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Course Introduction

Think of a large forest. Each individual tree has come into existence by the word of God the Creator. Each one is connected to the others underneath the soil. Altogether, they give meaning and weight to the jumble of letters that is “forest.” Every tree stands by itself, but each individual is bound together by one location, one purpose, and one Creator.

Any survey, photograph, poem, or painting can seek to be an authentic representation of any particular forest, but even photographs are limited in terms of angle, shadow, or lighting. Words also have limits, as does the sweep of a brush. The failure to copy the majestic reality of a forest does not lie in the forest itself or in its Creator. Rather, it lies in the limitations of the mediums and the fallibility of the translator or interpreter.

Likewise is the task of the translation and interpretation of the Word of God: while God and God’s words are flawless, any attempt at copying their majestic reality is challenging and will never be perfect. This is why special care needs to be given when looking into the pages and history of the Bible to make sure that all of us—pastors, elders, and other members of the Body of Christ—equally care about understanding God’s own voice instead of uncritically embracing the voices of humans that so often err.

Ultimately, translation and interpretation work requires extraordinary humility, respect, teamwork, a close relationship with God, and an attitude of questioning all presuppositions that are added to the Bible rather than the original source material.

CBE International believes the Bible is infallible and the perfect Word of our Creator God. Rather than believe that God made mistakes when he created woman and man or that God cursed the world to live in patriarchy, we believe that God’s heart for woman and man being equal partners can be found by delving deeper into the Word of God, looking at each verse of the Bible in its original language not as individual trees, standing alone, but rather all of them together, altogether significant and all fully part of the holistic, majestic forest that is Scripture.

Ultimately, translation and interpretation work requires extraordinary humility, respect, teamwork, a close relationship with God, and an attitude of questioning all presuppositions that are added to the Bible rather than the original source material.

Course Structure

To achieve this goal, this e-learning course will first explore and discuss issues of Bible translation, as it is both the starting point where most people first encounter the Word of God as well as the foundation of biblical interpretation.

This course begins with a chapter introducing the basic principles of Bible translation and the challenges faced by every Bible translator, especially how the task of translation requires the translator to traverse between different worlds—the world of the original language, the world of the target language, and the world of their own culture. After establishing these understandings, chapter two will examine how the translators’ cultural assumptions or biases affected their translations. Using a number of familiar biblical passages as examples, we will discuss several types of translation flaws regarding gender.

In chapter three, we will explore the contributions of women in history to the Latin and English Bible, exploring how they used their resources, social positions, and perspectives as women to better communicate God’s Word. To conclude, chapter four offers suggestions for a holistic reading of the Bible and for selecting appropriate Bible translations for your own use and ministry. After you complete this course, we hope you will be a better reader and learner of the Bible, be captivated by God’s vision for gender equality, and be empowered to make your world a place where women and men can thrive as equal partners.

Activity Types

The following activities are included in this course to enhance your learning:

Going Deeper

In each section, “Going Deeper” activities introduce you to a variety of resources CBE has developed over the years, ranging from podcasts, videos, blog posts, and magazine articles, to books and academic papers, providing you with an in-depth insight into the topics you find most interesting.

Knowledge Check

In a “Knowledge Check” activity, you will be asked to test some of your learning! Once you have completed the activity, we recommend taking some time to verbally process what you’ve learned, whether through conversation with a friend or in spoken prayer to God. 

Reflect

“Reflect” activities will have prompts to encourage you to further process the material. We highly recommend writing down your responses so that you can refer to them later.

Note on Bible Translations

There is a multitude of Bible translations, each employing different approaches (philosophies) to translation. Some translations do their very best to carry over the original language in a word-for-word approach (e.g., the NASB and ESV), while others attempt to convey the sense or meaning (e.g., the NAB, CEV, and TEV), which allows for easier reading but also tends to include more interpretation on the part of the translators. Here, we will use the New Revised Standard Version (NRSV) unless otherwise noted by a translation tag for a particular verse.

Created by Christians for Biblical Equality (CBE)

CBE International is a nonprofit organization devoted to educating Christians that the Bible calls for women and men to lead and serve as equals. For over thirty years, CBE has equipped Christians to use their God-given talents in leadership and service regardless of gender, ethnicity, or class. In conjunction to pioneering the promotion of women’s equality in the church, home, and society, CBE has also created an extensive library of free online resources geared toward pastors, academics, and lay Christians alike.

Going Deeper

Biblical Gender Equality: A Summary
CBE International
This article offers a comprehensive introduction to CBE’s view on biblical equality.