Text:God's Word to Women:Lesson 79
SEX BIAS INFLUENCES TRANSLATORS.
634. One more instance of this sex bias in the O. T. translation, and then we will consider some cases in the N. T. that were not mentioned in our former lesson, “Divers Weights and Measures” (Lesson 48), though, for that matter, almost every one of the Lessons brings out points on this subject.
1. Isaiah 2:9 reads, “The mean man boweth down and the great man humbleth himself.”
2. Isaiah 5:15, “The mean man shall be brought down, the mighty man shall be humbled.”
3. Isaiah 31:8, “Not of a mighty man,... not of a mean man.”
Perhaps it will surprise the reader to be told that within these three short passages adjectives to the number of six have been added to the translation that do not exist in the original text, and no one but a Hebrew scholar can discover this for himself or herself.
635. We have been taught to believe that wherever words of importance are inserted into the English translation that do not exist in the original text, in order to convey the correct meaning to the English reader, those words are printed in italics, that all may understand that they are not in the original, and thus judge for themselves, by the help of the Spirit, as to their appropriateness. Thus, in verse 7 of this second chapter of Isaiah we read: “Neither is there any end of their chariots,” and we know that the three words in italics,¾“is there any”¾do not belong to the original.
Not so, in these three passages. No word in them is printed in italics, and yet, the adjectives “mean,” “great,” and “mightily” have been added in every instance. We will explain this presently.
4. Again, Psalm 49:2 reads, “Both low and high.”
5. Psalm 62:9 reads, “Surely men of low degree are vanity, and men of high degree are a lie.”
Within these two short passages eight words are added to the text, and two words are left out, yet only a Hebrew scholar can discover it without aid, because the added words are not italicized as they should be, neither is there any indication of omitted words.
637. What does all this mean? We will explain: In most languages there are at least two words for “man,” one indicating the adult male, and the other meaning “mankind.” In Hebrew, as we have already explained, the adult male is indicated by the word ish; on the other hand, “mankind” is meant where adham (Adam) is used, when not of the person who first bore the name. These passages should have been translated respectively something like this:
1. “Man boweth down (or mankind boweth down), and the men humble themselves.”
2. “Man shall be brought down, and the men shall be humbled.”
3. “Not of the men . . . not of mankind.”
4. “Both mankind and the men.”
5. “Surely humanity (or mankind) is vanity, and the men are a lie.”
638. The best we can do, it is a little difficult to express the thing smoothly in English, because it lacks words which can always be used elegantly to distinguish between the adult male and mankind generally. The word we translate “the men” to conform to English usage, ish, is in the singular number. But a marginal note could have made this clear, without a dishonest translation of the text. And who but a set of pedants, inflated with intellectual pride, would have agreed that men were “great” when their mothers and wives did not appear in the same category, and “mighty,” “of high degree,” and “high”; but if the female sex and children get mixed with them, they must then be described as “mean,” and “low,” and “of low degree”? These are not instances of faulty translations, but of unwarranted corruption of the meaning of the original text. The Hebrew has words for “high” and “low,” “mighty” and “mean,” if those were the ideas to be expressed: while ish is such a common word to be given these exalted meanings, that it is often rendered “each,” “everyone,” “whoso,” and “whosoever,”¾referring to both sexes, sometimes to inanimate things, but mainly to the male.
639. A few instances from the N. T. now: Sophron is an adjective which occurs four times, and is translated “sober” twice, “temperate” once. In the fourth place it refers to women only, and is rendered “discreet” (Titus 2:5). That this different meaning is given to it purposely because it refers to women, will be made plain by the learned Dean Alford’s note in his commentary. Having first established the sense of the word as “self-restraint,” in its noun form, he says, concerning the rendering “discreet.” “This term certainly applies better to women than ‘self-restraint’; there is in this latter [in “self-restraint”] in their case, an implication of effort, which destroys the spontaneity, and brushes off, so to speak, the bloom of this best of female graces.” We thank Dean Alford for thinking that women can practice self-restraint without effort, but when we are reading our Bibles we prefer to know precisely what the Holy Ghost addresses to us, instead of finding between its pages the opinion of even the most excellent uninspired man.
640. The Greek noun sophrosune is built up on the adjective sophron,¾as we add “ness” to “good” to transform it into “goodness.” A book of the Apocrypha, 4 Maccabees (1:31), defines the word correctly, where it says it means “the mastery of the lusts.” In the one instance in which the word is used of women it is rendered “sobriety” (1 Timothy 2:15) which is not bad. But I hunt up the word in my Green’s small lexicon to the N. T., and read there that the female meaning of the word is “modesty,” which precisely accords with what we are pointing out,¾that these men seem to imagine that the same word has two meanings according to whether it refers to men or to women,¾in the Bible, at least.
641. Then take the word “power.” Exousia occurs 103 times in the N. T. It is rendered “authority” 29 times; “power” 69 times; “right” twice; and once each “liberty,” “jurisdiction,” and “strength.” Its meaning is patent; there is no mystery about the word. But in one single instance it happens to be used exclusively of woman’s power. Here at once its sense is called into question (see par. 217 etc.). It cannot be possible that women should have power! In the margin the translators write the longest note to be found in all the Bible (see A.V.) to explain how Paul means that this “power” must be abdicated by woman, in order that her husband may assume it instead.
642. Episemos occurs in only two places in the N. T. In Matthew 27:16 we read of “a notable prisoner called Barabbas;” and in Romans 16:7, St Paul mentions “Andronicus and Junia, who are of note among the apostles.” Two disputes have been provoked by this passage: (1) Should we read, here, Junia, a woman, or Junias, a man? (2) Does the word episemos in this passage mean “of note among,” or “well known to”? The name is in the accusative, Junian, and admits of either construction as to gender. The R.V.has decided for the male form. But the masculine form cannot be found (at least, I could not find it) in any biographical dictionary of Greek names, while the feminine form occurs several times. Chrysostom, himself a Greek, born at Antioch, Syria, about 350 A. D., understood this person to be a woman, and also an apostle, exclaiming in his Homilies, “Oh, how great is the devotion of this woman, that she should even be counted worthy of the appellation of apostle!”
643. Not so, our present-day commentators, Jamieson, Fausset and Brown, but at one stroke they seize the preeminence for the male, whichever way the decision, arguing that if it be “Junia” a woman, then we must read “well known to the apostles;” on the other hand, if it be “Junias,” a man, then the meaning may be a “well known apostle.” We are reminded of the legend of a man who got into a crocodiles’ nest, and saved himself by ramming “the head of one down the throat of another;” until he dispatched them all, pair by pair.
644. Kosmios means properly “well ordered, in both outward deportment and inner life.” It occurs twice. It is translated “modest” where it refers to woman’s dress, 1 Timothy 2:9, and perhaps it could not be improved upon. But why not say that “a bishop then, must be . . . modest” for “of good behavior,” since the latter statement is so obvious as to be inane? (1 Timothy 3:2).
Hagnos means “holy.” It occurs 8 times, and is translated “pure” four times; “clear” once, and “chaste” three times. Every time that it is translated “chaste” it qualifies a noun of the feminine gender. But why should not men be taught chastity too?
These may be straws. Yet they all point in the same direction.
God's Word to Women | God's Word to Women Table of Contents | Foreword to the 1943 Edition | Foreword to the 2005 Edition | Author's Note | Lesson 1 | Lesson 2 | Lesson 3 | Lesson 4 | Lesson 5 | Lesson 6 | Lesson 7 | Lesson 8 | Lesson 9 | Lesson 10 | Lesson 11 | Lesson 12 | Lesson 13 | Lesson 14 | Lesson 15 | Lesson 16 | Lesson 17 | Lesson 18 | Lesson 19 | Lesson 20 | Lesson 21 | Lesson 22 | Lesson 23 | Lesson 24 | Lesson 25 | Lesson 26 | Lesson 27 | Lesson 28 | Lesson 29 | Lesson 30 | Lesson 31 | Lesson 32 | Lesson 33 | Lesson 34 | Lesson 35 | Lesson 36 | Lesson 37 | Lesson 38 | Lesson 39 | Lesson 40 | Lesson 41 | Lesson 42 | Lesson 43 | Lesson 44 | Lesson 45 | Lesson 46 | Lesson 47 | Lesson 48 | Lesson 49 | Lesson 50 | Lesson 51 | Lesson 52 | Lesson 53 | Lesson 54 | Lesson 55 | Lesson 56 | Lesson 57 | Lesson 58 | Lesson 59 | Lesson 60 | Lesson 61 | Lesson 62 | Lesson 63 | Lesson 64 | Lesson 65 | Lesson 66 | Lesson 67 | Lesson 68 | Lesson 69 | Lesson 70 | Lesson 71 | Lesson 72 | Lesson 73 | Lesson 74 | Lesson 75 | Lesson 76 | Lesson 77 | Lesson 78 | Lesson 79 | Lesson 80 | Lesson 81 | Lesson 82 | Lesson 83 | Lesson 84 | Lesson 85 | Lesson 86 | Lesson 87 | Lesson 88 | Lesson 89 | Lesson 90 | Lesson 91 | Lesson 92 | Lesson 93 | Lesson 94 | Lesson 95 | Lesson 96 | Lesson 97 | Lesson 98 | Lesson 99 | Lesson 100 | Index of Scripture Texts | Dictionary