This post explains one of the real faux pas of the NRSV Bible translation, which, I regret to say, was not corrected in the new “updated edition.”  It involves an unfortunate attempt to use inclusive language where it is misleading, and in this case, makes almost nonsense of the passage in question.

But it’s a very tricky issue.  It involves a quotation of an Old Testament Psalm in the New Testament, where the Old Testament passage is understandably rendered inclusively to include both men and women, but where its citation in the New Testament makes no sense when rendered inclusively.  It appears to be a problem that the translators of both the original NRSV and of the updated version didn’t notice or, at least in my judgment, take seriously enough.

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2023-12-28T14:03:04-05:00January 3rd, 2024|Public Forum|

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  1. Seeker1952 January 3, 2024 at 9:55 am

    What are some of the main reasons Christian leaders and thinkers say that people should accept as true that what the Bible says is God speaking to human beings?

    I suppose one reason is that it’s a matter of faith. But why believe one thing based on faith rather than another? Wouldn’t it be irrational to believe one thing based on faith rather than another without reasons for that choice? Or maybe the Holy Spirit moves people to accept it—but I think that amounts to the same thing.

    Obviously this is an enormous question that can’t be answered within the limits of this blog. And no doubt there are an enormous number of answers, many of them extremely complex.

    But the question of whether it’s true that the Bible is God speaking to us has to be one of the most fundamental questions in Christianity. And it all seems to ultimately be based on nothing more than hearsay, nothing more than people simply claiming that God spoke to them. That’s weak enough in itself but how can it possibly be superior to more well-established sources of knowledge?

    • BDEhrman January 3, 2024 at 4:48 pm

      I suppose part of it is that it is the traditoin, and people generally believe the traditions they’ve grown up in (think capitalism, socialism; democrat, republican; Yankees, Mets….). And also, so many people testify to hearing God’s voice that, if them’s the circles you grow up in , them’s the views that seem common sense to you.

      • georgelentulo January 5, 2024 at 2:48 pm

        Dr. Ehrman,
        I think you nailed it – and demonstrated again the reason for which I respect your scholarship. Regardless of your own beliefs or lack thereof, you always display sensitivity toward those who do believe.

        In that same letter to the Hebrews, Paul wrote “… Therefore, since we are surrounded by such a great cloud of witnesses …” – which witnesses are of the same type as those referenced by Seeker1952, and whose hearsay is no less substantial than any zealous supporter of Capitalism, Socialism, or the Yankees!

        Which is to say, they believe the results of faith in those systems should be self-evident because *they* see it so plainly.

        Thank you again for your lifetime of scholarship. It has a lot of value.

      • sLiu January 19, 2024 at 7:05 pm

        I grew up& still have lots of “virtue” which doesn’t benefit me at all [actually to the contrary] in the USA. Thanks for the wealth & richness of your content for the last 20+ Years, Dr Ehrman!

        “But the reality is that people do have other forms of logic, still today, in many parts of the world, and to understand someone it’s better to figure out what their logic *is* rather than claim they have no logic” usa mass Christianity or Evangelists have nothing to do with the NT religion, maybe the OT though.

        BNBR “to understand people, telling them their beliefs are nonsense is not the way to go” around the time I was 1st listening to Ehrman & Levine 2014, I got into citizen Journalism & how is anyone gonna give me their perspectives if I spout my nonsense!

        I don’t think we can understand the microseconds b/f the Big Bang or most of the 7k years on the Jewish/Chinese calendars either

        Listening to Dr Jodi Magness Great courses she suggests Josephus might have been the last soldier at a massacre by the Romans-who said Biblical or ancient history isn’t intriguing!

  2. fishician January 3, 2024 at 10:10 am

    But doesn’t Hebrews 2 uses gender-neutral words like “anthropos” and “autos”? Along with gender, do translators try too hard to make certain passages monotheistic rather than henotheistic, like translating “Elohim” as “angels” rather than “the gods?” I get the impression the early Jews saw YHWH as the supreme god, and the Elohim as lesser gods, as when the “sons of Elohim” present themselves before YHWH in Job 1:6 and 2:1. But that gets lost in translation.

    • BDEhrman January 3, 2024 at 4:50 pm

      Wherever the context would suggest that Elohim refers to more than one god, it would be translated gods. But since a singular pronoun is used to refer to Elohim in most instances, it’s pretty clear that the word can function both as a singular or a plural. Languages can be like that. Even if “we are not amused.”

      • mechtheist January 6, 2024 at 6:36 am

        You should read the poster’s question more closely, it’s a much more interesting question than the one you answered. He was not asking about plural and singular use as in god and gods but about translating it as ‘angels’ when plural and what that says about their rationales for doing so.

        I wouldn’t get too worried about this subject overall, I think we’re in a period where there’s gonna be a big shakeup in the language and we’ll sooner or later settle in useful and widely accepted ways and come up with mechanisms to deal with this stuff, we’re just not there yet. And as usual, more or less, progress will proceed one death at a time.

        • BDEhrman January 9, 2024 at 8:48 pm

          sorry, I thought I included that in my answer. Yes, (as I thought I said) sometimes in context it can refer to other divine beings. And human beings. And other gods.

          • mechtheist January 10, 2024 at 7:50 am

            Nope, it’s right up there^^^, nothing about non-god related translations. But then, the law of noncontradiction is optional for you so I guess you can claim you did.

            You have a professional interest in theology, most atheist do mainly because of the ubiquity of believers and how their beliefs impact everyone else. BUT, tell me, how is theology of a religion with nonexistent god(s) anything more than fanboys creating and arguing over fan fiction? A lot of YOUR work has been exposing how much of christian dogma, creeds, theology is simply fictional, made up by followers over the years and centuries. ‘Corruption’, ‘forged’, and ‘misquoting’, those words mean anything to you? ‘Theology’ without the theo is just words, it’s fiction. Fanboys at least understand it’s not real. “Belief systems ” “you don’t agree with”? Really? FFS can you actually believe there’s no fact of the matter here?

            Why would I read anything as utterly useless and empty as theology of a religion with BS god or gods? It’s a complete waste of time to argue about perpetual motion machines or a flat earth…

          • BDEhrman January 11, 2024 at 9:25 pm

            Maybe because you might learn something and come to see a viewpoint other than your own? I understand that you think it’s all stupid nonsense, but really, ALL of us believe things that seem like stupid nonsense. How, e.g., can we have a Big Bang when there was nothing there? What was banging? How can these 2 trillion galaxies literally come out of nothing? How can light be both a wave and a particle. That’s nonsense– completely contradictory. How can subatomic particles be two places at once and how can my observation of them possibly affect their position. How can consciousness emerge from … rocks? I am an atheist because I don’t believe there is a supernatural power of any kind — or anything supernatural at all. But I don’t think people are blind idiots because they think so. I’m agnostic about whether such a being exists, since we can’t know. But if we can’t know such a thing exists, we can’t know it doesn’t exist. To dismiss all religion as nonsense is nothing more than naively thinking that all religion is fundamentalist. If you would read some theology you would realize oh how wrong that is.

          • mechtheist January 10, 2024 at 11:37 am

            Dr Ehrman, I have to apologize for my previous reply, in reading it again later, I realized I had seen sarcasm that was in no way justified. Too often I’ve endured responses similar to yours that were meant sarcastically but I have no reason to think you were being so. Again, I apologize.

            Maybe my misconstrual resulted from wanting to get in the comment about the law of contradiction being optional, I in no way take that back, I seriously can’t fathom how anyone could think anything like that. You’re really admitting that the Trinity is nonsense since it has no place in a ‘realm of belief’ that includes logic and mathematics, requiring creating a whole new logic. That is a realm of knowledge that is absolutely fictional–try withdrawing money from your bank and insisting it’s still there. YOU use contradiction as a means of determining reality as in comparing gospels side by side. Insisting it’s OK to deny the law of contradiction simply because you’re really intelligent and can come up with some ‘logic’ that allows for that in NO way means it’s useful, relevant, NOT nonsense in the real effing world.

          • BDEhrman January 11, 2024 at 9:34 pm

            No problem! And yes, I know, it’s very hard to imagine how other people think when they don’t think according to the canon’s of western logic going back esp. to Aristotle (law of non-contradiction)/ Plato / Socrates and those before and after. But the reality is that people do have other forms of logic, still today, in many parts of the world, and to understand someone it’s better to figure out what their logic *is* rather than claim they have no logic. I’m obviously not saying we have to agree with their system of logic!

          • mechtheist January 12, 2024 at 12:13 am

            Let’s restrict this to western thinking. That said, if someone, even many ANIMALS, see 1 bear go into a cave, then another, and one comes out, they’re gonna KNOW there’s one effing bear left inside. Don’t matter where you’re from, that’s the way the world works, denying that is simply absurd and could get you killed. And AGAIN, I don’t claim theologians are stupid or all fundamentalists, see next reply about beliefs as to why that isn’t really relevant.

            Dr Ehrman, you don’t do science well, seriously, couldn’t be clearer than claiming science EVER defies logic. If you could identify ANYthing in physics, especially quantum mechanics, that defied logic, you’d get a Nobel, and likely a Fields too[since defying logic implies defying the mathematics [if you don’t understand this, you should stop arguing about these things]]. I almost begged you to talk to a physicist so they could disabuse you of such poor thinking. Nothing you claim is nonsense is in any way nonsense. Things aren’t what our common sense tells us they are, that isn’t defying logic, it’s exposing how poorly common sense informs., I already explained this earlier, to no avail it seems.

          • BDEhrman January 14, 2024 at 3:11 pm

            I’m not saying it defies logic in the sense of being logically impossible. I”m saying that it runs contrary to what we can understand applying logic. I.e., it doesn’t make sense given what else we know, but nonetheless we know it’s true. (From the basic issue of light being both a ray and a wave to the “behavior” of subatomic particles). Phycisists often say that in their own writings, as I assume you konow. The entire basis of the scientific revolution, going back to Newton, is that science has to proceed *without* assuming that it makes sense. The reason scientists previously (all the way back to the ancient Greek scientists, including famously Aristotle) couldn’t make the modern breakthroughs was not because we’re suddenly so much smarter but because they assumed that scientific knowledge had to make *sense* in light of everything else that was known. Newton gave that up, based everything on data derived from experiment: to hell with what we otherwise know or think we know. A great book on all of this is Michael Strevens, The Knowledge Machine: How Irrationality Created Modern Science. If you don’t know it, check it out!

          • mechtheist January 12, 2024 at 12:56 am

            I admit if you want to understand people, telling them their beliefs are nonsense is not the way to go. That in NO way means their thinking isn’t nonsense. Throwing away the law of noncontradiction simply doesn’t and can’t work, again, that ain’t how the world works. Same with basic logic. This ain’t about western anything, it’s those bears, if you defy logic you’re gonna get eaten, it’s survival logic, and it reigns supreme over any god or philosophy.

            Earlier I asked you about what’s the difference between theological beliefs used to harm others and those that aren’t and you said those that harm other harm others… That was a pretty flippant answer but thank you, you made my point extremely well, there’s NO real difference, they equally justified and justified in the same way, that has to be the case since there’s no error correction mechanism, can’t be since it’s all just faith. Fundamentalists beliefs are just as justifiable as the rest. Forcing a 10 year old little girl to have a baby is just as justified as commitment to help the needy and refusing to understand that is a huge problem!

          • BDEhrman January 14, 2024 at 3:23 pm

            I’m just saying that if you think everyone with a religious belief is subscribing to nonsense then I completely disagree with you. On a pragmatic level it is a non-starter if you’re interested in having intelligent conversation with someone if you don’t think they have any intelligence; on the ethical level it is patronizing to assert superiority in discussing the views of others without looking deeply into them; and on the empirical level it is simply wrong to think that you are smarter than others when they don’t share your view of the world. I am a firm believer in science; I am a complete materialist (in the broad sense: I don’t think anything exists outside what has happened since the universe came into existence with the big bang); I am a big believer in arguing for my views. I also committed to being open to other people and not writing them off as idiots when they have different views. The only people I strongly oppose are fundamentalists, but I know their views from the inside and so have some authority in discounting them. But I know a lot of fundamentalists who are not religoius fundamentalists, including some who embrace, ironically, post-modern deconstructionism and modern scientism. The guy I had dinner with last night and the woman I had breakfast with this morning both opposed scientism, and I think they’re right. They are both liberal Christians who believe there may be something more to the universe than the material realm, and trust me, at one of them knows just about everything I know about the Bible and early Christianity and the other, who is an international scholar in a different field, is FAR superior to me intellectually. They are both theologically very well read. And they don’t think theology is lunacy. So, you’re welcome to your own opinionm of course, and you’re welcome to express it to your heart’s content; but in turn I’m welcome to do the same! 🙂

          • mechtheist January 13, 2024 at 10:54 am

            Dr Ehrman, do you really want to go around spewing ignorant BS? Defying common sense is hilariously ridiculous an indicator of defying logic, I honestly am stunned you think this. The big bang is NOT about the beginning of the universe, it’s about what happened afterwards. The maths break down at t=0, they have no idea what happened then and no physicist, astronomer, astrophysicist, or cosmologist would tell you they did. None would say stuff came out of nothing, they’d say that MIGHT be what happened but the universe might be past-eternal maybe cyclical, making that question meaningless. AND, stuff coming from nothing defies logic? How so? How do YOU KNOW this when physicists don’t? It’s that absurd idea that common sense can define logic.

            And no, wave-particle duality in NO way defies logic, it ISN’T EVEN AN ACTUAL THING, it’s grossly oversimplified idea taught undergraduates and below or in lectures to the general public. What’s actually going on is there’s NOT particles, NOT waves, it’s quantum states in Hilbert Spaces and beyond my understanding but at least I don’t think it’s some kind of paradox.

          • BDEhrman January 15, 2024 at 4:20 pm

            That’s right, its about the microseconds after. But I wonder whom you’re reading to say that no one says stuff came out of nothing. Maybe it would be of some use if you would tell us who your sources of authority are for the various things you’re saying. Which authors are you thinking of? Some of the ones I’ve read over the past few years have been Sean Carroll, Brian Green, Michael Strever, and Katie Mack.

          • mechtheist January 15, 2024 at 7:43 pm

            I’ve read 4-5 of Carrol’s, 2-3 of Green’s books, watched LOTS of their talks, been reading science books for 5 decades, read many hundreds of them. I would recommend reading Greene and Carroll, they will set you straight, don’t understand how you could get it so wrong having read those guys. I DEMONSTRATED how and why you’re not just wrong but have a serious misunderstanding of the science–thinking that any cosmologist, astronomer etc would claim they know what happened at the beginning is absurd, failing to acknowledge the universe could be past-eternal proves you’re woefully misguided. You want to know how bad your ignorance is? You think the big bang goes back to microseconds and therefor that’s means the beginning, BUT it includes the inflationary epoch which started at 10E-35s which ain’t zero! Evolution says nothing about abiogenesis, BigBang says nothing about the beginning. I tried to help you but you exhibit disdain, refusing to bother making slightest effort to check what I’ve said, 5 minutes google/AI would be enough. Since you’re not interested in improving yourself so you won’t appear so ignorant and wrong/pigheaded, I will stop trying to help you.

          • BDEhrman January 17, 2024 at 12:11 pm

            OK, thanks. Sorry to be so stupid and unable to read.

          • mechtheist January 15, 2024 at 8:17 pm

            Do you not realize that Stevens’ book supports what I’m saying? I didn’t read it but read his Aeon piece where he said “…in my book The Knowledge Machine .. For thousands of years, philosophers thinking deeply about nature… HAD valued … theological thought…” One of his main points is that while truth may imply beauty, beauty does not imply truth. That’s exactly my main point, theologians create these vast beautiful theologies that obviously require high-intelligence, BUT. their foundations have no and can’t have any empirical support [I’ve called it a lack of error correction] , they’re based at a very deep level on false beliefs. They’re simply not real, not true, empty, NONSENSE. Their only real value is scholarly or self-generating due to the numbers and power of believers.

          • mechtheist January 17, 2024 at 12:39 am

            You’re tying yourself into absurd knots going so far as to say this:

            “The doctrine-of-the-Trinity is not based on that [Aristotelian] kind of logic, for example, that proposes the law of non-contradiction[LON].”

            Throwing LONnie under the bus is the same as throwing mathematics–it allows for 2-1=0, that’s where the bears get you. You keep making claims I’ve repeatedly told you were simply wrong, some very very wrong and yet, you keep saying them. I’ve explained how and why they’re wrong and it doesn’t matter, you’re making it quite clear you think I’m a liar or an idiot or else you would have taken at least a few minutes to check what I said. I am done. No more implying I’m the idiot when you actually say something as stupid as the above so desperate for the trinity not be nonsense. You’re an effing professor, you have access to all kinds of very smart science types who know this stuff, why not go talk to one of them? You show them what I said and what you said and ask them who’s the idiot? I know what they’re gonna tell you.

          • mechtheist January 19, 2024 at 6:15 am

            “OK, thanks. Sorry to be so stupid and unable to read.”

            After informing you the book YOU told me to read supports MY position, your response was to say, with arms akimbo I bet: ‘I read these 4 authors, who have YOU read’ and I informed you I read most of the books by two of them, THIS is the best you could do? This is really bad, shockingly bad, the response of a pathetic petulant child who can’t handle being told they’re wrong. Boohoo, grow up/a pair. You couldn’t be bothered to simply check out what I said.

            You insisted, erroneously, that I was calling theologians idiots while admitting for the trinity to not be nonsense, they have to resort to creating whole new ‘realms of knowledge’ where logic, math, and the law of noncontradiction don’t hold. FFS, that’s a fantasy world with no intersection with the real world, WHERE EVERYTHING AND NOTHING IS TRUE, of course the trinity wouldn’t be nonsense there. YOU, far more than me, are making idiots out of them.

            It’s no longer tenable for me to stay a member, thanks for treating me with this level of respect.

          • mechtheist January 19, 2024 at 6:21 am

            “Again, I’d suggest you read some theology to find out.”

            Why the eff would I read a bunch of really bad fiction? There’s the likes of George R R Martin and Tolkien out there who are FAR better writers and who are infinitely more rational because they at least know they’re writing fiction! Despite repeatedly asking you about what theology is without its gods, you could have possibly piqued my interest by giving me some slight hint but you couldn’t. There’s simply no answer to that because theology without gods is empty rhetoric, worthless, meaningless, useless, I could go on….

          • BDEhrman January 23, 2024 at 9:46 pm

            As you probalby know, Tolkien was a committed Christian (Roman Catholic).

          • mechtheist January 24, 2024 at 9:43 am

            “As you probalby know, Tolkien was a committed Christian (Roman Catholic).”

            It’s beyond sad if you actually think this is relevant. I’ve asked 5 or 6 times now about what theology is without its gods and you can’t come up with a single hint of a response. You tell me to read a book and I tell you it actually supports my point and you have no reply to that. Then I tell you I’ve read most of the books by half the authors you tell me you trust for science and your response is that of a petulant child. And now this! FFS, who cares what if any religion Tolkien or Martin belong to, the point is they are supreme world builders but at least they KNOW it’s all fiction while the vast majority of theologians believe profoundly they’re work actually has meaning in the real world. THEY DON’T KNOW IT’S ALL FICTION and that’s why it is nonsense. Ain’t a difficult thing to understand.

        • stevenpounders January 15, 2024 at 11:02 am

          I followed your back-and-forth with Dr. Ehrman on why an atheist would be interested in theology. I completely agree with Dr. Ehrman’s answers and would add one more:

          If you’re interested in the history of Christianity (and why would anyone follow this blog if they weren’t?), well then, theology is an intrinsic part of that history. Humans’ constantly shifting beliefs and teachings about their god(s) has a demonstrable, logical, cause and effect relationship with what has happened over the past 10,000 years of human history.

          • mechtheist January 16, 2024 at 11:47 am

            Yes and just like Dr Ehrman, you’re completely missing the point, this is in NO way about why anyone might be interested in theology, I’m interested in theology, the question is about the fundamental nature of theology, what it is at its core. Since you really can’t take the god out of theology, what then is it without its god(s)? I’d just love if someone could tell me how, at some really basic level, christian theology is any different than the theology of the Lord Of Light in Game of Thrones. What would you think of someone who devoted their whole lives to living that religion, believing it was true, studying it, writing books about it, preaching about it, using it to attack others as not worthy, all as if it was real? And of course it’s not just that but any other religion from other fictional works. Believing fiction is real is nonsense, that’s kinda by definition, so I really can’t comprehend all of this uninteresting verbiage about something so obvious.

          • BDEhrman January 17, 2024 at 12:20 pm

            Again, I’d suggest you read some theology to fine out.

        • sLiu January 26, 2024 at 7:25 pm

          sir: this is the wrong blog to rant.

  3. Seeker1952 January 3, 2024 at 10:17 am

    I’ve concluded that I can’t completely abandon some form of Christianity — however questionable and unsatisfactory it often seems to be — without finding something better to replace it. Simply accepting that Christianity is not true is not enough. Even a simple commitment to truth, eg, in the form of something like science, is not enough. The replacement need not be a religion with divine beings. But it needs to be emotionally satisfying in some vital way — at least as satisfying as reality permits. It needs to be a source of values and goals. Perhaps I’m looking for something “systematic,” possibly a larger community or some kind of church.

    When you left Christianity were you able to do so without finding a replacement? Or what did you replace it with? I suspect you’re going to say that there were already plenty of other satisfying things in your life and that was enough. Plus your ethics continued to be strongly influenced by Christian ethics.

    As I said, I feel like I need a more systematic replacement. Maybe something like Buddhism or Humanism or Unitarianism.

    • BDEhrman January 3, 2024 at 4:51 pm

      No, I went out without a replacement. But I certainly found replacements of sorts — not the *same* sort of thing, but other things instead (more of a focus on family, friends, social engagement, other passions, etc.)

    • normative January 3, 2024 at 7:39 pm

      It feels like there’s a bit of an internal tension there. If you’re searching for a systematic replacement, it would seem you’ve already concluded that Christianity is not true, which to my mind is the key step in “abandoning” a belief system even if you preserve the outward forms for a while. If you say, in effect, “I’ll keep believing in this god until I can find one that really exists,” you’ve already stopped believing.

      If that’s the case, I’ll offer my own experience (for as much or as little as it may be worth) that subsisting in a state of some uncertainty is probably not nearly as painful as you might imagine. You already have plenty of values and goals, which will evolve as you think and read and live, and you may find the process of working out what you believe piecemeal—about ontology, interpersonal ethics, cosmology, the most valuable way to live—ultimately more satisfying than hunting for a soup-to-nuts, prepackaged capital-W Worldview to plug in by way of substitute.

  4. Hormiga January 3, 2024 at 10:18 am

    This just appeared in my inbox and seems slightly related to the current topic.

    For what it’s worth:

  5. TomTerrific January 3, 2024 at 11:13 am

    Off Topic: You have mentioned several times that Paul doesn’t mention much, if anything, about Jesus in his writings. Luke the gospel author is said to have been a companion of Paul. If so, I would think Luke would have talked about Jesus to Paul a lot, so Paul either ignored him or this relationship was legendary rather than historic. Is my thinking on the right path?

    I’m watching your The Great Divide again and really getting a lot out of it with this second viewing, thanks to your blogs and Misquoting Jesus in the interim.


    • BDEhrman January 3, 2024 at 4:52 pm

      Yes, Luke is traditionally said to have been Paul’s companion, but (a) he almost certainly was not, historically and (b) even if he was, he wrote his Gospel decades later and you could argue that he picked up his info then.

  6. robgrayson January 3, 2024 at 12:19 pm

    As a professional translator, I’m finding these posts really interesting. And that’s a fascinating example of a contemporary translation issue that hadn’t occurred to me.

    Bart, how would you square the circle and address this issue while upholding the NRSV’s commitment to inclusive language? Or can it not be squared?

    • BDEhrman January 3, 2024 at 4:53 pm

      Well, this particular circle has to be squared with force: the Psalm refers to both men and women and Hebrews refers to a man, and the translation should reflect that, even if the connnection with the Psalm are less obvious then.

  7. Maxbreuker January 3, 2024 at 4:46 pm

    I read a posst that said that over the ages Isaiah 66:24 is interpreted in various ways of punishment, growing in terms of after death imagery (calling it the gehenna tradition). first in jeremiah, then the book of watchers and probably daniel 12:2 (observing דראון as connecting it to isaiah). The next step of interpretation was then to make the punishment eternal, which Judith 16:17 did. Using Gehenna and weeping in pain as terms (κλαύσονται ἐν αἰσθήσει).Matthew and Mark use similar symbols of weeping and gnashing of teeth for gehenna. Doesn’t that make it likely they drew on this interpretative tradition of trito-Isaiah putting them in the ECT section with Judith?

    Additionally, Why would we assume a literal reading of text in matthew and mark on hell when it may be metaphorical for ECT? Is that because the most common view of the time was not ECT and therefore the literal interpretation matches the cultural context better?

    • BDEhrman January 6, 2024 at 2:20 pm

      It depends which context we have in mind I guess. In the Roman tradition found in Virgil (Aeneid 6) Tartarus was eternal conscious torment. But it too was probalby meant metaphorically. But the fact that an author means something metaphorically (which can never be establsihed as a fact, since we can’t get into his head to find out) doesn’t mean it wsa *read* metaphorically by his readers. I’d say that’s the big problem. Mathew and Luke were certainly influenced by 3 Isaiah; I find it harder to think they were much influenced by Judith.

    • Crediniente January 13, 2024 at 5:32 pm

      I really don’t like this at all. I recently read a post by a female translator of Hebrew who pointed out that most references to wives in the OT translate literally as ‘woman’ not wife. To me that is important information. A translation is supposed to accurately reflect what is said, not bury the cultural context completely to make the writing more palatable to this or that group. And I say this as a member of one of ‘those’ groups. I want an accurate picture of what I am reading, not manufactured damnatio memoriae. Like how the KJV apparently eliminated the term asherah and replaced it with “groves” so that the vast majority of Christians don’t even understand that ancient Hebrews started out as polytheistic pagans who backslid into their old worship of goddesses/gods time and time again which is attested in 1st and 2nd Kings. I have to wonder if the same thing is at play translating elohim as angels rather than gods. Without knowledge of the repeated relapsing of Hebrews back into polytheism most of the OT won’t make much sense. It’s unreal how much resistance there is to acknowledgement of early polytheistic paganism in ancient Judaism.

      • BDEhrman January 15, 2024 at 4:42 pm

        I don’t know which passages this person was talking about, but it’s often not clear what a word in Hebrew or Greek is referring to. In the New Testament the same Greek word means both woman and wife, depending on which context it occurs in. Most modern translations really do try to do their best to indicate what the original is saying.

  8. jbhodge January 3, 2024 at 11:08 pm

    Off Topic..

    Regarding “To Autolycus” by Theophilus of Antioch..

    Do you see the parallel structure of the writing to Acts 17:22-33 speech at the Areopagus? Theophilus’s letter follows the same form of the Areopagus speech. Additionally is deeply rooted in Romans 1:22 – 2:15. If you do, then what makes more sense to you? Did Theophilus mimic the structure of Acts 17, or did the author of Acts mimic Theophilus’s letter structure for the Areopagus speech?

    You’ve argued in the past that such content of speeches, sermons etc of the distant past could not possibly be recalled by the time of the Gospel writings. Therefore would such make it more plausable that the Author of Luke-Acts that is addressed to “Theophilus” would use a letter of “Theophilus” of Antioch as Pauls speech at the Areopagus? Is Theophilus of Antioch the Theophilus of Luke-Acts? For me the evidence is piling up.

    The traditional dating of Luke-Acts is the only drawback on this conclusion, and the dating of Luke-Acts is a current debate “again”. It’s not going to go away.

    So did or do you see the parallel?

    • BDEhrman January 6, 2024 at 2:34 pm

      I haven’t looked at it. But of course Theophilus had the book of Acts as one of his writings of Scripture so parallels wouldn’t be surprising.

  9. jonas January 4, 2024 at 12:08 am

    Jews at the time had to be tearing their hair out over how Christians were selectively (mis)quoting and/or mangling Hebrew scripture like this.

    Seems like one of those situations where you translate using the inclusive language, as the NRSV does, but add a contextual footnote or something explaining that the resulting awkward phrasing and imagery is because the author tries to read the Greek “anthropos” (or Hebrew “enosh” in the original) not as “human beings” or “humankind,” but — rather tortuously — as a single, male individual, namely Jesus.

  10. John.Feldmann January 4, 2024 at 8:29 pm

    What is the actual gendered grammar of the original Hebrew in these verses for “man” and “son of man” in the fourth verse? Other than English, my only linguistic reference is Russian, for which there is no gendered form of mankind, but only the neutral человечество, related to человек, which is grammatically masculine, but has no relation to the normal words for man, мужчина and мужик in modern Russian and муж in older Russian. That is, if I were translating from Russian to English, it would actually be more literal to write humankind than mankind, so as to avoid the insertion of a gendered connotation where none exists in Russian. Thus, I am left wondering how this actually stands in the original Hebrew? What is the gendered connotation in the fourth verse in the Hebrew text, if there is one?

  11. elizvand January 5, 2024 at 12:58 pm

    Fascinating stuff. The main thing that strikes me (as someone who reads Greek, classical and NT, but does NOT read Hebrew) is that the modern translation completely elides the term “Son of Man”, replacing it with “mortals.” In this passage, as Bart points out, that completely masks the messianic prediction aspect, because a reader who’d never seen any other translation would not see any reference at all to Jesus implied in the Psalm as translated. But it seems to me it must also be a problem every single time the term “Son of Man” is used in the NT to refer to Jesus, if that term is elided out or made plural (“mortals”) consistently.

    I probably would have gone for “What is Humankind that you are mindful of them, and the Son of Humankind that you care for him?”, myself.

  12. Zachydj January 5, 2024 at 9:14 pm

    It seems to me that a potential solution would be to use inclusive language when translating the passage in Psalms, but then use masculine pronouns when the passage is referenced in Hebrews. What do you think of that idea? Would it be poor practice to have the author of Hebrews slightly misquoting the Psalm?

    • BDEhrman January 7, 2024 at 5:17 am

      Yes, that’s what I’m advocating.

  13. stevenpounders January 8, 2024 at 4:59 pm

    “Thou hast put all things in subjection under his feet.”

    Now, (referring to a few posts earlier), if a “foot” is not a “foot” in the OT, then wouldn’t this be a reference to a man?

    • BDEhrman January 10, 2024 at 1:45 pm

      “Feet” does not *always* have a metaphorical meaning, just occasionally (as with most metaphors!).

      • stevenpounders January 11, 2024 at 12:18 am

        Sometimes a cigar is just a cigar!

  14. Pol January 14, 2024 at 4:59 am

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