Evaluation of NET Bible on Gender

Someone asked what I thought of the NET Bible (https://netbible.org) and, rather than giving a simple thumbs up or thumbs down, I decided to go through the steps I took to make my evaluation, in case anyone wants to use them to evaluate other translations. Jump to the bottom if you just want my conclusions. (Note that almost all of my links are to Marg Mowczko’s blog. That’s because she does a great job of explaining the issues for non-scholars, and she has lots of footnotes for anyone who wants to dig deeper. Also, I don’t need to repeat what others have said at least as well as I could!)

The first thing to look at is the list of translators. I found it here, at the very end: https://bible.org/netbible/index.htm?pre.htm Note that these are exclusively men, and that Dallas Theological Seminary is heavily represented. Dallas is a complementarian school (http://www.womenandchurch.com/standings). So, this is not a good start for an egalitarian like me!

While we are here, we can also look at endorsements: https://netbible.com/endorsements/ They are all male except for Beth Moore and one seminary student. They are also mostly complementarian, from what I can see. And Beth Moore’s comment specifically references the notes, which I will come back to.

Next, I want to look at a series of verses that are helpful to get a sense of the translators’ gender biases. There are many options, but these are mine:

Gen 3:16: There are two issues here. The beginning of the verse says, in Hebrew, “I will greatly increase your pain and your conception/pregnancy.” Most translators combine this idea with the next line and assume that the pain referred to is specifically pain in childbirth. That is quite possible, and a hendiadys is something that Hebrew does do quite often. However, in the footnote, the translators justify their choice by saying “there is no pain in conception.” That comment could only come from an exclusively male perspective. The fact that they did not seriously consider the pain many women experience during conception and also during the whole of pregnancy reveals a bias that is confirmed by the translation of the second half of the verse. There, the NET says, “You will want to control your husband, but he will dominate you.” All translation is, of course, interpretation, but this goes beyond what I would consider to be allowable. You can read more about the issues here: https://margmowczko.com/translation-genesis-316/ The NET translators justify their choice by importing the idea of domination from Gen 4:7 into not only Gen 3:16 but also (based on the footnote for 3:16) into sexual desire as well. This turns natural sexual desire into rape, which is sin. I can only say I am horrified. 0/2

Ruth 3:11; Prov 12:4; 31:10, 29: The Hebrew word חַ֫יִל (chayil) is carries the idea of “strength” and so is usually translated “army” or “wealth” or “warrior.” Some translations, however, switch to words that they find more suitable for women in these verses in Proverbs, such as the NET does with “noble” or “worthy.” Prov 31:29 is an exception where the word is “valiently.” The footnotes do explain that these are all the same word. 1/4

Malachi 2:16: My Hebrew prof, who was, incidentally, complementarian, said that this is the most difficult verse to translate in the whole Old Testament. That is because the text in Hebrew, as we have it, simply does not make sense. The translators have chosen one option. The NIV (2011) chooses the other: “‘The man who hates and divorces his wife,’ says the Lord, the God of Israel, ‘does violence to the one he should protect,’ says the Lord Almighty.” What I object to the most here is the footnote which says “Though the statement ‘I hate divorce’ may (and should) be understood as a comprehensive biblical principle, the immediate context suggests that the divorce in view is that of one Jewish person by another in order to undertake subsequent marriages.” First, on what basis should this be taken as a comprehensive biblical principle? That goes against the often-stated rule that a Bible verse without a context is just a pretext for a prooftext. Bible verses must be taken in context. And then, this footnote suddenly becomes gender neutral when what is going on in the context is that priests are divorcing the mothers of their children in order to marry young foreign women (see Mal 2:11–15, as well as the whole book). 0.5/1

Rom 16:1, 7: There are several issues here. In verse 1, diakonos is translated “servant.” That is a possible translation, but the note is a bit disingenuous. On the basis that neither Epaphras nor Timothy are deacons, it is supposed that Phoebe cannot be. Yet the possibility of her being a minister is not considered. Especially given the support that Paul is requesting for her (v. 2), it seems likely that she is some sort of leader. (See https://margmowczko.com/phoebe-a-deacon-of-the-church-in-cenchrea-part-7/) 0/1

In verse 7, Junia is correctly identified as a woman, although do I read reluctance in the tone of the note? I am a bit confused by the reference to the TLG. The TLG is “a digital library of Greek literature.” It is possible that it has been updated since Moo did his search. But when I looked, I found 23 entries for Junia, and only one that is early (Plutarch, Brutus 7.1.4), from the 1–2nd century CE, where it’s a woman’s name. So I am not sure what the three are that Moo is referring to. In fact, however, the TLG does not differentiate between Junia (f.) and Junias (m.), and the same 23 instances come up when references to Junius (which Rom 16:7 cannot mean) are removed. Additionally, the Epiphanius reference that is mentioned in footnote 6 is from the 4th century CE, and therefore not particularly relevant. Junia, as footnote 6 mentions, is quite common in Latin, and apparently in Greek inscriptions, although I have not been able to verify that (see the footnotes here: https://margmowczko.com/junia-and-the-esv/). Finally, the end of footnote 6 and the entirety of 8 seek to support the NET’s chosen translation, “well known to the apostles.” Here is the argument against that translation: https://margmowczko.com/is-junia-well-known-to-the-apostles/ Additionally, I have looked for instances of episemoi en which is the phrase under debate, and I found two examples. One states that Aristophanes, as compared to the other authors, “shone forth among them all,” and the other, Lucian, in the 2nd century CE suggests that if there are rumors that you did not praise your boss/owner enough, you must be sure to raise your voice next time so that you stand out among her admirers. In both cases, the one being described is clearly part of the larger group to which he is being compared. I found no examples of the phrase being used the way the NET Bible translates it. Thus, it seems much more likely that Phoebe is a leader of the church at Cenchreae, and that Junia and Andronicus are outstanding among the apostles. 1/2

Eph 5:21–22: It’s always interesting to see where various translations divide the text. Manuscripts differ, but Paul’s sentence in Greek actually starts either at verse 18 or at verse 21. Furthermore, the verb “submit” was likely not repeated in verse 22, so starting the paragraph farther up (CEB chooses 15, NIV & NRSV 21) seems to make more sense. 0/1

1 Tim 2:12–15: Footnote 19 here is helpful in that it reminds readers that saying that women should learn was likely revolutionary. However, footnote 20 ignores the pages of writing and gallons of ink spilled over the meaning of the Greek verb translated here “exercise authority.” Here’s a summary of the issues: https://margmowczko.com/authentein-authenteo-1-timothy-2/ Footnote 24 goes a long way to come to an explicitly complementarian conclusion. It does do a good job of mentioning some of the various solutions to the verse along the way. And footnote 25 unaccountably dismisses the problems that the shift to the plural raises. Not sure how to grade this, but I will suggest a 1/3.

1 Tim 2:9; 3:2: The word κόσμιος (kosmios) is translated similarly for both women and men (“suitable” and “respectable”). 1/1

1 Tim 2:9, 15; 3:2; 2 Tim 1:7; Titus 1:8; 2:2, 5; Acts 26:25: The word σωφροσύνη (sōphrosunē) and cognates is sometimes translated differently for men and women. In the NET we find: “self-control” (6x for both men and women), “sensible” (men), “rational” (Paul). 3/3

1 Cor 11:10: The Greek here says, “the woman should have authority on her head,” and while there is debate about what this means, the NET adds the word “symbol” and maintains male leadership in the church in the footnote without noting other possiblities. 0/1 (For other possibilities, see my review of Cynthia Westfall’s Paul and Gender.)

2 Cor 7:11; 11:2; Phil 4:8; 1 Tim 5:22; Titus 2:5; James 3:17; 1 Pet 3:2; 1 John 3:3: The word ἀγνός is sometimes translated as “holy” when referring to men but “pure” when referring to women. In the NET, however, we find: “innocent,” “pure” (7x). 3/3  

1 Peter 3:7: This verse in the NET does a good job of following my best understanding of the Greek text, with which both Mark Dubis in 1 Peter: A Handbook on the Greek Text and Greg Forbes in 1 Peter Exegetical Guide to the Greek New Testament concur. Both the NIV (2011) and the NRSV (and others) oddly put “living” with “consideration,” “weaker partner” with “respect” and then sort of tag “heirs” onto the end. The Greek makes it more likely that “considerate living” goes with “weaker partner” and “respect” with “heirs,” and the NET reflects that. I am confused, honestly, by how the verse was ever translated differently. Many of the foreign language translations that I consulted (Bible en français courant, Parole de Vie 2017, Bible Segond 21, Elberfelder Übersetzung, Schlachter 2000) follow the Greek, although the Lutherbibel does not, and several of the Spanish versions move the phrases around in various configurations. I asked Dr. Douglas Moo about it when they were updating the NIV, and he responded that it was “an exegetical decision,” but did not offer anything further in the way of explanation. 1/1

Conclusions: With a grade of 11.5/23, I would not recommend the NET. One of the positives of its development was that it was open to input from everyone; however, it is clear that the editors followed a complementarian bias in their final decisions. I had intended, like Beth Moore, to comment on how helpful the notes are, but now that I actually work through them, I am finding them misleading, more often than not. If readers weren’t already aware of the broader conversations around these issues, they would not find out about them from these notes.

I recommend the CEB (18.5/23) or the 2011 NIV (14.5/23). I sometimes use the NRSV, but it only rates a 10.5 on my scale. The Passion “Translation” comes up from time to time. I appreciate what Dr. Nijay Gupta says here.

Anger and the Setting Sun

Ephesians 4:26

26ὀργίζεσθε καὶ μὴ ἁμαρτάνετε· ὁ ἥλιος μὴ ἐπιδυέτω ἐπὶ [τῷ] παροργισμῷ ὑμῶν (NA28)

Be angry and do not sin; do not let the sun set on your irritation (author translation).

The translation and application of this verse have to overcome quite a few questions. Is ὀργίζεσθε imperative or indicative? Does the mention of the setting sun refer to the end of the day, or is the meaning more metaphorical? What kind of anger is permissible (or even enjoined) and what is not? How is verse 27a related to verse 26?

In this short blog post, I will not attempt to tackle all of these issues. I will rely on several other scholars’ work to answer some of these questions, and then I will add some thoughts of my own about the setting of the sun.

Following Daniel Wallace, I translate ὀργίζεσθε “be angry” (1989). Thus, we start with the presumption that to become angry is not, according to this author, in itself, sinful. From a historical standpoint, preachers since Chrysostom have pointed out that “He who is not angry when he has cause to be, sins. For unreasonable patience is a hotbed of many vices” (Homily 11).

The injunction to be angry comes in a series of other commands, laid out for the purpose of harmony in the community (Barton 2015). It comes, indeed, right after the reminder to speak truth. Certainly this is an appropriate context for a discussion of anger, since one may be angered by the truth, or angered by untruths.

What kind of anger is being discussed? The word used, παροργισμός, is not simply a generic word for anger but carries some reference to a provocation (Wallace 1989: 365; BDAG 780). This, too, fits well in a context of community, since provocations of various sorts are sure to arise, both reasonable and unreasonable. I might use the word “pique” except that it seems to carry a connotation of unreasonableness. While παροργισμός does not go so far as rage, it has a sense of some force behind it; Louw & Nida say “quite angry” (88.176). “Passion” seems to capture the force of the emotion, as long as we remember not to import any sexual overtones into the passage. “Irritation” does not, perhaps, go far enough, but since (like παροργισμός) it can refer to both the cause of the emotion and the emotion itself, it seems the best choice.

On the one hand, now that all of these preliminary questions are decided, the meaning of not letting the sun set on one’s irritation seems plain. In a community, for the sake of unity, irritations must be dealt with immediately. Plutarch is helpful here:

We should next pattern ourselves after the Pythagoreans, who, though related not at all by birth, yet sharing a common discipline, if ever they were led by anger into recrimination, never let the sun go down before they joined right hands, embraced each other, and were reconciled. For just as it is nothing alarming if a fever attends a swelling in the groin, but if the fever persists when the swelling is gone, it is thought to be a malady and to have a deeper origin: so when the dissension of brothers ceases after the matter in dispute is settled, the dissension was caused by the matter; but if it remains, the matter was but a pretext and contained some malignant and festering reason (Moralia 488C; referenced in Talbert 2007: 124).

This is not to say, of course, that the author or the readers of Ephesians were familiar with Plutarch. Still, at least some in the ancient world were aware that short irritations could be dealt with quickly whereas deeper resentments would take more work.

Ephesians 4:26, then, suggests that when attempting to live in unity with fellow believers, provocations should be addressed immediately (see scholars who draw this conclusion listed in Mel 2015: 51 n. 17) and not allowed to fester (verse 27a). I want to suggest one further way the setting sun might be understood.

Clearly, the sun cannot set on an irritation; it sets in the sky, on the day, perhaps, or maybe over the hill. If we pick apart the implicit metaphor, however, we find that the setting sun signals the end of the day. Blending theory suggests that the inputs from this frame will be imaginatively combined with the inputs from the other frame, that of the irritation that can arise from living in community, in this case in a double blend (Fauconnier and Turner 2002: 340–45). When the sun sets, the day is over, and, when one observes that the sun is setting, one has the choice of hurrying to finish some last task, or accepting that the day’s activities are over and can no longer be changed. This framework is blended with the framework of relationships and irritations within a community, and what emerges is the observation that one can either hurry to address the irritation or accept that the new relationship has solidified (in a negative sense) and can no longer be changed.

Beatty Mel points out the strong linguistic similarities between Eph 4:26b and Micah 3:6 LXX. The context in Micah “associates the sun setting with the departure of the Lord’s Spirit or presence” (Mel 2015: 52), and Beatty Mel therefore suggests that the author cautions believers to “not lose sight of the Lord in their state of provocation” (52). This conclusion, however, seems too embedded in the Micah passage with no a priori reason to import it into Ephesians.

Micah 3:6, however, speaking of the prophets who have led Israel astray (v. 5), notes that “it will be night for you, without vision, and it will be darkness for you, without divination, and the sun will set upon the prophets, and the day will grow quite dark upon them” (LES). In this picture, it is not so much the prophets who have forgotten about the Lord, but rather the Lord has turned away from the prophets.

The Hebrew Bible has an expression for this, translated in English as “I will put my face against them.” In the LXX it is expressed variously: δώσω τὸ πρόσωπόν μου ἐπʼ αὐτούς (Eze 15:7a); στηρίσαι με τὸ πρόσωπόν μου ἐπʼ αὐτούς (Eze 15:7e) and ἐγὼ ἐπιστήσω τὸ πρόσωπόν μου ἐπὶ τὸν ἄνθρωπον ἐκεῖνον(Lev 20:3). The verb is different, even within the same verse: δίδωμι (“to give,” Eze 15:7a); στηρίζω (“to establish,” Eze 15:7e); ἐφίστημι (“to stand,” Lev 20:3), whereas the preposition is the same, ἐπί. Thus, there is no direct linguistic connection between these expressions and the setting of the sun—the preposition is not enough on its own. However, what God does in the Ezekiel passage is to turn his face “on” or “against” the inhabitants of Jerusalem (v. 6). When God establishes his face on (or against) someone, his attitude against that person has solidified, and Ezekiel 15 suggests that in this attitude or decision, his mind will not be changed.

When the sun sets on a day, that day is finished, and nothing can alter its events. Perhaps, similarly, the author of Ephesians might have meant to suggest that to deal with one’s irritation before the sun sets is to address the offender before the attitude of the believer has become solidified against them. In community, no group member can be permanently treated as an outsider or an enemy.


Barton, Stephen C. (2015). “‘Be Angry But Do Not Sin’ (Ephesians 4:26a): Sin and the Emotions in the New Testament with Special Reference to Anger.” Studies in Christian Ethics 28.1: 21–34.

Brannan, R., K. M. Penner, I. Loken, M. Aubrey, and I. Hoogendyk, editors. (2012). The Lexham English Septuagint. Bellingham, WA: Lexham Press.

Fauconnier, Gilles and Mark Turner. (2002). The Way We Think: Conceptual Blending and the Mind’s Hidden Complexities. New York: Perseus.

Mel, Deb Beatty. (2015). “Perspectives on Anger from Ephesians 4.” Africanus Journal 7.2: 49–54.

Septuaginta: With morphology. (1979). Stuttgart: Deutsche Bibelgesellschaft. Electronic edition.

Talbert, Charles H. (2007). Ephesians and Colossians. Paideia Commentaries on the New Testament. Grand Rapids: Baker.

Wallace, Daniel B. (1989). “Ὀργίζεσθε in Ephesians 4:26: Command or Condition?” Criswell Theological Review 3.2: 353–72.

Review of Raquel St. Clair’s Call and Consequences

Review of St. Clair, Raquel A. Call and Consequences: A Womanist Reading of Mark. Minneapolis, Minn: Fortress Press, 2008.

The person of Jesus is of great importance to many African American women. He reveals God, and is a co-sufferer with them. This becomes problematic, however, when that suffering is understood as ordained by God for the sake of others. If discipleship entails following Jesus into similar suffering, Christianity can only enforce the status quo in which African American women suffer in service to the good of others.

While Markan scholars have examined the suffering of Jesus, it has often been divorced from his life, on the one hand, and from discipleship on the other. Also, insufficient attention has been given to the difference between agony that is transformative (what St. Clair calls pain) and agony that is simply ongoing (what she calls suffering). Pain, ultimately, is “the named, recognized agony that comes as a temporary result of life-affirming ministry” (162). St. Clair constructs a sociolinguistic methodology based primarily on Blout and Chatman which allows her to incorporate a narrative analysis that takes its cues from the context of the Second Gospel with the questions provided by womanist theology.

In Chapter 4, St. Clair establishes contexts from which to interpret Mark. She concludes that Mark was most likely composed in “a village in southern Syria near the Galilean border shortly after the fall of the Jerusalem temple” (95). I am concerned that the text does not offer enough support for such precision especially since St. Clair does not provide a methodology for her assumption that the characters in the Gospel reflect the Gospel audience (103). However, her conclusion to this chapter (107-108) is stunning in its clarity as it highlights the elements of her assumed original readership that parallel the cultural context of African American women.

Chapter 5, the longest chapter, contains her analysis of Mark 8:31-34. She suggests that Peter (v. 32) does not rebuke Jesus, as some scholar suppose, because he misunderstands the nature of Jesus’ messiahship by leaving out the need for suffering. He has, instead, correctly apprehended Jesus’ identity because of his life-affirming ministry. St. Clair points out that there is no agony inherent in Jesus’ ministry itself (132-33). In fact, “[t]he primary connection Mark makes between ministry and agony prior to 8:31 is to show that Jesus’ ministry is characterized by eradicating the agony of others” (161). And because Jesus’ ministry is affirmed by God, “the alleviation of agony” is his will (164). In Mark 5:26, for example, the woman with the flow of blood exercises “life-sustaining behavior on behalf of herself” (122) which ultimately is confirmed and brought to fruition by Jesus’ healing.

Instead, Peter rejects agony as “the consequences of Jesus’ messianic ministry” (113). Yet Mark 8:31 lists “the elders, chief priests, and scribes” (120), and these should be seen as the agents of Jesus’ pain, not God. God, rather, is the one who allows the pain that is inevitable given the resistance to Jesus’ ministry but redeems Jesus’ honor through the resurrection (120-27). The agony that Jesus endures (based on St. Clair’s analysis of Mark 3:4-6; p. 119) will be both physical—the cross—and social—shame (119). She weaves in the relationship of the text to the concerns of womanist scholars by pointing out that “[t]he existential dimension of agony identified by womanists corresponds to the social dimension of shame identified by New Testament scholars. The physical dimension of agony corresponds to the physical dimension of shame” (121).

In another important section, St. Clair argues that the self-denial required of disciples (Mark 8:34) cannot be understood as the individualistic denial of one’s own needs that Western culture would assume it to be. It is, instead, the denial of one’s duty to family or class that would have been the center of one’s identity in the Mediterranean world (133-36). “Read within this context, the command to deny oneself is a command to relinquish one’s primary group orientation and accept Jesus and his followers as one’s new group” (135). “Therefore, the call to follow Jesus is a call to reorient their perspective and affirm Jesus’ honor system. Rather than seeking the honor that the religious rulers and other elite members of society have the power and authority to ascribe, they must seek the only true honor—that which God bestows through Jesus” (139; see also 160). To deny oneself means that disciples “must be prepared to deny their claims to worth based on their initial group membership. They must choose association with Jesus as their primary group, even at the risk of being rejected and therefore shamed” (161). Thus, “following Jesus results in the sharing of his shame and his honor” (140). This honor come from God, but will only be visible to others at some future time (13:32) (143; 162). All of this coheres quite well with the social scientific analyses of the Bible of scholars such as J. Brian Tucker with whom I work.

St. Clair’s conclusions disassociate agony from discipleship and therefore from ministry (160). All suffering is not carrying our cross (8:34). However, self-denial (i.e. denying oneself the honor one might otherwise pursue) and pain come as a result of Satan’s resistance to the work of disciples, their ministry (162-63). “Since pain is one of the consequences of discipleship, only the agony that we endure as a result of life-affirming, God-glorifying, agony-eradicating ministry is analogous to what Jesus experienced and can be identified as a cross

This book is extremely helpful in counteracting one prevailing model of discipleship that fails to address the suffering of Christians (particularly the suffering of marginalized groups) because of the mistaken belief that any and all suffering is evidence of discipleship and that the call of the Christian is to bear it gladly. St. Clair provides the exegetical analysis that undergirds a call to action, a call to a discipleship that instead works to alleviate the suffering of others and accepts social shame because of the honor that God provides. I recommend this book as a vital resource to any scholar of Mark and to every Christian leader.

I do have a few quibbles and concerns:

I believe Gundry’s insights are incorrectly applied on p. 111 to conclude that Mark 8:31 signifies that Jesus is teaching something new. I also believe that pathein and anastēnai are only co-extensive because of the dei (125) which extends to the other infinitives in Mark 8:31 as well. I am not convinced of Neyrey’s analysis of nakedness, cited on p. 137, but that does not annul St. Clair’s argument that crucifixion was shameful. I am concerned that her section on “The Tenor of Discourse” (144-58) links “Pharisees, Herodians, scribes, chief priests, elders, Satan, and, eventually, the crowds” (158) in a way that opens the door to anti-Semitism (and I am not convinced by the references that Mark 1:24 and 5:9 show Jesus encroaching on the social space of the scribes and the Romans; p. 146). On p. 112, she seems to be contrasting interpretations of v. 32 with interpretations of v. 30, although she does eventually get to v. 32. And I was not convinced by her analysis of dei in Mark 14:31 because she omits attention to the conditional in that sentence (114). There were occasional missing words and typos, including the missing word “beginning” on p. 111, line 11, and I believe “physical dimension” should be “social dimension” on p. 138, line 18. However, none of these notes are meant to detract from my deep appreciation for this work. I will be recommending it to everyone I know.