Acting Like Men in 1 Cor. 16:13

Recently I saw a tweet that put forth 1 Corinthians 16:13 as a text defining manliness. In the NIV Paul’s words read, “Be on your guard; stand firm in the faith; be courageous; be strong.” In the ESV, which the tweet quoted from, reads, “Be watchful, stand firm in the faith, act like men, be strong.”

Given the previous tweet this person put forth, I am assuming that this is at an event talking about manhood hosted by FCA, the Fellowship of Christian Athletes. And, of course, the reading “act like men” from the ESV stood out to me like a sore thumb.

So I did some digging into the text to find out if the ESV is getting it right in their translation. Did Paul really tell the Corinthian church to “act like men”?

The Greek behind the translation is ἀνδρίζω (andrizō). A little digging showed that the term means “to make a man of.” Paul’s specific use in his sentence would make the meaning more like “play the man” or “come to manhood.” Hence the ESV seems to be getting it right.

But when I checked other translations, only the HCSB, the KJV, and the NASB seemed to follow this. All the other translations I checked didn’t make any reference to “acting like men.” Rather they followed the NIV and translated the term as “be courageous.”

This got me curious as to why the NIV and other translations (including complementarian favorites like the NKJV and the RSV) were rendering ἀνδρίζω as a reference to courage or bravery. So I did more digging.

Author’s from Paul’s era are translated as a reference to being a man. But this doesn’t explain where so many translations are coming from. So I looked into the Old Testament and its Greek counterpart, the Septuagint (LXX). This came up with something shocking.

When the Hebrew scriptures were translated into Greek, ἀνδρίζω was almost always used to translate the Hebrew term that means “to be alert.” In the form that it takes most often in the Hebrew, it is a reference to being courageous. In fact, this Hebrew term is part of an idiom common in the Old Testament, “Be strong and courageous!” Thus ἀνδρίζω would have more likely been a reference to courage for Paul than to manliness.

So is the ESV right to render the text “act like men”? Ot is the NIV correct in rendering the text “be courageous”?

Read the whole sentence that makes up 1 Corinthians 16:13. The commands to be watchful/on guard, stand firm, and be strong are not contingent upon being addressed only to the men in the church so as to say this is what men do, the commands of 1 Corinthians 16:13. This sentence is as much a directive to women as it is to men. Both genders are the audience.

Furthermore, one can see that ἀνδρίζω, “be courageous” or “act like men,” is paired with “be strong.” In fact the verb that Paul uses and that both the NIV and ESV render as “be strong” (κραταιόω, krataioō) is the same Greek verb in 2 Samuel 10:12 (LXX) that pairs κραταιόω with ἀνδρίζω to say “Be strong, and let us fight bravely…” Hence this pair participates in that “Be strong an courageous” idiom—although the vocabulary for “strong” isn’t limited to κραταιόω.

I think that the ESV does get this wrong. And I think it does so in part because it is too tightly tied to the KJV tradition of translation. But also partly because the ESV is a text that lends itself to a complementarian theology, in other words it translates the Bible in a way that promotes complementarianism—which is fine as long as the ESV is honest about it.

The NIV is a much more preferred translation because there’s no reason contextually in 1 Corinthians 16 to make ἀνδρίζω read as “act like men,” even though it is within the range of meanings for the Greek verb. Also, the LXX doesn’t use the verb to refer to manliness but to courage. And more specifically, when paired with κραταιόω, ἀνδρίζω is part of a Hebrew idiom that talks about being strong and brave and courageous and valiant in the face of adversity.

Paul wants everyone, not just the men, in Corinth to “be alert, stand firm, be courageous, be strong.”

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~ by hankimler on February 20, 2014.

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