What’s Wrong With “Gender Neutral” Bible Translations? -- By: Wayne Grudem

Journal: Journal for Biblical Manhood and Womanhood
Volume: JBMW 01:3 (Jun 1996)
Article: What’s Wrong With “Gender Neutral” Bible Translations?
Author: Wayne Grudem

What’s Wrong With “Gender Neutral” Bible Translations?

Wayne Grudem

A Review Of The New Revised Standard Version

Editor’s Note: this is a brief summary of a much longer unpublished article available from CBMW: see our “Books and Resources” list on page 15.

The publicity brochure of the New Revised Standard Version sounds so contemporary and sensible. At last, we are told, the misleading, masculine-oriented language has been removed from the Bible. No longer does Jesus say,

and I, when I am lifted up from the earth, will draw all men to myself John 12:32, RSV

but instead he says,

And I, when I am lifted up from the earth, will draw all people to myself ” John 12:32, NRSV

This is surely an improvement, as are other changes like it. In such cases, the word “man” or “men” is not required by the Greek text, and the new translation accurately translates the Greek pronoun pas (“all”). These are helpful changes which use gender inclusive language without sacrificing accuracy in translation.

But many other changes are not improvements at all. In fact, the NRSV translation committee was under a requirement to depart from its ordinary principles of literal translation in order to carry out one goal that was more important: eliminating “masculine-oriented language” wherever possible. I list below three kinds of verses where that principle has had seriously negative consequences.

1. The Phrase “Son Of Man”

The NRSV has systematically removed the phrase “son of man” from the Old Testament.

Especially troubling is the messianic passage in Daniel 7:

I saw in the night visions, and behold, with the clouds of heaven there came one like a son of man

Dan. 7:13, RSV

As I watched in the night visions, I saw one like a human being coming with the clouds of heaven

Dan. 7:13, NRSV

In the context of Daniel 7, this heavenly “son of man” is given everlasting dominion over “all peoples, nations, and languages” (Dan. 7:14, RSV), and it is clearly this passage to which Jesus refers when he tells the high priest,

Hereafter, you will see the Son of man seated at the right hand of Power, and coming on the clouds of heaven

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