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This is the fourth blog in a series on Bible word studies for egalitarians. This entry explores whether words have gender and shows how the grammatical gender in Hebrew and Greek show up in Bible translation.

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This is the third in a series about Bible word studies and translation for egalitarians. This entry focuses on a particular instance of a word doesn’t contain all the meaning that the word can carry in 1 Timothy 2.

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How do we know what a word means? A linguist could spend a career answering this question, but here’s the simple answer: Words do not have meaning outside of context. It is the context that makes meaning.

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This is the first in a series of four blogs that demonstrate common Bible word study fallacies and why they are important for egalitarians studying Scripture to know. Word studies are a common part of Bible interpretation.

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For egalitarians, the book of Judges clearly demonstrates God’s approval of women leaders. Yet many who view women’s leadership as unbiblical dismiss the pattern of God-affirmed female authority in Judges.

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Most evangelical egalitarians know that the Bible has words that mean “man/men” and words that mean “person/people, human(s).” Many egalitarians also know that some Bible translations use “man/men” to translate words which aren’t limited to men. 

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Language matters. It impacts our ideas. It reflects our biases. It influences those we speak to. As I sang on Christmas Eve that all men are to employ their songs, the picture in my head was of men singing praises to God. Not one woman was among “all men” in my own imagination! It’s crucial that women see ourselves in what we sing, in what we read, and in what we hear.

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It is often suggested that using a gender-accurate translation is giving in to political correctness or feminism. Sometimes the resistance is based simply on personal preference, as in the case of the pastor who told me he was “too attached” to his Bible translation to make the change. Whatever the reason, we need to realize that our language choices have consequences.

If you are still on the fence about giving up your ESV or NIV1984 for a gender-accurate translation, here are some reasons to make the switch.

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Evangelical tradition places a high value on the biblical text, which is a good thing. But too often, we buy into a myth that our favorite translation is God’s true Word, pure and untainted by bias. Changes are seen as a threat to God’s truth, motivated by a social or political agenda.

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Important questions, including over women’s leadership in the church and home, often hinge on translation issues. We don’t all need to be translation experts, but a basic understanding of Bible translation concepts helps us judge whether the arguments we hear are valid. It’s my hope that these principles will help us all better appreciate the challenge of translation and approach gender (and other) debates with knowledge and humility.

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