One difficulty with the Bible is that it was written in Hebrew, Koine Greek, and a little Arabic and Chaldean thrown in. This means that for English speaking Fundagelicals, it needs to be translated. Translating from one language to another is both art and science. There are definite rules that should be followed, but to make the text flow in a readable form takes literary skill. No translation is perfect. Every translation carries some element of contamination. Cultural contamination, personal bias, and political agendas can contaminate the accuracy of the message. I want to look at one infamous translation that serves the political agenda of the patriarchy.
Part of the Fundagelical agendas is to keep women in a place of subservience. According to Fundagelicals, “Men are the spiritual head of the household.” Women are expected to be submissive to their husbands. Women are not allowed to be pastors, elders, or deacons in the church because that usurps the leadership position of men.
In the book of 1 Timothy, probably written by one of Paul’s disciples, the qualification for Deacon is spelled out. The text from the King James Version, a Fundagelical favorite, appears below.
“This is a true saying, if a man desire the office of a bishop, he desireth a good work.
A bishop then must be blameless, the husband of one wife, vigilant, sober, of good behaviour, given to hospitality, apt to teach;
Not given to wine, no striker, not greedy of filthy lucre; but patient, not a brawler, not covetous;
One that ruleth well his own house, having his children in subjection with all gravity;
(For if a man know not how to rule his own house, how shall he take care of the church of God?)
Not a novice, lest being lifted up with pride he fall into the condemnation of the devil.
Moreover he must have a good report of them which are without; lest he fall into reproach and the snare of the devil.
Likewise must the deacons be grave, not double-tongued, not given to much wine, not greedy of filthy lucre;
Holding the mystery of the faith in a pure conscience.
And let these also first be proved; then let them use the office of a deacon, being found blameless.
Even so must their wives be grave, not slanderers, sober, faithful in all things.”
Notice that last part? “Even so their wives must be . . .” The word translated wives is gynaikos, which is more often rendered “women.” It would seem to make sense that “their women” would be rendered “wives,” but the word “their” isn’t in the original text. Dozens of English Bibles translate this verse as “their wives,” and dozens translate it as “women.”
By choosing to translate it as “their wives,” this adds another qualification to the list for deacons. It also makes deacons heterosexual married males only. By rendering the verse “women” like the New Revised Standard Bible does “Women likewise must be serious, not slanderers, but temperate, faithful in all things.” creates parallel qualifications for female deacons.
This means by adding the word “their” and choosing to translate gynaikos as “wife” women are excluded from the diaconate and kept in submission to men. By translating the verse as “women likewise” brings the verse inline with the equality taught in Galatians 3:28. “There is neither Jew nor Gentile, neither slave nor free, nor is there male and female, for you are all one in Christ Jesus.” It also reflects many of Paul’s greetings to females in his letters acknowledging their leadership role in the local churches.
Many Fundagelicals favorite battle cry is “The Bible is very clear about . . . ” However, some of those very clear Bible passages obscure the language and follow cultural and political understandings of the translators rather than the actual Hebrew and Greek. When Fundagelicals encounter translation issues like these, they simply pick the translation that supports their view and claim it as the more accurate translation. A few well-chosen cherry-picked verses can support any political agenda. An honest pastor or teacher will admit to the translation bias. A pastor with an agenda will tell you which one is correct.
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