Friday, March 25, 2011
Gender Inclusive Language in the Bible
While attending a Christian conference yesterday, someone asked my opinion of the revised New International Version (NIV) of the Bible and its use of gender inclusive language. I have not bought a copy of the latest NIV, but I have read portions of it online. I have not read enough of it to give an informed opinion about whether the NIV has been improved or damaged by the changes.
However, I read a couple of versions of the Bible that use gender inclusive language. The Message and the New Living Translation do a good job of capturing the general spirit of the text, but I'm not comfortable with relying on either when I'm engaged in a serious study of a biblical text. I'm not an expert in the original biblical languages, so I depend on essentially literal translations of the Bible to guide my studies. I want to study from a version of the Bible that places an extremely high value on accuracy.
I like the approach taken by the translation team of the English Standard Version (ESV):
"In the area of gender language, the goal of the ESV is to render literally what is in the original. For example, 'anyone' replaces 'any man' where there is no word corresponding to 'man' in the original languages, and 'people' rather than 'men' is regularly used where the original languages refer to both men and women. But the words 'man' and 'men' are retained where a male meaning component is part of the original Greek or Hebrew." (Preface to the English Standard Version)
It's important to get an accurate understanding of the Scriptures. Sometimes a more accurate understanding can be achieved with gender inclusive language, but sometimes it can't. Whatever the case may be, I want to be able to study from a Bible that gives me a highly accurate translation of the original words in a text.