|Bible Research > Interpretation > Translation Methods > Gender-Neutral > Introduction|
(revised January 2005)
“This is the book of the generations of Adam. In the day when God created man, he made him in the likeness of God. He created them male and female, and he blessed them and he named them Man in the day when they were created.” (Genesis 5:1,2)
One of the most controversial features of several recent versions of the Bible has been the use of gender-neutral language. Many articles and at least three books have appeared dealing with this issue in the past seven years. (1) I can add little to what has already been said by scholars on both sides of the issue. In this article I will provide some background information and a brief history of the controversy for those who are not already familiar with the facts.
Gender-neutral language is a style of writing that adheres to certain rules that were first proposed by feminist language reformers in universities during the 1970’s, and which have been accepted as normative in many schools since about 1980. The rules prohibit various common usages which are deemed to be “sexist,” as for example the use of the word “man,” and the generic use of masculine pronouns, in referring to persons of unspecified gender. A number of new words were also recommended, as for example “chairperson,” “spokesperson,” etc., as substitutes for the “sexist” words in common use. Feminists hoped that by means of such reforms in the universities the language of the whole society might gradually be reformed, and that by means of such a reform in the language, the consciousness of people would be rendered more favorable to feminist ideas. (2)
There is some disagreement as to what to call this new style of writing. Its advocates have called it by various names and descriptions: “inclusive language,” “gender-inclusive language,” “gender generic language,” “non-sexist language,” etc. Some translators have even preferred to call it “gender accurate” language, because they claim that only the use of such language in a translation will accurately reflect the inclusive intent of the original. Conservatives have of course objected to the term “gender accurate.” They have also objected to the word “inclusive” as a description for the new style, because this implies that the generic “man” and “he” are not really inclusive. Most conservatives have preferred to call the new style “gender-neutral.” Some others have called it “inclusivist language,” which aptly expresses the intent of the language reformers without implying any agreement with their linguistic claims.
Feminist complaints about the English language were almost immediately echoed by those who controlled the older Protestant seminaries. In a 1975 editorial published in the journal of Princeton Theological Seminary, Theology Today, the editors advised their contributors:
“A literary consideration of increasing importance for us these days relates to the avoidance of exclusive in favor of inclusive sexist language. In the last several issues, we have been quietly transposing sex-specific language. We don't want to be legalistic about this, and quotations, biblical and otherwise, will mostly stand as originally written. But we think this is a literary revolution of major, even theological, importance. For our writers, this will mean not only careful attention to grammar but, in many instances, a new way of writing altogether. If we cannot make changes easily in a manuscript, it will either be returned for revision or we will allow the author to assume responsibility for the implied discrimination. We believe that Christian faith is more interested in persons than in restrictive traditions (cf. Mark 7:9). If some feel dehumanized because conventional language (even little pronouns) exclude them or offend their self-awareness, then we want to change our syntax and not expect them to change their identities.” (3)
During the late 1970’s the liberal mainline seminaries generally adopted these new rules of usage. The feminists in these seminaries were not satisfied, however, with the gender-neutral language as applied only to persons, and insisted upon gender-neutral language in reference to God also; and so during the 1980’s gender-neutral language in reference to God became normal and even prescribed by codes of speech. Today it is not permissible for students in many schools to use the pronoun “he” in reference to God, and even such usages as “God Godself” (instead of “God himself”) have gained currency in these places. The feminists have insisted upon the use of such language as a very important moral duty.
After this change in language was brought about in seminaries, the next effort was to promote its use in the churches at large, by means of denominational publications. But a great hindrance to this campaign was the fact that the Bible itself did not abide by their new rules.
The Hebrew and Greek texts of the Bible often use generic masculine nouns (adam and anthropos, both meaning “man”) and generic masculine pronouns in a gender-inclusive sense, in reference to persons of unspecified gender. In the Epistles, believers in general are addressed as adelphoi, “brethren.” Such usages are not merely figments of “sexist” English translations; they are a normal feature of the original languages, just as they are normal in English and many other languages. In most cases the inclusive intent of the writer is obvious from the context, and when the intent is not inclusive, this is also obvious enough from the context. The interpreter must not proceed mechanically with the idea that every occurrence of adam and anthropos is to be understood in a gender-inclusive sense, because the Bible for the most part records the names and actions of men, uses male examples, assumes a male audience, and in general focuses on men and their concerns while leaving women in the background. This feature of the text is obviously related to the cultural situation and expectations of the original authors and recipients, and so any movement to disguise it in translation runs up against the academic qualms already being expressed by Bruce Metzger in 1976: “How far is it feasible to eradicate from an ancient text those features that belong to the patriarchal culture in which its narratives had their origin?” (4) To illustrate the extent of the problem we give now a few examples of how these “patriarchal” tendencies manifest themselves in the biblical text.
None of this changes when we come to the New Testament.
In short, the Bible is by no means gender-neutral. It presents from beginning to end a thoroughly “androcentric” perspective, and it often leaves it to the reader to decide what application to women or what inclusion of women is implied.
In pointing these things out, I am aware of the fact that I am breaking an unwritten law of modern apologetics. The tendency today among conservative Christian writers is to deny that the Bible is primarily addressed to men. Although it is undeniably true, evidently it is thought to be too embarrassing or too scandalous to be talked about, or even admitted. Frankly, it seems to me that there has been more honesty on this point among liberal scholars than among conservatives, because liberal scholars are not so worried about what people will think of the Bible because of it—but the fact is, the biblical authors are completely oblivious to anything resembling the modern rules of polite “inclusivity” in discourse. One feminist critic in pointing to this feature of the biblical text has said that it means the female reader must read much of the Bible as if she were a man, which is quite true. (6)
If we begin looking for places where women are directly addressed in the Bible, we quickly discover that in such cases the message is even more offensive to the modern egalitarian mindset than anything which has been noted above. The women are addressed only to remind them that they are not equal:
Wives, be subject to your husbands, as to the Lord. For the husband is the head of the wife as Christ is the head of the church, his body, and is himself its savior. As the church is subject to Christ, so let wives also be subject in everything to their husbands. (Ephesians 5:22-24. See also 1 Corinthians 11:3-16, 1 Corinthians 14:34-35, Colossians 3:18, 1 Timothy 2:11-15, 1 Peter 3:1-6, etc.)
Obviously such passages present serious problems for those who wish to tone down the patriarchalism of the Bible, and many feminists have concluded that there is not much to be gained by making the language of such a pervasively patriarchal book “inclusive.” According to one feminist critic this may even be a bad idea. After highlighting some examples of “patriarchal, misogynist, and androcentric” features which are only superficially camouflaged by recent gender-neutral Bible versions, she concludes:
By changing the language of patriarchy we run the danger of merely disguising, rather than eliminating, the deeply ingrained patterns which we struggle against. We thus risk embedding misogynist discourse even more deeply into our metaphoric constructions, while at the same time removing the signals which could alert us to its presence ... changing the language does not necessarily remove the bias or the sexism that remains embedded in the thought patterns, images and metaphors which, with language, combine to form a given text. Indeed, removing the language which signals sexist bias may result in obscuring that bias beyond conscious recognition, while allowing it to continue to quietly permeate our cultural subconscious ... The masculine bias has not been removed; it has simply been rendered more subtle and therefore more dangerous, because more difficult to discern and expose ... When symbol, image and metaphor are so deeply embedded in a text and culture as is the case with the Bible, perhaps it is time to recognize that we cannot easily eliminate the gendered biases which so often define the very essence of its thought and to set our energies rather to exposing those biases. Language is only a symptom of a more deeply ingrained problem; in changing the language alone, therefore, we run the risk of merely disguising the biases which are inherent in the text and its cultural stance. Unrecognized, and unrecognizable, those biases become even more insidious, even more powerful. This is particularly dangerous with a text such as the Bible which has played a foundational role in the formation of our own culture to the extent that its influence is so subtle and pervasive that it goes unrecognized in a culture that believes itself sophisticated and free of such influence. Rather than empowering gender bias by rendering it implicit, perhaps it is better to expose its hidden power, retaining the language which signals its presence and eliminating its force by bringing it into the light of critical and analytical discourse. (7)
Nevertheless, most religious feminists who have taken an interest in the Bible have felt that something should be done to suppress its patriarchal aspects. But what was to be done?
The remedy proposed was twofold: (1) a revision of the Bible, in which the new “dynamic equivalence” method of translating would be employed so as to conform the text to the same stylistic guidelines which had lately been imposed on the seminary, and to otherwise obscure the “patriarchalism” of the Bible by the adoption of feminist interpretations; and (2) an elimination of the intractable “problem” passages (e.g. Ephesians 5:22-24) by means of a revised lectionary (schedule of readings) which was to omit all passages in which the subordination of women is so plainly taught that it could not be obscured by false interpretations. By this means the Bible might be exhibited as an example of political correctness to all who heard it read in the churches.
The earliest example of such an effort was the Inclusive Language Lectionary published by the National Council of Churches in 1983. This lectionary presented gender-neutral adaptations of Scripture for the readings prescribed in the Common Lectionary (1983, revised 1992), which excluded 1 Corinthians 11:3-16, 1 Corinthians 14:34-35, Ephesians 5:22-24, Colossians 3:18, 1 Timothy 2:11-15, and 1 Peter 3:1-6. The adaptations were thoroughgoing, and included gender-neutral language in reference to God. Soon after this, complete versions of the Bible which featured a moderate use of gender-neutral language began to appear. In 1985 the New Jerusalem Bible, a Roman Catholic version, became the first such version. But the first version to use gender-neutral language in a really thorough and systematic way was the New Revised Standard Version (NRSV), which appeared in 1990. This version was created under a mandate from the copyright holder, the National Council of Churches, to eliminate “sexist” language. It did not however substitute gender-neutral language in reference to God, and it did not incorporate many of the misinterpretations proposed by feminists, and so it did not satisfy many liberals.
In 1991 a version of the New Testament much more to their liking appeared: the Contemporary English Version, published by the American Bible Society (the complete Bible appeared in 1995). This version did not use gender-neutral language for God, but it did incorporate many feminist interpretations that went beyond the mere use of gender-neutral language. In Genesis 2:18, Eve is called not a “helper” but a “partner” of Adam; in 1 Peter 3:1, Colossians 3:18 and Ephesians 5:22 women are advised to “put their husbands first” rather than “submit” to them; in 1 Corinthians 11:10 the CEV says a woman should wear a head covering not merely as a “sign of authority” (usually interpreted to mean her husband’s authority) but “as a sign of her authority.” In 1 Timothy 3:3 and 3:12 gender-neutered officers of the church are required to be “faithful in marriage” rather than “the husband of one wife.”
Going still further, in 1994 a group of liberal Roman Catholics published the Inclusive New Testament, in which full advantage was taken of the principle of “dynamic equivalence.” Typical of this version is the following rendering of Colossians 3:18-19.
“You who are in committed relationships, be submissive to each other. This is your duty in Christ Jesus. Partners joined by God, love each other. Avoid any bitterness between you.”
In 1995, liberal Protestants published a similar version in the New Testament and Psalms, An Inclusive Version. Both of these versions featured gender-neutral language for God along with many other politically correct alterations designed to combat “racism,” “homophobia,” “ageism,” “anti-semitism,” etc. The liberties taken with the text of Scripture in these versions were however so flagrant that they were met with ridicule in the popular press. For the time being at least, the most reputable liberal scholars have not ventured to publicly defend them as legitimate translations, although it remains to be seen how much headway such avant garde versions will make in the next generation.
None of the versions mentioned above were produced by organizations which professed to be evangelical, and they were intended for an audience which did not consider itself to be evangelical. Their use has been limited to the shrinking “mainline” churches controlled by liberals. But by 1990 feminism had made some inroads into evangelical circles also, and its influence was evident in several seminaries and Bible agencies which were considered to be evangelical. (8) Academics in these seminaries and agencies were involved in the production of five gender-neutral versions that were published between 1986 and 1996, and which were intended for the evangelical market. The first of these, the New Century Version, was a version intended for young children. It was brought out by a small publisher and attracted little notice. Next was God’s Word, another little-known version that made a very cautious use of gender-neutral language. The third was the New International Reader’s Version (NIrV), and the fourth version was The New International Version Inclusive Language Edition (NIVI). These last two were revisions of the popular New International Version (NIV). The NIrV was a simplification of the NIV intended for children, and its gender-neutral renderings were not noticed until later. The NIVI, which very much resembled the NRSV, was first published in England, where the people who consider themselves to be evangelical are much more liberal than in America, and for a year or two it went unnoticed in America. Then in 1996 the New Living Translation (NLT), which also made consistent use of gender-neutral language, appeared on the market with much fanfare; but, like the NIrV, this version made such heavy use of the “dynamic equivalence” method that the gender-neutral language was scarcely to be noticed in the general looseness of translation.
In 1997 the issue of gender-neutral “dynamic equivalence” came dramatically to the forefront after World magazine (9) revealed that the International Bible Society (IBS), which owns the copyright of the NIV and had apparently come under the influence of “evangelical feminists,” (10) was planning to publish its little-known NIVI soon in America, as a new edition of the NIV. Because the NIV was widely used as a trustworthy version in evangelical circles, a great uproar ensued, in which several conservative Christian organizations brought pressure against the IBS to abandon these plans. In May of 1997 James Dobson, the influential head of the Focus on the Family ministry, convened several prominent evangelical leaders for a special meeting on the issue at Colorado Springs. The participants issued a declaration of recommended guidelines which would discourage the artificial use of gender-neutral language in Bible translations. The IBS reluctantly yielded to this pressure, and at that time promised that it would not publish this new edition of the New International Version in America. It also issued a revision (1998) of its NIrV in which the gender-neutral language was replaced with more accurate renderings. The controversy was not settled by this however, because various scholars came forward with arguments for gender-neutral language, provoking counter-arguments, and then the IBS announced that it would publish its gender-neutral revision of the NIV, under another name. (11) Advance review copies of this revision, under the name Today’s New International Version, were distributed in January 2002. The reaction to it has been overwhelmingly negative.
The NIV “inclusive language” controversy has widened into criticism and defense of the “dynamic equivalence” method which had made such an objectionable revision possible in the first place. Many evangelicals who had been using the NIV began to doubt the trustworthiness of the version in its original form.
Although the liberal organizations that sponsored the earlier gender-neutral versions plainly avowed their ideological motives for such revisions, advocates of the revised NIV (writing for a conservative audience) produced some literature (12) that defended some of the changes on scholarly or linguistic grounds alone. The word anthropoi was mentioned as a word in the Greek text which is sometimes quite properly translated “people.” Examples were given where a plural “they” put in place of the generic “he” does not appear to affect the meaning at all, and the change was defended on the ground that the gender-inclusive meaning of the sentence is better conveyed by such a “dynamically equivalent” rendering. But critics (13) drew attention to places where the systematic substitution of plurals did significantly interfere with the sense. For example, in Psalm 1, the one man whose delight is in the law of the Lord is set in opposition to the many ungodly ones around him. But when the man is made to disappear into a group of genderless people, then a part of the meaning of this passage is lost. It was also noticed that the Messianic interpretations of some Old Testament passages were eliminated in the pursuit of genderless language, as in Psalm 8:4, where the phrase “son of man” becomes “human beings” (compare to Hebrews 2:6).
Another debated point was the extent to which the gender-neutral style adopted in the new versions could be justified on the basis of common English usage. Some claimed that the generic use of “man” and “he” are no longer commonly used or understood, and that a translation which aims to be understood must avoid these usages. In support of this idea they referred to the gender-neutral style of textbooks used in schools, (14) and of some television and newspaper journalism, as representative of the people at large, and as proof that the gender-neutral style had become normal and standard usage outside of the academic circles where it originated. Critics replied that the politically correct language of school textbooks and journalism are far from being representative of established English usage, or of English as it is commonly spoken. (15)
It should be noted that not everyone who has advocated the use of gender-neutral versions in the evangelical sub-culture has done this with some hidden feminist agenda in mind. Some evangelicals, such as D.A. Carson, have advocated this change in Bible versions apparently because they feel a great awkwardness when linguistic customs of modern and polite society are not observed, especially in mixed company. Their desire to make the Bible speak politely is nothing new. As early as 1833 Noah Webster (the famous American lexicographer) revised the King James Version so as to eliminate many words and phrases that he deemed “offensive, especially to females.” There has always been a certain amount of uneasiness about expressions in the Bible which were thought to be offensive to women, and ever since the days of Webster there has been a constantly growing concern about the feelings and opinions of women in the churches. So this new trend toward gender-neutralism may be seen in this light. Yet it should also be noted that in former times this kind of condescending editorial work did not try to conceal its nature under specious arguments about the meaning of Greek and Hebrew words. Some apologists for gender-neutral Bible versions have even argued that the Greek word aner, which clearly means “adult male,” is a gender-neutral word. Arguments like this could not have arisen among scholars apart from a desire to provide ad hoc justifications for gender-neutral renderings. (16)
More important in the long run were the arguments concerning the legitimacy of “dynamic equivalence” as a method of translating. This method, which was employed to a moderate degree in the original NIV, had for a long time been criticized by the more conservative evangelicals, who warned of its dangers. As the NIV controversy unfolded, these critics were in a strong position to argue that the NIV from the beginning embodied dangerous tendencies, and that it is time for evangelicals to turn away from it.
Gender-neutral Bible versions originated as an attempt by feminists to transform both the language and the beliefs of Christians. They were welcomed in liberal circles, but were met with strong resistance among evangelicals. The creators and defenders of these versions have suffered a loss of reputation among evangelicals, and publishers are not likely to market them successfully among evangelicals in the near future.
For further study of this issue, see the books listed in the bibliography and the links in the Web Directory.
1. The three books are: Donald A. Carson, The Inclusive-Language Debate: A Plea for Realism (Grand Rapids: Baker Books, 1998); Mark L. Strauss, Distorting Scripture? The Challenge of Bible Translation and Gender Accuracy (Downers Grove, Illinois: InterVarsity Press, 1998); Vern S. Poythress and Wayne A. Grudem, The Gender-Neutral Bible Controversy: Muting the Masculinity of God’s Words (Nashville: Broadman & Holman, 2000). A revised and expanded edition of the book by Grudem and Poythress was published in 2005 as The TNIV and the Gender-Neutral Bible Controversy (Nashville: Broadman & Holman, 2005).
2. The importance of language reform to the feminist cause is indicated by the fact that an article on the subject appeared as the first article in the inaugural issue of the influential feminist magazine Ms.: Kate Miller and Casey Swift, “De-Sexing the English Language,” Ms. 1 (Spring 1972), p. 7. This feminist agitation for language reform had an immediate affect on American schoolbook publishers. See for example the stylesheet Guidelines for Equal Treatment of the Sexes in McGraw-Hill Book Company Publications (New York: McGraw-Hill, 1974); and the more elaborate—and more explicitly ideological—publication of the Macmillan Book Company: Nancy Roberts, ed., Guidelines for Creating Positive Sexual and Racial Images in Educational Materials (New York: Macmillan Co., 1975). Since that time the preoccupation with language reform has spawned a large number of books, articles, and style guides. One widely used handbook of gender-neutral writing for academic writers is Guidelines for Bias-Free Writing by Marilyn Schwartz and the Task Force on Bias-free Language of the Association of American University Presses (Bloomington, Indiana: Indiana University Press, 1995). In a review of this book, Denis Dutton notices the implications of its recommendations for translators:
Some of the advice ... is decidedly disturbing. Section 1.58, on translations, begins, “Translators must exercise careful judgment in rendering a text in English.” Quite so, but the “careful judgments” turn out to be about more than simply precision: translators “need to consider the readership and purpose of the translation—whether it be simply to render the ideas or also to reflect stylistic or cultural nuances—before determining whether gender-biased characteristics of the original warrant replication in English.” In other words, translators should consider expurgating gender bias from foreign writings where it is “unwarranted” to replicate them in English and distress readers with unhelpful and unnecessary stylistic or cultural nuances. It should not surprise anyone that what begins with overweening concern that language should never offend ends in a justification of expurgation. The Guidelines go on to say, “Translators should avoid recasting gender-neutral into sexist language, as in some biblical language.” While no one would argue with that, the Bias Persons glaringly omit the converse recommendation that gender-biased foreign-language texts should be translated so that readers can see the gender bias of the original. So does the path from courtesy take us, however deviously, to censorship. (Denis Dutton, “What Are Editors For?” Philosophy and Literature 20/2 [October 1996], archived by WebCite® at URL http://www.webcitation.org/5y2zKgIzY)
The use of such oppressive “politically correct” style guides is now common even among reputedly evangelical publishers. For example, the relevant section from the InterVarsity Press Style Guide (Downers Grove, Illinois: InterVarsity Press, 2001) may be seen here.
3. Hugh T. Kerr, “How to Write an Article,” Theology Today 31/4 (January, 1975), pp. 290-91.
4. Bruce Metzger, “Trials of the Translator,” Theology Today 33/1 (April 1976), pp. 98-99. Metzger also mentions that “such problems … are currenty being considered by the Revised Standard Version Bible Committee.”
5. γυναικαριον is the diminutive of γυνη “woman,” and like many diminutives it expresses contempt.
6. Susan Durber, “The Female Reader of the Parables of the Lost,” Journal for the Study of the New Testament 45 (1992), pp. 59-78. For some unusually frank comments on this subject by a conservative see Steven Schlissel, “Hopelessly Patriarchal,” in Chalcedon Report, February 1998. I also note that Grant Osborne, who may be described as a moderately conservative scholar, has acknowledged the fact that “men are being addressed in the ancient setting,” hence the male-oriented language (“Do Inclusive-Language Bibles Distort Scripture?” Christianity Today, October 27, 1997, p. 35). Strangely, Osborne makes this the basis of an argument for gender-neutral language in modern translations, because “men and women would be addressed in the modern setting” (emphasis added). Poythress and Grudem rightly respond to this argument by saying “if the Bible were mainly addressed to men, then we should translate it accurately in order to indicate this,” but they wrongly dispute the fact that the Bible is largely addressed to men when they say, “the New Testament letters were intended to be read out loud in the churches ... and these churches included both men and women in the assembly. How can anyone say that these letters were addressed mainly to men?” (Gender-Neutral Bible Controversy, p. 179.) The mere fact that women were present in the meetings to hear the epistles being read aloud has little importance. It was proper for a writer to focus upon men, just as it was customary in ancient oratory. In any case, the male-oriented discourse of the epistles speaks for itself.
7. Catherine Innes-Parker, “Mi bodi henge with thi bodi neiled o rode : The gendering of the Pauline concept of crucifixion with Christ in medieval devotional prose for women,” Studies in Religion, 28/1 (1999).
8. The June 16, 1997 issue of Christianity Today reported that Eugene Rubingh, who until 1999 was the IBS vice president for translations, says “publishers Zondervan and Hodder & Stoughton first suggested a more inclusive text to the CBT [the IBS Committee on Bible Translation] because they knew of seminary professors dropping the NIV in favor of the New Revised Standard Version.” In particular, Bethel Theological Seminary and Denver Seminary appear to have become seedbeds of feminism in the evangelical churches.
9. Susan Olasky, “Femme Fatale,” in WORLD, March 29, 1997.
10. For a history of the growing influence of feminism in American churches, see The Feminist Gospel: the Movement to Unite Feminism with the Church, by Mary A. Kassian (Crossway Books, 1992). The facts are truly disturbing and raise serious doubts about the “evangelical” feminists. For a book written from the “evangelical feminist” point of view, see Nancy A. Hardesty’s Inclusive Language in the Church (Atlanta: John Knox Press, 1987). Hardesty has now drifted into radical feminism, and is no longer called evangelical. For introductions to mainline church feminism, see Alice L. Laffey, An Introduction to the Old Testament: A Feminist Perspective (Philadelphia: Fortress, 1988); Letty M Russell, ed., Feminist Interpretation of the Bible (Philadelphia: Westminster Press, 1985); Luise Schotroff, Silvia Schroer and Marie-Theres Wacker, Feminist Interpretation: The Bible in Women’s Perspective Trans. Martin and Barbara Rumscheidt. (Minneapolis: Fortress, 1998).
11. WORLD (6/5/99, p.16) obtained a copy of a letter by Eugene Rubingh, IBS vice president for translations, written on March 19, 1999, which stated, “I, the CBT and practically everyone involved, thoroughly support gender-accurate language. The matter is one of timing, of finding the appropriate hour to move ahead.”
12. The most important “evangelical” defenses of gender-neutral versions are D. A. Carson’s The Inclusive-Language Debate: a Plea for Realism (Grand Rapids: Baker Books, 1998) and Mark L. Strauss’s Distorting Scripture? The Challenge of Bible Translation and Gender Accuracy (Downers Grove, Illinois: InterVarsity Press, 1998). Of these two books, Strauss (Associate Professor of New Testament at Bethel Seminary San Diego) gives the more detailed treatment.
13. The arguments are collected by Vern S. Poythress and Wayne A. Grudem in their book, The Gender-Neutral Bible Controversy: Muting the Masculinity of God’s Words (Nashville: Broadman & Holman, 2000). Poythress and Grudem have been prominent in the evangelical opposition to gender-neutral language.
14. The official website of the TNIV declared, “Even school and college textbooks have changed over the years, as ‘men’ rarely refers to both men and women today.” http://www.tniv.info/qanda.php, accessed 5 Jan 2005.
15. The “bias and sensitivity review” editors employed by educational publishers had already banned such words as “man-made,” “middleman,” and “mailman” by 1975, and in more recent years they have gone to ridiculous extremes in their attempts to comply with the demands of feminist organizations. For details see Diane Ravitch, The Language Police: How Pressure Groups Restrict What Students Learn (New York: Random House, 2003). In an appendix Ravitch gives an extensive “Glossary of Banned Words, Usages, Stereotypes, and Topics” in which guidelines given in a 1975 document used at Holt, Rinehart, and Winston forbade words compounded with “man.”
16. D.A. Carson, after writing his book on the subject, in which he insulted other scholars and presented some rather evasive and disingenuous arguments about the meaning of Greek words, finally admitted that his main reason for defending the gender-neutral Bible versions was his desire to use an English text that would not offend secular people in academic settings. In his article “The Limits of Functional Equivalence in Bible Translation—and Other Limits, Too” published in The Challenge of Bible Translation: Communicating God’s Word to the World (Grand Rapids: Zondervan, 2003), he responded to criticism of his 1998 book by saying quite frankly, “I have been doing university missions for thirty years, and in such quarters inclusive language dominates. Not to use it is offensive” (emphasis mine). If candid explanations like this were given at the outset of the controversy, there would have been less room for suspicions about feminist influences. The real point of disagreement between evangelicals is the question of whether it is legitimate or not for a translator to accommodate the text to modern attitudes by removing something that non-Christians find “offensive.” But evidently Dr. Carson did not have enough confidence in the rightness of his position to speak plainly about this at first.
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