Tuesday, April 12, 2011


     The  noun  Adelphos  in  its  various forms occurs approximately 343
times in the Greek N.T. It is sometimes used in its literal sense to mean a
"brother;" one from the same womb. (John 1:41) It can also mean "one who
shares   a  common  ethnic  heritage.  (Acts 22:13).  It  sometimes   means
"neighbor." (Mat. 7:3-5) It can also refer to "one who shares the same faith
in Christ; a fellow-believer." (Col. 4:7)

      Adelphoi, the  plural  form of  adelphos  is  used  frequently  in the
Greek N.T. of spiritual siblings in the family of God. Males and females
who have believed, repented, confessed, and were immersed into Christ
(Gal. 3:26-29) They were "born again," (Jno. 3:3-5; Tit. 3:5-7), and are
therefore adopted into the family of God. (Eph. 1:5; 1 Tim. 3:15) Adelphoi 
identifies those who are in this spiritual relationship as "brothers and sisters."

     The older English versions (KJV, RV, ASV) and some relatively recent
versions (NASB, RSV, NKJV) translate adelphoi with the word "brethren."
This word is generally used only in religious circles. Other versions such as
the original NIV, ESV, and HCSB use the word  "brothers." One of the
problems with using "brethren" is the fact that it is a somewhat archaic
word. Many times "brothers" is too  gender specific. The  modern reader
may be misled into thinking only males are being addressed in certain
contexts, when in reality they are not. So, modern English versions, in an
effort to be accurate, especially when a congregation is addressed translate 
adelphoi with the phrase "brothers and sisters." (cf. New Living Translation;
New Revised Standard  Version; NET;  Today's  New  International
Version; and the NIV 2011)

     Some people object to translating adelphoi with the phrase "brothers
and sisters," because in their view it is an effort to be "gender inclusive,"
and to give women equal roles and authority with men in religion. This is
an unfair judgment. The N.T. itself teaches that God does not give a woman
the right to "have authority over the man." (1 Cor. 14:34-35;1 Tim. 2:11-15)
The  phrase "brothers and sisters" (adelphoi) is not designed to blur the
distinctive  roles that God has assigned to men and women, but it seeks to
accurately  convey  the  meaning  of  adelphoi  by  indicating the familial
relationship shared by those of the same faith.

     It has long been proven by Greek lexicons that adelphos/adelphoi are
used in this manner in secular Greek literature and in the N.T. (Thayer's 
Greek-English Lexicon, pages 10-11; Alexander Souter's Pocket 
Lexicon, p. 6; A Greek-English Lexicon Of The New Testament And 
Other Early Christian Literature, Introduction, p. 24 and pages 15-16
of the lexicon,1952 edition.)

     It is accurate to translate adelphoi with the phrase "brothers and sisters"
when  a  congregation  is  addressed, when  the  universal  group of Jesus'
followers is under discussion, and when it can be shown from the context
that  a  religious  group  consisting  of  both  males  and  females  is  under
consideration. Translators have not accurately translated God's word, until
they   have  selected    the   word  or   phrase  in    the   target   language,
that means the same as the word or phrase in the source language. They
must also convey the meaning in an understandable manner. "Brothers and
sisters"  for   adelphoi   in   English   translations   is   both  accurate  and
understandable. A gentleman who objected to the rendering "brothers and
sisters"  was  asked  which  translation  of adelphoi  he believed to be the
correct one, and he responded, "Brethren." He was then asked "What does
'brethren' mean, and he replied, "Brothers and sisters."

                                                                                                 R. Daly

Copyright 2011



  1. Hi Daly,
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  2. That's a good explanation. Thanks.