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Common English Bible and 1 Timothy 2:11-15

The first thing I do when a new translation arrives is check many of the difficult and doctrinal passages to see how they are translated. I was going through the CEB and checking some of these controversial and difficult texts. One text that caught my eye was 1 Timothy 2:11-15. Notice the CEB’s rendering of this text.

11 A wife should learn quietly with complete submission. 12 I don’t allow a wife to teach or to control her husband. Instead, she should be a quiet listener. 13 Adam was formed first, and then Eve. 14 Adam wasn’t deceived, but rather his wife became the one who stepped over the line because she was completely deceived. 15 But a wife will be brought safely through by giving birth to their children, if they both continue in faith, love, and holiness, together with self-control.

First, I believe the CEB unfortunately changes from “women” to “wife” in these verses. The same Greek word for “woman” or “wife” and the translators must decide which way to translate the text. However, no major translation renders the Greek word gune as “wife” in this paragraph, and with good reason. In verses 8-10 the apostle Paul has described the need for men (not husbands) to pray everywhere by lifting up holy hands. The CEB also translates this as men, not husbands. Paul continues by teaching that women (not wives) should wear modest clothing. The CEB also renders this as women, not wives. In verse 10 Paul teaches that women are wear what is proper for professing godliness. Wives are not the subject, but all women. To suddenly change “women” to “wives” in verses 11-15 is not natural to the reading. There is a footnote that reads, “Or a woman.” This leaves us with a translation that shows Paul teaching that wives cannot teach or have authority over their husbands, but women can teach and have authority over men. The force of the teaching only applies to wives, not to all women.

Second, the CEB uses an idiomatic phrase in verse 14, “But rather his wife became the one who stepped over the line….” Most translations read, “And became a transgressor.” The Greek word parabasis means, “act of deviating from an established boundary or norm” (BDAG). While “stepping over the line” is a fairly appropriate explanation of the word parabasis, it loses the sinful force that Paul intends. To modern ears, “stepping over the line” does not carry much of a negative connotation, if at all. We speak of “crossing the line” as crossing our personal lines of morality and sensibilities. A person “crosses the line” by speaking to us in a way we do not like. I really like that the CEB uses a literal picture of what it means to transgress. However, perhaps a little bit more is needed to show that the stepping over the line is in terms of God’s law. Eve “stepped over God’s line” because she was completely deceived. Because we use “crossing the line” and “stepping over the line” as idiomatic expressions today, I am concerned that some may not understand the sinful force and strong negative connotation intended by Paul.

More to come as I continue examining the CEB.

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