Gender-Neutral Bible Causes Controversy

From the Galveston Daily News, the 2011 translation of the NIV Bible includes gender-neutral language. Not in reference to God concerning his status as Father, but more subtle references like instead of Jesus saying, “I will make you fishers of men, ” the new translation changes it to, “I will send you out to fish for people.” That bit right there just sounds odd.

Per the article, “The translation comes from an independent group of biblical scholars that has been meeting yearly since 1965 to discuss advances in biblical scholarship and changes in English usage.”

The new gender-neutral language has already drawn criticism from the Council on Biblical Manhood and Womanhood. This is an organization that still believes the man is the head of the household and that women are subservient but still equal (have the men of this organization ever really been married? Women are never subservient–it’s all an illusion!).

I decided to look up this Council on Biblical Manhood and Womanhood because I thought it was too good to be true and yes, they have a website. One of the first links I clicked on was Evangelical Feminism & Biblical Truth. It features a book of the same name written by Wayne Grudem. Hmm, a book about Biblically-based feminism written by a man? The description says: “Has the feminist influence within today’s evangelical church led to a rejection of the effective authority of the Bible? In this reasoned, comprehensive response to more than one hundred controversial claims from evangelical feminists, biblical scholar Wayne Grudem answers these questions and examines the egalitarian perspective on every major doctrinal issue.”

From a marketing perspective to women, Wayne would have been smart to include a female co-author. As such, the review quotes are all–guess what!–males (J.I. Packer, Stu Weber, and John Piper). Well, let’s go to Amazon.com where I was planning to add this book to my nutty books collection but the damn thing is $44.99 new and $19.50 used. Are there any Amazon female reviewers? The first and most prominent review is by Randy Alcorn who gives the book 5 stars. Randy Alcorn, if you do not know, is popular in the pro-life movement and I heard about him numerous times growing up in Oregon as he was a local Christian celeb author. However, once you open up all 16 current reviews you finally get some female readers chiming in. The best review is by Rebecca Stark if you want to get a Christian female perspective.

Alright, enough of messing around with this Council on Biblical Manhood and Womanhood, what about the gender-neutral Bible translation? It actually is more complicated than you would think and I cannot begin to do justice to the arguments as it involves translating Greek. This council is not alone in its opposition to the NIV translation. The Souther Baptist Convention rejected the 2005 NIV translation for the same reasons. What this really brings into question is how the average Christian can really know what they’re reading without understanding the original Hebrew or Greek? We’re also talking about ancient languages and not modern Hebrew and Greek. Then add to that our evolving English language and you have quite a scholarly mess.

Do Christians know what goes on behind the scenes of their favorite Biblical translations? I was constantly told growing up that every word in the Bible was the word of God. That may not be the issue. The real question is: is every word in man’s translation of the Bible the word of God? After all, we have some odd stuff in the King James translation such as references to unicorns and satyrs. If we cannot have a clear translation of the Bible then how is it that everyone is so damned sure of themselves when quoting the Bible at nonChristians? And I’m mainly referring to the laity who is trusting others to interpret for them or they are inaccurately interpreting for themselves.  The background and context of each scripture is not always straightforward and we have a modern bias that sometimes is incorrectly applied.

Have mainstream Christians really studied the context and the historically understood translation versus new questions brought up by scholars? It’s a hell of a lot of studying.  And going back even further when the Bible was put together not by God but by argumentation and voting on what to keep and what to delete–how do we know what “men” kept and deleted is accurate? Not according to the theology that survived and thrived, but the alternate theologies that were possible. Books that contradicted the dominate theology were tossed aside but that doesn’t necessarily invalidate what they were saying.  One theology won out over the others which is why certain texts are canonical and others fall into superstition and heresy.  After all, God may be infallible but men are certainly prone to errors. Why would God trust his word to a bunch of screw-ups?

Alright, feel free to read the article for yourself. It is well done and more in depth as to some of the controversies. I suspect if we retain this new 2011 edition and somehow were able to compare it to a future edition in say 50 years we will be amazed at the changes in language and interpretations.

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