Do Gender-Sensitive Translations Distort Scripture? Not Necessarily -- By: Darrell L. Bock

Journal: Journal of the Evangelical Theological Society
Volume: JETS 45:4 (Dec 2002)
Article: Do Gender-Sensitive Translations Distort Scripture? Not Necessarily
Author: Darrell L. Bock


Do Gender-Sensitive Translations Distort Scripture?
Not Necessarily

Darrell L. Bock*

* Darrell Bock is research professor of New Testament at Dallas Theological Seminary, 3939 Swiss Ave., Dallas, TX 75204.

The recent flap over Bible translation has the potential to split significantly the evangelical movement by introducing a kind of litmus test of orthodoxy about how Bibles are translated. A major question is whether or not the debate is being conducted in the most focused manner possible. This essay is an attempt to look at the debate at one of its most fundamental levels, the rendering of specific, controversial texts. Almost all of the examples raised in this essay are examples that have been cited as cases where improper gender-sensitive translation has taken place. I begin by explaining how translations differently approach such questions and describe themselves and then turn to look at examples of various types. Our question is a simple one: do gender-sensitive translations distort Scripture in places where those who have concerns about such translations claim they do? Is the current dispute much ado about nothing, much ado about something, or much ado about Bible translation gone astray?

The following remarks appear in a combination of outline and text. I hope to help Bible readers sort through the recent controversies tied to the discussion of gender issues in Bible translation. This discussion is not intended as an endorsement of any version. Examples focus on the recent release of the TNIV version as that version has been the particular focus of recent discussion. But other translations also make these kind of renderings and fall within the scope of this essay. The following remarks serve as an explanation of the issues tied to these recent controversies. The goal is that the reader appreciates the translation issues involved in the production of various Bible translations that relate to gender-sensitive renderings. Both sides in this debate have good intentions: each desires to render the Bible as clearly as possible to its English-speaking audience and is rightly concerned that such rendering carefully reflect the text’s meaning. That commitment to Scripture is why so much emotion has surfaced in the discussion. Clearly rendering the truth of God is the goal. Each side believes they are giving proper respect to the Word of God as God’s word to us. Examining the disputed texts one at a time helps us see if either goal is being unduly compromised.

I. On Approaches To Gender-Sensitive Translation

1. Two Approaches To Basic Translation Theory That Underlie The Debate.

To begin with, it is important to consider how the gender-sensitive translation...

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