Whilst I checked for the origin of the Bible, I also checked online to see what had been written by other christians on the subject of Gender Equality. I read many, many articles, journals, and academic essays written by theologians etc. I saw that this conversation had been ongoing in Christian circles—the academia, that is—for years. I also noticed that in all these articles and essays, the arguments for or against Egalitarianism took reference, not from the vernacular versions of the Bible which most christians carry around (i.e English, French, Spanish etc), but from the Biblical text in the original languages.
I saw that when scholars argued about the correct interpretations of scriptures, they did not focus on the interpretation/revelation of some English word. Instead they talked about how the original text may (or may not) have been properly translated. Things like, is the translation of the Hebrew phrase ʻê-zer kə-neḡ-dōw’ to the English phrase ‘help meet’ accurate? Is the translation of the Greek word ‘ecclesia’ to the English word ‘church’ accurate? Should ‘ecclesia’ have been left as ‘gathering’?
I also noticed that in other to translate a word or sentence, scholars did not just look up the meaning of one isolated word as we Pentecostal christians/pastors are wont to do when ‘referencing’ the Greek or Hebrew. They do not do that thing that Pentecostals are known for, whereby all the use they have for Biblical languages is to throw around some Greek or Hebrew words in random conversations as show off of so called spirituality or superior Bible knowledge. Instead, in employing original languages in Bible study, scholars would check such things as the tense, the mood, the voice, the context of usage…before determining the possible meaning of the word.
Why do they want to know if one translation is accurate or not? Because it is these translations that churches eventually build doctrine upon.
For example, the English translation of the Hebrew phrase ‘ê-zer kə-neḡ-dōw’ to ‘help meet’ has a lot of connotations that has impacted upon the way generations of people have lived life. Religion has formed the culture of most, if not all, the nations of the world; what proceeds from the pulpit often translates to what obtains in culture and society. Therefore, if peradventure, the guys who translated the original copies of the Biblical text to vernacular made any mistakes, we would all have believed a lie.
Theologians understand that even though the Bible is a divine book, humans have handled it from when it was first written and there is likelihood that some mistakes occurred in its transmission. That is, they see it that the Hebrew and Greek texts are, in actual fact, what is written, while the translated versions are not, a hundred percent, what is written. Maybe ninety-nine percent correct, but the remaining one percent might cause us untold damage if not looked into.
The underlying principle in all this is simple. A serious student must always confirm. That is what the Berean Christians did, they always confirmed. It is not rebellion to confirm; it’s nobility, it’s diligence. That is why, every other year, revised versions of the Bible are published.
I thought to myself, so this has been happening since?
I immediately went to Google Play store and downloaded the Hebrew/Greek Interlinear Bible app. I wanted to look up some words myself. I began by checking 1 Corinthians 11. I noticed that where two different Greek words with two different connotations were in use in the original text, the translators put in the translated English version just one word that has only one connotation. In the Greek text, 1 Corinthians 11 contains two different words–aner and andros– which both denote ‘man’, but have two different connotations. That is, ‘aner’ usually connotes man as in a male, while andros is often used as a collective noun to mean a group of people that consist both male and female. But in the English Bible, translators put ‘man’, as in male, in both places and that gives the passage a very different meaning from what the original writer (Paul) actually wrote.
I checked some other scriptures; same thing.
I began to wonder what I had been doing all this while as a Bible teacher reading only the English Bible, thinking myself to to be someone who was knowledgeable. I started to panic, thinking, “what if many of the words I had built revelation on had been wrong?” I began to see the futility of many so-called revelations that Pentecostals derive from mis/translated words.
And then I thought, “But when I taught, people were getting blessed? How could an erroneous teaching have been blessing people?”
Answer; “Yes, people were being blessed. There is an explanation for that.”
One; Not everything in the English Bible is inaccurate translation. For the most part the vernacular Bibles are accurate in the readings.
Two; When the preacher/teacher is sincere, even though ignorant and unskilled, the hearers will be blessed. Apollos was blessing people, even though his theology was not quite accurate. That is the power of love.
Sincerity and zeal can only take you so far without the required knowledge. There is a limit to which love, without adequate skill and knowledge, can go in solving problems. For example, no matter how well meaning I am and no matter the level of my concern, I cannot perform a surgery on a sick person. Only a doctor can do that. I do not have that knowledge. That is why Paul could understand more of the Law and articulate it as the New Testament in his epistles. He could write more epistles than the others because he understood more of the mysteries hidden in the Law. Peter and the other disciples could not do this, even though they were anointed and sincere. They were illiterate men, Paul was educated.
Something vital that Pentecostal christians need to understand–particularly those of the grace and word of faith movement– is that knowledge is good, and intellectualism is priceless. Why? God is an intelligent being. Intellectualism does not impede divine revelation; it facilitates it. Yes, it does! When you engage both your mind and your spirit in the enquiry of knowledge, it opens you up to a whole new level of communication with your world and with the Lord. That is why Apollos needed to be taught more by Aquilla and Priscilla. And thank God he re-calibrated. Thank God, he did not say because he was already blessing people it also meant that his teaching was completely right. Notice that in later years, his name was mentioned alongside Paul’s.
Humility is good. To unlearn and relearn is good.
So, having seen all that, I put aside everything I had known and started over. I got resources online and started to learn Hebrew and Greek Grammar, how to parse (words and sentences) and then translate from the Hebrew and the Greek to English. I also learnt new guidelines on how to study the Bible. I learnt how to deconstruct a text; split it into all its elements and see all the possible ways it could be understood.
Then finally, in the light of what prompted this reawakening to begin with (the quest to dis/prove Gender Equality from scriptures), starting from Genesis and working my way all through the Law, the Prophets and the Epistles, I re-translated all the readings (not isolated verses, but whole chapters) that reference the status of the female, and I deconstructed all of them, searching for answers.
It took me about two years, but I did it. You also can…as I share my journey with you.
Art by Lain