Dr. Sharyn Dowd is Associate Professor of Religion at Baylor
University. She holds degrees from Wake Forest University, Southeastern Baptist
Theological Seminary and Emory University and is the author of two books on the
Gospel of Mark, a number of articles on the New Testament, and is the editor of
two other volumes. She is a member of Calvary Baptist Church in Waco,
This article on Helen Barrett Montgomery's Centenary Translation of the New
Testament is informative and extremely well researched. We found that it was
easier to digest the content by reading through the article and then checking
out the endnotes. Those doing research in the area of women in the church will
find Sharyn Dowd's notes a goldmine of sources.
HELEN BARRETT MONTGOMERY’S
CENTENARY TRANSLATION OF THE NEW TESTAMENT
CHARACTERISTICS AND INFLUENCES (1)
Lexinton Theological Seminary
Lexington, KY 40508
Helen Barrett Montgomery (1861-1934) is known among American Baptists (ABCUSA)
as a pioneer promoter of international ministries (2) and as the first woman to
serve as president of the Northern Baptist Convention (1921-22). She studied
Greek at Wellesley, graduating with the first class in 1884. Montgomery was a
contemporary of Walter Rauschenbusch and of Susan B. Anthony, with whom she was
active in the civic and religious life of Rochester, New York, in the early
years of this century. (3) Despite hr many achievements, she is hardly known at
all among Baptists in the South, whose female saints are limited to Lottie Moon
and Annie Armstrong. (4)
The purpose of this address is to call attention to Helen Barrett Montgomery's
translation of the New Testament into contemporary English, published in 1924 to
celebrate the 100th anniversary of the American Baptist Publication Society and
therefore called the Centenary Translation. (5) After a brief
introduction to the translation, we will focus on some of the characteristics
of, and some of the influences on, Montgomery's translation. Several of these
influences she acknowledged explicitly, but at least one important influence she
does not seem to have acknowledged. (6) I will argue for Montgomery's dependence
upon the work of a relatively obscure American woman scholar who was active in
the women’s movement at the beginning of this century.
The Centenary Translation was published in 1924, when Montgomery was sixty-three
years old, but it was begun nine years earlier in the midst of one of the
busiest periods of her life. In the years between the beginning of the
translation project and its publication, Montgomery served as president of the
Women's American Baptist Foreign Mission Society, helped found the World Wide
Guild (an international missions education and recruitment organization),
presided over the Northern Baptist Convention at the height of the
fundamentalist controversy, and published two of her eight books on missions.
That context is important because there is a sense in which Montgomery's
motivation for translating the New Testament was evangelistic. One of her first
ventures in ministry had been a Bible class for underprivileged boys; in those
days before linguistic sensitivity, she referred to them as "street urchins."
(8) Montgomery found that the "stately and old expressions which had such a
charm for the literary-minded, were a bar and a hindrance to the less educated,’
so she turned for her teaching to Weymouth's translation, which one of the
urchins pronounced "real interesting." (9) In making her own translation,
Montgomery tells us that her aim was "to consider young people, busy
Sunday-School teachers, and foreigners, and to try to make it plain. (10)
For the most part, she succeeded in making it plain. There are one or two
places which may even reflect the speech of that first audience of young boys,
such as I Cor. 4:13, where Montgomery has Paul complain that he and his
associates "have been made, as it were, scum-o'-the-earth, the very refuse of
the world, to this very hour." At Gal. 3:15, where the Authorized Version
reads, "Brethren, I speak after the manner of men," Montgomery translates, "Let
me illustrate, brothers, from every-day life." Sometimes making the meaning
plain requires avoiding euphemisms. At I Cor. 7:1 Montgomery translates, "It is
well for a man to have no intercourse with a woman." At Matt 21:7, Montgomery
makes it plain that Jesus seated himself on both the ass and the colt at the
same time, leaving the rest to the reader's imagination. (11)
There are occasional lapses into archaic expressions. I doubt very much that
the average person on the street in Rochester in 1924 went around exclaiming
"forsooth!" but Montgomery's Paul does so in 1 Cor. 4:8. In Phil. 2:27 she has
Paul report that Epaphroditus "was sick nigh unto death," and at Mark 3:29 Jesus
says of the one who blasphemes the Holy Spirit, "Nay, he is in the grasp of an
eternal sin." Although the denarion in Mark's version of the saying about taxes
is translated "dollar," it becomes in Matthew and Luke a "shilling," which would
not have been much more informative to the American reader than the
transliteration "denarius." (12) But these infelicities are the exception
rather than the rule; on the whole, the Centenary Translation is very readable.
The reader is assisted by a number of features in this translation. Montgomery
gave a title to each chapter "to aid in becoming so familiar with a book that
one could think [one's] way through it." (13) This idea she borrowed from Dwight
L. Moody, who "used to use it in his Bible classes" at Northfield.(14) She also
assigned headings to smaller units of thought within chapters. (15) These, she
said, were "to help people who hadn't a concordance. . .to find a passage that
they remembered but couldn't locate."(16) These headings over pericopae or
paragraphs were hailed as an innovation by a reviewer who characterized them as
"ingenious, striking, often most happy." (17) Although most of these sub-heads
are merely descriptive of the content (e.g., Feeding of the Four Thousand, The
Pharisees Seek a Sign, Peter's Great Confession), some are derived from hymns
and gospel songs ("My richest gain I count but loss"—Phil 3:7-11; "Immanuel's
orphaned cry"—Matt. 27:45-49), and some must surely have been sermon titles (Not
Creeds, but Deeds-Matt 25:3440; Breakfast on the Beach--John 21:8-14). Montgomery was particularly offended by the response of the Gadarenes to the
exorcism of the demoniac(s). She headed Matt. 8:32-34 with "Property vs.
Persons," but by the time she got to Luke 8:34-37 the heading had become even
more indignant: "Hogs Mean More than Men." In more than one case, the heading
interprets the passage, sometimes helpfully (Rev. 11:1-3--A Composite Vision
Drawn from Ancient Prophecies) and sometimes unhelpfully (Jas. 5:19-20--The
Blessedness of Soul-Winning). (18)
The text is printed in paragraphs with the verse numbers relegated to the left
margin. Quotations from the Old Testament are printed in italics and identified
in footnotes. Poetry is indented to differentiate it from prose. Dialogue is
identified by a paragraph indentation at each change of speaker! (19) A reviewer
remarked upon the use of quotation marks: “All the modem resources of
punctuation are used to make the distinction between narrative and dialogue or
spoken discourse perfectly clear." (20)
But Montgomery did not limit her use of quotation marks to passages in which the
identity of the speakers was clearly indicated. Like many translators, she
recognized in Paul's letters the voices of real or rhetorically imagined
opponents whose views or words Paul quotes in order immediately to refute or
qualify them. Montgomery's translation thus has quotation marks in the usual
places in 1 and 2 Corinthians, (21) but she goes further than most translators,
identifying from "opponents" in twelve other places in the Corinthian
correspondence and three places in Galatians. (22) We will return to one of
those quotations shortly.
Another feature of the Centenary Translation is the liberal use of square
brackets to clarify pronoun reference and other matters. Thus in Romans 11:23;
15:27 and Eph. 1-3, square brackets inform the reader when Paul’s pronouns
(they, them, you, us) refer to Jews and when they refer to gentiles. (23) In
Luke 7:2 and Acts 21:31, brackets are used to clarify the meanings of centurion
and tribune. Montgomery also uses square brackets to indicate a textual problem,
(24) identify a possible interpolation, (25) or provide information she regards
as missing from the text. (26)
Footnotes have a variety of functions in Montgomery’s New Testament. Most of the
notes identify Old Testament quotations or inform the reader about textual
variants. (27) At the end of John 5, a note tells us that “some scholars believe
that the section, Chapter 7:15-24 originally belonged at the end of Chapter 5,
to which it is closely joined in thought.” Notes are used to give credit to
other translators (28) and to provide various kinds of historical background
information (29) Montgomery writes explicitly about her interest in the papyri
and inscriptions “written about fascinatingly by Deissman [sic] and other
scholars." (30) Many of her footnotes consist of short word studies on
vocabulary items like hilasterion (Rom 3:25), gnosis (I Cor. 8:1),
poiema (Eph. 2:10), diakonos (Rom. 16:1), and prostatis
(Rom. 16:2). The latter two examples will be important later in our discussion. Montgomery was especially concerned that the reader of the New Testament
understand that an “apostle" was the same as a “missionary." She devoted at
least four notes to this reminder. (31) Montgomery's vocabulary studies also led
her to translate hypostasis at Hebrews 3:14 and 11:1 as "title deed," and soma
at Romans 6:6, 7:24, and Revelation 18:13 as “slave." (32)
In her own discussion of the translation, Montgomery emphasizes' her
dependence upon the work of A. T. Robertson, whom she called, "the greatest
master we have in the interpretation of the tenses that convey so much in such
compressed form." (33) It is clear she took Robertson's treatment of the tenses
very seriously because she is extremely careful to bring out the durative or
repetitive sense of the imperfect and often of the present, and she tries to
specify in the translation whether an aorist is ingressive, conservative, or
effective. She also pays special attention to the perfect tense. A few examples
from familiar passages will illustrate her approach:
Rom 14:9—“For this purpose, Christ died and became alive again. . .
1 Cor.15:11--"But whether it is I or they, thus do I preach, and thus you
came to believe.”
Rom. 6:15--"What then? Shall we commit an act of sin because we are not
under law, but under grace?"
Mark 5:28—“‛If I can touch even his clothes,’ she kept saying to herself,
shall get well.’”
Mark 14:35—“So he went a little farther, and throwing himself upon the
ground, he prayed repeatedly that, if it were possible, the hour might pass
away from him."
2 Cor. 2:5--"As to him who has been, and now is, causing pain, it is not
I whom he has pained, but all of you. . ."
Rom. 5:2--"Through him also we have had our access into this grace in which
we have taken our stand. . .”
Heb 7:25--"He is able to continue saving to the uttermost those who are
ever drawing near to God through him, seeing that he is ever living to
intercede for them."
Phil. 3:1--"Finally, my brothers, continue to rejoice in the Lord."
Sometimes these present imperatives become awkward:
Luke l0:4--"Be carrying no purse, no bag, no shoes. . .”
When Montgomery finds a change of tense within a sentence, she tries to
reflect it in the translation:
Matt 25:5--"Now because the bridegroom tarried, they all fell to nodding
and went on sleeping.”
In this, Montgomery follows the explicit counsel of Robertson, who writes,
"Where the aorist and the imperfect occur side by side, it is to be assumed that
the change is made on purpose and the difference in idea to be sought. In
juxtaposition, the aorist lifts the curtain and the imperfect continues the
This careful attention to tense takes on the character of commentary in certain
passages, like this one from 1 John:
“Whoever continually abides in him does not habitually sin; whoever lives
in sin has not seen him, nor come to know him. . .Whoever is a child of God
cannot go on sinning. . .” (1 John 3:6, 9) (35)
In matters of format, vocabulary, and syntax, Montgomery appeals to
well-known male authorities to support her decisions: Dwight L. Moody, Adolf
Deissmann, A. T. Robertson. In the footnotes to her translation she occasionally
gives credit to other men-scholars or exegetes on whose work she relies at
particular points: Farrar, Way, Moffatt, Saunders. But one of the boldest
strokes in Montgomery's translation seems to demonstrate an influence that for
some reason she failed to acknowledge, and to that issue we now turn our
There are a number of bold translations in the Centenary New Testament, and not
a few of them have to do with the place of women in early Christian life and
ministry. Roger Bullard has analyzed these in detail, so here they may be simply
Rom 16:1--diakonos is translated "minister" with reference to Phoebe.
Rom 16:7-Junia is taken to be a woman's name; a woman is "notable among the
1 Tim 2: 15-- The means of the salvation of women is taken to be the birth
of Christ, not the births of their own children. Montgomery translates:
“Notwithstanding she will be saved by the Child-bearing; (so will they all),
if they continue in faith and love. . .”
1 Tim 3:11-gynaikas is translated "deaconesses" in the section on the
qualifications of deacons.
And finally, the interpretation of greatest interest for our present study: 1
Cor. 14:34-35 is taken to be a quotation from the Corinthians' letter to Paul,
expressing a sentiment with which Paul vehemently disagrees in 14:36. Montgomery
translates as follows:
“In your congregation” [you write], “as in all the churches of the
saints, let the women keep silence in the churches, for they are not
permitted to speak. On the contrary let them be subordinate as also says the
law. And if they want to learn anything, let them ask their own husbands at
home, for it is shameful for a woman to speak in church.” What, was it from
you that the word of God went forth, or to you only did it come?” (37)
This interpretation of verses 34-35 as a Corinthian slogan which Paul rejects
has been gaining ground in recent years, (38) but at the time Montgomery was
working on her translation, 1915-24, none of the scholarly commentaries
suggested such a possibility. (39) Montgomery either came to this interpretation
from her own study of the text, or she borrowed it from someone else. The person
who had published an interpretation of 1 Cor. 14;34-36 strikingly similar to
Montgomery's was Katharine C. Bushnell.
Katharine C. Bushnell (1855-1946) was a medical missionary to China. Upon her
return to this country, she went to work for the Department of Social Purity of
the Women's Christian Temperance Union, serving during the last fifteen years of
the nineteenth century. By 1910 she was producing a Bible correspondence course
while doing biblical research in various libraries in England. (40) In these
Bible lessons, Bushnell analyzed passages dealing with the status of women in
order "to point out to women the fallacies in the 'Scriptural’ argument for the
supremacy of the male sex" and "to show the true position of women in the
economy of God.” (41)
Bushnell was a conservative Methodist; her position on inspiration was that the
Bible was "inspired," "infallible," and "inviolable." (42) It was not the Bible,
she argued, that suppressed the ministry of women, but rather the "sex bias of
translators (43) and the "antiquated notions" of "fossilized theologians.” (44)
She warned that "those who stupidly hinder. . .prophesying on the part of women
are placing themselves, as it were, across the path of the fulfillment of God's
Word" and delaying the coming of Christ. (45)
Bushnell published her Bible study leaflets in several different forms over the
years. The first cloth-bound edition seems to have been published in 1921,
bearing the title God's Word to Women. It was followed by an expanded edition in
1923, which is the one still being distributed. (46) Her treatment of 1
Corinthians 14 occupies four lessons (fourteen and one-half pages), in which
Bushnell argues as follows:
(1) The prohibition here contradicts Paul's repeated emphasis that "all”
may participate in speaking and learning (14:31) and his command to the
whole church to be eager to prophesy (14:39). (47)
(2) The prohibition contradicts the practice assumed by the Hebrew
Scriptures (she cites Num 27:1-7), the practice of Jesus (Luke 8:47; 11:27;
13:13) and the practice of Paul himself. (Rom 16; Acts 18). (48)
(3) The prohibition contradicts Paul's position in I Cor. 11:2-16, where he
assumes that women are to pray and prophesy, and prescribes the manner in
which they are to do so. (49)
(4) "The law" in 14:34 must refer to "the Oral Law of the Jews." She cites
I. F. Schleusner to the effect that "in the Old Testament no precept
concerning this matter exists.” (50) She then addresses rabbinic evidence
for the prohibition of women's speaking in the assembly. (51)
(5) "We should be ready to suspect Paul is making a quotation from the
letter addressed to him by the Corinthians whenever he alludes to their
knowledge, or when any statement stands in marked contrast either with the
immediate context or with Paul's known views." Bushnell is here quoting Sir
William Ramsay. (52)
(6) Having demonstrated that 1 Cor. 14:34-35 meets Ramsay's criteria,
Bushnell concludes that "the Apostle Paul is here quoting what the Judaizers
in the Corinthian church are teaching,--who themselves say women must 'keep
silence' because Jewish law thus taught." (53) Paul then responds in verses
36-40 with an “indignant protest." (54) in which he insists that it is God's
will for all in the church to share in leadership. (55)
Although Bushnell's contemporaries in the Holiness and Pentecostal movements
produced a large body of literature that justified the ministry of women and
attempted to cope with chapter 14, Bushnell seems to have been the first to
publish an argument for interpreting 14:34-35 as a Corinthian slogan. (56) She
was familiar with the attempts to reconcile the prohibition of chapter 14 with
the permission of chapter 11, but she found all of them unsatisfactory. (57) She
did not discuss the textual problem created by the placement of verses 34-35
after verse 40 in some manuscripts, (58) nor did she argue for the disjunctive
character of the particle e at the beginning of verse 36, though she does
translate the particle with the expletive "What?" rather than "Or." (59) In
important ways, however, Bushnell anticipated the recent discussion by over
Bushnell's views enjoyed widespread circulation in a condensation of her Bible
studies by Jessie Penn-Lewis entitled The "Magna Charta" of Woman According
to the Scriptures” and published in 1919 by The Overcomer Book Room,
Bournemouth, England. Nevertheless, God's Word to Women was either not
read or not taken seriously by biblical scholars, and went out of print until
its discovery by a Pentecostal preacher, Ray B. Munson, who has been reprinting
and distributing the book out of his home in New York since 1975. (61)
We know, however, that one New Testament translator did read God's Word to
Women. Helen Barrett Montgomery reviewed it for The Baptist in 1924. In a
review article, "Good Books for Busy Pastors," Montgomery praises Bushnell for
proving "that both Paul and the Bible in general when properly translated and
understood favor the widest possible service of women. (62) The example that
Montgomery cites from God's Word to Women is Bushnell's observation that
Paul calls Phoebe a "deacon" in Rom 16:1 and that the noun prostatis,
used of Phoebe in 16:2, is "a noun corresponding to the verb which Paul uses
when he tells the men to rule well their own households. The word means a
champion, chief, protector, patron---why this unwillingness to use the stronger
word?” (63) The Centenary New Testament has footnotes at Rom 16:1-2
explaining diakonos and prostatis, the latter note containing
almost precisely the list of definitions found in God's Word and in the
same order: "champion, leader, protector, patron.” (64) Neither in these notes,
however, nor anywhere else in the translation, nor in her published discussion
of the translation does Montgomery acknowledge any debt to Bushnell's work.
Although Montgomery's review of God's Word to Women appeared in July,
1924, and her translation of the New Testament epistles was published in
December of that same year, (65) she could have had access to Bushnell's work
much earlier. Bushnell's collected Bible study leaflets were published in the
United States in 1916, 1921, and' 1923. It is therefore entirely possible for
Montgomery to have read God's Word to Women before she submitted the
manuscript of her translation of the epistles for publication. (66)
Returning to 1 Cor. 14:34-36 in the Centenary Translation, we find even
stronger evidence for Montgomery's dependence upon Bushnell. Montgomery's
footnote on the phrase ''as also says the law" in verse 34 bears a strong
resemblance to the wording in God's Word to Women:
Montgomery: "This can only refer to the oral law of the Jews, as
no such prohibition is found in the Law. Paul is probably quoting a sentence
from the ]udaizers."
Bushnell: "The great German lexicographer, Schleusner, in his
Greek-Latin Lexicon, declares the expression 'as also saith the law,' refers
to the Oral Law of the Jews. Here are his words: 'The oral laws of the Jews
or Jewish traditions. . . .In the Old Testament no precept concerning this
matter exists. . . But think again! It is not likely that the Apostle Paul
would quote the traditions of the Jews, and refer to them as 'the law' and
as constituting a final authority on a matter of controversy in the church.
. .No, the Apostle Paul is here quoting what the Judaizers in the Corinthian
church are teaching. . . (67)
Of course, it is not impossible that Montgomery, like Bushnell, had read
Schleusner and drawn the same conclusion. (68) We know, however, that Montgomery
had not always read 1 Cor. 14:34-35 as a Corinthian slogan. In her history of
women's contributions to foreign missions, published in 1910, (69) she has a
long paragraph on Paul's attitude toward women. Here she regards the prohibition
against women's speaking in church as Paul's own "specific directions," which
"are to be read first in the light of conditions then existing in Greek
society." In other words, Paul felt that "the remarkable freedom already
developing among the Christian community was laying its women open to foul
imputations in the rich Greek city, where the only women free to speak and
associate with the men were women of loose character. Hence Paul's urgency that
the cause not be imperiled by a liberty which was turning the unaccustomed heads
of the women." (70)
Sometime between 1910 and 1924 Montgomery changed her mind about 1 Corinthians
14. She came to an interpretation of the passage identical with the position of
Katharine Bushnell and worded her note on the passage in a way that suggests
Bushnell's comments. Bushnell had come to this position as early as 1889.
The case for Montgomery's dependence upon Bushnell is strengthened by the
observation that Montgomery also translates 1 Corinthians 11 in line with
Bushnell's interpretation. Bushnell regards the angels in 11:10 as the woman's
guardian angels. (71) Montgomery follows suit. Bushnell translates 11:13b-14 as
statements rather than questions:
"It is proper for a woman. . .to pray unto God unveiled. Nor is there anything
in the nature of hair itself that teaches you that if a man wear it long it is a dishonour to him, while if a woman have long hair it is a glory to her, for her
hair has been given her instead of a veil." (72)
Montgomery again follows suit.
Thus, although the evidence is circumstantial, it seems probable that God's
Word to Women was an important source for several translations in the
Centenary New Testament, particularly in controversial passages about the
ministry of women. To borrow a phrase from Roger Bullard, the "feminist touches"
in the Centenary New Testament bear the fingerprints of Katharine
Thanks to Judson Press, which kept it in print for many years, and now to
Holman, the current publisher, Helen Barrett Montgomery's Centenary New
Testament is available for study. I commend it to you as a significant
contribution to the ongoing Baptist conversation with the Bible. (74)
Note: The translation is currently out of print completely and unavailable
except in libraries. 10/27/01
1. This article was presented as the president’s address at the twelfth annual
meeting of the NABPR in Kansas City, MO, 23 November 1991.
2. Montgomery and her contemporaries spoke of “foreign missions."
3. Brief biographical sketches of Montgomery may be found in the following: W.S.
Hudson, “Montgomery, Helen Barrett," Notable American Women 1607-1950: A
Biographical Dictionary, 2/G-O, ed. E.T. Jones (Cambridge, MA: Harvard [Belknap],
1971) 566-68; F.T. Hoadley and B.P. Browne, Baptists Who Dared (Valley
Forge: Judson, 1980) 87-91; W.H. Brackney, The Baptists (New York:
Greenwood, 1988) 228-29. An autobiography was assembled posthumously from her
papers and published along with tributes by friends and associates, as Helen
Barrett Montgomery: From Campus to World Citizenship (New York: Fleming H.
Revell, 1940). There is, as far as I can determine, no critical biography
of Montgomery; and the sketches that exist are riddled with inaccuracies. Brackney,
for example, states that Helen Barrett's brother “was the eminent biblical
scholar, C.K. Barrett" (Baptists, 228).*1n fact, her brother was Storrs Barrett,
a professor at the University of Chicago (Montgomery, 21, 140). *corrected in
The best critical treatment of Montgomery that I have seen is an unpublished
paper by Julie Fewster, "Helen Barrett Montgomery: A Disciple of Jesus Christ,
1861-1934," written at Colgate Rochester Divinity School as a class assignment
in 1981 and available only from the author. Fewster corrects the impression
given by Hudson that Montgomery became involved in the "social gospel" movement
under the influence of Rauschenbusch. In fact, Montgomery and her cohorts were
already changing the shape of religion and politics in Rochester while Rauschenbusch was cutting his teeth on the problems of Hell's Kitchen. The
general biographical information in this article is dependent upon Fewster's
4. Her name does not appear in Leon McBeth's massive The Baptist Heritage:
Four Centuries of Baptist Witness (Nashville: Broadman, 1987), despite his
having devoted 46 pages to the Northern Baptists (ABCUSA), including a detailed
ten-page account of the Northern fundamentalist controversy of the 1920s. Nor
does Montgomery appear in McBeth's more focused Women in Baptist Life
(Nashville: Broadman, 1979). She is mentioned in Carolyn DeArmond Blevins,
"Women in Baptist History," RevExp 83 (1986): 59-60. In 1988 the Montgomery New
Testament was published by Holman Bible Publishers to celebrate the l00th
anniversary of the founding of the Woman's Missionary Union auxiliary to the
Southern Baptist Convention. The publication was encouraged by Carolyn
Weatherford [Crumpler], who had been buying copies of the Centenary New
Testament published by Judson Press to give to women as ordination presents. When she learned that Judson was about to allow the Centenary New Testament
to go out of print, Weatherford persuaded Holman to arrange to re-issue it
(interview with Carolyn Weatherford Crumpler, November 12, 1991). The Montgomery
New Testament carried a WMU logo on the cover and a biographical sketch of
Montgomery inside. It did not sell very well, probably at least partly because
of Montgomery's obscurity in the South.
5. The translation was first published in two parts, the Gospels in February,
1924, and Acts through Revelation in December, 1924. The translation was
published for many years by Judson Press as The New Testament in Modern
English and is now available from Holman Bible Publishers as the
Montgomery New Testament.
6. Helen Barrett Montgomery, "Translating the New Testament," The Baptist
(1925-26): 651-52. The translation was reviewed by Henry C. Vedder in The
Baptist (1925-26): 312 and by A.T. Robertson in RevExp 20 (1925): 244-45. The
only published study of the translation about which I know is Roger A. Bullard,
“Feminine and Feminist Touches in the Centenary New Testament," BT 38 (1987):
118-22. There are two unpublished studies that I have not been able to consult:
a paper in the files of the American Baptist Historical Society, "Helen Barrett
Montgomery--Translator of New Testament," to which Brackney refers (Baptists,
229) and a section of J.H. Skilton, “The Translation of the New Testament into
English 1881-1950" (Ph.D. dissertation, University of Pennsylvania, 1961)
1:388-92, referred to by Bullard ("Feminine," 120n4). Bullard (118) and Hoadley
and Browne (90) believe Montgomery to have been the first woman to publish an
English translation of the entire New Testament. Julia Evelina Smith, however,
published her translation of the entire Bible in 1876; see Kathleen Housley,
“‛The Letter Kills but the Spirit Gives Life’: Julia Smith's Translation of the
Bible," The New England Quarterly 61 (1988): 555-68. I am indebted to David M. Scholer of North Park College and Theological Seminary for the information about
7. The books are, in chronological order: Christus Redemptor: The Island World
of the Pacific (1906); Western Women in Eastern Lands: An Outline Study of Fifty
Years of Woman's Work in Foreign Lands (1910); Following the Sunrise: A Century
of Baptist Missions, 1813-1913 (1913); The King's Highway: A Study of Present
Conditions on the Foreign Field (1915); The Bible and Missions (1920); Prayer
and Missions (1924); From Jerusalem to Jerusalem (1929); The Preaching Value of
Missions: Being the John M. English Lectures Delivered at the Newton Theological
Institution (1931). On Montgomery's contributions to missions work see Ruth
Tucker, “Female Mission Strategists: A Historical and Contemporary Perspective," Missiology 15 (1987): 73-89.
8. “Translating.” 651.
11. It is also possible that Montgomery took “upon them” as a reference to the
cloaks rather than to the animals.
12. Perhaps "shilling” was meant to convey" the sense that this is the coin of a
colonizing oppressor nation. Similarly, in films about the New Testament, Roman
officials and other villains seem invariably to speak with British accents.
13. “Translating,” 651.
15. Although she recognized that the chapter divisions were, as she put it, "not
scientific," she did not violate them by recognizing thought units that
overlapped chapter divisions.
16. "Translating," 651.
17. H. C. Vedder, “Mrs. Montgomery's New Testament," The Baptist 6 (1925-26):
18. Bullard, "Feminist Touches," 118, has a paragraph on the section titles and
some comments on aspects of the translation itself.
19. Montgomery reports that as a child she chose books "by looking to see how
much dialog and how many pages with broken lines they carried" ("Translating,"
20. Vedder, "Montgomery's New Testament," 312. It is important to remember that
such remarks are contrasts with the King James Version, which was indented at
each verse number and lacked quotation marks altogether.
21. 1 Cor. 1:12; 3:4; 6:12; 6:13; 8:1; 10:23; 2 Cor. 10:10. She does not put
quotation marks in 1 Cor. 7:1, as does the NRSV.
22. 1 Cor. 8:5-11; 10:29-30 (with the added phrase "you may object"); 14:34-35
(with [you write] in brackets); 2 Cor. 5:11-13; 10:1, 15; 11:1; Gal. 1:10; 2:15;
23. Similarly, in Mark 11:20 the reader is informed in square brackets that,
“they" refers to Jesus and the disciples rather than to the chief priests and
scribes of the previous sentence. Montgomery is not consistent, however, because
in Mark 2:15 she specifies Levi as the owner of "his" house without any
indication that the proper noun is not in the text.
24. Luke 9:55-56. Sometimes, however, she uses footnotes for this purpose and
sometimes she makes controversial text-critical decisions without informing the
reader at all. There is no indication of any problem with John 8:1-11, and Luke
2:44 reads "Joseph and his mother" with no footnote to indicate the alternative
25. 2 Cor. 6:14-7:1 following Moffatt.
26. At the end of Matthew 23 after the lament over Jerusalem, Montgomery informs
the reader in a bracketed paragraph that “Jesus withdrew from the city with the
close of Tuesday and spent Wednesday in retirement, perhaps at Bethany.”
27. Montgomery based her translation on the Westcott and Hort text “for the most
part” (“Translating,” 651).
28. A.S. Way (Rom. 5:5, Titus 3:14), “Dr. Saunders” (2 Cor. 5:14), Farrar (Heb.
10:39), and Moffatt (Rev. 9:17).
29. Montgomery pulls Acts 1:18-19 (the death of Judas) out of the text and puts
it in a note, explaining that it was "probably an early marginal note which has
crept into the text." This seems to be a ploy to avoid the conflict with Matt
27:3-10. At Acts 17:6 she crows over the inscriptions that vindicate Luke's use
of the term politarch for the magistrate of Thessalonica. At Acts 27:17 she
identifies the “Syrtes” as “quicksands off the coast of Africa.” She seems to
have a strong interest in defending the historicity of Acts, if not the whole
30. “Translating,” 651.
31. Matt 10:2; Mark 3:14; 1 Tim 2:7; 1 Pet 1:1.
32. In “Translating,” 652, Montgomery discusses these last two items. She
remembered that she was “tempted” to read “slave” at Rom. 7:24, apparently not
remembering that she yielded to the temptation.
33. “Translating,” 651.
34. A.T. Robertson, A Grammar of the Greek New Testament in the Light of
Historical Research, 4th ed. (Nashville: Broadman, 1934) 838. The grammar
was out in its first edition by 1914.
35. See Vedder, “Montgomery’s New Testament,” 312.
36. Bullard, “Feminist Touches,” 120-22.
37. For some reason, Montgomery translated the phrase in 33b, hos en pasais
ekklesials ton hagion, twice. She closes the paragraph immediately preceding
this with, “The sprits of prophets are subject to prophets, for God is not a God
of confusion but of peace. This custom prevails in all the churches of the
38. The argument has been made in various forms by (in chronological order): K.C.
Bushnell, "Keep Silence," The Union Signal 15 (September 12, 1889): 7 (National
Headquarters, WCTU Joint Ohio Historical Society-Michigan Historical Collections
WCTU microfilm edition, role 5, frame 609); idem, God's Word to Women: One
Hundred Bible Studies on Woman's Place in the Divine Economy (Piedmont CA:
By the author, n.d.) pars. 189-215; Jessie Penn-Lewis, “The Magna Charta of
Woman "According to the Scripture,” (Bournemouth, England: The Overcomer
Book Room, 1919; now Minneapolis: Bethany Fellowship, 1975); J. A. Anderson,
Women's Warfare and Ministry: What Saith the Scriptures? (Stonehaven,
Great Britain: David Waldie, 1933); Joyce Harper, Women and the Gospel (Pinner,
Great Britain: Christian Brethren Research Fellowship Publications, 1974); W .C.
Kaiser, "Paul, Women and the Church," Worldwide Challenge 3 (1976): 9-12;
G.B. Dunning, "The Place of the Christian Woman,” The Shorter Works of Guy B.
Dunning (Dunning Memorial Library Fund of Dakota Bible College, 1977); N.M.
Flanagan and E.H. Snyder, "Did Paul Put Down Women in I. Cor. 14:34-36?" BTB II
(1981): 10-12; D. W. Odell-Scott, "Let the Women Speak in Church: An Egalitarian
Interpretation of I Cor. 14:33b-36," BTB 13 (1983): 90-93; C.U. Manus, "The
Subordination of Women in the Church. (I Cor. 14:33b-36) Reconsidered," Revue
Africaine de Theologie 8 (1984): 183-95; C.H. Talbert, "Paul's Understanding of
the Holy Spirit: The Evidence of I. Corinthians 12-14," PRS II (1984): 95-108;
G. Bilezikian, Beyond Sex Roles (Grand Rapids: Baker, 1985) 144-53; C.R
Talbert, Reading Corinthians: A Literary and Theological Commentary on 1 and
2 Corinthians (New York: Crossroad, 1987) 91-93; idem, “Biblical Criticism's
Role: The Pauline View of Women as a Case in Point," The Unfettered Word:
Southern Baptists Confront the Authority-lnerrancy Question, ed. R.B. James
(Waco: Word, 1987) 62-71; D. W. Odell-Scott. “In Defense of an Egalitarian
Interpretation of 1 Cor. 14:34-36: A Reply to Murphy-Oconnor’s Critique,” BTB 17
(1987): 100-103; RW. Allison, “Let Women Be Silent in the Churches (1 Cor.
14.33b-36): What Did Paul Really Say, and What Did it Mean?" JSNT 32 (1988):
27-60; L.M. Bridges, "Silencing the Corinthian Men, Not the Women," The New Has
Come: Emerging Roles Among Southern Baptist Women, ed. A.T. Neil and V.G. Neely
(Washington D.C.: Southern Baptist Alliance, 1989) 40-50; D. W. Odell-Scott,
"Women: Speaking in Corinth," Biblical Literacy Today (Spring, 1989): 14-15
(reprinted from The Disciple); L.M. Bridges, "Paul's Use of Slogans in the
Rhetorical Strategy of 1 Corinthians 14:34-36," unpublished paper read in the NT
section of SBL/SE, March, 1990. The interpretation is acknowledged, but
discarded by I.M. Robbins, "St. Paul and the Ministry of Women," ExpTim 46
(1934-35): 185-88 and by G.D. Fee, The First Epistle to the Corinthians
(Grand Rapids: Wm. B. Eerdmans, 1987) 704n26.
Some of the above arguments are apparently independent of each other. Bushnell
and Montgomery are virtually unknown in the recent scholarly debate. Of the
above, those citing Bushnell are Penn-Lewis, Anderson, Harper, Kaiser, Bilezikian, Bridges, and Fee. Only Talbert (1984) and Fee cite Montgomery. Gordon Fee told me in a telephone conversation on February 21, 1990, that he
learned about both Montgomery and Bushnell from his father, who was a
Pentecostal minister. I learned about Robbins and Dunning from an unpublished
essay by David Odell-Scott, “A Brief History of an Ignored Interpretation,"
39. Here I am relying on the work of others. Linda McKinnish Bridges of the
Baptist Theological, Seminary at Richmond reports to me that she has checked the
commentaries from Calvin to Bushnell and found no evidence for this reading. David W. Odell-Scott of Kent State University found nothing except Montgomery,
Robbins, and Dunning (whose work may go back as far as the 1930s but no
earlier). William Kostlevy of Asbury Theological Seminary, a leading
bibliographer of the Holiness movement, reports that a preliminary search of
that literature uncovered nothing prior to Bushnell.
40. The biographical information about Bushnell in this study is dependent on
Dana Hardwick, "Oh Thou Woman That Bringest Good Tidings: The Life and Work of
Katharine C. Bushnell" (unpublished M. Div, research project, Lexington
Theological Seminary, Lexington, Kentucky, 1990). It is available on
inter-library loan from Bosworth Memorial Library. *Hardwick’s book was
published in 1995 by Christians for Biblical Equality; Box 7155; Saint Paul,
4l. Bushnell, God's Word, par. 1. There are no page numbers. References
are to paragraph numbers, which run consecutively throughout the volume.
42. Bushnell, God's Word, par. 2.
43. Ibid., par. 616-44.
44. Ibid., par. 275.
45. Ibid., par. 794, 791.
46. For the history of God's Word, see Hardwick, "Bushnell," 93-96. The
distributors of the volume are (or were in 1990): Ray Munson. 11899 Gowanda
Road. North Collins, NY 14111 and God's Word to Women Publishers (Cosette
Jolliff and Bernice Menold), Box 315, Mossville, IL 61552. For the story of the
rediscovery of Bushnell's work, see G. Hearn, "New Publishers of Katharine [sic]
Bushnell," Update: Newsletter of the Evangelical Women's Caucus 11 (Winter
1987-88): 7-8. *Note Br. Munson has since passed away. The latest
publisher as of 2004 is the God's Word to Women website, 600 Partridge Lane,
Eagle Lake, TX 77434.
47. Bushnell, God’s Word, par. 190.
48. Ibid., pars. 192-96.
49. Ibid., par 205.
50. Ibid., par 201.
51. Ibid., par 202.
52. Ibid., par 205.
53. Ibid., par 201. Bushnell’s emphasis.
54. Ibid., par 207.
55. Ibid., pars. 208-15. Bushnell argues in pars. 192-96 that the controversy in
Corinth was caused by the ministry of Priscilla, who, being a Jewish Christian
originally from Asia Minor, would have been accustomed to the egalitarian
practices that prevailed there with respect to the status of women. (On the
cultural situation in Asia Minor, Bushnell cites W.M. Ramsay's The Church in
the Roman Empire and The Cities and Bishoprics of Phrygia.) Priscilla's
ministry, and particularly her instruction of Apollos (Acts 18:6), would have
offended the "Judaizers," "Palestinian Jews who pursued Paul wherever he went,"
according to Bushnell (par. 193). She cites Harnack in support of the importance
of Priscilla as an associate of Paul.
Bushnell's understanding of Paul's opponents in 1 Corinthians as Judaisers
places her in company with the majority of critical scholars of her period.
Current versions of the "slogan" argument depend more on the rhetorical
structure of the passage and less on the identity of the opponents.
56. See note 38 above. It is impossible to claim originality for Bushnell on
this point, especially in light of a passage in her The Reverend Doctor and
His Doctor Daughter (Oakland CA: By the author, 1927) 87:
"Susanna, what an acute, logical mind you have! I wonder no one has thought
of this interpretation [of 1 Cor. 14:34-36] before. It puts the passage in
perfect harmony with the words about women prophesying in chapter eleven."
This passage is from a fictional work portraying a conversation between a
minister and his daughter, Susanna, who is a physician. It is impossible to
determine whether the women mentioned by "Susanna” are actual persons known to
Bushnell or fictional supporters invented to add the strength of numbers. It is
also unclear whether, if these other interpreters existed, their interpretations
influenced Bushnell or were contemporaneous with and independent of her work. Given the regularity with which Bushnell cites published support for her
arguments when such support is available, it seems likely that she did not know
any published versions of the argument. I am indebted to Dana Hardwick for
calling this passage to my attention.
It is theoretically possible that Montgomery could have come to the
interpretation on her own, but a case will be made below that this is not what
57. Bushnell, God's Word, par. 197. Bushnell concludes this section of
her argument with an allusion to Matt 7:9, the image that provided the title for
Elisabeth Schussler Fiorenza's treatment of feminist hermeneutics, Bread Not
Stone (Boston: Beacon, 1984). Bushnell writes: "we do not believe Paul went
about giving the Bread of Life to all men, and a stone for bread to many women,
after this partial manner."
58. In a note to par. 2, Bushnell states a general preference for the Authorized
Version, although she occasionally makes a textual decision in agreement with
what she calls "the Revised Version," as at Acts 18:26, where she reads
Priscilla’s name first (par. 195). This must have been the English Revised
Version of 1881-1885.
59. Bushnell, God’s Word, par.206. The disjunctive character of the
particle has become an important argument in the current discussion. Odell-Scott, “Let the Women Speak,” 90-91, seems to have been the first to argue
this way (1983), but the argument was made independently by Manus,
“Subordination” (1984) and Allison, “Let Women Be Silent” (1988), who claims to
have learned about Odell-Scott’s work only after Allison presented his own
research at a regional SBL meeting in 1984 (see Let Woman Be Silent,” 60n45.)
According to Odell-Scott, Guy B. Dunning, “an old line restoration
fundamentalist,” derived the interpretation of 1 Cor. 14:34 as a slogan of
“legalist” opponents from the King James translation, which renders the particle
as “What” (“History,” 6).
60. This booklet is now published as The Magna Charta of Woman
(Minneapolis: Bethany Fellowship, 1975). *Note: The book is now out of print. It
has been put up online by the God’s Word to Women website:
61. Hearn, "Publishers," 7-8.
62. H.B. Montgomery, "Good Books for Busy Pastors,” The Baptist 5 (1924-25):
63. Ibid., 557, paraphrasing Bushnell, God’s Word, par 367.
64. Bushnell includes one word that Montgomery omits in the translation note. Bushnell’s list in par. 367 is “champion, leader, chief, protector, patron.” The
similarity would ordinarily be attributed to the use of the same lexicon, rather
than to Montgomery’s dependence on Bushnell, expect for the fact of Montgomery’s
knowledge of Bushnell established by the book review.
65. The original Centenary New Testament appeared in two parts. The
Gospels were published in February, 1924, and Acts-Revelation in December, 1924.
66. Of course, she could have seen Jessie Penn-Lewis's condensation of
Bushnell's interpretations, which appeared in 1919, or even the 1889 article,
“Keep Silence," Nevertheless, the wording of Montgomery's notes to Rom 16:2 and
to I Cor. 14:34 suggests familiarity with the version of the argument in
God's Word to Women. See below.
67. Bushnell, God’s Word, par. 201. Bushnell’s emphasis.
68. Records at what is now Colgate-Rochester Divinity School indicate that both
Schleusner’s Novum Lexicon Graeco-Latinum in Novum Testamentumand his Novus
Thesaurus Philologico-Criticus were in the collection prior to September, 1857,
according to Bonnie L. vanDelinder, Assistant Librarian for Public Service in a
telephone conversation with me on March 16, 1989. This means that these
resources would have been available to Montgomery, who was living in Rochester
while working on her translation.
69. H. B. Montgomery, Western Women in Eastern Lands (New York: Macmillan 1910).
70. Ibid., 72-73.
71. Bushnell, God’s Word, pars. 247-48.
72. Ibid., pars. 247, 249.
73. Montgomery's translation also agrees with Bushnell ' s interpretation of Rom
16:7 (Junia as a woman apostle: God's Word, par. 642), Eph 5:21
(Christians of both genders are to be subject to one another: God's Word, par.
359), 1 Tim 3:11 ("the women" are also deacons: God's Word, par. 364).
Montgomery's translation is similar, but not identical, to Bushnell's
interpretation at 1 Tim 2:15 (Women are saved by the birth of Christ ["the
Child-bearing"]: God's Word, pars. 342- 44). These agreements, however, are not
pressed as evidence because such interpretations would have been available to
Montgomery from other sources.
74. I am grateful for the assistance of the following people: Ruth Hoppin,
William Kostlevy, Linda McKinnish Bridges, David Odell-Scott, and David Scholer
for bibliographical assistance; Char Blake, former Serials Librarian at Bosworth
Memorial Library, for help with inter-library loans; Lexington Theological
Seminary students Dana Hardwick and Marilyn Patzwald for help with bibliography,
word-processing, and proofreading. I first learned about Montgomery's
translation through the late Linda Boland, to whose memory this research is