Linguistic And Hermeneutical Fallacies In The Guidelines Established At The “Conference On Gender-Related Language In Scripture” -- By: Mark Strauss

Journal: Journal of the Evangelical Theological Society
Volume: JETS 41:2 (Jun 1998)
Article: Linguistic And Hermeneutical Fallacies In The Guidelines Established At The “Conference On Gender-Related Language In Scripture”
Author: Mark Strauss


Linguistic And Hermeneutical Fallacies
In The Guidelines Established
At The “Conference On Gender-Related Language In Scripture”

Mark Strauss*

* Mark Strauss is associate professor of New Testament and Greek at Bethel Seminary San Diego, 6116 Arosa Avenue, San Diego, CA 92115.

I. Providing Context To The Guidelines: The NIVI Controversy

“The Stealth Bible: The Popular New International Version Bible Is Quietly Going ‘Gender-Neutral.’” So trumpeted the March 29, 1997, cover of World magazine. The feature article, written by assistant editor Susan Olasky, claimed that by the year 2000 or 2001 the NIV’s Committee on Bible Translation (CBT) planned to substitute a gender-neutral version for the present one. “Say goodbye to the generic he, man, brothers, or mankind,” Olasky wrote. “Make way for people, person, brother and sister, and humankind.” She pointed out that an NIV inclusive-language edition (NIVI) had already been published in 1995 in Great Britain and would soon be introduced into the North American market.

Olasky’s description of the NIVI as the “stealth” Bible, together with her claim that the translators were “quietly going ‘gender neutral,’” gave the World article an air of intrigue and scandal. The article’s repeated use of the explosive term “unisex” to describe the translation, together with its link to creeping feminism in the Church, provided all the ingredients for controversy. The article created a sensation. Complaints began to pour in at the International Bible Society (IBS), which holds the NIV copyright, and Zondervan Publishing House, the NIV publisher. One man even drilled holes through several NIVs and sent them to the IBS.1 Zondervan and the IBS moved rapidly for damage control, releasing press statements explaining the reason for the revisions. This was not an issue of a radical feminist agenda, they argued, but about keeping the NIV both accurate and contemporary. Gender-inclusive language was being introduced only when changes in the English language warranted it. Since the generic term “man” no longer meant “men and women” for many readers, more inclusive terms like “person” were being used.

These explanations did little to reassure critics. Public opposition grew as influential voices and organizations entered the fray. When the family-advocacy organization Focus on the Family learned that its own Odyssey

Bible (which uses the text of the International Children’s Bible) contained gender-inclusive language, they pulled it from the ...

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