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#33 - 1Co 14:33-36 - Authentic words of Paul? What about the Lamsa Bible's insights?
by Robert Nguyen Cramer
This BibleTexts website administrator has very much enjoyed questions and insights that have been emailed to him ever since this site was launched in September of 1996. On this page I share with BibleTexts browsers a few of the questions, insights, and responses, so that we all can further learn from and with each other.
To understand the context of this question, please refer to http://www.bibletexts.com/qa/qa031.htm, for which these questions are follow-ups.
Question/insight #33 (from Questioner #31 in response to comments by another email-forum participant): "Then you see the mock. 'Or are you the only ones it has reached?' (NRSV) I see as asking 'Do you think women are not also reached?' George Lamsa once pointed out in Old Testament Light, regarding the wording of God's apparent agreement with the serpent in Genesis, that Adam and Eve had become as gods, that in that culture, such apparent agreement was a form of satire, and as such, a mock. I see Paul's preceding words as reflecting a similar manner of speaking. Lamsa came from a part of Asia Minor where the language (Aramaic) and culture are close to that of Palistine 2,000 years ago, having changed little since then. His own translation of the Bible is a personal favorite of mine."
BibleTexts Response #33:
REGARDING 1 CORINTHIANS 14:33B-36
The "New Oxford Annotated Bible with the Apocrypha edition of the NRSV (NY: Oxford University Press, 1994, p. 245 NT) has the following footnote regarding 1Co 14:33b-36:
Since 11.5 [1Co 11:5] reports that women had a role in worship at Corinth, some refer "women" here only to those married (see v.35), or distinguish a house church in ch 11 from the total community in Corinth (v.26), or take these culturally conditioned verses as an editorial insertion; see 1 Tim 2:11-12.
Bruce Metzger, who chaired the translation of the NRSV, uses that Oxford edition of the Bible when he lectures and preaches. He is also a contributor to the articles in that edition. He obviously endorses the NRSV translation, which begins the parenthetical 1Co 14:33b-36 paragraph as follows:
(As in all the churches of the saints, women should be silent in the churches..." and it concludes, "...For it is shameful for a woman to speak in church. Or did the word of God originate with you? Or are you the only ones it has reached?)
This is directly corroborated by 1Ti 2:11-12 (NRSV), which states,
Let a woman learn in silence with full submission. I permit no woman to teach or to have authority over a man; she is to keep silent.
This was apparently the practice "in all the churches of the saints" - at about 115 BC(!), when 1 Timothy was most likely written.
From the perspective of the period of about 115 BC, women's more active role in the church in Corinth was contrary to what was being done (at that time) in "all" the other churches -- at least in all the churches that the writer of 1 Timothy considered as truly orthodox, holy churches. Again, as clearly documented by Helmut Koester and others (see http://www.bibletexts.com/terms/women01.htm), neither 1Ti 2:11-12 nor 1Co 14:33b-36 could have been written or signed by Paul, because his indisputably authentic writings clearly document and support the active roles that women played in the churches with which he was involved.
As much as I would like to accept the "mocking" interpretation, I don't believe it can be justified by the text, in the NRSV or in the UBS4 Greek New Testament.
REGARDING THE LAMSA BIBLE
By the way, I don't want to 'rain on your parade' regarding the Lamsa Bible, but Dr. Metzger, in a seminar he conducted at the Foundation for Biblical Research, commented on the Lamsa Bible. I'll preface this by noting that he is a genuinely gentle and mild-mannered individual, but when he addressed the issue of the Lamsa Bible, he spoke with unequivocally - and, for him, uncharacteristically -- strong words.
As transcribed (with the Foundation's permission) from an audio recording of the seminar, Dr. Metzger's words were: "George Lamsa,...in the 1940s persuaded a reputable publisher of the Bible in Philadelphia, the Winston Publishing Company, to issue his absolute fraud, of 'the Bible translated from the original Aramaic.' Absolutely a money getter, and nothing else." (For more of Dr. Metzger's remarks on Lamsa's works and on the value of Aramaic resources, you can browse http://www.bibletexts.com/qa/qa023.htm.)
Some years ago I had already questioned the value of the Lamsa Bible, when I observed that many of the same errors that appeared in the Textus Receptus were also in Lamsa Bible. These were errors that first appeared, anywhere in the world, in the 16th century, which is when Erasmus haphazardly prepared his first edition of what later become the Textus Receptus. It seems almost as if Lamsa began by translating the Textus Receptus (or the KJV?) into Aramaic and then translated his Aramaic translation back out to modern English.
Later when I heard Dr. Metzger's remarks, his comments really made sense. They were especially believable, since Metzger is arguably the world's foremost scholar on the subject of New Testament manuscripts and the Greek New Testament. And Metzger was already a recognized biblical scholar when Lamsa first published his Bible in the 1940s, so Metzger is speaking here on first-hand knowledge of the events of that time. What appears to be a lack of forthrightness in the representation of the Lamsa Bible unfortunately casts a shadow on his other works. (For more info on the history of the Textus Receptus - and references to some of Metzger's and others' works on the subject, you can browse: http://www.bibletexts.com/kjv-tr.htm and http://www.bibletexts.com/qa/qa021.htm.)
The above info on the Lamsa Bible is really only a relatively insignificant footnote. Your considerable contributions to the Ordination of Women dialog are yours, to the glory of God, with or without Lamsa's works.
Copyright 1996-2002 Robert Nguyen Cramer