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)…
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!