What are the Biblical Translation Issues Raised by the Gender-Inclusive Debate?
by Wesley Ringer

Bible translation has always been a source of controversy. Jerome, the translator of the Latin Vulgate, expressed it well when he said, "My concern is that some readers, whether they are educated or not, will realize that this translation does not agree with what they are accustomed to and will react against me with abusive language, calling me an evil person and a forger for having the audacity to add anything to the ancient text, as though I were trying to make changes or corrections to it." [Strauss, 1998, p. 9a]. It may come a surprise to some in the current controversy over gender-inclusive language that both Tyndale and the KJV translators included gender inclusive words in their translations. Instead of the more literal 'sons of Israel,' from the Hebrew word 'ben' meaning 'sons,' the KJV used the more inclusive 'children of Israel' hundreds of times in the Old Testament. Likewise, in the New Testament, both Tyndale and the KJV translators translated the Greek word for 'son' (hoios) as 'children' 42 times. For example Matt 5:9 states, "Blessed are the peacemakers for they shall be called the children (hoios) of God." Had the KJV only recently introduced these changes to earlier versions that had instead used 'sons of Israel' and 'sons of God,' the KJV might well have been attacked for being gender-inclusive.

More recently, gender-inclusive language became an important issue that arose with the birth of modern feminism in the mid-1960's. Feminists began to object to the male dominance that they perceived in English usage. In their view, it reflected a patriarchal system that they wished to overthrow. Feminists saw the continued use of masculine words like 'man,' 'manmade,' and 'he' as exclusive masculine terms that could no longer properly be used as gender-inclusive terms to refer to a person whether male or female. The "do's and don'ts" of inclusive language are spelled out in an article by that name published in 1998 by the Media Task Force of the Honolulu County Committee on the Status of Women. They list in detail how to avoid masculine language in order to be gender-inclusive. Below are a few examples of their masculine-exclusive words to avoid and gender-inclusive words to use.

Avoid Use
chairman chair
sportsmanship fair play
mothering parenting
generic his, he generic their, they
Mr. & Mrs. Smith Ellen and John Smith
man and wife wife and husband

In response to these objections from feminists and the change in English usage that resulted from the continued egalitarian movement of modern American society, the World Council of Churches undertook to revise the Revised Standard Version published in 1952. This New Revised Standard Bible, published in 1989, was the first major attempt to produce a gender- inclusive or gender-accurate translation of the Bible. In the NRSV preface the reasons for these changes are explained as an attempt to "become sensitive to the danger of linguistic sexism arising from the inherent bias of the English language towards the masculine gender, a bias that in the case of the Bible has often restricted or obscured the meaning of the original text." The NRSV retains the masculine word for God calling Him 'Father' and not 'Parent' and for Jesus the 'Son of God' and not 'child of God.' It likewise does not alter key texts regarding the role of men and women in 1 Tim. 2:11-12, 1 Cor. 14:34, Eph 5:22-23. The most noticeable examples of these changes are the removal of the generic use of 'man', 'father,' and the third person singular 'he' which was replaced often with the plural pronoun, 'they.' The following are examples of changes between the RSV and the NRSV.

Plural pronouns for singular:

RSV: He who walks in uprightness fears the LORD. (Prov. 14:2).
NRSV: Those who walk uprightly fear the LORD. (Prov. 14:2).

Generic terms to replace 'man.'

RSV: "Son of man, stand upon your feet, and I will speak with you." (Ezek. 2:1 )
NRSV: "O mortal, stand up on your feet, and I will speak with you:" (Ezek. 2:1 )

Among evangelical Christians the release of the NRSV caused little controversy since the majority of conservative evangelical Christians felt little connection to the much more liberal World Council of Churches that sponsored the NRSV. They had rarely used the RSV nor were they likely to make use of the new NRSV. Among conservative evangelicals, the two most widely used versions of the Bible were the more literal New American Standard Bible (NASB), published in 1970, and the more dynamic "thought-for-though" New International Version (NIV), published in 1978. The NIV was much more readable than the NASB's more wooden, literal style and soon became the most widely used version of the Bible among evangelical Christians.

The release of the more gender-inclusive Contemporary English Version (CEV) in 1995 and the New Living Translation (NLT) in 1996 also did not create much controversy. However, controversy did erupt in 1997 when the American evangelical world was made aware that the Committee for Biblical Translation (CBT), which oversaw the publishing of the NIV, had published in 1996 a British-only gender-inclusive version called the New International Version Inclusive (NIVI). The controversy was stoked by the charge that the Committee for Biblical Translation (CBT), along with the publisher Zondervan, were secretly planning to introduce a newer, gender-inclusive version of the NIV into to the American market.

The evangelical world was already split by the controversy over egalitarians versus complementarians regarding to male and female gender roles. The evangelicals who regard themselves as egalitarians see the patriarchy and male dominate roles in biblical times as culturally bound and that all social roles both in society and church should be equally shared by both men and women. They would quote Paul's words as supporting this egalitarian point of view, "There is neither Jew nor Greek, slave nor free, male nor female, for you are all one in Christ Jesus." [Gal.3:28]. On the other side, many conservative evangelical Christians would view themselves as complementarians who see the scriptures affirming both the essential equality of men and women before God as well as revealing the differing roles for both men and women.

The preface of the British published INIV seemed to confirm the complementarians worst fears. It states, "At the same time, it was recognized that it was often appropriate to mute the patriarchalism of the culture of the biblical writers through gender-inclusive language when this could be done without compromising the message of the Spirit." Thus, many complementarians fear that gender-inclusive language in Bible translation will aid the objective of blurring the special masculine and feminine roles that God has revealed through His word.

As a result conservative Bible scholars, Focus on the Family, and the Southern Baptist leaders pressured Zondervan and CBT to withdraw any plans to publish a gender-inclusive version of the NIV in the United States and seek to discontinue publication of the British NIVI. Zondervan committed itself to continue to publish the present (1984) NIV unchanged. Some of these Bible scholars and Christian leaders who were critical of gender-inclusive language produced the "Colorado Springs Guidelines for Translation of Gender-Related Language in Scripture" (or the CS Policy). The CBT also published a policy on Gender-Inclusive Language (CBT Policy). Both of these policies will be examined in detail in the latter part of this paper. In the years following 1997 the CBT has continued working on a gender-inclusive version which they plan to publish through Zondervan in 2003 as the Today's New International Version (TNIV) while at the same time continuing to publish the NIV unchanged.

The ongoing debate between literalists and idiomaticists frames, at least in part, the issues of gender-inclusive or gender-accurate translation of the Bible from Hebrew and Greek into modern day English. David Tuggy notes that the "Literalists accuse idiomaticists of changing meanings and idiomaticists accuse literalists of preserving form at the expense of meaning." From Tuggy's perspective of cognitive grammar framework, he sees both the literalists and the idiomaticists as having "legitimate concerns which must be weighed against each other. Translation is seen as a balancing act rather than as a definitive solution." [Tuggy, 2000, p.1 ] Carson likewise notes this balancing act in translation by quoting the Italian pun "translators, traitors," which in effect means "that all translation is treason" [Carson, 1998, p. 47]. By this, he means it is impossible to fully bring every thing from one language into the second that given the different structures of any two languages.

We will seek to understand the main issues in this debate by summarizing the positions of Dr. Wayne Grudem and Dr. Grant Osborne as written Oct. 27 1997 Christianity Today article. They are friends and professors at Trinity Evangelical Divinity School in Deerfield Illinois. Grudem is also head of the Council on Biblical Manhood and Womanhood and participated in the development of the "Colorado Springs Guidelines for Translation of Gender-Related Language in Scripture" (CS Policy). Dr. Osborne was on the translation committee for the New Living Translation. This committee revised the Living Bible in a manner that Osborne feels is more gender-accurate because it uses gender-inclusive language.

Grudem in his article critiques primarily the NRSV since it was the first gender-inclusive version, and the other versions including the NIVI and the TNIV largely use similar gender-inclusive translation policies that achieve very similar wording. He supports the CS Policy on gender-inclusive language, which affirms in section A.1 that, "The generic use of 'he, him, his himself' should be employed to translate generic 3rd person masculine singular pronouns in Hebrew, Aramaic and Greek." [Carson, 1998, p. 44]. All gender-inclusive translations have made frequent changes from singular to plural with the third person pronoun. Note both the changes from the RSV and the similarity of wording between the NRSV and the TNIV.

RSV: "If a man loves me, he will keep my word, and my Father will love him, and we will come to him and make our home with him."
TNIV: "Anyone who loves me will obey my teaching. My Father will love them, and we will come too them and make our home with them.
NRSV: Those who love me will keep my word, and my Father will love them and we will come to them and make our home with them."

While Grudem acknowledges that this passage refers to both men and women, he feels that the use of the plural 'them' obscures the fact that Jesus in this passage is specifying "...that he and the Father would come and dwell with an individual believer." [Grudem, 1997, p. 28 b]. The loss of the generic third person singular forces the translators to use the plural, which makes it appear that this passage refers to a group of Christians or the Church rather than to an individual believer.

Likewise Grudem feels that 'man' is the best English word to translate the Hebrew word 'adam' in Gen. 1:27, and 5:2 since both the Hebrew 'adam' and the English 'man' can refer to a male person and be an inclusive reference to both men and woman. He views the use of 'humankind' as inept in the dual role of referring both to humanity in general as well as a man (as distinct from a woman). He sees in the Old Testament that God places great importance on people's names. God often changes people's names, as Abram to Abraham, and Jacob to Israel to indicate that their role or mission in life has been changed. Therefore, "...The word man for the whole human race suggests some male headship in the race" [Grudem, 1997, p. 28 b]. The only reason Grudem can see for eliminating the word 'man' from these passages is out of the desire to "mute the patriarchalism," as the preface to the NIVI states.

Genesis 5:2 
RSV: "Male and female he created them, ...and named them Man when they were created."
NRSV: "Male and female he created them, and he ...named them Humankind when they were created."

Grudem notes the extent of the removal of masculine terms in the NRSV by the following statistics. The NRSV uses the plural form they, them, their, and those 1, 732 more times than in the RSV, while by contrast it uses he, him, his, 3,408 fewer times. Likewise, the word 'father' occurs 601 times fewer and 'man' 300 fewer times in the NRSV than the RSV. He expressed concern that with the pervasive change of pronouns from the third person generic pronoun 'he' to either the second person or the third person plural pronoun that biblical readers will lack any confidence as to what the pronoun actually was in the original Greek or Hebrew.

Grudem notes that the New Testament Greek employs two words that can be translated man. 'Anthropos' can mean either man or person. The context indicates which is meant. However even in passages were 'anthorpos' clearly means a male, the NRSV translates it as 'mortals.' Hebrews 5:1 speaks of the high priest being chosen from among men. Clearly, the high priest must be male and is chosen from among males. Likewise the Greek word 'aner,' Grudem argues is used when the author wishes to indicate a man or men as distinct from women. However, even with the use of 'aner' he sees the NRSV attempting to make the term inclusive. In Acts 15:22 Barnabas and Silas were 'leading men, but the NRSV changes this to 'leaders.' Likewise, Paul's warning to the all male elders of the church in Ephesus that "From among your own selves will arise men speaking perverse things," was also changed by the NRSV to the more inclusive 'some.'

Grudem is a complementarian who sees the Bible outlining clear roles for male headship in the home, society, and the church. He feels that the removal of these masculine words blurs and obscures these issues. In another article, he quotes from George Orwell novel 1984 in which Orwell writes of a future society that will seek to control every aspect of people's lives. One of the government bureaucrats is rewriting dictionaries into Newspeak as required by Big Brother.

"You think, I dare say, that our chief job is inventing new words. But not a bit of it! We're destroying words--scores of them, hundreds of them, every day.... Don't you see that the whole aim of Newspeak is to narrow the range of thought? In the end we shall make thought crime literally impossible, because there will be no words in which to express it. pp. 45-46 [Grudem, 1997, p. 26 a].

Grudem feels that removing so many masculine words that are in the Hebrew and Greek and have been used in English without controversy until very recent years is a form of thought control. Certain ideas have been labeled as so incorrect and sexist by a secular culture that is openly hostile to Christianity that it is seeking to remove the very words used by scripture to express God's ideals with regard to biblical manhood and womanhood. He would see Bible translators of gender-inclusive translations as aiding this hostile secular culture by removing the inclusive use of 'he' and 'man.'

Likewise, Grudem is not convinced that English has changed nearly as much as those who feel that the bible must be translated to use inclusive language or feminists would have you believe. He notes that The American Heritage Dictionary (1992) reported "that 81% of its usage panel of experts approved the sentence, 'If early man suffered from a lack of information, modern man is tyrannized by an excess of it. And 86% approved the use of the 'man' in the sentence, The Great Wall is the only man-made structure visible from space." [Grudem, 1997, p.21 b] The following are examples where popular newspapers and news journals continue to use the generic inclusive 'he' and 'man.' It would be very interesting to do a corpus word search of the frequency of the use of the generic inclusive 'he' and 'man' and compare their use from 1950-1960 to 1990-2000 to see the extent of this type of language shift.

Examples of generic 'he'

Examples of 'man' used to designate the human race, or human nature generally

Grudem's bottom line is the conviction that the clear majority of adult English speakers understand the meaning of the use of the inclusive generic 'man' and 'he.' Given the clear losses of information as to the singular specific 'he' for the plural 'they,' there does not seem to be a corresponding gain to justify the use of the gender-inclusive 'they.' He sees no change either in our understanding of Hebrew or Greek or significant enough changes in English usage to warrant such drastic changes on the part of Bible translators in order to be gender-inclusive.

It is important here to note that those who favor gender-inclusive Bible versions do not all fall on the egalitarian side of the debate. Mark Strauss, who supports the TNIV because he feels that it is not only gender-inclusive, but more gender-accurate, is himself a complementarian. Osborne, in replying to Grudem in the same Christianity Today article, notes that many who favor gender-inclusive language translations are also affiliated with Grudem's Council on Biblical Manhood and Womanhood. Osborne sees the use of inclusive pronouns as falling within dynamic translation theory. While more literal translations like the KJV, RSV, and NASV seek to retain as much of the structure and language of the original Hebrew or Greek, dynamic translations seek to communicate the original thought of the biblical text in a way that is clear to the modern reader even if it departs from the wording or sentence structure of the original.

Osborne, while acknowledging that the 'feminists' agenda began this shift away from the use of the gender-inclusive 'he,' never the less concludes that there has been a significant language shift away from the gender-inclusive 'he.' As a result, the public as a whole, whether agreeing with feminism or not, is increasingly reluctant to use the generic 'he.' He notes, "Literal translations prize word-for-word accuracy and dynamic translations seek both accuracy and clarity in communicating the meaning of the text. However, it is a very real question whether the retention of an inclusive he is really more accurate." [Osborne, 1997, p. 34]. He recalls Paul's principle in 1 Cor. 9:22, "I have become all things to all people so that by all possible means I might save some." He quotes from The American Heritage Book of English Usage, "It is undeniable that large numbers of men and women are uncomfortable using constructions that have been criticized for being sexist. Since there is little to be gained by offending people in your audience, it makes sense... to try to accommodate at least some of these concerns." [Osborne, 1997, p. 34].

Osborne sees the need for a variety of translations. The more literal versions can be very helpful for those who wish to understand more of the word and sentence structure of the underlying Greek or Hebrew text, and the more dynamic gender-inclusive versions will invite the younger readers into the biblical text. In fact, Osborne's recommendation of the use of more literal translations in addition to more gender-inclusive versions takes much of the sting out of Grudem's objections. If someone wishes to be certain of whether a pronoun is singular or plural he could find that out by consulting a more literal translation.

I have personal memory of how in my teenage years the language of the KJV seemed archaic enough that I had little desire to read the Bible. I remember how refreshing and inviting the Living New Testament seemed to me when I first read it in 1969. I credit the Living New Testament as helping to open scripture to my understanding. My new found interest in God's Word led me to use the NASB as my study Bible after two years. My daughter, who recently graduated from Brown University, sees the world through feminist, egalitarian glasses. She once told me that she was bothered that history seemed to be concerned with the actions and events surrounding men's lives and had little to say about the history of women. If a gender-inclusive version of the Bible would draw her into the reading of God's Word, I would be most grateful to God.

Osborne would find common ground with Grudem in opposing radical feminists who would like to change the titles of God from 'Father' and 'Son of God' to a more generic 'Parent' and 'Child.' He also concurs that when the context indicates that men are being address translators should retain the male language. He sees greater difficulty in translation when in the original setting men were being addressed while in a similar modern setting both men and women would be addressed. As an example of this, he cites the parable of the tenant farmers in Luke 220:9-18. Osborne feels that since in the cultural context these farmers would have been men that gender-inclusive translations should in this instance refer to them clearly as 'men.' However, when Christ speaks to those who wish to be His disciples the NLT translates changes the masculine third person pronoun to the second person 'you.' "And you cannot be my disciple if you do not carry your cross. " Osborne sees that in examples such as these where both men and women are called to be Christ disciples that a moderate use of inclusive language is best. He would retain the use of the 'Son of Man' in the Gospels since it is a clear messianic title of Christ, likewise since Daniel 7:14 is a messianic reference to Christ there is an argument to retaining the 'son of man' in that text even though in context the verse means 'human likeness.'

Osborne believes that gender-inclusive plural terms convey greater clarity even though the singular person is lost. However, he argues that the Hebrew 'ha'ish' (the man) in Psalm 1:1 means man and should not be translated as the 'blessed person.' The NRSV however does make Psalm 1:1 inclusive by stating, "Happy are those who do not follow the advice of the wicked, . . " Here is I believe a clear example were much is lost by using the inclusive 'those' in place of the 'righteous man.' All English versions up through the NIV retain the singular 'man' in Ps.1:1 "Blessed is the man who does not walk in the counsel of the wicked. . . ." The Psalm continues by contrasting the singular man who is righteous with the many who are wicked by the contrastive pronouns 'he' and 'they.' Ps. 1:3 "He is like a tree planted by streams of water....' while in contrast Ps. 1:4 states of the wicked, "They are like chaff that the wind blows away." This distinction of the singular righteous man who stands faithfully for God in opposition to the many who are ungodly is totally lost when both the righteous individual and the wicked are referred to with the pronoun 'they.'

Regarding the use of inclusive plurals and second person pronouns to replace the third person singular 'he,' Osborne justifies these changes by noting that the New Testament writers felt free to make similar changes when quoting from Old Testament texts. He gave the example of Eph. 4:8,"When he ascended on high he led captives in his train and gave gifts to men." Paul is quoting here from Ps. 68:18 where the second person singular 'you' is used In this example, Paul, who is referring to Christ in the extended passage with the third person 'he,' does change the quote from the second person 'you' to 'he' to maintain the flow of the rest of the passage. However, I do not believe that this selective change from the direct address implied by the use of 'you' in Ps. 68:18 to the more indirect address use of the 'he' in Ephesians should be used to justify wholesale changes of all generic inclusive singulars to plurals so as to be gender-inclusive. In the second example, the writer of Hebrews is quoting directly, word-for- word from the Greek LXX. The writer of Hebrews certainly did not think that he was changing God's Word even though the English translation from the Hebrew in Ps. 104:4 varies slightly from the English translation of the Greek in Heb. 1:7.

Ps. 104:4 He makes winds his messengers, flames of fire his servants.
Heb. 1:7 He makes his angels winds, his servants flames of fire."

Carson likewise noted that New Testament writers sometimes changed singular pronouns to plurals when quoting from the Old Testament. He notes three examples were Paul changed the singular pronoun in the Old Testament text into a plural: Isa. 52:7quoted in Rom. 10:15, Ps. 36:1 quoted in Rom. 3:10,18, and Ps. 32:1 quoted in Rom. 4:6,7. He draws two conclusions from this. 1. Paul certainly did not think that He was distorting scripture by changing the pronouns from singular to plural. 2. "I am certainly not suggesting that singulars may be translated into plurals indiscriminately." [Carson, 1998, p.116].

Translators face several challenges. The Hebrew and Greek have differing structures and slight differences of semantic meaning between Hebrew English or Greek English. Carson sees Grudem as being too rigid in insisting on an almost one-for-one translation of words from the Hebrew of Greek into English. The Colorado Springs Guidelines for Translation of Gender-Related Language in Scripture (or the CS Policy) which Grudem supports would seem to disallow the KJV's use of 'children of Israel' or 'children of God' and demand instead the NASB's more literal 'sons of Israel' and 'sons of God.' A simple example shows the problems of attempting a one-for-one translation. In Greek, the word for 'Spirit' is 'pneuma' and is neuter in gender. Therefore in Rom. 8:16 the neuter pronoun 'auto' or 'it' is used to refer to the 'Spirit' because pronouns must agree in gender with the noun that they refer to. The KJV translates this verse literally as "The Spirit itself beareth witness with our spirit that we are the children of God." The problem here is that the English 'it' connotes something that is impersonal. Therefore, the more accurate translation is the TNIV's "The Spirit himself testifies with our spirit that we are God's children."

Translators must ask themselves, "who is the target audience for this translation?" If the translation is seeking to communicate to young people, the translators must be mindful of shifts in language that can happen in a relatively short time. Carson notes that what makes gender-inclusive translations controversial is the fact that we are in the midst of a shift away from the use of the generic 'he' and 'man' towards other forms of inclusive language, but this shift is not yet complete. I conducted a survey of 162 people to seek their understanding of the use of the inclusive 'he' and 'man' both in current news sources and in the Gospel of John. I divided their responses by sex and age: under 25, 26-40, and 41 or older. I sought to poll both Christians and not Christians. The majority of the under 25 year olds were from the Biola University campus. I also gathered data from my church's adult Sunday School classes and from Bean Town a coffee shop is Sierra Madre. See Appendix One for the list of questions and answers.

A clear majority of both men (77%) and woman (91%) saw the pronoun 'his' in the in question 1, "A student who pays his own way gets the tax credit." as including both men and woman. Likewise, the use of 'man' in the following in question 2, "Early Man's Journey out of Africa," was seen by an identical majority (90% ) of both of men and women to refer to a 'human.' The only difference was that men under 25 were more slightly more likely to see 'his' and 'man' as referring to a male person Both men and women by a nearly identical 85% to 83% in question 3 saw the use of 'his' and 'man' as natural including both men and women? It is of interest to note that Biola females under 25 saw the use of "his' and 'man' as naturally including both men and women by 92% while only 65% of women at secular setting of Bean Town agreed. The percentage of women on a secular university campus who would agree that 'his' and 'man' are natural inclusive might well be much less.

Question 4 asked if the "N" word should be removed from the Adventures of Huckleberry Finn in newer editions because it was so racially offensive. A clear 94% males and 91% females felt that the 'N' word should not be removed because it would drastically effect the authenticity of the recorded conversations that were set during slavery in the American South of the 1850's. Question 5 sought to find out how many preferred the more gender-inclusive reading of John 14:23 in the TNIV to that of the NIV. Overall there was little differences between men (72%) and women (77.5%) who preferred the NIV's use of 'he' to the TNIV's use of 'they.' Here again I saw a saw an increased preference by 40% of women at the secular coffee shop for the TNIV's reading versus only 11% of Biola women under 25 referring the TNIV's reading.

NIV: "If anyone loves me, he will obey my teaching. My Father will love him and we will come to him and make or home with him."
TNIV: "Anyone who loves me will obey my teaching. My Father will love them, and we will come to them and make our home with them."

Those promoting gender-inclusive Bible versions would see the fact that a secular person is less likely to see 'he' and 'man' inclusive terms as the reason why such translations are need. Their concerns are born out by the fact that only 44% of the males and 55% of females at the coffer shop agreed with both question 3 A and question 5 A that the use of 'he' and 'man' are naturally inclusive terms to be used both by the news media and the Gospel of John. By contrast 78% of Christian men and 80% of Christian women concurred with question 3 A and 5 A. Likewise, 25% of women at the coffer shop felt that the 'he' and 'man' should never be use in a inclusive sense either by the news media nor in the Bible because it might seem excluding to women. A minority of those at the coffee shop (males 28% and females 15%) where comfortable with the use of the inclusive 'he' and 'man' in the news media but preferred the more gender-inclusive 'they' in the Gospel of John. A Christian woman, in her early forty's, explained why she concurred with this view. The use of 'he' and man' in the news media did not seem excluding to her because they were merely conveying factual data to which she felt little emotional connection. On the other hand, Jesus Christ is asking for a personal commitment from her and inviting her into a personal relationship with Him. That is why she desires the use of gender-inclusive language in scripture more than she does in secular news sources.

Translators must be honest about what they must lose in order to gain what they believer to be a more gender-inclusive translation. Clearly, they must give up the use of the third person singular pronoun. Frankly, I grieve the loss of the singular 'righteous man' who confronts the plural ungodly in the NRSV's Ps. 1. Similarly, it was not until I read John 3 in the Greek that I realized that Jesus began the conversation by using the singular 'you' to refer to Nicodemus but later switched to the plural 'you' in verse 11. English has lost the distinction between the singular and plural 'you.' For many years, many people wished to hold onto the use of 'thee' and 'ye' for the additional clarity that they give to scripture. However, current English usage has marked both of these words as archaic and they are no longer used in modern English Bible's. Those opposed to gender-inclusive translations such as the TNIV also cannot simply put their heads in the sand and pretend that nothing has changed. At this point, it remains an open question as to whether English will likewise lose the use of the gender-inclusive 'he.' If that day comes, all English Bible translations will have to accommodate to that change.

The problem of the third person generic pronoun seems the most difficult to resolve. I wish that English had a third person singular pronoun that was neither he nor she but which clearly included individuals of both sexes. Christ appeals to each individual in Rev. 3:20-21 to personally respond to Christ. That personal heart-to-heart call seems to be muted by the TNIV.

TNIV "Here I am! I stand at the door and knock. If anyone hears my voice and door, I will come in and eat with them, and they with me.

Time after time in the Gospels Christ calls each person to bear his cross and follow Christ. I will frankly mourn the lose of the ability to speak directly to individual person in this way. One possible solution would be to italicize either 'he' or 'they' when they are use as an inclusive third person pronoun. Certainly, the survey I conducted suggests that a sizable minority of people both secular and Christian wish to have a gender-inclusive Bible.

The issue of gender-inclusive language both in the media and in Bible translation will be with us for quite some time. Mark Strauss clearly is concerned with the needs for both sides in this debate to seek to find some common ground as to the principles to use in Bible translations. He fears that the debate over the role of women in the church will cloud the debate over the underlying hermeneutical and translation issues. Strauss fears the development of competing gender translation guidelines such as the "Colorado Springs Guidelines for Translation of Gender-Related Language in Scripture" (or the CS Policy) versus the Gender-Inclusive Language (CBT Policy) will result in competing Bible translations. This may cause egalitarian evangelicals to produce their translations while complementarian evangelicals to produce their own translation. Strauss fears this out come because "...we risk doing what the cults have done: changing the Bible from the authoritative Word of God into a handbook supporting each of our own personal agendas. This is the greatest danger of all." [Srauss, 1998, p. 31].


References Top of page

Carson, D. A. (1998). The Inclusive Language Debate A Plea for Realism. Grand Rapids: Baker Books.

Do's and Dont's of Inclusive Language (1998), Media Task Force, Honolulu County Committee on the Status of Women.

Grudem, Wayne. (1997). What's wrong with gender-neutral Bible translations? Libertyville, IL: Council on Biblical Manhood and Womanhood.

Grudem, Wayne. (1997). Do Inclusive-Language Bibles Distort Scripture? Yes/No. Christianity  Today, Oct. 27, 1997 p.26-32.

Osborne, Grant R (1997). Do Inclusive-Language Bibles Distort Scripture? No. Christianity Today, Oct. 27, 1997 p. 33-39.

Strauss, Mark L. (1998). Distorting Scripture?: The challenge of Bible translation and gender    accuracy. Downers Grove, IL: Inter Varsity Press.

Tuggy, David. (2000).The literal-idiomatic Bible translation debate from the perspective of Cognitive grammar. htt://mail.jaar.org/~bt/files.htm

Strauss, Mark. L. (2002) Examples of Improvement in Accuracy of the TNIV over the NIV When following the Colorado Springs Guidelines Unpublished paper.

Strauss, Mark L. (1998). Linguistic and Hermeneutical Fallacies in the Guidelines Established at the 'Conference on Gender-Related Language in Scripture JETS 41/2 (June 1998), 239-262.


Appendix One

 

1. "A student who pays his own way gets the tax credit. (USA TODAY, July 30, 1997, p. 3B." The word 'his' means

Answer Male Female
A. a male person? 22% 10%
B. either a male or female person? 78% 90%

2. "Early Man's Journey out of Africa" (US News & World Report, Nov. 27, 1995. p. 18, headline)." The word 'man's' means

Answer Male Female
A. a male person. 10% 10%
B. human. 90% 90%

3. Does the use of 'his' and 'man' in these sentences sound:

Answer Male Female
A. natural to you as including both men and women? 85% 83%
B. words that should be avoided because they might sound sexist and excluding to women? 15% 17%

4. The American literary classic Adventures of Huckleberry Finn, by Twain, Mark records conversations just as they would have been uttered in the 1850's in the American South. These conversations include the use of the 'N' word. The following is part of a conversation by Jim, the run away slave, who is one of the central character in the book. "Yes. You know dat one-laigged nigger dat b'longs to old Mosto Bradish?"

Should the "N" word by removed from the Adventures of Huckleberry Finn in newer editions?
Answer Male Female
A. Yes because the 'N' word is so racially offensive. 6% 9%
B. No because it would drastically effect the authenticity of the conversations. 94% 91%

5. Newer versions of the Bible have often changed the inclusive "he" to "they" in order to be sensitive to those who feel that "he" is an exclusive word that refers only to male humans. The following is an example of such a change.

Original reading. "If anyone loves me, he will obey my teaching. My Father will love him and we will come to him and make or home with him. John 14:23 NIV.
New reading. "Anyone who loves me will obey my teaching. My Father will love them, and we will come to them and make our home with them. TNIV.

Which reading do you prefer?

Answer Male Female
A. Original reading because "he" is understood to refer to either a man or a women. 72% 77.5%
B. New reading because many women would feel that the original reading excluded them. 28% 22.5%

Appendix Two

 

Pasadena City Collage Students

Number who answered the questioner; Males 10 Females 20

1. "A student who pays his own way gets the tax credit. (USA TODAY, July 30, 1997, p. 3B."

The word 'his' means

Answer Male Female
A. a male person? 70% 50%
B. either a male or female person? 30% 50%

2. "Early Man's Journey out of Africa" (US News & World Report, Nov. 27, 1995. p. 18, headline)." The word 'man's' means

Answer Male Female
A. a male person. 30% 35%
B. human. 70% 65%

3. Does the use of 'his' and 'man' in these sentences sound:

Answer Male Female
A. natural to you as including both men and women?  40% 70%
B. words that should be avoided because they might sound sexist and excluding to women? 60% 30%

4. The American literary classic Adventures of Huckleberry Finn, by Twain, Mark records conversations just as they would have been uttered in the 1850's in the American South. These conversations includes the use of the 'N' word. The following is part of a conversation by Jim, the run away slave, who is one of the central character in the book. "Yes. You know dat one-laigged nigger dat b'longs to old Mosto Bradish?"

Should the "N" word by removed from the Adventures of Huckleberry Finn in newer editions?

Answer Male Female
A. Yes because the 'N' word is so racially offensive. 20% 40%
B. No because it would drastically effect the authenticity of the conversations. 80% 60%

5. Newer versions of the Bible have often changed the inclusive "he" to "they" in order to be sensitive to those who feel that "he" is an exclusive word that refers only to male humans. The following is an example of such a change.

Original reading. "If anyone loves me, he will obey my teaching. My Father will love him and we will come to him and make or home with him. John 14:23 NIV.
New reading. "Anyone who loves me will obey my teaching. My Father will love them, and we will come to them and make our home with them. TNIV.

Which reading do you prefer?

Answer Male Female
A. Original reading because "he" is understood to refer to either a man or a women. 50% 50%
B. New reading because many women would feel that the original reading excluded them. 50% 50%

1. How many answered both question Q. 3. A and Q. 5 A ? This means that they believe that 'he' and 'man' are naturally inclusive terms that refer both to men and women?

Answer Male Female
PCC2 20% 6 30%
Bean Town8 44% 11 55%
SMCC/BIOLA39 78% 47 80%
Total49 64% 64 64%

2. How many answered both question Q. 3 B and Q. 5 B? This would mean that they feel that 'he' and 'man' should not be used either in the newspaper or in the Bible because their use may leave women feeling excluded.

Answer Male Female
PCC4 40% 4 20%
Bean Town3 17% 5 25%
SMCC/BIOLA6 13.5% 5 8%
Total13 17% 14 14%

3. How many answered both question Q. 3 A and Q. 5 B? This would mean that they find the use of 'he' and 'man' naturally inclusive terms when used in newspapers but wish the more gender-inclusive 'they' used in the Gospel of John?

Answer Male Female
PCC2 20% 8 40%
Bean Town5 28% 3 15%
SMCC/BIOLA4 13% 4 7%
Total11 14% 15 15%

4. How many answered both question Q. 3 B and Q. 5 A? This would mean that they wish to avoid the use of 'he' and 'man' in newspapers because it sounds sexist and excluding to woman but find the same use of 'he' and 'man' as being inclusive when it is used in the Gospel of John.

Answer Male Female
PCC2 20% 2 10%
Bean Town2 11% 2 5%
SMCC/BIOLA0 0% 3 5%
Total4 5% 7 7%

1. How many answered both question 4. A and 5. A? This would mean that they wished to remove the 'N' word from Huckleberry Finn while leaving the original 'he' in the Gospel of John.

Answer Male Female
PCC0 0% 3 15%
Bean Town1 5% 0 0%
SMCC/BIOLA3 6% 2 4%
Total4 5% 5 6%

2. How many answered both question 4. B and 5. B? This would mean that they wished to leave the 'N' word in Huckleberry Finn while changing the Gospel of John to the more inclusive 'them.'

Answer Male Female
PCC5 50% 7 35%
Bean Town7 39% 6 30%
SMCC/BIOLA10 20% 7 15%
Total22 30% 20 23%

3. How many answered question 4. A and 5. B? This would mean that they would wish to change both Huckleberry Finn by removing the 'N' word and the Gospel of John by using the more inclusive 'them.'

Answer Male Female
PCC2 20% 5 25%
Bean Town0 0% 2 10%
SMCC/BIOLA1 2% 2 4%
Total3 4% 9 10%

4. How many answered question 4. B and 5. A? This would mean that they wished to change neither the wording of Huckleberry Finn not the use of 'he' in the Gospel of John.

Answer Male Female
PCC3 30% 5 25%
Bean Town10 56% 12 60%
SMCC/BIOLA32 64% 36 77%
Total45 61% 53 61%

Sex:  A. Male    B. Female  Age: A. 25 or under.  B.26 to 40. C. 41 or older.

1. "A student who pays his own way gets the tax credit. (USA TODAY, July 30, 1997, p. 3B."

The word 'his' means A. a male person. B. either a male or female person.

2. "Early Man's Journey out of Africa" (US News & World Report, Nov. 27, 1995. p. 18, headline)."

The word 'man's' means A. a male person. B. human.

3. Does the use of 'his' and 'man' in these sentences sound:

A. natural to you as including both men and women.

B. words that should be avoided because they might sound sexist and excluding to women.

4. The American literary classic Adventures of Huckleberry Finn, by Twain, Mark records conversations just as they would have been uttered in the 1850's in the American South. These conversations includes the use of the 'N' word. The following is part of a conversation by Jim, the run away slave, who is one of the central character in the book. "Yes. You know dat one-laigged nigger dat b'longs to old Mosto Bradish?"

Should the "N" word by removed from the Adventures of Huckleberry Finn in newer editions?

A. Yes because the 'N' word is so racially offensive.

B. No because it would drastically effect the authenticity of the conversations.

5. All English New Testament translations prior to1985 use "he" to translate the Greek masculine third person singular pronoun in passages that clearly referred to both men and women. Many newer translations have used "they" in order to be sensitive to those who feel that "he" is an exclusive word that refers only to male humans. The following is an example of such a change.

A. NIV "If anyone loves me, he will obey my teaching. My Father will love him and we will come to him and make or home with him. John 14:23.

B. TNIV "Anyone who loves me will obey my teaching. My Father will love them, and we will come to them and make our home with them.

Which reading do you prefer?

A. NIV reading because "he" is understood to refer to either a man or a women.
B.
TNIV reading because many women would feel that the original reading excluded them.

Sex:  A. Male    B. Female  Age: A. 25 or under.  B.26 to 40. C. 41 or older.

1. "A student who pays his own way gets the tax credit. (USA TODAY, July 30, 1997, p. 3B."

The word 'his' means A. a male person. B. either a male or female person.

2. "Early Man's Journey out of Africa" (US News & World Report, Nov. 27, 1995. p. 18, headline)."

The word 'man's' means A. a male person. B. human.

3. Does the use of 'his' and 'man' in these sentences sound:

A. natural to you as including both men and women.
B. words that should be avoided because they might sound sexist and excluding to women.

4. The American literary classic Adventures of Huckleberry Finn, by Twain, Mark records conversations just as they would have been uttered in the 1850's in the American South. These conversations includes the use of the 'N' word. The following is part of a conversation by Jim, the run away slave, who is one of the central character in the book. "Yes. You know dat one-laigged nigger dat b'longs to old Mosto Bradish?"

Should the "N" word by removed from the Adventures of Huckleberry Finn in newer editions?

A. Yes because the 'N' word is so racially offensive.
B. No because it would drastically effect the authenticity of the conversations.

5. Newer versions of the Bible have often changed the inclusive "he" to "they" in order to be sensitive to those who feel that "he" is an exclusive word that refers only to male humans. The following is an example of such a change.

Original reading. "If anyone loves me, he will obey my teaching. My Father will love him and we will come to him and make or home with him. John 14:23 NIV.
New reading. "Anyone who loves me will obey my teaching. My Father will love them, and we will come to them and make our home with them. TNIV.

Which reading do you prefer?

A. Original reading because "he" is understood to refer to either a man or a women.
B. New reading because many women would feel that the original reading excluded them.

1. "A student who pays his own way gets the tax credit. (USA TODAY, July 30, 1997, p. 3B." The word 'his' means

Answer Male Female
A. a male person? 22% 10%
B. either a male or female person? 78% 90%

 

Group Male under 25 Male 26-40 Male 41 or older
A. B. A. B. A. B.
SMCC BIOLA5     33% 10   67% 0     0% 6  100% 3   10% 28  90%
Bean Town3     42% 4     48% 2   50% 2   50% 3   42% 4    48%
Total Male8     36% 14   63% 2   20% 8   80% 6   16% 32  84%
Group Female under 25 Female 26-40 Female 41 or older
A. B. A. B. A. B.
SMCC BIOLA3       8% 33   92% 1   17% 5    83% 1     3% 30  97%
Bean Town1     50% 1     50% 2   14% 12  86% 0     0% 4  100%
Female Total4     11% 34   89% 3   15% 17  85% 1     3% 34  97%
Grand Total12   20% 48   80% 5   17% 24  83% 7   10% 66  90%

2. "Early Man's Journey out of Africa" (US News & World Report, Nov. 27, 1995. p. 18, headline)." The word 'man's' means

 

Group Male under 25 Male 26-40 Male 41 or older
A. B. A. B. A. B.
SMCC BIOLA2   13% 13  87% 0     0% 6  100% 1     3% 30  97%
Bean Town3   42% 4    48% 0     0% 4  100% 1   14% 6    86%
Total Male 5   23% 17  77% 0     0% 10 100% 2     5% 36  95%
c
Group Female under 25 Female 26-40 Female 41 or older
A. B. A. B. A. B.
SMCC BIOLA4   11% 32  89%1   17% 5   83% 0     0% 21  100%
Bean Town0     0% 2  100% 2   14% 12  86% 0     0% 4    100%
Female Total4   11% 34  89% 3   15% 17  85% 0     0% 25  100%
Grand Total10 16% 51  84% 3   10% 27  90% 2     7% 68    93%

3. Does the use of 'his' and 'man' in these sentences sound:

Answer Male Female
A. natural to you as including both men and women?  40% 70%
B. words that should be avoided because they might sound sexist and excluding to women? 60% 30%

 

Group Male under 25 Male 26-40 Male 41 or older
A. B. A. B. A. B.
SMCC BIOLA12  80% 3    20% 5    83% 1    17% 28  93% 2      7%
Bean Town5    71% 2    29% 3    75% 1    25% 4    57% 3    43%
Total Male17  77% 5    23% 8    80% 2    20% 32  86% 5    14%
Group Female under 25 Female 26-40 Female 41 or older
A. B. A. B. A. B.
SMCC BIOLA33  92% 3      8% 6  100% 0      0% 17  81% 4    19%
Bean Town2  100% 0      0% 8    57% 6    43% 3    75% 1    25%
Female Total35  92% 3      8% 14  70% 6    30% 20  86% 5    20%
Grand Total52  87% 8    13% 22  73% 8    27% 52  84% 10  16%

4. The American literary classic Adventures of Huckleberry Finn, by Twain, Mark records conversations just as they would have been uttered in the 1850's in the American South. These conversations includes the use of the 'N' word. The following is part of a conversation by Jim, the run away slave, who is one of the central character in the book. "Yes. You know dat one-laigged nigger dat b'longs to old Mosto Bradish?"

Should the "N" word by removed from the Adventures of Huckleberry Finn in newer editions?

Answer Male Female
A. Yes because the 'N' word is so racially offensive. 6% 9%
B. No because it would drastically effect the authenticity of the conversations. 94% 91%

 

Group Male under 25 Male 26-40 Male 41 or older
A. B. A. B. A. B.
SMCC BIOLA0      0% 15 100% 0      0% 6   100% 3    10% 27  90%
Bean Town1    14% 6     86% 0      0% 4   100% 0      0% 7  100%
Total Male1      5% 21   95% 0      0% 10 100% 3    12% 34  88%
Group Female under 25 Female 26-40 Female 41 or older
A. B. A. B. A. B.
SMCC BIOLA1      9% 32  91% 2    33% 4    67% 2      6% 29  94%
Bean Town0      0% 2  100% 3    21% 11  79% 0      0% 4  100%
Female Total1      3% 34  97% 3    21% 11  79% 2    17% 33  83%
Grand Total2      4% 66  97% 5    17% 25  83% 5      7% 67  93%

5. Newer versions of the Bible have often changed the inclusive "he" to "they" in order to be sensitive to those who feel that "he" is an exclusive word that refers only to male humans. The following is an example of such a change.

Original reading. "If anyone loves me, he will obey my teaching. My Father will love him and we will come to him and make or home with him. John 14:23 NIV.
New reading. "Anyone who loves me will obey my teaching. My Father will love them, and we will come to them and make our home with them. TNIV.

Which reading do you prefer?

Answer Male Female
A. Original reading because "he" is understood to refer to either a man or a women. 72% 77.5%
B. New reading because many women would feel that the original reading excluded them. 28% 22.5%

 

Group Male under 25 Male 26-40 Male 41 or older
A. B. A. B. A. B.
SMCC BIOLA12  80% 3    20% 4  100% 0      0% 20  71% 8     29%
Bean Town3    42% 4    58% 3    75% 1    25% 5    71% 2     29%
Total Male15  68% 7    32% 8    80% 2    20% 25  71% 10   29%
Group Female under 25 Female 26-40 Female 41 or older
A. B. A. B. A. B.
SMCC BIOLA32  89% 4    11% 5  100% 0      0% 13  68% 6     32%
Bean Town1    50% 1    50% 8    57% 6    43% 3    75% 1     25%
Female Total33  87% 5    13% 13  68% 6    32% 16  70% 7     30%
Grand Total48  80% 12  20% 21  72% 8    28% 41  71% 17   29%

1. How many answered both question Q. 3. A and Q. 5 A ? This means that they believe that 'he' and 'man' are naturally inclusive terms that refer both to men and women?

 

Answer Male Female
SMCC BIOLA39   78% 47   80%
Bean Town8     44% 11   55%
Total47   70% 58   73%

2. How many answered both question Q. 3 B and Q. 5 B? This would mean that they feel that 'he' and 'man' should not be used either in the newspaper or in the Bible because their use may leave women feeling excluded.

Answer Male Female
SMCC BIOLA6   13.5% 5       8%
Bean Town3     17% 5     25%
Total9     13% 10   12%

3. How many answered both question Q. 3 A and Q. 5 B? This would mean that they find the use of 'he' and 'man' naturally inclusive terms when used in newspapers but wish the more gender-inclusive 'they' used in the Gospel of John?

Answer Male Female
SMCC BIOLA4     13% 4       7%
Bean Town5     28% 3     15%
Total9   13.5% 7       9%

4. How many answered both question Q. 3 B and Q. 5 A? This would mean that they wish to avoid the use of 'he' and 'man' in newspapers because it sounds sexist and excluding to woman but find the same use of 'he' and 'man' as being inclusive when it is used in the Gospel of John.

Answer Male Female
SMCC BIOLA0       0% 3       5%
Bean Town2     11% 2       5%
Total2       3% 5       6%

1. How many answered both question 4. A and 5. A? This would mean that they wished to remove the 'N' word from Huckleberry Finn while leaving the original 'he' in the Gospel of John.

Answer Male Female
SMCC BIOLA3       6% 2       4%
Bean Town1       5% 0       0%
Total4       6% 2       3%

2. How many answered both question 4. B and 5. B? This would mean that they wished to leave the 'N' word in Huckleberry Finn while changing the Gospel of John to the more inclusive 'them.'

Answer Male Female
SMCC BIOLA10   20% 7     15%
Bean Town7     39% 6     30%
Total17   27% 13   20%

3. How many answered question 4. A and 5. B? This would mean that they would wish to change both Huckleberry Finn by removing the 'N' word and the Gospel of John by using the more inclusive 'them.'

Answer Male Female
SMCC BIOLA1       2% 2       4%
Bean Town0       0% 2     10%
Total1       2% 4       6%

4. How many answered question 4. B and 5. A? This would mean that they wished to change neither the wording of Huckleberry Finn not the use of 'he' in the Gospel of John.

Answer Male Female
SMCC BIOLA32   64% 36   77%
Bean Town10   56% 12   60%
Total64   65% 46   71%

1. Gen 5:2

RSV: "Male and female he created them, . . . and named them Man when they were created".
NRSV
: "Male and female he created them, and he . . . named them Humankind when they were created"

Ps 1:1-5

NASB: How blessed is the man who does not walk in the counsel of the wicked, Nor stand in the path of sinners, Nor sit in the seat of scoffers! He will be like a tree firmly planted by streams of water, The wicked are not so, But they are like chaff which the wind drives away.
NRSV: Happy are those who do not follow the advice of the wicked, or take the path that sinners tread, or sit in the seat of scoffers; but their delight is in the law of the Lord, and on his law they meditate day and night. They are like trees planted by streams of water, which yield their fruit in its season, and their leaves do not wither. In all that they do, they prosper. The wicked are not so, but are like chaff that the wind drives away.

2. John 14:23

NASB: Jesus answered and said to him, "If anyone loves Me, he will keep My word; and My Father will love him, and We will come to him and make Our abode with him.
TNIV: "Anyone who loves me will obey my teaching. My Father will love them, and we will come too them and make our home with them.


Reflections
We are what we think.

Science News Flash
Science News Flash

http://godandscience.org/doctrine/gender.html
Last Modified June 17, 2008

 

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