Gender: Matthew 10:24

Today I preached twice on Matthew 10:24 (and once last week too ;-), and given the recent discussions thought it worth thinking about the gender translation here.

For some of the recent posts that lead to me writing this see 42: Christianity and Gender and other places such as Adrian Warnock’s UK Evangelical Blog: The ESV, the TNIV and gender, reverend mommy’s random thoughts: Here’s a question and connexions � Blog Archive � It’s all about sex.

So onto the text, for a wide range of versions see Passage Lookup: Matthew 10:24.

ESV Bible (ESV).
   24“A disciple is not above his teacher, nor a servant above his master.

King James Version (KJV)
   24The disciple is not above his master, nor the servant above his lord.

Contemporary English Version (CEV)
    24Disciples are not better than their teacher, and slaves are not better than their master.

Todays New International Version (TNIV)
    24Students are not above their teacher, nor servants above their master.

The New Jerusalem Bible (NJB)
    24‘Disciple is not superior to teacher, nor slave to master.

The New Greek English Interlinear New Testament
    24A Disciple is not above the teacher neither [is] a slave above the master of him.

This is one of the verses for which the TNIV is criticised in Translation Inaccuracies in the 2005 TNIV. I am not convinced by this.

Can anyone point me to the Greek genders involved here?

Is the ESV is correct that the student and slave are both male? If they are does it mean that the restriction/advice is only applicable to men? To me that seems unlikely so I find the CEV, TNIV and  NJB more helpful. I find the wording of the TNIV to be the most natural English.

9 thoughts on “Gender: Matthew 10:24

  1. rev mommy

    Shoot, you are going to make me pull out the Greek bible again, and I haven’t had that much greek. Ok, I’ll get it out. If I can find it….. When you own too many books, sometimes it gets hard finding exactly the right one.
    OK, all I can find is my Thayer’s lexicon
    Disciple — greek mathetes after the word manthano meaning to learn. No article to denote gender.
    Master — greek didaskalo from didasko meaning to teach. No article denotes gender.
    Hmm… That really didn’t help, I need the Greek/English dictionary, which I can’t find — to see if it is a primary male or female form, but I don’t remember any gender associated.
    We need a greek scholar.

  2. Richard Hall

    We don’t need a greek scholar on this one. Unless someone wants to argue that only men can be disciples, the gender in the Greek text is irrelevant to its meaning, which is pretty plain. All the translations you give here mean the same thing. The question is, which is most useful? It is pretty clear that the use of the masculine possessive to include both genders is dropping out of modern English. However much some may regret that, the language is changing as it always has.

  3. DaveW

    A few days ago I would have agreed with you instantly. Now I am more careful about saying that. I have found things that other people do believe relate to men only that have surprised me as it is so alien to the culture and tradition I am in.
    My reason for wanting to check the greek is that this text is one of the 910 that The Council on Biblical Manhood and Womanhood (CBMW) specifically say the TNIV translates incorrectly. The membership of CBMW includes Dr. Wayne A. Grudem of the ESV Translation Oversight Committee. Therefore I want to be more sure of the Greek to decide whether I feel that the criticism is valid.

  4. rev mommy

    I tend actually to see both sides of this coin. I have actually had points taken off at my very progressive seminary for not using gender inclusive language — and I posted a dramatic reading that used NIV, not NRSV which uses more gender neutral language and was questioned by another clergywoman for doing so.
    Yet, I know of and have counseled women (and persons of color) who are extremely sensitive to this issue. The household codes are difficult to read, the slavery language and oppressive language in the OT can be difficult for those in a position in society who are not part of the WASP male elite. I was surprised when counseling a woman recently who really challenged me on this — who would not assume that this verse included her.
    If you look at context, Jesus is speaking to his disciples, who were Jewish males. How do we *know* that he is speaking for everyone here? *I* feel that he is, but how do we *know* that he is (using other words of Jesus?) It’s not just a scholarly issue, but a pastoral one when a congregant feels that this language is excluding her (and yes, she is black as well and poor.) Her experiences of God have not been positive vis a vis her expereinces with the white male dominated church. How do I minister to her?

  5. DaveW

    Rev Mommy,
    To me it is vital that the gospel and church is reclaimed for people who have been excluded like this. I’ll try and put some thoughts together between my current assignments. First though is that it seems to me that this is a clear message about the importance of your own calling and ministry and so sharing and walking alongside the excluded and marginalised is part of the role of pastor.
    Earlier today I was reading Sandra M Schneiders “The Revelatory Text: Interpreting the New Testament as Sacred Scripture” in particular chapter 7 a Feminist Interpretation of John 4:1-42. That is superb and might be helpful eg from p196
    “The interpretation of the John 4 passage initiates the reader into a world essentially characterized by an astonishing, even shocking, inclusiveness. Jesus goes to Samaria, the land of the hated “other”, to confront and heal the ancient divisions and to integrate into the New Covenant not those who were merely ignorant of, but those who had been unfaithful to, the Old Covenant. No one is excluded, no one may be excluded, from the universalist reign of the Savior of the world.”
    “The reader cannot fail to be affected by the fact that the recipient of Jesus’ universal invitation to inclusion is a woman, universal representative of the despised and excluded “other” not only in ancient Israel but throughout history and all over the world. Not only is she included, but she is engaged with respect, even asked for a gift (water) that she might recieve a greater gift (living water). Her legitimate inquires, even her objections, are met and responded to with integrity. And even more strikingly, she is made an active participant in the establishment of the universalist reign of the Savior of the world.”
    “The initiation of the reader into the inclusive world of discipleship is further developed by participation in a kind of reverse psychology of exclusion. The scene with the disciples, including both their shock as Jesus’ inclusiveness and Jesus’ discourse on the harvest that exceeds their control, delegitimates any ecclesiastical “buts” that might be raised in defence of exclusion based on ethnicity, morality or gender.”
    There is lots more good stuff in this book. The earlier bits in this study about the identity and role of this Samaritan woman is very powerful (hint she is referred to as a “Christian Disciple-Apostle”).
    Remind her that the gospels clearly report Jesus condemning the Religous leaders of the day for the burdens they put on ordinary people.
    Also of course that Jesus was not a white fundamentalist with his use of the Old Testament where the odd mistake did not worry him eg Mark 2:25-26 Abiathar was not the High Priest and the ESV tries to fudge this due to support the doctrine of inerrancy similarly with Matt 23:35 (ESV blames a copyist which still causes inerrancy issues) or with Mark 1:2 where the quote is not from Isaiah. See James Barr “Escaping from Fundamentalism”.
    Hope this helps. Please tell your congregant that at least one white male christian thinks God is on her side (probably best not to mention that the said while male christian is completely ignorant and crazy ;-)

  6. rev mommy

    She is the first person to proclaim the gospel message with in the work of John.
    I love that book. I have it on the shelf and I wanted to re-read it when it was not part of a class. I think that I will do that….

  7. Roadsweeper

    While coming out of a ten day coma, I saw upon the wall the following ” THERE ARE 34 OF US, 17 HAS BEEN DISCOVERED, I AN NEITHER MASTER NOR SLAVE AND NOW I STAND AT YOUR DOOR”.No one else could see it wrote on the wall and in a way I feld like a fool by keep reading those words on the wall that no one could see but me. suggestion on what those words could mean??


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