Wayne Grudem Replies to a Critic

As I am sure my readers can appreciate, Dr. Grudem is an incredibly busy man. He has given up significant amounts of his time to be interviewed on this blog. So far I have published parts one, two, three, and four.  The interview is summarised in my post Dr Wayne Grudem Interview – Highlights and Reflections.

Given Dr. Grudem’s kindness in joining us, I must confess to being rather disappointed to see the tone of a few of the comments that have appeared here. It feels as if some people are trying to test the limits of my comment policy, which is basically this — critiques of people’s character are off-limits, but not of their teaching. Some of these comments have certainly implied some not-very-nice things about Dr. Grudem.

One of the comments in particular accused Dr. Grudem of having made specific errors in Greek, which I am not qualified to address. As a result, I decided to let him know about that comment. He has graciously asked me if he could make use of my blog in order to reply in detail. He did want me to let you know, however, that sadly he does not anticipate being able to reply to any future comments, nor to engage Suzanne herself further following this post. He was glad of the opportunity to reply publicly on this occasion, however. Maybe I have misinterpreted the tone of Suzanne’s comment, but it struck me as though its goal was to discredit Dr. Grudem’s scholarship credentials.

It is ironic that some people who describe themselves as egalitarian appear — at least to me — to attempt to win arguments by making it sound as if they have superior knowledge to world-class experts, meanwhile simultaneously dismissing the rest of us as not being qualified to comment on theological matters, nor to discern the truth of the Scriptures.

Wayne Grudem’s Reply


In Suzanne McCarthy’s criticism of my book, Evangelical Feminism and Biblical Truth, which she posted on your blog, she is incorrect in the following points:

1. The text in question mentioned in the Burer and Wallace article is not Psalms of Solomon 6:2 (as she says) but 2:6. It says:

“the sons and the daughters in painful captivity, their neck in a seal, in (a place) visible among the Gentiles” (Brenton translation). “Visible” renders the Greek word episemos, which is the word at issue since in Romans 16:7 it is translated “notable” or “well-known.”

(Psalms of Solomon is a Greek work from the 1st century B.C., included in the Apocrypha, but not in the Roman Catholic canon.)

2. Burer and Wallace do not misquote Psalms of Solomon 2:6 in their article which I cite (from New Testament Studies 47 (2001), pp. 86-87). Here is the evidence: interested readers can see the Greek text in Alfred Rahlfs, Septuaginta (Stuttgart: Deutsche Bibelgesellschart, 1979), vol. 2, p. 472. People who have Bible Works software, for example, can find it by first going to Romans 16:7, then clicking on episemoi, then “search lemma” and the examples from the Apocrypha will come up on the list.

3. It is not true that Burer and Wallace “mistook a noun for an adjective.” What McCarthy should have said is that according to the spelling of the word in Psalms of Solomon 2:6, it could be either a dative noun (dative of episemon, “mark, seal”) or a dative adjective (dative of episemos, “conspicuous, visible”) and the translator has to make a judgment on which it is.

In cases like this, it seems to me decidedly unhelpful to a discussion for someone like McCarthy to make absolute pronouncements like, “It is now well-known that Wallace and Burer misquoted Psalm of Solomon in their article. They actually mistook a noun for an adjective. In fact, Dr. Grudem’s entire section on Junia is riddled with factual errors.”

That sounds so confident and assured, but 99 per cent of readers of your blog (I would guess) have no ability to check out the facts in question in this Greek text from literature outside the Bible in order to know that McCarthy’s claim is incorrect.

Burer and Wallace did not misquote, for their quote is exactly what the Greek says. I think McCarthy is implying that they should have included a longer quote, including the preposition en before episemos, but that is a judgment call on how much to include in a quote and not a “misquote.” (The construction is somewhat strange, but en does not decide the question of whether it should be taken as a noun or adjective in any case. For example, Psalms of Solomon 17:30 provides a close parallel where en episemo means “in (a place) visible …”)

Nor does my section on Junia in Evangelical Feminism and Biblical Truth have any “factual errors” known to me (it has been out now for two years). I try to be extremely careful in all my citations of fact in what I publish and it seems to me inappropriate for McCarthy to make an unsupported blanket accusation that my work is “riddled with factual errors.” This is intemperate, polemical language rather than argument, and I consider it a false accusation.

4. Bible Works parses episemos in Psalms of Solomon 2:6 as an adjective, which makes most sense in the context. This gives Burer and Wallace’s meaning, that the Jewish captives were “a spectacle visible among the gentiles.” This argues that McCarthy is wrong to say “they mistook a noun for an adjective.” Did Bible Works also mistake a noun for an adjective?

5. The Brenton English translation of the Septuagint from 1844/1851 (which comes up in Bible Works as LXE) translates as an adjective, saying the Jewish sons and daughters among the captives were “in (a place) visible among the gentiles.” This supports Burer and Wallace’s claim because the place was not a gentile, but it was “visible” or “well-known” to the gentiles. This is very similar to Romans 16:7, where Junia was “well known to the apostles” but was not herself an apostle. This again argues that McCarthy is wrong to say “they mistook a noun for an adjective.” Did Lancelot Brenton also mistake a noun for an adjective? One begins to wonder who has made the mistake.

6. The more recent translation of Psalms of Solomon by R. B. Wright
in J. H. Charlesworth, ed., The Old Testament Pseudepigrapha (London: Darton, Longman, and Todd: 1985), vol. 2, p. 652, translates the passage more freely, but in a way clearly supportive of Burer and Wallace’s view: “The sons and daughters (were) in harsh captivity, their neck in a seal, a spectacle among the gentiles.” Again, the sons and daughters were not gentiles, but were well-known to the gentiles. This also lends support to rendering Romans 16:7 in a similar way, saying that Junia was “well-known to the apostles” (but was not herself an apostle). [He doesn’t translate it as episemon, a noun, “mark, seal,” which would give the sense, “a branding-mark among the gentiles.”]

One translation does take it as a noun — R. H. Charles, Apocrypha and Pseudepigrapha of the Old Testament (Oxford: Clarendon Press, 1913), vol. 2, p. 632: “Sealed (?) (was) their neck, branded (?) (was it) among the nations.” But Charles embeds two question marks and two parenthetical explanatory expressions in this line, indicating he is unsure of the translation, and in the footnote he says, “But another meaning is possible” and gives “in the sight of” as an alternative translation. Thus he also shows that taking the word as the adjective episemos is a legitimate translation, not a “simple grammar mistake” as McCarthy claims.

7. In light of this, it seems to me that the following statement by McCarthy is also ill-considered and incorrect: “It is very painful for me to constantly have to watch people make simple grammar mistakes, as well as not look in the lexicons, as Dr. Grudem admits.”

When she says, “It is painful for me” to “have to watch people make simple grammar mistakes” she implies that she has superior knowledge of Greek, apparently superior to Dallas Seminary professor Dan Wallace, one of the world’s leading Greek grammarians and author of the most widely-used second-year Greek grammar in the world; and superior to the editors of New Testament Studies, the most prestigious scholarly New Testament journal in the world (who accepted Wallace’s article for publication); and superior to Professor C. F. D. Moule of Cambridge (my own Ph.D. supervisor), who is the world-renowned author of An Idiom Book of New Testament Greek (Cambridge Univiversity Press), whose correspondence and agreement Wallace quotes on page 90 of his article; and superior to Septuagint translator, Lancelot Brenton, whose translation of the entire Septuagint has now stayed in print for over 150 years; and superior to the expertise of the Greek parsing team that programmed and corrected Bible Works; and superior to the expertise of R. B. Wright, who was chosen to translate Psalms of Solomon for the now-standard Charlesworth edition of the Greek pseudepigrapha.

Is her knowledge of Greek so great that she can confidently pronounce that all these experts who took episemos as an adjective are making “simple grammar mistakes” in translating Psalms of Solomon 2:6? I don’t think so. There is no grammar mistake here.

8. When she says, “as well as not look in the lexicons, as Dr. Grudem admits,” this seems to me to be another false accusation. I don’t think I have ever admitted to “not looking in the lexicons”! I have no idea what she means here, but it seems designed simply to denigrate my scholarly reputation. My articles are full of citations from relevant lexicons, and, yes, I actually do look at them! (Lexicons are dictionaries of Greek words.)

9. She has misrepresented, by taking out of context, my use of the term “wimps” on page 43 and my statement about men and women becoming unattractive to one another on page 56 of Evangelical Feminism and Biblical Truth. I stand by what I said there, and if any readers look at those statements in context, I think they will find that they are not offensive or inappropriate to what I am saying.

10. From what she has written here, I would not be able to say that Suzanne McCarthy should be considered a reliable source of information for understanding Greek or for quoting other authors (like myself) fairly and with attention to context.

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