• Rachel Held Evans and a Complementarian Conundrum

Rachel Held Evans and a Complementarian Conundrum

Hi Dojo readers,

I came across this image a friend shared on Facebook this afternoon of a Twitter exchange between ex-evangelical blogger Rachel Held Evans, LifeWay head Ed Stetzer and Darrin Patrick (with whom I’m not familiar)…

RHE twitter

The comment that accompanied the post said, “Somebody call the burn center. We’ve got a third-degree here.”

The implication being that 1Cor. 16:13 is indeed telling men to “act like men” and thus RHE once again shows a lack of Biblical knowledge or perhaps rejects the authority of Scripture.


Despite my general disagreement with MANY of RHE’s views on scripture, theology, sexual ethics, and eccelsiology, in this instance I believe a “burn” diagnosis is actually a misdiagnosis. It all rests upon a point of translation, in fact.

1Cor. 16:13 is rendered in the following ways in English Bibles:

KJV – Watch ye, stand fast in the faith, quit you like men, be strong.

RSV – Be watchful, stand firm in your faith, be courageous, be strong.

NRSV – Keep alert, stand firm in your faith, be courageous, be strong.

ESV – Be watchful, stand firm in the faith, act like men, be strong.

NIV – Be on your guard; stand firm in the faith; be men of courage; be strong.

NIV (2011) – Be on your guard; stand firm in the faith; be courageous; be strong.

HCSB – Be alert, stand firm in the faith, be brave and strong.

HCSB (2009) – Be alert, stand firm in the faith, act like a man, be strong.

NAS – Be on the alert, stand firm in the faith, act like men, be strong.

NET – Stay alert, stand firm in the faith, show courage, be strong.

NLT – Be on guard. Stand firm in the faith. Be courageous. Be strong.

CEB – Stay awake, stand firm in your faith, be brave, be strong.


The term in question is the Greek verb ἀνδρίζεσθε [andrizesthe] and while it contains the root term for “man” [andr-] it can mean “act in a valiant or courageous way”, “be brave”, or “become a man.” This is the only occurrence of this verb in the New Testament. But in the Septuagint (Greek translation of the Old Testament done a few centuries before the time of the NT’s writing) the term is found translated as “be courageous” in Joshua 10:25, 2Sam. 13:28, 2Chron. 32:7, and 1Maccabees 2:64 as well as “be strong” in Psalm 30:25.

So, depending on which English Bible translation Rachel Held Evans and Ed Stetzer are reading, the Bible may or may not be commanding anyone to “act like men.”

What is really interesting in the list of translations noted above is that while the NIV moved from a Complementarian reading (“be men of courage”) to a more Egalitarian reading in its 2011 update (“be courageous”), the Holman Christian Standard Bible went in the opposite direction between its original edition (“be brave”) and its 2009 update (“act like a man”). The favored translations of Complementarians such as the NASB and ESV are no surprise in their renderings, but the NET went with a more Egalitarian rendering that matches the more Egalitarian-friendly NLT, NRSV and CEB.

So which is right? Does 1 Corinthians 16:13 actually tell Christian men to “act like men” or is RHE actually correct? This is where context becomes key.

1Corinthians 16:13 was not written to the men of Corinth. It was written to the entire church. This means that if Complementarian translations are to be taken literally, then Paul is telling all of the Corinthians–women included–to “act like men.”

But this would then generate something of a Complementarian conundrum: women are being called to act like men…and the entire premise of Complementarianism is that women are NOT to act like men and men are NOT to act like women! Thus Complementarian translations of 1Corinthians 16:13 actually undermine Complementarianism when pressed to their logical conclusion.  

Fortunately, many translations not committed to Complementarian readings recognize this and do not commit what’s known as the root fallacy (applying the meaning of a root word to a different word that uses that same root; i.e. “andr-“/”andrizesthe”) when rendering 1Corinthians 16:13 into English. They rightly recognize that Paul is NOT telling Corinthians to “act like men”; he is telling them to “be brave/courageous” in their faith and to do all things in love (16:14). He is echoing the exhortations of the LXX to God’s people, who find themselves as a tiny minority surrounded by a larger more influential and powerful pagan culture. They are to be God’s army in such a society…but their weapons are not sword and spear. Their weapons are faith, hope, and love. And it has nothing to do with their gender.

This is just one example of why, if you do not have access to the Greek and Hebrew languages in which Scripture was written, it is important to always read from three or more translations from across the spectrum when studying any passage in the Bible. For more examples like this, order Disciple Dojo’s “Bible for the Rest of Us” DVD course and see for yourself just how important translation theory can be when reading Scripture!

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  1. Rick

    D. Patrick was a VP of the Acts 29 Network, and headed up a megachurch in St. Louis. He was fired last spring.



    jm Reply:

    Ah, good to know.


    Comment by Rick on August 18, 2016 at 2:39 pm

  2. Owen

    While I agree with the ultimate conclusions about the translation, I do feel the need to address one argument you present in order to really encourage strong Biblical scholarship for your readers.

    I don’t think the “complementarian” translations are actually committing the root fallacy. The root fallacy is to suggest the meaning of the word MUST be related to the root or to use the root of the word as the primary evidence for the meaning of a word while disregarding how it is actaully used in texts. Fallacies are insufficient reasons to argue/think some things, but they are not something you can suppose to have been committed simply due to appearance it might have been used. Translating/interpreting a word that happens to be consistent with its roots is not itself the etymological root fallacy; it is when you rely on the roots as the sole/primary basis for understanding the word. But when accessing lexicons that have surveying various usages, such as the Liddel, Scott, and Jones lexicon, the more ‘literal’ meaning of becoming a man is consider one possible definition.

    While I believe the language is figurative, it is not because of any “root fallacy” but simply because context favors the ‘figurative’ over the ‘literal.’ But I would suggest the phrase would evoke the associations of manliness that is metaphorically associated with courage in the Greco-Roman world. Hence, it may even be justifiable, albeit not necessarily provable, to suggest that Paul is consciously speaking in a metaphor. There is modern cognitive evidence to suggest such figurative/metaphorical meanings frequently do have some relationship to concepts the more ‘literal’ meanings.

    Put another way, I don’t find evoking the root fallacy to exclude the ideas associated with the roots to be the best argument. It gives too much power to the “root fallacy” in the first place, and secondly, it can be used to cut out entirely the relationship of the meaning of the word as used with the roots. Put more simply, evoking “root fallacy” is not really a good argument to reject a translation itself.


    Comment by Owen on August 25, 2016 at 11:33 pm

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