Women, The Church, And Bible Translation: Key Passages, Issues, And Interpretive Options -- By: Scott Munger
PP 29:2 (Spring 2015) p. 6
Women, The Church, And Bible Translation: Key Passages, Issues, And Interpretive Options
Scott Munger has lived in the Philippines, Kazakhstan (USSR), Russia, Nepal, and India, and has checked portions of Bible translations in some forty-five languages. He has taught in seminary and is the author of Rethinking God. An ordained minister, Scott recently retired from his role as Vice President for Translations at Biblica and continues to work as a volunteer jail chaplain and a private Bible translation consultant. He has been married to Jennifer for over 35 years. This article was originally presented at SIL International’s conference in Dallas, Texas, in 2013.
Public debates continue—and sometimes boil over—concerning approaches to Bible translation. “Literal” is often trumpeted as the divine model, while “interpretive” approaches are seen as invariably sliding away from the ideal. The sacred text’s teaching about women—their role and the language used to describe it— stands at the center of a factious debate in the Western church. This article presents some of the key passages cited to buttress or confound one side or the other, analyzing them to demonstrate what the author believes is scripture’s strong, if not always obvious, egalitarian position on the exercise of spiritual gifts in the church. That teaching has often been obscured by literal renderings devoid of implicit but vital contextual information. This article attempts to explain and supply that missing information in succinct ways. Equivocate as we might about difficult passages and key terms, translators are sometimes forced to make interpretive choices that, one way or the other, are bound to stir debate, affect lives, and support or derail centuries of church practice. We translators are not always free to leave such decisions to the reader. We need to be honest: our theology affects the nature of our work—in this case, the daily life of half the audience and the worldview of the whole.1
By way of background, note below some key OT selections, some accounts of Jesus’s attitude toward women, and various NT events and teachings.
Exodus 15:20-21: Miriam, a prophet
Judges 4:4ff.: Deborah, a prophet and leader
2 Kings 22:14ff. (2 Chr 34:22ff.): Huldah, a prophet
Proverbs 31:10ff.: The activities of an excellent wife
Jesus and women
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