PDA

View Full Version : The castration text



Olddad
Oct 4th 2008, 12:15 PM
There is one text in the New Testament which has caused a lot of mischief. Here is what Tyndale made of it in his 1534 translation:


Then said his disciples to him: if the matter be so between man and wife, then it is not good to marry? He said unto them: all men cannot away with that saying save they to whom it is given. There are chaste, which were so born out of their mother's belly. And there are chaste, which be made of men. And there be chaste, which have made themselves chaste for the kingdom of heaven's sake. He that can take it, let him take it.

The Douay Version translated the same passage literally, resulting in this:


...All men take not this word, but they to whom it is given...and there are eunuchs who have made themselves eunuchs for the kingdom of heaven. He that can take, let him take it.

This was accompanied by a note that said: "This text is not to be taken in the literal sense..."

A Bible commentary says: "Misunderstanding of these words in a literal sense in an age of asceticism has brought about tragedies in Christian history from time to time." (The New Bible Commentary, InterVarsity Fellowship, London, 1959.)

Wisely, modern translations tone down this text or, like Tyndale, change it. The Good News Bible transforms this text:


Jesus answered, "This teaching does not apply to everyone, but only to those to whom God has given it. For there are different reasons why men cannot marry: some, because they were born that way; others, because men made them that way; and others do not marry for the sake of the Kingdom of heaven. Let him who can accept this teaching do so."

The New Century Version does a similar job on this statement.

My question is this: if this passage in Matthew 19 has led to such mischief that even Bible translators feel compelled to transform it into harmlessness, how can this be squared with a belief that every word of the Bible is inspired by God?

mcgyver
Oct 4th 2008, 03:01 PM
There is one text in the New Testament which has caused a lot of mischief. Here is what Tyndale made of it in his 1534 translation:
Then said his disciples to him: if the matter be so between man and wife, then it is not good to marry? He said unto them: all men cannot away with that saying save they to whom it is given. There are chaste, which were so born out of their mother's belly. And there are chaste, which be made of men. And there be chaste, which have made themselves chaste for the kingdom of heaven's sake. He that can take it, let him take it.The Douay Version translated the same passage literally, resulting in this:
...All men take not this word, but they to whom it is given...and there are eunuchs who have made themselves eunuchs for the kingdom of heaven. He that can take, let him take it.This was accompanied by a note that said: "This text is not to be taken in the literal sense..."

A Bible commentary says: "Misunderstanding of these words in a literal sense in an age of asceticism has brought about tragedies in Christian history from time to time." (The New Bible Commentary, InterVarsity Fellowship, London, 1959.)

Wisely, modern translations tone down this text or, like Tyndale, change it. The Good News Bible transforms this text:
Jesus answered, "This teaching does not apply to everyone, but only to those to whom God has given it. For there are different reasons why men cannot marry: some, because they were born that way; others, because men made them that way; and others do not marry for the sake of the Kingdom of heaven. Let him who can accept this teaching do so."The New Century Version does a similar job on this statement.

My question is this: if this passage in Matthew 19 has led to such mischief that even Bible translators feel compelled to transform it into harmlessness, how can this be squared with a belief that every word of the Bible is inspired by God?

Actually, there is no conflict or contradiction here at all....

Look up the various meanings of the word "chaste" in Elizabethan English, and I think you'll find this so.

There are two underlying Greek words translated (rightly BTW) as "Eunuch" in this passage.



Eunouchizo: Lit: [to make] a eunuch. i.e. castrate...Fig: to live unmarried.
Eunouchos: Lit: Eunuch...Syn: Castrated, Impotent, or unmarried.


The best commentary is found in 1 Corinthians chapter 7 (the whole thing) where Paul writes that he wished that all men were as he was (celibate) as an unmarried man seeks to please the Lord, whereas a married man seeks to please his wife. Yet he understands that not all men are called to be celibate.

Thus Matthew 19: There are those who are born eunuchs or impotent, there are those who are made eunuchs by men (castration), and there are those who choose to be eunuchs (celibate by choice) to honor God in their calling.

Its not that the translators were looking to be "harmless", it is simply a matter of having a better understanding of the Greek texts and synonyms or figurative usage as scholarship in this area has advanced.

Hope this answers your question. :)

RoadWarrior
Oct 4th 2008, 05:00 PM
1 Corinthians 2:14 (http://www.biblegateway.com/passage/?book_id=53&chapter=2&verse=14&version=50&context=verse)
But the natural man does not receive the things of the Spirit of God, for they are foolishness to him; nor can he know them, because they are spiritually discerned.

When translators and interpreters try to make the Bible understandable to the masses, they run into things like the question you have posted. It is an attempt to communicate spiritual things to natural men.

Augustine was an amazingly intelligent man, and he struggled for years to gain insights into God and the soul of man. What he wrote has powerfully affected western society's view of things spiritual, and especially that of the Roman Catholic Church. Yet much of what he discerned and tried to communicate has been taken out of context and narrowly interpreted according to the agenda of those who took his words as more important than the Bible itself.

The problem is stated in the verse I quoted above. We can only go so far with intellect. We can only communicate so much with intellect and rhetoric. We can only derive so much from philosophy and doctrines.

In the end, it is those moments when we transcend the earthly and catch a glimpse of the heavenly, that we are transformed. For Augustine, it came when he learned from the Platonists to look inward instead of trying to see God far away. Then while he was looking inward, he also looked up. In that instant he was given a gift of seeing the Light. Forever afterward, his seeking was with faith that God was real. It was a gift to Augustine ... maybe no one else has ever had just that same experience. But to each of us who receives an encounter from God, we are changed by it.

Some people are born without an interest in things sexual. Some people have been physically castrated in order to remove their interest in things sexual. And some choose to be celibate, because they want to shift their focus from the physical, earthly, natural things. They want to focus all their energy on the spiritual, heavenly things of God.

Many of us find some balance between being human and giving a great deal of our energy toward a deeper walk with God.

Saved7
Oct 4th 2008, 05:01 PM
There is one text in the New Testament which has caused a lot of mischief. Here is what Tyndale made of it in his 1534 translation:

Then said his disciples to him: if the matter be so between man and wife, then it is not good to marry? He said unto them: all men cannot away with that saying save they to whom it is given. There are chaste, which were so born out of their mother's belly. And there are chaste, which be made of men. And there be chaste, which have made themselves chaste for the kingdom of heaven's sake. He that can take it, let him take it.
The Douay Version translated the same passage literally, resulting in this:

...All men take not this word, but they to whom it is given...and there are eunuchs who have made themselves eunuchs for the kingdom of heaven. He that can take, let him take it.
This was accompanied by a note that said: "This text is not to be taken in the literal sense..."

A Bible commentary says: "Misunderstanding of these words in a literal sense in an age of asceticism has brought about tragedies in Christian history from time to time." (The New Bible Commentary, InterVarsity Fellowship, London, 1959.)

Wisely, modern translations tone down this text or, like Tyndale, change it. The Good News Bible transforms this text:

Jesus answered, "This teaching does not apply to everyone, but only to those to whom God has given it. For there are different reasons why men cannot marry: some, because they were born that way; others, because men made them that way; and others do not marry for the sake of the Kingdom of heaven. Let him who can accept this teaching do so."
The New Century Version does a similar job on this statement.

My question is this: if this passage in Matthew 19 has led to such mischief that even Bible translators feel compelled to transform it into harmlessness, how can this be squared with a belief that every word of the Bible is inspired by God?


Because many people such as yourself who have not the Holy Spirit; find that to be a difficult passage. From the first time I read that passage, I understood it to mean what it means, that some CHOOSE to remain chaste for the purpose of focusing on God and His Kingdom, others have no choice because of the way they were made or the way men made them.

It takes the Holy Spirit to interpret the scriptures in the correct light, and only those who are born of the Spirit can understand things. But when it was interpretted into other languages, these people understood that there were many in the church who were not born again, but just "doing the right thing"....or "seeking God" but never willing to submit to Him as the Lord and Saviour, for whatever reason...be it pride, fear, or disbeleif.

moonglow
Oct 4th 2008, 08:06 PM
There is one text in the New Testament which has caused a lot of mischief. Here is what Tyndale made of it in his 1534 translation:


Then said his disciples to him: if the matter be so between man and wife, then it is not good to marry? He said unto them: all men cannot away with that saying save they to whom it is given. There are chaste, which were so born out of their mother's belly. And there are chaste, which be made of men. And there be chaste, which have made themselves chaste for the kingdom of heaven's sake. He that can take it, let him take it.

The Douay Version translated the same passage literally, resulting in this:


...All men take not this word, but they to whom it is given...and there are eunuchs who have made themselves eunuchs for the kingdom of heaven. He that can take, let him take it.

This was accompanied by a note that said: "This text is not to be taken in the literal sense..."

A Bible commentary says: "Misunderstanding of these words in a literal sense in an age of asceticism has brought about tragedies in Christian history from time to time." (The New Bible Commentary, InterVarsity Fellowship, London, 1959.)

Wisely, modern translations tone down this text or, like Tyndale, change it. The Good News Bible transforms this text:


Jesus answered, "This teaching does not apply to everyone, but only to those to whom God has given it. For there are different reasons why men cannot marry: some, because they were born that way; others, because men made them that way; and others do not marry for the sake of the Kingdom of heaven. Let him who can accept this teaching do so."

The New Century Version does a similar job on this statement.

My question is this: if this passage in Matthew 19 has led to such mischief that even Bible translators feel compelled to transform it into harmlessness, how can this be squared with a belief that every word of the Bible is inspired by God?

People were commonly made eunuchs by other back in this time:

Adam Clark bible commentary:
Verse 12. Eunuchs
ευνουχος, from ευνηνεχειν, to have the care of the bed or bedchamber; this being the principal employment of eunuchs in the eastern countries, particularly in the apartments of queens and princesses. These are they whom our Lord says are made eunuchs by men, merely for the above purpose.

Usually they served kings and queens and the king had to trust his servants wouldn't be tempted to seduce his wife, or wives... so these servants usually men were castrated. Castration was a fairly common practice in certain parts of the world actually. While we cringe at the idea...it wasn't considered that big of a deal them.

So born from their mother's womb
Such as are naturally incapable of marriage, and consequently should not contract any.

We know some people are born with what we would now call physical deformities and many of those now can be helped with surgery though that person may not be able have children. Or simply impotent...naturally sterile.

For the kingdom of heaven's sake.
I believe our Lord here alludes to the case of the ESSENES, one of the most holy and pure sects among the Jews. These abstained from all commerce with women, hoping thereby to acquire a greater degree of purity, and be better fitted for the kingdom of God: children they had none of their own, but constantly adopted those of poor people, and brought them up in their own way.

PHILO, JOSEPHUS, and PLINY have largely described this very singular sect; and Dean PRIDEAUX, with his usual fidelity and perspicuity, has given the substance of what each has said. CONNEX. vol. iii. p. 483, edit. 1725. The account is very interesting, and well worthy the attention of every Christian.

Among the rabbins we find these different kinds of eunuchs, not only mentioned, but circumstantially described, saris chama, eunuchs of the sun, i.e. eunuchs by the hand of God; men born impotent. saris Adam, eunuchs of men, those who were castrated. And they add a third sort; those who make themselves eunuchs, abstain from marriage, that they may give themselves UP to the study of the Divine law. See many examples in Schoettgen.

He that is able to receive
χωρεινχωρειτω. These words are variously translated: he who can take; let him take it; comprehend, let him comprehend it: admit, let him admit it. The meaning seems to be, Let the man who feels himself capable of embracing this way of life, embrace it; but none can do it but he to whom it is given, who has it as a gift from his mother's womb.

The great ORIGEN, understanding the latter clause of this verse (which I have applied to the Essenes) literally-O human weakness!-went, and literally fulfilled it on himself!

I wouldn't be one bit surprised if some did go so far as to castrate themselves physical for the kingdom...but I would hope that since Jesus message was one for the spirit, they would simply abstain and not feel the need to go so far. I couldn't image surviving a do it yourself job back then! Or even now...wowie...

Olddad
Oct 5th 2008, 12:35 AM
Firstly, many thanks for your comments. If it was quite common in those days to make eunuchs, this makes the text even more problematic, because that would make it more likely for the text to be taken literally, as Origen did.

Tyndale referred to the Ethiopian eunuch in Acts 8 as a chamberlain. Perhaps 'eunuch' would not have been understood in 1534 but this is not the only translation that baulks at eunuch. The New Century Version and the Contemporary English Version (Bible for Today) both use 'officer' instead.

I can understand the sensitivity of the translators. However, sanitising a text, for whatever motive, is like painting over rotten wood. The deceit compounds the decay.

Tanya~
Oct 5th 2008, 02:36 AM
It means eunuch -- a castrated male, not just someone who isn't married. It was a hard thing to take then as now, which is why Jesus said, "He who is able to accept it, let him accept it."

By the way, men even in this age literally do have themselves surgically castrated, though it isn't usually for the sake of the kingdom of heaven. It is for "gender reassignment."

moonglow
Oct 6th 2008, 02:38 AM
Firstly, many thanks for your comments. If it was quite common in those days to make eunuchs, this makes the text even more problematic, because that would make it more likely for the text to be taken literally, as Origen did.

Tyndale referred to the Ethiopian eunuch in Acts 8 as a chamberlain. Perhaps 'eunuch' would not have been understood in 1534 but this is not the only translation that baulks at eunuch. The New Century Version and the Contemporary English Version (Bible for Today) both use 'officer' instead.

I can understand the sensitivity of the translators. However, sanitising a text, for whatever motive, is like painting over rotten wood. The deceit compounds the decay.

I guess I don't understand why anyone would want to cover it up..I mean what's the big deal? (I say this not being a man so maybe I am not as sensitive to this issue as a man would be). I was thinking about this earlier today and I would image a man would have to have a surgeon do this...I think it would be rather impossible to for them to do to themselves. At any rate, I don't know what the big deal would be to read it plainly as you have. :hmm:

I think also as you pointed out..the people trying to soften it up were people in different times and cultures and depending on the era they were in, may have been so repulsed by the idea they couldn't deal with it. Time and culture can greatly influence how things in any text are taken.

Saved7
Oct 6th 2008, 03:25 AM
I can understand the sensitivity of the translators. However, sanitising a text, for whatever motive, is like painting over rotten wood. The deceit compounds the decay.


Forgive me, but I see no deceit in explaining scriptures to those who have little, to no understanding. If it were deceitful, then wouldn't it be silly of us to be responding to any question a new christian or non-christian has????:saint:

Olddad
Oct 6th 2008, 03:33 AM
I guess I don't understand why anyone would want to cover it up..I mean what's the big deal?

The problem is that words matter. Take this example, from an African Catholic website:


Yes, there is a possibility of danger arising out of misunderstanding of the Bible which could seriously harm the individual Christian's life as well as the Christian community. A zealous Christian was known to have mutilated himself through castration because the Bible says

If your right eye causes you to sin, pluck it out and throw it away; it is better that you lose one of your members than that your whole body be thrown into hell. And if your right hand causes you to sin, cut it off and throw it away; it is better that you lose one of your members than that your whole body go into hell. (Matthew 5:29-30)

Yes, it is possible to misuse the Bible and spiritually destroy oneself and others. The Bible itself says so:

Our beloved brother Paul wrote to you according to the wisdom given him, speaking of this as he does in all his letters. There are some things in them hard to understand, which the ignorant and unstable twist to their own destruction, as they do the other scriptures.(2 Peter 3:15-16)


This is why some texts need to be treated with care and why it is difficult to believe that the all the Bible is the word of God.

RoadWarrior
Oct 6th 2008, 01:47 PM
The problem is that words matter. Take this example, from an African Catholic website:

...

Our beloved brother Paul wrote to you according to the wisdom given him, speaking of this as he does in all his letters. There are some things in them hard to understand, which the ignorant and unstable twist to their own destruction, as they do the other scriptures.(2 Peter 3:15-16)
This is why some texts need to be treated with care and why it is difficult to believe that the all the Bible is the word of God.

Of course you are right. This is a source of grief to true Christians, that there are people who do exactly what Paul wrote about. Again, your knowledge allows you to bring some things to light and allow a healthy discussion about them. Truth is worth the effort!

Many of us who are now believing Christians, struggled with similar things before "taking the plunge". I was one who scoffed at the Bible, and did not believe it. A loving family member led me through some deeper thinking, and I grew to believe and accept. My understanding and wisdom has deepened and increased with the years of on-going prayerful study. People like you who do the scholarly work, also have helped me to bring light into dark corners.

There's a teaching in the NT that those who would be teachers will be held to a more strict standard. And it is easy to see why that is so. A teacher who teaches error and false doctrine will effectively turn away a seeker who wants to know God.

moonglow
Oct 6th 2008, 02:51 PM
The problem is that words matter. Take this example, from an African Catholic website:


Yes, there is a possibility of danger arising out of misunderstanding of the Bible which could seriously harm the individual Christian's life as well as the Christian community. A zealous Christian was known to have mutilated himself through castration because the Bible says

If your right eye causes you to sin, pluck it out and throw it away; it is better that you lose one of your members than that your whole body be thrown into hell. And if your right hand causes you to sin, cut it off and throw it away; it is better that you lose one of your members than that your whole body go into hell. (Matthew 5:29-30)

Yes, it is possible to misuse the Bible and spiritually destroy oneself and others. The Bible itself says so:

Our beloved brother Paul wrote to you according to the wisdom given him, speaking of this as he does in all his letters. There are some things in them hard to understand, which the ignorant and unstable twist to their own destruction, as they do the other scriptures.(2 Peter 3:15-16)


This is why some texts need to be treated with care and why it is difficult to believe that the all the Bible is the word of God.

http://www.carm.org/bible/inspiration.htm
What about the numerous contradictions in the Bible?

1. It is true that there are difficulties with in the Word of God. But these are due to copying errors through the centuries. As more and more historical, archaeological, and manuscript evidence is uncovered, the fewer Bible difficulties there are. Nevertheless, for an examination of answers to the alleged Bible contradictions, please see Bible Difficulties.

In my studies on this I have found some errors IN the copies of the bible...some of the newer translations help to correct these errors. (though you will find those that swear the king james version is the closest to the original and without error) What I have found in the errors on translations or men trying to change things to suit their own ideas, has been minor and doesn't take away from the core message of salvation.

Now we have the dead sea scrolls to compare the OT with too which I find exciting.

chisel
Oct 6th 2008, 03:15 PM
The problem is that words matter. Take this example, from an African Catholic website:

Yes, there is a possibility of danger arising out of misunderstanding of the Bible which could seriously harm the individual Christian's life as well as the Christian community. A zealous Christian was known to have mutilated himself through castration because the Bible says

If your right eye causes you to sin, pluck it out and throw it away; it is better that you lose one of your members than that your whole body be thrown into hell. And if your right hand causes you to sin, cut it off and throw it away; it is better that you lose one of your members than that your whole body go into hell. (Matthew 5:29-30)

Yes, it is possible to misuse the Bible and spiritually destroy oneself and others. The Bible itself says so:

Our beloved brother Paul wrote to you according to the wisdom given him, speaking of this as he does in all his letters. There are some things in them hard to understand, which the ignorant and unstable twist to their own destruction, as they do the other scriptures.(2 Peter 3:15-16)
This is why some texts need to be treated with care and why it is difficult to believe that the all the Bible is the word of God.

Olddad,

Is there a specific reason you're interested in this text, or are you just generally looking for reasons not to believe the Bible, and if so, why do you feel you need a reason to reject the Bible?

In my opinion debating this sort of thing is such a waste, because THIS particular verse isn't the reason you won't believe. It's never the verses that people don't understand, but rather the ones they DO understand, that cause them to reject the gospel...

Is YOUR PROBLEM with scripture truly because you're worried that some poor zealous Christian might pluck out their eye for God? Surely, that is not your main motive for not believing?

Most people have problems with scripture because they deem themselves too important to submit to God. People reject scripture because they don't want to change and they know that their lives will have to change if they find God. People do not have a problem with scripture, because they fear someone in some far away country might hurt themselves because of a misunderstanding of scripture...

If you have no intention of seeking God, then why do these things bother you?
If you do intend to seek God, then seek Him...
If you're simply interested showing how smart you are, then why is it important to you that a bunch of Christians know how smart you are?

Olddad
Oct 6th 2008, 11:14 PM
Vim, please don't make ad hominem comments. They are not helpful.