You say “Shibboleth”, I say “Sibboleth”…

Posted: 19th March 2008 by ElShaddai Edwards in Uncategorized

Wayne Leman has posted an excellent question on the Better Bibles Blog on whether we create shibboleths, or exclusive social groups, within Christianity or the church by which Bible translation we carry around with us:

Maslow claimed that one of the most basic human needs is the desire to belong, to be part of a group. I have noticed that one of the marks of religious solidarity is often what version of the Bible is used. […] We often create shibboleths which are “keys to the kingdom”, social doors through which applicants must pass in order to be fully accepted within the group or church. Some Bible translation shibboleths which have developed are:

  1. Does this Bible say “young woman” or “virgin” in Is. 7:14?
  2. Does this Bible say “blood of Christ” or is it sometimes translated as “death of Christ”?
  3. Does this Bible retain “theological terms” such as “grace”, “righteousness”, and “sanctification”?
  4. Was this Bible version translated according to the Colorado Springs Guidelines?
  5. Is this Bible version gender inclusive?
  6. Does this version use “church” or “assembly”?
  7. Does this version use the name of God, “Yahweh” or “Jehovah”?
  8. Does this version retain literal translations of biblical idioms, such as “doing what is right in God’s eyes”, “son of perdition”?

Unfortunately the gender crew has taken over the comments section with the usual bickering, so the main thought of Wayne’s post has been lost, though Kevin Sam has also taken up the question on his blog.

  1. Nick Norelli says:

    Yeah, that ‘gender bunch’ has a way of making everything about the gender debate, even when posts have absolutely nothing to do with it… 😐

  2. Peter Kirk says:

    Two of the shibboleths Wayne listed in the original post are gender related (for the Colorado Springs Guidelines are all about gender). And gender related language is in many churches the most important shibboleth. So you can hardly complain that a few people have commented about that part of the post.

  3. But I can complain that you’ve hijacked the comments to retread the issue of how words are translated, not whether that creates a shibboleth and “what are the advantages and disadvantages of using Bible translation shibboleths for group identity?”

    I realize that you (and Suzanne) didn’t start the issue, but once blood was in the water…

  4. Donnie says:

    I have to disagree with the OP on the 1st “shibboleth” The virgin birth is one of the most important and sacred parts of scripture, removing it is a really big deal to me.

  5. Donnie says:

    Never mind that last comment. I’ve only heard shibboleth used derisively as in “jargon.” Now that I look it up, the word has a few more meanings that I wasn’t aware of.

  6. J. K. Gayle says:

    Seems to me that “shibboleth” (שיבולת) is a great word for hijacking. Not only does it mean slaughter for those men crossing the river with corn in their teeth but it also means slaughtering by those men who stand at the fords with swords. And this new meaning hijacks the earlier meaning of the word: “corn,” which hijacked an earlier meaning “river.”

    But, as you gentlemen complain here, Wayne invoked Abraham Maslow over there. No one even sneezed when Wayne hijacked what Maslow really says about the sexes in relation to man and woman human needs.

    Here’s one thing Maslow writes in Religions, Values, and Peak Experiences (pages 13-14):

    “When men and women disappear into two separated, isolated worlds, both sexes become corrupted and pathologized. The point is driven home fully that they need each other in order to be themselves. When all that could be called ‘religious’ (naturalistically as well as supernaturalistically) was cut away from science, from knowledge, from further discovery, from the possibility of skeptical investigation, from confirming and disconfirming, and, therefore, from the possibility of purifying and improving, such a dichotomized religion was doomed. It tended to claim that the founding revelation was complete, perfect, final, and eternal. It had the truth, the whole truth, and had nothing more to learn, thereby being pushed into the position that has destroyed so many churches, of resisting change, of being only conservative, of being anti-intellectual and anti-scientifice, of making piety and obedience exclusive of skeptical intellectuality—in effect, of contradicting naturalistic truth.”

    When you gents cry for only one pure discussion, and say that Suzanne’s and TC’s and Peter’s perspectives and questions on bad translation with respect to gender is hijacking, then you’re also ignoring what Nathan, Rich, Peter H., Milton, Scripturezealot, and Kevin have also said.

    No one is trying to silence anyone, until now. And note what Maslow and the writer of the Book of Judges says about that.

  7. Wayne Leman says:

    Kurk wrote:

    No one even sneezed when Wayne hijacked what Maslow really says about the sexes in relation to man and woman human needs.

    Kurk, please don’t use the word “hijacked”. My post was limited to one need Maslow wrote about, the need to belong. Maslow’s other listed needs can be dealt with at a more appropriate time.

    I wanted to keep the post focused on shibboleths we use to maintain group solidarity and to keep out those who we feel don’t belong. And, specifically, I wanted to focus the shibboleths on those used about Bible versions.

    Wayne

  8. Wayne Leman says:

    I have to disagree with the OP on the 1st “shibboleth” The virgin birth is one of the most important and sacred parts of scripture, removing it is a really big deal to me.

    The virgin birth is a big deal to me, also, Donnie. The shibboleth is not about whether Jesus was born to a virgin, but of whether or not the Hebrew word almah in Is. 7:14 should be translated as “virgin” or “young woman”. Clearly, Matthew speaks of Jesus being born to a virgin. Matthew’s words should never be changed to take away the idea that Jesus was born to a virgin.

    My point isn’t even about which wording is the most accurate in Is. 7:14. It’s about each wording being used as a shibboleth among different groups.

  9. J. K. Gayle says:

    Sorry Wayne. And Elshaddai may want to apologize too:

    But I can complain that you’ve hijacked the comments to retread the issue of how words are translated, not whether that creates a shibboleth and “what are the advantages and disadvantages of using Bible translation shibboleths for group identity?”

    Isn’t “shibboleth” really all about “hijacking” and “words” and “blood in the water”?

    So to come back to you, Wayne, and what I said… Maslow’s hierarchy is intimately related to sex on various levels, which includes how men and women view sex and how they do epistemology. What if Suzanne or Peter or any of the other in the “gender crew” can’t easily talk about certain levels of topics in the Bible until there’s a good conversation about the silencing of women there by translation? Maslow would not be unhappy with the gender discussion at all; he’d be unhappy at Elshaddai’s efforts to censure it in the name of “purity.” So, Wayne, if you’re going to bring Maslow into the discussion, let’s not silence Abraham Harold Maslow either.

  10. @J.K. — You wrote:

    When you gents cry for only one pure discussion, and say that Suzanne’s and TC’s and Peter’s perspectives and questions on bad translation with respect to gender is hijacking, then you’re also ignoring what Nathan, Rich, Peter H., Milton, Scripturezealot, and Kevin have also said.

    When I wrote my post, there were 10 comments to Wayne’s original post. Six of them were related to detailed gender translation and none of those mentioned “shibboleth” or had any related discussion. That’s what I call hijacking a post from its original intent.

    Thank you, Wayne, for restating and clarifying your intent with the original post!

  11. Peter Kirk says:

    If you look at my blog as well as my posts and comments at BBB and elsewhere, you will find that I am perfectly capable of discussing biblical matters nothing to do with gender if I want to. In this case I had nothing new to say about shibboleths. But I did feel the need to ask TC to clarify his/her comments about “the traditional renditions of “huios” and its cognates as “son””, which proved justified when I discovered that the rendering referred to are not in fact traditional at all.

  12. J. K. Gayle says:

    I am perfectly capable of discussing biblical matters nothing to do with gender if I want to.

    Peter, I for one appreciate your blog and comments at BBB on gender and other matters. I also appreciate Suzanne’s blog and comments on various issues as well. And I’ve just looked at TC’s blog where he says smart things too (with only one post on gender and the Bible, so far, I’m afraid).

    Wayne and Elshaddai,
    As for the “intent with the original post” ostensibly “to maintain group solidarity and to keep out those who we feel don’t belong” isn’t there some irony here? Calling three people “the gender crew” and “hijackers” and “bickerers” hardly helps “solidarity” and soundly signals those who should somehow feel now they don’t belong. Please feel free to instruct me to stay on topic or to avoid using certain words (i.e., “hijacking”), but please show us by your good example too how to avoid blogger bullying.

  13. Please don’t wrap Wayne into my choices of words. I am accountable for what I write, not him.

    If I’ve ironically if unintentionally created a shibboleth that excludes “the gender crew” and “hijackers” and “bickerers”, then… well, I don’t know. The militant egalitarianism (and I purposefully pick that phrase from recent comments on Peter’s blog) shown on BBB at times is just as off-putting to my ears. And I’m not a strict complementarian either…

  14. TC says:

    I really thought that getting into the gender issue was part of the shibboleths, when we consider the meaning of the term.

    How restrictive is the term? For example, when I read a Bible, I rather hear “brothers and sisters” than “brothers.”

    El Shaddai, it was not my intention to be a part of a hijack.

  15. Suzanne says:

    frankly i think that most of you will be happy when the only woman in this little corner of the blogosphere folds her tent.

  16. Suzanne says:

    You ought to be ashamed of yourself, ES. Why can’t you just watch politely when a woman asks for accuracy and justice in Bible translation. I really can hardly believe what I read here. I am not asking you to support justice for women, neither you nor Nick. But you could at least politely leave the room without mocking.

  17. Nick Norelli says:

    I simply noted an observation. No mocking involved with that.

  18. Suzanne says:

    Nick,

    You may call me one of the gender bunch but I most of my writing has nothing to do with that. Likely you have not read my series on orthotomew or Lindisfarne, no, not interested. I understand. I also have my own academic domain, nothing to do with Bible translation or Greek. I publish elsewhere, and I work and I have a family. I am not unidimensional.

    And on gender – someone has to do it. Why should I just sit by when no one else takes the time to prove that authentein never has meant “to have authority” – that was just an error perpetuated by Knight and a few others. Very few other people have the training to get to the bottom of these things. Someone should do it. Why should error go uncorrected?

  19. Nick Norelli says:

    And on gender – someone has to do it.

    And that’s the simple observation. That certain folks do it… a lot.

  20. You ought to be ashamed of yourself, ES. Why can’t you just watch politely when a woman asks for accuracy and justice in Bible translation. I really can hardly believe what I read here. I am not asking you to support justice for women, neither you nor Nick. But you could at least politely leave the room without mocking.

    Please tell me what in my post has anything to do with your gender and/or is mocking. I noted that (in my opinion) the comments to Wayne’s original post seemed to have veered off topic to his original question. Other than particular word choices that may or may not have been over the top, I fail to see what you’re accusing me of.

  21. Suzanne says:

    ES,

    Clearly the use of the term “gender crew” or “gender bunch” is not complimentary. Neither is “hijackers” or “bickerers” I was hurt by these remark. Peter reacted similary, in remarking that he has written a great deal on other issues. You made both of us uncomfortable.

    Next, the gender discussions are with respect to fair representation of women. Therefore it has to do with my gender. You say that this is off-putting. Fine, don’t read it. The calibre of my posts on gender are the equal of anything published in a journal and are all original research. What I have to say ought to be written. But if it is not of interest to you, by all means don’t read it.

    In addition, TC, brought up a point about the expression “man of God” that I had not read about before. I found it very interesting and worthy of discussion. Did you actually want me to say to TC that we would not be able to discuss it because ES might find it “off-putting?”

    We have never before blogged about 1 Tim. 3:17 on the BBB. I am shocked at the level of courtesy or lack thereof.

  22. Fair enough. It was not the intent of my post to make you feel uncomfortable, but merely to note that (in my opinion) your comments didn’t match what Wayne’s original question was. I was irritated at the seeming lack of courtesy shown to Wayne, especially by two people who are co-contributors to the blog.

    I apologize to you and Peter for the wording of my comments, but I reserve the right to express myself as I see fit on my blog. Usually that is mild mannered to a fault; sometimes I may offend. I’m not above discussing the latter and I will never disable or delete comments to what I post here.

    Did you actually want me to say to TC that we would not be able to discuss it because ES might find it “off-putting?”

    Of course not. My criticism was that your discussion swung the focus of the post away from the broader question of shibboleths that Wayne was asking (and restated in a comment above):

    I wanted to keep the post focused on shibboleths we use to maintain group solidarity and to keep out those who we feel don’t belong. And, specifically, I wanted to focus the shibboleths on those used about Bible versions.

    I’m glad to see that there has been additional discussion of the topic.

    With respect to your research and writing, you should pursue publication. I know that there are a great number of topics that I am not able to properly engage unless I’m away from the hustle and bustle of online discussion, and I suspect that I’m not alone in that.

    That said, I will be honest and say that gender issues are not a priority topic for me, just as I fully expect that the discussions of preterist eschatology on this blog are met with equal indifference by those without an interest. And sometimes with criticism by those with a different interest.

  23. Suzanne says:

    Since I grew up in the Darby Brethren I have had enough of eschatology to last a lifetime, but I can”t imagine criticizing other people for being interested.

    Gender language is essentially an accuracy issue. There was really no option but to work through TC’s question point by point. I accept your apology but I deeply regret that you do not share an interest in seeing that half the human race are fairly represented in Bible translation.

  24. I wouldn’t say that because “gender issues are not a priority topic for me”, I “do not share an interest in seeing that half the human race are fairly represented in Bible translation.” To say that they are not a priority is not the same as saying I don’t have any interest in them. Your comment seems to reflect a “if you’re passive (or quiet), then you’re against it” mindset. Yes?

  25. Suzanne says:

    Not at all. You are not quiet, but express dislike for the issue. There are many issues that I am passive on. However, if they are justice issues affecting those I love then I am especially appreciative of those who are more active and vocal than I am.

    My guess is that there are reasons why some people are uncomfortable discussing gender accuracy in Bible translation. I am not sure if it is just solidarity with the perceived status quo or what it is.

  26. Suzanne says:

    I think that there is a real resistance to recognizing that Bible translators have in the recent past done women an injustice. We want very badly to believe that these translators can be trusted. I started out that way myself.

  27. I’ve expressed dislike for the strident repetition of the argument, not the issue. There is a difference. At some point, the way the argument is presented becomes more an issue than the argument itself.

    That is my perception of the gender language “controversy” on BBB and perhaps one reason “why some people are uncomfortable discussing gender accuracy in Bible translation.”

  28. Suzanne says:

    Then you should do a better job or be polite about it. It remains a justice issue for women.