Lies about female sperm - in the Bible?
www.samesexprocreation.com/biblelie.htmDid the Virgin Mary emit semen in the course of her relations with the Holy Spirit? - Father Tomas Sanchez, 1629
Is a passage in the New Testament a scientific error about female sperm, Hebrews 11:11 (as originally written in Greek) - the seminal emission of Sarah - making the passage NOT inerrant? And why after 1900 years or so of translating the passage as Sarah's sperm, why did Bible translations start lieing about the original scientific error by mistranslating the passage, in many cases to make it Abraham's seminal emission? Worse, why is there no indication of this controversy in modern New Testaments? To then say that this lied-about-error is the word of God, as opposed to the word of a honest man relying on primitive science, is highly unethical. Such unethics should not be used as a basis to criticize female sperm research and practices.A Brief Review of Hebrews 11:11
The New Testament book The Letter to the Hebrews, written by an unknown author, is essentially an argument to try and convince wavering Christians not to return to their earlier belief in Judiasm. Chapter 11 of Hebrews extols the great faith of the mythical heroes from the Old Testament - including Enoch, Noah, Abraham, Moses, etc. The scientific error (which is covered up with a translation lie) appears in verse 11 in Chapter 11.
Hebrews 11:11 focuses on one myth from the Old Testament on how Abraham and Sarah were able to have a child late in their lives after they were past the age of being fertile (see Genesis 18.11-14). Verse 11 in Hebrews praises someone for being able to create sperm, but the question that arises is who is being praised, and for what? Now Hebrews is one of the books that was first written in Greek (before being translated to Latin and then English and other languages), and for 1900 years, verse 11 reads as follows (Greek, transliterated Greek, Vulgate Latin, English words - with comma added to show phrase break):Πιστει και αντη Σαρρα (στειρα) δυναμιν εις καταβολην σπερματος Pistel kai antee Sarra (steira) dunamin eis kataboleen spermatos Fide et ipsa Sarra (sterilis) virtutem in conceptionem seminis By faith also herself Sarah (sterile) power for conception of seed ελαβεν, και παρα καιρον ηλικιας elaben, kai para kairon elikias, accepit, etiam praeter tempus aetatis received, even beyond time of age(στειρα / steira / sterilis / sterile) are in parentheses to indicate that it is not certain if the word was included in the passage when first written, or was added later by scribes. This is a secondary discrepancy, compared to the sperm problems of the passage. See below for a History of 'barren': in or out of Hebrews 11:11?.
That is, late in her life, Sarah regained the ability to make female sperm - kataboleen spermatos - καταβολην σπερματος - so she could have a child with her husband, Abraham. Abraham's name does not appear in this verse - this verse is about Sarah "herself". And for 1900 years, from the original Greek writing of Hebrews, through a Latin translation, and then through multiple English translations up until about 1960 or so, this verse was always written by Sarah and her ability to conceive seed/sperm. All of the sudden, as documented below, most post-1960 Bibles started mistranslating the passage, first falsely stating that Sarah only receives the power to conceive - deleting the word "seed" (1960s to 1980s), and then falsely stating that it is Abraham's seed/sperm (1990s onward).
What follows is a review of how most modern Bible and Bible commentaries lie about the original scientific error in Hebrews 11:11 involving female sperm, which they hide behind a mistranslation. The lie raises an ethical problem: what is worse, to have errant science in a supposedly inerrant text, or to falsely translate (i.e., lie about) the errant text to restore inerrancy?
But first, in recent time, there have been a few religious scholars honest enough to accurately document the history, linguistics and science of this false-science/false-translation passage to conclude that "The author of Hebrews meant what he seems to say." These articles include:
- Sarah's Seminal Emission by Prof. Pieter Willem Van der Horst (in "Hellenism - Judaism - Christianity: essays on their interaction", Kok Pharos Publishing, 1994) - an exhaustive analysis of ancient Greek medical writings and rabbinic literature that shows that the idea of female sperm was common in the Middle Eastern scholarly communities at the time of the writing of Hebrews 11:11, including being well known in early Judaism circles that the writer of Hebrews learned in. He is polite in calling the mistranslations of this passage as just 'evasive', as opposed to being the lies that they are. (Article text). He also wrote an article "Did Sarah have a seminal emission?" that appeared in the February 1992 issue of Biblical Review. See also a review of Horst's article: Sarah's Power to Conceive by Farrell Till, which points out an additional error in Hebrews 11:11.
- The Ancient Physiological Notions Underlying John 1:13 and Hebrews 11:11 by Henry Cadbury (in The Expositor, 9th series, volume 2, 1924) - one of the first modern articles, he first argues that attempts to have the sperm be Abraham's are false interpretations of the Greek text. He argues instead that in light of ancient Greek science that women had sperm, that "... it may be left as at least one possibility that the author of Hebrews meant what he seems to say, that 'Sarah also herself by faith received power to deposit seed'". (Article text)
- Commentary to the Epistle to the Hebrews by Franz Delitzsch, 1876 - 50 years before Cadbury, Delitzsch has a similar argument to that of Cadbury - in light of the Greek science of the time, the Hebrews writer was referring to Sarah's conceiving seed: "But is it likely that sacred writer would use καταβολην σπερματος in a different sense from that whic the words would naturally convey to every hearer and reader, from that in which they were taken by all the ancient commentators, and in which they are rendered in all the ancient versions? ... That this wonderful conception [of seed] of Sarah's was the result of her faith is further suggested by the addition και παρα καιρον ηλικιας - and that in contradiction to the time of life in which she then stood.
- L'epitre aux Hebraux by C. Spicq (in two editions II:348-9, 1953; 188, 1977) - expands upon Cadbury's arguments that the general belief at the time of the writing of Hebrews 11:11 was that women produced sperm.
- A Commentary on the Epistle to the Hebrews by Hugh Montefiore (Adam & Charles Black Publishers, 1964) - Montefiore argues that there is little justification to drop Sarah's name being connected with conceiving seed, despite the gender clash, but adopts the 1960s practice of deleting "seed". He writes: "The Greek words translated power to conceive in fact attribute to Sarah the sexual act of a man, not of a woman. To obviate this difficulty, alternative textual emendations have been proposed; either the deletion of the reference to Sarah, thereby making Abraham the subject of the sentence as he is in the proceeding one, or a slight textual addition according to which Sarah is read in the dative case. ... It is, however, extremely hazardous when sense can be made, as here, of an existing text, to undertake textual emendation which is unevidenced by any manuscript reading." Especially in light of the ancient Greek science of female's conceiving seed.
- The use of Hebrews 11:11 as Embryological Proof-Text by Joyce Irwin (in Harvard Theological Review, Jul-Oct 1978) - she reviews the history of a debate, circa 1550s, involving the (virgin) birth of Jesus that relied on the meaning of Hebrews 11:11. The majority of the Dutch theologians involved at that time argued that Hebrews 11:11 was referring to Sarah creating sperm, including one who asked: "Since, then, the Apostle says Sarah received power to cast seed, what madness is it to want to deny it?" Her article: (Article text)
- Hebrews 11:11 "By Faith Sarah Received Ability" by J. Harold Greenlee (in The Asbury Theological Review, Spring 1999) - he forcefully argues that the only correct interpretation of Hebrews 11:11 is that Sarah is the subject of the sentence, not Abraham (surrounding passages have Abraham as the subject). However, he somehow ignores all of the ancient and modern writings (such as Van der Horst's) that supported the idea of females having sperm, and thus wrongly concludes that the meaning of the sentence is that Sarah is receiving the power to receive Abraham's sperm. (Article text)
Ancient Greek Science views of Female Sperm
The first question is, what prompted the man who wrote the book of Hebrews to refer to Sarah creating female sperm, as everyone knows today, females only have eggs? The answer to this question is easy - ancient Greek scientists thought that both males and females produced sperm (such as the two seed theory of Hippocrates, circa 400 BCE). They could see for themselves male semen (what they are referring to as seed), and assumed (using the science of the time) that females did something similar that they couldn't see. So whoever wrote Hebrews five hundred years later, while correctly using science as it was known over 2000 years ago, incorrectly introduced false science into the Bible. See Horst's article) for a detailed history of the ancient Greek and Hebraic science of female sperm.
First, Hebrews 11:11 again, with an English translation consistent with English translations for the first 1900 years of Christianity, from the original Greek/Latin versions up until late-1800s translations (for example, the 1898 Young's Literal Translation) and 1900s translations (for example, the 1955 Abington Interpreter's Bible):Πιστει και αντη Σαρρα στειρα δυναμιν εις καταβολην σπερματος Pistel kai antee Sarra steira dunamin eis kataboleen spermatos By faith also herself Sarah sterile power for conception of seed ελαβεν και παρα καιρον ηλικιας elaben kai para kairon elikias, received even beyond time of age
For the first 1000 years of New Testaments, religious scholars understood this passage to refer to Sarah and her conceiving seed. Eearly Church scholars recognized that the passage indicates that Sarah, the woman, is conceiving seed/sperm, most like relying on the Latin Vulgate translation circa 390 CE. Byzantine exegete Theophylactus writes in his Expositio in Epistulam ad Hebraeos 11:11:Indeed, the ancient Greeks knew that women had ovaries (but they did not know that the ovaries contained eggs), but called them 'testes' as with males, female testes that they assumed contained female sperm. So the lack of any words indicating "he" or "Abraham" means that this passage is only referring to Sarah and her production of sperm. Original English Translations - Sarah conceives seed"She [Sarah] received strength for a seminal emission." [Hebrews 11:11]. That is, she obtained strength to receive and retain Abraham's seed that was emitted to her. Or, because those who have studied these matters in detail say that a woman too, in a sense, produces seed of her own, perhaps the words 'for a seminal emission' should be taken to mean this: 'so that she herself too could emit semen'."
Many Bible translations in the centuries before and after Theophylactus' comments (mostly pre-1960s) translate the original Greek to reflect the science that the original Greek passage in Hebrews was based on. In all of these pre-1960s pasages that follow below, you will notice that neither "Abraham" nor "he" appears. We start with the Wycliffe New Testament of 1385, which has both "barren" and "seed":By faith also that Sara barren, took virtue in conceiving of seed, yea, against the time of age;
160 years later, in the 1549 Calvin's Commentaries on the Epistle of Paul The Apostle to the Hebrews, noted Protestant leader John Calvin writes (as translate by William Johnston into English):By faith even Sarah herself received power to conceive seed, when she was past age,
About ten years later, there is the Geneva Bible of 1560 which does not have "barren", but does have "seed":Through faith Sarra also received strength to conceyve seed,20 years later is the 1582 Rheims translation of the Latin Vulgate and its 1750 Douay-Rheims Challoner Revision bible having similar language, but adding back "barren":By faith also Sara herself, being barren, received strength to conceive seed, even past the time of age,30 years later, we have the classic English translation, the 1611 King James Version (KJV), which the Englishman Mathew Henry repeats and accepts without comment in his circa 1710 Mathew Henry's Commentary, as is repeated in the 1833 Noah Webster Bible, with all dropping "barren/sterile", but now adding "delivered of a child":Through faith also Sara herself received strength to conceive seed, and was delivered of a child when she was past age,
with much the same in the official 1637 Dutch States Bible, translated into English in 1657 (see Irwin), though dropping the "child" language, and using the more active "give seed" (an explicit contrast to Sarah being able to receive Abraham's seed):By faith Sara herself also received power to give seed,
In 1790, noted theologian John Wesley published his version of the New Testament, continuing the chain of "conceive seed" translations while also deleting "barren":By faith Sara also herself received power to conceive seed,
In 1857, Albert Barnes publishes his 1857 Notes, Explanatory and Practical, on the Epistle to Hebrews, which has a footnote that the subject of the sentence is Sarah: "The word 'herself' here - αντη - implies that there was something remarkable in the fact that she should manifest this faith. ... Nothing else but her faith could have led her to believe that in her old age she would have borne a son.", relying on the 1611 King James version:Through faith also Sara herself received strength to conceive seed, and was delivered of a child when she was past age,
A few years later there is the 1861 Codex Sinaiticus New Testament translation by H.T. Anderson based on a Greek version of the New Testament found by Constantine Tischendorf at Mount Sinai:By faith Sarah herself received strength for the conception of seed even beyond the time of life,
In 1844, the founder of the Mormon Church, Joseph Smith, published his translation of the New Testament, where he mades changes to over 4000 verses of the King James Version (to correct its mistakes). For Hebrews 11:11, Smith kept the same translation as the King James Version, though given Smith's sexist (and racist) beliefs, one might have guessed that he would have dropped the word 'seed'.
15 years later is the 1876 The New Encyclopedic Polygot Family Bible (the same as the 1611 King James Version):Through faith also Sarah herself received strength to conceive seed, and was delivered of a child when she was past age,
14 years later, there is the 1890 Darby Translation by John Nelson DarbyBy faith also Sarah herself received strength for [the] conception of seed, and [that] beyond a seasonable age;
Eight years later, there is the 1898 Young's Literal Translation Bible, written by Robert Young, an attempt to be extremely literal by preserving the tense and word usage of the original Greek, which uses both "barren" and "seed":By faith also Sarah herself did receive power to conceive seed, and she bare after the time of life,
The 1800s end with a large scale revision of the 1600s King James Version, with the editors taking advantage of 200 years of biblical analysis plus the discovery of more original fragments of New Testament passages. In 1881, a revision group based in England releases the 1881 Revised Version, followed twenty years later by the 1901 American Standard Version, which reflected some editing changes preferred by the Americans. Yet, in light of all of this new analysis, Sarah still has seed (but no children):By faith even Sarah herself received power to conceive seed when she was past age (1881 RV, 1901 ASV)
Going into the 1900s, this translated language is still being used. For example, we have the 1911 New Self-Interpreting Bible Library; the 1948 Commentary - Critical, Experimental, and Practical - of the Old and New Testaments by Jamieson, Fausset and Brown; and the 1955 The Interpreter's Bible (Abingdon) - all three using the language of the 1611 King James Version:Through faith also Sara herself received strength to conceive seed, and was delivered of child when she was past age,
with the "official" versions still being the Sarah's seed/child language of the 1611 King James Version, or the Sarah's seed language of the 1901 American Standard Version of the Holy Bible, with the same language in the 1881 New Testament from the UK Comittee of Revision:By faith even Sarah herself received power to conceive seed when she was past age,
These many examples show that for 1900 years, up until the 1960s or so, the vast majority of hundreds of Christian scholars and translators firmly believed that the correct grammatical translation of the original Greek fragments of Hebrews 11:11 is that through her faith, Sarah received strength to conceive seed/sperm.
Virgin Mary's Sperm???
Indeed, it was so universally thought inside the Christian churches that women produced sperm and had seminal emmissions, that one Jesuit scholar, Father Tomas Sanchez, asked about the Virgin Mary's emission of sperm. A celebrated treatise on theology and canon law of marriage written by Sanchez was published either in 1629 as Aphorismi Thomas Sanchez de matrimonio, or in 1627 as Tractus sancto de matrimonio, or his Holy Sacrament of Matrimony completed in 1599.
In his book, Father Sanchez put forth thousands of questions on marriage and sexual practice, for example, "Is it lawful for each partner to ejaculate independently of the other?", again reflecting the widely-held Christian view that both women and men produced sperm that issued in seminal emissions. Indeed, one question put forth by Father Sanchez completely establishes the Christian belief that women had sperm:(as quoted from Damning the Innocent by Pierre Darmon, Viking Press, 1985, page 4.Did the Virgin Mary emit semen in the course of her relations with the Holy Spirit?
1960s to 1980s - doubts start arising - "seed" is dropped
So, in the first Bibles, through the 1690s, and up until the 1960s, the translation was that Sarah was conceiving seed. But a tension with science is building up, and from the 1960s to the 1980s, the first translation lie occurs - delete "seed".
James Moffatt, in his 1924 A Critical and Exegetical Commentary on the Epistle to the Hebrews, starts discussing the conflict between these 1900 years of translations, and modern science (page 171): "Probably this is how the text was understood in the versions, e.g., the Latin ("in conceptionem simins"). Probably it was what the writer meant, though the expression is rather awkward, for καταβολην σπερματος means the act of the male, ...". Obviously, Moffatt was unfamiliary with the ancient Greek science of female sperm, for καταβολην σπερματος to also be the act of a female. Unsure of how to resolve this issue, Moffatt does a compromise - he leaves Sarah in as the subject of the sentence, but drops "seed", which results in a scientifically correct sentence, but a false translation (especially with the use of "son"):It was by faith that even Sara got strength to conceive ---- , bearing a son when she was past the age for it,
Sixty years later, the 1968 Jerome Biblical Commentary, while also retaining "by faith Sarah herself received power", also addresses the controversy: "The mention of Sarah is surprising, since the Greek text attributes to her, because of her faith, the power to beget a child (lit., 'power for the sowing of seed')." The surprise, of course, is the passages conflict with science. The Commentary continues: "The attempts to read a different meaning into the Greek in order to avoid the difficulty this verse presents are of doubtful merit." And here arises the tension. If you use the meaning that is consistent with the science at the time that Hebrews was written, and with the actual Greek words of Hebrews, as the Jerome Commentary implies is the ethical thing to do, you have a scientific error in a supposedly inerrant Bible. If you try to resolve the contradiction by using another translation, you are lieing (what the Commentary more politely states is "of doubtful merit"). Damned if you do (use the error), damned if you don't (use the lie).
At the start of the 1960s, in 1961, there appears the New English Bible, edited by a group of religious scholars from most of the United Kingdom's Christian churches (Church of England, Church of Scotland, Irish Council of Churches, the Methodist Church of Great Britain, the Congregational Church, the Presbyterian Church) issue their 1961 New English Bible, which continues the tradition of keeping "Sarah" but dropping seed (as does the 1970 New English Bible):By faith even Sarah herself received strength to conceive ---- , though she was past the age,
Why is there no footnote stating that translators have arbitrarily deleted one of the original Greek words - "seed"? Two years later, there is similar language in the 1963 New American Standard Bible (NASB - the official Bible of the Southern Baptists), also with no footnote:By faith even Sarah herself received ability to conceive ----, even beyond the proper time of life,
with similar translations in the 1962 Oxford Annotated Bible (RSV), the popular 1977 Oxford Revised Standard Version (RSV), the 1985 New Jerusalem Bible (NJB), and the 1989 Revised English Bible (REB):By faith Sarah herself received power to conceive ---- , even when she was past the age,Such compromise language is still being used today, for example the 2007 Holman Apologetics Study Bible which makes the implication of offspring explicit:By faith even Sarah herself, when she was barren, received power to conceive offspring, even though she was past the age,
as well as a modern, street-lingo version in the 2003 The Message//Remix: The Bible in Contemporary Language by Eugene Peterson:By faith, barren Sarah was able to become pregnant, old woman as she was at the time,
All of these transations are creative, artful distortions, because they can be read that Sarah is conceiving children, and thus eliminating any scientific conflict. But in dropping one of the words from the original text - spermatos/seed, it is an unethical compromise. Who gave these translators permission to drop a word from the Word of God? More unethically, many of these translations don't have a footnote for readers to inform them that a crucial word has been deleted.
1990s - the first translation lie doesn't work, try another
Apparently to Christian scholars, deleting "seed" was too awkward. For if we can drop words, why not drop "virgin" from "virgin birth" to eliminate that conflict with science? But if you put "seed" back in, how do your eliminate the conflict with science? Make the seed to be that of Abraham. "Huh?" - you ask. Hebrews 11:11 doesn't have "he" or "Abraham" - isn't the passage quite clear that the reference is to "Sarah herself"? So how can you add a reference to a male?
For example, consider the verse from the 1991 New American Bible (NAB - the bible of all American Catholics):By faith he received power to generate, even though he was past the normal age - and Sarah herself was sterile
or much the same in the 1989 edition of the New Revised Standard Version (NRSV) of the Council of Churches of Christ, also approved for use by Catholics, and repeated in the 2007 New Oxford Annotated Bible (using the NRSV) and in the 1999 Tyndale House Word Study Greek-English (NRSV) New Testament (which uses "Abraham" in the translation despite including the Greek letters for Sarah, the English letters for Sarah, and a footnote alternative that only uses Sarah):By faith he received power of procreation - even though he was too old - and Sarah herself was barren
Where is "he" in the original Greek text? For 1900 years, nowhere. Since the Greek phrase kataboleen spermatos grammatically refers to the earlier word Sarra, and since the word Sarra appears in a nominative clause (which means that the sentence directly refers to Sarah "herself") and not a dative clause (which would indirectly refer to Abraham), the only honest meaning of Hebrews 11:11 is that Sarah is creating the sperm, not he/Abraham. These two Catholics bibles, in this instance, are lieing about the word of God by adding "he".Interestingly, the New Jerusalem Bible (NJB) mentioned earlier is also approved for use by Catholics, even though for Hebrews 11:11, the meaning of the translations in the NAB and NRSV contradict the meaning in the NJB (which keeps "Sarah" but eliminates "seed"). They can't even get their lies straight.
While most of the "Abraham/he" references in Bibles and Bible commentaries are post-1990, this distortion arises earlier. The 1978 and 1984 New International Version (NIV) editions, as well as the 2002 Zondervan NIV Study Bible, are even more unethical in mistranslating the original Greek by falsely adding "Abraham" and "father", while falsely deleting the word 'sperm' - a double lie:By faith Abraham, even though he was past age - and Sarah herself was barren - was enabled to become a father,
Anyone see the word "Abraham" in the original Greek? The 1986 Zondervan New International Bible Commentary (using the NIV translation) explains this introduction of "Abraham" by completely mistating the meaning of Greek words: "In addition, the Greek expression translated to become a father (katabole spermatos) is regularly used of the 'sowing' of the seed, of 'begetting', rather than of 'conceiving'" -- a false assertion that contradicts 1900 years of Biblical translations (which Van der Horst well documents). In complete contradiction to these two Zondervan Bibles, the 1987 Zondervan Amplified Bible goes back to "Sarah", deletes the word "sterile/barren": and incorrectly uses "child" for "seed":By faith Sarah herself received power to conceive a child, even when she was past the age,Now most Christians today are unaware that this use of "he/Abraham" contradicts 1900 years of "Sarah" translations that explicit talk of Sarah's sperm , because a) they rarely, if ever, are told about this science problem in the Bible, for even if they were told to read the passage, b) they would not see this reference to sperm, but rather these "he/Abraham" passages above.
In summary, most late-20th century bibles translate Hebrews 11:11 with language that makes the seed/sperm Abraham's, not Sarah's, in complete contradiction to the previous 1900 years of Bibles that have the seed/sperm being conceived by Sarah.
Why the false translations from 1960s forward, especially in the 1990s?
In the 1660s and 1670s, three European scientists, Reinier de Graaf, Jan Swammerdam and Niels Steno, prove that women have eggs, not sperm. It is extremely suspicious that most of the Bibles prior to this time (such as the King James and Dutch State versions some decades earlier) have Sarah conceiving 'seed', as do bibles for the next few hundred years while scientists continue to debate the role of male sperm and female eggs (debates which probably did not circulate too far outside science circles, for example, into the religious scholar's world). Thus, the new science was too late the very influential King James Version translation, which was relied upon in preparing new Bibles in the centuries that followed, throughout the 1700s and 1800s.
So why the mistranslations starting in the 1960s? Well, this "problem" with Hebrews 11:11 - Sarah's seed/sperm - was starting to attract more scholarly attention, for example, Cadbury's 1924 article, which criticized some initial attempts to add "Abraham" to translations of the passages. As religious scholars readdressed the passage, in light of the higher levels of knowledge of reproductive biology in the mid-1900s, something had to be done. By the mid-1900s, scientists had fully accepted male sperm and female eggs leading to procreation, and thus putting this false idea of female semen in Hebrews 11:11 in conflict with science.
To minimize the conflict, to falsely maintain Biblical inerrancy, Biblical translators introduced these false mistranslations. But without any explanation, this false translation of false science remains arbitrary and unethical - a lie. And without any upfront explicit rules on how each sect of Christianity is interpreting all of the passages in the Bible (if they are lie about the words in this passage, what other words are they lieing about in the Bible?), it is unethical to assert any such passages against science, including against the science of female sperm.
Not only do many modern bibles deliberately mistranslate this passage in Hebrews involving female sperm, so too do most religious commentaries on the book of Hebrews. Such commentaries are either deliberately suppressing the lie of the mistranslation, or just are incompetently written where they make no mention of ancient Greek science (especially commentaries written after Horst's 1990 article). They have no choice but to lie. If they correctly translate the original Greek, they end up with the false science that Sarah conceived sperm. These commentaries include:
- NO DISCUSSION
- Helps from Hebrews: a new commentary workbook by Don Earl Boatman, College Press, 1960 - Boatman uses the literal translation "... Sarah received power to conceive seed ...", without any mention of the controversial nature of the passage.
- Wycliffe Bible Commentary edited by Everett Harrison, Moody Bible Institute, 1962 - no discussion of Hebrews 11:11 (KJV)
- Liberty Commentary on the New Testament by Jerry Falwell, Liberty Press, 1978 - does not discuss the controversy of Hebrews 11:11, but just says "Because of their faith, Abraham and Sara became the parents of a family ...", falsely introducing the words "Abraham", "parents", and "family" that do not appear in the original Greek.
- Issues in the Book of Hebrews edited by Frank Holbrook, Review and Herald Publishing, 1989 - across 230 pages, not once discusses Hebrews 11:11.
- Understanding the Book of Hebrews by Kenneth Schenck, Westminster John Knox Press, 2003 - across 120 pages, not once does Schenck discuss Hebrews 11:11.
The most popular way to sneak in "Abraham/he" is to argue that the phrase "Sarah herself" is not a nominative phrase (making Sarah the subject of the verse), but instead is a dative phrase that makes Abraham the subject of the verse (as he is the subject of the verses before and after Hebrews 11:11). However, as Hughes (1977) rightly objects: "These [dative] proposals are not unattractive, but they come up against the considerable obstacle that there is no evidence to indicate that the verse was construed along these lines [i.e., as a dative reference] by the ancient authors, including, significantly, the Greek fathers (emphasis added).
- "SARAH HERSELF" IS A DATIVE PHRASE
- The Epistles to the Hebrews by F.F. Bruce, Eerdmans Publishing, 1964 - Bruce argues that 'to conceive seed' can't refer to Sarah because conceiving seed is "the father's part in the generative process", while making no mention of ancient Greek beliefs that women conceived seed (which the Hebrews writer incorporated). He instead argues that the 'Sarah herself' clause is dative, not nominative, so that one can add 'he' to refer to Abraham.
- The Epistle to the Hebrews: a commentary by Homer Kent, Baker Book House, 1972 - more honest than most, but still forced to lie. Kent writes that the verse reads that "... Sarah herself .. received power for the deposting of seed ...", rejecting the argument that "Sarah herself" is a dative clause (a tactic used by Bruce and others to justify inserting Abraham's name). Instead, to lie around the false science of Sarah having sperm, Kent argues that the translation should be something like "Sarah received power with regard to Abraham's depositing of seed.", but admits this is a manipulation of the text. He makes no mention of ancient Greek science's view that women had sperm, which makes a literal translation consistent with the science of the times, but false science in reality.
- New International Bible Commentary by Donald Hagner, Hendrickson Publishing, 1983/1990 - with a very similar argument to Bruce, Hagner defends the false translation of the NIV New Testament - that Abraham was enabled to become a father. He ignores ancient Greek beliefs that women had seed/sperm, and with no support, argues that the 'Sarra' clause is dative, not nominative.
- A Handbook on The Letter to Hebrews by Paul Ellingworth and Eugene Nida, United Bible Societies, 1983 - they make an argument similar to those of Bruce and Hagner, that is, the passage refers to Abraham, though it can equally refer to Sarah. They also make no mention of ancient Greek beliefs that women had seed/sperm.
- POST-HORST COMMENTARIES
- Hebrews by Ray Stedman, InterVarsity Press, 1992 - Stedman pretty much relies on F.F. Bruce's 1964 argument that it is impossible for the passage to be refering to Sarah's seed, but instead that Sarah is being used in a dative clause. He writes in a footnote: "Many commentators are troubled by the [NIV translation] was enabled to become a father", and troubled they should be since "father" doesn't appear in the original Greek. He also writes: "It is generally agreed that this refers to the depositing of seed, rather that the presenting of an ovum by the female." Doubly false. First, as this Web page shows, it is not generally agreed. Second, few if any have ever suggested that one possible interpretation was "ovum", since the original authors of Hebrews knew nothing of ova. He concludes "The other possibility is that the phrase is dative ...", and refers back to Bruce. Stedman makes no mention of Horst.
- Oxford Bible Commentary, edited by Barton and Muddmann, Oxford University Press, 2001 - distorts the text of the original versions of Hebrews: "The reference to Sarah appears variously in ancient witnesses." What? It appears directly in the original text, while the name "Abraham" doesn't. "In some, she is the subject of the sentence; in others, more likely original, she is associated with Abraham." Oxford has no logical basis for the 'most likely original' assumption, and totally ignores ancient beliefs that women such as Sarah conceived seed. Does not mention Horst's article.
- The Anchor Bible: Hebrews by Craig Koester, Doubleday/Random House, 2001 - Koester states the translation is "By faith he received power to father children", but concedes that it can also be translated as Sarah received the power to conceive. He downplays the argument that the word 'Sarra' appears in a nominative clause (so the sentence refers to Sarah), and not in a dative clause (which indirectly would refer to Abraham), despite the fact that no manuscript has a dative usage. And he downplays the fact that ancient Greeks thought women had seed/sperm, which gives a pure Sarah translation a consistent logic with no need to play linguistic games.. despite all of these facts, Koester sticks to the Abraham translation to preserve the myth that there is not a scientific lie with the original Greek. Does not mention Horst's article.
Not surprisingly, one of the few Bible commentaries to argue that in light of ancient Greek science, that the Hebrews 11:11 was talking about Sarah's sperm, was a bible commentary edited by women (as opposed to the vast majority of Bible commentaries written by men). In "The Women's Bible Commentary" edited by Carol Newsom and Sharon Ringe (Westminster/John Knox Press, 1992), with regards to Hebrews 11:11, the commentary states: "... Abraham becomes the subject. But this solution is not necessary. ... First, some ancient medical theories held that women as well as men produced seed. ...". The writer of Hebrews honestly incorporated false science into the New Testament. The only dishonesty is modern day Christians saying that the New Testament with such passages is inerrant.
In short, any Christian concerns about the ethics of female sperm should not be given much attention, given their own unethical mistranslation of Biblical references to female sperm.
Indeed, female sperm is in the spirit of a saying attributed to Jesus that appears in the Gospel of Thomas, a book written mostly likely contemporarily with the writing of the books of the main apostles (Matthew, Mark, Luke, John). In Thomas, responding to a hateful statement from the Apostle Peter ("Mary should leave us, for females are not worthy of life."), Jesus responds:I shall guide her to make her male, so that she too may become a living spirit resembling you males. For every female who makes herself male will enter heaven's kingdom.
I am not sure what it means for a "female who makes herself male", other than this is a raw bit of unethical sexism from Jesus, but certainly female sperm can't hurt helping females be more male.
So in light of these multiple lies about sperm and female sperm in the New Testament, Christians have too many ethical problems of their own to then comment on the ethics of creating female sperm. Finally, never fully trust any Bible that uses the word "homosexual", since the word didn't exist when the Bible was written, and instead was invented in 1869 by German writer Karl-Maria Kertbeny.
History of 'barren': in or out of Hebrews?
A secondary error with Hebrews 11:11 is whether or not the word "barren" belongs in the text. Let's first review the full passage with "barren"Πιστει και αντη Σαρρα (στειρα) δυναμιν εις καταβολην σπερματος Pistel kai antee Sarra (steira) dunamin eis kataboleen spermatos By faith also herself Sarah (sterile) power for conception of seed ελαβεν, και παρα καιρον ηλικιας elaben, kai para kairon elikias, received, even beyond time of age
In 1999, Baker Books published a book titled "The Complete Text of the Earliest New Testament Manuscripts" edited by Philip Comfort and David Barrett. On page 232 they include a fragment from a version of Hebrews 11:11 dated to 150 CE, which clearly includes Σαρρα στειρα - Sarah sterile. However, on page 80 of the book, they include a fragment of Hebrews 11:11 dated to 225-250 CE, which does NOT include στειρα - sterile.
And for the next 1700 years, most if not all versions of the Greek New Testament did NOT include sterile, including:
- 1752 - Novum Testamentum Graecum by Wettstein
- 1902 - Das Neue Testament Handausgabe by Weiss
- 1937 - New Testament in Original Greek by Westcott
- 1937 - The New Testament in the Original Greek by Westcott and Hort
- 1964 - The Greek New Testament by Tasker
- 1968 - RSV Interlinear Greek-English New Testament
- 1970 - RSV Interlinear Greek-English New Testament
- 1977 - Interlinear Greek-English New Testament by Berry
- 1982 - Greek New Testament According to the Majority Text
However, starting in 1966, the United Bibles Societies using the American Bible Society publishers, added back στειρα - sterile, to their versions of the Greek New Testament, with a footnote citing the 150 CE manuscript fragment. Since then, their published versions, and others, have included στειρα:
- 1966 - The Greek New Testament: Greek and English (UBS/ABS)
- 1968 - The Greek New Testament: Greek and English (UBS/ABS)
- 1971 - The Greek New Testament: Greek and English (UBS/ABS)
- 1975 - The Greek New Testament: Greek and English (UBS/ABS)
- 1981 - Analytical Greek New Testament edited by Friberg and Friberg
- 1983 - The Greek New Testament: Greek and English (UBS/ABS)
- 1984 - The Greek New Testament: Greek and English (UBS/ABS)
- 1990 - The Greek-English Interlinear New Testament (UBS/ABS)
So it is a 50-50 bet whether or not "sterile" belongs in Hebrews 11:11. A secondary discrepancy to the scientific error of Sarah conceiving seed, but a good example of the problem of giving so much authority to a text with a very shaky evidentiary history.
Sperm in the Koran
The bible of Islam, the Koran, mentions sperm a variety of times, usually in the form of the phrase "sperm drop". One incomplete passage can be interpreted as falsely assuming that females have sperm. This passage occurs in Surah 76, "Al-Insan (Man)", line 2: "We have created the human from a (sperm) drop, a mixture, testing him;..." (see Arabic and English of this passage).
The first interpretation is that it is two sperm drops, one from a man and one from a woman, being mingled, reflecting the assumption made in Hebrews based on earlier Greek science. The second interpretation seen in some annotated Korans is that the sperm is mingled "with the female ovum" with a reference to Surah 86:6-7, which can be translated "he was created out of a ejaculated/seminal water/fluid issuing from between the loins and the ribs". However, there is no reference to "eggs" in this second Surah, and at the time of the writing of the Koran, there was no human knowledge of the existence of female eggs (which were discovered by European scientists over a 1000 years later). Much like with Hebrews, the words are consistent with the inaccurate science of their times, and not with modern science, something commonly found with the words of men and women.
Of course if you are an unbeliever of the sacredness of this passage, or any other part of the Koran, two lines later in this Surah, line 4, is repeated a punishment for you that is repeated way too often in the Koran: "Indeed, for the unbelievers we have prepared chains, fetters and a blazing fire" to torture the unbelievers for all eternity when they are dead. Not a nice godly thought, allegorical or not.
The Koran has way too many passages about non-believers being killed and tortured in the afterlife. God is love, and teaches the truth in the afterlife, so it is an evil opinion to say that God tortures in the afterlife.