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What's Wrong with Gender-Neutral Bible Translations?
(W. Grudem, 1997)

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B. CHANGES MADE TO ELIMINATE "MAN"

1. Renaming "man."

The creation narratives tell us that "God created man in his own image, in the image of God he created him; male and female he created them" (Gen. 1:27, RSV). This name "man" is even more explicit in Genesis 5:2: "Male and female he created them, and he blessed them and named them Man when they were created" (RSV).

The name "man" is placed on both male and female, as together they constitute the human race. The translation "man" is accurate, because the Hebrew word ’adam is also used to refer to Adam in particular, and it is sometimes used to refer to man in distinction from woman (see Gen 2:25, "the man and his wife were both naked, and were not ashamed"). The English word "man" most accurately translates ’adam because it is the only word we have that has those same two meanings (the human race, or a male human being). We can conclude from this usage of ’adam that it is not wrong, insensitive, or discourteous to use the same word to refer to male human beings in particular and to name the human race. God himself does this in his Word.

But in the NRSV the name "man" has disappeared: "so God created humankind in his image" (Gen. 1:27). And God is suddenly found to give a different name to the race: "Male and female he created them, and he... named them 'Humankind’ when they were created" (Gen. 5:2, NRSV). (The NCV, CEV, and NIVI have "human beings" here, and the NLT has "human.") The word "humankind" occurs 34 more times in the NRSV, replacing the word "man" with a new name for the human race.

The problem is that "humankind," "human beings," and "human" are not names that can also refer to man in distinction from woman, and thus they are a less accurate translations of ’adam than the word "man." The male overtones of the Hebrew word are lost.

The name given to a person or a thing has great significance in the Bible. The names of God tell us much about his nature (such as "I Am Who I Am," or "the Lord of Hosts"). The names of God's people are often changed (such as Abram to Abraham) to signify a different status or character. Similarly, the name that God gives to the human race is significant. The word "man" for the whole human race suggests some male headship in the race. God did not name the race with a Hebrew term that corresponds to our word "woman," nor did he choose (or devise) some "gender neutral" term without male overtones. He named the race with a Hebrew term that most closely corresponds to our English word "man."

Then why not translate it "man"? Apparently such a precise English equivalent was thought "patriarchal." The "Preface" to the NIVI explains that "it was often appropriate to mute the patriarchalism of the culture of the biblical writers through gender-inclusive language when this could be done without compromising the message of the Spirit" (p. vii). The sentence implies that there is some "patriarchalism" in the text that is not part of the "message of the Spirit." These "patriarchal" elements can be "muted" and the message of the Spirit, apparently, is not harmed. But what if these very same "patriarchal" elements in the text of Scripture are part of what the Holy Spirit intended to be there? If we hold to the absolute divine authority of every word of Scripture, then we should not seek to "mute" any content that the Holy Spirit caused to be there!

2. Using "mortal" instead of "man."

The NRSV commonly substitutes the word "mortal" where the RSV and other versions have the word man. For example, when Cornelius fell down and began to worship Peter, Peter lifted him up and said, "Stand up; I too am a man" (Acts 10:26, RSV). But in the NRSV Peter says, "Stand up; I am only a mortal."

This matters because the emphasis is different, for the word mortal shifts the emphasis from one's humanity to one's mortality (that is, one's liability to death). Peter does not refuse worship because he is "mortal" or one who is subject to death (in fact, he will live forever). He refuses worship because he is a creature made by God; he is not God, but a man. That is what the Greek text says. And that is what the English translation ought to say, if it is accurate. There is a perfectly good Greek adjective which means "mortal, subject to death" (phthartos), but that is not the word Peter uses. (The CEV, NCV, NLT, and NIVI all have "human" here.)

In fact, in its efforts to avoid the word "man" the NRSV sounds almost humorous as it anachronistically projects modern concerns for politically correct speech back into the mouth of first century speakers. For example, the NRSV makes the citizens of Tyre shout to King Agrippa, "The voice of a god and not of a mortal!" (Acts 12:22) -- as if even those first century speakers were afraid to use the word "man" when referring to a human being in distinction from a god. (The CEV and NLT rightly retain "man" here, but the NCV avoids "man" with "a human," and the NIVI has "mere mortal.")

These changes often produce English that is truly strange. When God speaks to Ezekiel, he no longer says, "Son of man, stand upon your feet, and I will speak with you" (Ezek. 2:1, RSV), but now says, "O mortal, stand up on your feet, and I will speak with you" (NRSV). The NCV has God calling Ezekiel by the name "Human": "He said to me, Human, stand up on your feet'" (2:1), and "Human, go to the people of Israel and speak my words to them" (3:4). This may be "politically correct" terminology today, but it is terribly unnatural English.

We readers even find ourselves addressed by the name "mortal": "He has told you, O mortal, what is good; and what does the LORD require of you but to do justice, and to love kindness, and to walk humbly with your God?" (Micah 6:8). And the famous chapter on love now begins, "If I speak in the tongues of mortals and of angels, but have not love, I am a noisy gong or a clanging cymbal" (1 Cor. 13:1, NRSV). This is not ordinary English usage today. It is artificially contrived English for the purpose of politically correct speech. (In Micah 6:8, all these versions avoid the term "man," using instead "you human" (NCV), "you, O people" (NIVI), "you" (NLT), or "us" (CEV). In 1 Cor. 13:1, the versions speak of languages of "humans" (CEV, NIVI), or of "people" (NCV), or "in any language in heaven or on earth" (NLT).)

These changes also affect much of the Bible. The words "mortal" and "mortals" occur 205 more times in the NRSV than in the RSV, in most cases giving a nuance of mortality which the authors did not intend.

3. Neutering specific men.

The Greek word aner is used when an author wants to specify a man or men in distinction from a woman (or women). The word is a specifically male term that can mean "man" or "husband," depending on the context. Surprisingly, the NRSV several times avoids translating even this word as "man" or "men." For example, though the Greek text explicitly says that Judas Barsabbas and Silas were "leading men" sent from the Jerusalem Council, the NRSV changes this to "leaders" (Acts 15:22). Similarly, we know that only men were elders at Ephesus, so it made sense that Paul warned, "from among your own selves will arise men speaking perverse things," but the NRSV neuters these men, calling them simply "some" (Acts 20:30). And Paul himself no longer says, "When I became a man (aner), I gave up childish ways," but "when I became an adult" (1 Cor. 13:11). (The NLT, CEV, and NIVI translate all three of those verses in gender-neutral ways; the NCV does the same in two verses, but preserves "man" in 1 Cor. 13:11.)

In a crucial passage on the qualifications for elders, the husbands have disappeared from the NRSV. Paul tells Titus to appoint elders in Crete who are "the husband of one wife" (Titus 1:6, RSV), but the NRSV translates, "married only once" (NRSV), which of course could include women elders as well as men.

But the Greek text specifies men, for aner means explicitly a man in distinction from a woman (it can mean "man" or "husband," depending on the context). Moreover, the verse simply does not mean "married only once," because there is no verb for "married" in what Paul wrote: he just said mias gynaikos aner, which is literally "the husband of one wife." (The CEV also allows for women elders with its translation "faithful in marriage," while the NCV, NLT, and NIVI accurately preserve the idea that the verse is speaking about a husband.)

Such changes indicate an antipathy toward the word "man," even when the original text had the male-specific term aner. The National Council of Churches required that much "masculine-oriented language" should be "eliminated," and the translators carried out that mandate.

Another Greek term, anthropos, can mean either "man" or "person," depending on the context. But the NRSV often refused to translate it "man" or "men" even when that sense was clear. For example, the RSV rightly says that the Old Testament high priest was chosen "from among men"(Heb. 5:1), but the NRSV changes it to "from among mortals" -- for what purpose? No woman could be a high priest in the Old Testament.

Even Jesus is not exempt from the NRSV's aversion to calling a man a man. Where the RSV had "as by a man came death, by a man has come also the resurrection of the dead"(1 Cor. 15:21), the NRSV says, "since death came through a human being, the resurrection of the dead has also come through a human being" (1 Cor. 15:21). This is theologically important: the representative headship of Adam and Christ as men is omitted. (The NCV and NLT have "man" here, but the NIVI has "human being"; the CEV paraphrases with the proper names Adam and Christ.)

4. The disappearance of the righteous man from wisdom literature.

Psalm 1 begins with a description of a righteous man: "Blessed is the man who walks not in the counsel of the wicked, nor stands in the way of sinners… but his delight is in the law of the Lord" (RSV). Here the Hebrew word for "man" is ’ish, which ordinarily means a "man" in distinction from woman (except in some rare idiomatic constructions). The "default" sense of the word, the sense readers would attach to this word unless the context required another sense, is "man." Psalm 1 holds up a solitary righteous man who stands against plural "sinners" as an example for all Israelites to emulate (similarly, Proverbs 31 holds up a godly woman as an example to emulate).

But this righteous man is gone from the NRSV: "Happy are those who do not follow the advice of the wicked... but their delight is in the law of the LORD." The NIVI similarly says "Blessed are those... their delight...," and the NCV, CEV, and NLT do the same.

Now there is no ambiguity in the original Hebrew text over the fact that the righteous "man" is singular and "the wicked," "sinners," and "scoffers" are all in plural. Prior to the advent of the "gender-neutral" NRSV in 1989, all English translations rendered Psalm 1 this way -- the blessed "man" was singular, and "sinners" and "scoffers" were plural. Of course, some scholars may question whether the psalmist intended this singular-plural contrast to be something that readers noticed, something that is important to interpreting the Psalm, so that we notice the courage of this solitary man in contrast to many "sinners." People may differ over whether this is intended, but the point remains: English readers should be able to have an English translation that lets them know that the singular-plural contrast is there, so that they may consider for themselves whether such a contrast is important for interpretation. With a gender-neutral translation, they do not even have that option.

The NIVI "Preface" explains what led to this translation of Hebrew singular words with English plural words. It was not that scholars suddenly discovered in 1992 that the singular Hebrew word ha'ish ("the man") was really plural (which would have required ha'anashim). Rather, the translators tell us that "In order to avoid gender-specific language in statements of a general kind, it was agreed that the plural might be substituted for the singular and the second person for the third person" (p. vii). Evangelical Christians should ponder that sentence well: it says they "substituted" plurals for singulars, and second person statements for third person. It does not say the original Hebrew or Greek words were plural, or were in the second person. It says they changed ("substituted") singulars to plurals and third person to second person.

Psalm 1 is a good example of this process: the maleness of the passage was "muted" by changing to plurals: "Blessed are those... their delight is in the law of the Lord." Suddenly the "patriarchal" language is gone. It hasn't disappeared from the Hebrew text (which still talks about a single "man," and uses masculine singular pronouns to speak of "his" delight in the law of the Lord, on which say "he" meditates day and night.) But the offensive "patriarchalism" that was in the Hebrew text has disappeared from the English translation.

I strongly disagree with this procedure. The evangelical doctrine of Scripture is that every word of the original is exactly what God wanted it to be, because "all Scripture is God-breathed" (2 Tim. 3:16). If God caused Psalm 1 to be written with singular nouns and pronouns, then we should reflect the sense of those words in English translation. We must not "substitute" other words with different senses.

At this point someone may object, "But doesn't Psalm 1 also apply to women? Then shouldn't we translate it as "they" so that women don't miss the point?" Of course it applies to women as well, just as the parable of the Prodigal Son (Luke 15:11-32) applies to daughters as well as sons. But we must not translate Luke 15 to speak of a prodigal "child," or Psalm 1:1 to speak of the blessed "person," for that is not what the words mean in those verses. The definite expression ha'ish ("the man") uses a specifically male-oriented word to mean, "the man."

5. Making the army of Israel gender-neutral.

Several battle passages talk about the "men of war," such as, "Your servants have counted the men of war who are under our command, and there is not a man missing from us" (Num. 31:49, RSV). The word "men" was objectionable here, however, so the NRSV has, "Your servants have counted the warriors who are under our command, and not one of us is missing. (NRSV). Similarly, in Numbers 31:28, "the men of war who went out to battle" (RSV) becomes "the warriors who went out to battle" (NRSV). Even the males who were circumcised in Joshua 5:4 are not called "men of war," but "warriors."

The NRSV is inaccurate on two counts here: First, there is no reason to hide the historical fact that only men went forth to war in the Old Testament. Second, the Hebrew phrase 'anshe hammilchamah can only be male: it says "men of war." (The CEV, NCV, and NIVI similarly change "men of war" to "soldiers" in Num. 31:28, 49, while the NLT has "army " in one verse and "men" in the other. But all four versions differ from the NRSV and wisely indicate that it was men who were circumcised in Joshua 5:4.)

Does this make any difference? I recently corresponded with people involved in the current national debate over whether women should serve in combat in our armed forces. They were wondering if the Bible showed a pattern of male responsibility to go to war and protect a nation's women and children. I found quite a bit of evidence for such a pattern in the Old Testament historical narratives in the RSV, but much of it was obliterated in the NRSV, because the "men of war" had all disappeared.

Of course, someone may wish to argue that an all-male combat force was an Old Testament custom that was culturally limited to that time, and need not be a pattern for us today. But that is not my point here. My point is that translators have an obligation to translate the Old Testament so that readers can at least know that that was what happened then. What use we make of the text is another question, but before we can even ask that question we need to know what the Old Testament text actually says. The NRSV does not tell us.

6. Eliminating "son of man" in the Old Testament.

In the interests of gender sensitivity, the NRSV systematically removed the phrase "son of man" from the Old Testament (it occurs 106 times in the RSV Old Testament, but zero times in the NRSV Old Testament). Especially troubling is Daniel 7:13, "with the clouds of heaven there came one like a son of man" (RSV), which is changed to "one like a human being" (NRSV). Readers of the NRSV would never know that Jesus refers to this passage when he tells the high priest, "Hereafter, you will see the Son of man seated at the right hand of Power, and coming on the clouds of heaven" (Matt. 26:64, RSV). The phrase is made "gender- neutral," but unnecessary inaccuracy is introduced.

The NRSV also changes "son of man" in Psalm 8:4 "What is man that thou art mindful of him, and the son of man that thou dost care for him?" (RSV) becomes, "What are human beings that you are mindful of them, mortals that you care for them?" (NRSV). The quotation of this verse and its application to Christ in Hebrews 2:6-9 are obscured. In Ezekiel, where God often calls the prophet "son of man," the NRSV consistently changes the title to "mortal" ("O mortal, stand up on your feet," Ezek. 2:1).

The NCV is also consistently gender-neutral in these passages: it changes "son of man" to "human being" in Daniel 7:13 and "human beings" in Psalm 8:4, and has God repeatedly calling Ezekiel "Human" rather than "son of man." The CEV, NLT and NIVI, however, only avoid "man" and "son of man" in Psalm 8:4, not in Daniel or Ezekiel.

7. Is this just a difference of translation theory?

At this point someone may object that I am just arguing for a certain theory of translation, one that advocates "literal translation" rather than "dynamic translation." This is not an accurate way to represent my position, nor is this issue one of literal versus dynamic translation theory, because the Living Bible was a dynamic translation, and for the most part it was not gender-neutral. In fact, some of the translators who worked on the New Living Translation did not use gender-neutral language in their dynamic translation work, but their work was changed at a higher editorial level. But this was not necessary, for even in very simple, easily understood translations, the words "he" and "man" and "father" and "brother" are not hard to understand. Far less readable is "mortal" or "humanity" or "humankind"!

C. CHANGES MADE TO ELIMINATE FATHERS, SONS, BROTHERS

1. The neutering of fathers and sons.

A computer analysis can show us the extent of other word changes, at least for the NRSV. The word "father" (including plural and possessive forms) occurs 601 fewer times in the NRSV than in the RSV. The word "son" occurs 181 fewer times (including the loss of "son of man" 106 times in the Old Testament). The word "brother" occurs 71 fewer times. Coupled with the loss of "he, him, his" (3408 times where it is dropped or changed to "you" or "we" or "they"), and the loss of "man" (over 300 times where it is changed to "human" or "mortal, mortals"), this drive for gender-neutral language has resulted in unnecessary introductions of inaccuracy in over 4500 places in the Bible.

Why do I say inaccuracy? Because we have gained no new knowledge of Hebrew or Greek that would so fundamentally change our understanding of the common Hebrew and Greek terms that have always been translated "father," "son," "brother," "man," "he, him, his," etc. It is rather that these terms have now been thought unacceptable or "patriarchal."

With regard to the other translations, an electronic text is not yet available to me, so I can only report a general impression that the NIVI and CEV are perhaps two-thirds as "gender-neutral" as the NRSV, and the NLT and NCV perhaps a little over one-half as "gender-neutral." The "thought-for-thought" philosophy of the NLT makes it harder to compare at times, because the absence of gender-specific language in some verses was probably not due to a desire for gender-neutral language but to a judgment that gender details in the original were not essential to the main thought being translated.

2. Orphans with living mothers.

Sometimes the results of this gender-neutral policy are bewildering. For instance, the NRSV removed "fatherless" in 39 verses, substituting instead the word "orphan." But an "orphan" is a child with no living parent, something different from being "fatherless." Some strange passages result, even defying logic, as in one passage where the NRSV has orphan (!) children nursing at their mothers' breasts: "There are those who snatch the orphan child from the breast..." (Job 24:9).

3. Warning daughters about immoral women.

Sons do not fare well in the NRSV either. For instance, several warnings from a father to his son in Proverbs contain caution against the immoral woman. Though the Hebrew word ben in singular always means "son," not "child," the NRSV has warnings to children -- presumably because we are not supposed to think that ancient fathers were so sexist that they only warned their "sons" about immoral women: "My child, be attentive to my wisdom.... for the lips of a loose woman drip honey, and her speech is smoother than oil.... And now, my child, listen to me.... Keep your way far from her, and do not go near the door of her house" (Prov. 5:1, 3, 7-8, NRSV).

4. Dropping "brother."

The word "brother" was another "masculine-oriented word" modified by the NRSV, but a problem arose in the church discipline passage in Matthew 18:15: "If your brother sins against you, go and tell him his fault, between you and him alone. If he listens to you, you have gained your brother" (RSV).

Here the NRSV could not change the singulars to plurals, because the dispute is between only two people. In some passages, the NRSV changed "brother" to "brother or sister," but even if that were accurate it would not work here, because it would have changed a 27-word sentence into a cumbersome 39-word conglomeration:

If your brother or sister sins against you, go and tell him or her his or her fault, between you and him or her alone. If he or she listens to you, you have gained your brother or sister.

Another solution was necessary, so the NRSV in this case decided to keep the singular nouns but change "brother" to "member of the church":

If another member of the church sins against you, go and point out the fault when the two of you are alone. If the member listens to you, you have regained that one (NRSV).

The difference in meaning will have consequences. First, this translation will be misused, because many people will think the passage only applies to church members and doesn't apply to Christians who attend church but haven't yet joined. Others will think it doesn't apply to Christians who are members of other churches in town--someone who sins against me is not "another member of the church" that I belong to! Second, this translation may be read anachronistically, projecting the modern concept of church membership back into the first century. Third, the strong nuance of membership in a family is lost when "brother" is deleted.

Finally, the phrase "you have regained that one" is awkward, stilted English and excludes the idea of family reconciliation found in "you have gained your brother." We may not like the fact that Jesus said, "you have gained your brother," but that is what the text says, and that is how we should translate it.

The family nuance conveyed by "brother" is also lost in the CEV ("one of my followers"), NCV ("your fellow believer"), and NLT ("another believer"). It is preserved in the NIVI ("brother or sister"), but it adds "or sister," which Jesus did not say.

5. The loss of "representative generic" expressions.

In the example above, why did Jesus say, "If your brother sins against you..." rather than, "If your brother or sister sins against you"? He did it because he was using a form of speech that we may call a "representative generic" expression. One individual is mentioned ("your brother") as a representative of a whole group (all brothers and sisters in Christ). Other examples of representative generics are "Blessed is the man who does not walk in the counsel of the wicked" (Psalm 1:1) and "I will come in to him and eat with him, and he with me" (Rev. 3:20). This is a form of the literary category "synecdoche," the use of one part to represent the whole.

Another type of generic statement may be called a "pure generic." It does not use one individual to represent a larger group, but uses a general expression like "everyone," "all people," "anyone," or "no one." The Bible has many "pure generic" expressions like, "If any one would come after me..." (Matt. 16:24) or, "I will draw all people to myself" (John 12:32), or "no one will be justified before God by the law" (Gal. 3:11).

Both "representative generics" and "pure generics" are inclusive references. That is why it is really incorrect to frame this as a discussion between "inclusive" and "non-inclusive" language. Both kinds of references are inclusive, but they take different forms.

The point is this: the Bible has many "pure generics," and it has many "representative generics." In the past, English translations have translated the representative generics in Hebrew and Greek as representative generics in English. Thus, the full sense of these expressions was brought over as nearly as possible.

However, these more recent gender-neutral Bibles translate the pure generics as pure generics, and they also translate the representative generics as pure generics. "Blessed is the man..." becomes "blessed are those..." "I will come in to him" becomes "I will come in to them." Someone may object that these really "mean the same thing," but the feminists who protested against representative generics twenty or thirty years ago certainly did not see them as equivalent in meaning. They objected to representative generics precisely because they singled out a male human being as representative of a group, and thus they had male-oriented overtones. It is precisely these overtones that are filtered out in modern gender-neutral translations.

In these new translations, the nuances of the representative generics are lost. Of course, what is lost is precisely what the early feminists objected to -- the masculine overtones of these representative generics, for they nearly always have a male ("he," "man," "brother") standing for the whole group. Therefore the masculine overtones have been systematically filtered out.

Is this really bringing over "meaning for meaning" or "thought for thought" into English? It is not even bringing over "thought for thought" as accurately as it could be done, for the thought is changed: the male overtones are filtered out. The male overtones are what much of our culture objects to today, and they are the part of the meaning that is lost in gender-neutral translations. This does not really increase accuracy or even increase understanding of the representative generic idea that is in the original. Rather, it obliterates this idea. Accuracy in translation is lost, and the meaning is distorted.

6. But what about "brothers and sisters"? A difference between Greek and English.

Up to this point I have listed numerous examples of inaccurate translations in the NRSV and other gender-neutral versions. A different matter arises, however, with the plural form of the Greek word adelphos, "brother." Although in many cases the plural word adelphoi means "brothers," and refers only to males, there are other cases where adelphoi is used to mean "brother and sister" or "brothers and sisters." Consider the following quotations from Greek literature outside the New Testament:

1. That man is a cousin of mine: his mother and my father were adelphoi (Andocides, On the Mysteries 47 [approx. 400 B.C.]).

2. My father died leaving me and my adelphoi Diodorus and Theis as his heirs, and his property devolved upon us (Oxyrhynchus Papyri 713, 20-23 [97 A.D.; Diodorus is a man's name and Theis is a woman's name]).

3. The footprints of adelphoi should never match (of a man and of a woman): the man's is greater (Euripides, Electra 536 [5th cent. B.C.]).

4. An impatient and critical man finds fault even with his own parents and children and adelphoi and neighbors (Epictetus, Discourses 1.12.20-21 [approx 130 A.D.]).

In standard English, we just don't say, "My brothers Dave and Jenny." So the Greek plural adelphoi sometimes has a different sense from English "brothers." In fact, the major Greek lexicons for over 100 years have said that adelphoi, which is the plural of the word adelphos, "brother," sometimes means "brothers and sisters." (so Bauer-Arndt-Gingrich-Danker, 1957 and 1979; Liddell-Scott-Jones, 1940 and as early as 1869).

One other important factor is that the masculine adelphos and the feminine adelphe are just different forms (masculine and feminine) of the same word adelph-. But the plural form of this word would be adelphoi when talking about a group of all men, and it would also be adelphoi when talking about a group of both men and women. Only the context could tell us whether it meant "brothers" or "brothers and sisters." This makes Greek different from English, where bro- and sis- are completely different roots, and we wouldn't call a mixed group of men and women "brothers." (The root adelph- is from a-, which means "from," and delphus, "womb" (Liddell-Scott-Jones, p. 20) and probably had an early sense of "from the same womb.")

Why then does the New Testament sometimes specify "brothers and sisters," putting both masculine (adelphoi) and feminine (adelphai) forms (as in Matt. 19:29 or Mark 10:30)? Sometimes the authors may have specifically included feminine forms in order to prevent any possible misunderstanding, to make it very clear that women as well as men were included in a certain statement.

But frequently in the New Testament the word adelphoi is used by itself when both men and women are addressed:

Therefore, I urge you, brothers (adelphoi), in view of God's mercy... (Rom. 12:1),

Here it seems that the original hearers would have understood him to mean something very much like "brothers and sisters" in English today. (Or technically "siblings," but that is not the way anyone speaks to anyone else today: would we say, "Therefore, I urge you, siblings..."?)

What does the NRSV do with adelphoi? It translates it "brothers and sisters" in some places where this is probably an improvement:

I appeal to you therefore, brothers and sisters, by the mercies of God, to present your bodies as a living sacrifice, holy and acceptable to God, which is your spiritual worship (Rom. 12:1-2).

To the saints and faithful brothers and sisters in Christ in Colossae: Grace to you and peace from God our Father (Col. 1:2)

1 Thessalonians 1:4 For we know, brothers and sisters beloved by God, that he has chosen you (1 Thes. 1:4).

The NCV, NLT, and NIVI also use "brothers and sisters" in these passages, and so preserve the nuance of family relationship. The CEV, however, uses the translation "dear friends."

This situation seems to me to be one where the current controversy has caused us to look again at the reasons for our traditional translations and to ask if they are the best translations possible. In many cases they are, but in the case of adelphoi these more recent translations seem to have made a genuine improvement in accuracy. But I realize that not everyone will agree with me on this conclusion. Many translations may wish to leave the traditional "brothers" in these verses, out of a sense that in the current controversial climate any such change may appear to be a concession to societal pressures to adopt gender-neutral Bible translation even when accuracy is sacrificed. I understand and respect that consideration. But in this case, it seems to me that accuracy is improved by "brothers and sisters," since "brothers" in standard current English is not a term that includes women, as the Greek intends.

Copyright (c) 1997 The Council on Biblical Manhood and Womanhood. All rights reserved. Taken from The Council of Biblical Manhood and Womanhood. Used by permission of CBMW.org.



Continued: THE QUESTION OF ENGLISH USAGE TODAY

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