The New Testament and Psalms: An Inclusive Version

Victor R. Gold, ed., New Testament and Psalms: An Inclusive Version. New York and Oxford: Oxford University Press, 1995.

This is a revision of the New Revised Standard Version done by some of the same people who produced the Inclusive Language Lectionary in 1983-85: Victor Roland Gold, Thomas L. Hoyt, Jr, Sharon H. Ringe, Susan Brooks Thistlethwaite, Burton H. Throckmorton, Jr., and Barbara A. Withers. The earlier work had presented inclusivist renderings of only some portions of Scripture; here the idea is to present a similar revision of the entire New Testament and Psalms. Its purpose is to eliminate all expressions that are thought to be “offensive” in liberal circles. “God our Father” (which the revisers think is offensive to women) is amended to “God our Father-Mother.” “Darkness” as a metaphor for ignorance (thought to be offensive to blacks) is amended to “night.” References to God’s “right hand” (offensive to left-handed people) are amended to “mighty hand.” The exhortation to “obey your parents” (offensive to children) is softened to “heed your parents.” And so forth. The introduction explains:

This version has undertaken the effort to replace or rephrase all gender-specific language not referring to particular historical individuals, all pejorative references to race, color, or religion, and all identifications of persons by their physical disability alone, by means of paraphrase, alternative renderings, and other acceptable means of conforming the language of the work to an inclusive idea.

In an attempt to justify their alterations the editors appeal to the idea that “Christians in every culture around the world want to hear their Bible in the language of their time.”

“Why do we need so many versions of the Bible?” people often ask whenever a new one is introduced. The answer is twofold. First, we need new versions because the languages into which the Bible is rendered (hundreds worldwide) are themselves changing. New words and expressions come into use and older expressions fall out of use, seem tired and trite, or do not convey much meaning at all. Do we ask “whither” we are going, or claim that we are going “thither”? No, we ask “where” and go “there.” Christians in every culture around the world want to hear their Bible in the language of their time, speaking specifically to them, as well it should.

But they seem to realize that not everyone is up to speed with the PC language, and so they express the hope that their version will “influence the development of important changes in language.”

This new, inclusive version of the Bible not only reflects the newest scholarly work on the most reliable manuscripts available, it also reflects and attempts to anticipate developments in the English language with regard to specificity about a number of issues such as gender, race, and physical disability. Bibles are widely read and therefore can serve to influence the development of important changes in language. Martin Luther’s translation of the Bible into the German spoken by the common people in his country is an example of this. Luther’s translation helped to develop and unify German as not only a spoken, but also a written language.

Typical of the version is the treatment of John 5:2627, in which all masculine words for God and Christ are eliminated:

King James Version

26 For as the Father hath life in himself; so hath he given to the Son to have life in himself; 27 And hath given him authority to execute judgment also, because he is the Son of man. 28 Marvel not at this ...

Inclusive Version

For just as God has life in Godself, so God has granted the same thing to the Child, and has given the Child authority to execute judgment, because of being the Human One. Do not be astonished at this ...

At this tortured rendering one academic reviewer quipped, “Who could help but be astonished? The language neuterers now make an additional step of exegesis necessary: The fixation with leveling out differences must first be decoded before the meaning of the text can be considered.” 1 This misses the point, however, because the entire “meaning” of this Inclusive Version is expressed by its inclusivist language. It has no other reason for existing. The editors were not at all interested in conveying the meaning of the original where it does not conform to the “inclusive idea” of the version.

Despite all the liberties it takes with the text for the sake of the “inclusive idea” in some places, we find that the version fails to deliver what we expected in some places. In Luke 18:29 the revisers have not repaired the “androcentric” language of the saying, “Truly I tell you, there is no one who has left house or wife …” Likewise in Acts 21:45, “all of them, with wives and children.” This seems to imply that all the disciples were men. In 1 Cor. 7:27 Paul is still seen to be addressing males in his letters, with such expressions as “Are you bound to a wife?” And again in Galatians 5:2 we read, “If you let yourselves be circumcised.” In 1 Cor. 14:34 we find the command that women should be “silent” and “subordinate” unrevised. Another potentially offensive expression is in Matthew 14:21 and 15:38, “besides women and children,” which reveals that women were not counted. One has to wonder how such things could have escaped the attention of these revisers, who are fanatical enough to assert, in their Introduction, that the phrase “kingdom of God” is too “blatantly androcentric and patriarchal” to be tolerated in the modern Church.

The Introduction tries to give readers the impression that the version’s PC alterations are supported by Greek and Hebrew scholarship, and that the revisers were motivated by a scholarly interest in making the meaning of the original language clear. To this end, it includes some very questionable statements about the meaning of Greek words. It claims that “be committed” is an adequate rendering of the verb hypotasso in Eph. 5:21, Col. 3:18, Titus 2:5, and 1 Pet. 3:1. Here we find the intellectual dishonesty that always seems to accompany political correctness.

The revisers maintain that if an accurate translation of something in the Bible has been misused, then they are justified in giving a rendering which they know to be false. On this ground they try to justify their obfuscating treatment of hypotasso, hypakouo, and paideia. This is not a legitimate principle of translation. It is an excuse for deliberate misrepresentation of the original, which on principle we cannot allow under any circumstances.

Also in the Introduction there is a highly interesting statement of what the revisers think Christianity is all about:

When we make our churches accessible to persons with disabilities, when we struggle against the pervasive racism and violence of our societies, when all persons, women, men, children, the elderly, are treated equally and nonviolently, we are forming the Body of Christ.

From this we may see that it is not so much the idea of “inclusion,” but rather the idea of equality, which really dominates the thinking of these revisers. A more traditional and commonsense view of the world would recognize that people can be fully included in an organization without being made equal in status to all other members, or without having the same role as everyone else in the organization. Indeed it is hard to imagine what kind of organization could exist under such conditions. But the revisers so equate inclusivity with equality that any lack of equality is seen as a failure to “include” people. They associate inequality with “unmitigated abuse,” “racism,” “violence,” etc., and seem to leave no legitimate place for natural authority positions or diversity of roles. They are hypersensitive to any indication of inequality, and indeed to any suggestion that people are not all the same in their gifts and callings. All of this seems to be packed in what the revisers call their “inclusive idea.” The problem they must confront in dealing with the Bible is, it assumes a very different view of life, in which inequality is accepted as normal and natural. The Bible does not suppose that people must be equal in order to be included; on the contrary, it assumes that no organization or society can exist without inequality, and that in order to be included, everyone must accept his or her own place in the scheme of things. The very plain language of the Bible on the subjects of “submission,” “respect,” and “obedience” serves this purpose. But translations that deliberately obscure this teaching are not serving the same purpose. During their earlier work on the Inclusive Language Lectionary, some of the revisers of this version admitted that they were altering the message of the Bible. Burton H. Throckmorton spoke of the “patriarchalism of the biblical languages, and of biblical faith as originally formulated.” He asserted that “Patriarchal assumptions pervade the various writings of the Bible,” but he “translates patriarchalism out,” and presents a text more acceptable to egalitarian thinking “by the deletion of patriarchalism.” 2 Sharon H. Ringe even suggested that the human authors of the Bible might have been “mistaking their own reflection for the face of God and hearing in the hollow gongs of their own idolatry the divine-human dialogue.” 3 We do not approve of their saying such things about the Bible, but at least they were honest enough to express their anti-biblical views.

Michael Marlowe
November 2011


1. James R. Edwards, review article in the Journal of the Evangelical Theological Society 41 (March 1998), p. 127.

2. Burton H. Throckmorton, Jr., “Why the Inclusive Language Lectionary?” Christian Century, August 1-8, 1984, p. 742.

3. Sharon H. Ringe, “Standing Toward the Text,” Theology Today 43/4 (Jan. 1987), pp. 554, 56.


“The PC Bible”

Wall Street Journal Editorial Page
September 5, 1995

We suppose it had to happen. Sooner or later someone was bound to notice that the Word of God isn’t politically correct.

Sure enough. Out from Oxford University Press this month is a new translation of the New Testament and Psalms that purports to set things right. This “inclusive” version is intended, the introduction says, to “provide direction and sustenance to those who long for justice.”

The injustices, it seems, are legion. In case you hadn’t noticed, let us deconstruct the Scriptures for you, as seen through the eyes of the six American scholars who edited this new volume. We swear on a stack of King James Bibles that we aren’t making up the following:

To start with, all those “begats” favor fathers over mothers. Out they go, and whenever the wife of a biblical husband is known, the editors add her name. Out, too, are metaphors about darkness as evil and light as good, which, we are told, are offensive to people of color. Similarly, references to the blind, the deaf, and the lame are insensitive to people with disabilities, and so they are changed to “those who are blind,” etc. And isn’t the phrase “right hand of God” unfair to those who happen to be left-handed? “Mighty” hand is more sensitive.

Language of abuse and servitude is also out. Hence, “slaves” become “enslaved people”; and parents “guide,” not “discipline,” their children, who in turn are told to “heed,” not “obey,” their parents. References to “circumcision” are vexing, but the editors sadly concede that they can’t come up with an adequate gender-free substitute.

But the big challenge comes in how to deal with God him-, her-, it-self. The editors’ solution is to ban pronouns and keep repeating the genderless word “God.” The words “Lord” and “King” are also taboo (“Ruler” or “Sovereign” is substituted), and the patriarchal “Kingdom of God” becomes “Dominion of God.” As for God the “Father,” in this version, it’s always “Father-Mother.” Satan, feminists take note, gets similar gender-free treatment.

References to Jesus pose particular problems of their own. The words “he” and “son” are permitted in mentions of Jesus’s life on earth. But the pre-existent and post-crucifixion Christ get no gender. “Master” becomes “Teacher” and the doubly offensive “Son of Man” becomes “the Human One.”

Needless to say, none of this is very poetic. It’s also pretty pathetic to watch theologians waste their time worrying that a left-handed, blind, black woman might somehow think that the Bible excludes her, when the main message of the text teaches exactly the opposite. Apparently the contemporary equivalent of pondering how many angels can fit on the head of a pin is to calculate the number of gender offensive words in the Bible. The theological seminaries aren’t immune to the cultural and linguistic extremism that flourishes on many university campuses these days, where words like “freshman” are verboten.



General Introduction

Why Another Version of the Bible?

“Why do we need so many versions of the Bible?” people often ask whenever a new one is introduced. The answer is twofold.

First, we need new versions because the languages into which the Bible is rendered (hundreds worldwide) are themselves changing. New words and expressions come into use and older expressions fall out of use, seem tired and trite, or do not convey much meaning at all. Do we ask “whither” we are going, or claim that we are going “thither”? No, we ask “where” and go “there.” Christians in every culture around the world want to hear their Bible in the language of their time, speaking specifically to them, as well it should.

Second, the languages in which the Bible was originally written are the subject of scholarly study. New manuscripts are discovered that are older and more reliable, and new investigations into the meanings of words reveal that more accurate renderings are possible. Thoughtful Christians everywhere want the fruit of this scholarship reflected in the Bible versions they use.

Changes in the English Language

The English language has changed in recent years in many ways, and one important change has been in the direction of greater specificity with regard to gender. We see this in simple ways all around us. We now have “firefighters” instead of “firemen,” we are asked to contribute to “the policeperson’s ball,” and even Star Trek now boldly goes “where no one has gone before.” This language is more specific because it is not just men who fight fires, defend us from crime, or travel to distant planets. Replays of the moon landing now seem very dated in their reference to “one small step for man, one giant leap for mankind.” Men and women have both explored space, men and women have both died in the exploration of space, and our language needs to specify this.

But it is not only with regard to gender where English has developed greater specificity. People who have disabilities are no longer referred to as “the blind” or “the lame,” but as “people who are blind” or “those who are lame.” They are people first and they have disabilities second. Racial sensitivity has increased, too, during this time, as there has been a greater awareness of how language and race are related (is it really only the beige crayon that is “flesh-colored” ?).

This new, inclusive version of the Bible not only reflects the newest scholarly work on the most reliable manuscripts available, it also reflects and attempts to anticipate developments in the English language with regard to specificity about a number of issues such as gender, race, and physical disability. Bibles are widely read and therefore can serve to influence the development of important changes in language. Martin Luther’s translation of the Bible into the German spoken by the common people in his country is an example of this. Luther’s translation helped to develop and unify German as not only a spoken, but also a written language.

The Interpretive Character of this Version

Any effort to express in one language a text that was written in another inevitably involves some interpretation. In the case of technical writing translated from one modern language to another closely related one, the interpretation is usually minimal; but in the case of an ancient text such as the Bible, efforts to render it in a modern language involve considerable interpretation.

This introduction is intended to inform the reader about the interpretive character of the text. Attention should be paid to the kinds of adaptations in language that have been made in order to express the intent of the text in the most inclusive way possible. In addition, readers should note that since this version is an adaptation of the New Revised Standard Version Bible text, anyone wondering about changes made in a particular passage has readily available a comparison text that will show exactly what the editors have done.

Every adaptation is discussed in this introduction, along with the reasons for it. The whole volume thus serves as a teaching tool for understanding the tasks involved in rendering an ancient text into a modern idiom.

The Inclusive Character of this Version

When we render the Bible into English with attention to greater specificity with regard to gender, race, physical ability and other such concerns, we are aiming at producing a specific version of the biblical text: an inclusive version.

This version has undertaken the effort to replace or rephrase all gender-specific language not referring to particular historical individuals, all pejorative references to race, color, or religion, and all identifications of persons by their physical disability alone, by means of paraphrase, alternative renderings, and other acceptable means of conforming the language of the work to an inclusive idea.

The members of the editorial board came together in the Fall of 1990 to undertake a rendition of the whole New Testament and the Psalms that was inclusive with regard to gender, race, religion, or physical condition, but yet that did not violate the meaning of the gospel. The editors were committed to accelerating changes in English usage toward inclusiveness in a holistic sense. The result is another step in the continuing process of rendering Scripture in language that reflects our best understanding of the nature of God, of the humanity and divinity of Jesus Christ, and of the wholeness of human beings.

While part of the authority for this version comes from the fact that English itself is changing and this must be reflected in our renderings of the Bible text, part of the authority for this project comes from within the Scriptures themselves. Human beings are created in the image of God—both male and female. This means that every human being, a woman or a man, a boy or a girl, is equally precious to God and should be treated accordingly by every other person. Thus, the equal value of all people, both genders, every race, religion, and physical condition, is premised by these central biblical concerns.

Additional authority for this version comes from the function of the Bible itself. The Bible is the book of the community of faith, an inclusive community in which there is “no longer Jew or Greek, ... enslaved or free, ... male and female, for all of you are one in Christ Jesus” (Gal. 3:28). This inclusive community looks to its Scriptures for guidance and authority in how to form community; the way community is formed ultimately influences how the Scriptures themselves are read. Thus, the language of Scripture reflects the community and the community is shaped by language. When we make our churches accessible to persons with disabilities, when we struggle against the pervasive racism and violence of our societies, when all persons, women, men, children, the elderly, are treated equally and nonviolently, we are forming the Body of Christ. This task of becoming Christians is aided by the clarity with which our Scripture calls us to be whole, well, and one.

This version, therefore, will be particularly useful in the context of the church’s liturgy, where inclusivity is of major importance. When the church gathers for the worship of God, it should be faithful to its gospel and recognize, in the language it uses, the equality of all people before God. This version of the New Testament and Psalms will assure that all readings from those Scriptures will facilitate that end. This version also lends itself well to use in private Bible reading and devotions.

Bible Translation and Metaphor

Words can seem simple: this is a chair, this is a table. Actually, the way meaning is communicated in language is very complex. Take a commonly used expression: “Life is just a bowl of cherries.” Now, if we don’t think about it too much, that phrase is not especially puzzling. There seem to be ways in which life is like a bowl of cherries. If there weren’t, the metaphor would convey no meaning. Yet it’s hard to say exactly why life is like a bowl of cherries. There are obviously ways in which life is not like a bowl of cherries. The phrase, “Life is just a bowl of cherries,” is a metaphor. A metaphor is a figure of speech used to extend meaning through the comparison of things that are dissimilar. The power of metaphor comes from the creative tension between the fact that there is a likeness between the metaphor and the idea it seeks to communicate, but that there also is not a likeness between them.

Biblical language is filled with metaphors. The famous Christian writer John Bunyan observed in Pilgrim’s Progress, “Were not God’s laws, God’s gospel laws, in types, images, and metaphors?” One of the reasons “God’s gospel laws” use metaphorical language, that is, use expressions that talk about “this” in order to say “that,” is because the Bible is about complex issues: What is central to human life? What is God like? What is evil? How are we to be the church? Biblical language is rich and complex language.

It can be hard to recognize some biblical images as metaphors because we have become so accustomed to them. Obviously, Jesus is not a lamb, even though the New Testament refers to Jesus as “the Lamb of God” (John 1:29, 36). The practice of the sacrifice of lambs at the Passover conveys the meaning of “likeness” to Jesus; the fact that Jesus is a human being and not an actual lamb conveys the “unlikeness.”

Another metaphor to which we have become accustomed is God as Father.

When we say that God is Father, we are saying that God is like a human father in the kinds of qualities good fathers have, like love and concern. But obviously, God is also not like every human father, since some do not always show love and concern, and, even more profoundly, God is not a finite being, like human fathers. So there are many ways in which God is not like a human father. The power of the metaphor comes from both the likeness and the unlikeness. But if we try to cast any biblical metaphor in stone and say that, for example, God is literally a father, we lose the power of communication which makes us think, How is God like a father? How is God much more than a father?

We have based much of this inclusive version on this insight into the nature of metaphor. When we have crafted new metaphors, such as Father-Mother, we have done so to make the reader think about what is being read and to experience the power of metaphor to make us ask, How is this the same? and, How is this different?

The New Revised Standard Version and this Inclusive Version

This new, inclusive version, an independent project not sponsored by the National Council of the Churches of Christ in the U.S.A., has used the New Revised Standard Version Bible as the starting point. The NRSV, based on the latest biblical scholarship available, has gone a long way toward greater specificity in regard to human gender. This version, however, goes beyond the NRSV to include people of every race, people of every class, people with disabilities— so that all may hear the New Testament and Psalms speaking directly to them. Also, this version, in contrast to the NRSV, uses inclusive metaphors for God. The major ways in which this rewording has been accomplished will be described below. Briefer discussions of the various books that required renderings applicable only, or mostly, to them, follow the explanation of general principles.

Masculine Pronouns

In the original languages of the biblical writings, Hebrew and Greek, all pronouns referring to God must be masculine because both languages have grammatical gender, and the words for God in both languages are masculine. In this way, Greek and Hebrew are like such modern languages as French and Spanish. In these languages, for example, the words for table—la table and la mesa—are feminine, and, as such, require feminine pronouns. Obviously, though, a table would not be referred to as “she” in English. In languages where nouns have grammatical gender, that gender does not necessarily have anything to do with biological gender, but in English, the gender of nouns and pronouns indicates only biological gender—that is, masculine gender refers only to males (“he,” “his,” “him”), feminine gender refers only to females (“she” and “her”), and everything that is not male or female is neuter. This can confuse the reader of an English translation of Scripture who may think that when God is referred to as “he,” it is also said that God is a male being.

Because the church does not assume that God is a male being, or, indeed, that God has a sex, in this version God is never referred to by a masculine pronoun, or by any pronoun at all. This has been accomplished either by saying “God,” or by using another expression for “God,” rather than by using a pronoun, or by changing the syntax of a sentence so as to avoid using a pronoun—for example, replacing “he said” by a participle, “saying.”

Also in this version, while we very frequently retain the masculine pronoun for the historical person Jesus, we have avoided using a pronoun for either the pre-existent or the post-crucifixion Jesus. If God the “Father” does not have a sex, then neither does the “Son.”

“Father” for God

The metaphor “Father,” used for God, occurs in every book of the New Testament except its shortest work, 3 John. It is used for God over one hundred times in the Gospel of John alone. It is, of course, a male metaphor, and leads those who read it repeatedly to think of God as a male being. It is also a highly personal metaphor, connoting family intimacy, authority, care, and protection. By repetition, however, all metaphors tend to lose their metaphorical meaning, and begin to be understood as propositions, as literal statements. This has happened in the church with the New Testament metaphor, “Father.” By speaking to God, and by referring to God again and again, as “Father,” one may begin to think of God, literally, as a “Father,” hence also as a male being; and those for whom the word “father” has negative, rather than positive connotations, have great difficulty with that metaphor for God—do not want either to use it, or to hear it used.

Occasionally in the Bible, however, God is thought of on the analogy of a mother, and as the church does not believe that God is literally a father, and understands “Father” to be a metaphor, the metaphor “Father” is rendered in this version by a new metaphor, “Father-Mother.” This new metaphor is not even understandable as a literal statement and can be understood only in a metaphorical way. One cannot be literally a “Father-Mother,” so the metaphor allows the mind to oscillate between the picture of God as “Father” and the picture of God as “Mother,” the mind attributing both fatherly and motherly attributes to God.

Because in a number of instances, especially in the Fourth Gospel, “Father” has lost its metaphorical force and is used occasionally as a synonym for God, in this version the Greek pater is often rendered “God.” In three Johannine contexts, however, it is rendered “Father-Mother”; when preceded by a pronominal adjective (“my,” “your,” etc.), when used in conjunction with “Child,” and in Jesus’ prayer to God.

“Lord” for God or Christ

The word “Lord” is used to designate either God or Jesus Christ in every book of the New Testament except Titus and the three Johannine letters. It is also frequently used in the Psalms either to address God or to refer to God. Because the word “Lord” is believed by some to be male-oriented, but by others to be gender neutral, similar to the way in which “God” is usually understood, this version retains “Lord” in some instances, but makes a substitution for it in others. In the case of the Psalms, “Lord” is sometimes retained as the divine name; frequently, however, “God,” or an alternative word or expression referring to God, is substituted, and occasionally the syntax is altered so that the name can be dropped with no substitute needed.

The Greek word kyrios, translated “Lord” in English, has a number of meanings in the New Testament, other than the divine name. For example, it can mean “owner”—of a vineyard, or of a colt; and that meaning easily passed over into that of “lord” or “master,” one who has control of something—of life, of one’s own body, of a person who is enslaved. Kyrios is also used as a term of address to someone in a higher position than the speaker, and sometimes is the equivalent of “sir.” In the New Testament there are also references to the kyrios of the harvest, or the kyrios of the sabbath.

In the Septuagint (the Greek version of the Hebrew Scriptures), kyrios is one of the two most commonly used words to speak about God—the other is theos (God). The early church continued to use both words for God—kyrios and theos; and the former was used also to refer to Christ. The result is that kyrios in the New Testament is a word used for both God and Christ, and it is sometimes difficult, if not impossible, to tell to which it refers.

In this New Testament “Lord” is retained in every instance in which the antecedent is ambiguous, being either God or Christ; it is also retained in phrases such as “the Lord Jesus” or “the Lord Jesus Christ.” Where the antecedent of “Lord” is clearly God, “God” is often substituted for “Lord”; where the antecedent is the historical Jesus, “Jesus” is often substituted; and where the antecedent is clearly the risen Christ, “Christ” is often substituted. The result is that references to “Lord” in this version are considerably diminished. On occasion, also, when Jesus is being addressed, it is difficult to know whether the meaning is “Lord” or simply “Sir.”

“Child” for “Son”

In most books of the New Testament Jesus is referred to, sometimes very frequently, as “Son,” and “Son” also occurs in various combinations: Son of God, Son of Man, Son of the Blessed One, Son of the Most High, Son of David, and so on. When in the Gospels the historical person, Jesus, is referred to as “son,” the word is retained. But when Jesus is called “Son of God” or “Son of the Blessed One,” and the maleness of the historical person Jesus is not relevant, but the “Son’s” intimate relation to the “Father” is being spoken about (see Mat 11:25-27), the formal equivalent “Child” is used for “Son,” and gender-specific pronouns referring to the “Child” are avoided. Thus readers are enabled to identify themselves with Jesus’ humanity.

If the fact that Jesus was a man, and not a woman, has no christological significance in the New Testament, then neither does the fact that Jesus was a son and not a daughter. If Jesus is identified as “Son,” believers of both sexes become “sons” of God, but if Jesus is called “Child,” believers of both sexes can understand themselves as “children of God.”

The title “Son of David,” used frequently in the Gospels for Jesus, is retained.

“The Human One” for “The Son of Man”

The title for Jesus, “the Son of Man,” is found frequently in the Gospels and almost nowhere else in the New Testament. With a single exception only Jesus uses the term, and always, in Gospel contexts, to refer to himself. The title has a complex history, but it is not possible to show that the use of the term in Judaism has influenced its widespread use in early Christianity. The Greek term, whose literal translation is “the Son of the Man,” is clearly enigmatic, but in the Gospels it takes on its meanings from the contexts in which it is used. The term may easily be misunderstood, however, as referring to a male offspring, “the son” of another male being, “the man”; hence this version uses “the Human One” as a formal equivalent to “the Son of Man.” “The Human One” is clearly a title of a non-androcentric form, and is also open to the many nuances of interpretation that are possible in the original Greek term. No gender is ascribed to the term.

“Dominion” for “Kingdom”

“Kingdom of God” is a term that appears in almost every book of the New Testament, but particularly in the synoptic Gospels, and on the lips of Jesus. It was presumably the focus of Jesus’ preaching. This version speaks of the “dominion” rather than the “kingdom” of God. There are two reasons for this.

1. The Greek work basileia, usually translated “kingdom” in English, has two different meanings—“rule” or “reign” and “realm”—that is, the exercise of authority (“rule”) and the place where the authority is exercised (“realm”). In contemporary usage, however, “kingdom” means only realm, and not rule; but “dominion” means both the exercise of authority (one has dominion over) and the place where authority is exercised (one may enter a dominion). So “dominion” is a more accurate rendering of basileia than “kingdom” is.

2. In the second place “dominion” is preferable to “kingdom” because of the latter’s blatantly androcentric and patriarchal character, though, of course, it is also recognized that etymologically “dominion” is a male-oriented word.

“King” as Metaphor for God

Occasionally in the New Testament, and more frequently in the Psalms, “King” is used as a metaphor for God. This version substitutes either “Ruler” or “Sovereign” for “King” when it refers to God. “King” is retained, however, in references to Jesus as “King of the Jews” or “King of Israel.” Generally, when the Greek or Hebrew word has a human referent, it is rendered “ruler.” In the case of specific historical kings, however, the title “king” is retained, as well as in parables about kings.

The Gender of the Devil, Satan, and Angels

The images of the devil and Satan are represented exclusively as masculine in the NRSV, and only masculine pronouns are used to refer to them. In the Greek language both words (the “devil” and “Satan”) are masculine, so only masculine pronouns can be used to speak about them in the Greek New Testament. In this version, however, neither the devil nor Satan is identified by gender. For example, in Mat. 4:9,10 the NRSV twice refers to the devil by masculine pronouns. In this version both pronouns are eliminated. In this version Mat. 12:26 reads, “If Satan casts out Satan, Satan is divided; how then will Satan’s dominion stand?” Here three masculine pronouns referring to Satan have been dropped.

We have a similar situation with the Greek word for “angel,” which is also masculine in gender; and in English translations only masculine pronouns are used to refer to angels. By using nouns to replace pronouns, no gender is attributed to angels in this version.

Dark, Darken, Darkness

The words “dark,” “darken” and “darkness” occur in many of the Psalms and throughout most books of the New Testament. They are often used in a straightforward way to identify qualities of color, or the absence of light. For example, in Psalm 18:28, “my God lights up my darkness,” and in Psalm 104:20, “You make darkness, and it is night, when all the animals of the forest come creeping out,” the word “darkness” is used in a neutral, non-pejorative sense, and is retained in this version.

However, very frequently in both the Psalms and the New Testament the word “darkness” is used as a metaphor, connoting such negative qualities as ignorance, dishonesty, evil, sin, and what is shady or sinister. These negative connotations of the metaphor “dark” or “darkness” become associated with dark-skinned people, who, as a result, have been called “darkies.” And at the opposite end of the spectrum, “whiteness” becomes associated with purity, with “darkness” connoting what is tainted or impure.

For this reason, when “darkness” or a variation of the word appears in the New Testament or Psalms as a metaphor that carries with it the negative connotations discussed above, we have substituted another word. For example, Psalm 107:10 in the NRSV reads, “Some sat in darkness and in gloom, prisoners in misery and in irons” has been altered to read, “some sat in captivity and in gloom, prisoners in misery and in irons.” This rendering is allowed because vv 10-16 of the psalm describe the plight of captives who have been released from prison. The version does not in any way distort the text—in fact, it tends to clarify it—but it avoids using the word “darkness,” associated with dark-skinned people, as a synonym for “gloom,” “misery,” and “irons.” Likewise, in the New Testament, the NRSV of Eph. 5:11 reads, “take no part in the unfruitful works of darkness.” Here the “unfruitful works of darkness” are the opposite of “all that is good and right and true” that has been spoken of in v 9; hence this version has reworded the text so that it speaks of the “unfruitful works of the night,” changing the metaphor from “darkness” to “night,” without in any way altering the intent of the passage. Throughout this version the root “dark,” used as a negative metaphor, is altered in several different ways.

Synoptic Gospels

Addition Of Women’s Names

Women’s names have been added to those of men when the origin or generation of a people is under discussion. The addition of such names is consistent with the biblical tradition where, for example, Sarah’s name is added to Abraham’s in dealing with Israel’s progenitors (see, for instance, Isa. 51:2; Heb. 11:11). In the genealogy that begins the Gospel of Matthew, women’s names, where they are known, have been supplied—for example, in this version Mat. 1:6 is rendered, “David and Bathsheba, the wife of Uriah, were the parents of Solomon,” whereas the NRSV says that “David was the father of Solomon by the wife of Uriah.” This version also changes the Greek way of speaking of husbands as “begetting by their wives,” which is also the way that genealogies are usually worded in English translations. The NRSV of Mat. 1:3 says that “Judah [was] the father of Perez and Zerah by Tamar”; this version says that “Judah and Tamar [were] the parents of Perez and Zerah,” thus putting the woman on a par with the man.

“Master” In The Gospel Of Luke

Six times in Luke Jesus is addressed by the Greek word epistata, five of those times by disciples (see Luke 5:5; 8:24, 45; 9:33, 49; 17:13). That word is always translated “Master” in the NRSV. In the Latin Vulgate the word is regularly translated by a Latin word meaning “teacher” or “instructor.” Three of the passages in which the word occurs in Luke are based on passages in the Gospel of Mark where Mark’s word is either didaskale (teacher) or rabbi (“my lord” or “teacher”). In this version epistata is regularly rendered as “Teacher.”

Conditions Of People Characterizing Their Identities

Very often, especially in the Gospels and particularly in Matthew, Mark, and Luke, adjectives are used to describe people’s conditions: they are “deaf,” or “blind,” or “lame.” When in English translation those adjectives are used as nouns, they tend to characterize such people’s whole identities, as though nothing else could be said about them. If one speaks of a “person who is lame,” other characteristics of the person are not being ignored; but if one speaks of “the lame,” the impression is given that lameness is the main characteristic, or the only significant characteristic, of such people.

In reading the Gospels in English, one finds many such nouns. For example, the NRSV of Mat. 11:5 reads: “the blind receive their sight, the lame walk, the lepers are cleansed, the deaf hear, ... and the poor have good news brought to them.” Such a translation divides people into categories, and assumes that to describe their conditions is to identify them completely. Of course, this is not true. And it is interesting to note that in the original Greek text of Mat. 11:5 six adjectives are used (not nouns), each adjective requiring in English the noun “people” to be supplied. The Greek speaks of blind people, lame or crippled people, leprous people, deaf people, dead people, and poor people. Greek can only speak of “leprous people”—there is no Greek word corresponding to the English “leper,” just as there is no Greek word corresponding to the English “demoniac” (Greek speaks of “people possessed by a demon”) and there is no Greek word corresponding to the English “paralytic” (Greek speaks of “people who are lame or paralyzed”).

Following the idiom of New Testament Greek, this version does not identify people by their conditions, but uses the adjectives that are found in the Greek original. Matthew 11:5 is rendered, “those who are blind receive their sight, those who are lame walk, the people with leprosy are cleansed, those who are deaf hear, ... and those who are poor have good news brought to them.”

“Slaves” Or “Enslaved People”

Just as this version speaks of “blind people” and “people with leprosy” instead of “the blind” and “lepers,” following the Greek idiom, so it also refers to “enslaved people” instead of “slaves.” If one uses the word “slave,” one speaks not of a condition of a human being who also has other conditions, but one speaks of a human being’s full identity, as though everything important had been said about a person who is identified as a “slave.” But the term “enslaved person” says only that a person about whom many different things might be said is, among other things, enslaved. So this version uses the latter term.

As examples of changes made in this version, we may look at the parable of the Wicked Tenants (Mat. 21:33-46) where, instead of the landowner sending “his slaves” to the tenants (NRSV of Mat. 21:34), the landowner sends “those enslaved to him”; and in this version, the centurion has “a person who is enslaved to him,” rather than “a slave” (Luke 7:2).

The Gospel of John and the Johannine Letters

“The Jews” In John

The term “the Jews” is used frequently in the Gospel of John, and in two different ways: (1) It is used in a straightforward, historical way to refer to the ethnic people, of whom Jesus was one. (2) It is used to connote unbelieving people or hostile groups. A good case can be made for the argument that “the Jews” in John is often a code-word for religious people (including Christians) who misunderstand the identity of the One who comes from God and is returning to God. “The Jews” are religious people who miss the revelation.

In this version when “the Jews” is used to refer to the ethnic people, it remains unchanged. When it is used to refer to unbelieving people, it is rendered “the religious authorities,” or simply the “leaders” or “authorities,” in order to minimize what could be perceived as a warrant for anti-Jewish bias.

Jesus As The “Son”

In the Gospel of John, preeminently, Jesus is the “Son,” without any modifiers. Only twice in the synoptics (Mark 13:32; Mat. 11:27=Luke 10:22), once in Paul (1 Cor. 15:28), and five times in Hebrews (1:2, 8; 3:6; 5:8; 7:28) does the term “the Son” occur, but it appears twenty-four times in the Johannine literature. Paul’s usual expression is “his [God’s] Son.” Thus Jesus as “the Son” is a major theme of Johannine theology and christology, being used to designate the deeper and mysterious dimensions of Jesus’ work on earth.

A “son” is a male offspring, and the historical person Jesus was, of course, a man. But that Jesus was a male person was not thought in the early church to have christological significance, or significance for salvation. It was not Jesus’ maleness that was believed to save males, but Jesus’ humanness that was believed to save human beings. As was said by many theologians in the early church, what was not assumed (by Jesus) was not saved. When Jesus is called “Son of God,” it is not Jesus’ masculinity that is being designated, but Jesus’ relation to God, “the Father.” As Gregory of Nazianzus wrote in the fourth century: “Father is not a name either of an essence or of an action, ... but it is the name of the relation in which the Father stands to the Son, and the Son to the Father” (The Third Theological Oration 15).

If the fact that Jesus was a “son” and not a “daughter” has no theological significance, then we are justified in rendering the Greek huios (usually “son”) as “Child” or “Child of God” instead of “Son” when it occurs in a christological sense. In this version gender-specific pronouns are not used when referring to the “Child,” thus enabling all readers to identify themselves with Jesus’ humanity. When Jesus is identified as “Son,” believers, as heirs, become “sons”; but when Jesus is identified as “Child,” believers become “children of God”—both women and men.

The Pauline Letters

Most of the changes in the Pauline letters are made either with respect to masculine pronouns referring to God or Christ, or with respect to Paul’s many uses of the metaphors “Father,” “Son,” and “Lord.” As we have done in the New Testament generally, so in the Pauline letters we substitute the antecedents, “God” or “Christ” for masculine pronouns, or we change the syntax and drop the pronoun. For example, in Rom. 8:11 of the NRSV “he who raised Christ from the dead” becomes in this version “the one who raised Christ from the dead”; in Rom. 6:10 “the death he died” becomes “the death Christ died”; in Rom. 1:9 “his Son” becomes “God’s Child.”

With regard to the metaphors “Father,” “Son,” and “the Lord,” we usually substitute “Father-Mother” for “Father,” and the “Child” for the “Son.” Where “Lord” is ambiguous, it is retained in Paul’s letters, as elsewhere in the New Testament. For example, in Rom. 10:13 Paul writes, “Everyone who calls on the name of the Lord shall be saved.” It cannot be said with assurance that Paul is referring either to God exclusively, or to Christ exclusively. In favor of a reference to God, who cannot be excluded entirely as an antecedent, is the fact that Paul is quoting Joel 2:32, where “the Lord” is obviously a reference to God. But Paul, like other early Christian writers, often takes words from the Hebrew Scriptures and applies them to Christ, as he does in this passage, in which he goes on to talk about the one who has been proclaimed—that is, of course, Christ. So we have here a double reference, and only the word “Lord” allows that. The word “Lord” can be used as a bridge word that may refer to both God and Christ.

But if it is clear that when Paul writes “Lord” he is referring to God, we exchange “God” for “the Lord”—for example, at 1 Cor. 3:20. Here Paul is quoting Psalm 94:11 that refers to “the Lord,” who is, of course, “God”; and in the context of 1 Cor. 3:19-20 Paul is dealing with the wisdom and foolishness of God, so “the Lord,” not only in the psalm but also in Paul’s letter, is “God.”

Second, if it is clear that when Paul writes “Lord” he is referring to “Christ,” we exchange “Christ” for “Lord.” For example, at 1 Cor. 6:14, where NRSV reads, “God raised the Lord,” this version reads “God raised Christ,” because it is obvious that by “the Lord” Paul is referring here to Christ and not to God.

“Circumcision” And “Uncircumcision” And Related Terms

The term “circumcision” in the Bible refers both to a physical characteristic that can only apply to males and to a moral or spiritual character that can apply to both men and women. It is also used, as in the post-Pauline passage at Eph. 2:11, as a near-synonym for “the Jews,” just as “the uncircumcision” means “non-Jews.”

Because the image is so deeply embedded in Paul’s thought, we have generally left the term unchanged even when it could be taken to apply to both men and women in a spiritual sense. In several instances, however, we have changed “the uncircumcision” to “those outside the law” and “the circumcision” to “those under the law” (see Gal. 2:7, 8).

The Post-Pauline Letters

Colossians, Ephesians, 1 and 2 Timothy, Titus, 1 and 2 Peter, Jude

These letters contain lists of obligations and responsibilities of various members of households, particularly those pertaining to the relations of wives to their husbands and enslaved people to their masters. The early church took over from Hellenistic Judaism a scheme of ethical instruction that had come down from the popular philosophy of the ancient world. It reiterated those instructions intact, occasionally adding to them some elements derived from the Christian faith.

The instructions include exhortations to wives to be “subject” or “submissive” to their husbands, or to “accept the authority” of their husbands (Eph. 5:22; Col. 3:18; Titus 2:5; 1 Pet. 3:1, as translated in NRSV). The same Greek verb, hypotasso, lies behind all the above passages, though it is translated in different ways in the NRSV. The verb means “to be subject or subordinate to,” “to obey,” as it is often translated; but it also occurs in the sense of voluntarily yielding oneself to another in love. That is clearly its meaning, for example, in 1 Cor. 16:16 where Paul urges Christians in Corinth to “put themselves at the service of” (NRSV) people such as the members of the household of Stephanas, and of “everyone who works and toils with them.” The verb that NRSV translates “put themselves at the service of” is hypotasso, and the same verb occurs in a similar sense also in Eph. 5:21, though NRSV does not recognize that meaning in the Ephesians passage. But plainly hypotasso does not always mean “to be subject to,” or “to obey.”

It is in light of this second meaning of hypotasso that the same meaning is given it here in Colossians, Ephesians, Titus, and 1 Peter in passages where the verb is used to describe the proper relationship of wives to their husbands. In this version the verb is rendered “be committed to.” So, for example, Col. 3:18 becomes “Wives, be committed to your husbands” (see also Eph. 5:22; Titus 2:5; 1 Pet. 3:1, 5). In order to reflect the somewhat different situation of enslaved persons, hypotasso in Titus 2:9 is rendered “Tell those who are enslaved to accept the authority of those who enslave them” (see also 1 Pet. 2:18).

Against the obvious intention of the authors of these New Testament books, the above passages are all too frequently used to justify men’s abuse of women, and they have also been used to justify the condition of slavery. It is in light of the misuse of such biblical passages, based on traditional translations, that they have been rendered here differently, but in a way allowed by the original Greek.

Colossians and Ephesians also exhort children to “obey” (NRSV) their parents (Col. 3:20; Eph. 6:1), and “slaves” to “obey” (NRSV) their “masters” (Col. 3:22; Eph. 6:5). The Greek verb that the NRSV translates “obey” is hypakouo, which also has the meaning of “hearing sympathetically,” or “listening to,” or “heeding.” In this version it is rendered “heed” in the above passages: “Children, heed your parents” (Col. 3:20; Eph. 6:1); “You who are enslaved, heed your earthly masters” (Col. 3:22; Eph. 6:5). Once again, the rendition here is different from what one usually finds, but it is entirely permitted by the original Greek words.

The Letter to the Hebrews

This version incorporates the usual changes in the text of the letter to the Hebrews, but Hebrews also contains a passage in which the change that has been made deserves some discussion. In the twelfth chapter of Hebrews the author talks about the paideia (verb paideuo) of God. What is the meaning of that Greek word?

The Revised Standard Version and the New Revised Standard Version translate the word as “discipline,” both the noun and the verb: “Endure trials for the sake of discipline. God is treating you as children; for what child is there whom a parent does not discipline?” (Heb. 12:7, NRSV). Earlier translations spoke of “chastening.” The King James of Heb. 12:7 is: “If ye endure chastening, God dealeth with you as with sons; for what son is he whom the father chasteneth not?” “Chasten” is not a word that is used often these days, but “discipline” has to be very carefully defined if it is to represent accurately the intent of the author. Unfortunately, a parent’s right to “discipline” children too easily becomes in our day justification for unmitigated abuse. Because this passage in Hebrews is sometimes misused to justify such abuse, this version renders the Greek word differently.

The New Revised Standard Version also translates the noun paideia (or the verb) differently in other contexts. For example, in Acts 7:22 it is translated “instructed”; in Acts 22:3 “educated”; in 1 Tim. 1:20 “learn”; in 2 Tim. 2:25 “correcting”; in 2 Tim. 3:16 and Titus 2:12 “training.” The Greek word has a number of shades of meaning, many of them used in the NRSV, and therefore this version of Hebrews 12 renders the Greek by “guide” and “guidance.”

The Revelation to John

The author of the Revelation to John employed many vivid images and strands of mythical folklore in telling his cosmic story. This version faithfully represents those images and does not disguise them by concealing gender. In Rev. 12:1-6, for example, there is no attempt to obscure the gender of the cosmic woman “clothed with the sun, with the moon under her feet,” nor to mask the point that she gives birth to a “son, a male child,” spoken of centuries earlier in the second psalm.

As is the case with the images of the devil, Satan, and angels, found in other New Testament writings, none of them is identified in the Revelation to John with a gender. But the Revelation to John also uses other images that are largely, if not entirely, distinctive to it—the dragon, “that ancient serpent,” two beasts, and the Lamb as an image for Christ. No gender is ascribed to any of these images in this version.

The Psalms

The book of the Psalms is the best-known and most-used of all of the books of the Hebrew Scriptures. It is used in public worship and private devotion. It is certainly to be included among the masterpieces of world literature. It is the only book of the Bible whose entire content is addressed to God. We have attended closely to these considerations as we have rephrased the Psalms in inclusive language.

“LORD” in the Psalms

The two most common names for God in the Hebrew Bible are Yahweh and Elohim. While they are in a way synonymous (see p. xii), Elohim is always translated as “God,” and Yahweh as “Lord,” in the NRSV. Yahweh does not properly mean Lord; “the one who causes to come into existence” or a similar phrase would be more accurate. Lord is a convention adopted by the Jews probably in order to avoid pronouncing the divine name, which they regarded as sacred. It represents the Hebrew Adonai, and was translated as kyrios in the ancient Greek version, or Septuagint (see p. xiii). This inclusive version usually uses “God” for Yahweh and “God” for Elohim.

On occasion, Yahweh is rendered as “Creator”—probably closer to the original meaning of the name. “Most High” is a term often used for God. Where it seemed appropriate, “Most High” has been used for Yahweh (as in Psalms 20:7; 33:12; 56:10). Similar considerations resulted in the use of “the Holy One” (Psalm 106:48).

When the psalmist speaks of God’s concern for the poor and needy, and of God’s coming to their rescue and delivering them with power, we have generally used “Lord,” as in Psalms 35:9, 10; 70:1; 86:1, 17; 147:6. In many modern versions, the exultant Hallelujah! has been translated as “Praise the Lord!” While this is certainly a correct translation, we have retained “Hallelujah!” in many instances, and have rendered it as “Praise God!” in other places. “Hallelujah!” is used in Psalms where it has been traditional, especially in that category of Psalms known as “Hallel (Praise) Psalms.”

Other Terms

As noted on p. xiv, when God is referred to as “king,” either “sovereign,” as in Psalms 5:2; 44:9, or “ruler,” 24:7ff., is used. When the term “king” refers to a human ruler, we have sometimes kept “king,” as in Psalms 45:1, 5; 72:10f.; 89:27. In other places we have used “ruler,” as in Psalms 21:1; 48:4. The term “kingdom” has been replaced by “dominion” as discussed above (p. xiv); see, for instance, Psalms 22:28; 103:19; 145:11ff.

In current usage, the word “fear” suggests fright, even terror. Except in rare instances, this is not the intention of the phrases “to fear God” or “the fear of God.” The word “fear” has been replaced by “to revere,” as in Psalms 22:25; 61:5; 128:1, or “reverence,” as in Psalms 19:9; 36:1; 111:10, or “to be in awe,” as in Psalms 40:3; 60:4; 119:38.

The term “right hand” used of God is, of course, a metaphor. It is not to be interpreted literally. The church does not teach that God, literally, has a back and front side, or a right and left side, or hands. In the Bible the metaphor “right hand” has at least two connotations.

It speaks of power. When Moses and the Israelites “sang this song to God”: “Your right hand, O God, glorious in power—your right hand, O God, shattered the enemy” (Exod. 15:1, 6), the significance of the “right hand” of God is clear. The same connotation is exhibited also in Psalm 63:8, “Your right hand upholds me.” The psalmist is praising God for God’s “power and glory” that sustain life (see v 2). Where the “right hand” of God points to the power or might of God, as often in the Psalms, “mighty” or “powerful” hand of God is frequently substituted for “right” hand.

There are also, however, passages where the “right hand” connotes proximity or nearness. When, for example, we read: “I keep God always before me; because God is at my right hand, I shall not be moved” (Psalm 16:8), the point is surely that God is beside me, very near, so I am safe. Hence, in some passages, in the interest of clarification, the metaphor “at the right hand” has been rendered “beside” or “near.”

When, however, “right” is not used figuratively, but literally, it is not altered.

May this volume provide direction and sustenance to those who long for justice, and who believe that the gospel, as represented in the canon, provides a way, and does not disappoint.


The Editors