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The Source

September 17, 2011

The Source New Testament by Ann Nyland was originally a popular translation among evangelicals. However, when it was republished as the Study New Testament for Gay, Lesbian, Bi, and Transgender, many evanglicals rejected it. My understanding is that this is the same translation with additional notes.

There have been some questions on this blog about how The Source came by its name. Kurk commented,

(I only have her GLBT Study NT but always just assumed her “Source” NT referred to the fact that she was taking readers back to the Greek sources for the NT Greek.)

In fact, I remember distinctly when The Source was first published. It caused a definite buzz among some of us evangelical women as a translation which contained this verse,

Now I want you to know that the source of every man is the Annointed One, and the source of the woman is man, and the source of the Annointed One is God.TSNT

Instead of this verse,

But I would have you know, that the head of every man is Christ; and the head of woman is the man; and the head of Christ is God.KJV

Or this verse,

But I want you to understand that Christ is supreme over every man, the husband is supreme over his wife, and God is supreme over Christ. GNB

For some women, for many women around the world, this has been, and still is, an unspeakable cruelty. The alternative translation, that the Greek kephale meant “source” instead of “head” was put forward as a way for some to read the passages in the epistles regarding women without having to live with male supremacy. Catherine Clark Kroeger was also instrumental in promoting this understanding of kephale.

The facts offer this translation some support. Kephale was not usually used to designate a leader in either classical or Hellenistic Greek. In fact, kephale was a term used for a small raiding party and was never used for a Greek general or head of state. In the Septuagint, where a tribal leader was always called rosh (head in Hebrew), the Greek did not translate this as kephale, but rather used one of the usual words for leader in Greek. There is one exception to this, and that is in the references to Jephthah. So kephale as leader has poor support in Greek. Kephale as “source” has some support, but it is not extensive.

I have over the years subscribed to a few different interpretations for 1 Cor. 11:3. The most obvious is that kephale refers to organic unity, that Christ shares his nature with man, man with woman and God with Christ. Or to rephrase it, man shares in Christ’s nature, woman in man’s and Christ in the divine nature. An alternate interpretation is that this refers to the fact that while a woman gives birth and is the obvious parent, the father also is the parent, and his role as “source” must be respected and honoured. A third interpretation is that a man provides for his family – he is the “source”, while the woman gives birth and nurtures the children.

However, I have since come to feel that it is better not to accord this passage undue importance. In the gospels, Christ does not put such emphasis on the marriage relationship, or on differented roles between men and women in marriage. In the gospels, men leave their homes and families to follow Christ, and women provide for the disciples. In the New Testament, the most frequently referred to relationship between men and women was that of a sibling relationship. In Christ, we are brothers and sisters, friends and coworkers. This is our primary relationship in the kingdom of God.

Here are Ann Nyland’s notes on using “source” instead of “head” in 1 Cor. 11.

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12 Comments leave one →
  1. September 17, 2011 9:50 am

    Thanks for clarifying, Suzanne! (In her GLBT, Nyland makes statements like, “The word does not appear in any Greek literary source until the poets of the Imperial period.”)

    The confusion over kephale in Greek as a multiple meaning word and a Pauline pun reminds me of something.

    Learners of Indonesian language have confused “rambut kapala” (“head of hair” or “hair on the head”) with “rumput kalapa” (“grass on the coconut” sometimes to refer to the hairy sinew around the coconut). This creates chuckles for the teachers and anyone else who hears the students making the mistakes.

  2. September 17, 2011 11:44 am

    You raise questions for me about meaning vs usage – as always. I feel powerless over meaning, a word which seems to me to be something a reader takes from the text. In some ways I would prefer not to impose it as a writer. The imposition I allow myself is to promote structural awareness. It seems that here Paul is teaching based on the Genesis myth again, and drawing a lesson similar to the play on teshuva and teshuqa. How can one get this into the translation? One has to invent words and plays on words that reach as far back as Corinthians does to Genesis.

    Yesterday I was seeing that I had rendered ylk as go or come a few times, but ‘go’ and ‘come’ are glosses I reserved for ‘b)’ – so I played with using ‘walk’ with bunches of prepositions – walk away, walk over, walk about, walk with, walk etc. ylk and hlk are very close in the Hebrew – so I already have a pair of stems that intersect too closely to be distinguished in English, but they are not unimportant in spite of their very wide usage. After all, they give rise to the word halakah which covers the waterfront in terms of importance and ties walk to faith to Torah and to our engagement with the Most High. In other words, a very small thing like go/come vs walk or the head/source discussions and the myth of Genesis has a very large impact in the way people take (=wrench) a meaning from the text that suits their purposes. Some ‘walk’!

    My own translation is getting weirder and weirder as I impose my rule – but it may provide a means to an end – the thing I really think unconsciously I want to impose on the text – my own will to power. But unfortunately or fortunately, I can’t express that in so many words :). I think the one who expressed it gave his life for the love that he expressed.

    Be blessed in your expression and may your readers take a blessing from your work, as indeed I have as one of them.

  3. September 18, 2011 8:23 am

    Bob,
    Is it too weird to translate Paul as saying,

    I wish, nonetheless, for you all to see
    that each man is due to a heading out from the anointed messiah;
    the heading out for a woman, nevertheless, is the man;
    And yet the heading out for Messiah is God.

    Well forgive me for a sloppy and contrived attempt. That just came off the top of my head. Ha!

  4. September 18, 2011 11:34 am

    Heading out? – a bit awkward perhaps, but I get where you’re going. I am not sure however, where Paul is coming from under this heading. Is ‘source’ ‘head’ distant or present to him? Must be present and ongoing. So ‘due to’ in your quick thought above implies a distancing. What does one do to the ‘but’ and the ‘and’ in this passage? – the choices are leading to a particular emphasis. How does the section relate to what has gone before – follow me as I follow Christ?

    I have tried to stay away from the difficulties of this controversy. The other day, a woman of my acquaintance forbade me from talking to a man I relate to in the garden. I realized that the woman was our spokesperson, but I was furious at being told I had agreed to silence in the presence of the gardener. Impossible that I should agree to such – and impossible that any woman should agree to silence in the Presence of the Gardener except that the whole earth is to be silent – struck to it – in such a presence.

  5. September 18, 2011 11:35 am

    I keep forgetting to click the email notification – extra comment to so this.

  6. September 19, 2011 1:48 pm

    How different is The Source and the GLBT Study Bible? My impression was that the difference was minimal.

  7. Suzanne McCarthy permalink*
    September 20, 2011 10:15 am

    The GLTB Study Bible is the same translation as The Source, also called the TSNT (The Source New Testament.) Only the notes are different, and perhaps only a very little difference. It seems to be more a marketing difference.

  8. September 20, 2011 12:41 pm

    That is my question — are the notes different at all? I don’t have the GLTB Study Bible so I can’t check, but I seem to recall spot checking the notes and not finding any differences. I just spot checked, so there may be differences I didn’t find.

  9. September 20, 2011 6:06 pm

    I don’t know. I only have the GLTB.

  10. Gentleman Ranker permalink
    March 27, 2013 11:02 am

    Sorry to resurrect an old thread, but the information may be useful for someone who runs across this in a search (as I did).

    While looking at information about The Source before I ordered it, I noticed that it is said to have 522 pages, and be 9×6″ in size. The LGBT Study Bible is also said to be (essentially) 9×6″ in size, but to have only 422 pages. Being only one number off one might suspect a typo, but using the Look Inside! feature, the table of contents for each book confirms the respective page counts. In addition, the LGTB version costs USD 10 less.

    I don’t know this with any certainty, but It seems reasonable to infer that the LGBT version has more limited notes.

  11. Gentleman Ranker permalink
    March 27, 2013 11:12 am

    Sorry to double post, but I just noticed … if you use the Look Inside! feature for the two versions, you can see that the notes shown for the first verses of Matthew are different, with The Source having more notes. The Introduction to the LGBT version is also, not surprisingly, more topical to that version. I will leave further research to those interested.

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