May 15, 2020

In her ongoing study of the gender appropriate translations of the Bible, Dr. Laura Hunt provides this study of the New English Translation (NET) of the Bible.  Completed in 2019 the authors claim: “With the first edition completed in 2001, ongoing revisions based on scholarly and user feedback in 2003 and 2005, and a major update reaching its final stages in 2019, the NET’s unique translation process has yielded a beautiful, faithful English Bible for the worldwide church today.”

Specifically focusing on this version being a true translation without gender bias, Dr. Hunt gives this analysis.  She says, in part:

“The first thing to look at is the list of translators. I found it here, at the very end: https://bible.org/netbible/index.htm?pre.htm Note that these are exclusively men, and that Dallas Theological Seminary is heavily represented…

Next, I want to look at a series of verses that are helpful to get a sense of the translators’ gender biases. There are many options, but these are mine:

Gen 3:16: There are two issues here. The beginning of the verse says, in Hebrew, “I will greatly increase your pain and your conception/pregnancy.” Most translators combine this idea with the next line and assume that the pain referred to is specifically pain in childbirth. That is quite possible, and a hendiadys is something that Hebrew does do quite often. However, in the footnote, the translators justify their choice by saying “there is no pain in conception.” That comment could only come from an exclusively male perspective. The fact that they did not seriously consider the pain many women experience during conception and also during the whole of pregnancy reveals a bias that is confirmed by the translation of the second half of the verse. There, the NET says, “You will want to control your husband, but he will dominate you.” All translation is, of course, interpretation, but this goes beyond what I would consider to be allowable. You can read more about the issues here: https://margmowczko.com/translation-genesis-316/….

Rom 16:1, 7: There are several issues here. In verse 1, diakonos is translated “servant.” That is a possible translation, but the note is a bit disingenuous. On the basis that neither Epaphras nor Timothy are deacons, it is supposed that Phoebe cannot be. Yet the possibility of her being a minister is not considered. Especially given the support that Paul is requesting for her (v. 2), it seems likely that she is some sort of leader. (See https://margmowczko.com/phoebe-a-deacon-of-the-church-in-cenchrea-part-7/)

In verse 7, Junia is correctly identified as a woman, although do I read reluctance in the tone of the note? I am a bit confused by the reference to the TLG. The TLG is “a digital library of Greek literature.” It is possible that it has been updated since Moo did his search. But when I looked, I found 23 entries for Junia, and only one that is early (Plutarch, Brutus 7.1.4), from the 1–2nd century CE, where it’s a woman’s name. So I am not sure what the three are that Moo is referring to. In fact, however, the TLG does not differentiate between Junia (f.) and Junias (m.), and the same 23 instances come up when references to Junius (which Rom 16:7 cannot mean) are removed. Additionally, the Epiphanius reference that is mentioned in footnote 6 is from the 4th century CE, and therefore not particularly relevant. Junia, as footnote 6 mentions, is quite common in Latin, and apparently in Greek inscriptions, although I have not been able to verify that (see the footnotes here: https://margmowczko.com/junia-and-the-esv/). Finally, the end of footnote 6 and the entirety of 8 seek to support the NET’s chosen translation, “well known to the apostles.” Here is the argument against that translation: https://margmowczko.com/is-junia-well-known-to-the-apostles/ Additionally, I have looked for instances of episemoi enwhich is the phrase under debate, and I found one example that states that Aristophanes, as compared to the other authors, “shone forth among them all,” and Lucian, in the 2nd century CE suggests that if there are rumors that you did not praise your boss/owner enough, you must be sure to raise your voice next time so that you stand out among her admirers. In both cases, the one being described is clearly part of the larger group to which he is being compared. I found no examples of the phrase being used the way the NET Bible translates it. Thus, it seems much more likely that Phoebe is a leader of the church at Cenchreae, and that Junia and Andronicus are outstanding among the apostles….”

After exploring several other important translation and study note concerns, Dr. Hunt concludes with giving the NET a one out of eight evaluation.

Conclusions: With a grade of 1/8, I would not recommend the NET. One of the positives of its development was that it was open to input from everyone; however, it is clear that the editors followed a complementarian bias in their final decisions. I had intended, like Beth Moore, to comment on how helpful the notes are, but now that I actually work through them, I am finding them misleading, more often than not. If readers weren’t already aware of the broader conversations around these issues, they would not find out about them from these notes.”

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