From The NRSV To The New NIV: Why Gender-Neutral Language Represents An Enforced Agenda Rather Than A Natural Evolution -- By: Louis Markos

Journal: Journal for Biblical Manhood and Womanhood
Volume: JBMW 17:1 (Spring 2012)
Article: From The NRSV To The New NIV: Why Gender-Neutral Language Represents An Enforced Agenda Rather Than A Natural Evolution
Author: Louis Markos


From The NRSV To The New NIV:
Why Gender-Neutral Language
Represents An Enforced Agenda
Rather Than A Natural Evolution

Louis Markos

Professor in English
Scholar in Residence
Houston Baptist University
Houston, Texas

One of the many services rendered by Professor C. S. Lewis was to remind us of a fact that had been obscured by two centuries of Enlightenment propaganda—that the Medievals knew that the earth was round. Now, in saying this, Lewis did not mean to imply that grade school instructors who dutifully teach their students that everyone before Galileo and Columbus thought the earth was flat are promoting an anti-medieval agenda. Most are merely carrying on something that was instilled in them by their instructors. Just so, to say that the NRSV was put together in accordance with a feminist agenda intent on blurring the God-given distinctions between the sexes is not to say that all who use or advocate the NRSV are feminists in disguise.

Nevertheless, whatever the motives are of those who promote the NRSV (and other gender-neutral translations), the fact remains that the NRSV had an agenda, and that agenda included changing the English language so as to eventually eliminate the use of “he” as the gender-inclusive pronoun and of “man/mankind” to refer collectively to the human race (a traditional practice authorized by Gen 1:27 and 5:2, where God refers to “them,” Adam and Eve, as “Adam”). When the NRSV was first published, gender-neutral usage was not at all common; indeed, the NRSV did not reflect a change in language but was intended to foster and produce a change.

This intention is stated boldly and unapologetically in the Preface to the NRSV:

During the almost half a century since the publication of the RSV, many in the churches have become sensitive to the danger of linguistic sexism arising from the inherent bias of the English language towards the masculine gender, a bias that in the case of the Bible has often restricted or obscured the meaning of the original text. The mandates from the Division specified that, in references to men and women, masculine-oriented language should be eliminated as far as this can be done without altering passages that reflect the historical situation of ancient patriarchal culture.

The phrase, “danger of linguistic sexism,” is a telling one; it makes clear that the changes made to the translation were not done primarily for the sake of clarity but to justify an agenda. Note as well that the “mandates from the Division specified” that traditional gender usage was to be proscribed in all but a very a small number of cases. In many ways, the NRSV sets itself against...

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