The orthodox Christian theology of Hadley Robinson

What is a Woman

Part II "Partner" or "Beloved Companion"?

by Hadley Robinson

In What is a Woman (Part I), Marilyn and I discussed the Biblical purpose, role, and status of the woman.  This is not just helpful information for Christian women.  It is for all women for all time because of who her Creator is and what He has communicated to all creation about what He had done.  The more any woman deviates from the Creator's plan, the more she may succumb to Satan's schemes and her own sin.  In the end, it is all a disaster of one sort or another.  Just as godly Germans in the 1930's saw the disaster ahead for their land, so can we see what is not far off for us here in the U.S.

In this essay, I wish to discuss some errors of modern English translations of the Bible.  In particular, I will look at the word translated "partner" in Malachi 2:14.  What is at stake?  If typical modern translations, like the NIV, are correct, then the theological integrity of Holy Scripture appears to have been undone.

Another thing you do: You flood the LORD's altar with tears. You weep and wail because he no longer pays attention to your offerings or accepts them with pleasure from your hands. You ask, "Why?" It is because the LORD is acting as the witness between you and the wife of your youth, because you have broken faith with her, though she is your partner, the wife of your marriage covenant. -- Malachi 2:13,14 NIV

On some key issues, the Flock of God is in turmoil and confusion because of poor teaching by those who have hidden agendas, are the Devil's offspring, place too much trust in the wisdom of Man, and have failed to learn the languages the Bible was written in, among other things.

For the lips of a priest ought to preserve knowledge, and from his mouth men should seek instruction--because he is the messenger of the LORD Almighty. -- Mal. 2:7

These issues are of importance and include adultery, the permanency of marriage, and a woman's position in Creation.  With regard to these, the modern Western Church is crosswise with the Early Church.  It begs the question, has the Bible changed?

The blood which flowed from of our LORD Jesus gave birth to His Body, the Church.  Not soon after, the blood began to flow from His people.  Their bold witness, moral purity, and sufferings for righteousness sake gave witness to the risen Christ and His presence among them.  Their lives echoed the words of our Apostle in 1 Cor. 7:1

Since we have these promises, dear friends, let us purify ourselves from everything that contaminates body and spirit, perfecting holiness out of reverence for God. 

The Early Church understood the dangers of contamination and why we should always be seeking to purify ourselves.  In these times, it seems that many are seeking the opposite by adopting the worldviews of the heathen and indulging in their practices.  This includes the widespread adoption of feminism.

In addition to the issues addressed in Part I of this essay, there is the question of why many modern translations, including the NIV use the word "partner" in Malachi 2:14?

When I was recently asked about this, I went right to my Hebrew Bible and looked up the word and how it was used throughout the Old Testament.  It became evident that the NIV’s translation of the Hebrew in Mal. 2:14 (and also Prov. 2:17) was a poor choice with respect to the plain meaning of the Hebrew.

Checking the 1913 version of Merriam Webster, I learned that the English meaning of “partner” has changed over the last hundred years.  In 1913, it could refer to one’s husband or wife.  Today, it can mean one’s spouse or merely someone/something with whom one has sexual relations.

Aside from some immoral relationship, a partner is someone with whom one has some common and defined purpose or task.  Unlike the Hebrew, the English word "partner" does not convey any aspect of friendship, loyalty, or the existence of a covenant.  This is a critical difference between the two languages.

Partner also conveys the aspect of equal rank which contradicts other broad teaching in Scripture.  If the man is the glory of Christ and the woman the glory of the man (1Cor. 11:7), how are they partners in any general sense?  The husband and wife are no more partners than enlisted men and officers are in the military.  Each member of the relationship has both common tasks (ensuring success) and one’s that are unique (direction taken), especially who is in command.  Feminism is a form of rebellion and these people now have the deadly force of the State at their disposal.

It is a serious dilemma for the godly who live here in North America and Europe.

The Christian husband and wife are on equal footing with respect to each being a prisoner of sin and each justified in the same manner (Gal. 3:22ff.)  In this sense, they could be partners.  But, contrary to popular church teaching, the context of this passage of Scripture has nothing to do with the rank and role of the justified man or woman.

Only in modern English translations is the Hebrew word translated “partner”.  The KJV translates it as “guide”.  I am not sure of the precise Elizabethan use of the noun “guide” but it does convey a level of intimacy and trust greater than the word “partner”.  The NKJV, NASB, and NRSV translate it as “companion”, a term that is much closer in meaning to the Hebrew.  The Spanish Reina-Valera translates it as "companion" (compañera).  Even the TNIV translates it as "wife".

A better modern English translation which maintains the sense of the Hebrew would be “beloved companion”.

If popular translations render the wife of one’s youth a mere partner, what is the crisis of being faithless (NIV) with a partner?  But if one has “dealt treacherously” (NKJV, KJV, NASB) with the bride of one's youth, the sin becomes much more serious.  Why do some modern translations like the NIV go easy on adultery and immorality, in general?

Do translation committees include the divorced (and remarried)?  Feminists?  Do these people seek to lessen the seriousness of their particular sins?  Regrettably, they had positions of authority in the seminaries from which I attended and graduated. Men who defend or mitigate the treachery they visited on the wives of their youth are not repentant men.  They are everywhere in the churches and seminaries.  It is somewhat alarming that these committees are the gateway for people's understanding of God's Word except to those tiny few who can read Koine Greek and ancient Hebrew.

Can these committees be trusted?  The kingdom of Satan would be most crafty to focus attention there....

If someone has dealt treacherously with the wife of his youth, he can repent of it and be forgiven by our LORD Jesus.  Most choose to make excuses or justify what they did.  They should read the book of Hosea -- Gomer ranks among the worst of wives.

Wedding ceremonies in the church now use the term “partner” to describe the relationship of the husband and wife.  Where is this in Scripture as a primary description of the relationship?  Neither is the new wife exhorted to obey her husband (Gen. 3:16; Eph. 5:22-24; Col. 3:18; 1 Pet. 3:1ff.)  How can a partner obey another partner, anyway?  The "ancient paths" have been largely abandoned.

Stand at the crossroads and look; ask for the ancient paths, ask where the good way is, and walk in it, and you will find rest for your souls.  But you said, "We will not walk in it." -- Jer. 6:16

As Charles Spurgeon once remarked, “…we are not to adjust the Bible to fit the culture but adjust the culture to fit the Bible.”

The results of inaccurate teaching on how Christians should be conducting themselves are evident: chaos in the family, rampant adultery and immorality among God’s people.

If one starts poking around in the translations of the Bible, one can find bias.  For example, the NIV translators decided to render the Hebrew in Prov. 16:28 as “close friends” (NASB “intimate friends”, KJV “chief friends”).  Why not "partner", as they did in Malachi 2:14?  It is the same Hebrew root.  It would not make sense.  It does not make sense in Malachi, either.  The moral character of translators of the Bible is as important as the moral character of the people who watch your child in Sunday School or of your babysitter when you go out at night.

Is the bride of your youth a mere partner or a beloved companion?  I hope it is the latter, as the Bible teaches.

Husbands, love your wives, just as Christ loved the church and gave himself up for her.  -- Eph. 5:25




1.  Hebrew words & location: ’alup1   Ps. 55:13, 144:14; Pr. 2:17, 16:28, 17:9; Jer. 3:4, 11:19, 13:21; Mic. 7:5;  chaberet   Mal. 2:14 (but a close relative of this noun is used a few dozen times elsewhere in the Hebrew Bible)

2.  Definitions: (from the New International Dictionary of Old Testament Theology and Exegesis -- NIDOTTE.)  ’alup1 - friend, companion   NIDOTTE:  The only other three undisputed uses of the nom. are in Proverbs where, in two cases (Prov. 16:28; 17:9), gossip is said to drive a wedge between friends and therefore must be eschewed. In the third instance (2:17) 'alup1 describes the most intimate and tender of friends, one's own spouse. The adulteress is one who leaves the friend of her youth, thus violating the marriage vows. chaberet -  NIDOTTE: consort,  united, associate, KJV: companion.   Another hapleg. is chaberet, consort (Mal 2:14, LXX: chaberet), used in parallel with "your wife by covenant," a phrase reminiscent of the verbal uses of chabar2 signifying alliances, but this is not a technical legal term. Apart from the physical joining of materials of various kinds, the vb. is also used of people being associated with one another. Joining in military and political alliances is the clear meaning in several passages.

3.  Verses:  Prov. 2:16-17 NIV: “It will save you also from the adulteress, from the wayward wife with her seductive words, who has left the partner of her youth and ignored the covenant she made before God.”  KJV "guide"; NASB "companion"; NRSV "partner";   Mal. 2:14 NIV: “You ask, ‘Why?’ It is because the LORD is acting as the witness between you and the wife of your youth, because you have broken faith with her, though she is your partner, the wife of your marriage covenant.”  KJV "companion"; NASB "companion"; NRSV "companion".

God help us!  May He purify us from all sin and bring us into His Kingdom unstained....