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Bible Gateway and The Gospel Coalition have teamed up to host a discussion of English Bible translation. We have convened a team of world-class scholars representing different versions of the English Bible who will address specific passages from the Old and New Testaments and answer questions about the translation process.

We hope that by pulling back the curtain on translation, this discussion will help readers understand their Bibles more clearly and learn to love God's Word more deeply. And we pray that careful attention to Scripture will excite readers to behold God's glory as he has revealed himself to us in our own language.

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Blomberg Responds to Burk Over 2 Tim. 2:2

Posted in New Testament by Craig Blomberg on December 14th, 2010

Denny Burk’s post shows the lengths to which concern over the slightest hint of egalitarianism can keep people from acknowledging the normal usage of language. Simply to say that a person is qualified to teach “others,” using the generic masculine plural, which indicates either men exclusively or men and women inclusively, hardly means that the person is teaching everyone within that group at the same time.

Consider other uses of heterous in the Greek Bible. In Matthew 15:30, great crowds bring to Jesus the lame, blind, crippled, mute and “many others,” and he heals them. From Jesus’ practice elsewhere we must assume men and women together needed his healing. But we don’t necessarily imagine one giant healing ceremony in which Jesus speaks one word and everyone is healed at the exact moment together! More likely, he went about having a personal word with most, laying hands on them as he usually did, and healed each one at a time. That means sometimes an individual woman would have been the object of his healing.

Or take Daniel 11:4 in the Septuagint, in which the evil kings’ empires will be broken up and given to “others.” Normally kingdoms are ruled by a solitary monarch, king or queen. Even if Daniel had no queens at all in view, he wouldn’t have had groups of kings in mind either. One can give a kingdom to others by giving one part to one person, another part to someone else, and so on. Daniel may even have had in mind subsequent generations beyond the first one after the demise of the evil rulers.

Then again there is Jeremiah 6:12, where both husband and wife will have their houses turned over to “others.” Given the explicit mention of both genders in the text, it would be natural to imagine another “husband and wife” couple as the next recipients of the house. But given the larger context referring to rebellious Israel more generally, it is clear that many couples will have their houses turned over to many others. But this hardly means that all those new owners occupied their homes at the identical moment. Nor does it preclude a single man or a single woman turning their houses over or single individuals receiving the homes.

Finally, consider Ecclesiastes 7:22, which warns a person not to pay attention to every word people say because you know in your heart the many times you have cursed “others.” Maybe more clearly than any of these other passages, this one reflects on the times people have out loud or mentally spoken profanely to individuals. Sometimes it may have been an individual woman, sometimes a man; maybe occasionally a group of people. But it hardly is limited to people cursing just groups jointly.

The point should be clear. Faithful people can teach “others” (2 Timothy 2:2) by teaching one man, many men, one woman, many women, or men and women together. The NIV translation of this verse in no way precludes even the most conservative of complementarians views. On the other hand, Burk would desire a translation that excludes all egalitarian views. Whether or not that is legitimate interpretation, it is certainly not objective translation!

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.

This entry was posted by Craig Blomberg and is filed under New Testament.