A Cry For Justice

Awakening the Evangelical Church to Domestic Violence and Abuse in its Midst

Whose tears are covering the altar in Malachi 2? The Matthew Bible vs. the Geneva Bible, Puritans and Calvin

Now have ye brought it to this point again, that the altar of the Lord is covered with tears, weeping, and mourning: so that I will no more regard the meat offering, neither will I receive nor accept anything at your hands.

And yet ye say, wherefore [why]?

Even because that whereas the Lord made a covenant betwixt thee and the wife of thy youth, thou hast despised her: Yet is she thine own companion and married wife. So did not the one,* and yet had he an excellent spirit. What did then the one? He sought the seed promised of God. Therefore look well to your spirit, and let no man despise the wife of his youth.

If thou hatest her, put her away, sayeth the Lord God of Israel, and give her a clothing for the scorn, sayeth the Lord of hosts. Look well then to your spirit, and despise her not.

* “the one” is Abraham.

That is how Malachi 2:13-16 reads in the 1537 Matthew Bible. If you’ve never heard of the Matthew Bible, bear with me. I will give an explainer below.

Ruth Magnusson Davis

Ruth Magnusson Davis is gently updating the 1537 Matthew Bible into modern English.

In her post Altars Covered in Tears –  Malachi, she shares her thoughts about how the Matthew Bible translated Malachi 2:13-16:

I understand this to mean that the women weep because their husbands despise them. The men have broken their covenant to love and protect.

If the asterisked note is correct, Malachi holds up Abraham as an example of a man with an excellent spirit toward his wife, and exhorts the men to guard their own spirits. However, if a man hates his wife, he may put her away, to spare further injury and grief – but he must “give her a clothing for the scorn. ‘Clothing’ means, I believe, ‘garment.’ The meaning of this is not clear, and may be figurative. In any case, what is certain is that the men are told to take some steps to provide for (‘clothe’ or ‘cover’) their scorned and injured wives.

Explainer about the Matthew Bible

Few Christians these days have heard of the Matthew Bible. It was the first whole Bible printed in English. It came out about 70 years before the King James Version!

The 1537 Matthew Bible was the work of three men. The NT and some of the OT was translated by William Tyndale. The rest of the OT was translated by Myles Coverdale.

Tyndale was martyred before he could complete his translation of the bible into English from the original Greek and Hebrew. Myles Coverdale, who was Tyndale’s friend, translated the bible into English from other language versions, primarily Luther’s German translation.

John Rogers, who was friends with both Tyndale and Coverdale. compiled the 1537 Matthew Bible using Tyndale’s translation and (for the parts Tyndale had not translated) he used Coverdale’s translation. John Rogers added chapter summaries and notes to the Matthew Bible, but he did not do any of the translation.

The reason it was called the Matthew Bible was because in England at that time it was ILLEGAL to translate and publish the Bible in English. Tyndale did his translation while living a fugitive under the radar in Europe. Tyndale was captured and imprisoned in Europe and then executed for ‘heresy’ by the authorities. Myles Coverdale and John Rogers were equally in danger.

All these men – Tyndale, Coverdale, Rogers – had to work anonymously, because their lives were in danger from the corrupt church (Roman Catholicism).

Does that sound familiar to you, dear reader?

So many of our readers have to be anonymous, hiding under the radar to try to protect themselves from their abusers and the abusers’ allies in the corrupt church…

In her post, Ruth shows that the Geneva Bible translated this passage in Malachi very differently.

I’ll give an explainer about the 1560 Geneva Bible below. Ruth summarizes the differences between how the Geneva and the Matthew Bible translated Malachi 2:13-16:

In the Geneva Bible, it is the people who are weeping, because the Lord does not regard their meat offerings. … But how plausible is this?

In the Matthew Bible, if the men hate their wives and put them away, they must “give her clothing for the scorn.” This indicates that they themselves must “cover” the injury they have done to her somehow. But in the Geneva Bible, the Lord covers the injury under his garments. (How convenient.) The Geneva’s note on verse 16 says this means the husband takes other wives and so covers his own fault. What??

In the Matthew Bible, John Rogers’ note explains that “the one” means Abraham, who is apparently held up as an example. But in the Geneva Bible, “one” is referred to the teaching that men and women become as one flesh. This is a very different thing.

Explainer about the Geneva Bible

The Geneva Bible came out in 1560 – about 20 years after the Matthew Bible and about 50 years before the 1611 King James Bible. The Geneva Bible had many more notes than the Matthew Bible did. The notes in the Geneva Bible are similar to the ‘study notes’ in modern study bibles.

The 1560 Geneva Bible was translated by Puritans. They seem to have injected a very different spirit into their translation which is in marked contrast with the Matthew Bible. (See Ruth’s post Where the Geneva Bible lost the Word of God. And Ruth will be publishing a lot more about this.)

I strongly encourage you to read all of Ruth Magnusson Davis’s post Altars Covered in Tears –  Malachi.

The Puritans were Calvinists. Some of our readers have been given the impression that ‘Calvinism is all bad’ and Calvinists are always controlling and lacking in compassion. Some of our readers have heard that ‘Neo-Calvinist’ (Neo-Cal) churches today are abusing and re-abusing victims of abuse.

In my experience, it’s not only Calvinist or Neo-Cal churches which are mistreating victims of abuse.

I know that domestic abuse, sexual abuse and spiritual abuse is happening across the board, in all streams of Christianity. I know because I’ve heard and read the stories of the abused from ALL streams of Christendom.

I don’t buy into the idea that Calvinism or Neo-Calvinism is the problem. But it is possible or probable that the spirit which the Puritans injected into the 1560 Geneva Bible is one of the root causes of the mistreatment of victims of abuse which we see in the visible church today. If English translations of the Bible have replicated and passed down this harsh spirit from the Puritans…it would explain a great deal about the current state of affairs in Christendom. 

We know that the men who produced the King James Version (1611) used a fair bit of the Matthew Bible, but they were also influenced by the Geneva Bible.

How much has this strange spirit which was injected by the Puritans in the Geneva Bible been influencing and affecting our understanding of Scripture?

I think this a question which true believers will be exploring and pondering for a long time … until the Lord returns. The Geneva Bible is probably not the only culprit in its translation and ‘study notes,’ but I suspect is a major culprit. Mistaken ideas have a way of getting passed down…for generations. Christ’s church is always under attack from those who sneak in…

Acts 20:29-30, New Matthew Bible 

For I am sure of this, that after my departing, grievous wolves will enter in among you, who will not spare the flock. Moreover, from among your own selves men will rise up speaking perverse things, to draw disciples after them. Therefore awake, and remember that for the space of three years I did not cease to warn every one of you, both night and day, with tears.

In 1560, John Calvin and his fellow church leaders in Geneva wrote to an abused woman who had appealed to them to give her safe haven from her abusive husband. Her husband was a French nobleman who had clout and powerful allies at the court of the King of France. She wrote a letter to John Calvin’s church in Geneva, Switzerland, asking if they would promise her safe haven if she fled from her husband. They wrote back to her telling her that she hadn’t done enough or gone to enough lengths to give the gospel to her husband…

Not much has changed. This is just what so many church leaders tell abused wives today!

If you want to read the letter from the French noblewoman and the letter that John Calvin’s church sent her in response, you can find them in Appendix 11 of my book Not Under Bondage. (If you can’t afford to buy my book, click here.)

***

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21 Comments

  1. GypsyAngel

    It is interesting to note that not much has changed in the ensuing generations, regarding the mainstream churches’ position toward the wife. I suppose it would then be fair to state that in many cases the church is still quite medieval in their stance toward the abused. It certainly was in my case. And even to the subject of re-marriage, I see a trend where many of my fellows are concerned. They are being told that remarriage is frowned upon and would be considered adultery. I honestly expected better from the Protestant church. Thankfully the church I attend continues to uphold me in my recovery from abuse. Unfortunately, they appear to be in a minority.

    I appreciate the difference in the translation of the passage, as that one had confused me for some time.it makes much more sense in the Geneva translation.

    P.S. thank you for the copy of Barbara’s book, “Not Under Bondage” and Don Hennessy’s’ book “Why Does He DO That”….Both are excellent reading. I encourage those who cannot afford a book they wish to read to ask for one. You will not be disappointed.

    • Hi Gypsy Angel, you mentioned the book “Why Does He DO That?”. That is written by Lundy Bancroft, not Don Hennessy.

      Don Hennessy’s first book is “How He Gets Into Her Head”. That is the book I expounded from in depth in my Don Hennessy Series. Don Hennessy’s second book is “Steps To Freedom”; I’m in the process of reading it now.

  2. Renewedspirit

    Thanks for sharing ~ and for ALL your efforts! Soli Deo Gloria.

  3. Today

    This Malachi passage is hard to read in Hebrew. If you look at all the ways Jewish and Christian commentators have explained it through the centuries, imho, I think it’s safe to say that anyone who says to you, “Well, ‘God hates divorce'” as if that alone settles everything in your life is on soft ground Scripturally.

    The tears on the altar have been understood as those of abandoned wives, those of the priests whose service is unacceptable to God, or even tears of the altar itself over the sadness of betrayal and divorce.

    I believe it was an 11th C Jewish, French commentator, Kara, who interpreted “the one” as Abraham. The “so did not the one” was seen as a question from the unfaithful husbands trying to excuse their behavior by citing Abraham’s relationship with Hagar. The next sentences were understood to say in reply that Abraham was seeking godly offspring, but these priests had no such good excuse.

    (A contemporary of his, though, suggested the passage referred to Adam and Eve whose offspring were the human race. Obviously, neither Abraham nor Adam and Eve are explicitly mentioned in the text.)

    One historic Jewish understanding of 2:16 is that an unloved wife must be divorced properly and expediently so that she is free to marry someone else who will love her. The injustice/violence is there understood to be that of a man who torments his wife but won’t give her a fair and legal divorce!

    It is not that clear in 2:16 who is not loving what. The understanding referenced directly above is that a man is not loving his wife. The ESV and Wycliffe’s translation understand it the same way. The KJV and NIV take it as God hating divorce.

    As you can guess, I’ve long found this a very interesting history and translation question. Thank you for your work on this!

    • Thanks for your comment, ‘Today’. Very interesting.

      I would like to engage with this paragraph of your comment:

      It is not that clear in 2:16 who is not loving what. The understanding referenced directly above is that a man is not loving his wife. The ESV and Wycliffe’s translation understand it the same way. The KJV and NIV take it as God hating divorce.

      You cited there several different English versions. I wonder if you have read my book Not Under Bondage? In my book I addressed Malachi 2:16 in a chapter and in a longish appendix.

      The research I did on what various Hebrew scholars and translation committees had said about 2:16 shows, I think conclusively, that the word ‘hates’ is masculine 3rd person singular. And the one who hates in that verse is the husband, not God. So versions like the KJV and 1984 NIV are wrong in giving the idea that it’s “God hates divorce.” The 2011 NIV has rendered 2:16 to indicate that the husband is the one doing the hating.

      I summarize this here: https://cryingoutforjustice.com/2013/10/24/god-hates-divorce-not-always/

      • Today

        Thanks so much for the good additional information. I didn’t know about the NIV update and will look forward to reading more of your work on Malachi 2.

      • 🙂

    • Also, welcome to the blog, Today.

      Would you care to tell us any more about yourself?

      We like to encourage new readers to check out our New Users’ Info page.

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    • Ruth M Davis

      That’s very interesting about the 11th century commentator and the example of Abraham given to correct a misunderstanding. Thank you ‘Today.’

  4. joepote01

    How interesting! I’ll have to look into these early translations a bit more.

    Thanks for sharing!

  5. Finding Answers

    I wonder how much this influenced the attitudes of secular world? Or, on the flip side of the coin, how this was influenced by the secular world? In other words, which came first, the chicken or the egg?

    There are many households that are very authoritarian and patriarchal, but are secular in nature. (Patriarchy does not always refer to religion or the ‘c’hurch.)

    “Because I said so.”

    “Children should be seen and not heard.”

    “When I want your opinion, I will give it to you.”

    I’M the one with a degree in higher education, so that makes me an expert in every field.

    “You should know the answer(s).”

    The answer has to be right the first time…and answered immediately.

    “I’M paying the bill, so…”

    You’re not earning your keep.

    Solve / fix it yourself.

    “Don’t tell anyone.”

    “You’re SO sensitive.”

    “Stop crying or I’ll give you something to cry about…”

    There are many, many more examples, but I think you get my point. I do not believe this stemmed from the Anglican church, as this was dropped from family attendance when I was a child. Things got very muddied for me, because I was what some might call a precocious reader. Certainly I was a voracious one!!

    When I was 5, I read one of my brothers’ Bible…and read it though a couple more times shortly thereafter. This was not a children’s bible story book, nor was it the King James. All I remember was the white cover, it was very thick, had an amazing picture of Jesus, and another of Esther. I remember the picture of Esther because the colour of her garments were similar to those used by the old masters.

    (I don’t think any of that requires airbrushing…)

    Here’s the key. Yes, as a result of my reading, I gave my life to Jesus. (I was by myself.) BUT, because I had no one to help me understand the Scripture I read, AND the household was very authoritarian and patriarchal, I related EVERYTHING to the Old Testament and the Law.

    Coming out of the fog has affected every aspect of my life. ACFJ was the final piece of the puzzle. I had already done so much reading on health issues – mental, physical, emotional. I was missing the untwisting of Scripture. While I also found a number of other very helpful blogs, there is not the same range / variety of participation as ACFJ.

    I’m sorry for the long post. I have tried to remain on target. The difficulties encountered in translating the Bible are myriad…and so it has always been…

    Seeing these translations through the eyes of someone affected by a lifetime of abuse – and taking into account the Lord not regarding their tears on the altar – I would have interpreted it as the wolves crying false tears….

    • Until recently I had interpreted it as the wolves crying false tears.

      But having read this article by Ruth and learned how it was rendered in the Matthew Bible, I think that the tears are more likely to be the tears of the abused — the tears of the people who the abusers target and ravage.

      And #MeToo is an expression of this – the abuse victims, mostly women, saying “Me too! That man abused me! That person abused me! Those systems abused me when I reported the abuse!”

      The lament that has been bottled up by so many survivors because it wasn’t safe to grieve except in private.

      Weeping at the altar is weeping privately to God. Hannah was abused and taunted by her rival, the other wife of Elkanah. Hannah went to the temple and poured out her heart to God:

      So Hannah arose after they had eaten in Shiloh and after they had drunk. Now Eli the priest was sitting on a seat by the door of the tabernacle of the Lord. And she was bitter, and prayed to the Lord, and wept severely.

      Initially when the Eli heard her weeping, he scolded her. What a familiar scenario to our readers! How many of us have been scolded by pastors, elders and other Christians when we showed grief or complained about the abuse?

      While she continued praying in the Lord’s presence, Eli watched her mouth. Hannah was praying silently, and though her lips were moving, her voice could not be heard. Eli thought she was drunk and said to her, “How long are you going to be drunk? Get rid of your wine!”

      But Hannah defended herself:

      “No, my lord, I am a woman of sorrow. I have drunk neither wine nor strong drink, but have poured out my soul before the Lord. Do not consider your handmaid to be a sinful woman, for out of the abundance of my concern and provocation I have spoken until now.”

      Read the whole story here: 1 Sam 1:1-18, MEV

      • Finding Answers

        Barb,

        Thank you for the information and explanation …certainly food for thought. And reassuring to know you originally had the same interpretation. 🙂

        (I’m fighting through the fog to put this into words. So frustrating to be very functional in some areas and grasping at straws in others.)

        Although I have read Hannah’s story a number of times at different points in my life, I have had difficulty relating. On an biblical and intellectual level, I understand Hannah’s perspective. On a heart level, I cannot. I went against the grain and chose not to have children. Two main reasons: 1) I did not feel I would have been a good mother, as I did not believe mine had provided much of a role model. The facade of the “proper” mother was there, but not the love and compassion. 2) I knew I would have been doing all the extra work associated with bringing up a child / children. Considering I was already working full-time, taking care of the house inside and out, looking after the finances as well as I could while married to an irresponsible person, etc. NOW I understand what I subconsciously knew.

        “The lament that has been bottled up by so many survivors because it wasn’t safe to grieve except in private.”

        I never felt safe to grieve, even in private. I had been divorced many months before I even dared venture to speak aloud in private. Even alone, I expected to be ridiculed. Somehow, I thought God was waiting for the chance to take up where everyone else left off.

        “Weeping at the altar is weeping privately to God. ”

        I did not think God would listen. I still struggle with this. Again, intellectually, I get it.. At a heart level, only sometimes.

        It’s like I can SEE the gaps in my perspective, but the holes remain. I’ve always been able to provide the hands-and-feet of Christ to others, but nothing to myself.

        I’m off to re-read your post, as well as Ruth’s. I really, really want to untwist Scripture and my misconceptions of God.

        Bless you for your response.

      • Thank you so much, Finding Answers. I live alone and have been talking out loud to myself for years. I even do it in public, and when I’m with my extended family, and then sometimes if I remember I apologise to those who might have overheard me in case my talking to myself annoys them. 🙂

        When I read this part of your comment

        I had been divorced many months before I even dared venture to speak aloud in private. Even alone, I expected to be ridiculed. Somehow, I thought God was waiting for the chance to take up where everyone else left off.

        “Weeping at the altar is weeping privately to God. ”

        I did not think God would listen. I still struggle with this.

        …I was saying “Oh! Oh!” and holding my heart in pain for you.

  6. RenewedSpirit

    Brings a whole new light to the term ‘worship in spirit and truth’ ~ makes so much sense when we know who the Lord is!

    • Ruth M Davis

      And it makes so much more sense when the translators and commentators know who the Lord is, as did Tyndale, Coverdale, and Rogers, who gave us the Matthew Bible! They are such excellent teachers. Thank you for your comment Renewed Spirit.

  7. Karen

    In my own experience, the church my husband (at the time) and I were attending would say I was the one that needed to change no matter who appeared at fault. I went to another church for the sake of my daughter because no families with teenagers were left where we were attending. I was sharply criticized when I asked for prayer from the prayer team. I was to submit to my husband no matter how horrible he was or how scared I was or how he was negatively influencing my child not to respect me by his own behavior. By the way, she was not his child. I felt I needed permission to leave. By the time I felt I had to leave or die if I stayed, no one in the church would help me with a place to stay. I was only told to leave if I was that afraid. I left my adult daughter at home with him as she was attending college and was also part of the problem. She wanted to stay. I told her I had to leave.

    I stayed in domestic violence shelters for six months. It was another controlling experience. I bounced around and was three hours drive away from home because all the other shelters were full. I was not allowed to get a job.i didn’t know they were paid for me being there.

    When I’d run out of shelters and a friend of a friend let me pay to stay in her cottage for six weeks, I finally got a job. God led me home three months later where I found an old friend had died and left me enough money to get a divorce. Even so, with a lawyer who supposedly understood DV, I was unfairly treated in the settlement. My daughter was further brainwashed while I was gone and our relationship is too strained, leaving me feeling completely alone. I also don’t know how I will live long term as rent is high and I have no family left, No one I can stay with. I am praying to trust God to work this out.

    If the church would sympathize with these victims, instead of placing the burden on them, instead of believing the abuser, women wouldn’t stay until they feel they have no choice but to leave or die. In some cases, they do die or lose their minds and have to go to mental institutions. I’ve heard about this happening to a woman I used to know

    My new church doesn’t really understand and doesn’t believe in psychology so they only have the Bible as their guide. They appeared to support me in my divorce, but don’t care about my financial plight. They also are involved in a coupes’ separation due to abuse and have told them they can’t divorce. Who are they to make those decisions?

    I have removed myself because I see now it is a man’s church and the married women know their place. In particular, the Pastor runs the entire show and has not been Biblical in his resolving situations involving me where I have experienced control or false judging and even the silent treatment by others. Because these people are his favorites, he will not stand up for me even when he’s seen they are wrong or in one instance, gave us both a tongue lashing, though I know I did nothing wrong. He admitted he had to and I asked him to not be so harsh in the future which he acknowledged. For me, in this moment, my church is at home in the Word as I can’t take anymore abuse accepted in the church.

    When will they be willing to wake up and give victims the respect and belief they deserve?

    • Karen,

      Welcome to the blog! You will notice that I changed your screen name to help protect your identity. If you would like a different screen name feel free to contact me at twbtc.acfj@gmail.com

      We like to encourage new commenters to read our New User’s page as it gives tips for staying safe when commenting on the blog. Also our FAQ page may be a good place to start when exploring the blog.

      Again, Welcome!

    • Hi Karen, if it’s safe for you to do so, would you pls email me?
      barbara@notunderbondage.

      Please don’t write a long email. My inbox is swamped. I just would like to know where you are living — the general area, not the actual address. And pls feel free to ignore my request!

  8. Finding Answers

    (Combining my replies.)

    To Barb’s MAY 25, 2018 – 7:47 PM reply:

    Took me a long time, but – like you – I now talk to myself virtually everywhere. Especially funny when I’m talking to someone I am reading, whether in a book or online. 🙂

    Thank you for hearing / feeling what I wrote. I have become so inured to some things, I no longer consciously feel the hurt.

    Back to the original post:

    I re-read the original post, Ruth’s article, and quite a number of different translations (mostly actual, physical Bibles…I find electronic devices don’t provide quite the same book-reading experience. 🙂 ) No WONDER there is so much confusion!!

    Some translate the potential Abraham reference as one (lowercase), some as One (Uppercase), another as one God.

    With all the variations on whose tears were covering the altar, it almost seemed plausible that it could have been the abused wives, the priests who had remained true to God, the wolves, and even all the Israelites who realised God no longer heard their prayers.

    And that’s only two of the examples!

    What opened my eyes the most was Ruth’s repetition of “…the word…” being taken out during the (Geneva, I think it was) translation.

    Not having the article open for reference, I may be repeating what Ruth wrote. Like talking to myself to process something. 🙂 If you take out the word (Word), then you take the Divinity out of Jesus Christ the man. If you do THAT, it becomes much easier to replace Him as Saviour. Makes it SO much easier to move into a position of “power over”, because you no longer have a Saviour who CHOSE to be servant-leader.

    The difficulty with the “academic” side – much as I love it – is the “heart” side can get lost in the shuffle. Fascinating and informative as bunny-trails can be, it’s easy to lose one’s bearings, to lose the Rock.

    Accuracy IS important. Think of those who copied the Masoretic texts. (If I am remembering correctly.) Context IS important, including that of both the original writers and X number of translators. So many things are important to ensure the original meaning comes through as intended.

    Keep in mind the central reason for the Bible: The Triune God. As God. As Jesus Christ. As the Holy Spirit.

    (Not sure if my fingers accurately translated what my head-heart connected. 🙂 )

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