When is a Brother a Sister? Gendered Language and Bible Translation

It was a pretty typical home group, with everyone sitting around expounding on what the passage of the evening meant to them, saying all the usual things. I can’t remember exactly what Bible text we were discussing, but it might have been this one:

Therefore, if you are offering your gift at the altar and there remember that your brother has something against you, leave your gift there in front of the altar. First go and be reconciled to your brother; then come and offer your gift. (Matt. 5:23-24)

Then Rick spoke up, altering the course of our discussion with one simple comment. He told us that he had recently been praying, talking with God about his relationship with fellow believers. Basically, Rick said, he was thinking he was respectful of others and careful to make things right if he had mistreated someone. He was pretty sure he was doing a good job of being quick to hear, slow to speak, and slow to become angry.

His confidence was flying high. 

That is, until a still, small thought came to mind: 

What about your wife?

Continue reading “When is a Brother a Sister? Gendered Language and Bible Translation”

To Help or Not to Help, that is Not the Question: Gen. 2:18, Woman as Man’s “Helper,” and Issues in Translation

Recently I took the time to do an in-depth study of ezer, the Hebrew word describing the first woman in Gen. 2:18, 20 that is often translated “helper” in English. Though I’ve spent way too many years reading every scholar I could get my hands on, I mean every scholarly comment I could get my hands on, as so far I have not laid hands on any scholars, when I finally studied ezer in depth I could not help being more than mildly surprised. Frankly, unless someone can send me a suitable helper to help me see the light, I can’t help but question the helpfulness of “helper.”

You see, I had heard that while ezer-helpers aren’t always subordinate, they can be. Though ezer is used mostly of Yahweh in the Old Testament, the one being who is vastly superior to anyone and everyone, it is said that the word itself doesn’t tell you whether the helper is inferior or superior to the person they’re helping.[1] So, an ezer-helper could supposedly be either, though when it’s the woman it means inferior. Inferior in rank, that is, not in essence.[2] Continue reading “To Help or Not to Help, that is Not the Question: Gen. 2:18, Woman as Man’s “Helper,” and Issues in Translation”

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