Neutering the Bible

March 20th, 2013 Post by

genderWords matter.  Luther once said, “And let us be sure of this: we will not long preserve the gospel without the languages [Hebrew, Aramaic & Greek].  The languages are the sheath in which this sword of the Spirit [Eph 6:17] is contained; they are the casket in which this jewel is enshrined; they are the vessel in which this wine is held; they are the larder in which this food is stored.”[1]

If the Word of God is a diamond, the translation is its setting.  Unfortunately, there are a great number of Bible translations out there that look a lot more like a cheap plastic toy than Platinum!  Gender sensitive translations fall into this category, which includes (but is not limited to) the Inclusive Version, Today’s New International Version, and the New Revised Standard Version.  While these translations may be politically correct, they are often theologically faulty.  The best way to ensure you are reading the Word of God in its truth and purity is to learn the Biblical languages (see Luther’s quote, above).

One example of poor theology (dictated by concerns about gender-inclusive language rather than fidelity to the text) can be seen in the Inclusive Translation, which is so afraid of using male pronouns that it actually identifies Jesus as God’s “child” rather than as His Son (John 3:16)!  This is problematic for at least three reasons.  First of all, the Greek language has a word for “child” (τέκνον), but the word used here is “son: (υἱός).  What’s more, the Church confesses that Jesus is the Son of God, not His “child.”  And last but not least, Jesus is male.

Another example of the violence translations often do to God’s Word can be seen in their rendering of the phrase “sons of Israel” (בְּנֵי יִשְׂרָאֵל).  This is an important designation for God’s people, as its frequency attests (529 occurrences in the Old Testament).  A sampling of four different translations of this phrase in Leviticus 18:2 yields four different translations: “people of Israel” (ESV), “children of Israel” (KJV), “Israelites” (NIV), and “sons of Israel” (NAS- we have a winner!).  While the gender-sensitive options may be well-intentioned, they end up neutering the Bible, quite literally!

Jesus is the only begotten Son of God, the only One who has the right to call upon God as Father, from both a genetic and theological perspective.  Unlike humanity, Jesus is God (DNA-wise).  Adam and Eve were made in God’s image; they were not made divine.  What’s more, Jesus alone lived as an obedient child of His heavenly Father.  Our relationship with God­—and our right to be in His family—was damaged by sin.  Because of sin, Adam and Eve were exiled from God’s presence in Eden (Gen 3:23—24).  Isaiah knew He couldn’t be in the presence of God and live due to his sin.  When he saw the glory of Yahweh, he cried out, “Woe to me!  I am ruined!  For I am a man of unclean lips, and I dwell in the midst of a people of unclean lips, for my eyes have seen the King, Commander-in-Chief Yahweh!” (Isaiah 6:5).

Despite being neither divine nor perfectly obedient, God considers His saints to be holy and without blemish (Eph 5:27)—just like Jesus, His Son.  In Holy Baptism, God bestows the privileged status of Son on those who were conceived and born into sin.  When God looks at His saints, He regards them with the righteousness and purity of His Son, Jesus.  In Christ, both men and women are given the inheritance that rightfully belongs to Jesus alone (1 Peter 1:3—4).

Gender sensitive translations make deliberate changes to the text, and as a result, are filled with theological problems.  To merely consider one’s self a “child of God” (which is true enough) misses the theological significance of the Gospel, or what Luther calls the “Great Exchange”: that Jesus was wounded for our transgressions, and that with His stripes, we are healed (Isaiah 53:5).  On the cross, God regarded Jesus as a son of the devil (John 8:34, 44), so that He might regard you with the righteousness of the Son of God.  Being neither male nor female counts for anything in God’s eyes (Galatians 3:28).  All that matters is being a son of God through Christ Jesus (Galatians 3:26).


[1] “To the Councilmen of All Cities in Germany That They Establish and Maintain Christian Schools.”

 






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  1. Nicholas
    March 20th, 2013 at 11:25 | #1

    More on the gender-neutral language controversy in Bible translation:

    http://bible-researcher.com/inclusive.html

    http://bible-researcher.com/ill.html

    http://bible-researcher.com/gender.html

    These guys have some good resources as well in the right column: http://www.intrepidlutherans.com/

  2. Nicholas
    March 20th, 2013 at 11:31 | #2

    Not only Scripture, but the Book of Concord has had this liberal gender-neutralizing forced upon it in the ELCA’s Kolb/Wengert edition:

    http://cyberbrethren.com/2006/10/13/when-is-a-book-of-concord-not-a-book-of-concord/

    http://cyberbrethren.com/2010/12/14/avoid-gender-neutrality-like-the-plague-heres-why/

    http://cyberbrethren.com/2013/01/18/the-three-things-we-must-do-to-support-a-revival-of-confessional-lutheranism/

    As Rev. McCain points out, part of the ELCA’s reason for doing this is to support women’s ordination. But gender-neutralizing the language gives the Bible and the BOC a heretical theology and Christology. I do not understand why Robert Kolb, an LCMS seminary professor, took part in this project.

    As Rev. McCain also points out, Tim Wengert went on to become one of the ELCA’s leading apologists for homosexuality and the ELCA’s decision to ordain partnered homosexual clergy.

  3. Nicholas
    March 20th, 2013 at 11:43 | #3

    To further understand how many people are justifying these distortions of the text, the following will give you further background:

    http://bible-researcher.com/dynamic-equivalence.html

    http://bible-researcher.com/translation-methods.html

    http://bible-researcher.com/net.html

  4. Nicholas
    March 20th, 2013 at 11:54 | #4

    The apostates have now gone so far as to portray Christ as “female”:

    http://cyberbrethren.com/2013/02/15/a-church-that-embraces-a-false-understanding-of-human-sexuality-inevitably-embraces-a-false-view-of-god/

    http://steadfastlutherans.org/?p=27938

    http://www.wnd.com/2005/06/30604/

    In the comments section at the Cyberbrethren article, a heretic tries to argue that Christ is “feminine.” Other apostates try to argue that the Holy Spirit should be portrayed as “female”: http://bible-researcher.com/gan.html

  5. LW
    March 20th, 2013 at 11:56 | #5

    Does Revelation 22:18,19 apply to inaccurate translating?

  6. Nicholas
    March 20th, 2013 at 11:59 | #6

    @LW #5

    Definitely!

  7. Brant K.
    March 20th, 2013 at 14:17 | #7

    As an regular guy reading scripture and teaching my kids, what is the single best translation to use? Or do I need one for in-depth study, one for reading to kids, etc.

  8. Nicholas
    March 20th, 2013 at 15:24 | #8

    @Brant K. #7

    To further elaborate on my answer (still in moderation because I used my cell phone), the ESV is currently the best all-around translation, suitable for study, public reading, and teaching children: http://bible-researcher.com/esv.html

    The NASB is more literal and suitable for close study: http://bible-researcher.com/nasb.html

    The NKJV, due to its NT notes, is good for studying the differences between the KJV’s NT base text (the Textus Receptus) and the modern Nestle-Aland text: http://bible-researcher.com/nkjv.html

  9. Aaron
    March 20th, 2013 at 15:34 | #9

    So, then, in your opinion, the ESV, KJV, and NIV all err by not translating בְּנֵי יִשְׂרָאֵל as “sons of Israel”? בְּנֵי יִשְׂרָאֵל has an essential and exclusive maleness?

  10. Pastor Eric Andersen
    March 20th, 2013 at 16:13 | #10

    Brant, I couldn’t say what the single best translation is. They all have strengths and weaknesses. Even when I translate, it’s impossible to convey the full semantic range of a Hebrew/Aramaic/Greek word in English.

    Here’s what I would suggest: 1) Don’t read the bible in isolation. Read it as a part of the Body of Christ. Go to Bible classes with confessional Lutheran pastors. They should know the languages. If they’ve forgotten them, gently remind them of the importance of this. They can do this also because they should be reading and interpreting Scripture in light of our confessions. 2) Memorize the Small Catechism and teach it to your kids. This is related to #1, above. 3) Get the Lutheran Study Bible (http://www.cph.org/p-11334-the-lutheran-study-bible-hardback.aspx?SearchTerm=lutheran%20study%20bible). It uses ESV, which isn’t perfect, but the study notes are generally pretty good. It’s may the best single-volume bible study resource available in English. In addition, get some good commentaries. The Concordia Commentary series is probably on the whole your best bet there. They make an honest effort to deal with the text in its original language and are Christological.

    Aaron: Yes and no. That phrase does have an essentially male quality (“son” is a male term and is grammatically male). Our salvation also has a masculine quality to it, as it comes only through the righteousness of the Son. However, the term is not exclusive, as women are included in the group “sons of Israel.” God regards believing male and female alike with the righteousness of His Son (Gal 3:28). The Bible can also use feminine metaphors to refer to God’s people- for example, “bride of Christ” language. To change “sons of Israel” to “children” would be just as absurd as changing “bride of Christ” language to “spouse of Christ.” The translator’s job is to translate, not to make deliberate alterations to the text to suit our cultural sensibilities. Another place you see this is the change of the word “slave” to “servant.” Wayne Meeks has written an excellent study on the social background of the NT, which sheds a great deal of light on what it meant to be a slave in the 1st century (http://www.amazon.com/The-First-Urban-Christians-Apostle/dp/0300098618/ref=sr_1_1?ie=UTF8&qid=1363813886&sr=8-1&keywords=first+urban+christians).

  11. Joel Dusek
    March 20th, 2013 at 17:17 | #11

    Be aware also that the NIV 2011 version is not an update of the 1984 version, which was a relatively faithful translation. NIV 2011 is an update of the Today’s NIV, which was a gender-neutral translation. I haven’t seen an NIV2011 that says “2011” anywhere on it but on the copyright page. Credit to the LC-MS and the ELS for outright rejecting this translation.

    I like the ESV and NJKV personally. Also, there are some mobile phone apps that have a variety of translations built-in, so you can compare translations “on the fly” with just a couple taps.

    Spenglergeist.

  12. March 20th, 2013 at 18:13 | #12

    A friend pointed me to this article. Thanks for writing it and defending with such conviction what you believe to be true against what you believe jeopardizes that truth.

    But I find the article wholly unconvincing.

    For one thing you make it sound like the substitutionary atonement of Christ depends on us using “son” language rather than “child” language for him. But you have not given any reason to justify such a strong claim.

    Secondly, you criticize the language of “people of Israel” because it does not literally translate “sons.” Surely the phrase “sons of Israel” did not intend to exclude “daughter’s” of Israel, “wives” of Israel or “father’s” of Israel”? If the literal rendering of “sons of Israel” intended to communicate all of the “people of Israel,” if that is how that phrase was understood by the original audience, than a faithful translation will translate accordingly to give us that meaning today.

    This brings me to the main point, a point that Lutheran’s of all people should understand.

    The purpose of a translation is to, to state the obvious, translate the text and it’s meaning into the common language. If a translation does not do that it has failed in its task. So when Paul writes the Greek word ἀδελφός, context determines whether he means “brothers” or “brothers and sisters.” In Greek, that lone word IS gender inclusive when applied to an audience of men and women. Translations that fail to reflect that fact have let us down. (Any multi-language persons should understand this principle – oh the frailty of the English language!)

    This brings me to my final point. The article assumes that gender inclusive translations are operating with a “politically correct” agenda. Such an accusation is simply false! The NIV2011 translators had one agenda: to translate the meaning of God’s word faithfully. For that they can have a clear conscious so that those who accuse them of other motives may be ashamed! (1 Peter 3:16)

  13. March 20th, 2013 at 19:03 | #13

    ESV and NASB all the way for me. I don’t mind the NKJV though, although I still awake late at night from nightmares spent in a KJV only church.

  14. Nicholas
    March 20th, 2013 at 19:20 | #14

    Derek :The purpose of a translation is to, to state the obvious, translate the text and it’s meaning into the common language. If a translation does not do that it has failed in its task. So when Paul writes the Greek word ἀδελφός, context determines whether he means “brothers” or “brothers and sisters.” In Greek, that lone word IS gender inclusive when applied to an audience of men and women. Translations that fail to reflect that fact have let us down.P>

    Here is an actual scholar’s reply to this claim: http://bible-researcher.com/adelphos.html

  15. Nicholas
    March 20th, 2013 at 19:27 | #15

    Derek :This brings me to my final point. The article assumes that gender inclusive translations are operating with a “politically correct” agenda. Such an accusation is simply false! The NIV2011 translators had one agenda: to translate the meaning of God’s word faithfully. For that they can have a clear conscious so that those who accuse them of other motives may be ashamed!

    This is a patent lie. Those responsible for gender-neutral perversions of Holy Scripture, including the TNIV and 2011 NIV, are not concerned with translating the Scriptures accurately or faithfully. The consciences of these people is as black as sin. They need to repent immediately, as do you!

    Here are the answers to your falsehoods:

    http://bible-researcher.com/inclusive.html

    http://bible-researcher.com/tniv.html

    http://bible-researcher.com/niv.2011.html

    http://www.intrepidlutherans.com/ (See the articles on the 2011 NIV in the right-hand column.)

    Do not reply again until you’ve actually read all of the above.

  16. Nicholas
    March 20th, 2013 at 19:35 | #16

    Derek is an Open Theist, and quotes the “New Apostolic Reformation” heretic C. Peter Wagner in support of his position: http://covenantoflove.net/quotes/c-peter-wagner/

  17. Nicholas
    March 20th, 2013 at 19:45 | #17

    Derek’s view of Sola Fide: http://covenantoflove.net/theology/r-c-sproul-n-t-wright-and-the-scarecrow/

    The 2011 NIV is having a hard time finding orthodox defenders!

  18. Jim Hamilton
    March 20th, 2013 at 19:52 | #18

    What is an Open Theist?

  19. March 20th, 2013 at 20:01 | #19

    I usually read the 1611 KJV personally, but is there an English translation of Luther’s German? I don’t read German, but I’d love to see what how Luther translated.

    Didn’t Luther choose some words that may not have been the “correct” words when he translated. I’m thinking of “Hail, Mary, full of Grace.” Didn’t he use something other than full as it had a connotation of drunkenness?

    I realize that it would be rather strange to read a translation of a translation, but Toliken did it with the Jerusalem Bible translating from french, I believe.

    As English is a gender neutral language (we don’t have gender specific articles) but the Greek article for the Holy Ghost is feminine. What is the problem with using a feminine pronoun there? It certainly would explain God as mother hen imagery in other parts of the Bible.

  20. Nicholas
  21. Nicholas
    March 20th, 2013 at 20:13 | #21

    Erich :As English is a gender neutral language (we don’t have gender specific articles) but the Greek article for the Holy Ghost is feminine. What is the problem with using a feminine pronoun there?

    That would be a translation error. No legitimate, scholarly or committee-translated version has ever adopted feminine pronouns to refer to the Holy Spirit, not even versions translated by liberal scholars like the RSV or the NRSV. And, theologically speaking, it would be blasphemous.

  22. Jim Hamilton
    March 20th, 2013 at 20:16 | #22

    Thanks for the links. Interesting. It seems like Open Theists seek to elevate man and limit God. Nothing really new there, I guess. Man’s been trying to dethrone God for a long time.

  23. Pastor Eric Andersen
    March 20th, 2013 at 22:42 | #23

    @Derek #12 : We use “son” language because it’s the language of Scripture. One reason for this is because women didn’t have the same inheritance rights as did males in Israel (see the book of Ruth, for example). Only a son could receive the land inheritance (which, as Hebrews 4 points out, is the New Jerusalem). That’s why it was so important for Boaz to marry Ruth and produce (male) offspring on behalf of Naomi, to “perpetuate the name of the dead,” (Ruth 4:5). The only way to receive the inheritance is to be a son. The book of Ruth culminates in the birth of a male heir, Obed (Ruth 4:13, 17). All of God’s saints are regarded as God’s sons (Gal 3:26). The inheritance that rightly belongs to the Son is granted to those who are sons by faith. It’s not by accident that Yahweh refers to Israel as His firstborn son (Ex 4:22). Sons and daughters have different privileges and responsibilities. We do well to pay close attention to the actual words the Bible uses and consider why those words were chosen, rather than replace them with generic terms.

    Sometimes there isn’t anything special about this or that word. Oftentimes people make a big deal about the different terms Jesus uses for love when He asks Peter, “Do you love me?” Probably nothing to this. But sometimes there is. In this case, it is important that we consider the cultural significance of gender in ancient Israel. Naomi was destitute because she was a female widow with no male heir.

    The original audience would have understood the importance of the male-gender language. Yes, as I’ve already said, “sons” includes women. But it’s still important that they are regarded as “sons” (that is, with the righteousness of the Son), otherwise they have no inheritance in God’s kingdom, just like Naomi would have lost out on her family’s land inheritance without a male heir. It’s a question of how you get into God’s kingdom: by receiving the inheritance that belongs to the firstborn son.

    I agree a translation should seek to communicate the text’s original meaning in the target language. In the case of gender-inclusive translations, there is a failure to do this because of the significance of being male with respect to both inheritance and redemption issues.

    As far as your charge about NIV 2011 not being concerned with being PC, I’ll let the NIV 2011 committee speak for themselves:

    “As part of the review of gender language promised at the September 2009 update announcement, the committee sought to remove some of this subjectivity by enlisting the help of experts. The committee initiated a relationship with Collins Dictionaries to use the Collins Bank of English, one of the world’s foremost English language research tools, to conduct a major new study of changes in gender language. The Bank of English is a database of more than 4.4 billion words drawn from text publications and spoken word recordings from all over the world.Working with some of the world’s leading experts in computational linguistics and using cutting-edge techniques developed specifically for this project, the committee gained an authoritative, and hitherto unavailable, perspective on the contemporary use of gender language—including terms for the human race and subgroups of the human race, pronoun selections following various words and phrases, the use of ‟man” as a singular generic and the use of ‟father(s)” and ‟forefather(s)” as compared to ancestor(s). The project tracked usage and acceptability for each word and phrase over a twenty-year period and also analyzed similarities and differences across different forms of English: for example, UK English, US English, written English, spoken English, and even the English used in a wide variety of evangelical books, sermons and internet sites,” (http://www.biblegateway.com/niv/Translators-Notes.pdf).

    Did you catch that? The committee based translation decisions, in part, on “usage and acceptability for each word and phrase over a twenty-year period.” By their own admission, being politically correct (“usage and acceptability”) was a major factor in making translational decisions. The NIV 2011 committee clearly was not of a single mind on this issue, which proves my point. Again, in their own words:

    “For this revision to the NIV, particular attention has been paid to external feedback in the area of gender language. As stated in the September 1, 2009, announcement regarding the planned update, every single change introduced into the committee’s last major revision (the TNIV) relating to inclusive language for humanity was reconsidered.”

    Why did the committee specifically reconsider using inclusive language? Because they knew something was amiss.

  24. Joe Strieter
    March 20th, 2013 at 23:17 | #24

    LW :
    Does Revelation 22:18,19 apply to inaccurate translating?

    How about “The Bible”? Does it apply there, also?

  25. March 21st, 2013 at 02:24 | #25

    @Pastor Eric Andersen #23, turns out I kicked a hives nest. Got people visiting my blog and everything. :)

    Eric, I’m not opposed to using “son” language where son language is required. Your new examples (going to Ruth and other individual stories) suggest I am, but you’ve changed the scenario by straying off of the example of “sons of Israel.” I understand everything you said about the importance of the male heir and so on, but In the case of “sons of Israel” where obviously all of the people of Israel is intended, it ought to be translated accordingly in that instance. In that context I have yet to hear a sufficient argument for why not.

    It won’t do simply to say “it’s the language of scripture” as if, because the word – back to my example – ἀδελφός is there, and because it literally translates “brothers” that that is good enough. Words carry meaning and over time their meaning changes. In Spanish “hijos” when applied to a group of boys and girls means “boys and girls.” In English it doesn’t work that way. Thus if my wife translates that word in that context to English, she must – if she is to communicate what the Spanish means and what Spanish people understand it to mean accurately – as “boys and girls.” It’s the same with Greek to English. A translation must take this into account.

    I’ll also quickly point out that your interpretation of the translators quote is wrong.

    A translators job is to translate God’s timeless word into the common language or, to put it another way, into the “usage and acceptability for each word and phrase over a twenty-year period” (though, personally, setting a specific period seems odd). If the agenda is to translate God’s word accurately, meaning grab the words originally used and put them into language of the common folk – and Luther did no less! – then that is what the NIV2011 team has done.

    You, however, interpret their agenda to be driven by political correctness as if they have simply disregarded the text for the sake of avoiding offending society. Political correctness is when words, phrases and so on are chosen to minimize “social and institutional offences.” But the words, phrases and concepts were chosen because that is a part of our common language in English today. If someone wants to say that they were chosen to avoid offending secular society, well then the argument between yourself and myself is one of who’s judging the motives of the NIV2011 translation team, verses who is giving them the benefit of the doubt…

    I think your call as a pastoral is to, perhaps, disagree with their translation choices, but give their motives the benefit of the doubt.

    It’s not a perfect translation. Not by a long shot. But I wry of how the NIV2011’s gender-neutral language has been overblown while the teams character dragged through the mud.

    Dan Wallace put it well, “this is a translation by believers for believers.”

    And now, since everybody and their cousin are posting links all over the place, I figured I might as well post one of own: http://covenantoflove.net/faith/why-the-niv-2011-is-more-reliable-than-the-niv-1984/

    Have fun. :)

  26. Nicholas
    March 21st, 2013 at 09:07 | #26

    @Derek #25

    It is clear that you did NOT read any of the articles by Michael Marlowe that I posted, as you keep repeating the same falsehoods about the word “adelphos.” For anyone interested in truth, here is the answer to Derek’s claims: http://bible-researcher.com/adelphos.html

    As for Dan Wallace, he is not reliable, as Marlowe points out in his review of the NET Bible: http://bible-researcher.com/net.html Marlowe cites Wallace’s own statements and articles, and shows that he has adopted some modernistic views of Scripture. Wallace believes that the Apostolic interpretations of the OT are often “hermeneutically invalid” and that the Apostles Paul and James disagreed over justification. Wallace believes in the “Q source” nonsense as well.

    Anyone who is interested in truth, please read Michael Marlowe’s articles that I have posted on this thread. It is clear that Derek, our “Open Theist” friend who denies Sola Fide, is not.

  27. helen
    March 21st, 2013 at 14:39 | #27

    @Pastor Eric Andersen #23
    The only way to receive the inheritance is to be a son.

    I’m not entranced with this paraphrase of the event, but it does point out an exception.
    [However, as this writer did not say, the women were instructed to marry within the tribe, so that the land would not pass to some other tribe because of their husbands' connections. So land was allotted for these women, because there was no brother, but it did not set a precedent. Therefore, it is not a "case study" for the feminists, though they would like to make it one.]

    Zelophehad’s five daughters; Mahlah, Noah, Hoglah, Milcah, and Tirza; who defied Israel’s longstanding male-dominated tradition and approached Moses to grant them the full portion of their father’s inheritance. Their father had no son and since women were considered unworthy to own anything, the inheritance would be distributed to far-off relatives while his daughters were left destitute. This was an ugly reality for families with no male heir. So, they waltzed up to Moses and said, “Why should our father’s name disappear from his clan because he had no son? Give us property among our father’s relatives.” (Numbers 27:4).

  28. March 21st, 2013 at 14:50 | #28

    @Derek #12

    Your rebuttal presumes that the English phrase “sons of Israel” excludes wives, daughters, etc. It does not. Feminists think that it does because they reject the Biblical concept of male headship, and hyper-individualists think that it does because they have a shallow understanding of ancestry, but the problem is in these philosophies rather than the word “sons.” You may be correct that these translations are a good-faith attempt at precision, but those who recognize a politically correct agenda behind them are also correct. The two are not mutually exclusive.

    This is the danger of the attempt to divorce the words from the meaning behind the words. One ends up absentmindedly importing his own philosophies into places they do not belong. The act of translation always runs that risk, but that’s no reason for the translator to run that risk with scissors by trying to be more precise than the source material.

  29. Pastor Michael Sullivan
    March 21st, 2013 at 23:24 | #29

    Pastor Andersen,

    Did you realize that you condemned Martin Luther himself of being sloppy with gender? Look at how he translated your examples. (All quotes from the 1545 Luther Bibel which can be found at http://www.Lutherbibel.net)

    Leviticus 18:2: “Rede mit den kindern Jsrael / vnd sprich zu jnen / Jch bin der HERR ewr Gott.”

    Notice the word “children” is used – not “sons”

    Galatians 3:26: “Denn jr seid alle Gottes Kinder / durch den glauben an Christo Jhesu.”

    Notice the word “children” is used – not “sons”

    I agree that the NIV 2011 goes overboard in gender neutrality. I don’t like that Bible. But if your are going to cite Luther to defend your position, please make sure you check how he translated the passages you cite. I love Luther. But I am really getting tired of people misquoting him to either defend the NIV2011 or tear at any or all gender neutral language.

  30. Pastor Eric Andersen
    March 21st, 2013 at 23:59 | #30

    @helen #27

    Helen, the case of Zelophehad’s daughters is interesting, thank you for highlighting this! These women appear to have a serious problem because they are not male (Num 27:4). But this is really no problem at all when we remember that God regards all of His saints (women included) as His firstborn son (Ex 4:22, Gal 3:26—28). This is the only reason the sons of Israel—male and female, ancient and modern—could expect to receive anything good from God. As owner of the land (Lev 25:23), God gives an inheritance to all who are sons of Abraham through faith in Christ Jesus (Gal 3:29). In the end, neither gender nor genetics counts for anything before God.

    So why bother with “sons of Israel” language? To start with, it is the language of the Scriptures. We should guard the pattern of sound words that we have been given (2 Tim 1:13), and let the Church’s theological grammar inform our vocabulary—not let the culture set the agenda. The rich Christology of this phrase is lost in gender-inclusive translations. God regards His saints as His only-begotten Son, giving to them an eternal inheritance by grace through faith.

  31. Pastor Eric Andersen
    March 22nd, 2013 at 10:55 | #31

    @Pastor Michael Sullivan #29

    I never cited Luther’s translation to support my position. The Luther quote at the beginning of my article highlighted importance of preserving the languages so that the Gospel is not obscured. And it’s a good thing we have preserved the languages! It is true- if all we had were Luther’s translations of Lev 18:2 and Gal 3:26, the Christology of these verses would be obscured. This is not to say Luther wasn’t a first rate exegete or that I am condemning Luther because he did because he mistranslated a few words. If only I had 1/10th of Luther’s brilliance! But like all sons of Adam, he was prone to err from time to time, and I’m sure he would agree with me on this point.

    Please note, I’m not suggesting we aren’t also “children” of God- it is possible to go overboard in suggesting we only refer to ourselves as God’s “sons.” Perhaps I’ve erred in giving some this impression. The Bible doesn’t always use “son” language (though it is vastly more abundant than “child” language- בְּנֵי יִשְׂרָאֵל occurs 529x, while phrases like what you find in Isa 57:4 [יִלְדֵי־פֶ֖שַׁע] or Jer 31:20 [ יֶ֣לֶד שַׁעֲשֻׁעִים] are quite scarce). Translators should make every effort to bring the Christology out of passages when it’s there in the inspired text. There are words for “child” in Hebrew (יֶלֶד) and Greek (τέκνον), but those words are not used in Lev 18:2 or Gal 3:26, so we should not translate these verses as if they were. If all of Scripture testifies to Jesus then there has to be some Christology present in the phrase “sons of Israel.”

    Just this morning I reminded my children that my wife & I are also “children of God” during our morning devotions. When I told my 5 year old son that I was still learning the Bible, he told me, “That’s the funniest thing you’ve ever said!” My response was similar to what Luther says in his preface to the Large Catechism about him coming daily to the catechism as a child.

  32. Pastor Michael Sullivan
    March 22nd, 2013 at 20:42 | #32

    Dear Pastor Andersen,

    I understand that you were not citing Luther directly – and I probably should not have insinuated that you were; but it seemed a little odd for me that you introduce an article with Luther, when Luther does the exact thing you are saying should not be done. I have been really sensitive to the how “Luther” has been thrown around to support everything from the NIV to the ESV and everything in between. I guess this is why I groan everytime I see Luther’s name in an article about translation.

    Generally, I agree with you – especially about Galatians 3:26. However, “ben” in Hebrew seems a little more fluid than “sons” in English – especially when its plural. Depending on the context, “children” is a fine translation (and obviously I am not alone in such thinking).

    I guess I was really taken aback when you say: “Another example of the violence translations often do to God’s Word can be seen in their rendering of the phrase “sons of Israel” (בְּנֵי יִשְׂרָאֵל).” Translating “children” does not do “violence” to God’s Word. Obviously Luther and many others did not think so.

    I don’t think Luther’s tanslation of the Leviticus and Galatians passages were “oops” moments. I think he deliberately chose “children” over “sons” – but of course I cannot say this for certain. Maybe He had John 1:12 and Romans 11:32 in mind. All this is to say that we have to be careful of accusing translations of doing “violence to God’s Word” for using “children” instead of “sons.” I personally prefer translating “sons” as “sons” for the reasons you outline. But I would also be VERY careful not to accuse translations of doing “violence” to God’s Word for translating otherwise.

    Anyway, enough on that topic. May the LORD bless you in His Word – that is, may the LORD bless you in His Son.

  33. Pastor Eric Andersen
    March 22nd, 2013 at 22:12 | #33

    @Pastor Michael Sullivan #32

    Thanks for your comments, Pr. Sullivan. You’re right about “ben” being fluid. You may know the way Biblical Hebrew describes age is by calling someone a “son of x years” (e.g., Gen 17:1). On the other hand, “ben” is the most basic word in the language for “son” (and as noted above, there are other words for the more generic “child”), so if one translates “ben” as something other than “son”, there would have to be good reason for doing so. And as I’ve tried to show in the comments above, “ben” isn’t a term that necessarily excludes females (cf., for example, “for us men and our salvation” in the Nicene Creed). In general, I think it’s better to translate “son” (the harder reading) and explain what this means than to translate it generically. “Son” will probably at least raise questions in people’s minds; when they read “child”, they will probably gloss over it without a second thought.

    I agree that “violence” is probably too harsh in that specific case, so you’re right to call me out on that. However, I’m absolutely convinced that gender inclusive translations are often guilty of doing violence to Scripture, especially where Christ is called something other than “son” (see the links Nicholas provided in the first few comments for more on that). The case against gender-inclusive translations doesn’t rest exclusively on the few examples I’ve provided. I know some who would disagree with my exegesis on these specific passages while vehemently rejecting gender-inclusive translations (Luther would no doubt fall into this category. I’m certain he would not be in favor of calling Jesus God’s “child” or referring to Him as “mother”). The Hebrew examples were really a supporting point; the main problem I highlighted in the original article was the Inclusive Translation’s rendering of John 3:16. When we change the “Son” language to “child” (especially in reference to Jesus), it’s not difficult to go the next step and call Jesus “mother” (as one of the links above to Paul McCain’s blog points out).

    In a 1965 CBQ article (Vol. 27), Dennis McCarthy argues that the Father-Son relationship between Yahweh and Israel is foundational to the covenant. He makes some very good points which would suggest in most cases, “sons” is a better translation than “children.” (his essay is called “Notes on the Love of God in Deuteronomy and the Father-Son Relationship between Yahweh and Israel”).

  34. Pastor Michael Sullivan
    March 23rd, 2013 at 07:59 | #34

    Dear Pastor Andersen,

    You wrote: “However, I’m absolutely convinced that gender inclusive translations are often guilty of doing violence to Scripture, especially where Christ is called something other than “son”

    I absolutely agree with that statement. They also do violence to Scripture when they change the meaning of the text to the opposite of what it says (Acts 1:16 in the new NIV, for example with its inclusion of “sisters” when the Greek in that text is crystal clear: “Men, brothers.”)

    I agree with you in general. However, I believe that a degree of gender neutrality can be employed when translating, which even Luther himself employed. I don’t think it is wrong to translate “anthropos” and “adam” as “people” in many cases. (As you yourself have indicated with your example from the creed.) Even “adelphoi” is more fluid than our current usage of “brothers.” I like the NKJV use of “brethren” – an archaic word what matches adelphoi and is somewhat gender inclusive just like the Greek word it translates. But in all these cases, context must dictate the translation. Words should never be translated our of context.

    Not that I am telling you anything you don’t already know. I am sure that you agree with this too.

    Blessing be on you and your family.

  35. Nicholas
    March 27th, 2013 at 17:10 | #35

    @Pastor Michael Sullivan #34

    Judging from your comments, it looks like you too did not read the articles I posted:

    http://bible-researcher.com/adelphos.html

    http://bible-researcher.com/anthropos.html

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