Why I Believe in Women in Ministry: Part 14 (Gupta)

Translation Matters: The Generic Use of ἀυτος/autos

This is going to be another post that engages with why Bible translations should be gender inclusive (when the Greek text requires it), and where and why some translations get it wrong. Again, I am going to focus on the ESV because of its popularity.

The following gets a little technical. Sorry, occupational hazard.

What is autos?

This Greek word is a pronoun that can mean he, she, or it. Pronouns refer back to a given noun (in most cases). Its grammatical gender will match its antecedent (what it is referring back to). When it comes to the use of autos in reference to a man or a woman, it will be grammatically masculine in reference to a man, and grammatical feminine in reference to a woman.

The Generic Use of ἀυτος/autos

Sometimes Greek uses autos in a generic way, where it refers to a person (“the one who/whoever”). Technically, the grammatical gender of autos for its generic use is masculine. But it is essential that we understand that this does not require the word to be referring to a male.

The ESV defaults in its use of generic autos to English masculine pronouns

There are hundreds of examples of this in the ESV, but I will demonstrate with just a few.

ESV Luke 9:23 And he said to all, “If anyone would come after me, let him deny himself and take up his cross daily and follow me. (Lk. 9:23 ESV)

Here the ESV renders as “him/his” the occurrences of autos in this verse.

ESV 1 John 3:24 Whoever keeps his commandments abides in God, and God in him. And by this we know that he abides in us, by the Spirit whom he has given us. (1 Jn. 3:24 ESV)
Here again the ESV uses “him” for the generic use of autos.
ESV Hebrews 4:10 for whoever has entered God’s rest has also rested from his works as God did from his. (Heb. 4:10 ESV)
And again the ESV uses “his” for the generic use of autos.

ESV Justifies Using Male Pronouns for Generic Autos

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The simplistic statement (“this is consistent with similar usage in the original languages”) represents a failure to understand autos. And I think I can prove it.

From my own study of autos, I strongly believe there is a generic use of autos for which we do not have a singular pronoun (generic) version in English. In English, we have to use he/she/it. We don’t have a gender neutral pronoun for humans (“he/she”). I think it is clear that in Greek, while autos is technically masculine, Greek readers would know that in its generic usage the gender is canceled out by context.

How do I know this?

The Non-Male Use of Generic Autos

There is at least one case in the Greek Bible, where generic autos is used when the speaker is directly speaking to a woman. In that case, it would be unfathomable that the speaker would be trying to convince the listener of something, all the while excluding them from the statement.

John 4:14: Jesus Speaking to the Samaritan Woman 

John 4:14 but whoever drinks of the water that I will give him will never be thirsty again. The water that I will give him will become in him a spring of water welling up to eternal life.” (Jn. 4:14 ESV)
ὃς δ᾽ ἂν πίῃ ἐκ τοῦ ὕδατος οὗ ἐγὼ δώσω αὐτῷ, οὐ μὴ διψήσει εἰς τὸν αἰῶνα, ἀλλὰ τὸ ὕδωρ ὃ δώσω αὐτῷ γενήσεται ἐν αὐτῷ πηγὴ ὕδατος ἁλλομένου εἰς ζωὴν αἰώνιον. (Jn. 4:14 BGT)

Immediately the woman responds: “Sir, give me this water” (4:15). She readily interprets this as a statement made in relation to her. In such cases, it makes far more sense to translate this in a gender neutral way, rather than presume it must mean “him” because of a rigid view of grammatic gender.

We have a similar situation with John 11:25. This one does not contain autos, but it does use generic grammatical masculine language in Greek (“whoever believes”; ὁ πιστεύων), but it is speech directed at a woman (Martha).

ESV John 11:25 Jesus said to her, “I am the resurrection and the life. Whoever believes in me, though he die, yet shall he live, (Jn. 11:25 ESV)
εἶπεν αὐτῇ ὁ Ἰησοῦς· ἐγώ εἰμι ἡ ἀνάστασις καὶ ἡ ζωή· ὁ πιστεύων εἰς ἐμὲ κἂν ἀποθάνῃ ζήσεται (Jn. 11:25 BGT)

So what, then? So, it makes little sense to use “his/him/he” in contexts where a generic pronoun/article includes or might include women. The ESV is not being “essentially literal” on these occasions. More accurately, they are operating with a rigid and limited understanding of grammatical gender and the delicacy of taking context into consideration for generic statements.

Most modern translations try to use gender neutral language for generic statements in the Greek Bible. Often that includes changing the statement to fit the word “they/them/their” in English.

NIV Revelation 2:7 Whoever has ears, let them hear what the Spirit says to the churches. To the one who is victorious, I will give the right to eat from the tree of life, which is in the paradise of God.
ESV Revelation 2:7 He who has an ear, let him hear what the Spirit says to the churches. To the one who conquers I will grant to eat of the tree of life, which is in the paradise of God.’
BGT Revelation 2:7 Ὁ ἔχων οὖς ἀκουσάτω τί τὸ πνεῦμα λέγει ταῖς ἐκκλησίαις. Τῷ νικῶντι δώσω αὐτῷ φαγεῖν ἐκ τοῦ ξύλου τῆς ζωῆς, ὅ ἐστιν ἐν τῷ παραδείσῳ τοῦ θεοῦ. (Rev. 2:7 BGT)

Notice how the NIV tries to use “they” to replace a masculine pronoun. ESV advocates often argue that this moves away from a literal translation. My response would be that “he” obscures the Greek text as well, so you have to choose your poison. Do you move to “they” as a concession, or do you reinforce androcentricity (male-centered reading) as a concession? Again, I feel the need to point out the ESV oversight committee is all men. It strikes me as grossly irresponsible to make this kind of decision without oversight input from women translators and scholars. After all, more than 50% of Bible readers are women. 

The goal of a good translation is not literal word-for-word translation: languages are different, they have different constructs and structures (For example, the Greek particle ἂν is untranslatable). The goal is faithfulness to the original text. In many cases, faithfulness is trying to bring the Greek word into English with as close alignment as can be acquired.

Summary and Implications of My Argument about αὐτος/autos

The ESV assumes that translating the generic use of autos as “he/his/him” is “literal” translation. My argument is that John 4:14 proves that invalid. John 4:14 proves that Greek speakers/writers/readers/hearers would naturally de-genderize the autos in a mixed gender context. Thus, in all cases where the generic autos is used, the only occasions a masculine pronoun should be used,are in contexts where the translator can be sure the statement does not relate to women in any way whatsoever (e.g., in relation to circumcision).


I received a comment to the effect that “he/him/his” is considered “gender neutral” by the ESV. I took this into consideration as I wrote this post; I think the ESV committee thinks it is gender inclusive, but I don’t think many readers of the Bible today agree. I have talked to many women today who feel that using he/him/his in generic statements reinforces the marginalization of women and their lives. To me, anything that contributes to that or reinforces it is androcentric (focusing on the lives, experiences, interests of males).

I did a rough and quick poll on Twitter of WOMEN’s thoughts, and I think this comes out clearly (see below). Many women did treat he/him/his as GN but most women feel marginalized in some way by this language. And a small, but important percentage, feel completely left out.

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Galatians Book Giveaway Winner and Top Results (Gupta)

I used a random number generator to select the winner from among the commenters. Congratulations to “Dean O.”! (I will email you today)

Part of the inspiration for this particular giveaway was to get people talking about their favorite women theologians (#ReadWomen). Below I list the top 4 most frequently mentioned women authors in the comments with a link to a key book to read. Please check out their work.

Lynn Cohick (check out excellent Philippians commentary)

Fleming Rutledge (check out her highly acclaimed Crucifixion book)

Marianne Meye Thompson (check out her stellar Gospel of John commentary)

Cindy Westfall (check out her much-discussed Paul and Gender book)

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Why I Believe in Women in Ministry: Part 13 (Gupta)

Should Women Be Silent and Submissive in Church? (1 Cor 14:26-40)

There are, I would say, two primary texts that people use to prevent women from preaching and teaching over men in the church. One of them is 1 Timothy 2, the other is 1 Corinthians 14 (esp vv. 34-35). Here we will address 1 Corinthians 14.

The focus of our attention will be on these matters:

Are women really not allowed to speak? Why? (14:34)

Does the silencing of women relate to a universal standard of submission to men? (14:35)

There’s Something Fishy about This Passage…

If you are like me, when you read 1 Cor 14:34-35 you think: this just doesn’t sound like Paul. (This seems to contradict his attitude towards women elsewhere; e.g., Phil 4:2-3; Rom 16). Well, you and I are not alone. Some scholars believe it might be an “interpolation.” An interpolation is a piece of writing inserted into a text later by someone else. The best way to prove an interpolation theory is to have a later manuscript of 1 Corinthians with the added text, and an earlier manuscript without it. We don’t have that kind of evidence in this situation. But we do have some manuscripts that displace 14:34-35 by putting these two verses after 14:40. If 14:34-35 were original to Paul’s first letter to the Corinthians, why would a scribe move them? There are few cases I know of where a scribe would transfer a passage to somewhere else. So, we are left with two possibilities.

  • 1 Cor 14:34-35 is an interpolation, i.e., not written by Paul, but added by a later scribe who wanted to include a message calling women to be silent and submissive.


  • 1 Corinthians 14:34-35 is authentic to 1 Corinthians (i.e., written by Paul), but some scribe(s) found it awkward and felt the need to move it.

Either way, it is a strange matter. For the last decade or so, I defended the second view (#2), but I am becoming more and more persuaded by (#1). Now, I am the last person who is tempted to start cutting stuff out of the Bible. (That is usually a self-serving endeavor.) And in this case, the evidence for interpolation is still not clear enough to merit removing these verses from modern English Bibles. But – I think this matter is highly relevant to the conversation on women in ministry, because we dare not base our attitudes on this subject on a passage where scholars are not clear on its authenticity.

Still, I will do my best below to offer what I think of as the most plausible reading if it is authentic.

Here is a basic overview of the interpolation issues.

Here is information on some of the complex details.

Starting with the Context

This is one of the texts that gets pulled out of context a lot to reinforce female submission in the church. But it is crucial to recognize that 14:26-40 is not about gender roles in the church; it is about harmony in the church. Paul does not want it to be that some people do the talking (i.e., men) and others do the listening (i.e., women). Rather, each believer has something to contribute verbally to edify the whole church (14:26).

Tongues and Prophecy, not Preaching and Teaching

This passage is used as evidence that women shouldn’t preach or teach in ministry over men, but the wider context doesn’t actually deal with those matters; it deals with prophecy and tongues. Paul supports tongue-speech, but it should be orderly (14:27). The ideal is that there be an interpreter, or else the tongue-speaker should keep quiet so as not to distract others (14:28).

And what about prophecy? Prophets may speak, but believers should weigh their words carefully (14:29). Paul imagines spontaneous works of the Spirit in the midst of the church, but this should not lead to noise and chaos. All can participate in prophesying for mutual encouragement (14:31).

Verse 33 serves as a key summary of his message: “For God is not a God of disorder but of peace—as in all the congregations of the Lord’s people” (NIV).

Silent about What?

All scholars are in agreement that Paul was not calling women to be pin-drop silent at all times in church. After all, even in 1 Corinthians, Paul assumes women will prophesy in church in a public manner (1 Cor 11:5). And yet Paul expresses here that they should not speak. It is logical to assume it is a particular kind of speaking in a particular context.

The best clue we have is in 14:35, which can be translated more literally as “If they want to learn about something, they should ask their own husbands at home.” In this context, Paul is rebuking women who disrupt the worship service with comments or questions.

It is crucial to catch the tone of 14:36: did the word of God originate with you? Are you the only people it has reached? There is a tone of correction or rebuke here. What these Corinthians women were doing in the church was not asking about the sermon, I assume. They seem to have had a more subversive attitude as if they were harassing or second-guessing the person speaking.

Paul makes it clear at the end of this passage that what matters most is not that women submit to men, but that prophesying and tongue-speech happen “in a fitting and orderly way” (14:40).

Should Women/Wives Submit to Men in Church?

The language of submission is used in this text (14:34), but there is something I hope you didn’t miss. Normally, Paul refers to the authority over the one submitting: submit to [so-and-so], but here he does not. So let’s not jump to any conclusions. It could be about submitting to God, but sometimes it can refer to submission to a thing, like the Law of God (Rom 8:7). My sense is that here the language of submission relates to respect for the church service, not submission to men in particular. If Paul wanted to say women should submit to men in church, he would have explicitly said so (because nearly always that is how the verb hypotasso is used; see, e.g, 1 Cor 16:16).

What Does This Passage Teach about Women in Ministry?

Nothing. Women should respect men when they speak in church. More spontaneous spiritual activity is expected and encouraged, but not at the expense of harmony.

Books to Get in 2019 (Gupta)

Here are some books I am excited about this year (mostly forthcoming)


Did Jesus Rise from the Dead?, Matthew Levering (Oxford University Press, May, 2019). Apparently this book is already out; I haven’t read it, but looks great!

Participating in Christ, Michael J. Gorman (Baker, July, 2019). This is Gorman’s latest considerations on Pauline theology; this volume includes some of Gorman’s older material, but also much that is his fresh thoughts on participation, mission, and covenant in Paul. 

The Pastoral Epistles: An International Theological Commentary, Gerald Bray (T & T Clark, July, 2019). I am working on a commentary on the Pastorals and interested in Bray’s work.


Reading Romans BackwardsScot McKnight (Baylor Press, July, 2019). I wrote an endorsement for this, and I have to say it is probably going to be “Book of the Year.” He has done his homework on Romans scholarship, and this one of the best biblical studies books I have ever read. This is a “must read.”

Rediscovering Scripture’s Vision for Women, Lucy Peppiatt (IVP Academic, August, 2019). I endorsed this book, a fantastic read: it is irenic, articulate, and insightful. 

Christobio.jpgChristobiography, Craig Keener (Eerdmans, August, 2019). At 743 pages, this looks like it will be a major contribution to the genre question as it pertains to the Gospels. I will try to review it on my blog.

The Reception of Jesus in the First Three Centuries, ed. Chris Keith, Helen Bond, Christine Jacobi, and Jens Schoeter (T & T Clark, Sept, 2019). 3 Volumes, 82 essays, top experts from around the world. Need I say more? A whopping $500, but every institutional library will need to have this. I have reached out to a journal to see if I can review it.

The New Testament in Its World, Michael Bird and NT Wright (Zondervan, Nov 2019). This is an all-in-one Wrightian approach to the NT and examination of its texts with input from MB. Mike asked me to give feedback on a few sections. I can’t wait to use this as a resource! 




Why I Believe in Women in Ministry: Part 12 (Gupta)

Women in the Ancient Jewish Synagogue

When we address the matter of women in ministry in the New Testament, the focus tends to be on evidence for women in leadership roles in the church—and for good reason. But if we zoom out, it is helpful to look at roles that women played in other religious institutions of the time, especially the Jewish synagogues. Most scholars agree that the nature and structure of the Jewish synagogue influenced the formation of the earliest churches (see Wayne Meeks, The First Urban Christians).

Therefore, I have found it advantageous to examine the roles and titles attributed to Jewish women in the synagogue. This doesn’t directly “prove” anything related to Christian churches, but offers a more complete picture of what women could and did do in the ancient world.

For a short, but somewhat technical essay, read THIS.

Mother of the Synagogue, Elder, Synagogue Ruler

We have inscriptional evidence that women sometimes were called “mother of the synagogue.” It has been argued (theoretically) that this was an honorific title, with no administrative function. The meager evidence we have does not make any of this clear, but it is a sensible guess that such “mothers” and “fathers” were wealthy patrons. Even if their wealth played a role in the title, it is hard to imagine they did not exercise strong influence on the synagogue community.

We also know that women were sometimes called “elder.” Some argue this could just be the wives of the male elders, but even if that were true (and there is no solid proof either way), the fact they received such an esteemed title surely meant something about their stature. Perhaps the most grandiose title for women that we come across for women is “synagogue ruler.”

The ruler of the synagogue (archisynagogos), Rufina, erected a tomb monument to her freeman and servants. (Smyrna, 2nd cent CE; CII 741)

No husband is mentioned here, so it does not seem that her “ruler” status is directly tied to a husband. If we look at the New Testament, synagogue rulers (presumably mostly male) were the leaders and representatives of the synagogue (Mark 5, 8; Acts 13, 18). The arch* prefix for Greek words involving roles, titles, or occupations imply a sense of leadership or authority over a group (archiereus, archipoimenos, archipatriotes, archistrategos).

Female “Father” of the Synagogue

We have one unusual case where a Latin inscription refers to a woman as pateressa—a feminine form of the word father (pater). It stands to reason, especially in this case, she would have had duties parallel to a male synagogue leader (pater). Why else call her pateressa and not mater (mother)?

So what?

I agree so much of this information is speculative and guess work, but when it comes to reconstructing the lives of ancient people (including the early Christians), the evidence is often  fragmentary. I do not imagine the church or the synagogue of the first century threw off patriarchy like a coat. But there is ample evidence that in this time period in the Roman world some women, especially wealthy women, were seen out and about doing important things. That does not create an open and shut case for women pastors today, but neither can this material be ignored or discounted. Every bit contributes to a more complete picture of the lives of women in the ancient world.

Why I Believe in Women in Ministry: Part 11 (Gupta)

Is “Headship” Relevant to Women in Ministry Leadership? (1 Cor 11:2-16)

In these blog posts, my overall focus is on why I support women as church leaders, including preaching and teaching for the whole body. I don’t think 1 Corinthians 11 has much to say one way or another about women as pastors and preachers, but it comes up enough in conversations about “headship” and “submission” that I thought it deserves discussion.

What is Headship?

It is important to acknowledge that the term “headship” is not in the Bible. It is a construct that is used to talk about gender relationships and power dynamics. But in 1 Cor 11, the language of “head” is important. According to conventional definitions, “headship” refers to the authority of the husband over the wife, and the expected submission of the wife to the husband. Sometimes, it is extrapolated out to men/women relationships in church and society. Our goal here is to see if the head language in this passage carries this authority dynamic, and then if this bars women from leadership in church ministry.

It would take a whole book to give this text the attention it needs for a clear and complete exposition, but I want these posts to be “readable.” So, I will offer my brief thoughts, and then I commend the commentaries of Fee (NICNT), Garland (BECNT), and Thiselton (NIGTC) as good sources for all the details.

11:3: A “Head” Taxonomy

At first glance, it seems as if Paul is calling women to submit to men as if to say God is head over Christ, Christ over man, and man over woman. There are a number of problems with treating 11:3 as a static hierarchy. Firstly, there are ongoing debates about the concept of eternal submission in the Godhead. Second, Paul would have believed Christ to be authority over both men and women. It is not as if women need to go to men for confession, rather than directly to God. Thirdly—and most importantly, there is vigorous ongoing debate about the meaning of the word “head” (kephale) as it is used metaphorically here. Many scholars contest the notion of head=authority. Others have proposed “source,” but that does not seem much likelier. I think scholars like Garland are getting close when they argue for the meaning “prominence” (leaning into the notion of representative). Any and all of these arguments for kephale must explain how Christ is the “head” of man, but not (directly) the “head” of woman. Whatever this means, it cannot mean direct-authority. Paul is clear elsewhere that Christ himself is “head” over the whole church, not just men. I believe, without a clearer understanding of how and why Paul uses head-language in 1 Cor 11, we ought not to rely on “headship” as a dominant gender-theology framework.

What is Going on in Corinth?

From 11:4-7, we can glean that women (or both women and men) were rejecting certain cultural practices of honor, dignity, and respect regarding headcoverings. Paul does not address headcoverings elsewhere, so this must have been a problem unique to Corinth. Paul warns both men and women for disrupting the dignity of the worship service.

Warning to Women

11:7-10 appear to be a targeted warning to women. Women are meant to add to the glory of men. Adam was not made from Eve’s body, but Eve from Adam’s (11:8). Paul goes on: women shouldn’t undermine men, because they were created to help men (as in support, not serve; 11:8). 11:10 is very difficult to translate, let alone interpret. If we render it literally, it says, “For this reason, a woman ought to have authority on her head, because of the angels.” But what does that mean? Is Paul referring to her physical head? Or man as head? Why “on” and not “as”? And where do the angels fit in? We just don’t know. If I had to guess, I would think this means that she needs to take responsibility for what she does with her (physical) head—as in covering it out of respect for men and for God (respect, not submission).

Mutuality is Key

If we focus on “headship,” we miss Paul’s real point in this passage. In the end (and in the Lord), women and men need each other (11:11). Yes, Eve did come from Adam’s body, but we also see how (now) men are given life through women’s bodies (11:12a). It is not about origins or heads, but ultimately all must respect the supremacy of God (11:12). Headcoverings are not about women knowing their submissive place, but about turning contentiousness into mutuality and cooperation for the sake of the whole (11:16).

Ministry Relevance

Nowhere in this passage does it say that a woman cannot preach. Nowhere does it say if she speaks, her husband must be present and identifiable as her “symbol of authority.” And I don’t see anything here that prevents women from being elders. I consider this passage irrelevant to the matter of women in ministry. More relevant is 1 Corinthians 14, but we will save that for another post.

Why I Believe in Women in Ministry: Part 10 (Gupta)

Why Translation Matters (ἀνθρωπος/anthropos doesn’t mean “man/men”)

Periodically, I will offer some translation notes in this blog series. Today, I want to point out how many modern translations default to androcentrism (a “male” orientation where it is unnecessary). I will focus my concern on the ESV, because of its popularity and its dominance in many evangelical churches.

According to most reputable lexicons, anthropos means “person/human,” without any specific assumption of gender. I would guess that 99% of the time, anthropos is used in the New Testament in this generic way. There are a small number of occasions, where anthropos is used as a clear reference to a man only (and, thus, as a synonym for aner, “male”; cf. 1 Cor 7:1).

Translations like the ESV often render anthropos as “man” even though nothing in the context suggests this gendered limitation. Here are a some examples.

ESV Romans 1:18 For the wrath of God is revealed from heaven against all ungodliness and unrighteousness of men (anthropos), who by their unrighteousness suppress the truth. (Rom. 1:18 ESV)

Note: Here the wrath of God is against all of sinful humanity, not just men. In fact, women are mentioned in 1:26. Therefore, it makes more sense to translate this as humanity or humankind.

ESV Romans 2:16 on that day when, according to my gospel, God judges the secrets of men (anthropos) by Christ Jesus. (Rom. 2:16 ESV)

Note: God will judge all people according to Paul, not just men.

ESV 1 Corinthians 13:1 If I speak in the tongues of men (anthropos) and of angels, but have not love, I am a noisy gong or a clanging cymbal. (1 Cor. 13:1 ESV)

Note: Because the comparison is with angels (not women), I believe anthropos is best translated as “mortals” or “humans” here.

ESV Galatians 1:11 For I would have you know, brothers, that the gospel that was preached by me is not man’s (anthropos) gospel. (Gal. 1:11 ESV)

Note: The use of “man” as a representative of “humankind” is rapidly falling out of use in modern English.

ESV 1 Timothy 2:5 For there is one God, and there is one mediator between God and men (anthropos plural), the man (anthropos) Christ Jesus, (1 Tim. 2:5 ESV)

Note: Here the mediation is not between God and male humans, but between God and mortals. It obscures the text to refer to Christ Jesus as a “man” here. Otherwise, it potentially elevates men over women. The point is the incarnation (Jesus becoming human flesh). Now the NIV2011 has “man” here (presumably because it sounds more natural), but I think in some cases gender-neutral clarity (when the wording requires it) supersedes the desire for more eloquent speech.

ESV Hebrews 5:1 For every high priest chosen from among men (anthropos) is appointed to act on behalf of men (anthropos) in relation to God, to offer gifts and sacrifices for sins. (Heb. 5:1 ESV)

Note: Again, I think the ESV overinterprets the text by rendering anthropos as “men” here. If the author wanted to say “males” he could have easily done so (aner). But we must allow the NT authors to make their own point, and not presume what that was by being more specific than they chose to be. Yes, high priests were men, but that is simply not what the author wrote. Even though some argue “not much is lost” here, it becomes a sloppy way of translating, especially when the ESV claims to be an “optimal” equivalence.

ESV Hebrews 7:28 For the law appoints men (anthropos) in their weakness as high priests, but the word of the oath, which came later than the law, appoints a Son who has been made perfect forever. (Heb. 7:28 ESV)

Note: Again here, the ESV over-interprets the text. The point of the passage is not that “men” become high priests, but that one human becomes high priest and also suffers from weakness; but the Son is unique and perfect.

What Do Women Think?

My guess is that the ESV translation committee would find “man/men” a suitable gender-inclusive term, and they presume women feel quite comfortable allowing for this. But there are two problems with this. First, there is so much overt and latent sexism and androcentrism in society, I think we need to be more careful about gender inclusive language (in conversation and in translation where relevant). Secondly, the ESV oversight committee is 12 men and no women (LINK). There are ~50 review scholars (I assume this means translation consultants)—all men. To me, this is a major problem if we expect more than half the church (women) to find this translation meaningful and respectful of the inclusion of women.

I believe any translation claiming to speak clearly and meaningfully to the whole people of God, men and women, should take into consideration how women (of all generations) respond to default-male language like “man,” “men,” and “mankind” for anthropos.

The ESV does use more inclusive language sometimes, but the inconsistency on this troubles me.

A Technical Note on Semantics

This note is for readers who have studied Greek.

There is a danger in relying on lexicons to determine word meanings. Lexicons often offer several “meanings” of a word. But we must recognize not all meanings are of the same kind. Some meanings represent the core, what a word actually means. Often other “meanings” are nuances or contextualized versions of that root meaning. For example, διωκω means “pursue” at its core; in certain contexts it can mean “persecute.” The two meanings are not “equal” in terms of their relationship to the word.

The same goes for ἀνθρωπος – it means “human.” Culturally, it could be used as a synonym for ἀνηρ and be translated as “man,” but the two are not translation options on equal footing. Unless the context requires the more narrow connotation of “man,” the translator must presume the author means “human/person.” There should be a kind of “order of operations” for English word choices.

We must also deal with the difference between word meaning and the referent. Take the English word “vehicle.” A vehicle can be any means of transport. If a police offer says, “Step out of your vehicle,” the meaning of the word doesn’t change: the word still means “mode of transportation.” But here the referent is obviously a car. We all know the referent, but that still doesn’t change the meaning of the word “vehicle.”

The same goes for ἀνθρωπος in the New Testament. Just because ἀνθρωπος sometimes has males as the referent doesn’t mean the word meaning changes. It still means “person,” even if the referent is a male. Translators who are trying to reflect the Greek text in a straightforward manner ought to consistently stick to word meanings and avoid substituting referents.