Gender-Inclusive Language in Bible Translation

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Edward D. Andrews
EDWARD D. ANDREWS (AS in Criminal Justice, BS in Religion, MA in Biblical Studies, and MDiv in Theology) is CEO and President of Christian Publishing House. He has authored ninety-two books. Andrews is the Chief Translator of the Updated American Standard Version (UASV).

The reader of the CPH blog has continuously read interpretive and translation principles that are not only sound but also aid the Christian in understanding the Bible more fully. One such interpretive principle is about the meaning that we are after, what the author meant by the words that he used as should have been understood by his initial intended audience.

When we look at the controversy over gender-inclusive language and the use of plurals, the above principles come into play, as does the historical-grammatical approach, which means that God personally chose the time, the place, the language, and the culture into which his Word was inspirationally penned. Who are we to disrespect that because we wish to appease the modern man or woman, who may be offended? Their offense is nothing more than self-centeredness, refusing to wrap their mind around the idea that the Creator of all things chose the setting, the language, and time in which his Word was to be introduced to man. One of the last bastions of literal translation philosophy, the New American Standard Bible, has given into the gender-inclusive translation philosophy. How are we to translate the Greek word ἀδελφοί (brothers)?

NEW AMERICAN STANDARD BIBLE (NASB 1995/2020): The 1995 edition was* very literal. The NASB Translates “brothers” or “brethren,” to “brothers and sisters.” The NASB has gender-inclusive changes to the word “man” in Romans 2:1-11 and Micah 6:8.

*The NASB 2020 revision has taken the first steps at abandoning their literal translation philosophy. One of the updates is what the NASB (the Lockman Foundation) calls the use of the “Gender Accurate” language. This is actually good marketing skills to call an abandonment of your core translation values “accurate” when it is anything but accurate.

1 Thessalonians 5:14: We urge you, brethren, admonish the unruly, encourage the fainthearted, help the weak, be patient with everyone. NASB 1995

1 Thessalonians 5:14: We urge you, brothers and sisters, admonish the unruly, encourage the fainthearted, help the weak, be patient with everyone. NASB 2020

Romans 2:1: Therefore you have no excuse, you foolish person, everyone of you who passes judgment, for in that which you judge someone else [another], you condemn yourself; for you who judge practice the same things…

Romans 2:3: But do you suppose this, you foolish person [O man] who passes [when you pass] judgment on those who practice such things and yet does them as well [do the same yourself], that you will escape the judgment of God?

Micah 6:8: He has told you, O man, what is good… NASB 1995

Micah 6:8: He has told you, a human, what is good; and what does the LORD require of you but to do justice, to love kindness, and to walk humbly with your God? NASB 2020

From what the Lockman Foundation has released about the upcoming 2020NASB, The 2020 update seems like it is going to be a more significant release than their 1995 update was. Taking everything into account, there are gender-neutral language changes. There is an attempt to remove archaic language which has also led to removing literal renderings, and that is not a good thing. We can say, some of the changes are good, some are irrelevant, some are wordy, and some are poor. Looking at all the pluses and minuses. There seem to be more minuses than pluses.

D. A. Carson in the publication: The Challenge of Bible Translation wishes to address the issue of gender-inclusive language and singular and plurals forms, in which he addresses comments made by Wayne A. Grudem and Vern S. Poythress. We will be addressing Carson’s comments.

English Bible Versions King James Bible KING JAMES BIBLE II

The Chief Translation Principle Is Accuracy

The chief principle that supersedes all others is accuracy, accuracy, and accuracy! In the above, we define Biblical meaning as the original author’s intended meaning, by the words he chose to use; therefore, the translator seeks to accurately represent the exact wording and personal style of the original text and find the corresponding English equivalent as far as the differences in grammar, syntax, and idiom will allow. In other words, he seeks ‘to render the words of the original language text into an English equivalent (corresponding) word or phrase as accurately as possible.’ The translator wants to re-express what the original language text says into an English equivalent, leaving it up to the reader, to determine the meaning for himself. Therefore, it seeks to allow the reader to see the original text through the English equivalent.

Liberal-progressive Christianity has taken the driver’s seat of the car of Christendom and has conservative Christianity riding in the back seat, if not the trunk. The liberal-progressive mindset of homosexuality being an acceptable alternative lifestyle, the belief that the Bible is nothing more than a book by man, and inspiration is not being led by “Holy Spirit,” but simply being moved to pen something extraordinary, no different than a Shakespeare or even a John Grisham novel. Therefore, they accept the Bible as being full of errors, and that Adam and Eve are nothing more than allegorical (fictional) persons.

Making arguments such as ‘the Bible authors wrote in a patriarchal time that influenced their writings, so to modernize the translation for the sake of those living in modern times causes no real harm, as this decreases the likelihood of offending the progressive, who might accept Christ.’ The only problem with this argument is the fact that you are rejecting the inspiration of Scripture and full inerrancy of Scripture. What any Bible author wrote was under inspiration, which gives us God’s thoughts, not mans. Therefore, you are, in essence, arguing that the Holy Spirit that moved the authors along to pen the thoughts of God was influenced by the patriarchal society of those time periods.

What these gender-inclusive translators fail to understand is this: to deviate, in any way, from the pattern, or likeness of how God brought his Word into existence, merely opens the Bible up to a book that reflects the age and time of its readers. If we allow the Bible to be altered because the progressive woman’s movement feels offended by masculine language, it will not be long before the Bible gives way to the homosexual communities being offended by God’s Words in the book of Romans; so modern translations will then tame that language, so as to not cause offense. I am certain that we thought that we would never see the day of two men, or two women being married by priests, but that day has been upon us for some time now. In fact, the American government is debating whether to change the definition of marriage. Therefore, I would suggest that the liberal readers do not take my warning here as radicalism, but more as reality.

The Reading Culture of Early Christianity From Spoken Words to Sacred Texts 400,000 Textual Variants 02

Additionally: One has to consider the whole scope of translation issues. Let us look at the arguments directly from a modern thought-for-thought translation: Eugene Peterson:

While I was teaching a class on Galatians, I began to realize that the adults in my class weren’t feeling the vitality and directness that I sensed as I read and studied the New Testament in its original Greek. Writing straight from the original text, I began to attempt to bring into English the rhythms and idioms of the original language. I knew that the early readers of the New Testament were captured and engaged by these writings and I wanted my congregation to be impacted in the same way. I hoped to bring the New Testament to life for two different types of people: those who hadn’t read the Bible because it seemed too distant and irrelevant and those who had read the Bible so much that it had become ‘old hat.’

As we can see, the focus here is on the reader and trying to appease them, both new and old readers alike. Let us take a quick look at the words of the apostle Peter before commenting:

2 Peter 3:15-16 Updated American Standard Version (UASV)

15 and regard the patience of our Lord as salvation; just as also our beloved brother Paul, according to the wisdom given him, wrote to you, 16 as also in all his [the apostle Paul] letters, speaking in them of these things, in which are some things hard to understand, which the untaught and unstable distort, as they do also the rest of the Scriptures, to their own destruction.

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The Bible is a very complex and deep book. There are literally dozens of books available on how to interpret the Bible. Some of these books are over 600 pages long, with very small print. To read these books, one has to have a dictionary in one hand and their hermeneutics book in the other. Do we, not find it a bit ironic that one has to slow down and meditatively ponder through a book on how to understand the Bible, yet we wish to put the Bible itself, in third to sixth-grade language. Many of the words in these hermeneutic books are foreign to the lay reader: amanuensis, chiasm, exegesis, contextualization, criticism, didactic, etymology, genre, hermeneutics, hyponoia, metaphor, metonymy, pericope, perspicuity, proof-text, rhetoric, semantics, structuralism, synecdoche and so on. How many of these words do we think the new Bible reader knows offhand, without going to a dictionary?

Herein is where the real problem lies. In the first century, all Christians were evangelizers. All Christians were obligated to be teachers of the good news, to make disciples. (Matthew 24:14, 28:19-20; Ac 1:8) Bible scholar John R. W. Stott noted:

Our failure to obey the implications of this command is the greatest weakness of evangelical Christians in the field of evangelism today. He added: We tend to proclaim our message from a distance. We sometimes appear like people who shout advice to drowning men from the safety of the seashore. We do not dive in to rescue them. We are afraid of getting wet.

Imagine this scenario: if every member of Christendom took on their responsibility to teach new persons, there would be no need to write a Bible translation at the sixth- grade level. Another factor to consider is, ‘why are we so bent on adjusting God’s Word to appease man that we neglect to be respectful of God’s choice of when, how, and in what way his Word was to be made known?’

Hebrews 2:6 (English Standard Version)

 6 It has been testified somewhere, “What is man, that you are mindful of him? or the son of man, that you care for him?

 

Hebrews 2:6 (Today’s New International Version)

6 But there is a place where someone has testified: “What are mere mortals that you are mindful of them, human beings that you care for them?

Psalm 8:4 (English Standard Version) [8:5 in the Hebrew text]

 4 What is man, that you are mindful of him? and the son of man that you care for him?

Psalm 8:4 (Today’s New International Version) [8:5 in the Hebrew text]

4 what are mere mortals that you are mindful of them,
human beings that you care for them?

In the Gospel accounts, the expression “son of man” is found over 80 times, with no scholar in denial that every instance it is applied Jesus Christ, being used by him to refer to himself. (Mt 8:20; 9:6; 10:23) There are several occurrences outside the Gospels, one being our above Hebrews 2:6.

9781949586121 BIBLE DIFFICULTIES THE NEW TESTAMENT DOCUMENTS

The apostle Paul applied Psalm 8 as prophetic of Jesus Christ. In the book of Hebrews (2:5-9), Paul quoted the verses, which read, “What is man [enohsh] that you are mindful of him, and the son of man [benadham] that you care of him? Yet you have made him a little lower than the heavenly beings [“angels” Septuagint; “a little lower than angels,” at Hebrews 2:7] and crowned him with glory and honor.  You have given him dominion over the works of your hands; you have put all things under his feet.” (Ps 8:4-6; compare Ps 144:3, ESV) There is no doubt that Paul was applying this prophetic Psalm to Jesus, and stating that it had been fulfilled in him, as Jesus was made “a little lower than angels,” and becoming a mortal “son of man,” in order that he may die and thereby “taste death for everyone.” (Heb. 2:8-9) The TNIV has removed Christ from this prophecy at Psalm 8:4 and its application to him by Paul, with its mere mortals, them, human beings, and them. How do Carson and other gender-inclusive translators rationalize such a move? Carson writes:

In Psalm 8, the overwhelming majority of commentators see the expression as a gentilic, parallel to the Hebrew word for “man” in the preceding line. . . . In the context of the application of Psalm 8:4 to Jesus in Hebrews 2, one should at least recognize that the nature of the application to Jesus is disputed. Scanning my commentaries on Hebrews, over three-quarters of them do not think that “son of man” here functions as a messianic title but simply as a gentilic, as in Psalm 8.[1] If this exegesis is correct (and I shall argue elsewhere and at length that it is), Jesus is said to be “son of man,” not in function of the messianic force of that title in Daniel 7:13-14, but in function of his becoming a human being – which all sides recognize is one of the major themes of Hebrews 2. (Scorgie, Strauss, & Voth, 2003, bolding mine)

The gentilic criterion requires one of two constructions: (1) It must end with, hireq-yod or (2) take the definite article.

Biblia Hebraica Stuttgartensia [Literal English Translation]

 you remember him that and son of man you remember him  that man what (is)

Take note that ben-adam of Genesis 8:4 fit neither of the gentilic criterions: (1) It must end with, hireq-yod or (2) take the definite article. In addition, Carson claims ‘most commentators hold that it is not a messianic title, but apply it to the Messiah.’ In response to that, we would suggest that we skip what most people think because much of mankind’s tragedies had come in what people had thought to be the case, when, in fact, they were just plain wrong. Also, why block the reader from the possibility? Why not let the reader have the literal words, instead of a translator’s interpretation of, and allow the reader to decide through their own exegesis, what the writer of Hebrews meant by those words. Moreover, the writer of Hebrews would likely have been aware of Matthew’s Gospel written in Hebrew and the Greek edition as well, in which “son of man” is used some 31 times. In addition, the readers of the book of Hebrews, the Jewish Christians, would be reading the Greek phrase huios anthrōpou (“son of man”) in the Greek Septuagint at Psalm 8 as well. Moreover, by now the Gospels had been published orally for almost 30-years and Matthew in written form for about 15-years, making known that Jesus referred to himself as huios anthrōpou (“son of man”). If Jesus applied this title to himself, it should be evident that the writer of Hebrews was doing no less, and at least the original readers had a chance to reach this conclusion because the exact words were not hidden from them.

APOSTOLIC FATHERS Lightfoot APOSTOLIC FATHERS I AM John 8.58

The TNIV and its plural “human beings” for huios anthrōpou (“son of man”) go beyond translation and gets into playing the role of a commentary. First, we have the rendering of a singular as a plural. Second, “human beings” inappropriate though it may be is meant to convey the idea of humankind, but we have a word that is left out: huios (son) in the Greek of Hebrews 2:6 and bēn (son) in the Hebrew of Psalm 8:4. In this, we are losing the father-son relationship.

Those who speak and read English enjoy the benefit of having more than 100 different English translations. If one translation does not fit our preconceived notion of what a particular passage says, we can simply choose another, and another, until we find a translation that reads the way we want. If we search through the translations until we find the rendering of our choice; then, what have we learned that we already did not know? God’s Word is a revelation from our Heavenly Father, about himself, his will and purposes, to us, his creation. It was written in such a way, to …

(1) Help the reader draw closer to his Creator

(2) Comprehend the issues within creation

(3) Understand why we are here and how we are to achieve a good life while we are still within Satan’s system of things

(4) Direction to help us achieve life in the new heavens and earth to come under Christ and his kingdom

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We are to mold ourselves to God’s Word, to achieve the best possible life now and a hope at everlasting life when this age of wickedness ends. How is that to be done if our translators are busy adjusting his Word to suit the modern reader; instead, of our adjusting ourselves to fit His Word? God’s Word was rendered to reflect his choosing of the time, the place, the language, and the culture? It seems that sales and the need to please man [or woman in this case] have taken on more significance than the accurate message of God’s Word.

AMERICAN STANDARD VERSION (ASV1901): This is a very literal translation. It has many words that need to be updated. The language is archaic at times. We have improved our understanding of Hebrew and Greek immensely since 1901 and we have found MANY early papyri manuscripts. But if you cannot live without your Thees, Thous, and Thos, this is your best choice. But, see below …

UPDATED AMERICAN STANDARD VERSION (UASV) This is the Christian Publishing House project that has been in the works since 2005. With all of the BIAS, one can gather, it is the best. I am the chief translator.

Our primary purpose is to give the Bible readers what God said by way of his human authors, not what a translator thinks God meant in its place.

Our primary goal is to be accurate and faithful to the original text. The meaning of a word is the responsibility of the interpreter (i.e., reader), not the translator.

https://www.uasvbible.org/

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[1] This writer has found about forty of them that think otherwise. Moreover, the principle of scholarship is that you never count anything, with the majority winning, or being right. For example, I do not say a certain reading in the manuscripts is correct because the majority of the manuscripts have that reading. I choose the best reading based on evidence.

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