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How Should We Identify the Teachers in 2 Tim. 2:2? Michael Bird

Posted in New Testament by Michael Bird on December 6th, 2010

Question: How should we identify the teachers Paul has in mind in 2 Timothy 2:2?

Here we come to the gender wars. The ESV’s translation of pistois anthrōpois as “faithful men” is entirely possible and appropriate given the lexical meaning and gender of anthropos, and it  corresponds with the largely patriarchal perspective in the Pastoral Epistles (e.g., 1 Tim 2:11-14). However, I would point out that in the Pastoral Epistles women can still have a teaching ministry to other women, and as such, female teachers will themselves need to be taught in order to do that (Titus 2:3-4). What is more, the Pauline churches had female prophets, and prophecy has a didactic character (e.g., Acts 2:17; 13:1; 21:9; 1 Cor 11:5). Women appear to have had involvement in missionary works as seen in the ministries of Priscilla with Aquila (Acts 18:26) and Junia with Andronicus (Rom 16:7). Let’s not forget that Paul sent the deaconess/servant Phoebe to deliver his letter to the Romans, and she would have been the first port of call for any questions about the letter (Rom 16:1-2).

That women have a part in the didactic life of the church is incontestable, and I would maintain that, with certain restrictions, it can definitely take place in the company of men. While it is grammatically correct to translate pistois anthrōpois as “faithful men,” there are contextual factors in the Pastoral Epistles and elsewhere that lend support to a translation of “faithful people” (e.g., CEB). So I have no problem with the translation “entrust to reliable people who will also be qualified to teach others” (TNIV). Sadly, translation of this verse will be a shibboleth in the complementarian vs. egalitarian debate.

Michael Bird formerly lectured in New Testament at the Highland Theological College (UHI Millennium Institute) in Scotland and is currently lecturer in theology and New Testament at Crossway College in Brisbane, Australia. He is also an honorary research associate at the University of Queensland. He is the translator of 1 Esdras in the Common English Bible.

Eighth Question: How Should We Identify the Teachers in 2 Tim. 2:2?

Posted in New Testament by Collin Hansen on December 6th, 2010

Though not quite the flash point that 1 Timothy 2:12 has become in the gender debate, 2 Timothy 2:2 presents a challenge for contemporary translators. Several modern Bible versions, following the KJV, identify the teachers Paul describes in this verse as men. The word Paul writes here is anthropois, which commonly refers to men. But some newer versions, including the updated NIV, identify them as people. What accounts for the difference? I asked our panel of scholars: “How should we identify the teachers Paul has in mind in 2 Timothy 2:2?”

Collin Hansen is the editorial director for The Gospel Coalition and co-author of A God-Sized Vision: Revival Stories That Stretch and Stir.

When and Why Do We Update Bible Translations? Michael Bird

Posted in New Testament, Translation Philosophy by Michael Bird on November 29th, 2010

Question: When and why do we update Bible translations?

Call me cynical, but the main reason why people create new translations or update them is because it is financially profitable. There is big money in printing and selling Bibles. As to how often we need to update translations, well, it is a bit like asking how long is a piece of string. We need to keep English translations current with the vernacular of the English language. There is no formula as to how to do that. Certainly when words radically change in meaning we have to do something. A good example is 1 Thess 4:15 in the KJV, which says that we “shall not prevent them which are asleep.” I’ve even heard unlearned men with a weird fetish for the KJV Bible explain this passage by saying that we cannot stop or hinder the dead in Christ from rising from the grave at the second coming. They are ignorant of the fact that the word “prevent” was itself derived from the Latin previens, which means to “precede.” A proper translation is “we shall not precede them who are asleep.”

Michael Bird formerly lectured in New Testament at the Highland Theological College (UHI Millennium Institute) in Scotland and is currently lecturer in theology and New Testament at Crossway College in Brisbane, Australia. He is also an honorary research associate at the University of Queensland. He is the translator of 1 Esdras in the Common English Bible.

How Do We Best Convey ‘Hilasterion’ in Rom. 3:25? Craig Blomberg

Posted in New Testament by Craig Blomberg on November 24th, 2010

Question: How do we best convey hilasterion in Romans 3:25?

The question sounds straightforward enough at first. Let’s just look up the word in the standard lexica. But it doesn’t take long to see the problem. Bauer, Danker, Arndt, and Gingrich give two meanings for the noun in general: “means of expiation” and “place of propitiation.” They then do something they very rarely do, listing in bold-face type this particular verse under both meanings as alternate possibilities. There must be quite an exegetical debate here, and those who have studied the issue already know there is. The other problem is that probably no more than 1 in 100 Americans have any clue as to the meaning of either “expiation” or “propitiation.”

Louw and Nida at first glance seem a bit more helpful, offering as their two options “the means of forgiveness” and “the place of forgiveness,” explaining the latter as “the mercy seat.” But what in the world is a mercy seat? Is it maybe related to a love seat? Louw and Nida list Romans 3:25 only under “the means of forgiveness,” but then make the very extraordinary comment that translating hilasterion as “propitiation” involves a wrong interpretation, because “propitiation is essentially a process by which one does a favor to a person in order to make him or her favorably disposed, but in the NT God is never the object of propitiation since he is already on the side of people” (vol. 2, p. 504). Really? Have they ever read Romans 1:18ff. about the wrath of God being revealed from heaven against all ungodliness? Or that while we were still enemies God sent his Son to deal with our sin problem (Rom. 5:8)?

One must go back at least a half a century to the debate between C. H. Dodd and Leon Morris to scrutinize the lexical evidence in detail, after which it should become clear that hilasterion as a word, even before moving to a specific context, very much does mean a sacrifice to appease God’s wrath, making “propitiation” a better translation than “expiation,” which refers merely to that which atones for sin without presupposing any interpersonal enmity. This is what took place, in part, at the mercy seat that covered the ark of the covenant in the Old Testament tabernacle and temple, hence that rendering, but one which is opaque to everyone but those well taught in OT backgrounds. This also accounts for the footnote in the updated NIV: “The Greek for sacrifice of atonement refers to the atonement cover on the ark of the covenant (see Lev. 16:15,16).”

So for those translations that actually try to communicate rather than just using “propitiation,” “expiation,” or “mercy seat,” what options in commonly understood twenty-first century English are there? The New International Readers’ Version used “sacrifice to pay for sin.” The New Century Version reworded the entire first clause to yield, “God sent him to die in our place to take away our sins.” The Amplified Bible puts in parentheses, “the cleansing and life-giving sacrifice of atonement and reconciliation.” The Contemporary English New Testament, just released, reads “the place of sacrifice where mercy is found.”

Yet not one of these renderings captures the sense of removing God’s wrath, crucial to a full understanding of the concept. In fact, if Louw and Nida are right in their definition of “propitiation,” even that word is too mild because it suggests merely that God is not yet adequately disposed toward sinners, not that he is actually hostile to them. The New Webster’s Dictionary and Thesaurus of the English Language would seem to support Louw’s and Nida’s definition when it renders “propitiate” as “to gain the favor of by appeasement or conciliation.” It appears we have no word in English that is an exact equivalent of hilasterion. The NIV’s “sacrifice of atonement” may be the best we can do, using words that are well understood and without replacing one Greek word with an entire clause in English. But I must admit I still have a soft spot in my heart for the old NIV footnote: “the one who would turn aside his wrath, taking away sin.” It may be too long for the amount of formal equivalence that the NIV seeks, but in terms of meaning, I think it gets it exactly right, and in words that most everyone can understand.

Craig Blomberg is distinguished professor of New Testament at Denver Seminary in Littleton, Colorado. He has been a member of the Committee on Bible Translation since 2008.

How Do We Best Convey ‘Hilasterion’ in Rom. 3:25? Darrell L. Bock

Posted in New Testament by Darrell L. Bock on November 23rd, 2010

Question: How do we best convey hilasterion in Romans 3:25?

I like what the NET Bible does here and how it handles the syntax: “God publicly displayed him at his death as the mercy seat accessible through faith. This was to demonstrate his righteousness, because God in his forbearance had passed over the sins previously committed.”

The NET Bible notes explain how I see things. I think Harold Hoehner wrote this:

The prepositional phrase ἐν τῷ αὐτοῦ αἵματι is difficult to interpret. It is traditionally understood to refer to the atoning sacrifice Jesus made when he shed his blood on the cross, and as a modifier of ἱλαστήριον (hilasterion). This interpretation fits if ἱλαστήριον is taken to refer to a sacrifice. But if ἱλαστήριον is taken to refer to the place where atonement is made as this translation has done (see note on the phrase “mercy seat”), this interpretation of ἐν τῷ αὐτοῦ αἵματι creates a violent mixed metaphor. Within a few words Paul would switch from referring to Jesus as the place where atonement was made to referring to Jesus as the atoning sacrifice itself. A viable option which resolves this problem is to see ἐν τῷ αὐτοῦ αἵματι as modifying the verb προέθετο. If it modifies the verb, it would explain the time or place in which God publicly displayed Jesus as the mercy seat; the reference to blood would be a metaphorical way of speaking of Jesus’ death. This is supported by the placement of ἐν τῷ αὐτοῦ αἵματι in the Greek text (it follows the noun, separated from it by another prepositional phrase) and by stylistic parallels with Rom 1:4.

Darrell L. Bock is research professor of New Testament studies and professor of spiritual development and culture at Dallas Theological Seminary. He served as a translator/editor for the Gospels and Acts in the NET Bible.

How Do We Best Convey ‘Hilasterion’ in Rom. 3:25? Michael Bird

Posted in New Testament by Michael Bird on November 22nd, 2010

Question: How do we best convey hilasterion in Romans 3:25?

The noun hilasterion can refer to a type of sacrifice (propitiation or expiation) or the place of sacrifice (the mercy seat on the ark of the covenant). Given the context of Rom 1:18-3:20 (esp. “wrath” in 1:18; 2:5, 8; 3:5), I think hilasterion refers to the appeasement of divine wrath against humans, both Jews and Gentiles, who sin and rebel against God, i.e., propitiation. What is more, I think Leon Morris’s study on the subject has yet to be effectively refuted, and he ably demonstrated that propitiation is central to the meaning of hilasterion in the LXX.

But we do not have to engage in either/or exegesis. Perhaps when sin is removed (expiated), then God’s wrath against sin is appeased (propitiated). In addition, since Jesus is the personal locus of divine sacrifice, we can hardly rule out “mercy seat” either (see CEB “the place of sacrifice where mercy is found”). I do not like the NIV, TNIV, NRSV “sacrifice of atonement,” since it is leaves things too open-ended. Then again, I am yet to meet a first-year seminary student who knows what the word “propitiation” even means. So why use a word that no one understands? The old Geneva Bible with “reconciliation” might be a good way to put it, though still perhaps too general. We could hedge our bets and go for the “means and place of atonement.” Yet in the end I’d opt for “sin-bearing sacrifice” or “sacrifice for sin,” since it is largely cultic metaphor that we dealing with. So I would translate it: “Whom God put forward as a sacrifice for sin, through faith in his blood”.

Michael Bird formerly lectured in New Testament at the Highland Theological College (UHI Millennium Institute) in Scotland and is currently lecturer in theology and New Testament at Crossway College in Brisbane, Australia. He is also an honorary research associate at the University of Queensland. He is the translator of 1 Esdras in the Common English Bible.

Sixth Question: How Do We Best Convey ‘Hilasterion’ in Rom. 3:25?

Posted in New Testament by Collin Hansen on November 22nd, 2010

Romans 3:21-26 is pivotal passage that testifies to the righteousness that belongs to all who believe in Jesus Christ. Though we sin against a holy God, he justifies all who have faith in Jesus. The updated NIV reads:

But now apart from the law the righteousness of God has been made known, to which the Law and the Prophets testify. This righteousness is given through faith in Jesus Christ to all who believe. There is no difference between Jew and Gentile, for all have sinned and fall short of the glory of God, and all are justified freely by his grace through the redemption that came by Christ Jesus. God presented Christ as a sacrifice of atonement, through the shedding of his blood—to be received by faith. He did this to demonstrate his righteousness, because in his forbearance he had left the sins committed beforehand unpunished—he did it to demonstrate his righteousness at the present time, so as to be just and the one who justifies those who have faith in Jesus.

How is this glorious exchange possible? How do sinners become righteous? Why does God overlook our offense? According to this passage, grace comes through the redemption secured by Jesus Christ. He shed his blood as a “sacrifice of atonement,” the NIV says in Romans 3:25. But what exactly is this sacrifice of atonement (originally hilasterion in Paul’s greek)? The NIV footnote points us to Leviticus 16:15-16 and says, “The Greek for sacrifice of atonement refers to the atonement cover on the ark of the covenant.” NLT calls interprets the word as a “sacrifice for sin.” The NASB, ESV, and HCSB use the formal term propitiation. The word recurs in Hebrews 2:17, 1 John 2:2, and 1 John 4:10, so it’s no isolated concept.

How we understand this word, then, shapes our core understanding of the gospel. And nothing is more important to Christians than this good news that Jesus died for sinners. So let’s hear from scholars about how we should translate and even apply this much-debated concept as believers saved by the blood of Christ.

Collin Hansen is the editorial director for The Gospel Coalition and co-author of A God-Sized Vision: Revival Stories That Stretch and Stir.

Burk Responds to Blomberg on 1 Tim. 2:12

Posted in New Testament by Denny Burk on November 19th, 2010

Dr. Blomberg, thanks so much for the interaction. Again, I want to emphasize that I have no doubts about the integrity of the committee’s intentions. As I said in my last post, my assumption is that every member of the committee has the best of intentions and that they are trying to provide a translation that is faithful to the text. The committee aimed to be neutral on this point. Nevertheless, despite the committee’s intention, I think this rendering is not neutral (for the reasons I mentioned in my first post). So my objection to “assume authority” has nothing to do with the provenance of the rendering.

My objection is that “assume authority” is not the best way to render authentein because it seems to indicate the assumption of an undelegated authority. A number of interpreters on both sides of the gender debate have acknowledged this. In Baldwin’s study, “assume authority” is subsumed under the heading “to act independently.” BDAG glosses authentein with “to assume a stance of independent authority.” I already mentioned Payne’s preferred translation is “to assume authority,” a reading that he believes confirms an egalitarian understanding of women in ministry. It may be that “assume” can have a neutral meaning in some contexts (as in the example that Dr. Moo pointed out), but “assume authority” is not neutral in the literature on the meaning of authentein.

I think a better way to render authentein would be exactly the way it was rendered in 1984 “have authority”—or an even better way would be “exercise authority.” I think “assume authority” gives a negative connotation to the word, and Andreas Kӧstenberger has shown that a negative connotation is not possible in this particular grammatical construction.

Once again, thanks for the interaction. Blessings to you.

Denny Burk is associate professor of New Testament and dean of Boyce College, the undergraduate arm of the Southern Baptist Theological Seminary in Louisville, Kentucky.

RE: Women and Authority in 1 Tim. 2:12? Craig Blomberg

Posted in New Testament by Craig Blomberg on November 18th, 2010

Denny, you may choose to try to intuit the committee’s intent, but since I was on it and was the one who made the proposal to use “assume authority” (without having been on the TNIV committee and therefore oblivious to their discussion on it) and because I wrote the paragraph you quoted from the translator’s notes, I can tell you authoritatively that we did NOT choose this rendering to tip the scales one way or the other. Whether you are a complementarian or an egalitarian, you have some view of what Paul thinks women should not do here, in terms of exercising authority. When they violate that, whatever it is, they inappropriately assume authority. That’s all we were saying. Please don’t impute intentions that lead you to react to them negatively, that may in fact be mistaken inferences, when you have the opportunity to actually ask us and find out the truth. The Golden Rule remains very useful in contexts like this.

Craig Blomberg is distinguished professor of New Testament at Denver Seminary in Littleton, Colorado. He has been a member of the Committee on Bible Translation since 2008.

RE: Women and Authority in 1 Tim. 2:12? Denny Burk

Posted in New Testament by Denny Burk on November 17th, 2010

Thanks for the comment, Dr. Moo. Let me respond to each of your points in turn.

First, I don’t intend “mistranslation” as an accusation. I just mean to say that the interpretation reflected in NIV 2011 tilts toward the egalitarian view. I understand that the translators wish to give a neutral rendering, but I don’t think “assume authority” achieves that.

Second, I can’t find “assume authority” in Mounce’s commentary. Mounce renders this verse with “exercise authority” (Mounce, WBC, p. 102). In his concluding paragraph on verse 12, he writes:

“Paul is prohibiting two separate events: teaching and acting in authority. . . . Paul does not want women to be in positions of authority in the church; teaching is one way in which authority is exercised in the church” (p. 130).

Third, we may have to agree to disagree about whether or not this is a neutral translation. That being said, we’ll also have to agree to disagree about the wisdom of removing the notes.

Fourth, I don’t question the translators’ intentions to “provide a translation that is faithful to the text, bowing to no particular theological agenda.” That is what we are all hoping for. My assumption is that every member of the committee has the best of intentions in this regard. Nevertheless, it is significant that in the committee’s attempt to provide a “neutral” rendering, they’ve taken a step back from the more clearly complementarian reading contained in NIV 1984. A lot of ink has been spilled since 1984 on this question, and I can understand the desire to be neutral on such a contentious question. But it is nevertheless a move away from what came before.

I want to be faithful to the text as you do. In this case, however, I think the best rendering is “exercise authority.” For me, Baldwin and Kostenberger’s studies (as well as yours) establish the point. I would just like to see that reflected in NIV 2011.

Thanks again for the interaction.

Denny Burk is associate professor of New Testament and dean of Boyce College, the undergraduate arm of the Southern Baptist Theological Seminary in Louisville, Kentucky.