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



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  2. That's a good explanation. Thanks.

  3. Blessed greetings and good day R.Daly,
    Thank you for the informative point of view and translations relating to Adelphoi and Brethen,

    In faith, hope and charity I believe I understand it now !

    Yes of course Brethren and only Brethren to be touched truly by the Grace of God... Reverend brethren or spiritual brethren in truth and action in the Grace of God. Amen.

    Lord Jesus Christ have mercy on us and save us all. Amen.

    With love In Jesus Christ Son Of God as brethren and children and disciples Of God. In the name of The Father, The Son and The Holy Spirit. Amen ☦️❤️������

  4. The rendering of the word 'adelphoi' as 'brothers and sisters' may or may not be accurate and acceptable in these modern times, but it produces some rather awkward and clumsy (and in my view, rather ugly) passages.
    For example, the N.I.V. translation states, "Am I now trying to win the approval of human beings, or of God? Or am I trying to please people? If I were still trying to please people, I would not be a servant of Christ" (Galatians 1:10).
    The K.J.V. on the other hand renders it thus:
    "For do I now persuade men, or God? Or do I seek to please men? For if I yet pleased men, I should not be a servant of Christ."
    Now which of the two are objectively better? Which of the two is more inspiring, and thus more likely to resonate with readers? The latter, obviously!
    Changing the English translation to 'brothers and sisters', 'people' and 'human beings' was motivated by a desire to "please men" (i.e. conform to current feminist orthodoxy), and because of this the N.I.V. and other such translations that have taken a similar path cannot be trusted to be accurate, reliable, or worth bothering with.

    1. You may feel that these changes in the English text were motivated by a desire to conform to feminist orthodoxy, but I believe the motivation to be exactly what this author says it is. Namely, "[t]he modern reader may be misled into thinking only males are being addressed in certain contexts, when in reality they are not."

      This is the stated motivation of the translators. Not only is it their stated motivation, it is also grounded in studies where readers were asked to interpret various texts and were in fact misled by gender specific language.

      The goal of a translation is obviously to render a text in an understandable way to the reader. The translators have chosen a specific path to do this. You may not like it. I take your point that some texts lose something - though I don't think Galatians 1:10 is one of them. This is a natural trade-off of any translation though. Greek readers will suggest that every English translation is losing something. I am glad there was nobody suggesting that the NT should remain in Greek only because Greek was "objectively better".

      As God's people, we need proceed with caution when imputing motives to other believers, particularly when our suggestions run counter to the stated motivations of those believers.

      This is a topic where we aren't all going to agree. However, there are plenty of translations to choose from in English. We need not argue amongst ourselves. We can spend time with the Lord in whatever translation suits us best.

  5. Thank you R. Daly & Dave Robinson in response, April 24, 2021. This was precisely what I was looking for, in the way of a scholarly explanation for 'brethern', as gender issues are pressing to make this term 'brothers', rather than accurately conveying the tho't of 'brothers and sisters. Thanks again. Blessings. Daryl