Overview of The Gender-Neutral Bible Controversy -- By: Rob Lister

Journal: Journal for Biblical Manhood and Womanhood
Volume: JBMW 06:1 (Spring 2001)
Article: Overview of The Gender-Neutral Bible Controversy
Author: Rob Lister


Overview of The Gender-Neutral Bible Controversy

Rob Lister

Managing Editor, Journal for Biblical Manhood and Womanhood, Louisville, Kentucky

The Gender-Neutral Bible Controversy: Muting the Masculinity of God’s Words. By Vern S. Poythress and Wayne A. Grudem. Nashville: Broadman & Holman Publishers, 2000, 377 pp., $19.99.

The aim of this article is not primarily to produce a full-scale academic book review. Rather, it is more simply to provide a brief overview of the contents of The Gender-Neutral Bible Controversy,1 and to commend to our readership its clear-minded insights regarding the translation of gendered language in Scripture.2 Indeed, since it appears that this debate will continue into the foreseeable future, all thoughtful Christians (clergy and laity alike) committed to the inerrancy and authority of Scripture need to become informed of the issues, the arguments, and the stakes. To that end, The Gender-Neutral Bible Controversy offers considerable help. Moreover, in working through the issues, Wayne Grudem and Vern Poythress also cleared up a great deal of inaccuracy and misrepresentation that has characterized much of the recent literature.

In the first chapter, Grudem and Poythress introduce the debate over gender-neutral translations, and they lay out the basic points of emphasis that they intend to pursue in the remainder of the volume. From the outset, the authors make it clear that their concern (contrary to accusations of some) centers on the matter of accuracy in Bible translation (p. 4). Accordingly, this is the primary end to which the authors labor in this book, and their fundamental contention is that in many cases the gender-neutral translations fail to present the most accurate renderings.

In laying out the parameters of their engagement, Grudem and Poythress note that they are not addressing the “radical-feminist versions” that have attempted to undermine the “Fatherhood of God” (p. 5). Rather, they are primarily concerned to interact with translations that retain the traditional language about God, but “generally eliminate generic ‘he,’ avoid using the word ‘man’ as a name for the human race, and systematically exclude many instances of male-oriented words such as ‘father,’ ‘son,’ ‘brother,’ and ‘man’” where Grudem and Poythress contend that “a male component of meaning is present in the original text…” (p. 5). After arguing that the term “gender neutral” is the most accurate description of such translations (pp. 5–6), the authors demonstrate their even-handedness in the chapter conclusion...

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