Friday, October 24, 2008

Thoughts on 1 Corinthians 15:21 & Hebrews 2:6

Greetings Mike,

Welcome to this blog. Let me state upfront that I am a layman. I make my living in the electrical utility business. I am the formally uneducated member of this forum. I am not a scholar. I do all my study in English though I do have many foreign language tools and use them a lot. If I misstate anything about the original languages, Wayne or someone else will come to the rescue and correct me. I say all that to encourage everyone that reads this sight that you don't have to be scholar to determine if the TNIV is a trustworthy translation. I'm at a disadvantage compared to our other contributors here in these areas. However, I'm glad to be a member of this forum as a lay representative.

You stated . . .
Where it changes man to human. So instead of getting a parallel between the first man, Adam and Jesus (obviously also a man) we get something that for me seems a bit more mucked up.
The TNIV is not the first Bible to do this with 1 Corinthians 15:21 nor is it the first with Hebrews 2:6.

In 1 Corinthians 15:21, similar language is used in the:
  • New Revised Standard Version
  • New American Bible.
In Hebrews 2:6, the list is even more expansive:
  • Contemporary English Version
  • Good News Translation
  • The Message
  • New Century Version
  • New Living Translation (in the front half of the verse only)
  • New Revised Standard Version
None of these draws as much attention as the TNIV probably because the TNIV has the greatest potential to influence the Evangelical community. Also, only the NRSV has similar changes in both passages as the TNIV has.

1 Corinthians 15:21

I don't think any parallel is "mucked up" by the TNIV. The first rule I would advise anyone of in dealing with the differences in the TNIV and other translations is to never read a Bible verse. Always read at least a paragraph or more. For brevity's sake, let me just include the next verse . . .
21For since death came through a human being, the resurrection of the dead comes also through a human being. 22For as in Adam all die, so in Christ all will be made alive.

The Holy Bible : Today's New International Version. 2005 (1 Co 15:21-22). Grand Rapids, MI: Zondervan.

Verse 21 speaks of a human being (singular) through which death comes and a human being (singular again) though which the resurrection comes. Verse 22 makes it clear who each of those humans are. Adam is the human through which death came and Jesus is the human through which the resurrection comes.

Along with the concept of never reading a single Bible verse, I'd like to recommend what can be called the paraphrase test. Many people are concerned about the choices in translating gender accuracy. Just because a word is masculine in Greek (or Hebrew) doesn't mean that it applies to males only. It sounds like you've been reading on this a bit and so you are probably aware of this. The paraphrase test is a great test particularly for people, like myself, who are not scholars. When we see man used, even the non-scholar can recognize that sometimes this references the human race, sometimes it refers to males (i.e. a gender reference). With the paraphrase test, use males in every passage in which there is a question and see how if it makes sense. Most of the time this clears up the problem. I'd encourage you to read the entire paragraph from verse 20 through verse 28. The male-ness of Adam and the male-ness of Jesus is not the issue. It's their humanity that it is the issue. This can be seen in theological issues. When he speak of Jesus as the God-man we usually define him as fully God and fully man. The point of calling him fully man is that we are pointing out that he was fully human. The theological point isn't that he is fully male. Jesus didn't come to redeem only males, but both males and females. Thus, it's better to describe him as fully God, fully human.

Hebrews 2:6

Hebrews 2:6 can be solved in similar fashion. First of all, read the context. I would encourage you to read all the way from 2:5 to the end of the chapter. Is Jesus' male-ness the issue, or is it his humanity that is the issue? I think it becomes obvious that his humanity is the issue here.

The Greek in this passage even bounces back in forth in its gender use. In verse 14,
παιδία (children in English) is in the neutral. In the very next verse it tells us he will free those who were held in slavery (look at a TNIV or even the very formal NASB). Those is the Greek word τούτους, which is masculine.

One other bit of research a person can do in this passage is look at the Old Testament passage which is being quoted. It is Psalm 8 in this case. Since the TNIV is what is in question here, let's look the Psalm from the NASB . . .
1 O Lord, our Lord,
How majestic is Your name in all the earth,
Who have displayed Your splendor above the heavens!
2 From the mouth of infants and nursing babes You have established strength
Because of Your adversaries,
To make the enemy and the revengeful cease.
3 When I consider Your heavens, the work of Your fingers,
The moon and the stars, which You have ordained;
4 What is man that You take thought of him,
And the son of man that You care for him?
5 Yet You have made him a little lower than God,
And You crown him with glory and majesty!
6 You make him to rule over the works of Your hands;
You have put all things under his feet,
7 All sheep and oxen,
And also the beasts of the field,
8 The birds of the heavens and the fish of the sea,
Whatever passes through the paths of the seas.
9 O Lord, our Lord,
How majestic is Your name in all the earth!

New American Standard Bible : 1995 update
. 1995 (Ps 8:1-9). LaHabra, CA: The Lockman Foundation.
It is clear to me that in Psalm 8, man is a reference to humanity, i.e. the human race, not just the males. Thus, I have no problem with the TNIV rendering of the quote in Hebrews 2.

This is a good point to stop and let you comment or ask questions.

Grace & peace to you.


Michael said...

Hi! (the Mike from the question) thanks for answering guys.

Couple of questions: aren't the 3 rules of translation context, context, context. So when "anthropos" in (v.21) mean humankind or man we read down in v.22 that special men are in view. So in light of that I would argue that Paul is teaching headship - that Adam, all sinned. Through a man (specific) sin came in. And through a specific man (Jesus) sin is forgiven because Jesus followed the law perfectly. We create a foil. Yes humanity sinned. But we have all sinned in Adam.

Secondly, Heb 2 and a reference to Ps. 8. I think you are missing the point of Ps. 8. It's use of man from David - son of man (Solomon) and the eventually "son of man" Jesus. Again man/son of man is used as a foil to show that Christ is ultimately what is talked about here. Hebrews shows us this. So you wouldn't translate it "what are humans that you are mindful of them, and the son of humans"? But translating it "What are humans... the son of man" you again lose the comparison that is being created. The "son of man" title which comes from Daniel would seem to be moving its way through the OT, so I would assume we want to keep that in place.

Lastly, the reason I am "picking on" the TNIV is because of the high praise Mounce gave it as a translation. So I don't mean bash it for "gender neutral-ness". I think it's translation of adelphos as brothers and sisters is correct – and I’d rather the ESV do it or ditch there footnotes (grr). Otherwise these changes seem to muddle the theology.

My original questions stem from wanting another dynamic equalivance Bible for comparisons (btw).

Peter Kirk said...

Michael, you just might be right that Paul is referring to "headship" in 1 Corinthians 15:21, in that death came to all through some kind of "head" Adam and resurrection comes to all through Jesus as "head". But what has that to do with gender? In the immediate context, nothing.

Yes, elsewhere in the letter Paul does write that the husband is "head" of the wife (11:3). This is a better translation than that man in general is head of woman in general, and so this verse offers no real support to a generalised concept of male headship. But since Paul does not use any word for "head" in chapter 15, and doesn't use the gendered word aner for "man" either, it is a huge logical leap to read into 15:21 this dubious concept of male headship and use it to control translation. If an individual preacher finds some significance in the maleness of Adam and of Jesus, I would not complain - and that reading can be based on TNIV which doesn't deny their maleness in 15:22. But there is no proper justification for forcing that questionable exegesis on to all readers by using gendered words in 15:21.

Michael said...

OK, I suppose this is what I am trying to get at.

Anthropos can mean man/humankind. So can our use of the word "man". It can either refer to the generic humankind or the specific maleness.

When we change it to 'human' I think we take out a possible interpretation of the verse. We can then only read it as humankind, instead of specific and universal that man can denote. Which, again I argue is what Paul is getting at in this section (1 Cor).

This happens more readily I think in Heb 2 than it does in 1 Cor. But the point is still there.

Anonymous said...

Hey Mike,

If I am understanding you correctly, you see the section quoted in Hebrews 2 from Psalm 8 as referring to Jesus. From this you are desiring the text be translated in a way fitting your interpretation.

However, some who are opposed to the TNIV don't interpret this as speaking of Jesus, but of humanity. An example of someone who is not a fan of the TNIV but holds this view of Hebrews 2 is John MacArthur. From his study Bible commenting on Hebrews 2:6 . . .

man … son of man. Both refer to mankind, not to Christ. The passage asks why God would ever bother with man. As the following verses demonstrate (vv. 9,10), the incarnation of Christ is the greatest proof of God’s love and regard for mankind. Christ was not sent in the form of an angel. He was sent in the form of a man.

MacArthur, J. J. (1997, c1997). The MacArthur Study Bible (electronic ed.) (Heb 2:6). Nashville: Word Pub.

So while MacArthur might agree with you in word choice for how to translate it into English, his exposition agrees with the TNIV rendition of the passage.

The "son of man" title sometimes refers to Jesus. Other times it does not. Context determines this in each case. Daniel is hundreds of years after David lived. So when David wrote Psalm 8, this use of son of man wasn't in view yet. In fact, the phrase is used twice in Daniel. Once in chapter 7, in Aramaic, referring to Jesus and once in chapter 8:17, back in Hebrew again, clearly referring to Daniel and not Christological in nature at all.

You can take a concordance of a formal translation such as the NASB and see the phrase doesn't form a cord throughout the Old Testament that is Christological in nature. In fact, most of the time it isn't used that way as most of the uses are towards Ezekiel. The phrase is used barely over 100 times in the Old Testament. 93 of those uses are direct addresses to Ezekiel.

I don't want to go on too much as I'm not entirely sure I'm nailing your point.

So let me turn it back to you so you can redirect me in anyway I'm off course from your idea.

Peter Kirk said...

Michael, I still disagree with you in two ways on the 1 Corinthians passage.

The first is your suggestion that anthropos can have a specifically male meaning. The only places where this might seem to be true are when it is specifically contrasted with gune, to make a man/woman contrast rather than the husband/wife contrast of aner and gune. That doesn't apply here as there is no mention of women or of gender in the context.

I also disagree with your assertion that the English word "man", with the indefinite article "a", "can either refer to the generic humankind or the specific maleness". At least in my British dialect of English it cannot, "a man" is ALWAYS male and never used of a woman or of someone of indeterminate gender. I note that on this point I agree with Wayne Grudem, who even in conservative America reads "man" in the Bible as referring specifically to males - the basis of his wrong theology. The ESV translators have been careful to use "man" only when according to Grudem's theology the passage applies only to males, for example in 2 Timothy 2:2.

Michael said...

Again, the point I am trying to make is not: I believe X so translate it that way.

But rather, translate it "man" because then we can study the text to determine what it means.

I'm American by the way and the Oxford American Dictionary does define man (2: a human being of either sex;a person).

So my argument is 1) if man can mean "man" and "human" which in American English it can and 2) if anthropos can mean "man" and "human" then the nuance would still be left in the text. So that, one or another interpretation isn't forced into it.

I really am not trying to force an ESV v. TNIV battle royale here. (Yes personally I use the ESV and enjoy it, wife uses NIV, Cat uses some Satanic Bible that I'm not sure of the translation).

Thanks everyone for the discussion.

Anonymous said...

Hey Mike,

Thanks for talking with us and sharing your concern. Many people agree with you that anthropos should just be translated "man" so the reader can determine the interpretation.

I don't think that's translating at that point. Even the NASB translates anthropos as people 14 times, mankind 5 times and a few other ways. I don't know why they didn't stay more formal there as that is the goal of the NASB.

I like the ESV also. I try to read a different translation each year and last year I read the ESV. Gifted readers can often look at man and determine what it means in context. Some who are less gifted cannot.

If I could recommend a short, inexpensive book . . . How to Translate the Bible For All It's Worth by Gorden Fee & Mark Strauss. Both are members of the TNIV's Committee on Bible Translation. Yet they pull no punches and show occasionally where they think, for example, the NLT does a better job than the TNIV. This book does a good job explaining the difficulties of issues like this and how either way they go there are some good points and some bad points.

Thanks for pointing out what's wrong with my three cats. Now I know.

Grace & peace to you,


Michael said...

I (hope at least) I've long out grown that stage of debating for debate sake. I am legitimately interested in this translation for these specific verses.

I will probably pick up a TNIV Bible for Accordance so I can have a good parallel when studying text. I like (personally) settling on a text for memorizing.

Thanks for the fun discussion though none the less.

Anonymous said...

Amen, Mike. Debating is for learning. May we all be as careful to listen to critiques of our own thoughts as we are in formulating our own presentation.

I would always interested in hearing your thoughts on the TNIV or any other translation issue you are thinking about.

Peter Kirk said...

Michael, what is the date of your Oxford American Dictionary? I ask because it is beyond dispute that "man" used to have this gender generic sense. But languages change, and one of the changes seen over the last 50 years in worldwide English (more quickly in some places than in others) is that "man" has more or less lost that generic sense, except in certain special contexts such as when used without the article to refer to the whole human species. Unfortunately dictionaries are often the last to pick up these changes, which is one good reason not to use them prescriptively.

Rivalling dictionaries for being the last to pick up language changes are Bible translators. But whereas in 1984 the NIV translators could happily use "man" generically, by 1997 they saw the need to revise this in their ill-fated inclusive language edition. The opposition to these changes was led not by those who understood "man" generically, but by a group who had developed an entirely new doctrine of "male representation" whose only real basis is in a misunderstanding of "man" in translations like RSV and NIV as intentionally gendered language.

Michael said...

Surprisingly it is the one that comes with OS X (10.5). It's helped me win Scrabble before... It doesn't have a copyright date that I am aware of. (It probably does but it'd take a lot of searching to find and I have a fall festival to go to now).

See that's the thing, language does change but I am only 25 and can tell you that man in daily usage works the way I defined it. I used the dictionary to back up my point and further show that the Oxford lists the generic as the 2nd definition out of 4 before we get to the verb usage.

While it's good to continue to update with the times. I'm not using the KJV because of this (obviously) but I don't think language (English) has changed drastically enough to warrant the changes the TNIV is making. At least in these cases.

Anonymous said...

Part of it could have to do with one's geographical location. I live in a farm town in the Midwest part of the United States. I don't think the gender accurate nature of the TNIV is as important where I live. In other parts of the world, it may very well be different.

Michael said...

Same, Peter is making blanket statements that are just not correct.

It may be in England that man no longer has the generic sense. But in America for the most part it still retains its original nuances.

At least in Southern America this seems to hold up. The conversations have been fun but I think we've reached the end of it - at least for me.

God bless guys.

Peter Kirk said...

Michael, I carefully did not make blanket statements, but qualified them with "At least in my British dialect of English" and "more quickly in some places than in others". I accept that in your conservative dialect of English "man" may retain that inclusive sense in many contexts. However, I doubt if this it true for the majority of English speakers worldwide. And I seriously doubt if even you would say "I spoke to a man this morning" when the person in question was female.

Anyway, surely a particular wording should be avoided in a translation if it is likely to be misunderstood by a significant proportion of its target audience - so the fact that some people understand it correctly does not imply that it is a good rendering.

Michael said...

What I was refering to was this:

But languages change, and one of the changes seen over the last 50 years in worldwide English (more quickly in some places than in others) is that "man" has more or less lost that generic sense
end quote.


Besides if I say "God loves all men", any (American) audience will understand that correctly.

I've also unsubscribed at this point so, - signing off!

Peter Kirk said...

Michael, thank you for the "God loves all men" example. You may be right about how any American audience would understand it. But I can assure you that very many audiences here in the UK would understand this statement, at least in spoken language, as most likely deliberately provocatively sexist.

genealogygal said...
This comment has been removed by the author.
genealogygal said...

We are studying the Hebrews 2 in Ladies Bible Study and here is the result of my own study which meshes with yours.

Who is “son of man” in versus 5-8?

Does it refer to redeemed humanity as Josh McDowell/Bart Larson and John MacArthur claim? I think that because of the context and the same Greek word is used for other instances of “son of man” refers to Jesus Christ in this passage as concurred by the Wycliffe Bible Commentary, Matthew Henry’s Commentary and Charles Wesley’s Commentary. If you want my longer analysis and sources please email me.

What follows is my analysis from various sources on “son of man” from Hebrews 2:3. Why would this be mainly about redeemed people? This would mean changing subjects from angels versus Christ and that would be inconsistent with the context of the scripture before and after it. Although there is a warning to believers not to fall away, I think verse 3 is about the humanity and diety of Christ and reiterates his authority from Hebrews 1:3-8. Although I agree with Wesley that the argument is building to the next section of the text as to why we need a high priest.
In the Wycliffe Bible Commentary, verse 3 speaks to the humanity and humiliation of Christ: (He made him a little lower than the angels. It speaks to the humanity of the son in order to taste death for every man. Jesus is exalted and crowned with honor because of His humanity he bore the humiliation (of the cross) see Philippians 2:5-8.
I really think that these verses speak of Christ’s authority not man’s. The only verse where there is a mention of man is in verse 5 where it talks about the world to come and the saints will rule with him.

Josh McDowell/Bart Larson in their book: Jesus: A Biblical Defense of His Diety: (p.71) “In the New Testament the term “The Son of Man” is used exclusively of Jesus, except in Hebrews 2:6-8 where it refers to mankind in generally”. McDowell never explains why this is so and McDowell goes on to say that Jesus used “Son of Man” as a figurative title of Himself in the gospels except John 12:34. He cites four other scripture references. Daniel 7:13-14 (Messianic overtones of Son of Man) The other three scripture references are: Acts 7:56, Revelation 1:13 and Revelation 14:14.
I found the three New Testament verses listed in my Holman’s Exhaustive Concordance of the bible with Greek and Hebrew dictionaries. I consulted the Greek dictionary and found that the Strong’s number for the three verses plus Hebrews 2: 3 is 5207 for all of them. This means that it is the same Greek word. So this as well as context of Hebrews 2:2 “son of man” would be evidence for me to agree with the Wycliffe and Matthew Henry interpretation. Also, when the text said “God made him a little lower than the angels”. This indicates that Jesus came in human form not that Jesus was created because if that was the case this verse would contradict verse 2 which states that Jesus was present and participating in the act of creation.

Peter Kirk said...

GenealogyGal, I just found your comment.

It is clear to me that the interpretation of "son of man" in Hebrews 2:6 as referring to humanity in general, not to Jesus, is a long-standing one, not special to authors like McDowell and MacArthur. I can tell this from the way that no capital letter is used here, in KJV (my 1911 edition), English RV, RSV, NIV (1984) etc. All of these translations routinely use "Son" with a capital for Jesus.

While it is true that elsewhere in the NT the same phrase "son of man" refers only to Jesus, this is always on Jesus' own lips (except for the echoic John 12:34) and so hardly a precedent for the use in Hebrews as a quote from the OT. In fact the phrase is very common in the OT and rarely if ever refers clearly to the coming Messiah. The meaning in an OT quote ought to be determined by the OT context.