Gender In Bible Translation -- By: Vern Sheridan Poythress
Gender In Bible Translation
How Fallacies Distort Understanding Of The New Testament Gender Passages
How do we handle gender in English Bible translation? A special meeting in Colorado Springs on May 27, 1997, convened by Dr. James C. Dobson, produced the “Colorado Springs Guidelines for Translation of Gender-Related Language in Scripture”1 (hereafter CSG). Those guidelines criticize some of the practices of existing “gender-inclusive” translations.2 But other people disagree with the guidelines and defend gender-inclusive translation. The discussion continues to grow, so that it is difficult to keep track of all its strands.
I propose to focus on a common pattern belonging to quite a few of the passages whose translation is disputed. The disputed passages use a male human being or a word with a male semantic component in order to articulate a general principle. Let us consider some of the disputed translation practices in detail.
In Greek the word aner usually has the sense of husband or man (male human being).3 Until recently, English translations included the male semantic component in translation. But the new gender-inclusive translations show some changes.
In Acts 1:21 Peter discusses the replacement of Judas: “Therefore it is necessary to choose one of the men (aner) who have been with us…” (New International Version [NIV] 1984). But in the New International Version Inclusive Language Edition (NIVI 1996) and in the New Living Translation (NLT 1996) “men” becomes “one of those” (NIVI) or “someone else” (NLT). The change is theologically significant because it no longer conveys in English the Greek evidence that Peter did not think that a woman could be an apostle. In Acts 20:30 Paul warns the elders at Ephesus about false teachers: “Even from your own number men (aner) will arise and distort the truth…” (NIV). Indirectly Paul indicates that the elders were all men. This theologically significant detail drops out in the New Revised Standard Version (NRSV 1993), NIVI, and NLT.
Male marking also drops out in some other places. “A wise man” (aner) building his house on the rock becomes “a person who builds…” (NLT Mat. 7:24). In Acts 11:20 “men” (aner) who brought the gospel to Antioch become “believers” (NLT).
Some people would claim ...
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