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.
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.
In part 1, I opened by clarifying that I sincerely believe gender-inclusive Bible translation always matters. Nevertheless, it matters more in some places than in others. I described four examples where gender-inclusive Bible translation makes a real difference. Here I list three more.
People who claim that the New Testament has a masculine feel, and claim that gender-inclusive translation tactics do damage to that masculine feel, are expressing a truth about certain English translations, not a truth about the Greek New Testament.
Who translated the version of the English Bible that you use? Google the answer, and there’s a strong likelihood you’ll find that all or most of the translators were men, even of very recent translations. Remarkably, two translations from the mid-nineteenth and early twentieth centuries were the solo efforts of women scholars.
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.
“Daddy, why does God only like boys?” My eight-year-old daughter surprised me with her theological question. We attended a conservative, evangelical church and she was in third grade in a Christian grade school—what were they teaching her?
This list is meant to provide a brief sampling of the rich literature of Bible commentaries written by evangelical scholars in the last few decades. All of the Bible commentaries listed here are friendly to an egalitarian perspective.
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. This is especially common, for example, in the King James Version and the pre-2011 editions of the New International Version.