Christianity,  Culture

An Atheist on Gender Neutral Bibles

Christopher Hitchens has high praise for the King James Bible in the latest issue of Vanity Fair. This year is the 400th anniversary of the KJV, and Hitchens makes the case for the superiority of the King James Bible over all comers. In one section of the essay, Hitchens takes umbrage with gender neutral language in modern versions. In particular, he criticizes the Contemporary English Version’s use of “my friends” in place of the KJV’s “brethren.” He writes:

“Pancake-flat: suited perhaps to a basement meeting of A.A., these words could not hope to penetrate the torpid, resistant fog in the mind of a 16-year-old boy, as their original had done for me. There’s perhaps a slightly ingratiating obeisance to gender neutrality in the substitution of ‘my friends’ for ‘brethren,’ but to suggest that Saint Paul, of all people, was gender-neutral is to re-write the history as well as to rinse out the prose.”


  • Sue

    I’m not surprised at Hitchens but I would be very srprised if anyone who actually taught seminary Greek was unaware that adelphoi was the normal way to refer to brothers and sisters in the family and referred to Cleopatra and her brother, as well as Orestes and Ekektra. “Brothers and sisters” is the dictionary meaning of adelphoi, so I don’t think that Hitchens criticism of gender neutrality for adelphoi should be taken too seriously.

  • Donald Johnson

    Thanks for the link, Hitchens is worth reading for his perspective.

    There is no question that the KJV is a literary masterpiece. There is also no question that it influenced and continues to influence translations. There is also no question that interpretation choices were made to support the funders of the effort, namely the Church of England and the King; so they simply could not translate in a way that did not support these institutions; hence the Puritans rejected it as being too “liberal”.

    It is also not a cause for joy that Hitchens derides what he calls “gender neutral” translations; as an atheist, he wants an easier target to hit and destroy with his arguments. So it seems he has read some news articles on the subject, but I doubt he has studied it much, he WANTS Paul to be a misogynist, the better to repudiate the Bible and God and help others join him in enlightened atheism.

  • Nate

    I think this illuminates what I believe is one of the biggest detriments to the church of the 21st century; translation overdose.

    Dr. Mohler had an interview with Dr. Leyland Ryken about the King James and translations that is worth reading or listening to.

    As Hitchens and Ryken both insinuate, when the public thinks of the bible they still think King James. That’s why when you see the bible quoted (in almost all cases) in the newspapers or in movies, it is the King James.

    Now I am not saying we should all use the King James, but the proliferation of translations today make it nearly impossible for congregations to publicly read Scripture together. When I was a child (I spake as a child…), I mean everybody read from, memorized, and used the King James. When you had bible studies together there was none of this, “What does your translation say?”

    I for one am not a fan of the multitude of revisions; seemingly a new version every month.

  • Ryan K.

    I don’t think Denny or anyone else thought it was a “cause for joy” that Hitchens found gender-neutral translations to be inaccurate.

    The point simply is Donald, is that a raving atheist even sees that it is less than fully faithful to the words of the original authors.

  • Donald Johnson

    The very fact that DB posted this with his selected quotes from the article demonstrates the claim. All it takes is seeing the intent, as Ryan did.

    However, does anyone think Hitchens has studied the languages of the Bible so that what he thinks means much?

    So what if he surfs Christian articles and notices the gender debate among evangelicals. He wants Christianity to go into the dustbin and the easier the job you make it for him, the better he likes it.

  • Ryan K.

    Donald your being manipulative here.

    1. No one is trying to be an ally of Hitchens (or an enemy for that matter). The quote is only interesting because of Hitchens’ outside the evangelical camp perspective.

    2. Nor did anyone claim he is an accurate exegete…but that is not what the quote is claiming or about. Hitchens knows literature and is able to have an opinion on the absurdity of thinking Paul in his original context was aiming for being gender-neutral.

  • Robert Slowley

    Donald: You seem to be mis-using the term ‘ally’.

    If person X states that person Y agrees with proposition Z that does not mean that X considers Y to be their ally.

    It is a very odd view of the world where someone is your ‘ally’ if they believe some fact that you also believe. This is not what the term ally means.

    It is also an extremely odd way to view the world as if there were those ‘on our side’ and those ‘against us’, simply delineated by whether they agree with us (on some particular fact). The reality of course is that people are complex and believe different things, and that just because say the Muslim and I might agree that there is one God (and both have good reasons for thinking so) does not make us ‘allies’ in any real sense.

    I also find it odd that you’re attributing Hitchens comments about gender neutrality as being motivated by a desire to destroy Christianity – what evidence do you have for thinking that? Is that not a rather unfair step against Hitchens based on your personal dislike of him and what you believe is his ultimate aim rather than a statement that would actually stand up to objective scrutiny?

  • Donald Johnson


    You cannot have it both ways, despite your wish to have it both ways.

    Yes, Hitchens is worth reading, he is a smart guy. But you need to discern where his expertise lies and where it does not lie. His literary insights are right on. His analysis of what the Bible says can be utter foolishness as he is not a believer. And his motives are suspect.

    It is not so absurd as you might think to be egal; after all, Jesus, Paul, Peter, etc. were egals, but SOME do not see it.

  • Donald Johnson


    It is a well known tactic of atheists to oppose some beliefs of SOME believers as being patently crazy (or other negative term), the better to make more people reject Jesus. But some other believers point out that they are just shooting at low hanging fruit.

  • Robert Slowley

    Donald: You have not engaged with my explanation of why your use of the term ally is absurd. Does this mean you accept that your use is not how the term is generally used?

    You have moved on to a separate point now, that there’s some standard tactic that atheists have. Even if that were true – it is not in of itself powerful enough to make your point here.

    Imagine it were – that would mean that you could safely discount whatever any atheist ever said if that statement was a view also held by some theistic group or individual.

    For example: If Bert Ehrman (who is an atheist scholar of the New Testament) commented on how there is good evidence to think that Jesus existed, is this something we should ignore because he’s really just trying to play off the Christians against some other theistic religion that denies Jesus existence?

    I think not – we should be charitable in trying to understand Ehrman’s view on the basis of it’s merits, not us jumping to conclusions based on whether they are an atheist or not.

    I fear this method you have here is so powerful it blinds you to really listening to anyone who disagrees with you unless they already belong to your camp, and that I think is a very dangerous place to be.

  • Donald Johnson

    I have read many books by atheists and others who do not agree with me in my faith. I try to understand other viewpoints and weigh their arguments.

    My point on Hitchens is to point out his motives. If he claims that some argument FOR God almost sways him, THAT is interesting, since he is so distinctly on the atheist side of that question, and similarly if he would make his position harder to argue.

    In the gender case, he is going along with the KJV in this article, disparaging attempts to translate a Greek word that meant fellow members in a group (in this case followers of Jesus in a fictive family) with a more gendered reading. Lots of people know that “brothers” often includes “sisters” in the KJV except that English has changed in this area. In some cases words get changed to mean the opposite or a vastly different meaning. So what was once the common tongue some 400 years ago is no longer, altho the KJV is still influencial in many ways.

  • Derek

    Donald has often made the dubious and dogmatic statement that “Jesus, Paul, Peter were egalitarian” as if that settles things. I wouldn’t have a huge problem with him saying “I THINK that Jesus, Paul and Peter were egalitarian”, but I think it is hyperbole and dangerous to state this in dogmatic terms, since it requires so many exegetical gymnastics for egalitarians to decode or re-encode the multiple passages that they do.

    If Paul was egalitarian, he would not have written Ephesians 5 the way he did, nor would I Peter 3 be written the way it was, nor would I Timothy 2 be written the way it was. They were almost certainly more egalitarian in some respects than most people in their culture, but if they were egalitarian in the sense that Donald Johnson is, the way they wrote those passages would have undermined their egalitarian convictions. That can not be explained away.

  • Donald Johnson

    On ally, I asked a question. Do comps want to claim Hitchens as a “ally” (AKA fellow traveler ala def. of ally under synonyms) on the subject of understanding gender verses in the Bible?

    I think DB posted it to get the response that Ryan gave “a raving atheist even sees that it is less than fully faithful to the words of the original authors.” where it is a “gender neutral” translation. And Hitchens gave an example where KJV “brothers” became “friends”.

    In other words, the argument goes “if even an atheist agrees with me, this just shows how obviously true my belief is.” I disagree with that kind of argument and I gave reasons why other believers should also.

    1. Do we have any reason to believe that Hitchens has investigate both sides of the evangelical debate? I think no.

    2. Do we have any suspicion about Hitchems motives? I think yes.

  • Donald Johnson


    Yes, (I think) ALL my statements are assertions about what I think. (I think) the Bible is God’s word. (I think) Jesus died for my sins.

    You are correct that (I think) Jesus, Paul, Peter, etc. were egals. That is how I understand what they said and wrote as found in the Bible when understood in context. And others disagree with me.

    I think it is the comps who are required to do “exegetical gymnastics”. I think Paul wrote Eph 5-6 pericope as he did precisely because he was egal. And same for 1 Peter 2 and even for the comp bogeyman 1 Tim 2.

    So what is the diff? I think that comps wear “blue” lenses when reading the Bible, so they see blue (masculinist) readings when they are really not there or at least not so cut and dried as they belief while wearing blue glasses.

  • Derek

    That’s where I think you go wrong, Donald. If Peter and Paul were modern day egalitarians, they fumbled their opportunity to clearly articulate it. Even worse, they used examples that would have fed into patriarchal notions. The proof is in the pudding. By that I mean, if you are correct, than virtually all Christians in the last 2,000 years totally misread these passages and now Paul, Peter and the rest of us owe a huge debt of gratitude to you and the others who have given us the proper encoder ring so that we can finally understand these passages. Sorry, Donald- that explanation doesn’t cut it for me and I think it requires a lot of chutzpah.

  • Donald Johnson

    What I think happened is the 2nd century gentilization of the church. When that happened the Greeks found they had holy texts that they did not understand, so in an effort to make some good use of them, they used the allegorical method of interpretation. So 1st century texts written by Jews were misunderstood by 2nd century Greeks, so we see a growing influence of Greek philosophers and other pagans.

    I also think that being egal was NOT the highest priority for Jesus and Paul, etc. As I see it, being egal is a principle of the Kingdom, but not the highest principle and the egal principle is subordinate to spreading the gospel. Paul says as much to slaves and wives when read with egal eyes, be careful that your freedom does not put stumbling blocks in front of others coming to the gospel. Gospel first, as that allows all other changes.

  • Donald Johnson

    Prots all agree that the institutional church got some things wrong, in serious ways. The question is when did these errors start and what were they. I think they started in the 2nd century and gradually increased over time.

  • Donald Johnson

    I think Jesus spoke and Paul, etc. wrote INSIDE the culture of the time, and part of that culture was patriarchy. This does not mean that God/Jesus/Paul endorses patriarchy (or polygamy or slavery). It means that God’s mercy addresses peoples where they are at and takes them step by step more into the Kingdom.

  • Derek

    I REALLY want to be there when you explain your interpretation of these passages to Peter and Paul some day. I want a front-row seat for that conversation!

    A basic rule of public speaking is if most of your audience misunderstands you, the problem is rarely – if ever – with your audience.

  • Donald Johnson

    Hey, I expect to be corrected when I get to talk to them.

    God MIGHT tell me that I should NOT have listened to that woman just because she was a woman and God MIGHT tell me that I should have overridden my wife’s will in this example right there and made a final decision. I doubt it, but it MIGHT happen.

    On the other hand, what if you are wrong? Perhaps God had a word for you from a woman that you declined to listen to. Perhaps God will rebuke you for overriding your wive’s will.

    We will see, won’t we?

  • Donald Johnson

    Also, on public speaking, both the speaker and the hearer are a part of the same time and place, so some cultural assumptions apply to fill in the gaps. And questions can be asked to clarify things.

    With text from 1000s of years ago, it is a different matter entirely. And some of the texts are letters, where we do not know for sure what the recipient did or said to trigger the letter. If Shakespeare now needs extensive annotations to be understood by today’s readers, how much more some text from the Bible can easily be taken out of context (perhaps innocently) and misunderstood.

  • Derek

    I am a complementarian but that does not mean that I run roughshod over my wife or ignore what she says. We’ve had several very big decisions and when my wife had questions or concerns, we’ve always prayed together and waited until we had peace about it. Complementarianism elevates the imperative to serve and particularly in today’s culture, to reject our (men) natural inclination towards passivity and irresponsibility.

    Donald, you are exaggerating the views and practices of Biblically grounded complementarians, who – contrary to your misrepresentations – do not wear wife beater t-shirts and demand their beer and dinner be brought to them on command. Frankly, you are smart enough to know this is the case, so enough already with the caricatures.

  • Nate

    Donald, you would find an egal argument under any rock you look.

    I think Denny wrongly classified Hitchens article as being about gender-neutrality. It is not. It is about the prose of the King James versus the “pancake-flat” new translations. It just so happened that Hitchens mentions gender-neutrality about the verse he used at his father’s funeral.

    Hitchen’s point, as I alluded to in #5 is that new translations lack the transcendence of the King James and the English-Speaking world has suffered for it.

  • Donald Johnson


    I agree with your last comment about what Hitchens did.


    I do not think most comps “run roughshod” over their wives, I think they try to love them as they have been taught. I am not trying to caricature anyone’s beliefs. I agree with the serving imperative for husbands. I disagree with the “final decision” idea (or however it is worded, like 51% of the vote, final trump card, etc.) that comps teach as It seems to me that it can over ride a wife’s will, that seems to me what the meaning of “final decision” is all about. If one does such things in the bedroom I see it as contrary to EXPLICIT instruction in 1 Cor 7 and tantamount to marriage rape, so I sure hope no believer does this, comp or egal.

    I agree with comps that passivity is not something to aspire to and for me as an egal this includes passivity on either spouse’s part, not quite sure how that applies to comps, I just do not know one way or the other.

  • Derek

    Donald, when you suggest as you did in post #24, that I or other comps “would not even listen to a woman because she is a woman” and when you draw parallels between slavery and comp convictions (as you have done in the past), or when you say that a comp’s motives are automatically tainted (as you have also suggested in the past), you are creating an image of the man in a wife beater without explicitly saying so. That is what I’m objecting to.

  • Donald Johnson

    The slave owners in justifying slavery from the Bible made the mapping to women. They pointed out that both slaves and wives were discussed in the household code passages, and in a supposed reduction to absurdity type argument, that once one frees the slaves, then the wives will want to be free, and what man wanted that?

    So I point out that the ARGUMENTS or slaveholders and comps in many ways are remarkably similar, they also said that one was denying the authority of Scripture if one disagreed with their interpretation. So there are historical parallels, but I certainly do not think that comps treat their wives as slaves.

    I ask how a male comp can be SURE that he is not reading the Bible in the way he is because he gains some supposed advantages, as the heart is deceitful. I do not see how he can be sure he is not deceived in this area and simply being selfish, getting his way when God wants him to lay down his life.

    Now perhaps I am deceived in my egal beliefs, but how does this benefit me and give me supposed advantages? I get to be challenged by my wife if and when I do not walk the egal walk, since I talk it. And sometimes I learn that I did not act egal as much as I thought I did, I am still learning.

    As far as I know, all comps say that wife beating is a sin and needs to be repented from. There might be a nut somewhere that says something else, but all I have read I think would say that.

  • Charlton Connett

    Having now read the article in question, I only have one question for Denny: Given what is written on the stone in the original picture from the article, are you sure you want to use that as the illustration for this post?

    YGC, you certainly know how to get a chuckle in the midst of a debate.

    But, Hitchens’ greater point, on the way the plurality of bible translations has effectively weakened culture by removing a monolithic reference, is one worth thinking about.

  • Derek

    In this egalitarian culture, one might easily adopt egalitarian views in order to “go with the flow”. This is particularly true in academia, per Denny’s recent post about Jim Hamilton, “Embarrassed about the Bible?”.

    There are cultural and societal benefits that you benefit from, Donald.

    Benefits for the short term, anyway.

    In any event, on balance, a truly Biblical complementarian perspective actually places more responsibility on husbands and elders, as Scripture consistently places more expectations on those entrusted with stewardship and leadership. Sobriety and godly fear ought to be prevailing responses from men. If they see it as a power trip, then they are either an immature Christian or an unbeliever and need to be corrected.

  • Donald Johnson

    It is true that Scripture teaches that with power/authority comes responsibility. And it is true that elders have more power/authority and responsibility than a member. We agree on those aspects.

    It still comes down to WHETHER males are in the final authority/ultimate responsibility position in marriage and WHETHER masculinity is a requirement for being an elder.

    In the USA, the law says that both parents are equally responsible for kids and I agree. I wonder if there has been a comp marriage where kids were harmed by parents’ actions and the husband went to the judge and said ‘I should be punished more as I am more responsible for my family than my wife.’ Now THAT would be a comp who lived by his convictions, since he did it to his detriment. When one does it to their advantage, it is not so clear.

    As a comp, when you make a FINAL DECISION, how do you decide that you are not making a selfish decision? The only way I can see is to decide in the wife’s favor.

  • Derek

    The only way I can see is to decide in the wifeรขโ‚ฌโ„ขs favor.

    That’s where you go wrong. A true and wise leader does not default to the wishes of either himself or even to those entrusted to his care. He defaults to the wishes of the Good Shepherd, which are not always easy or popular choices. Every pastor and leader – and many moms too – know exactly what I’m talking about.

  • Donald Johnson

    Yes, of course, one goes along with what Jesus would want when that can be discerned.

    And what if the wife say Jesus wants X and the husband says Jesus wants Y. Then the comp model is the husband wins the discussion as soon as he declares he wins, or at least this is how it seems to me.

    And when he declares he “knows” what Jesus wants how does HE know he is not being selfish? This is where the rubber meets the road, as I see it.

    Furthermore, what if the wife says that she cannot in faith agree with Y, what the husband wants. Does the husband STILL get to decide when the wife claims it is sin for her to agree, per Paul writing that anything not done in faith is sin?

    I think the comp model is not consistent with the teaching of ALL Scripture.

  • yankeegospelgirl

    ‘K, I’m not planning to let a whole lot of my time dribble away on this one, but somebody mentioned whether masculinity is required for being an elder.

    To which I, as a female, unhesitatingly reply… DUH! Case closed. ๐Ÿ˜€

  • Derek

    YGG – you are reading the Bible too literally. You need Donald’s special map and decoder. Then you will see that the Bible doesn’t really say what you think it means. ๐Ÿ™‚

    Sheesh. William Tyndale was so misguided. Look at what he has done, with all these people who think they can read and interpret and understand Scripture!

  • Sue

    “The point simply is Donald, is that a raving atheist even sees that it is less than fully faithful to the words of the original authors.”

    In this case Hitchens is entirely uninformed. The only fully faithful translation is “brothers and sisters.”

  • Sue

    “Hitchens knows literature and is able to have an opinion on the absurdity of thinking Paul in his original context was aiming for being gender-neutral.”

    I keep thinking that you must have thought that Cleopatra was a man. Did you not see the movie? She was a woman, she and her brother were called adelphoi. That has to be translated as siblings, or brother and sister.

  • Christiane

    “they can read and interpret and understand Scripture!”

    Lots of ‘interpreting’ going on, yes. There are now in excess of 38,OOO Christian denominations, each with its own ‘interpretation’, so yes, ‘they can read and interpret and understand Scripture”.

    At least Christians can celebrate their diversity.

  • Sue

    “By that I mean, if you are correct, than virtually all Christians in the last 2,000 years totally misread these passages…”

    On the other hand, some think that we have misread the verse on Junia for 2000 years.

  • Sue

    “In any event, on balance, a truly Biblical complementarian perspective actually places more responsibility on husbands and elders,”

    So women can claim that they have less responsibility?? The law actually doesn’t work that way.

  • Ryan K.

    Yeah YSG, we have been round this block a million times with Donald.

    I decided to quit when some time ago, Donald could not give me any ideas how how men and woman are actually different. Or in other words, what does it biblically mean to be a man or a woman?

    BTW Denny, Just finished reading your chapter in “Don’t Call It A Comeback” and wanted to tell you how excellent it is. Clear, and insightful on some of the topics that Donald and Sue always pine away about here on your blog.

  • Donald Johnson

    The original Reformers claimed that the way of salvation was plain from Scripture, but that other things may not be. Somehow that got transmogrified into most of Scripture being plain, but that is only according to some and then others disagree.

    I agree with the original Reformers, I do not need any church to inform me on the way of Salvation, just the Bible. But on other things, they may not be so plain.

  • Robert Slowley

    The thing I find the most incredible about this place is the amount of time a handful of egalitarians put in to constantly biting away in the comments.

    I have friends who are egalitarians and we have fruitful interesting discussions – but one of the things I’ve noticed about the egals who comment here is they basically never adjust their position at all, and it’s clear that they fail to persuade anyone (given that their approach to scripture differs (or they reject overwhelming evangelical scholarship) and that’s what it’d take to actually persuade Denny’s readers). So I have to wonder … why bother?

  • Sue


    The lexicon of 1871 says “brothers and sisters.” The lexicon used today says “brothers and sisters.”

    Please tell me what ajustment I should make.

  • Sue


    What bothers me is what happened to the translators of the TNIV. Things were said about the translation that was not true. I just cannnot stand by and know this without speaking out. I want to think that Christians care about the truth. But its been a long time and I guess what you are saying is that it won’t happen.

  • Donald Johnson


    I have adjusted my beliefs and continue to seek truth, not thinking I have found it. I used to have what I thought was a benign belief in husbands making the final decision (since that was what I had been taught by those I respected), but I changed when I examined the arguments from both sides.

    I do find that comps have not come up with good answers to some questions, so I will ask other comps, perhaps they do have a good answer.

    Can you answer whether a comp husband can over ride his wife when she says she cannot do something in faith and it would be sin for her?

    Also, a 2nd question, a husband in Eph 5 is to love-agape his wife and according to Paul in 1 Cor 13, love-agape does not demand its own way? So how does a comp husband get an exception to this general Kingdom principle?

  • Donald Johnson

    On what the Bible says about a man, it says he pees against a wall; and it says this not once but 6 times so it is not a typo. But you might need to read the KJV to find it, they use the old term pisseth.

    So there are physical differences, ish/man means piercer and ishah/woman means pierced, referring to the sex act. In the Mosaic covenants only a male could be a priest in the temple, but in the new covenant all believers are priests. It also points out that baby’s milk comes from a woman’s breasts.

    God did not form humans in androgynous form, God created gender and we share this attribute with animals. As a general statement, human males are larger and stronger than females, but it is a case of 2 overlapping bell curves.

    It used to be thought that women were deformed men by pagans, or just inferior, by some believers. Most do not think so today.

  • yankeegospelgirl

    A lot of normal conclusions can be drawn about the roles of men and women from their physical differences alone.

    For example, women do not belong in the military, the police department, or the fire department. They also shouldn’t be involved in contact sports like wrestling or football.

    You could spend all day building the case for this position just based on the sheer physical implications of what it would mean for a woman to be involved in these things—plus being involved together with men.

  • Sue

    And that is why society has always been divided into classes. The kind of males that engage in all those things listed above have not traditionally been allowed to enter the ruling classes.

    And then there is age. Men and women over 50 are beyond all that nonsense. Most women over 50 are a somewhat healthier than their husbands, who suffer from bad knees, sore backs and being slightly more overweight, if statistics are to be believed.

    However, I notice that nobody is claiming that adelphoi does not mean “brothers and sisters” so perhaps Hitchens can be safely put to rest on this matter. It is not his area of expertise.

  • Donald Johnson

    Israel has women in its armed services. I guess they do not know how to read the gender verses in the Old Testament/Tanakh/Jewish Bible.

  • Sue

    Yankee girl,

    You can freely read a gender inclusive Bible without going against the law or prophets, or Christ or Paul. I think it is worth knowing for example, that 1 Tim. 5:8 was addressed to both men and women. We are not let off this one.

    But if anyone does not provide for his relatives, and especially for members of his household, he has denied the faith and is worse than an unbeliever. ESV

    Anyone who does not provide for their relatives, and especially for their own household, has denied the faith and is worse than an unbeliever. NIV 2011

    The NIV2011 is more accurate since there is no masculine pronoun or reference of any kind in the Greek. These things are worth noting.

    I think that for Hitchens, it is in his interest to cast the Bible in a negative light.

  • Jared O

    I would like to say, for what it is worth, that while I disagree with Donald’s position of egalitarianism, I do think that he has done a good job of representing what he believes, and accounting for the points being brought against him. I.e. not just sweeping them under the rug and then saying they’re not there.

    And to answer your questions:

    “Can you answer whether a comp husband can over ride his wife when she says she cannot do something in faith and it would be sin for her?”

    In general, the appropriate comp point of view would be to patiently wait and pray for the wife to come to the same conclusion. This may vary depending on the situation. And it may be that the wife is not saying, “I cannot do this in good faith and for me this would be sin,” but rather, “This is what I think, but I am willing to submit to your final decision in this matter.”

    Also, a 2nd question, a husband in Eph 5 is to love-agape his wife and according to Paul in 1 Cor 13, love-agape does not demand its own way? So how does a comp husband get an exception to this general Kingdom principle?

    A husband can make a decision, on behalf of his family, and not be demanding. Donald, do you have children? Do you ever tell them to do things they don’t want to do? Is that unloving towards them and are you breaking a Kingdom principle by doing so?

  • Derek

    Jared O,
    You’re reading things similarly to the way I did. Many egalitarians make an assumption that initiative or decisions made by a husband are automatically self serving. What if the husband makes an unpopular, but wise and Biblical decision? Can we still call him self-serving? Why is there an assumption that any time the husband disagrees with the wife, that he is self serving?

    But we’re already off track when we start thinking this way. I Peter 3 informs us that in fact, some husbands (and emperors) are indeed self serving, but even if this is the case, we honor others and their position as unto the Lord, not as unto the person. This is exactly the same principle, whether the delegated authority is a governor, boss or parent.

    By the way, this shouldn’t even need to be said, but since some egals always bring up worst case scenarios, where a wife is treated worse than the family dog, let me say this: Complementarians do not believe that a man is *not* subject to church and legal authorities. They are. If they abuse their position, they should be subjected to those authorities and dealt with accordingly. Authority has been delegated by God for our protection and blessing, not to make us miserable.

  • Donald Johnson

    How is it possible to claim that a husband makes a supposed “final decision” but not be demanding?

    This is where comp thought looks to me to become Orwellian. It looks to me like they want it both ways and when someone points out that this is not possible, they still insist they want it both ways.

    I will even agree that, based on Paul, if a wife FULLY accepts the comp doctrine, then for her to do otherwise would be a sin, as she is being comp in faith. But once the slightest cracks appear, then it all tumbles down.

    My child is to obey me and my wife (and of course God first). This is what Paul says. But my wife is not my child, despite the comp claims of similarity. It is like comps read obey for submit, but submit means submit and is supposed to be mutual. And one can submit to another but not obey them, see Daniel for an example. So submit and obey are not synonyms.

  • Donald Johnson

    On authority, yes there are authorities, government over citizens/subjects, parents over children, masters/employers over slaves/employees. The church elder’s authority is different, they are to be an example and a member is to be willing to listen to their rationale on something, but if the member does not buy it, they do not buy it.

    But the only place in the Bible where authority in marriage is mentioned as sanction by God is 1 Cor 7 where it is mutual. In Esther a pagan king claim husband have authority, but this is hardly an example for believers to follow. And in Gen 3:16 God warns the woman about what to expect as a result of the fall.

    So what I see is that comps see a husband’s authority as being taught in the Bible because they wear blue glasses, and it is really not there. But it takes removing the blue glasses to see it is not there.

  • Donald Johnson

    1 Pet 3 given above is an example of reading the text according to one’s pre-existing paradigm, either comp or egal. If one is comp, one sees confirmation of a husband’s authority; but if one is egal, then one does not see that in the text. This is what I mean by comps wearing blue glasses. We all wear glasses corresponding to our paradigms, we use these paradigms to fill in the blanks, as it were.

  • Jared O

    I will address the rest of what you brought up, assuming you can answer my question to your first objection. The issues is not whether Scripture commands children to obey or not (it does), my question to you is, can you ask your children to do something without being demanding? If you can, then why can’t comp husbands do that with their comp wives? If not, i.e. you’re saying that you are demanding to your children, then isn’t Scripture contradicting itself when it tells us to discipline our children because we love them, and yet love is not supposed to demand it’s own way?

  • Derek

    If I’m wearing special comp glasses, I’m no different than 99.9% of Christians of the last 20 centuries who read it as I do. Again, if Peter and Paul were “wearing the same glasses as Donald Johnson” and of modern day egals, there is no chance that they would have used the wife as the example in Eph 5:22, nor would they have reinforced patriarchal assumptions in I Peter 3. Or if they were, they were very poor communicators.

    Their instinct in carefully writing these passages as they did would have been the exact opposite. And Paul definitely would not have written I Timothy 2 the way he did. Way too much chance for confusion and for most Christians to get it wrong.

    As to what you said in post #23 re: culture, that just doesn’t work either. You can’t have it both ways – either Ephesians 5 was a revolutionary construct or it wasn’t. You can’t have it both ways. Unless you want to have it both ways in order to justify an untenable and highly speculative interpretation.

  • John

    Does anyone believe that when the translation is either ‘bretheren’ or ‘brothers’, that only males are being addressed? Doesn’t it mean fellow believers? If so, then the term used most today would either be ‘fellow believers’ or ‘brothers and sisters’. If not, then a lot of Paul’s writings would only be for the men and not the women believers.

  • Donald Johnson


    Up until the 19th century it was just assumed that women were inferior beings, just like blacks were assumed to be inferior beings. So that was the basic supposedly Christian argument of patris and slaveholders, it was for their own good that we are are in charge, as it was considered preposterous to think otherwise.

    Until women proved they could become Drs. and such. So now this type of argument simply does not fly anymore. Hence the comps come up with completely new arguments for female subordination. But with each article CBMW publishes, it put the lie to the (false) idea that female subordination is plain from Scripture.

    It is not true that Eph 5 and 1 Pet 3 ‘reinforce patri assumptions”; they might appear to do so, but only on a surface reading and not when understood in 1st century context. Paul was a Torah scholar and master communicator, but he also was hard to understand in the 1st century, so says Peter, how much harder when 2nd century Greeks (and later) try to understand some of his 1st century Jewish ideas.

  • Robert Slowley

    Just to add – I used to be an egalitarian myself (unlike many of you I’m from the UK and didn’t come from a Christian family), but I was persuaded from the scripture that the complementation position is correct ๐Ÿ™‚

    I must say, the more I read of egalitarian arguments like those of Donald and Sue here the more convinced I am that there’s no weight to their side of the debate.

  • Sue

    I have posted an image on my blog of the entry for adelphos in the Liddell Scott Lexicon, printed in the USA in 1879 for use in high schools as college prep. It offers only “brothers and sisters” for the plural of adelphos. I wonder if there were some way to communicate this information to Hitchens. I know that there are many Christians who would like to have others better acqainted with out faith.

  • Donald Johnson

    A forum post is not a good way to discuss anything debatable in detail. For myself it took extensive studying of both sides, many books read and digested, to assess which side, if any, hangs together the best and is the most consistent with the general revelation of Scripture.

  • Robert Slowley

    Oh I agree – you need to look at things in detail outside of forums. I never claimed that I based my change in decision from egal to comp based on some forum discussions! Only that in as much as forum posts can convey anything (and you clearly think they do otherwise you wouldn’t bother to post here) the comments I’ve read here (and other posts) by you and Sue make me more persuaded that the complementation position is correct.

Comment here. Please use FIRST and LAST name.