371.     We have called attention to some of these misinterpretations, as well as mistranslations of the Bible, as to women. But a certain type of mind is sure to reason: “What am I to believe, then? And whom am I to believe?”¾as though it were ever intended that our faith should rest in human beings,¾uninspired, as these translators are, as well! Let us hope, however, that the majority of those who will read these Lessons will rather say, “We must never rest until we have seen to it that a sufficiently large number of young women are kept in training in the sacred languages, so that women can always command a hearing, as to the precise meaning of such passages in the Bible as relate to the interests of women specially. Thus only will women’s temporal and spiritual interests receive their due consideration.” Better, far better, that we should doubt every translator of the Bible than to doubt the inspiration of St. Paul’s utterances about women; and the justice of God towards women: or, above all, to doubt that “Christ hath redeemed us” (women) “from the curse of the law” (Galatians 3:13).

372.      Recalling Dean Payne-Smith’s words about Bible interpreters, “Men never do understand anything unless already in their minds they have some kindred ideas,” it is not worth our while to complain that men have not always seen truths that had no special application to their needs, either in interpreting or in translating the Bible; we merely wish to point out wherein there is need of changes. Supposing women only had translated the Bible from age to age, is there a likelihood that men would have rested content with the outcome? Therefore, our brothers have no good reason to complain if, while conceding that men have done the best they could alone, we assert that they did not do the best that could have been done. The work would have been of a much higher order had they first helped women to learn the sacred languages, (instead of putting obstacles in their way), and then, have given them a place by their side on translation committees.

373.     The same writer says, again: “A bad translation of this book [the Bible] exercises a depressing influence upon a nation’s advance in civilization: a good translation is one of the great levers in the nation’s rise.” We believe that the very reason why we see so large a proportion of the women of Christendom, in our day, given over to fashion and folly, is precisely because they have never been given a proper and dignified work in the advancement of God’s kingdom,¾since the first century of the Christian Church. And the true value of woman’s powers will never be known so long as her self-respect is destroyed by teaching her that she rests under God’s curse, and is bound to remain in perpetual subordination to her husband, even when he happens to be a fool or scamp; and this is what the Church unconsciously teaches in its sweeping assertions as to woman’s “subordination” to her husband,¾never pausing to define (even if this were true), what sort of a husband is entitled to act as her superior and ruler.

374.     The end of Genesis 3:16 reads: “He will rule over thee,”¾a prophecy that has been abundantly fulfilled. There is no third person imperative form of the verb in Hebrew, and the ancient versions testify that this expression is a simple future (see paragraphs. 273-274). But what has transpired? It is rendered “He shall, as though imperative. We repeat Prof. Moulton’s words: “The use of shall when prophecy is dealing with future time is often particularly unfortunate. I have heard of an intelligent child who struggled under perplexity for several years because of the words, ‘Thou shalt deny Me thrice,’ it could not therefore be Peter’s fault, if Jesus commanded him!  The child’s determinism is probably more widely shared than we think” . . . “for instance, in such a passage as Mark 13:24-27 we have shall seven times where in modern English we should undeniably use will.” Can we even imagine the wonderful lightening of the burden, if women opened their Bible merely to read precisely what the Hebrew says of man: “He will rule over thee?” Or, if instead of reading, “No MAN can serve two masters,” we could read what Christ meant,¾“No ONE can serve two masters.” But in cases of the latter sort, where the common gender is expressed by the masculine form, the masculine interpreter and translator is accustomed to take as exclusively his own so much as he sees fit; and to translate as of common application that which prejudice dictates that he may safely accede to women also,¾though he may hotly deny the imputation. He is wholly unconscious of any such offense against the truth, merely because no woman is allowed to sit by his side, when translating, to recall him from the error of his ways. Archdeacon Farrar says: “A translator has the need of invincible honesty if he would avoid the misleading influences of his own a priori convictions.” Speaking of “the fierce temptations which the faith of the interpreter must resist,” he illustrates it by Luther’s throwing his inkstand at the devil, when doing such work. He continues, “Few are the translators, fewer the exegetes . . . to abstain from finding in the Bible thoughts which it does not contain, and rejecting or unjustly modifying the thoughts which are indeed there.”

375.     This being the truth as regards translations, what are we to do? “Learn to read and judge of the original for themselves,” is our first answer. But all women cannot do this, even if they would. Then we would reply in the words of an eminent Scotch divine, “if we find even in the Bible anything which confuses our sense of right and wrong, that seems to us less exalted and pure than the character of God should be: if after the most patient thought and prayerful pondering it still retains that aspect, then we must not bow down to it as God’s revelation to us, since it does not meet the need of the earlier and more sacred revelation He has given us in our spirit and conscience which testify of Him” We must remember that no translation can rise much above the character of the translator,¾who must be chosen, not simply because of his reputation for unprejudiced honesty, but for learning too. He cannot properly render what has not as yet entered in the least into his own consciousness as the truth; and the Holy Spirit invariably refuses to seal to us as truth that which is error, even though it appears on the page of our Bible translation.

376.     But surely, enough has been revealed to us, in the poorest translation, for the securing of our spiritual salvation, and communion with God,¾so we need not be disturbed, if, after doing our very best, we feel, at a given passage, uncertain. The likelihood is that every translation falls to a lower level than it would, but for the personal faults and personal prejudices of the translators. But as Bishop Butler has said, “The age-long misinterpretations of the Bible are no more disproof of its authority, than the age-long misinterpretations of Nature are any disproof of its Divine creation.”

377.     We must recall that every translator of the Bible, throughout Church history has been a male;[1] and sex bias came into existence very early in human history. In fact the sin in the garden at once affected the love between the sexes, and Adam sought to show excellence beyond Eve.  Says the German divine, Dr. Lange, in his Commentary on Genesis: “The guilt proper is rolled upon woman [by Adam], and indirectly upon God Himself . . . The loss of love that comes out in this interposing of his wife is, moreover, particularly denoted in this, that he grudges to call her Eve or my wife . . . ‘That woman by my side, she who was given to [be with] me of God as a trusty counselor, she gave me the fruit.’” . . . “An acknowledgement of sin by Adam, but not true and sincere.” Secondly, Adam generated, by his unholy ambition, a desire to “as God” which will never cease to exist in human nature until that Wicked One “sets himself forth as God,” in the very Temple of God, and is destroyed by Christ’s second coming. And since sex bias is of old, and also the masculine desire to rule, every version of the Bible, beginning with the first one¾the Septuagint Greek version¾reflects from its pages the sinful nature, in this regard, of those who have made the translation. It is beyond our province, however, to enter upon all the versions,¾only upon the English.


[1] Humility, Rev. Andrew Muray, chapter 2. We need hardly say, in this connection, that it was not, however, through Eve that the desire to be “as God” became current in the human family,¾see Lesson 12.

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