Guest post by Gary Shogren: Brothers? Brothers and sisters?

Sometimes the thought crosses my mind, “Are you just making all this stuff up about men and women working together as co-equals in the church? Who do you think you are? You aren’t qualified to make judgments about the Scriptures–you don’t have any training in these areas.” And it’s true. I don’t. So  I love to have the help of theologians. When Gary Shogren contacted me a while back and said, “If I may offer, I do a great deal of work in the Greek New Testament (my field – my PhD is from Aberdeen University) and I would be very happy to serve as a resource if you have any issues dealing with exegesis or early church history,” I took him at his word. Gary and his wife are missionaries in Costa Rica and professors in a Bible College and Seminary. I’ve sent him various questions, including ones posed by people commenting on this blog, and he’s been incredibly helpful in response. Here’s  his latest “rant”!

Who did Paul write to? Brothers, or Brothers and Sisters?

May I draw your attention to 1 Thessalonians 1:4 ESV – “for we know, brothers loved by God, that he has chosen you…”

Here’s a puzzle: why is it that in the English Standard Version, Paul addresses his readers as brothers (ESV, HCSB; brethren in the KJV and NASB). But in other versions of that same verse, he writes to his brothers and sisters (e. g., GW, NET, NRSV). What happened? Have modern translators caved in to feminist pressure and pasted the sisters into the Bible? Are other translators manning the barricade in order to defend God’s Word?

Here’s the facts: in 1:4 and elsewhere, we are dealing with a plural Greek noun, adelphoi/ἀδελφοί (memory hint = Philadelphia is the City of Brotherly Love). In the body of the text, the ESV renders adelphoi as “brothers” (never “brothers and sisters”). Then at the first use of the term in each Pauline epistle there is an explanatory footnote: 1 Thessalonians 1:4  footnote says:

2 Or brothers and sisters. The plural Greek word adelphoi (translated ‘brothers’) refers to siblings in a family. In New Testament usage, depending on the context, adelphoi may refer either to men or to both men and women who are siblings (brothers and sisters) in God’s family, the church.

Did I hear this right? Aren’t the ESV editors conceding that rendering adelphoi as “brothers and sisters” in this context would be the more accurate and literal rendering, but for some unstated reason they haven’t used it? Indeed that is just what they are saying.

I minister full-time in Spanish, and here it helps me to understand the Greek. The Spanish hermano means “brother”, while hermana, with the feminine ending, means “sister”. But hermanos, plural, is generic. As in the Greek, the Spanish plural can refer to “male siblings only” or it could refer to “siblings.” So in Spanish, if someone asks me, “Do you have any hermanos?” the proper response in my case would be “Yes, I have two brothers. I have one brother and one sister.” But in English, if someone asks me, “Do you have any brothers?” my response would be to tell you how many male siblings I have: “Yes, I have one brother.” And maybe I would add: “Oh, and I also have a sister.” Do you see the difference? If I ask you if you have brothers and you start in by saying, “Yes, I have three sisters,” then it should be evident to all that the English doesn’t work the same way as the Greek does.

So, the plural adelphoi in Greek can mean “male siblings” or “siblings,” depending on the context. Since Paul addresses male and female adelphoi in his letters, then a perfectly proper and literal translation in English is siblings or, less clunkily, brothers and sisters. In fact, even the “complementarian” Colorado Springs Guidelines would not take issue with “brothers and sisters,” since it states that “the plural adelphoi can be translated ‘brothers and sisters’ where the context makes clear that the author is referring to both men and women.” (see the text of the Guidelines)

Translating these verses with brothers and sisters is not a paraphrase; translating it only with the male brothers is. It is not political correctness to translate brothers and sisters, nor is it a rejection of pc to translate it brothers.

So my question is not “Why does the NRSV or NLT or NIV have brother and sister?” but rather,“Why doesn’t the ESV put brothers and sisters right where they say it belongs, in the text of 1 Thessalonians 1:4?” And why this odd footnote that contradicts the choice that the editors made when they put in the inferior translation brothers in verses where brothers and sisters is the more accurate rendering?

Thus, the translation of 1 Thessalonians 1:4 that I made for my commentary is “We acknowledge [before God], brothers and sisters whom God loves, that you were chosen…”

This material is adapted from 1-2 Thessalonians by Gary S. Shogren, Zondervan Exegetical Commentary (Grand Rapids: Zondervan, 2012). The reader may also visit my blog at to download my full commentary on 1 Corinthians and for articles on 1-2 Thessalonians, including my full translation of both epistles.

brothers and sisters
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Some scary statistics

Julie Ross, one of the co-authors of The Black Swan Effect: A response to gender hierarchy in the church compiled these scary statistics:

Jesus came to bring good news to the poor, to release captives, to free the oppressed.

What should be the response of his body, the church, to these figures that represent not numbers, but people for whom Jesus died? What can we do? How can we get involved? What can those of us involved in the simple/organic/house church movement do?

Indian girl

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Starting a simple church can be simple

We may have just helped to start another church.

Sometimes starting a simple church can be just that–simple. We’ve had a wonderful couple from a Hindu background who have part of the church in our home for a while. We’ve prayed with them, baptized them, rejoiced with them at the miracles they’ve seen. When they had a baby, fairly recently, with their jobs and all their other commitments, plus the baby’s sleep schedule, getting to our home on a Friday evening became nearly impossible for them. Tony and I had breakfast and fellowship with them on occasion but they were missing the regular gathering.

A few weeks ago. I was contacted by a young couple who lives near us, asking if I knew of a simple church near them. I invited them to come visit the church that meets in our home. When their baby’s schedule made that impossible, I had a sudden revelation (duh!)

Let’s get these two couples together and see what happens. Both couples were excited at the idea.

So we did just that, 10 days ago, and the six of us had a great time of fellowship–learning about each other’s lives over brunch in one of their homes.

They were all part of a pool party we had on July 4th at our home. (Because July 4th was a Friday, we had a party instead of our normal church. It was BYOB–bring your own BBQ– and everyone was encouraged to bring others. About a third of those who came were friends and family of those in the church).

It’s too early to be sure yet, but I think we may have just laid the foundation of another simple church. Some of you may be thinking, “Just bringing two Christian couples together is starting a church?” Jesus said, “Where two or three are gathered together in my name, there am I in the midst of them.” It’s the presence of Jesus that makes it “church,” not the size. Now obviously more needs to happen. As they both reach out into their circles of influence, more people will get involved. But is it the basic building block of church? Yes!

July 4th sparklers


Guest post by Bonnie Sloat: Curse or consequence?

Bonnie Sloat often sends me comments on my posts–always insightful and encouraging. So when she sent me some ideas based on the results of the Fall–curse or consequence, which I found very helpful, I asked if she would consider writing a guest post for me on that topic. Here’s what she writes:

As a marriage and family counselor for many years, I was often confronted with the ramifications of the Fall and how it plays out in the lives of men and women.  I am so grateful for the writing of Donald and Robbie Joy, Lovers–Whatever Happened to Eden? which I discovered some years ago.  It gave me a more complete understanding of what I was seeing in my counseling office day after day.

We’re all aware of God’s original design in Genesis 1:26 & 27:  “Then God said, Let us make human beings in our image, to be like us.  They will reign over…. So God created human beings in his own image.  In the image of God he created them; male and female he created them.”

God’s original creation dream was:

  • God created both male and female equal, co-humanity, co-regents
  • Both bear the image of God (the image of God is not mentioned apart from both male and female) and sexuality is a reflection of different aspects of their behavior.
  • Both male and female share equally the God-assigned task of creation rulership without any intimation of role distinctions.

But then we have the Fall when the man and the woman sinned.  What exactly happened when God came to the Garden seeking the man and the woman?

The Serpent is cursed (man and woman were not cursed—only the serpent and the earth).  An adversarial relationship results between the serpent and woman because she actually told the truth:  “The serpent deceived me and that’s why I ate it.”  You only have to look at the plight of women around the world and throughout history to know that Satan hates women.

The Man and the Woman are warned (no curse, only the consequences):

  • The woman will experience increased pain in child bearing (suffering now mars life)
  • The woman will desire to control her husband (seeking the intimacy with a man she was intended to experience with God)
  • The man now has to tame a cursed earth that has a tendency toward chaos and is also tempted to dominate and rule over the woman who was once his co-regent.

In my counseling practice time and time again I would see the effects of the fall as a woman client would compromise her relationship with God to be in a relationship with an ungodly man.  Or a man would rule over or even abuse a woman in an ungodly fashion and often use the Bible to justify his abuse.

The GOOD NEWS is that God’s original Creation Dream has been recovered and put within reach again with the birth, death and resurrection of our Lord and Savior Jesus Christ.  My clients and the couples my husband and I work with in Marriage Coaching now have the opportunity to function as co-regents.  It is beautiful to see men and women experiencing the relationships God intended as they submit to God individually and then mutual submission to each other.

We must not base our theology on the corruption that resulted from the Fall but rather on God’s original design for human beings made in His image.

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My latest book, The Black Swan Effect: A Response to Gender Hierarchy in the Church is now available on Amazon

Bring on the exceptions!

I’m sometimes told that when God uses a woman to lead or to teach, it’s an exception–usually because he cannot find a suitable man. (This gives justification for women on the mission field.) I’ve even had Balaam’s ass cited as an example, as in, if God can use Balaam’s donkey, then he can even use a woman.

So I say, bring on the exceptions!

Bring on Heidi Baker and Anne Graham Lotz, Beth Moore and Joyce Meyer.

Bring on the women in India who start thousands of churches.

Bring on the women in the Middle East who are risking their lives to proclaim the gospel.

Bring on the authors–Rachel Held Evans, Carolyn Custis James, Sarah Bessey and a myriad more.

Bring on the Biblical exceptions–Deborah, Huldah, Esther, Ruth, Mary, Priscilla, Junia and Phoebe.

Lord, let me be an exception too!  Let there be an army of exceptions! (Psalms 68:11 NASB)

army of women

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My latest book, The Black Swan Effect: A Response to Gender Hierarchy in the Church is now available via Amazon

Guest post by theologian, Philip B Payne: Courageous submission

Regular readers of my blog know that there’s a book I quote perhaps more than any other (excepting the Bible itself.) That book is Man and Woman, One in Christ: An Exegetical and Theological Study of Paul’s Letters by Philip B. Payne. It’s a 500+ page, deep theological study of the writings of Paul concerning women, written by a theologian who has been studying the Biblical languages since his youth. I was very grateful, therefore, when a mutual friend put me in touch with Phil. Since then, I’ve been pestering him with questions, to which he has very graciously and patiently responded.

One of the questions that has come up recently several times in the comment section of my blog concerns 1 Peter 3:1-8. It’s one of those passages that, at first sight, appears to insist on women submitting to men unconditionally. I wrote to Phil, asking if he has anything written on these verses. The following comes from a forthcoming (and as yet untitled) book by Philip B. Payne, Vince Huffaker and Tim Krueger. Phil’s portion summarizes the exegetical case in his Man and Woman, One in Christ (Zondervan, 2009).

1 Peter 3:1–8 Courageous Submission to Win over Unbelieving Husbands.

Peter wrote this letter to encourage believers suffering unjustly. In the previous paragraph he writes,

“18 Slaves submit yourselves to your masters with all respect, not only to the good and considerate but also to those who are harsh. 19 For it is commendable if anyone out of consideration for God bears up under the pain of unjust suffering. 20 … if you suffer for doing good and you endure it, this is commendable before God … 21 because Christ suffered for you, leaving you an example….”

“Similarly,” in 1 Peter 3:1 explicitly associates the unjust suffering of submissive slaves to wives: “Similarly, wives, submit yourselves to your own husbands, so that some, even though they do not believe the word, may be won over without words by the behavior of their wives. … 6 let nothing terrify you.”

Peter encourages wives of unbelievers to be courageous like Christ was and to live out the Gospel. It is not a call to weakness but to Christ-like strength in the face of adversity. This no more affirms a hierarchical model of marriage than the parallel previous paragraph affirms slavery.

Peter chose Sarah as an example of courageous submission. Genesis 12:11–20 and 20:2–18 (and the parallel regarding Isaac in Gen 26:7-11) shows that Abraham put Sarah in threatening situations that even the heathen regarded as pernicious. Accordingly, this passage concludes in v. 6, “you are now her children if you do right and let nothing terrify you.”

It is clear that according to both Paul and Peter, women are to submit to their husbands, and that this is praiseworthy. As Paul argued in Ephesians 5, however, God’s desire for Christian marriage is for the wife’s submission in the context of mutual submission between husband and wife. Peter’s following two paragraphs likewise affirm mutual respect and mutual submission between husband and wife.

Peter’s words to husbands in v. 7 challenge them to repudiate the macho model of their culture’s repression of women and disrespectful view of women. He commands, “Husbands, in the same way be considerate of your wives’ physical limitations as you live with them, bestowing honor on them as joint heirs of the gracious gift of life, so that nothing will hinder your prayers.” “Joint heirs” implies the wives’ equal spiritual standing and inheritance with their husbands. That wives are joint heirs contrasts to typical Greek and Jewish customs that gave women smaller inheritances than men. Peter emphasizes how important it is for Christian husbands to bestow honor on their wives as joint heirs of salvation. Not to do so could hinder their prayers.

Peter immediately affirms in 3:8–12, “Finally, all of you, be like-minded, be sympathetic, love one another, be compassionate and humble. … For the eyes of the Lord are on the righteous, and his ears hear their prayer. But the face of the Lord is against those who do evil.” Thus, in order to be “righteous” and not “evil,” husbands must be considerate, like-minded, sympathetic, loving, compassionate and humble toward their wives, bestowing honor on them as joint heirs of the gracious gift of life. This is one of the Bible’s strongest statements of how essential it is for Christian husbands to treat their believing wives with respect as equal in spiritual standing.