In the fourth chapter of Ephesians, in the 13th verse, the English Standard Version has that we are all to "attain ... to mature manhood, ..."

I already raise my eyebrows at that word "manhood," especially when I read it in a purportedly modern translation of the New Testament. First, the word is incredibly sexist in modern interpretation: here the translators apparently expect the bride of Christ to aspire "to mature manhood." That is no good, and second, that word "manhood" is scarcely used much anymore at all outside of trashy bodice-ripper romance novels, where it has another obvious meaning that does not belong in this particular place in the Bible, nor is the matter helped by the occurrence of the word "fullness" later on in the same verse.

We get more context in the 14th verse: "so that we may no longer be children, ..." but at this point it is too late to improve my mood or help me ascribe any innocence to the translators. So let us continue on to the 15th verse, "... in love ... to grow up in every way ..."

"Up," is it? Well, that "manhood" just keeps right on growing in this particular version of the Bible. We may as well just say "erect," and at this point I am more than ready to throw the entire ESV bible into King Nebuchadnezzar's furnace.

But wait, there's more in the 16th verse. "... the whole body ... makes the body grow so that it builds itself up in love." Excuse me, Mr. Translator, but first, there is one too many "body" in that verse, second, you have translated the elegant and learned language of Paul into baby talk, and third, when your "manhood" "builds itself up," that is lust, which has nothing at all to do with Christian love, especially when it is directed at children.

In conclusion, the English Standard Version of the Bible is well worthy of King Nebuchadnezzar's furnace, and I am well justified in calling it the Child Molester's Bible.

Is there any comment or defense for this?

  • 2
    It would be fairly straightforward to work from the Greek here to address your concerns, but as phrased this is not quite a real question and is, in any case, unnecessarily inflammatory.
    – Susan
    Sep 15 '16 at 14:08
  • I do agree with this post, and also agree with Susan, who rightly pointed out that that the post was a tad too inflammatory. I myself had a slight hesitation at the word "manhood," but my Bible has a footnote on the word, saying that the Greek word that this was translated from reads as "a full-grown man." So I think, that if all versions have this footnote, then there is no problem at all. I use MacAuthur's ESV Bible.
    – user16743
    Sep 15 '16 at 15:57
  • I agree with @Susan; it is quite clear from the context that neither the translator nor Paul were talking about penises, so any interpretation of the word in that way is projected upon the text by the reader. Reading the text with understanding of how parallelism works in prose leads the reader to understand the connotation to mean 'full maturity' - not just in corporeal age, but spiritual maturity as well. Sep 16 '16 at 2:08
  • "...the translators apparently expect the bride of Christ to aspire to mature manhood." -- No, the author expects the body of Christ to become a finished man, as v12 clearly establishes.
    – fumanchu
    Sep 16 '16 at 14:15
  • This particular terminology has been standard in English for hundreds of years. I would also suggest the vast majority of churches who use this translation are more than comfortable with following what has been standard in English for hundreds of years. It is true that a segment of people are against this language, and for those people, they are free to choose an alternate translation.
    – Jay
    Nov 19 '16 at 3:13

Your question needs to be rewritten, it is unnecessarily aggressive, regardless I will put forward a defense.

The translator vs the preacher?

Whose job is it to bring out this particular meaning, the translator or the preacher? Because languages are not 1:1 with other languages. A word in greek has a gloss with a range (semantic range) of meanings. The word ἄνδρα is in the accusative, singular, masculine. It is typically glossed as man, male or husband. Now whilst it could be glossed in some circumstances as person that does not mean that ἄνδρα and person are the same word.

The term can be an ancient way of referring to the collective group of both men and women:

It is not uncommon in languages for a term which is often used to refer to an adult male to be employed also in a generic sense of ‘person.’ This is especially true when such terms are used in the plural form [...] One must, however, be on the alert for seemingly generic terms which refer only to the so-called ‘in- group,

Louw, J. P., & Nida, E. A. (1996). Greek-English lexicon of the New Testament: based on semantic domains (electronic ed. of the 2nd edition., Vol. 1, p. 103). New York: United Bible Societies.

But here the word is in the singular, which means there is less precedent for universality. It can still be the case but the translators need to be more careful. So the translators have to make a decision. What best conveys the meaning Paul was trying to get across whilst still remaining faithful to original text?

Because as I read it Paul could be conveying his message in 2 different ways:

  1. Manhood has 1:1 equivalence with Person hood and therefore "a mature person" is an acceptable translation.
  2. OR, Paul is presenting it as an image in order that the reader calls to mind the idea of a fully grown man by way of illustration. In which case person hood is not the best translation.

So the ESV writers (who are closer to the literal side of the spectrum in regards to translation) could simply be choosing an English translation for the word that they feel best fits the range of possible meanings in the text. If they translated it according to option 1 but it really means option 2 then the reader could not arrive at option 2. So they translated it as manhood and it's then the job of the preacher or the student to bring out the nuance of the translation after reading commentaries.

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