Luke 18:29 – Is TNIV gender-accurate?

Matthew 19:29

And everyone who has left houses or brothers or sisters or father or mother (NRSV)

And everyone who has left houses or brothers or sisters or father or mother (TNIV)

Mark 10:29

there is no one who has left house or brothers or sisters or mother or father (NRSV)

no one who has left home or brothers or sisters or mother or father (TNIV)

Luke 18:29

there is no one who has left house or wife or brothers or parents (NRSV)

no one who has left home or wife or brothers or sisters or parents (TNIV)

everyone who has given up house or wife or brothers or parents  (NLT)

Were TNIV translators gender-accurate or too aggressive in their rendering of Luke 18:29?  This one is questionable.  The word ἀδελφοὺς can mean “brother” in the masculine plural but has been translated as “brothers or sisters” in other passages where adelphas (ἀδελφὰς, sisters: fem. pluaral) is absent.   I checked other translations and found no other translation went as far as TNIV did in Luke 18:29—not even the NRSV or NLT.  The NRSV and NLT rendered this as simply “brothers”.

The Matthew and Mark parallels rendered adelphos (ἀδελφοὺς) as “brothers” and adelphas (ἀδελφὰς) as “sisters”.  Did TNIV follow the pattern set in these parallel verses of Matthew 19:29 and Mark 10:29, in which “adelphos” and “adelphas” were rendered as “brothers or sisters”?   The Matt. 19:29 and Mark 10:29 parallels are definitely correct, but Luke 18:29 now becomes questionable when placed in a comparative context with these other parallel passages.

If TNIV is right on this one, then NRSV and NLT are wrong.  What gives me a feeling that TNIV may be right in this case is Luke’s use of guneis (γονεῖς) for parent instead of pater and mater (μητέρα ἢ πατέρα) for father and mother.  Luke may have intended to use guneis as a gender-inclusive term, so in following Luke’s use of inclusive terminology, Luke 18:29 may be more accurately translated as “brothers or sisters”.

Other places where TNIV went further in gender-inclusive language than the NRSV or the NLT are in Luke 14:12, Acts 15:1, 22:5.

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Author: Kevin S.

A follower of Jesus, a husband and a father. Hobbies include biking, keeping fish if they don't die on me, blogging when I can, theologizing and ministry, and pondering about world affairs.

2 thoughts on “Luke 18:29 – Is TNIV gender-accurate?”

  1. The word ἀδελφοὺς can mean “brother” in the masculine plural

    Prove it! Of course when ἀδελφὰς is added this makes it very explicit that women are included. But that doesn’t mean that without that addition the word is ever clearly male oriented. If it is to apply to men only, that has to be clearly signalled by the context – and here it is not.

    It seems clear to me what is happening here. A single saying of Jesus, in Aramaic or Hebrew, has been rendered in three different ways, more fully by Matthew and Mark and more concisely by Luke (who may have been working from Mark’s Greek text, but that is another issue). Luke (in 18:29, the correct reference) understood that goneis had the same meaning as metera e patera and so abbreviated the saying. He also understood that, in Greek, adelphous already included adelphas and so omitted the latter. He certainly wasn’t trying to express anything different from the other gospels.

    The problem for translators into English is that today “brothers” is not usually understood as including “sisters”. So most translations, even NRSV, are misunderstood as suggesting that Luke was trying to put into Jesus’ mouth a different sentiment from how Matthew and Mark put it. Clearly he wasn’t. Now I am generally cautious about suggesting that the gospels be harmonised in translation, but this is one place where a translation should be informed by comparison with other gospels. So the TNIV rendering is correct in its content, although it doesn’t reflect the conciseness of Luke’s style.

    I think this might be a rare case where Luke’s concise style, also a bit more exalted in his use of goneis, might be well reflected by rendering adelphous as “siblings”.

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  2. Whoops! I had Luke 18:18. It’s Luke 18:29. I must have been sleeping.

    But that doesn’t mean that without that addition the word is ever clearly male oriented.

    Exactly Peter! That’s why adelphous can be so confusing. It’s not always easy to tell if it’s referring specifically to men, or to both men and women. But I think you’re safe about harmonizing the gospels in this case.

    I wonder how the translators would have rendered the Luke 18:29 text if we didn’t also have Matthew and Mark’s parallel gospel text?

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