Critique of Gender Language in the NIV

In March, Zondervan released a new revision of the NIV, and the new version signals a significant update to a translation that has not been revised since 1984. The 2011 NIV has many commendable improvements. Nevertheless, it represents a significant departure from the NIV that evangelicals have used for a generation. In particular, the 2011 NIV adopts a gender-neutral approach to translation—a way of rendering the Bible that has been the subject of no little controversy over the last decade.

I want to highlight two critical reviews of the gender language in the 2011 NIV that have recently been released by the Council on Biblical Manhood & Womanhood (CBMW).

1. “An Evaluation of Gender Language in the 2011 Edition of the NIV Bible” CBMW (2011).

2. Denny Burk, et al., “The Translation of Gender Terminology in the NIV 2011” JBMW 16.1 (2011): 17-33.

The two reviews overlap a good bit as they are drawing from the same underlying research. The reviews find that 75% of the problematic gender language in the TNIV is retained in the 2011 NIV. The reviews also find that the new NIV gives an egalitarian interpretation to the most contested verse in the gender debate—1 Timothy 2:12. The CBMW report concludes this way:

“We regret, therefore, that we cannot recommend the 2011 NIV as a sufficiently reliable English translation. And unless Zondervan changes its mind and keeps the current edition of the 1984 NIV in print, the 2011 NIV will soon be the only edition of the NIV that is available. Therefore, unless Zondervan changes its mind, we cannot recommend the NIV itself.”

On Friday, Michael Foust published a report on the new NIV that includes interviews with Doug Moo (the chairman of the NIV translation committee) and Randy Stinson (the President of the Council on Biblical Manhood & Womanhood). Stinson outlines the reasons why CBMW will not endorse the new NIV, and Moo has a variety of responses to criticisms of the new NIV that have already appeared. If you haven’t read this article yet, I encourage you to do so here.

This discussion is only just beginning, and I would like to comment briefly on at least one of the issues that Moo raises in the news report. The report reads:

Moo said he is in “general agreement” with CBMW’s position on the complementarian issue but thinks CBMW is wrong in arguing their complementarian view “entails certain decisions about how to translate the Bible.”

“This is, I think, where the disagreement comes,” Moo said. “People can be solid complementarians and yet have pretty significant disagreements about just how to translate.”

I wholeheartedly agree with Moo on the latter point, but I disagree with him on the former. One need not be in lock-step with a certain translation philosophy in order to be a complementarian. There are committed complementarians on both sides of debate over formal equivalence vs. dynamic equivalence (or essentially literal vs. functional equivalence). Moreover, there are committed complementarians on both sides of the gender-neutral controversy as well. But this fact does not mean that all complementarians see with equal clarity how complementarian conviction should inform our evaluation of Bible translation.

That is why we need to have open and charitable dialog about these issues. My hope and prayer is that these reviews will be a step in that direction.


[Readers may be wondering what the differences are between the two reviews linked above. The first review is CBMW’s official statement on the 2011 NIV, and it is a more general review of the NIV’s gender language (though it is very extensive). The second review appears in the forthcoming issue of JBMW and goes into greater detail on a number of points (e.g., 1 Timothy 2:12 and the Collins Dictionaries Report).]


  • Donald Johnson

    The truth is that some of the gender verses are disputed by evangelical scholars in terms of what they mean, let alone how best they should be translated.

    The NIV 2011 tried to be a translation that COULD be used by either comps or egals, that is, it tried to show that alternative understandings were possible, which is true.

    The paper in effect claims that the translation was not sufficiently masculinist for CBMW. For those that want a masculinist translation, there are the ESV and HCSB.

  • John

    Gone are the days of a common English Bible for the church. There are numerous English translations available today, and if you look around an given church on a Sunday morning, you’ll see quite a few. I have used the NIV since it first came out in 1978, and have been reading the 2011 edition since last fall when it came out in electronic form. While no translation is perfect, I see nothing wrong with using this new revision. It is a good evangelical translation.

  • Sue


    I was profoundly affected by your story at the beginning of the second article. In the same way, for me I was attached to certain translations, the KJV, and the NASB. In Inter varsity we always used 2 Tim. 2:2 to refer to all Christians, all members of the group.

    When I read the ESV and realized that women were excluded from 2 Tim 2:2, I was distraught. This has a deep effect on me.

  • nothingman

    I agree with Moo’s statement at the end of the article:

    “I encourage people who have interests in these matters to take a look for themselves at an actual NIV rather than reading a review or criticism,” he said. “Take a look at it and make a judgment of whether indeed the NIV, is, as we have tried to do, communicating God’s Word accurately and reliably in contemporary English.”

    I have been using the updated NIV since its publication and find it to be a very reliable and accurate translation.

  • Robert Slowley

    nothingman – surely it’s important for people to read these reports on the NIV2011, and then look at that passages themselves where there are problems?

    I use the NIV2011 myself sometimes – but of course I can’t read through the entire thing and notice all the changes, which is why computer analyses like mine are useful to see the changes, and then articles by experts like Denny to look at where there are problems.

  • Nate

    While there are a few verses that are disputed (Rom 16:7 as a prime example), much of the NIV 2011 simply changes words because they want to. The male references to father and son and men in the Old Testament alone shows that the translators did not want to correctly translate the phrase from the Hebrew, but intentionally changed it for PC reasons.

    Moo’s statement is bogus, unless one takes a look at the translation with a Concordance and examines the changes against the Greek and Hebrew. No translation should be made for a particular group (Egal or Comp), but should be honestly translating from the original language. The NIV 2011 falls very short here simply because they change verses just to be Politically Correct in today’s homogenized world.

    In their eyes George Washington is not the “Father of our Country.” He would simply be the “First Parent of our Country.”

  • Sue


    You should at least allow people the knowledge that Calvin’s Latin translation is consistent with the NIV 2011 for 1 Tim. 2:12 and Romans 16:7. That would be the honest thing to do.

  • John

    It’s not that the changes are PC, it’s that English has changed. When the KJV said ‘brethren’ it was understood as all believers, male and female. When you change it to ‘brothers’, that’s understood as males only. I would say the NIV 3011 is more accurate.

  • Charlton Connett


    Your argument side steps the issue. What the CBMW points out (I haven’t read Denny’s critique yet) is that they do not even address those, because you are correct, the masculine plural could be read as “male and female”. But the singular does not function the same way in the Greek. “Tell him” is not the same as “tell them” and “We will dwell with him” is not the same as “We will dwell with them.” The singular carries an emphasis that can be lost in the plural. This is the critique from CBMW on the general changes (as is explained in the CBMW article). There is no complaint mentioned in that article about the plurals, so while the NIV2011 may be more accurate there, is that worth the loss in accuracy in the other areas?

  • henrybish

    Here are some juicy quotes from the articles Denny links to:

    the NIV translators themselves returned to the occasional use of generic masculine expressions in some key verses (!)—thereby admitting that these uses are still understandable and acceptable. So if they are still acceptable, why not admit that they were wrong in excluding them earlier, and why not use them everywhere the Greek or Hebrew texts use a generic masculine singular, since this is the most accurate translation in English?

    I would be interested to hear what the likes of Doug Moo would say to that.

  • henrybish

    Also, I would be interested to know whether Doug Moo now (given how he now thinks 1Tim2:12 should be translated) no longer stands by his essay on 1Tim2:12 in RBMW?

    If he now believes the verse is genuinely open ended then surely he would not be so unreasonable as to assert the complementarian interpretation as the correct one?

  • Donald Johnson

    Part of the article complains about singular use of the word them. This is simply conplaining about how English is changing and is not relevant.

    It also inverts the logic of anthropoi, seeing it as “men” and not “humans” in some cases because of a comp predisposition to interpreting the highly debated gender verses in a comp way, that is, since Denny wears blue glasses, Paul MUST have meant men and not people, since Denny thinks only men can be elders.

    I also find it disingenious for CBMW to NOT have a position on women deacons. If these verses are supposed to be clear, why not be willing to state what you think they CLEARLY mean? The lack of clarity seems to imply disagreement inside CBMW on this.

    In other words, why does CBMW not admit that all the disputed gender verses are debateable and not so clear?

  • henrybish

    There is also some excellent analysis of the NIV2011’s use of the Collins Dictionaries information in the JBMW article:

    While the data collected in the Collins Dictionaries report is impressive, the translators’ use of it is not. The translators say that the report “tracked usage and acceptability” of the relevant gender
    language over a twenty-year period. Certainly the report gives significant insight into English usage, but the report itself sheds very little light on the acceptability of any given idiom. Moreover, it is not at all clear what is meant by acceptability. Does it mean understandable? Or perhaps does it mean
    inoffensive? D. A. Carson has defended the translation philosophy adopted by the NIV 2011, and in his defense of it he has used the term acceptable to refer to that which may or may not offend people of certain ideological tendencies:

    “I cannot help noting that generic “he” is more acceptable in culturally conservative sectors of the country than in culturally liberal sectors. But I have been doing university missions for thirty years, and in such quarters inclusive language dominates. Not to use it is offensive.”

    So for Carson, acceptability has something to do with whether or not a given use of language offends the liberal sensibilities of potential readers. But this is not really a linguistic concern so much as it is an ideological one. The Collins report provides no insight on acceptability in this sense. In any case, acceptability in this sense is certainly not a concern that should determine the translation of a given text—a point with which Carson would
    likely agree.

    As much as I appreciate some of the fine work Carson has done, I’m really not sure how reliable Carson is when it comes to the gender neutral issue. I would very much like to know how he would respond to the comments concerning him in this piece:

  • henrybish

    One key gender neutral insertion in the NIV 2011 that has not been mentioned is in 1Cor14:39 where it has ‘brothers and sisters’ in place of ‘brothers’. But the context makes this highly questionable, here is the whole passage from NIV 2011:

    29 Two or three prophets should speak, and the others should weigh carefully what is said. 30 And if a revelation comes to someone who is sitting down, the first speaker should stop. 31 For you can all prophesy in turn so that everyone may be instructed and encouraged. 32 The spirits of prophets are subject to the control of prophets. 33 For God is not a God of disorder but of peace—as in all the congregations of the Lord’s people.

    34 Women should remain silent in the churches. They are not allowed to speak, but must be in submission, as the law says. 35 If they want to inquire about something, they should ask their own husbands at home; for it is disgraceful for a woman to speak in the church.

    36 Or did the word of God originate with you? Or are you the only people it has reached? 37 If anyone thinks they are a prophet or otherwise gifted by the Spirit, let them acknowledge that what I am writing to you is the Lord’s command. 38 But if anyone ignores this, they will themselves be ignored.

    39 Therefore, my brothers and sisters, be eager to prophesy, and do not forbid speaking in tongues. 40 But everything should be done in a fitting and orderly way.

    This translation has Paul encouraging the women to prophesy in a public setting on the tails of having said they should be silent in church! I realise that many complementarians do not question this because they take the Grudem/Carson approach that Paul was only prohibiting the judging of prophecy. But it is interesting to note that if one wants to limit the scope of silence to a single form of public address (such as judging prophecy) then the closest preceding thing is not judging prophecy (vs 29) but prophecy itself (vs 30-31). And yet the NIV2011 militates against the inclusion of this speech act – despite the huge testimony of interpreters (pre-feminism) who would have included it. I’m surprised this has gone unchallenged.

  • Sue

    As I mentioned earlier, the NIV2011 choices for certain verses are often NOT motivated by feminism, but rather represent the historic interpretation found in Calvin, Luther and the KJV. I welcome a discussion on this issue.

    Regarding whether people understand the generic masculine pronoun as generic, I would argue that they do not, at least not now.

    This is from a paper by Russell Moore.

    “Male headship is strictly defined in Scripture as the opposite of a grasp for power. The headship of men in the church and home is rooted everywhere in Scripture in protection and provision. This is why the apostle Paul calls the man who will not provide for his family “worse than an unbeliever” (1 Tim 5:8 ESV).”

    Nowhere in the Greek is there any indication that this verse refers to a male. In fact, for Erasmus and Calvin the heated question was whether this verse, 1 Tim. 5:8, referred ONLY to females, or whether it was applicable for all Christians.

    I don’t find Erasmus, Calvin or Luther to be feminist in any way, and I don’t claim that they support a feminist interpretation. But they do strongly represent the translation choices of the NIV 2011.

    Thanks so much for letting me bring up this interesting historic background to a very current debate.

  • Donald Johnson

    1 Cor 14 is in the form of a chiasm, my take is one needs to see that to start to make sense of the text, as all the pairings help us understand it.

    And there is certainly no requirement to make the comp choices on how to understand it, there are also egal ways to read it that I believe make better sense than the comp ones.

  • Wayne Leman

    If the claim is being made that “they” which has as its antecedent an indefinite pronoun, such as “anyone,” “everyone,” and “whoever,” is ambiguous between being *semantically* singular or plural, the claim is confusing semantics with syntax. “They” is semantically plural if it *refers* to more than one entity. “They” is semantically indefinite (neither singular, nor plural, but indefinite) is it refers to no specific entity. Whenever you hear someone use an indefinite “they”, including in the NIV2011, stop before suggesting there is a grammatical problem. There is no problem if the reference is clear from antecedence. Indefinite “they” has been used in English by good speakers and writers for hundreds of years. Some of those authors include those who have criticized the TNIV (and would now criticize the NIV2011) for its use of indefinite “they.” Why do we try to divine improper motives from others when we ourselves speak the same way? Why do we object so much when many people today, even if they understand the intended meaning of generic “he,” currently understand such “he” to be masculine, not generic. Indefinite “he” and “they” have been two alternate ways of expressing indefiniteness in English for hundreds of years. It’s even in the King James Bible. Why do we impute improper motives in Bible translation when the translations are reflecting current English usage, as well as longterm usage by some of the greatest writers? We need to be as accurate as possible in the linguistic claims we make about Bible translations, and as gracious as posssible in avoiding divining the intentions of others when only God has that ability. Of course, IF someone says that they are deliberately avoiding generic “he” to be politically correct, then we can criticize that if we believe it is wrong to be politically correct. But we need to be more biblical in how we treat each other in this entire debate. Each side needs to recognize the sincerity of the other side and their genuine desire to express God’s Word as accurately as possible in the language of today for current speakers.

  • Kristen

    Henrybish: How can you say that 1 Cor 14:39 should not state that both brothers and sisters can prophesy, when 1 Cor 11:5 clearly states that women are prophesying, and Paul’s only caution is that they are to observe proper customs regarding headgear when they do it?

    Not only does Paul state that women are prophesying, he also does encourage women to prophesy. Or in 1 Cor 14:1, when he says, “follow the way of love and eagerly desire the spiritual gifts, but especially that you may prophesy,” is he only speaking to men? Or does he want women to not bother to follow the way of love? Does he want women to not desire any spiritual gifts? If these parts are meant for men and women, then so is, “but especially that you may prophesy.”

    The whole of 1 Corinthians, taken together, certainly says that women do, can and should prophesy. The passage in 14:35-39 needs to be read in light of the rest of the letter.

    As far as this word you want translated “brothers,” in 1 Cor 15:1-2 it says, “Brothers, I want to remind you of the gospel. . . by which you are saved.” Is the gospel only for men? Is salvation also only for men? Or does “brothers” also include “sisters”? And if it does, why should it not be translated that way?

  • Kristen

    It seems to me that to say the word being translated “brothers and sisters” should be translated only as “brothers” is so that people can pick and choose, according to their own presuppositions, in which places it means “every Christian” and in which places it means “only men.” This is disingenuous. The word in the Greek is gender-inclusive. The word “brothers” in English used to be, but now is not– as evidenced by this kind of modern word-play that says, “here it means both us and you, female Christians, so you should read it that way even though it doesn’t say that– but here in this other place we want it to mean just us men, so that’s what it does mean.”

  • henrybish

    Dear Kristen,

    please read the following article and refer to the referenced material (esp Greenbury and Laney) for more details:

    Although it is not as common in our day, there is a very strong historical tradition (pre-feminism) in the interpretation of 1Cor14 that stands against what you are saying, the above article and some of the articles it references give some reasons why that has been the case.

    (one assumption in your argument is that Paul defined a specific context for the instructions in 1Cor11:5 and that this context is exclusively ‘church’. However, Paul nowhere defines the context as exclusively ‘church’ in 1Cor11:5. All that can be deduced from 1Cor11:5 is that the instructions apply to situations where it is appropriate for women to pray and prophesy (situations that are possibly/probably in some kind of setting where others are present). This is not the same thing as saying it is appropriate for women to prophesy to the assembled church, which Paul seems to quite clearly forbid in 1Cor14:33-36).

    As for when ‘brothers’ means ‘brothers and sisters’ I agree it is best to let the context decide rather than pick and choose, thus I am sceptical of the ‘brothers and sisters’ insertion in 1Cor14 on the tails of having instructed that the women remain silent.

    Hope this makes some sense of what I am saying,


  • henrybish

    p.s. I agree with much of what you said regarding both men and women eagerly desiring spiritual gifts, especially the gift of prophecy.

    My difference is the context in which it is appropriate for women to express the gift of prophecy. Complementarians would say similar with regard to the gift of teaching.

  • Sue

    All that can be deduced from 1Cor11:5 is that the instructions apply to situations where it is appropriate for women to pray and prophesy (situations that are possibly/probably in some kind of setting where others are present).

    And yet, it is highly unlikely that women covered their heads when they were only prophesying in the presence of other women. We don’t have a precedent for that.

    It may mean that in their own homes, when men from outside the family came to listen to the prophesy of women, then the women covered their heads. But since early churches were in the home, what exactly would be the boundary line between “sitting and listening to a woman prophesy” and “being in church?”

  • Kristen

    I think 1 Cor 14:39 is a recap of 14:1, which was the most common way of setting up a teaching in the NT– a chiasm (as Don mentioned) in which the same point made at the beginning is restated at the end. Since 14:1 is clearly directed at all believers, there is no reason to believe verse 39 is not also.

    In any event, the commentary you linked to is only one interpretation, and it is problematic in many ways. As Sue says, I don’t think the early church made the distinction you are making between “public” and “private” meetings of believers. Prophecy was not a “private” ministry anyway, but was understood as something that was done in public. Also, it’s very odd in my mind to think that Paul would be talking only about “private” meetings in 1 Cor. 11 without actually saying so. The supposed precedents that your link mentions, do not seem to me to work the way the commentator says they do.

    However, we are talking about translation, not interpretation, so it’s probably not the place to go into more detail about how to interpret this passage– but I don’t think the NIV 2011 translation team should be faulted for using “brothers and sisters” in v. 39. There are plenty of good reasons why they should have done so. The chiasm is well-established as the most frequent way Biblical writers organized their writings. Chapter 14 certainly fits that structure.

  • Donald Johnson

    As I see it, the pericope is 1 Cor 14:26-40 and this is in the form of a chiasm. There are 4 levels to the chiasm and identifying them allows one to see the matching pairs of texts, allowing each individual section to further illuminate the matching one.

    It is a good goal to try to ensure consistency in each teaching, however, the question then becomes what is the pivot? What is the text that others are made to be consistent with? This is one of the sad results of comp thinking, as I see it, in order to be consistent there is a need to distort other teachings, of course, they might see it as egals distorting the texts that they pivot on.

  • Kristen

    There is also the very real issue that this is a letter, written to a certain audience– the church at Corinth. And as Chapter 1:1-2 shows, the letter was written to the entire church, not just the men. So if Paul really is switching back and forth between meaning the word “adelphoi” as “brothers” sometimes and “brothers and sisters” others, he is being terribly remiss in not making it more plain. Paul says in 1 Cor. 11 that women should cover their heads when they pray or prophesy (“in gatherings of believers” is implied, because women did not need to cover their heads when alone or with their families in their own homes), and then in 14:26, he says to the “adelphoi” that when they come together, “each one” has a “hymn, a teaching, a revelation, a tongue or an interpretation.” There is noting in verse 26 to indicate “Now THIS time when I say ‘aldelphoi’ I only mean you men!”

    Then suddenly he appears to be saying that women should be absolutely silent in meetings of the church. And now we are supposed to understand that “aldelphoi” in verse 39 now means “only you men” — again, without any textual clues that “adelphoi”‘s meaning has changed.

    This does not seem to me to take into account the fact that Paul was a scholar who knew how to communicate to an audience. The women did not suddenly leave the room after Chapter 13. “Women be silent” has to mean something other than what it appears to mean, or be in contradiction with the rest of the letter. Or else it really is an interpolation (and since apparently the church fathers in the first 100 years or so quoted this passage without mentioning verses 34-35, this seems quite likely to me.)

  • Donald Johnson

    The basic problem is extracting text (quoting 1 Cor 14:34-35) as if it was an axiom in a math proof. It is not an axiom to pivot around, and taking it from its teaching unit (pericope) leads to mistakes, IMO.

  • henrybish

    Donald and I have done the chiasm discussion before, if anyone wishes to see some of the reasons I don’t think it works see this thread from comment 25 onwards:

    I think the chiasm approach (to get round 1Cor14) is extremely weak, it is a minority position even amongst egalitarians (I only know of Hamilton that holds it). DBE avoided that route also.


    Since 14:1 is clearly directed at all believers, there is no reason to believe verse 39 is not also.

    The immediate context of vs 39 provides a very good reason – the context is the various kinds of public address in the church, and the prophesying in vs 29 is public address in the church. You should not overlook that.

    Prophecy was not a “private” ministry anyway, but was understood as something that was done in public.

    For the men in the Bible, yes (except for when the prophesied solo to ‘the land’ or to ‘the north’ etc). Agabus (NT) appeared to prophecy to the assembled church about the famine. Many of the OT male prophets had a public preaching ministry.

    But it is noteworthy that the examples we have in the Bible of women who prophesied were not like this. Deborah prophesied in a more limited setting to those who came to her (perhaps at home? or under a tree?). Huldah did so privately to a group of men sent by the King. Miriam to women. Priscilla helped explain to Apollos in a private setting away from the synagogue assembly. So the biblical precedent suggests a distinction in how women utilised their gifts compared to men. There is an interesting anecdote told in RBMW from the early centuries of Christianity where a women (in the time of Tertullian I think) who had the gift of prophecy would go and share her prophecies with the elders after the church service had concluded.

    if Paul really is switching back and forth between meaning the word “adelphoi” as “brothers” sometimes and “brothers and sisters” others, he is being terribly remiss in not making it more plain…. There is nothing in verse 26 to indicate “Now THIS time when I say ‘aldelphoi’ I only mean you men!”

    But who says the contextual limiter has to be in verse 26? He makes it plain enough in verse 33-36, that is enough. He also happens to indicate that all the churches knew of this practice and so we can reasonably infer that they would be reading his instructions with that in mind. Remember he was not writing directly to us, but to them.

    As for Paul being ‘remiss’, God is under no obligation to make everything black and white and crystal clear. Surely you don’t charge Paul with being ‘remiss’ for other places where he seems unclear to you. If so then you disagree with Peter. In any case, Paul was writing to his 1st century audience who would most likely comprehend him much more closely in some places than we do.


    since early churches were in the home, what exactly would be the boundary line between “sitting and listening to a woman prophesy” and “being in church?”

    I’m sure you are quite capable of answering this question if you really wanted to Sue, given your brethren background. Many matters in scripture call for godly wisdom to make judgement calls for grey areas. In this case however, I think it is fairly clear in most situations when ‘church’ is being conducted.

    At the very least is would be a meeting where it would be appropriate for all the congregation to be present for worship service.

    At the other end, it seems quite clear that a few friends gathered together for a meal over which they might discuss some bible verses does not class as the assembled church. Or situations like Apollos, Priscilla and Aquila. Nobody would refer to those meetings as ‘church’. Or Huldah prophesying to a group of men sent by the king.

    The fact is Paul affirms both that women can prophesy and instructs that they be silent in church. It is really not that hard to affirm both truths in a consistent way. Pre-feminism interpreters never had such a problem as we seem to today with seeing these verses as harmonious.

  • Donald Johnson

    The chiasm exists in 1 Cor 14, but people can choose not to see it and pretend it does not exist.

    What I teach is that Paul repudiates 1 Cor 14:34-35 in v. 36ff. I taught it in my Baptist Sunday school class and all accepted it.

    Paul writes the letter in a very conversational style, knowing that it would be read aloud to the church at Corinth. He repeatedly throughout the letter uses the expletive of repudiation eta and uses it twice in v. 36.

  • Sue

    Yes, I am quite capable of responding to this. Among the Brethren a decision was binding if “two or three are gathered together.”

    And the case of Susanna Wesley was much discussed. She taught a mixed group of men in her own home. Her husband did not forbid her.

    I lived with this inconsistency in my life, that women were of equal authority in the home, and were totally and completely silent in the assembly. I do not believe that this kind of distinction relates to the nature of God.

    In my upbringing women were trained in Greek, and consulted in the home. There was no sense at all that men were in any way better equipped to interpret the word or make judgments. Just as Deborah sat under a tree, she was still considered the most capable of making judgments of anyone in her community.

    There is no sense in which women are less gifted to make judgments than men. Unfortunately, there are times when some people feel it is necessary to suggest that there is.

  • Kristen

    Henry, you said:

    As for Paul being ‘remiss’, God is under no obligation to make everything black and white and crystal clear. Surely you don’t charge Paul with being ‘remiss’ for other places where he seems unclear to you. If so then you disagree with Peter. In any case, Paul was writing to his 1st century audience who would most likely comprehend him much more closely in some places than we do.

    Peter was speaking of places where Paul’s theology was difficult, not of Paul addressing an entire congregation by using a word that he clearly means to be understood to mean “all of you,” but changing it to sometimes mean “only some of you” in certain special instances. This isn’t Paul being theologically difficult. This is Paul being a bad letter-writer. I don’t believe he was.

    I’m sure there were words Paul could have used to clarify that in verse 39 he meant “only those siblings who are male.” He did not.

    You also said:

    But who says the contextual limiter has to be in verse 26? He makes it plain enough in verse 33-36, that is enough. He also happens to indicate that all the churches knew of this practice and so we can reasonably infer that they would be reading his instructions with that in mind. Remember he was not writing directly to us, but to them.

    Yes, indeed he was writing to them– to ALL of them. In Chapter 14 verse 6, “adelphoi” clearly means “all of you.” Again in verse 12, he calls them “adelphoi” to mean “all of you.” Then verse 26 says (using that same word “adelphoi”) that “when you come together, each of you has a teaching, a revelation, etc. Unless “when you come together” means something entirely different from “in the congregations of the saints” a few sentences later in verse 34, then Paul could NOT have meant “brothers and sisters” in verse 26. The only problem is that he gives no contextual clues that he has suddenly changed his use of the word “adelphoi” between verse 12 and this verse, to mean “only brothers” in this verse. And this is in the section which you say contextually relates to full church gatherings. So either Paul was telling women they could speak aloud to give teachings and share revelations in church gatherings just like men could, or he was being once again, a very bad letter-writer. He continually addressed the church using a word clearly meaning “all of you,” suddenly without warning switched it to mean “males only” for a few verses, and then in verse 1 of Chapter 15 immediately switched it back to mean “all of you,” again with no change in phraseology to indicate “now I mean all of you again.”

    I prefer to think Paul knew how to write.

  • Donald Johnson

    This is my concern, that comps seem to be taking a difficult passage and using it as a pivot, making otherwise clear passages (adelphoi meaning people) say something that it is not clear they say, by using restricted meanings. This is backwards from the protestant interpretation model that moves from the more clear to the less clear.

  • Kristen

    I said: “I prefer to think Paul knew how to write.”

    In reading over the rest of what I wrote, it appears that I myself do not! So sorry; I was writing in some haste because my family was waiting to go somewhere.

    To clarify, then: when I said: “Unless ‘when you come together’ means something entirely different from ‘in the congregations of the saints’ a few sentences later in verse 34, then Paul could NOT have meant ‘brothers and sisters’ in verse 26” — I meant, according to Henry Bish’s interpretation. I think Paul did mean “brothers and sisters” every time he used “adelphoi.” I think in verse 26 he was including women among those who could share “a teaching, a hymn, a revelation, a tongue or an interpretation.” And I think “when you come together,” means “whenever you congregate as a church.” Which means that “women must be silent” can’t be read at face value. He may very well have been quoting, and then repudiating, something the Corinthians have written to him earlier. There is some precedence for this in Chapter 7. Many scholars think when he wrote in verse 1: “Now, concerning the things of which you wrote to me,” he was quoting the Corinthians’ letter when he goes on, “‘It is good for a man not to touch a woman'” — and then giving his response to that.

    It could also be an interpolation. Or it could be that he is asking women to be silent in the same way he asks prophets to be silent in 14:29 — simply to not interrupt when others are speaking.

    Any of these, in my mind, are more likely than that Paul is switching back and forth in the meaning of a word he is using repeatedly, first to be inclusive of the whole audience, then to exclude women, and then to be all-inclusive again.

  • henrybish


    I think Paul did mean “brothers and sisters” every time he used “adelphoi.”

    The Greek word Paul uses can vary in meaning depending on the context. Here are some examples when the same Greek word is used to refer to men/a man only:

    Matt 13:55
    Matt 19:29
    Matt 22:25
    Mark 3:35
    Luke 14:26
    Acts 22:30-23:1
    Acts 28:17
    1Cor 9:5
    1Tim 5:1
    James 2:15

    Many more verses could be listed (I think adelphoi is used over 300 times in the NT).

    I think in verse 26 he was including women among those who could share “a teaching, a hymn, a revelation, a tongue or an interpretation.”

    But this interpretation is exactly the opposite of what Paul goes on to say: “As in all the churches of the saints, the women should keep silent in the churches. For they are not permitted to speak, but should be in submission, as the Law also says… It is shameful for a woman to speak in church.”

    If you are interested, the options you mentioned (rejected quotation, interpolation, disruptive women etc) are all addressed in Grudem’s EFBT which can be accessed free online:

    In verse 26 there is really not the problem you suggest since the context defines who is being referred to. The term adelphoi is a masculine term that often includes women only by extension and it goes without saying that ‘when you come together’ the women are with you. Paul often only addresses ‘men, brothers and fathers’ in some of his speeches in Acts.

    The ‘each one…’ bit refers to men because of the explicit and clear instructions that follow. (Not to mention how outrageous it would be for Jewish Paul to have envisioned women leading and teaching the congregation). Cf the prohibitions in 1Tim2:12 also, and note that one of the elements in 1Cor14:26 is ‘lesson’ or ‘doctrine’ (KJV), this is one of reasons the interpretation of this verse is joined with that of 1Tim2:12).

  • John

    So does your church require women to cover their heads? Do all the members greet each other with a holy kiss? And do you not allow women to talk at all? And if it is translated as male only, does any of this apply to women? It would seem that a slavish literalism would lead to this type of thinking.

  • Donald Johnson


    In Greek, the masculine plural form of a noun is used when a group contains all males all the way down to just 1 male and all the rest females. So it is immediate context that determines what is meant. This is a part of where translation involves interpretation, to try to discern if there were any women in the group mentioned.

    If you enter the text as Henry does, with a comp assumption, you will read it as being males. If you enter the text as I and Kristen do, with an egal assumption, you can read the text as being humans. It other words, it depends on what assumptions in your worldview grid that you bring to the text.

    Comps pivot on 1 Cor 14:34-35 as it seems to them to be a giant restriction on women (which they are on the lookout for), but almost no one actually does what it says, essentially everyone finds a way to water it down and mitigate it, as it makes no sense, it is way too strong a restriction, literally a woman is to be silent and make no noise, as in shut up, as the SAME Greek word sigao is used 3 times so it means the same (shut up) all 3 times it is used.

    This is why I see it as essential to repudiate these verses as not sanctioned by God, fortunately, Paul does just that in v.36ff.

  • Donald Johnson

    Grudem does not interact with the most recent scholarship on 1 Cor 14 in terms of the repudiation reading. He says nothing of the chiasm in EFBT.

  • Sue

    First, the NET bible notes indicate that these verses were in the margin of the text. Grudem does not discuss this to my recollection. I believe this would bring the status of the verses with regard to original inspiration into question. Does God inspire the marginal notes?

    Second, it is not quite accurate to say that Paul addresses “men, brothers and fathers.” Those very same words in Greek can all apply to mixed gender groups. It is a bit more difficult to argue this for the English words. For example,

    adelphoi are Cleopatra and Ptolemy
    pateres are Moses mother and father
    aner are citizens both male and female in Plato’s Laws

    When Paul says

    “Men and brethren, children of the stock of Abraham, and whosoever among you feareth God, to you is the word of this salvation sent.” Acts 13:26

    Do you think that the women present considered that they could not have salvation?

    That the word can refer to males only is not an argument that the words are used only for males. And yet in English these words are usually used only for males. But in Greek and Hebrew one could use the grammatically masculine words for males and females, or one could add the feminine words as well. Both are common and interchangeable.

    However, it is not quite a literal translation if one translates these words with only the masculine. This is not the usage of the word, nor does it represent the semantic range of the words in the original.

    If women are not andres and adelphoi, then women are not included in salvation.

  • Sue

    Okay, the ESV has flubbed Acts 13:26 as a literal translation. Here it is,

    Ἄνδρες ἀδελφοί, υἱοὶ γένους Ἀβραὰμ καὶ οἱ ἐν ὑμῖν φοβούμενοι τὸν θεόν, [a]ἡμῖν ὁ λόγος τῆς σωτηρίας ταύτης [b]ἐξαπεστάλη.

    I give up. Really, if there is nobody who can deal with the original languages this is not worth discussing.

  • Donald Johnson

    1 Cor 14:36 (My translation) Bunk! Was it from you (the Corinthian legalists) that the word of God came? Bunk! Are you (legalists) the only ones it has reached?

    In other words, Paul is pointing out that the Bible contains words from both men and women as God inspired them. (If God did it before, God can do it again today.) Why do the legalists think they are special and can supress others?

  • henrybish


    I think many of your objections could also be levelled at the apostle Paul. And how do you think churches down through the ages have followed his instructions?

    I am actually from a charismatic background and have not been in many churches that would take 1Cor14:33-36 seriously although I have visited some Brethren assemblies and the Free Presbyterian Church of Scotland that does take heed of them. I think it is unfair to label my view as ‘slavish literalism’ when it is a very reasonable interpretation and the one with very good historical pedigree. It is the only interpretation that I think gives proper credit to Paul’s words in 1Cor14:33-36. Please see the article I linked to earlier for how some of the greatest theological minds down the ages have taken these verses. It is not my idea. Even Carl Laney from CBMW seems inclined this way, as does the OPC seem to (

    Many things (though not all) in the Bible are intended to be taken literally. I don’t think there is any metaphor in 1Cor14:33-36.

    Looking at the context (vs26 onwards) it seems clear that the silence refers to forms of public address (people getting up and addressing the congregation), so it would not apply to anything outside of that such as congregational singing.

    I think the root objection most people have to the face value reading of 1Cor14:33-36 is emotional, and that is understandable. But that is no different than the root objection the gay christian movement has to other comments of Paul regarding homosexuality or egalitarian objections to wives submitting to their husbands or the world’s objections to the exclusivity of Christ. Most things in scripture are indignantly hated by at least one group of people. I think emotional objections to scripture are a sign of our fallen nature rather than a fault with God’s ways.

    As for head coverings and the holy kiss that is probably best left for another post. My point here is that the NIV2011 has made a misleading translation of 1Cor14:39. Consider the relevant parts of the passage:

    31 For you can all prophesy in turn so that everyone may be instructed and encouraged.
    34 Women should remain silent in the churches. They are not allowed to speak, but must be in submission, as the law says… it is disgraceful for a woman to speak in the church.…
    39 Therefore, my brothers and sisters, be eager to prophesy, and do not forbid speaking in tongues.

    This artificially introduced gender neutrality is misleading here, but they get a free pass on it.

  • Donald Johnson

    It is not artifically introduced gender neutrality, by claiming that you show your masculinist bias.

    One of the key insights in the egal understanding is that the “law says” in v. 34 is the so-called Oral Torah of the Pharisees, which Jesus repudiated when it conflicted with Scripture. There is no command for women to be silent or in submission in the Tanakh, but there is in the Mishnah, which is how we can figure out which law is meant.

    Mishnah sotah 3.4; B sotah 20a.
    “Out of respect to the congregation, a woman should not herself read in the law. It is a shame for a woman to let her voice be heard among men. The voice of a woman is filthy nakedness.”

    Another clue is the word “says” as the Oral Torah was oral and said things as Pharisees in the 1st century memorized what previous sages had said.

  • henrybish


    we have discussed this before in the post I linked to ealier. As I said back then, the only other places in the NT where you can find the phrase ‘the law say(s)’ are Rom3:19 and 1Cor9:8. And both of them refer to the OT. I do not think there is a single instance where Paul or a NT author uses that phrase to refer to writings outside scripture.

    The simple meaning is that Paul is referring to the OT when grounding his argument for why women should be in submission (1Cor14:34). Passages such as Num30:3-13 teach this, as well as (according to Paul himself) various aspects of the creation account. One could also add the general pattern of male leadership in the OT, often explicitly commanded by God, and the commendation Esther seems to receive for submitting to Mordecai even when she was Queen.

  • Donald Johnson


    Submission is to be one of the characteristics of a believer. It is not one-sided as some comps claim.

    On Rom 3:19, “works of the law” in Rom 3:20 I read as some Messianics do, as refering to the Oral Torah. So, what the “law says” in v.19 is what the oral Torah says.

    On 1 Cor 9:8 one can again read it as “Oral Torah says”. In this case, Paul has just rhetorically asked if what he said was on human authority. This is exactly what the Oral Torah is based on, human authority, but even with that, a teacher can be paid. He clinches his argument by referring to Scripture.

    Paul was a Jews and a Pharisee all his life, he uses present tense to claim this. This does not mean he agreed with everything in the Oral Torah, when it negated Scripture, he opposed it, just like Jesus. But this also does not mean he disagreed with everything in it, just those parts that negated Scripture, the Tanakh.

    Mordecai also submitted to Esther. Mutual submission is for believers. It is important to see the whole counsel of God.

  • Donald Johnson

    Num 30 needs to be read using patriarchal assumptions which were a part of the culture assumptions of the time. For the time, it was an movement in an egal direction, freeing a woman to be able to make a vow in Israel, as long as the conditions were met. In other cultures, a woman could not make a vow that would stick; in Israel, she could, inside the partriarchal assumptions of that culture. This does not mean that God endorsed the patriarchal assumptions, it means that God works with peoples (and individuals) where ever they are at, moving them step by step more into the Kingdom as they follow God’s leading.

  • Kristen

    Henry, you said:

    The term adelphoi is a masculine term that often includes women only by extension and it goes without saying that ‘when you come together’ the women are with you. Paul often only addresses ‘men, brothers and fathers’ in some of his speeches in Acts.

    The ‘each one…’ bit refers to men because of the explicit and clear instructions that follow.

    I looked up the Scriptures you referenced in an online interlinear. I found out that while it is true that “adelphoi” was often used of groups consisting entirely of men, there is another word that was available for use whenever the speaker/writer wanted to identify strictly males in contrast to females. That word is “adelphous,” which means “male siblings/brothers,” and it is used in Matt 19:29 and Luke 14:26 along with the word “aldephas” to mean “female/siblings/sisters. In Mark 3:34-35, Jesus uses first “adelphoi” in verse 34 and then the singular “adelphos” for “brother” and “adelphe” for “sister” in verse 35.

    What I was saying before, then, still holds. Paul has been using “adelphoi” to mean “all of you” throughout this letter to the Corinthians. Though he does also use “adelphoi” in 1 Cor 9:5 when refers to Jesus’ brothers-by-birth, it is clear there that he is not directly addressing the entire church. Whenever he uses “adelphoi” to address the church, that is the word he uses– for the entire group, males and females. There was another word available to him that he could have used in Chapter 14 to make it clear he meant only the male believers: “adelphous.” He does not use that word.

    Verse 26 comes before verses 34-35. He has not yet, then, introduced the so-called “contextual clarification” that “adelphoi” in verse 26 has to mean “only the men.” Why not? This is not the way one writes a letter, not making it clear at the point when you change who you are talking to, the fact that you have now changed who it is you are talking to!

    (Not to mention how outrageous it would be for Jewish Paul to have envisioned women leading and teaching the congregation).

    Outrageous to your presuppositions, certainly. But in Romans 16:2, Paul uses a word regarding Phoebe, “prostatis,” which is used elsewhere in his letters to mean “leader.” It appears to be translated “helper” only because Phoebe is female. The word actually means, “one who stands before,” and refers to a person with authority. The verb form of this word is used in 1 Thes 5:12 and translated as “those who are over you in the Lord.” It is used four times in 1 Timothy: three times to refer to a person governing a household in Chapter 3, and once in 1 Tim 5:17 to speak of the elders who “rule [proistemi] well.” Paul uses the noun form of this word to say Phoebe has been a “prostatis” even of himself. I don’t think Paul had a problem with women leaders. I think the church has, through the ages, which is why we are having these discussions now.

    Cf the prohibitions in 1Tim2:12 also, and note that one of the elements in 1Cor14:26 is ‘lesson’ or ‘doctrine’ (KJV), this is one of reasons the interpretation of this verse is joined with that of 1Tim2:12).

    Respectfully, the letters to Timothy were written considerably later than the letter to the Corinthians. The Corinthian church simply did not have 1 Tim 2:12-15 to refer to for clarification of Paul’s words.

    In any event, the notion that Paul is making a permanent injunction against all women ever teaching or leading in church, is highly disputable– but off-topic for this conversation about how to translate “adelphoi.”

  • Kristen

    One other thing with regards to Grudem: Phillip Payne, in his book Man and Woman, One in Christ refutes much of Grudem’s work. I suppose it’s a matter of deciding who you agree with– but the Proverb does come to mind: “One man’s testimony seems right, until another cross examines him.”

  • Kristen

    Ok, Henry. I will try to remember that in Paul’s mind it is males whom Christ came to save, and I am saved only as an afterthought. That is, in fact, the logical consequence of reading 1 Cor 15:1-2 in light of that article.

  • Donald Johnson

    That article also has masculinist bias. He reads the Greek words assuming God is masculinist. So that words that CAN mean everyone he declines to see as meaning everyone. In other words, by maintaining this masculinist skew, he can read the words to continue to maintain his masculinist skew. Be wearing blue glasses he finds blue verses in lots of places, but that does not mean they are really there.

  • Robert Slowley

    An observation: I’ve seen Sue comment at great length in a number of places, including here. At some point she says something to the effect of “With no one here as skilled as me I’m just going to give up and go away” (as she just did), but then whenever anyone says to her “Hey if you have all these ideas that are good and beat these guys with PhDs why don’t you write papers and get them published in peer reviewed journals yourself?” at which point she backs away and says she hasn’t got enough time.

    Thanks for all the comments Henry – the clear message seems to be that the egals have to rely on the church having misunderstood and mistranslated things for the last 2,000 years, that most scholars are wrong, and that bizarre means of interpreting the text are right (like the whole chiasm thing that is a minority view even in the egal camp!!).

  • Donald Johnson

    One you see that plural masculine terms in Greek and Hebrew can include women, the default assumption is that they do include women as the group gets larger, unless there is an immediate context to think otherwise. But that article turns this principle on its head, he wants to assume it does not include women unless there is a reason to do so. He gets it backwards.

    It is like 1950s English, back then if someone said there were 1000 men in church, unless you knew they were all males for some reason, one would assume that women were included in the “men” and that “men” really meant people.

  • Michael Marlowe

    In the Baptist Press article, Douglas Moo is quoted as saying, “the decisions we’ve made about gender have no motivation of not offending people.” But I don’t see how this can be reconciled with the CBT’s own policy statement of 1992, which explicitly states that the committee aimed to give “non-offending renderings.”

  • Sue


    Denny has moderated me, and only publishes my comments every few days so I get frustrated. I can’t engage. Noyhing I can do about this. I can’t even responnd to your comment – more than this little bit.

    Please Denny publish this.

  • Kristen

    Henry, I will quote from the article. I think I have understood it correctly.

    . .. we see the usual habit of addressing men directly and women indirectly—”if you marry, you have not sinned, and if a virgin marries, she has not sinned.” (Verse 28. The man is addressed with second-person forms of the verbs, and the woman is referred to in the third person.) There is no escaping the fact that this feature of discourse is habitual in Paul’s letters and throughout the Bible. We also note that Marshall and Strauss in their arguments are practically claiming that “brothers and sisters” is the default meaning of adelphoi in the epistles, and that the masculine sense is not to be recognized except in contexts where it is clearly required. But this turns the normal pattern of usage on its head. The linguistic evidence shows that the opposite was true: it was the gender-neutral sense that required a contextual clue.

    What this says is that in 1 Cor 15:1-2, since there is no contextual clue that Paul is addressing both men and women (particularly since, according to the article, the last 2 or 3 times Paul used “adelphoi” he was “clearly” only addressing the men), the women in the audience would have had to understand that 15:1-2 was also addressed primarily to the men– with themselves “not intended to be excluded” but certainly not to consider themselves as the primary audience either. Men, therefore, are most important to God, and Christ came to save men. Women are not excluded from salvation, but they are not to be considered part of the primary group for whom Christ came.

    I really don’t see how you can take anything else from that article’s understanding of the Epistles. I do know something about how to read for meaning, btw. I took my degree in this field.

    The article also, in its assertions that Paul addressed men directly and women indirectly 1 1 Cor 7, and that we are to take understand from this the secondary role he gave women, fails to note 1 Cor 7:18-21, in which Paul speaks of circumcized men indirectly, and to slaves directly. I sincerely doubt that we are to infer from this that Paul considered circumcized men to be secondary to slaves.

    I’m hoping that a Greek scholar — Sue, perhaps– can shed more light on the difference between “adelphous” (which Jesus used to speak of “brothers” when differentiated from “sisters”) and “adelphoi.” I notice that the article sort of skipped that part.

  • henrybish


    as you yourself recognise, there is a difference between not being primarily addressed and being excluded. The article says:

    ‘The usage of this Greek word in the vocative plural to address congregations is analogous to the traditional usage of ‘brethren” and other male-oriented expressions in English. There is no intent to exclude women, but the focus is upon the men, in accordance with the usual pattern of discourse in Scripture, and in accordance with the social realities of the ancient world.

    You needn’t draw the conclusion that women are less valued by God simply because they are assigned a subordinate role. Paul has many kind things to say to women, and Jesus is subordinate to the Father.

    As for the adelphoi/adelphous thing, the article does address it. See the table after the notes and the way the author adduces examples of the usage of both words to make the same point in paragraph 6 beginning ‘In the usages noted here…’

    I am no Greek expert but it seems clear from the article that adelphoi and adelphous are the same word just different cases. “adelphoi” is the nominative/dative case whereas “adelphous” is the accusative case. Both are plural. Here is part of the table from the article:

    singular plural

    αδελφος αδελφοι
    adelphos adelphoi

    αδελφου αδελφων
    adelphou adelphōn

    αδελφω αδελφοις
    adelphō adelphois

    αδελφον αδελφους
    adelphon adelphous

    αδελφε αδελφοι
    adelphe adelphoi

    I notice that the author of the article, Michael Marlowe has posted a comment in this thread, I don’t know if he would like to add any comment in this regard?

  • henrybish

    As for me, I think my time is done on this thread. Unless there is some further substantive discussion to be had I think I’ll call it a day.

    thanks for the discussion,

  • Sue


    Henry is right about adelphoi and adelphous, the same word, both plural.

    However, in a legal sense, adelphoi would refer to all the biological siblings in a family, and would not refer to brothers only if there were sisters in the family. This is the main point which I feel needs addressing.


  • Michael Marlowe

    Kristen, your interpretation of my article is very faulty if you think it is saying something about a “primary group for whom Christ came.”

  • Kristen

    I will be done here too– except that I do not think Jesus is eternally subordinate to the Father, but subordinated Himself voluntarily while on earth. Neither do I believe the Bible teaches that women are “assigned a subordinate role” by God. In Bible times and cultures, as reflected by the bibical writings, yes. Designed and endorsed by God as a permanent, universal, timeless subordination? Absolutely not. And yes, if God had done so, and if I believed it were God’s intent, and not simply a by-product of the culture and language in which the Biblical writers wrote, to appear to address men as the primary audience and women only “not excluded” — i.e., getting to go along for the ride but not really the ones God wanted to speak to through the Scripture, not part of the ones He really had in mind when He sent His Son to save– yes, I would believe that God valued women less. That is only logical.

    Fortunately, I don’t believe that, nor do I believe Jesus taught anything along those lines– nor do I believe that is the message Paul intended to share with us. Otherwise we might as well just leave Galatians 3:28-4:5 out of the Bible altogether.

    For the rest– no, I don’t speak Greek, and if I was wrong about “adelphous” — ok. But it still doesn’t make women secondary, an afterthought, not excluded but not part of the intended included ones either — just because the Greek language is set up that way.

    And I still don’t believe Paul would just change whom he was addressing from one passage to the next without saying so. If he’d wanted to say, “I know I just used the same word I’ve been using to address all of you, but this part only applies to you men” in verse 26, he would have found a way to make that clear, and not waited until verse 34 to do it.

  • Kristen

    Michael– what else am I to think? That may not have been your intent, but that is certainly the implication and logical conclusion of what you’re saying– because you said that “adelphoi” should be read as meaning “males only” unless the writer makes it clear he’s talking about women too — rather than the other way around.

    As Don pointed out, the gender-inclusive masculine in 1950s English didn’t work that way. When a writer wrote “men” or “brothers,” the context had to make it clear that “males only” was meant– otherwise the reader would assume that “humans” was what was meant.

    As in the old song, “With God as our Father, brothers all are we; let me walk with my brother, in perfect harmony.” A woman reading that in the 1950s would not have thought, “the song doesn’t mention that women are intended to be included here, so that means this is only for men.”

    But that’s how you want to read 1 Cor 14:26. Paul has not yet said anything that may be interpreted as women being excluded, but the women would have already understood they were excluded because there were no contextual clues to say they were included– so it was ok for Paul to wait until verse 34 to explain the nature of the exclusion.

    Sorry, that just doesn’t fly with me.

  • Donald Johnson

    A language with its grammar just is the way it is. Trying to extract theological truth from the way a language works is far fetched, God accomodated and inspired the NT we have to be in Greek, using Greek language constructs.

    The basic problem with that article is it promotes a cafeteria style interpretation of masculine plural forms. That is, assume the masculine plural refers to ONLY males, unless the author of the article thinks it does not. This is exactly backwards and dangerous. The basic rule in Greek is easy: unless one has a reason to think it is all males, do not assume that, esp. as the group grows larger.

    The kicker is that comps DO think there is a reason to assume it is all male where ever the text touches one of their favorite debated gender texts. If they would only take off their blue lenses, they would see clearly.

  • Sue

    And all of this shows why I feel that the King James Version was the last literal Bible. Brethren functioned in a similar way to adelphoi, and man functioned in a similar way to anthropos. So I am quite happy to use that translation, but I do not like to see others pretend that “brothers” is right and “brothers and sisters” is wrong. It is not that simple.

  • henrybish

    I don’t wish to be longer here, but I just remembered another excellent article that faithfully exegetes 1Cor14:33-36 and deals with many common objections and questions, many of them raised here.

    The article is by Steve Atkerson of NTRF, for those that are interested here is the link:

    Here are some juicy quotes for those wondering whether to read it, he starts of by drawing on the support of egalitarian scholar Gordon Fee:

    Gordon Fee, in his commentary on this passage, opined that “despite protests to the contrary, the ‘rule’ itself is expressed absolutely. That is, it is given without any form of qualification. Given the unqualified nature of the further prohibition that ‘the women’ are not permitted to speak, it is very difficult to interpret this as meaning anything else than all forms of speaking out in public . . . the plain sense of the sentence is an absolute prohibition of all speaking in the assembly” (p. 706-707).

    [for those wondering why Fee would say such a thing, realise the he is free to interpret it in whatever way is most accurate because he discounts if from the canon. Thus we see what a great mind like Fee’s would do with this text if he was not influenced by our feminist culture.]

    And an interesting piece in there for Kristen, something I did not notice:

    Some argue that in 1 Corinthians 14, “brothers” refers to both men and women. Is this the case? The readers, throughout 1 Corinthians 14, are addressed as either “brothers” or “you” (second person pronoun). However, there is a significant pronoun shift from “you” to “they” (third person pronoun) in the paragraph concerning women (14:33b-35). Rather than writing, “women . . . you”, the text states, “women . . . they.” Why did Paul not write directly to the sisters, if they were included in the term brothers?

    This pronoun shift can be easily accounted for if the word brothers throughout 1 Corinthians 14 refers primarily to the men. The women were thus referred to in third person, since they are written about, rather than directly addressed. When it is stated that all, anyone, or each one of the “brothers” can participate in the interactive meeting (14:26), it may specifically be men who are meant. Women (“they”) are not to make comments designed for the whole church to hear. Interestingly, the textus receptus adds the word “your” before “women” in 14:34, further evidence that the term brothers throughout 1 Corinthians 14 specifically referred to the men and not the women.

    That is a pretty good point.

  • Donald Johnson

    It is not that 1 Cor 14:34-35 cannot be interpreted to restrict sister, it is that this is contrary to the gospel principles of freedom and justice. In other words, instead of looking for ways to have the meaning apply, one should be hesitant to do that and ONLY do that if there is no other way to understand the text.

    But there IS another way to understand the text, that of repudiation, and the eta is used lots of times in 1 Cor to repudiate what comes before.

    On this debated text, the comps are CHOOSING to read it as restrictive, contra freedom in Christ. And they will be held accountable for their choices, as we all are.

  • Kristen

    Again, why did Paul apparently switch from “you” meaning “all of you” to “you” meaning “just you men” (and adding “they” to mean the women) without any transitional/clarifying words?

    This sudden switch in who “brothers” means and who “you” means is more evidence, in my opinion, this is either Paul quoting someone else, or an interpolation. Normally, good writers don’t arbitrarily switch audiences as they write. It’s a very amateurish way to write, and unworthy of Paul.

    Henry, does your church permit women to have any normal participation (other than as pew-warmers) in a church service? Are they prohibited from giving announcements, sharing a testimony, or singing a solo?

    Jesus never treated women as embarrassments who needed to shut up lest men hear them. He was quite countercultural in this regard. I’ll follow him, not these sorts of articles that you keep bringing up, thank you.

  • Kristen

    And again, if Paul really has switched to addressing the men only in Chapter 14, how can you be so sure he is not still doing so in Chapter 15:1-2? There are no transitionary words here either, to indicate, “Now, when I’m talking about being grateful for salvation, I mean you women also.”

    I would hope we could consider ourselves able to be grateful for salvation. According to this doctrine, that’s absolutely all we get. The men get adoption as sons and full status in the Kingdom. We get continued subordination, silencing and exclusion.

    Is the gospel good news for women, or not? Not nearly as good news as it is for men, apparently. Still, we must be grateful. At least we get to go to heaven. Maybe there will be true equality there, and not just lip-service.

  • John

    My guess us that comps read this verse literally also:

    But women will be saved through childbearing—if they continue in faith, love and holiness with propriety. 1 Timothy 2:15

    No children, no salvation. And I’m still looking for that holy kiss at church (but only from women with their head covered and their mouths closed. 🙂

  • henrybish

    Kristen, homosexuals say the same things about Paul’s prohibition of homosexuality. Is the Gospel good news for homosexuals or not? Should we find a way round that too?

    Integral to the Gospel is a call to repentance from our own ways in order to submit to God’s, it is not merely a humanistic message that grants every person’s immediate wishes of what we feel is right.

    Central to this whole debate is the authority of Scripture, God’s very own words to us. Is it merely a wax nose that we can shape to say whatever we like with all sorts of ingenious methods? Is that what a heart submitted to the lordship of Christ does?

    We would do well to heed the warning of Jesus concerning how Israel persistently rejected the hard words of the prophets.

    There are some other points brought up here that I could address but it seems fruitless to do so, that verse is not even an option for you.

    I think it is time for this discussion to come to a close,

  • Donald Johnson

    And yet again the homosexual bogeyman raised its head.

    henrybish is incredibly ironic in his last comments, esp. about what he feels is right. Why is it even considered possible that God teaches sexism? Sexist tradition dies hard, people in their flesh want to hold onto their power.

    The hard words of the prophets were to return to Torah, but also to ensure that justice prevailed.

    Could it perhaps be connected that the largest denomination that teaches gender hierarchy was formed over the question of racial hierarchy?

  • Kristen

    The homosexuality issue has nothing to do with whether or not women are full citizens of the kingdom of heaven. They are two separate issues.

    The oppressor has always said to the oppressed, “It is God’s will/design that you are subordinate. It is your destiny to be ruled.” Scripture has always been used as a tool to keep certain people under the control of others. “Divine right of kings” is an example. Also, “The curse of Noah on Ham means that Ham’s race (the African) are destined by God to serve the white races.” These passages about women don’t have to be read the way you’re reading them. You could take into account that these may be (and probably were) related to specific churches, times, and places, and specific situations. All of the verses that are used to control women come out of letters written to or about problem churches with specific difficulties to be addressed.

    It’s your choice to decide to use 1 Cor 14 to subordinate women. Would you like it if it were used to subordinate you? Would you like to be told to be silent, and that it was shameful for you to speak?

    Jesus’ Golden Rule says, “Do unto other as you would have them do unto you.” I think that if complementarians really wanted to follow this verse, they’d be on their knees asking God to please remove this oppression from their sisters. Surely, 2000 years after Christ came to set us free, it’s time.

  • Kristen

    “Is it merely a wax nose that we can shape to say whatever we like with all sorts of ingenious methods? Is that what a heart submitted to the lordship of Christ does?”

    I have raised legitimate concerns about the way you’re reading the texts. Why is it that it always comes down to this: “Submit to my interpretation, because what I believe the passage is saying is actually the very word of God, and your questions and objections to my reading are merely evidence of a rebellious heart”?

    I would like to know why you divorce Gal. 3:28 from Galations 4:1-5. If you don’t stop at the end of Chapter 3, but read it as an actual letter that goes on through the chapter break, it says that slave and free, Jew and Greek, male and female, all have “adoption as sons” in God’s kingdom. This was a phrase in ancient Greek that referred to a person adopted into a Roman household receiving the full status of a freeborn male Roman citizen, with all the rights and privileges pertaining thereto. And I’ve been “adopted as a son” just as much as you have. I’m not a poor cousin picking crumbs under the table and hoping to be given a chance for a mouthful while I’m cleaning up after the feast. I’m just as much an “adopted son” as you are.

    Are you so sure I’m the one who is shaping the Scriptures to say whatever I want? Your passages are “clear” only if you lift them out of the New Testament as a whole, away from the teaching about the New Creation and how it means we are to “regard no one any longer according to the flesh (2 Cor 5:16-17. You want to keep us women under the rules and patterns of the Old Creation. But I’d rather follow my Lord into the New.

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