What language is most effective in communicating the true meaning of Scripture? It is the language of the people with whom we want to communicate. We are at a point today where traditional Bible translations, with their male-oriented language, seem to many to be outdated.
Where and how we start in our interpretation of Scripture determines where we will end up. When seeking to understand the relevance of the Bible’s teaching for our lives, interpretive starting points are particularly significant. The method by which we read and derive meaning from Scripture is the fundamental determinant of the nature of the meaning we will derive.
In the spring of 2002, Zondervan and the International Bible Society released the latest work of the ongoing Committee on Bible Translation (CBT), Today's New International Version (TNIV) of the New Testament. The Old Testament is slated for release in 2005. Approximately 7% of the text is changed from the last American revision of the NIV, published in 1984.
Now Deborah, a prophetess, the wife of Lappidoth, was judging Israel at that time. She used to sit under the palm tree of Deborah between Ramah and Bethel in the hill country of Ephraim; and the sons of Israel came to her for judgment. (Judges 4:4–5, NASB)
When was the last time you went into a bookstore to buy a new Bible for yourself? Did you struggle to understand some of the versions? Or did you delight in the clarity and readability of others? Did you notice the changes in gender language? Or did you wonder if you can trust this different way the Bible speaks to you? For evangelicals these are important questions.
The occasion for writing the following article is this: at a recent summer convention [probably 1893] a young lady missionary had been appointed to give an account of her work at one of the public sessions. The scruples of certain of the delegates against a woman’s addressing a mixed assembly were found to be so strong, however, that the lady was withdrawn from the programme, and further public participation in the conference confined to its male constituency.
Recent events in the evangelical community—particularly with the release of Todays New International Version (TNIV) Bible translation—have raised concerns over masculine language. Does Jesus ask us to be fishers of people or fishers of men (Matt. 4:19)? Is there a difference? Should we be afraid to use words like people, especially when the ancient text and context warrants this?
In my writing I have generally used traditional “male” language for God: he, his, him. Although I do not regard God as a “Super Male in the Sky,” I grew up hearing and reading those male pronouns for God, and the use of them comes naturally to me
Biblical feminists, as opposed to other feminists outside and within the church, accept the full authority of all Scripture for all the people of God. But they recognize, with all modern people, that we do not absorb Scripture in its pure form into our understanding. Like anything else we read, reading Scripture is an interpretive process.