"brothers" or "brothers and sisters"

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DDidaskalia

Puritan Board Freshman
Hello,

One topic that is on my heart for a longer period of time is the use of the term "brothers" (adelphoi) in the epistles of the new testament.

I haven't read a lot regarding this term, but the things I came across seem to favor that the term is used for both male and female believers.

My personal opinion however, is still that it is referring to male believers only, which is not to say that the epistles weren't supposed to be heard and obeyed by women, but rather that the epistle itself has been addressed to the male representatives of the church.

Also, it seems to be proper that men were addressed as the head and representatives of their wives. I can't remember which commentary I read on this, but this direction made sense to me.

What's your opinion on this? This is a big topic to me. I would like to know if you could refer me to any book or article which talks about that. I am aware that I hold the minority view here.
 

NaphtaliPress

Administrator
Staff member
Welcome to the board; please fix your signature so folks know how to address you. See the instructions in the links at the bottom of the page.
 

Taylor

Puritan Board Senior
I think it depends on context. Dr. Dan Wallace has shown several instances of Koiné Greek usage outside the NT where the plural term αδέλφοι most certainly refers to both sexes.

As a preemptive comment—because it’s bound to happen—one thing we have to avoid in conversations like these is to assume that any translation that translates the term as “brothers and sisters” is necessarily caving to some kind of liberal pressure.
 

iainduguid

Puritan Board Sophomore
Hello,

One topic that is on my heart for a longer period of time is the use of the term "brothers" (adelphoi) in the epistles of the new testament.

I haven't read a lot regarding this term, but the things I came across seem to favor that the term is used for both male and female believers.

My personal opinion however, is still that it is referring to male believers only, which is not to say that the epistles weren't supposed to be heard and obeyed by women, but rather that the epistle itself has been addressed to the male representatives of the church.

Also, it seems to be proper that men were addressed as the head and representatives of their wives. I can't remember which commentary I read on this, but this direction made sense to me.

What's your opinion on this? This is a big topic to me. I would like to know if you could refer me to any book or article which talks about that. I am aware that I hold the minority view here.
The Greek term adelphoi can clearly be used to refer mixed audiences inclusively. Acts 11:29 would be a good example: the relief was not just intended for the male believers in Judea but for everyone. Likewise, in Acts 13:26 and 13:38, Paul is addressing a synagogue, which would normally have been a mixed-gender audience. The salvation he is offering is not just being offered to the brothers but to the entire audience. I don't think Paul would have said to a sister who came to him afterward saying "What must I do to be saved?", "Go away. I wasn't talking to you." In other cases, adelphoi clearly has just men in view (e.g. Luke 16:28). In some cases, even in contexts of public speech, it seems likely that it has exclusive force, and it is better to translate it simply as "brothers" - for example, in Acts 15:7, where it seems that Peter is addressing the apostles and elders.

The other thing a translator has to consider is the usage of the target language. How do we typically address a mixed crowd? "Brothers"? or "Brothers and sisters"? This is of course a complex question, since different English speaking contexts may have different patterns of speech. In some contexts, the fact that "Brothers" is an inclusive term may seem obvious, while in other contexts it will automatically be understood as exclusive.

All of which is to say that it is a complex question. If you think Paul, speaking in a synagogue, is only addressing the men present and not the women, that would simplify things greatly: you should always translate "Brothers" (as some translations do). In that case, those women who hear "Brothers" as exclusive would be absolutely right - though, confusingly, many women will wrongly hear "Brothers" as including them! On the other hand, if the usage is sometimes inclusive and sometimes exclusive, using "brothers" and "brothers and sisters" depending on context helps the translator to clarify the intent. Of course, translators don't always get that right either. Did I remember to say translation is really hard?
 

chuckd

Puritan Board Sophomore
I think it's cumbersome. If I'm speaking about a generic person, I'm using the male pronoun. It makes my language clunky to always have to add "or she" or "or her."

I think it should always be translated "he", "him", "brother", etc. and, like Taylor said, let the reader determine by context whether it's speaking about a generic Christian (regardless of gender) or specifically to men only.
 

PaulAB

Puritan Board Freshman
Hi Matthias, Taylor is right concerning Dr. Wallace's observation that profane Koiné Greek might use αδέλφοι like people will say "guys" or "man" when referring to mixed groups. However, in the New Testament Greek, it would appear that it is our relationship to each other in the faith, that has the main emphasis. For example, the brethren addressed in Ephesians (explicitly called so in 6:10, 23) were men, women, and children, judging by the previous chapters. So, by virtue of obtaining the sonship of God through Christ, we are each other's brother, in spite of our physical gender.

The term, Ἄνδρες ἀδελφοί (men and brethren) is also often used in Acts, when addressing men directly (even when women were present) who were Jews, and so brethren in the Covenant of Israel. Again the emphasis is on the Redemptive relationship, not the actual gender.
Just my two cents worth.
 

DDidaskalia

Puritan Board Freshman
Dr. Dan Wallace has shown several instances of Koiné Greek usage outside the NT where the plural term αδέλφοι most certainly refers to both sexes.
I am aware there are instances outside the New Testament where it refers to both sexes. But may I ask you concerning Wallace, where does he talk about that?

The problem I have with just adapting this fact and reading it into the New Testament is the Old Testament background with its male prerogatives and the theological substance of the matter itself. The authors of the New Testament were not just some other Koiné Greek speaking people, but are closely if not entirely connected to the Old Testament and its theology. This is the main reason I am very uncomfortable with adopting that view based on some other instances in Koiné Greek.

The Greek term adelphoi can clearly be used to refer mixed audiences inclusively.
Maybe I got misunderstood, let me try to clarify. Based on your references to acts also.

I don't believe that women are not spoken of, even when the reference is only made to brothers. They are included, but indirectly. God spoke to Eve, but by means of Adam. He didn't talk to her directly, but in the end she had the same responsibility. This is the way God was pleased to speak to mankind, and I believe it to be a divine and unchanging order. I see it in the Old Testament, and to me it would be a big leap to change that in the New - at least for the reasons we were talking about.

Closely related to that would also be the prohibition for women to preach and her showing submission to her husband while praying. It's about the divine order. A theological matter rather than the use of a word in other instances.

Do you understand? It feels like I'm loosing a whole bunch of theology by this. The only problem I have is that there seem to be very few who also hold this view. Are you aware of any?

Thanks for the responses.
 

iainduguid

Puritan Board Sophomore
I am aware there are instances outside the New Testament where it refers to both sexes. But may I ask you concerning Wallace, where does he talk about that?

The problem I have with just adapting this fact and reading it into the New Testament is the Old Testament background with its male prerogatives and the theological substance of the matter itself. The authors of the New Testament were not just some other Koiné Greek speaking people, but are closely if not entirely connected to the Old Testament and its theology. This is the main reason I am very uncomfortable with adopting that view based on some other instances in Koiné Greek.


Maybe I got misunderstood, let me try to clarify. Based on your references to acts also.

I don't believe that women are not spoken of, even when the reference is only made to brothers. They are included, but indirectly. God spoke to Eve, but by means of Adam. He didn't talk to her directly, but in the end she had the same responsibility. This is the way God was pleased to speak to mankind, and I believe it to be a divine and unchanging order. I see it in the Old Testament, and to me it would be a big leap to change that in the New - at least for the reasons we were talking about.

Closely related to that would also be the prohibition for women to preach and her showing submission to her husband while praying. It's about the divine order. A theological matter rather than the use of a word in other instances.

Do you understand? It feels like I'm loosing a whole bunch of theology by this. The only problem I have is that there seem to be very few who also hold this view. Are you aware of any?

Thanks for the responses.
Could you clarify please? God certainly does speak directly to women in the Bible, including Eve (see Gen. 3:13, 16; Judges 12 and other places). And the Acts examples were not God speaking to anyone but a preacher speaking to a mixed congregation. Is it wrong for a preacher to speak directly to the women, and not through their husbands? Peter appears to do just that in 1 Peter 3:1-6, and Paul addresses Euodia and Syntyche in Philippians 4:2. But perhaps I have misunderstood what you are saying.
 

arapahoepark

Puritan Board Post-Graduate
I am aware there are instances outside the New Testament where it refers to both sexes. But may I ask you concerning Wallace, where does he talk about that?

The problem I have with just adapting this fact and reading it into the New Testament is the Old Testament background with its male prerogatives and the theological substance of the matter itself. The authors of the New Testament were not just some other Koiné Greek speaking people, but are closely if not entirely connected to the Old Testament and its theology. This is the main reason I am very uncomfortable with adopting that view based on some other instances in Koiné Greek.


Maybe I got misunderstood, let me try to clarify. Based on your references to acts also.

I don't believe that women are not spoken of, even when the reference is only made to brothers. They are included, but indirectly. God spoke to Eve, but by means of Adam. He didn't talk to her directly, but in the end she had the same responsibility. This is the way God was pleased to speak to mankind, and I believe it to be a divine and unchanging order. I see it in the Old Testament, and to me it would be a big leap to change that in the New - at least for the reasons we were talking about.

Closely related to that would also be the prohibition for women to preach and her showing submission to her husband while praying. It's about the divine order. A theological matter rather than the use of a word in other instances.

Do you understand? It feels like I'm loosing a whole bunch of theology by this. The only problem I have is that there seem to be very few who also hold this view. Are you aware of any?

Thanks for the responses.
I find the notion that women are spoken to by proxy to be rather belabored.
It seems so obvious that its inclusive, as in the case with most well known languages, when using the masculine plural. I am not sure there is any more to the point.
 

Jeri Tanner

Moderator
Staff member
I’m sympathetic to what I think you’re trying to say, Mathias. Paul says to the church in 1 Corinthians 16:13, “Watch ye, stand fast in the faith, quit you like men, be strong.” He doesn’t say “And now a special word to just the men.” It seems right to draw from that that the epistles generally are addressing the men in the church, and sometimes particularly the elders.
 

arapahoepark

Puritan Board Post-Graduate
I’m sympathetic to what I think you’re trying to say, Mathias. Paul says to the church in 1 Corinthians 16:13, “Watch ye, stand fast in the faith, quit you like men, be strong.” He doesn’t say “And now a special word to just the men.” It seems right to draw from that that the epistles generally are addressing the men in the church, and sometimes particularly the elders.
Anthony Thistleton, and others, regard the Greek phrase as being inclusive and in contrast to childish ways, not "men be courageous, ergo women don't be as courageous."
 

DDidaskalia

Puritan Board Freshman
Could you clarify please? God certainly does speak directly to women in the Bible, including Eve (see Gen. 3:13, 16; Judges 12 and other places). And the Acts examples were not God speaking to anyone but a preacher speaking to a mixed congregation. Is it wrong for a preacher to speak directly to the women, and not through their husbands? Peter appears to do just that in 1 Peter 3:1-6, and Paul addresses Euodia and Syntyche in Philippians 4:2. But perhaps I have misunderstood what you are saying.

Yes let me clarify.

It's simply this: The overall and general structure of the Old and New Testament is that God is directly involved with men, and indirectly, but through men, with women. Sure, there were, for example, women prophets here and there, but I am talking about the rule. And this is the main reason why I personally consider adelphois to be translated brothers. It speaks to both, but it nevertheless displays and keeps the divine order when it comes to the word of God.

In this regard I commented on Eden, where we read that God gave Adam the commandment. Which is to say: This rule of God's direct involvement with men didn't start with Moses or his elders or the prophets, but with the very first man. And even before that by creating him first. It is just the way God did it.

And it continues to the New Testament through apostles, elders and teachers.

Now surely, here and there Paul and Peter specifically mention women or sisters in the faith, I was not trying to say that this isn't allowed. But in general, it seems to me, letters are written to the males, to the authorities and heads of the families. That is a natural continuation from the Old Testaments theology.

And again, don't get me wrong, I don't exclude women at all, but it's just a way of showing and honoring the divine order. I try to explain as good as I can, English isn't my first language.

It all makes sense. Because a man and his wife are one flesh, but he nevertheless is the head. When a letter is written to the husband, so it is to his wife.

Edit: A scripture passage came into my mind, the general idea of all of it may be found in these words:

Let your women keep silence in the churches: for it is not permitted unto them to speak; but they are commanded to be under obedience, as also saith the law. And if they will learn any thing, let them ask their husbands at home: for it is a shame for women to speak in the church. (1Cor 14:34-35)


Can someone explain to me how to quote the KJV in the forum?
 
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Jeri Tanner

Moderator
Staff member
Anthony Thistleton, and others, regard the Greek phrase as being inclusive and in contrast to childish ways, not "men be courageous, ergo women don't be as courageous."
From a commentator I trust: Paul is addressing church officers in much of 1 Corinthians. In 16:13 “quit ye like men” contains the Greek word “andros,” which is in the Greek a word of “maleness.”
There is no equivocation here; a strong masculine quality is being set forth.
 

arapahoepark

Puritan Board Post-Graduate
From a commentator I trust: Paul is addressing church officers in much of 1 Corinthians. In 16:13 “quit ye like men” contains the Greek word “andros,” which is in the Greek a word of “maleness.”
There is no equivocation here; a strong masculine quality is being set forth.
Root fallacy.
Not a hill I'd die on but, I do think notions of courage, in the faith, are equally applicable to women, especially per this colloquialism.
 

SolaScriptura

Puritanboard Brimstone
Absolutely the word Adelphoi sometimes refers to men and women together. But I suppose that my own opinion of the translation theory is that since the word literally translates to “brothers“ that that is what the English translation should say and it should be the job of the expositor to explain.
 
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