616.     It is well known that when a man gets lost on the prairie, he begins to go round in a circle; it is suggested that one side (the right, generally), being stronger than the other, he pulls unconsciously with greater strength upon the corresponding guiding rein of his horse. Just so does the translator; he pulls unconsciously on the strong side of preconception or self-interest. This may not be intended, but it is none the less inevitable to the uninspired hand. For this reason, neither class nor sex should have an exclusive right to set forth the meaning of the original text. It is notorious that the Samaritan Hebrew text, even, has been manipulated to a considerable extent to suit the Samaritan prejudices, so that that manuscript must be corrected by comparison with others before it can be trusted on points that involve Samaritan interests. The Alexandrian, or Septuagint version, shows traces of an attempt to meet the prejudices of Egyptians. What wonder that all versions, having for all time been made by men, should disclose the fact that, on the woman question, they all travel more or less in a circle, in accordance with sex bias, hindering the freedom and progress of women, since (in times past more than at present), the self interest of man led him to suppose that woman served God best as his own undeveloped subordinate?

617.     Let us first note two cases, brought to light by the Revision Committee, by way of illustration of sex bias. In Genesis 20, we read the story of the exposure of Sarah, at Abraham’s request, in Abimelech’s harem (?). When the king discovered that she was a married woman (through the reproof of God), he sent for Abraham, reproved him, and then paid a thousand pieces of silver to him for the injury done her good name. The version of 1611 (A.V.) and the version of 1884 construe the language spoken by the king on this occasion quite differently.

A.V. ¾“He is to thee a covering of the eyes, unto all that are with thee;”

R.V.¾ “It[3] is to thee for a covering of the eyes, to all that are with thee;”

A.V. ¾ “and with all other: thus she was reproved;”

R.V.¾ “and in respect of all thou are righted;”

Abimelech did this so that all would understand that the wrong was his not Sarah’s; and she would be righted before all and ashamed before none, and would not need to cover her eyes (face) for shame. So the R.V.indicates; but the A.V. makes the blame fall upon Sarah, who is “reproved.” Abraham was no “covering to her eyes,”¾he was the primal cause of her shame and humiliation. It would seem as though the rendering of the A.V. was an attempt to fortify the supposed teaching of Paul that women should go veiled.

618.      Another passage, bound to be corrected apace with the improvement of woman’s social position, is Leviticus 19:20. This relates to wrong relations with a female slave, who is, “not at all redeemed, nor freedom given her.” The R.V.shows progress here toward the light, which is yet obscured, however. The A.V. says:¾She shall be scourged . . . and he shall bring his offering.” The R.V.says: “They shall be punished . . . and he shall bring,” etc. But the literal sense is, “There shall be inquisition . . . and he shall bring.” That is, there shall be rigid inquiry made, and when it is ascertained that she is not in a state of freedom at all, then only he shall bring the offering.[4]

619.     Luther once said: “No gown worse becomes a woman than to be wise.” Luther only held the prevailing views of his day as regards women. Such men could not easily perceive when Scripture expressed a different thought on the subject. Proverbs 14:1 says, in Hebrew, “The wisdom of woman buildeth her house,” but not being able to appreciate the advantages of female education, men rendered it: “Every wise woman buildeth her house,” that is, the woman who devotes herself to housewifely duties is pronounced “wise.” But this is not the thought; rather, wisdom itself, in woman, will build her own (not her husband’s) house,¾ elevate her to a place of honor. Every time there has been an opportunity for the use of option in translation, use has been made of that option, by this or that man of learning, to build up one sex and to depreciate the other, and so the result, through the ages, has been cumulative, and that without actual intention.

620.     Again, Cha-kam HEB “wise,” occurs (on a hasty count) 130 times in the Hebrew Bible. It is invariably translated “wise” excepting in the following places: in 2 Samuel 13:3 “subtil;” and in 10 instances “cunning,” when used of skilful workmen, 1 Chronicles 22:15; 2 Chronicles 2:7 (twice); 13, and 14 (twice); Isaiah 3:3; 40:20; Jeremiah 10:9. But in Jeremiah 9:17 we read in our English, “Thus saith the Lord of hosts, Consider ye, and call for the mourning women, that they may come; and send for cunning women that they may come, and let them make hast and take up a wailing for us,” etc. The reference is to the low moral tone prevailing at Jerusalem, which threatened the overthrow of the city. Now here, surely, there is no reference to skilful workmanship on the part of women, and moreover the A.V. leaves out the rather important article “the”¾see R.V.Here “the wise women” are called upon by Jehovah to show their interest and concern in matters of State,¾the moral corruptness of the city; and “the wise women” are further instructed to teach their daughters to be concerned about such matters,¾verse 20. Huldah (2 Kings. 22:14), admittedly the wisest prophet of the times, may have been still living at this very time.

621.     I think we find another case of prejudiced translation in Isaiah 3:12. The word translated “children” in this verse in Isaiah, is a plural masculine participle of the verb “to glean,” “abuse,” “practice.” It is translated “glean” in Leviticus 19:10, Deuteronomy 24:21, Judges 20:45, and Jeremiah 6:9. The word has no translation such as “children” anywhere else in the Bible, and it occurs 21 times. Another word altogether is used for “children,” and “child,” in verses 4 and 5 of this same chapter; the sense seems to have been fixed by the supposed context, to correspond with “women.” As to the word translated “women”: Two words, without the rabbinical vowel “points,” are exactly alike. One is pronounced nosh-im and the other na-shim. In appearance the only difference is a slight mark under the first letter of the Hebrew word na-shim. The first word means “exactors;” the one with a vowel mark under the initial letter means “women.” The entire decision, therefore, as to whether the word means one or the other depends upon OPTION. Those who pointed the word, evidently thought the nation could sink no lower than to pass under women rulers, and then translated the word “children” to match it. Commentators frequently call attention to the alternate reading. See Adam Clarke on the passage. The Septuagint translates: “As for my people, tax-gatherers (praktores) glean them, and exactors (apaitountes) rule over them.”

622.     There seems little in the context to support the translation “children” and “women.” But study the context as regards the other reading. After complaining of the “gleaners,” (that is, “tax-gatherers”) and “extortioners,” they are threatened in the following language: “The Lord standeth up to plead and standeth up to judge the people. The Lord will enter into judgement with the elders of His people, and the princes (“rulers,” masculine, not feminine gender), thereof for ye have eaten up the vineyard (the conduct of extortionate tax-gatherers), and the spoil of the poor is in your houses. What mean ye that ye crush (R. V.) my people, and grind the faces of the poor?” Because of this context, we believe that OPTION took the wrong turn when it decided to translate this verse as it stands in our English version; and that this translation would have had a strong showing up of its sophistries, had educated women been on the last Revision Committee.

These instances are trivial, when taken one by one, but many straws floating in one direction prove that the current runs that way strongly.


[3] Hebrew has no word for “it,” which must be represented by either “he” or “she.”

[4] “Your opinion that the sentence, ‘they shall be punished’ of the R.V.is erroneous, is in my judgement very correct. You should, however, add that the Syriac Version has . . . (Syriac words) which means precisely, ‘there shall be inquisition.’ ”

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