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Before the nineteenth century, a Chinese woman’s life was wrapped around three men: father, husband, and son. When missionaries brought the gospel to China, the destiny of Chinese women began to change.

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The newly formed Advisory Council on Violence Against Women, co-chaired by Attorney General Janet Reno and Secretary of Health and Human Services, Donna Shalala, is seeking to maximize the impact of the Violence Against Women Act by recruiting the collaboration of national leaders from law enforcement, the media, colleges and universities, sports, health care, primary and secondary education, the corporate workplace and also from religion. On October 11, 1996, leaders from many faiths and religious groups gathered in Washington DC at an interfaith breakfast, with President Clinton as honorary chairperson of the event. The Attorney General gave the key-note address, and leaders of various faith communities were asked to respond briefly. Speaking for evangelicals, Catherine Kroeger made the following remarks:

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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. 

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The Bible sets forth an ideal and calls the ideal woman an eshet-chayil, which is the Hebrew for a “virtuous woman” (KJV) or a “wife of noble character” (NIV). This Hebrew expression occurs only three times in the Old Testament, but a study of these three passages is likely to reveal what the Bible supports as an ideal of Christian womanhood.

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Shortly after the controversy over the New International Version Inclusive Language Edition (NIVI) erupted, an older woman in one of my Bible classes asked me, “Are you in favor of changing our Bible?”

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As I examine the interrelatedness of religion, prejudice and abuse, I am aware that abuse—whether physical, sexual or psychological—is a profoundly gendered concept. The majority of abusers are male and the majority of victims are women and children. And prejudice—the unjustifiably negative attitude toward a group and its members, with supporting beliefs, emotions and behavioral predispositions—has both cross-cultural and gender implications.

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Twelve million women in the United States—a staggering 25 percent of all American women—will be abused by an intimate partner in their lifetimes, according to a recent article in the Hawaii Medical Journal. An estimated two million women in this country are assaulted by an intimate partner every year. The actual numbers are probably much higher because the victims (whom I also refer to as “survivors”) often remain silent, fearing both the stigma associated with abuse and the threat of further violence from the perpetrators. 

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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.

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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?

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King-James-Only advocates have taken a personal preference, elevated it to a theological absolute, and used it to divide liberals from conservatives, believers from unbelievers, servants of God from minions of Satan. Critics of inclusive language in Bible translation are doing the very same thing with their reckless, blanket denunciations of the TNIV.

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