Andrew Bartlett has asked a good question: What is the worst mistranslation in our English Bibles relating to women?
Worst Translations: All in One is Andrew Bartlett’s answer to this question.
He discusses the question in four ways:
- Which mistranslation gets the prize for having the least shred of justification?
- Which mistranslation gives the most negative description of women?
- Which mistranslation is the most misleading?
- Which mistranslation has the greatest impact on women?
His article begins:
I started thinking about this question after I wrote “Men and Women in Christ: Fresh Light from the Biblical Texts” (IVP, 2019), where I reviewed the debates between complementarians and egalitarians. Trying to decide between competing interpretations, I kept finding that there were doubtful translations in past and even present English versions. Translations were sometimes distorted by unwarranted assumptions that were not in the text. I wasn’t surprised that there were some examples of this; what I hadn’t expected was that there were so many.
You may think that before my question can be answered I need to say what I mean by ‘the worst’. It could mean the mistranslation with the least shred of justification, or the one with the most negative description of women, or the one that is the most misleading, or the one with the greatest impact on women.
Instead of choosing between these categories, I’ll look at each in turn…
In his article he discusses:
- the idea that a woman must dress her head or hair in a certain way as a sign or symbol that she is under man’s authority (1 Corinthians 11:10)
- Junia being mistranslated as Junias in Romans 16:17
- “little women” being mistranslated as “silly women” in 2 Timothy 3:6
- translations of 1 Corinthians 7:4 that obscure the wife’s mutual authority over the husband
- women being called “gossips” and “busybodies” in 1 Timothy 5:13
- women being forbidden to teach men — the word authenteo in 1 Timothy 2:12 being translated as “exercise authority” or “usurp authority” over a man.
Read Andrew Bartlett’s article Worst Translations: All in One
Or, if you don’t want to read the “All in One” article because it is rather long, click here to find the four parts as separate articles.
Andrew Bartlett is the author of Men and Women in Christ: Fresh Light from the Biblical Texts (IVP, 2019). [*affiliate link]
*Amazon affiliate link — ACFJ gets a small percentage if you purchase via this link.
Related posts at this blog
If I tell people about my husband’s abusive behavior, am I gossiping? (one of our FAQ pages)
Last year I promised to revise my book Not Under Bondage and publish the revised version in paperback, e-book and audio-book formats. I have made substantial progress but am still some way from publishing the revised version. I apologise for the delay. I got sidetracked and slowed down by Covid (didn’t we all?) and I put too much time last year into sharing Covid-related content on my personal social media accounts.
Another reason the book revision has gone slower than I expected is that I realised I needed to revise the chapter on Malachi. That led to me writing an academic article Malachi 2:16, ancient versions and English translations, and how they apply to domestic abuse. I have had feedback from a few academics about that article; their feedback was helpful but they were not persuaded by my argument that Coverdale’s translation is consistent with the Hebrew text of Malachi 2:16. I will take their feedback into account when I revise the chapter of Malachi for my book.
For several weeks I have been despondent and almost burnt out. I am getting better slowly. I’ve just returned from a short holiday visiting some relatives who live in the country. My brain went to mush while I was there, but at least I stopped feeling so guilty for not doing much in the way of reading or writing for weeks.
My mind is slowly picking up the pieces of the jobs I left hanging in the last several weeks. I am trying not to resume doing all the things I was doing before. I’m trying to only do the things I like doing and the things that will add to my blogs and the revised version of my book.
I have grieved a lot about how other Christian advocates disrespect me and ignore me. I can’t promise that grief is over and done with, but I’m wanting to not dwell in it anymore. I hope I am right in sensing that God has humbled and chastised me as needed and is helping me put the grief aside and get back to writing. It was probably inevitable that I would get the cold shoulder from advocates because of my incisive critiques of some well known advocates.
In my slough of despond, I almost decided to never write again. But when asking myself “What will I do with the rest of my life if I never write anything else?” I couldn’t come up with a satisfactory answer. I enjoy gardening, but I don’t think I could fill out the rest of my days by devoting myself only to gardening. And the truth is, once I get into a solid writing task, I enjoy writing. So I am going to continue writing, but I will write for me.
When I say I will write for me, I don’t mean I will just publicly diarise my own petty life and my angst. My writing will still set forth my understanding of God’s word and his precepts and how those things are mistaught to the detriment of abuse victims. Therefore, I believe that what I write for myself will still be the kind of thing that will set people free of their abusers. But if it does set people free of abuse, I want to view that as an incidental spin off, not my primary goal. I have to make my primary goal looking after myself, or I will fall into another slough of despond.
From years of observation, I know that my writing effects very little to no change in church leadership and church attitudes. I also believe it effects very little eternally-lasting-change in victims of abuse. Many victims find my writing too academic, too deep, too theological. Many church leaders find my writing unimpressive, not sufficiently academic, and they perceive it as personally insulting because it firmly and doggedly confronts their long-held beliefs. I make little impact anywhere. Too bad. God made me the way I am and I can’t help it. He made me with an incisive logical mind and strong emotions with high empathy. I can’t change myself to better fit the audiences. When I persistently try to change my writing to fit those audiences I want to give up and die. I wept writing that last sentence. The victims that want to feed on memes and milk and have their feelings boosted without doing much work — they don’t like my writing. Most church leaders don’t know about or don’t like my writing enough to endorse it publicly. I am easily wounded by both of those audiences and I don’t recover quickly.
I know for a fact that some people have gained benefit from my writing because it helped them get free of their abusers, but then they’ve gone back into the world to follow their own lusts. I’m not writing for them: they grieve me.
Other people benefit from my work but never publicly recommend my work to others or share links to my work. I am discouraged by my readers & followers who are not at risk of abuse but who are simply lazy or play it safe, who sit on the fence, who don’t stick their head above the parapet to expose falsehood, who don’t point Christians leaders and advocates to my work, who don’t show any public appreciation for my work.
“Pay it forward” has long been one of my principles for living … I’ve done it for everyone else for so long, it’s about time I “paid it forward” to myself for a change. So I will write in my way, for me. If my voice reverberates to nothing down empty corridors, so be it. That’s the way you made me, God.
Rebecca Davis asked a good question: Do you know anyone who grew up in a home that claimed to be a “Biblical patriarchal” home that was happy and healthy, with parents who loved and respected each other and in which the children grew up to be whole and well-functioning adults?
Rebecca asked this question on Facebook. Some readers of the ACFJ blog do not use Facebook, so I’m repeating the question here, in case you want to reply to Rebecca’s question.
The book of Malachi, tucked away at the end of the Old Testament, contains a gem of a verse (sentence) that gives the lie to the idea that people should not divorce but endure abuse in marriage.
Abuse campaigner Barbara Roberts has released an academic paper on this verse – and Eternity News thinks her insight is worth sharing.
Barbara Roberts is speaking up for abused partners.
She is convinced that a proper reading of Malachi 2:16 is very significant when dealing with domestic abuse. Her paper argues that the King James Version sets Bible translations on the wrong course. Instead, she reaches back to the work of Myles Coverdale, whose translations (yes more than one) of the Bible into English have been influential – especially in the Book of Psalms. …
— John Sandeman, Eternity News, Jan 5, 2021
Read the whole of John Sandeman’s article at Eternity News:
The Bible verse that supports victims of domestic abuse
An ACFJ reader has asked me to seek comments on Beneth Jones’s book “Ribbing Him Rightly”. The book was given to a young engaged woman this ACFJ reader knows. Is the book dangerous? Is it worth reading?
Beneth Jones, the wife of Bob Jones III, wrote ten books. Thousands of people came to Bob Jones University for her funeral in 2019 (source).
Ribbing Him Rightly has only three reviews at Amazon: a 1-star review and two 5-star reviews. The 1-star review says:
It couldn’t be anything except a gag gift. The whole book starts from the premise that women are nothing but a piece of a male, created to serve the males of the species. It is absolutely outrageous and hilarious. What is Not funny is that there are women out there — from a dying generation of course — that actually believe that their husbands must be adored and catered to as if holding down a job and having a family is some kind of divine feat.
Good grief, this is a perfect example of a woman who has never in her life read a book but attempted to write one anyway. (source)
[review slightly edited for clarity of comprehension]
If you, dear readers, have any comments on Ribbing Him Rightly, or thoughts about Beneth Jones’s other books, please comment below. Please do not comment at FB because comments at FB soon become hard to find.
Don Hennessy’s new book, How He Wins: Abusive Intimate Partners Going Free, addresses a world-wide problem: Our failure to reduce the level of male intimate abuse.
We’ve all heard the terms ‘domestic abuse’ and ‘domestic violence’. When a man perpetrates abuse on his female intimate partner, Don Hennessy calls that male intimate abuse. The most common example is when a husband abuses his wife.
My name is Barbara Roberts. I’m a survivor of male intimate abuse. I’ve been writing on the issue of domestic abuse for 20 years.
Hennessy is a counselor who has worked in the domestic violence field in Ireland for many years. He has worked with male perpetrators and with their target women. In my view, his insight into the tactics and strategies of male intimate abusers will be helpful for even seasoned practitioners in the field.
Hennessy calls male intimate abusers “psychephiles”. The psychephile is a very controlling man who believes he is entitled to objectify his partner so that he can own her. One of his fundamental goals is to get his sexual needs met without having to negotiate. The psychephile surreptitiously invades the mind of the woman he has selected as a target. He is patient, cunning and skilled in achieving his goal. He modifies his tactics whenever he realises that his current strategies are no longer effective. He is usually several steps ahead of the professionals who in their professional capacity deal with domestic abusers or who interact with abused women. This is true whether the professionals are police, health practitioners, counselors, social workers, clergy, educators, academics, government officials, solicitors, court officials, or judges.
Hennessy argues that the system needs to protect the target woman, rather than merely offering support to the target woman. Protecting her from physical attack and harassment is not enough. The system needs to protect her mind from the psychephile’s devious and malevolent grooming and re-grooming.
For the system to do this, professionals need to be able to recognise, diagnose and resist the grooming tactics of the psychephile. Psychephiles proactively groom the professionals who work in the field of domestic abuse. Psychephiles groom society as a whole — they groom the whole system. The system needs to stop colluding with male intimate abusers.
Hennessy acknowledges Evan Stark’s book Coercive Control (2002) and then he says —
Stark disagrees with me in the need to analyse the behaviour of the psychephile within the confines of an intimate relationship. I am convinced that trying to define male behaviour without working with the male abusers has allowed these men to avoid being diagnosed. This lack of diagnosis also feeds the sense of arrogance and entitlement that energises their behaviour.
Hennessy says that
The psychephile is standing on the shoulders of generations of male intimate abusers and remains hidden in plain sight. He grooms us all to accept his definition of the issues within his relationship. He also manipulates us into engaging with him in solving the issue. He is an expert in getting what he wants in any forum. He is tolerated and even accepted. This book will delineate how he grooms all of us and how we how we need to change our position if we are to reduce the constant pandemic that is male intimate abuse.
If we accept that psychephiles are more devious and more expert than paedophiles, we must accept that protection of the vulnerable is the most effective response.
I have personally experienced some of the unhelpful responses from professionals that Don Hennessy describes in this book.
I went to a women’s refuge in 1990 when my daughter was a baby. My husband must have guessed I might be at the refuge. He found the phone number and telephoned the refuge. A worker in the refuge told me that my husband wanted to talk to me. I felt she was urging me to talk to him. I thought she would think I was rude if I refused to talk to him. I spoke to him on the phone, and agreed to meet him for a short time in a nearby park. When we met, he groomed me and told me lies, to suck me back in. The refuge had given me temporary physical safety and a place to sleep, but they did nothing to protect my mind and spirit from his sinister manipulation.
The second time I was at the refuge, one of refuge workers asked me, “What are you going to do, Barbara?” I told her I was probably going to go back to my husband. She looked at me askance and said dryly, “These men don’t change.” I felt she was looking down on me and disapproving of me because I was contemplating going back to my husband. She lent me a book to read titled Women Who Love Too Much. I felt she was blaming me for loving too much. I felt judged by her. I was so ashamed of being a victim of domestic abuse, and she just made my shame worse.
About ten years later, after I had separated from my husband for the last time, I found myself becoming a writer and advocate for other abuse victims. I attended a domestic violence seminar. One of the speakers was a police officer. He outlined the powers and policies that police have to respond to domestic abuse. He concluded by saying, “We do everything we can for them. We just wish they didn’t go back.” I felt stung. He was implicitly blaming victims for going back to their abusers.
Things in Australia have improved a fair bit since then, although there is still a lot of room for improvement. But from Don Hennessy’s book, I get the impression that in Ireland and in many other countries things are as bad, if not worse, than when I was seeking help from the system in Australia.
Hennessy gives case studies that will challenge practitioners from all sectors: legal practitioners, police, family courts, health practitioners, religious leaders, government leaders and policy makers, counselors, social workers and domestic violence support workers. He then suggests some solutions for the problem, acknowledging that he does not have all the answers.
Even if you are a professional who thinks you have enough training and experience to resist the male intimate abuser’s grooming tactics, I urge you to read this book. It will probably teach you something new; but even if it doesn’t, I am confident it will help you to train others in the field.
I also encourage target women to read How He Wins. The case studies of how male intimate abusers manipulate professionals will resonate with many target women. Hennessy’s book is easier to read than Evan Stark’s book Coercive Control. It has more case studies and less academic language.
Let me end with another quote from Don Hennessy:
The deviousness and cunning of a psychephile are beyond understanding. Until the issue of male intimate abuse is regarded as the core reason for the lawlessness that is rampant in our society, we will continue to trivialise its effects and we will continue to collude with the psychephiles in our community.
I was not paid to promote this book. Don Hennessy asked me to make a video about it and I was glad to do so because I think his work is excellent.
How He Wins (Liberties Press, Ireland) is available worldwide on Kindle. The paperback version is available now in the UK and will soon be available in other countries. If you buy it from Amazon via this link, A Cry For Justice will receive a small percentage of the sales price (we use these funds to give gift books to cash-strapped victims of abuse).
For more info about Don Hennessy’s work, including his previous books, go to my Don Hennessy Digest cryingoutforjustice.blog/2018/02/06/don-hennessy-digest