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Michael Todd

Misquoting Scripture in Wild at Heart

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My associate pastor and I were arguing last week about John Eldredge's Wild at Heart, because he is using it as a men's ministry tool, and he invited me to be a part of it. I listed my problems with the book, which primarily revolve around Eldredge romanticizing masculinity, and who he uses as his sources, i.e., Robert Bly, Sam Keen, and other various Jungians.

I lean toward open theism, so I have no problem with Eldredge slipping that in, but I started reading some websites that criticize the book. Alarmingly, the Calvinists who rip into him, cite that he misquotes Scripture. It is a proof text of sorts for his whole argument that the redeemed human heart is good. At the beginning of the first chapter, he starts with three quotations, the first one being a NKJV excerpt of Proverbs 20:5: "The heart of a man is like deep water..."

Here is what the first section of New King James Version of that verse says, "Counsel in the heart of man is like deep water..."

What is like deep water? According to Eldredge, the heart of a man, even though the NKJV doesn't add that article, not to mention that the verse is describing counsel being like deep water.

This disturbed me to some extent, because this particular book has sold over 1.5 million copies, primarily to Evangelical Christian men, but maybe I am making a big deal out of nothing.

Now, I can understand a typo, but that book has been out since 2001, not to mention, it is still in hardback. What do you do with something like that? Either that misquotation is purposeful, or Eldredge is stupid, because he builds an argument from it. Regardless, do you trust such a person to instruct and inform your view of God and masculinity?

Though I may disagree with a Christian author, I do not expect him/her to misquote Scripture. This incident makes me very wary.

Edited by Michael Todd

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For now I'll give him the benefit of a doubt that it was unintentional. But it is not harmless.

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I'm very bias as I don't like the book one bit. I couldn't make it past the second chapter. However, with that in mind...

How does that get past the editors? Seems like a pretty big exegetical mistake. If I was doing that on a paper, I don't think it would get past my professors.

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Beats me... how does it go for four years without a correction? If it goes to paperback, which may happen ten years from now, and it still has that error, then I will conclude that my initial suspicion is correct -- Eldredge misquoted intentionally.

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At the beginning of the first chapter, he starts with three quotations, the first one being a NKJV excerpt of Proverbs 20:5: "The heart of a man is like deep water..."

Here is what the first section of New King James Version of that verse says, "Counsel in the heart of man is like deep water..."

And here it is in the NRSV:

"The purposes in the human mind are like deep water..."

So, as far as I'm concerned, using this text to say anything about the male psyche in particular is not only taking a portion of the verse out of context, it's over-specializing the use of "a man" in the KJV.

Really--women are inscrutable too. Ask Henry Higgins. wink.gif

Edited by BethR

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At the beginning of the first chapter, he starts with three quotations, the first one being a NKJV excerpt of Proverbs 20:5: "The heart of a man is like deep water..."

Here is what the first section of New King James Version of that verse says, "Counsel in the heart of man is like deep water..."

And here it is in the NRSV:

"The purposes in the human mind are like deep water..."

So, as far as I'm concerned, using this text to say anything about the male psyche in particular is not only taking a portion of the verse out of context, it's over-specializing the use of "a man" in the KJV.

Really--women are inscrutable too. Ask Henry Higgins. wink.gif

BethR. I totally agree with you in theory. The tone of the verse sounds very gender-inclusive. I almost posted something similar to what you wrote. However, I read the LXX translation and it reads, translated, "adult male". Are there any Hebrew scholars out there? Maybe he or she would know.

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The literal rendering of the Hebrew in Prov. 20:5 is (I know some Hebrew, though I'm not a Hebrew scholar):

Waters-deep counsel (is) in the heart of a man (masculine singular); but a man (ms) of understanding will draw it.

But that does not in any way answer whether "man" is being used generically here of all human beings. It certainly looks like it is, both from this verse and the surrounding context.

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I just figured out that this thread isn't about a David Lynch movie.

When we joined our church, the men's group was reading WAH. My husband would come home every night complaining about the book, but I never learned exactly why. This thread sheds some light.

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a friend of mine read that book and asked me if i wanted to borrow it and read it. i said no. the whole idea of some guy telling me what it means to be a man is crapola.

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One thing that frustrates me is when Eldridge tells me, "This is what it means to be a man, and incidentally, you are therefore not a man." Not so encouraging reading for those of us who don't fit Eldridge's "Holy He-Man" mold.

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I think it's probably unfair to single out Eldridge in particular for this kind of abuse. The problem really is the whole slackness of the Christian publishing industry in general.

Is he mis-quoting - well sorta - I mean it says those words, but he has ripped them out of context, but then if you made a list of all the books that did that it would be a life's work.

And as for surprise that editors didn't pick it up - of course not - why would they bother checking the use of obscure verses just so their book can be accurate. so long as it sells - what the heck! (quoth they) My church leader was interviewed for a book, and then quoted accordingly and they couldn't even get her gender right!

The problem is that care, integiry and diligence in these respects is considered of no consequence in the christian publishing inductry, and to an extent in evangelicalism in particular. If you want to say something, and you can find a few words inthe bible that can be vaguely be made to express that (by the time you have apple picked from among the translations) then that's considered all you need to do - sad.

Matt

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I'd agree with ya Matt. Still, Eldridge himself seemed to have used it gender-inclusively.

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Here is the New World Translation's (the Jehovah's Witness Bible) rendering of John 1:1:

"In [the] beginning the Word was, and the Word was with God, and the Word was a God." Italics added.

Now, all the JW translators did was add the article "a", much like our good boy Eldredge. Taking a verse out of context is one thing, for I readily will chalk that up to stupidity, or a lack of spiritual sight, but to combine both the change in what is being modified and to add this article, while still citing the NKJV, is more than merely being dumb.

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Here is the New World Translation's (the Jehovah's Witness Bible) rendering of John 1:1:

"In [the] beginning the Word was, and the Word was with God, and the Word was a God." Italics added.

Now, all the JW translators did was add the article "a", much like our good boy Eldredge. Taking a verse out of context is one thing, for I readily will chalk that up to stupidity, or a lack of spiritual sight, but to combine both the change in what is being modified and to add this article, while still citing the NKJV, is more than merely being dumb.

Well actually it's not that simple. The verse in John can be translated either way, and in fact the JW rendering is the more obvious one, if you ignore some irregular rule which should apply, aparantly.

Matt

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Here is the New World Translation's (the Jehovah's Witness Bible) rendering of John 1:1:

"In [the] beginning the Word was, and the Word was with God, and the Word was a God." Italics added.

Now, all the JW translators did was add the article "a", much like our good boy Eldredge. Taking a verse out of context is one thing, for I readily will chalk that up to stupidity, or a lack of spiritual sight, but to combine both the change in what is being modified and to add this article, while still citing the NKJV, is more than merely being dumb.

Well actually it's not that simple. The verse in John can be translated either way, and in fact the JW rendering is the more obvious one, if you ignore some irregular rule which should apply, aparantly.

Matt

You are correct to say that it's not that simple. However, I don't believe John 1:1 can be translated either way. The reason why the verse is contested by JW is the lack of definite article before the word begining. Thus, they argue that John was not writing about "the begining" but "a begining". Grammatically, there is a strong case for a translation of "the begining". My suspicion (and I'm probably backed up by scholars on this one) is that JW's translate it as "a begining" in order to fit their theological stance, much like it appears Elderidge might be doing.

From Daniel Wallace's Greek Grammer Textbook

"When a noun is the object of a preposition, it does not require the article to be definite: if it has the article, it must be definite; if it lacks the article, it may be definite. The reason for the article, then, is usually for other purposes (such as anaphora or as a function marker)."

Examples:

Luke 5:12

John 1:1

Romans 1:4

Matthew 10:22

Mark 2:1

Luke 2:14

John 1:13, 6:64

2 Cor. 10:3

Heb. 4:3, 9:12

1 Peter 1:12

Rev. 7:5

At first, the JW translation may appear more correct, but I (using Wallace and other Greek grammarians) believe it is mistaken.

What John was doing in his preface to his gospel was taking his readers back to the begining, literally. He was quoting the LXX translation of Genesis 1:1.

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Thanks for filling out the gaps in my response. I think I was mainly just making the point that what Eldredge has done has no basis, whereas at least there is some justification behind the JWs choice - even if it may be incorrect as you say.

Matt

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I'll have to look into the matter of the scripture quote a little more closely, but as for WAH in general...I like it a lot. I guess I'm its lone defender around here; but the book was a very good starting point for me about a year ago, when things were coming up in my life that I was having a tough time dealing with. I admit I do have some criticisms in regards to many of Eldredge's examples and such, but his general ideas are solid and inspiring to me.

In particular, I find his reflections on the desire for a battle to fight, an adventure to live, and beauty to appreciate very interesting and truthful in my own life. I realize that this approach probably isn't right for everybody, but I find that there is a lot of truth in it.

...still, I don't like it when he makes fun of Mother Teresa. And Mister Rogers was a cool guy, IMO.

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All that stuff was in Wild at Heart. But I am not all down on Eldredge. I think he does an excellent job of describing the Devil and his tactics. Maybe he should write a theodicy for the common man.

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To read about this view of women's "ideal" desires just after having led a discussion of Dorothy L. Sayers's Are Women Human? is deeply bizarre.

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To read about this view of women's "ideal" desires just after having led a discussion of Dorothy L. Sayers's Are Women Human? is deeply bizarre.

I bet! Sheesh.

nardis, you should check out the other thread on Wild at Heart here. Some good discussion on these same issues, although at that time women weren't yet being counseled on the virtues of chick flicks by Stasi. You will find that most of the (few) women on this board don't have much patience for the Eldredge clan.

So glad my life doesn't look like a chick flick,

Kate

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