All Things To All People -- By: J. Bruce Kilmer

Journal: Priscilla Papers
Volume: PP 17:1 (Winter 2003)
Article: All Things To All People
Author: J. Bruce Kilmer


All Things To All People

Why shouldn’t we accurately translate the Bible so it is clear in contexts that include both men and women?

J. Bruce Kilmer

Bruce Kilmer is a lawyer and regional court administrator for the Michigan Supreme Court. For more than a decade, he has served his home congregation, the Mt. Pleasant Community Church, Mt. Pleasant, MI, as an elder, teacher, worship planner, and drama ministry leader. Kilmer has been an outspoken advocate for the full inclusion of women in church life for 35 years.

Editor’s note: The question of whether to translate the Bible so that its inclusive message is perfectly clear is not new. The article here by Bruce Kilmer was first published in the Winter 1999/2000 issue of Integrity magazine (no longer published); the author’s discussion of inclusive language is more relevant now than ever.

Kilmer has updated his original article to include the publication this past year of Today’s New International Version (TNIV).

Making the Good News understandable: The NIVI (1995) and the TNIV (NT) (2002).

“If any man come to me . . .” (Luke 14:26; KJV);

“For we would not, brethren, have you ignorant . . .” (2 Cor. 1:8; KJV);

“That he would grant you, according to the riches of his glory, to be strengthened with might by his Spirit in the inner man” (Eph. 3:16; KJV);

“Finally, my brothers, rejoice in the Lord!” (Phil. 3:1; NIV);

“But as many as received him, to them gave he power to become the sons of God . . .” (John 1:12; KJV);

“For as many as are led by the Spirit of God, they are the sons of God” (Rom. 8:14: KJV);

“God of Our Fathers”

“Good Christian Men, Rejoice”

It is impossible for me to know the full effect on girls and women of a lifetime of hearing masculine nouns and pronouns in contexts and situations that were supposed to include all people and persons. The best I can do is compare it to situations I have experienced when language used did not apply to me or excluded me—such as in school when I knew I wasn’t included in a certain group, or in a foreign country when I knew I was not included in an invitation; or in a gathering of sectarian church members where I knew I was no longer accepted as one of the “ r...

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