I’ve been reading the September 1, 2012 Watchtower under “Does God Care About Women?” It’s an excellent article. The article explains the many protections that women enjoyed under the mosaic law. It also shows how corruption to that understanding entered in as early as the eighth century B.C.E. Christianity would restore the rightful place of women, but it didn’t take long for Greek philosophy to again exert its influence. Of course, all of this is in fulfillment of Jehovah’s prophetic pronouncement that the original sin would result in the domination of women by men.
Of course, in Jehovah’s organization we strive to return to the original standard Jehovah had as regards the relationship between men and women. Nevertheless, it is very difficult to avoid the effects of all outside influence upon our thinking and reasoning. Biases can and do creep in subtly, often without us being the least bit aware that we are acting in a manner which displays a gender bias unsupported by Scripture.
As an example of this, have a look at the Insight book volume 2 under the subject “Judge”. There it lists the 12 male judges who judged Israel during the period of the judges. One might ask, why is Deborah not included in that list?
The Bible is very clear that she was used by Jehovah not only as a prophetess but as a judge.
(Judges 4:4, 5) 4 Now Deb?o·rah, a prophetess, the wife of Lap?pi·doth, was judging Israel at that particular time. 5 And she was dwelling under Deb?o·rah’s palm tree between Ra?mah and Beth?el in the mountainous region of E?phra·im; and the sons of Israel would go up to her for judgment.
She was also used by God to contribute to the inspired word; a small part of the Bible is written by her.
(it-1 p. 600 Deborah) Deborah and Barak joined in singing a song on the day of victory. Part of the song is written in the first person, indicating that Deborah was its composer, in part, if not in its entirety.
With all the scriptural evidence, why do we not include her in our list of judges? Apparently, the sole reason is because she wasn’t a man. So even though the Bible calls her a judge, to our mind she kinda wasn’t, ya know?
Another example of this type of bias can be found in the way we translate our version of the Bible. The book, Truth in Translation, Accuracy and Bias in English Translations of the New Testament by Jason David Beduhn, rates the New World translation as the least biased of all the major translations it evaluates. High praise indeed, coming from such a scholarly secular source.
However, the book does not treat our record as unblemished with regard to allowing bias to influence our translation of Holy Scripture. One notable exception can be found on page 72 of that book.
“In Romans 16, Paul sends greetings to all those in the Roman Christian congregation known to him personally. In verse 7, he greets Andronicus and Junia. All early Christian commentators thought that these two people were a couple, and for good reason: “Junia” is a woman’s name. …the translators of the NIV, NASB, NW [our translation], TEV, AB, and LB (and the NRSV translators in a footnote) all have changed the name to an apparently masculine form, “Junius.” The problem is that there is no name “Junius” in the Greco-Roman world in which Paul was writing. The woman’s name, “Junia”, on the other hand, is well-known and common in that culture. So “Junius” is a made-up name, at best a conjecture.”
I’m trying to think of an English equivalent to this. Perhaps “Susan”, or if you want to get closer to the case at hand, “Julia”. These are definitely women’s names. If we were to translate them into another language, we would try to find an equivalent in that language that represented a woman. If there weren’t one, then we would transliterate. One thing we would not do would be to make up our own name, and even if we went that far, we certainly wouldn’t choose a name that changes the sex of the name bearer. So the question is, why would we do this.
The text reads in our translation thus: “Greet Andronicus and Junias my relatives and my fellow captives, who are men of note among the apostles…” (Rom. 16:7)
This appears to give justification for our textual sex change. The Bible clearly says they are men; except that it actually doesn’t say that. What it says, if you’d care to consult any of the interlinear Bibles available on line, is “who are of note among the apostles”. We’ve added the word “men”, further compounding our act of gender bias. Why? We strive so much to be faithful to the original and avoid the bias that has plagued other translations, and for the most part, we have achieved this goal. So why this glaring exception to that standard?
The aforementioned book explains that the phrasing in Greek would support the idea that these two were apostles. Therefore, since we hold that all apostles are men, the translation committee of the NWT apparently felt justified in supporting the custom of virtually every other translation of this passage and changed the name from a feminine to a masculine one, then added in “men of note” to further cement the translation.
However, does the original Greek teach us something that we would not otherwise glean?
The word “apostle” simply means one who is “sent forth”. We look at apostles, like Paul, as the first century equivalent to circuit overseers and district overseers. But are not missionaries also ones who are sent forth? Was not Paul an apostle or missionary to the nations? (Romans 11:13) He wasn’t sent forth by the governing body of that time to serve as the first century equivalent of a circuit overseer. He was sent forth by Jesus Christ himself as a missionary, one who would open up new fields and spread the good news wherever he went. There were no district overseers nor circuit overseers in those days. But there were missionaries. And then, as now, women also served in that capacity.
It is clear from Paul’s writings that women are not to serve in the capacity of elder in the Christian congregation. But again, have we allowed bias to creep in to the point where we cannot allow a woman to direct a man in any capacity whatsoever? For example, when asking for volunteers to help out in directing traffic in the parking lots at the district convention, the call was only extended to men. It seems that it would be improper for a woman to direct traffic.
It would appear that we have some way to go before we reach the righteous standard and proper relationship that was meant to exist between men and women in their perfect state. We do seem to be moving in the right direction, though the pace at times may seem snail-like.
And the rain. Let’s not forget about that. I guess there’s always an up-side.
Thanks for your thoughts.
As always, I appreciate your insightful comments. I’ve long wondered why Deborah is mentioned so infrequently in our publications. Gender bias indeed! But the most troubling is the changing of Junia to Junias in the NWT. I’ve only recently become aware of this myself. The Watchtower article is well presented. It’s nice to see some things changing in the organization even if they are not fast enough. It’s one thing to “talk” about it and another to put it into practice. Jesus set the finest example by his way of dealing with women and his female disciples. While women are… Read more »