The Wartburg Project

June 1st, 2018

46. How should the term "men and brothers" be handled?

In the book of Acts, assemblies of the church are sometimes addressed with the special term “men and brothers” (andres adelphoi). How does the EHV handle this? 

A much-discussed issue concerning some recent Bible translations has been the rendering of the Greek word adelphoi as “brothers and sisters” in those translations. The gist of the problem is that adelphoi is not strictly equivalent to the English word “brothers,” since in some contexts it may be addressed to mixed groups that include men and women. On the other hand, adelphoi is not strictly equivalent to the English term “brothers and sisters” or “siblings” since those expressions explicitly include females, whereas adelphoi does not. This is an issue which deserves its own article. Here we will address only those cases in which the term adelphoi (brothers) is reinforced by the addition of the term men (andres).

One such passage is Acts 1:16, in which those who are to participate in choosing a replacement for Judas, are addressed as andres adelphoi, “men, brothers.” It is very likely that women were present in the crowd, but were they asked to participate in the selection of the new apostle?

In Acts 6:3 the same pattern holds. NET has this note: “It is not clear from a historical standpoint (but it is unlikely) that women would have been involved in the selection process too. For this reason the translation ‘brothers’ has been retained, rather than ‘brothers and sisters’ (used in contexts where both male and female believers are clearly addressed).”

Acts 22:1 has the triple masculine ανδρες αδελφοι και πατερες (men, brothers, fathers) for which all the translations retain the masculine.

In Acts 1:16 the EHV reads:

In those days, when the group there numbered about 120 people, Peter stood up among the brothers and said, 16“Gentlemen, brothers, the Scripture had to be fulfilled, which the Holy Spirit spoke long ago through the mouth of David about Judas….  21Therefore it is necessary that one of the men who accompanied us during the entire time that the Lord Jesus went in and out among us, 22beginning from his baptism by John until the day Jesus was taken up from us, become a witness with us of his resurrection.

The EHV agrees with the rationale presented by the NET that the text does not provide clear evidence that the assignment to choose an apostle was addressed to both the men and the women. For that reason the translation should remain relatively literal to avoid prejudging the discussion concerning the relative roles of men and women in the early church.