"Doulos" in the New Testament

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bookslover

Puritan Board Doctor
At the meeting of the National Religious Broadcasters this month, John MacArthur preached the sermon for the worship service.

In this sermon, he raised an interesting point. He claims that English translations of the New Testament, beginning with the 1560 Geneva Bible, water down the Greek term "doulos" with translations such as "servant" or "bondservant." He says that there are other Greek words for these two latter terms, but that "doulos," when it refers to persons, always and everywhere means, and only means, "slave."

In his sermon, he cites Kittel as his authority in this matter.

MacArthur says that, in modern times, only E. J. Goodspeed's translation (from the 1930s?), Jay Adams's translation, and the new Holman Bible consistently (and faithfully) translate "doulos" as "slave" throughout the New Testament.

Apparently, starting with John Knox and his folks, it was considered too upsetting or too frank, or whatever, to refer to Christians as slaves. Yet, MacArthur says that this is exactly what the New Testament is calling us - and that this is especially crucial, as a contrast, when Jesus (and other parts of the NT) begins to refer to Christians as "sons". In other words, it is necessary to translate "doulos" correctly as "slave" in order to highlight the dramatic transformation of Christians from "slaves" to "sons."

So, do we need a little more honesty in our translations of the New Testament?

If you'd like to hear it (the sermon is about 40 minutes long), go to Welcome to Grace to You and click on to the sermon archive. Click on "date," then click on "2009" and you'll see it listed there.

The title is "2009 NRB Worship Service."
 

Marno

Puritan Board Freshman
BAGD says it's pretty much "slave". Page 205: " 'servant' for 'slave' is largely confined to Biblical transl. and early American times."

Perhaps "servant" sidesteps much of the baggage of what slavery meant in early American times compared to slavery in the Bible. The two are very different.
 

MW

Puritanboard Amanuensis
Apparently, starting with John Knox and his folks, it was considered too upsetting or too frank, or whatever, to refer to Christians as slaves.

It might be granted that the translation is not exact without having to impute motives to the translators for which there is no historical evidence.

The fact is that doulos and its cognates contains various nuances which range from what in English might be classified anything from a slave to a servant. When it is considered, for example, that a doulos was sometimes put in a position of responsibility over the affairs of the master's household, it is difficult to conceive of the person as a slave in the proper sense of the term. OTOH, a doulos works without profit or thanks, so he is more akin to a slave in that sense.

Rather than criticise English translations for not possessing a word which exactly corresponds to the Greek, it is far more beneficial to identify the range of meaning which can be attributed to the word as it is utilised in a variety of contexts.
 

bookslover

Puritan Board Doctor
Apparently, starting with John Knox and his folks, it was considered too upsetting or too frank, or whatever, to refer to Christians as slaves.

It might be granted that the translation is not exact without having to impute motives to the translators for which there is no historical evidence.

The fact is that doulos and its cognates contains various nuances which range from what in English might be classified anything from a slave to a servant. When it is considered, for example, that a doulos was sometimes put in a position of responsibility over the affairs of the master's household, it is difficult to conceive of the person as a slave in the proper sense of the term. OTOH, a doulos works without profit or thanks, so he is more akin to a slave in that sense.

Rather than criticise English translations for not possessing a word which exactly corresponds to the Greek, it is far more beneficial to identify the range of meaning which can be attributed to the word as it is utilised in a variety of contexts.

Very good point, Matthew.
 

ExGentibus

Puritan Board Freshman
The fact is that doulos and its cognates contains various nuances which range from what in English might be classified anything from a slave to a servant. When it is considered, for example, that a doulos was sometimes put in a position of responsibility over the affairs of the master's household, it is difficult to conceive of the person as a slave in the proper sense of the term. OTOH, a doulos works without profit or thanks, so he is more akin to a slave in that sense.
Exactly. Our modern understanding of the word "slave" is different from that of the Apostles' times. Our view stresses the negative connotations at the expense of the actual role slaves had in the Roman society. Starting with Augustus, slaves gained more and more rights, such as appealing to court or obtaining freedom. Nevertheless, especially at the time of the Apostles, they were still largely "aliens from the commonwealth" of Roman law, "having no hope", and did not have any rights to their master's possessions.
 

Iconoclast

Puritan Board Junior
I have heard several sermons,dealing with this word used in Romans 6
It has the idea of being a willing bondslave.
We are set free from sin,and made willing bondslaves who gladly serve.
15What then? shall we sin because we are not under law but under grace? let it not be!

16have ye not known that to whom ye present yourselves servants for obedience, servants ye are to him to whom ye obey, whether of sin to death, or of obedience to righteousness?

17and thanks to God, that ye were servants of the sin, and -- were obedient from the heart to the form of teaching to which ye were delivered up;

18and having been freed from the sin, ye became servants to the righteousness.

19In the manner of men I speak, because of the weakness of your flesh, for even as ye did present your members servants to the uncleanness and to the lawlessness -- to the lawlessness, so now present your members servants to the righteousness -- to sanctification,

20for when ye were servants of the sin, ye were free from the righteousness,

21what fruit, therefore, were ye having then, in the things of which ye are now ashamed? for the end of those [is] death.

22And now, having been freed from the sin, and having become servants to God, ye have your fruit -- to sanctification, and the end life age-during;

23for the wages of the sin [is] death, and the gift of God [is] life age-during in Christ Jesus our Lord.
 
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