Tag Archives: Scripture mistranslations

What are We to Believe?

believeOn this blog, I have taken early church history and systematically gone through and pointed out what other scholars and historians have already pointed out. Nothing that I have pointed out is of my own, but merely an acknowledgment of what has already been delivered by those who have gone on before or, are currently experts in their fields of Biblical Literacy and scholarship today. I have quoted what other scholars have pointed out as mistranslations and misinterpretations of the Bible regarding women, regarding worship, regarding practice, dogmas, etc. I have quoted early church history to show where all the different corruptions came into being, thus changing the system of worship into what it has become. But, there are some who are sure to reason within themselves: “What am I to believe, then? And WHOM am I to believe?”  — as though it were ever intended that our faith should rest in uninspired human beings — which the translators were! I would hope that the majority of those that would read the many articles on this site would consider this thought by Katherine Bushnell in 1923: Maybe we should never rest until we have seen to it that a sufficiently large number of women are trained in the original languages so that women’s voices can be heard as to what the precise meanings of such passages in the Bible are as relating to women. In doing so, this will allow women’s temporal and spiritual interests to receive their due consideration. Better, far better, that we should doubt every translator of the Bible than to doubt the inspiration of St. Paul’s utterances about women; and the justice of God towards women; or, above all, to doubt that “Christ hath redeemed us” (women) “from the curse of the law” (Gal. 3:13).

Sadly, Bushnell said this back in the early 1900s. She was ONE of just a handful of women scholars of her day. Today, there are many more female scholars out there. The majority of scholars agree on the mistranslations. They know what they are. They realize that many wrong translations and scribal notes, inserted as scripture into the text, point women into positions of servitude. They know this. What I have learned from all of them is that this inequality of the sexes, propagated by these changes in translation, have led to the abuse of the ones being subordinated. . . and that’s frustrating!

We must realize that what Bushnell said back then when she quoted Dean Payne-Smith’s words, still applies today. “Men never do understand anything unless already in their minds they have some kindred ideas.” She went on to say, “it is not worth our while to complain that men have not always seen truths that had no special application to their needs, either in interpreting or in translating the Bible; we merely wish to point out wherein there is need of changes. Supposing WOMEN ONLY had translated the Bible, from age to age, is there likelihood that men would have rested content with the outcome?  Therefore, our brothers have no good reason to complain if, while conceding that men have done the best they could alone, we assert that they did not do THE BEST THAT COULD HAVE BEEN DONE. The work would have been of a much higher order had they first helped women to learn the sacred languages, (instead of putting obstacles in their way), and then, have given them a place by their side on translation committees. . . And the true value of woman’s powers will never be known so long as her self-respect is destroyed by teaching her that she rests under God’s curse and is bound to remain in perpetual subordination to her husband, even when he happens to be a fool or a scamp; and this is what the Church unconsciously teaches in its sweeping assertions as to woman’s “subordination” to her husband, — never pausing to define (even if this were true), WHAT SORT OF A HUSBAND is entitled to act as her superior and ruler.

Bushnell brings out some pretty good points here. What IF men had not suppressed women and their educations and, allowed for them to help in scripture translations? Every time I read Bart Erhman’s works, Rabbi Telushkin’s works, Thayer, Bushnell and others, it is hard not to get frustrated with what has been done to women through translation. What is even more frustrating is that men ignore the fact that incorrect translation of scripture is the reason for the inequality in the world today and, the abuses that have risen as a result.  She also points out that these corruptions force women into subordination to wicked husbands – which leads to their abuse.  These scholars and others that have been quoted on this site, have all been shouting the errors that theologians have, to a large degree, ignored. I simply have taken the time to put their words here and just expound my thoughts on them. Remember that I am NOT the MESSENGER, THEY ARE. I am just giving their words a voice by quoting them here.

So what are we to do? We know that the majority cannot learn to read the Hebrew and Greek. It would be preposterous to even suggest that.  But, here’s a thought that Bushnell gives: “If we find even in the Bible anything which confuses our sense of right and wrong, that seems to us less exalted and pure than the character of God should be: if after the most patient thought and prayerful pondering it still retains that aspect, THEN WE MUST NOT BOW DOWN TO IT AS GOD’S REVELATION TO US, since it does not meet the need of the earlier and more sacred revelation He has given us in our spirit and conscience which testify of Him. We must remember that no translation can rise much above the character of the translator, — who must be chosen, not simply because of his reputation for unprejudiced honesty, but for learning too. He cannot properly render what has not as yet entered in the least into his own consciousness as the truth; and the Holy Spirit invariably refuses to seal to us as TRUTH that which is ERROR. Rather, He will warn us against accepting the error, even though it appears on the page of our Bible translation.”

What she is saying is that the Spirit of God in us will not bare witness to a corruption. I understand this so very well.  My worst inner turmoil throughout my life as a Christian was because of the truths that God showed me in scripture that contradicted what was taught at church. I would like to add my own suggestion here, as well. Here it is: If you read something in scripture that leans itself toward inequality – remember, inequality always leads to abuses – then ignore it. It’s a corruption.

However, I realize that as long as errors still exist in translation, women will never be given their equality, honor and dignity back. They will never be given their VALUE back as human beings. Since we cannot undo what’s been done, then let’s follow Bushnell’s suggestion and let the Holy Spirit lead us into truth and not the opinions and interpretations of men.

Sex Bias Influences Translators – Part 2

gender bias

Scriptural changes that instigate abuse, inequality and, keep Women out of Government

In part one of Sex Bias Influences Translators, I gave everyone two examples in scripture of how men changed the meaning of scripture based on mens “preconceptions” and “self interests.” I showed how the story of the exposure of Sarah, at Abraham’s request, in Abimelech’s harem was turned around to show Sarah being “reproved” when in fact, she was not; thus leading men to believe, based on the way men worded the changes, that men had the permission to humiliate and abuse their wives. The second example was Leviticus 19:20. The change that was made here by men, gave them the power to abuse their female slave without recourse; and, took away the human rights, honor and dignity of the slave in the process. Both of these changes were done to give men power and control over women; something God did not authorize.

Now, I would like to cover “the wisdom of women.” In scripture, Cha-kam, “wise”, occurs about 130 times in the Hebrew Bible. It is invariably translated “wise” except in the following places: in 2 Sam 13:3 “subtil;” and in 10 instances “cunning,” when used of skilful workmen, 1 Chron. 22:15; 2 Chron. 2:7 (twice); 13 and 14 (twice); Isaiah 3:3; 40:20; Jer. 10:9. But in Jer. 9:17, we read in our English, “Thus saith the Lord of hosts, Consider ye, and call for the mourning women, that they may come; and send for cunning women that they may come, and let them make haste, and take up a wailing for us,” etc. The reference is to the low moral tone prevailing at Jerusalem, which threatened the overthrow of the city. Now here, surely, there is no reference to skilful workmanship on the part of women, and moreover the A.V. leaves out the rather important article “the”.  Here “the wise women” are called upon by Jehovah to show their interest and concern in matters of State,–the moral corruptness of the city; and “the wise women” are further instructed to teach their daughters to be concerned about such matters,–verse 20. Huldah (2Kgs. 22:14), admittedly the wisest prophet of the times, may have been still living at this very time (Bushnell, 1923).

Another case of prejudice in translation is Isaiah 3:12. The word translated “children” in this verse is a plural masculine participle of the verb “to glean,” “abuse,” “practice.” It is translated “glean” in Lev. 19:10, Deut. 24:21, Judg. 20:45, and Jer. 6:9. The word has no translation such as “children” anywhere else in the Bible, and it occurs 21 times. Another word altogether is used for “children,” and “child,” in verses 4 and 5 of this same chapter; the sense seems to have been fixed by the supposed context, to correspond with “women.” As to the word translated “women:” Two words, without the rabbinical vowel “points,” are exactly alike. One is pronounced nosh-im and the other na-shim. In appearance the only difference is a slight mark under the first letter of the Hebrew word na-shim. The first word means “exactors;” the one with the vowel mark under the first letter means “women.” The entire decision, therefore, as to whether the words mean one or the other depends upon OPTION. Those who pointed the word, evidently thought the nation could sink no lower than to pass under women rulers, and then translated the other word “children” to match it. Commentators frequently call attention to the alternate reading. See Adam Clarke on the passage. The Septuagint translates: “As for my people, tax-gatherers (praktores) glean them, and exactors (apaitountes) rule over them. (Bushnell, 1923)

There seems little in the context to support the translation “children” and “women.” But study the context as regards the other reading. After complaining of the “gleaners” (that is tax-gatherers) and “extortioners,” they are threatened in the following language: “The Lord standeth up to plead and standeth up to judge the people. The Lord will enter into judgment with the elders of His people, and the princes (“rulers,” masculine, not feminine gender), thereof for ye have eaten up the vineyard (the conduct of extortionate tax-gatherers), and the spoil of the poor is in your houses. What mean ye that ye crush (R.V.) my people, and grind the faces of the poor?” Because of this context, we believe that OPTION took the wrong turn when it decided to translate this verse as it stands in our English version; and that this translation would have had a strong showing up of its sophistries, had educated women been on the last Revision Committee (Bushnell, 1923).

These instances are trivial, when taken one by one. However, there are many straws floating in one direction that prove that the current runs strongly against women in every area of translation that involves women in passages of scripture. These passages have been translated in such a way that men believe that it is a “shame” for women to rule in government! It is sex bias, plain and simple, and was done to keep women on an unequal level to men for their own self-interests.

I will stop here for brevity, once again, and pick back up with this topic in my next article. Before we can proceed to exhibit other places in the Old Testament in which an unusual meaning has been placed on a word (that would not have been put upon the same word had it not specially related to women), we must cover some Hebrew language understanding and then delve into some more sex bias in translation.