The verse that seems to have sparked this entire discussion over at Better Bibles Blog is 2 Peter 1:21. They quote three versions: There is no doubt that there has been no debate in the English language until relatively recently that our word “ 1 Timothy 2:5: “For there is one God, and there is one mediator between God and men, the man Christ Jesus.” The TNIV has “For there is one God and one mediator between God and human beings, Christ Jesus, himself human.”
All these arguments about how to correctly render specific Greek words in English leaves us in danger of missing what is the main point about this issue. The controversies about these words in modern English translations often fail to discuss a far more fundamental point – especially when it comes to the translation philosophy of the ESV. That point is the desire to have a Bible that is essentially literal, and as much as possible, transparent to the original language.
But notice the terrible laxness with the actual WORDS of the text that the TNIV shows in the rest of this verse. This is immediately apparent when you look at the reverse interlinear of the ESV version. The text itself does not say “prophecy never had its origin” — it says “no prophecy was ever produced.” The text does not say “prophets though human spoke from God” — instead it says “men (or if you prefer, people!) spoke from God.” The word “prophet” is nowhere to be found in the Scriptures here. How can there be any justification for such an addition to the word of God?
Again, this is not at all accurate word-for-word with what the text says. The Greek doesn’t say “himself human” — instead it introduces Jesus as a man.
Now, to ensure clarity for readers, here the ESV has a clear footnote that acknowledges this is a word which is often translated “person.” I think, however (and this is perhaps the preacher in me), that a wording that removes the repetition of “men” and “man” is going to lose the impact of the original — so, for example, “one mediator between God and people, the man Jesus” just doesn’t sound right.
It is also just not proper English to refer to a single human being of known gender as a person or a human! We would never say “himself a human”! We would say “the man” when we knew who we were talking about.
A quick bit of Google research showed something quite interesting about the concept behind this verse — the following phrases receive the following number of hits in web pages indexed at Google:
My nine year old might not be able to understand all of the argumentation in this post, but one evening I quoted the ESV version of 1 Timothy 2:5 to her, and she immediately knew that it was Jesus to whom the verse referred (even though she had never heard the word “mediator” before). She also realized very quickly that men here could have an inclusive meaning — as she explained, “It is wo-MAN after all, Dad!”. In fact, the use of “man” at the end of human shows how ludicrous all this is — maybe one day we will be told to speak of hu-people instead!
Why do we have to be politically correct and silly about this issue? Why not, as the ESV has done, where possible and appropriate, translate anthropos as people, but where this seems problematic, explain to our congregations that sometimes when the Bible says “men” it really means “men and women”?
The verse that seems to have sparked this entire discussion over at Better Bibles Blog is 2 Peter 1:21. They quote three versions:
There is no doubt that there has been no debate in the English language until relatively recently that our word “man” can share that same ambiguity that we have argued both aner and anthropos have — even when accompanied by the word “he.” In fact, I believe it is premature to sound the death knell for such usage in English, although I will concede that it is becoming archaic in some contexts. Interestingly, the singular “man” is perhaps better preserved than the use of “men” as being generic, something which came out when I looked at yet another verse causing angst over at the Better Bibles Blog:
1 Timothy 2:5: “For there is one God, and there is one mediator between God and men, the man Christ Jesus.”
The TNIV has “For there is one God and one mediator between God and human beings, Christ Jesus, himself human.”