7:4 is the only New Testament verse which states that a husband has authority. I write about the context of this verse here:https://margmowczko.com/1-corinthians-74-in-a-nutshell/

  7. 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.

  8. 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?

  9. 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.

  10. Hi John #2,

    I am not 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. All godly authority in the church is the authority to function in a ministry; it is not an authority “over” another capable brother or sister. Unfortunately, some English translations add the word “over” in verses that speak about leadership in the church. But this is misleading. It seems we 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 teacher. And she taught him on a doctrinal or theological topic: 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 this is conjecture, one thing is more certain: she had the authority to send some men to Paul. The men are identified in the Greek New Testament as being “of Chloe” (1 Cor. 1:11). Much of 1 Corinthians was written in response to the report Paul received.

    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. (More about Nympha here.)

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

    “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), 183.

    Note how Paul speaks of Timothy as a brother in 2 Cor. 1:1, 1 Thess 3:2, Phlm 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 (Phlm 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 describe 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. Rather there are many verses in the Bible that show 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 for a woman, to wield or usurp authority “over” another fellow believer.

    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 spread and establish the Christian faith, some as church leaders. What crucial roles do you think women such as Junia, Phoebe, Lydia, Priscilla, Philip’s daughters, Euodia and Syntyche played?

    Many churches in the first few decades of the church 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.

  11. Have you written an article on “Job’s Wife?”
    Do you think she has been misunderstood and given a bad rap all these years?

    1. Hi Cali,

      I haven’t written on Job’s wife, but I have heard alternative views about her support, or lack thereof, of her husband. I don’t have a strong view about her.

      Update: Here’s an article about Job’s wife. https://thestonescall.com/2018/09/29/re-visioning-the-narrative-letting-her-story-be-told/

  12. If you take a look at I Tim. 3:1-6 I in the KJV and the NASB they read the same as the NLT using the term “man.” Not sure why you have singled out the NLT? Don’t over think it. Many women past, present, and future have been, are, and will be qualified leaders within the Church. OT i.e., Meriam, Debra, Esther, and Naomi just to mention a few. NT example Priscilla and there are others. I personally know women Pastors who are Spirit filled and know truths of the Word of God. I am a 61 year old man and am so thankful for some women the Lord blessed me with in the teaching me Spirit filled truths. I was baptized in the Holy Ghost by a woman. I don’t believe in flopping in the floor but I will confess when she laid her hands on me and spoke about her me I broke out in a sweat while sitting in a chair and was to the point I nearly told her “I need to lay down.” There are powerful women of that for a lack of a better term envy who they are in God. God is not biased against women. That said He also placed a lot of emphasis on man. So while we understand God did not create better than a woman let us be careful not to emasculate man either because of political correctness. You’ll like this one as a woman. If a man thinks he is better than a woman because he was created first just remind him that God also made monkeys before he made man. Thought you might like that. Let us just leave the Word alone not overthinking or offended by what pronoun is used. What’s far more important is than we truly know who we are in Him. We are not sinners saved by grace. We are Sons and Daughters saved by grace. We are joint heirs with Jesus. Bless you sister. Hope I have not offended as my intent was not to do so.

    1. Dennis,

      I have looked at other translations of 1 Timothy 3:1-6 … numerous times. But this article is about gender bias in the NLT. And so I have focussed on this translation. (I discuss the KJV, the NASB, and other translation in other articles.)

      My articles about English Bible versions are about accurate translations, not political correctness.

      I have not the slightest intention of emasculating men. So I’m wondering why you even bring this up. My husband and grown sons would be as confused as I am about your comment about emasculating men.

      Accurate translations of the Bible do not emasculate men. On the other hand, understanding Jesus’s words and Paul’s words correctly do not uphold male pride or male egos. Rather, the message of the New Testament is that we are to mutually love, serve, and submit to one another, regardless of whether we are male or female.

      It is perhaps some translators of the NLT who should “leave the word of God alone” and not add words and change the meaning of the text. The verses that I’ve mentioned in this article do not faithfully reflect what the original authors of the Hebrew Bible and Greek New Testament wrote.

      Also, I don’t mention pronouns in this article, let alone that I am offended by them, so I’m not sure why you mention pronouns. My article is about accuracy, it’s not about being offended.

      But I completely agree that we are sons and daughters saved by grace and that we are joint-heirs with Jesus. 🙂

  13. Thank you for your posts about the NLT; I have found it wonderfully faithful to the original in many places but lacking where it counts. Being born a baptist :-), they have always leaned towards KJV/ESV male-biased versions. I want my little girl to grow up with the correct Greek translation when it means man or woman, people, human, etc… Would you recommend the NIV 2011 as the most readily available translation faithful to gender accuracy? I have looked into the CEV, and it doesn’t seem to have a lot of options available for kids or premium-type bibles. Thank you!

    1. Hi Aaron, I like the NIV a lot with a few exceptions. (I don’t like that they’ve translated the same Greek verb for be silent three different ways in 1 Cor. 14:34-35, for example.)

      I don’t recommend the CEV, but I quite like the CEB.

      Have you seen this article?

  14. Have you sent this to the NLT people? I have a friend who wrote to the NIV committee and they took note and replied to him.

    1. The NLT is going to be revised and the new translation team looks great. I have told Nijay Gupta, who is in the new team, my concerns. I am confident the new edition will be much better.

  15. […] As an ordained Free Methodist, I cannot put this too strongly. The ESV is not suitable for use in our denomination. (The NLT is similarly problematic. I recommend the CEB, the 2011 NIV, and the NRSV.) […]

  16. […] before finishing, I want to point out that the New Living Translation (NLT) has a distinct gender bias, and the new Passion Translation is not really a translation or even a paraphrase. The Passion Translation is not a version to use for serious study. The same goes for The Voice, an equally awful “translation” that doesn’t live up to its aims. The First Nations Version (FNV), “an indigenous translation of the New Testament” published by InterVarsity Press in 2021, is an interesting but imprecise translation. A few verses are rendered with a patriarchal bent. (I’ve made some observations about the FNV in the comments section below.) On the other hand, the online NET Bible, despite a slight gender bias, is a good Bible for reading and for study because of its helpful notes. […]

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