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.
We’ve all heard them. Stupid jokes and thoughtless comments. Sexist sayings and caricatures. From the pulpit, at the altar, in school, from boyfriends, girlfriends, teachers, parents, and friends. People pass off myths as facts and case-by-case examples as universal truth. Women are like this and men are like that. Women are obnoxious. Men are arrogant. Women are needy and men are emotionally unavailable. These statements are infused with cultural and gendered assumptions. They have no basis in the gospel and what’s more—they are rooted heavily in socialization. And yet, despite Christians’ pledge to reject unhealthy and sinful cultural messages, these painful and divisive gender jokes and ideologies have infiltrated the church. And it’s not no big deal, people. It’s a really big deal. Here’s why.
History is, quite obviously, a story. And like any story, it at times prioritizes the experiences of certain characters over others. If we try to do too much with one story, we obstruct our own efforts. Thus, good historians are wise and fair synthesizers of data, but they accept that no one story can include everyone and everything.
Last night, Sarah Bessey (we’re fans!) began a conversation about the strange, sexist, abusive, and toxic things Christian women are told on a regular basis. We’ve collected some of the most powerful tweets so far in a list--follow the ongoing conversation happening on twitter under #ThingsOnlyChristianWomenHear.
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.
In the highly acclaimed bestselling A Call to Action, President Jimmy Carter addresses the world’s most serious, pervasive, and ignored violation of basic human rights: the ongoing discrimination and violence against women and girls.