Book Reviews -- By: Anonymous
TrinJ 23:1 (Spring 02) p. 111
Vern S. Poythress and Wayne A. Grudem. The Gender-Neutral Bible Controversy: Muting the Masculinity of God’s Words. Nashville: Broadman & Holman, 2000. xxix + 377 pp. $19.99.
Since the 1980s, an increasing number of new Bible translations (or revisions of existing ones) have been published that, because of their characteristic approach to (grammatical) gender, are often called “gender-neutral” translations (other terms are “gender-generic,” “gender-inclusive,” “inclusive language,” or, more sympathetically, “gender-accurate”). The approach to gender characteristic of these versions essentially amounts to something like this: whenever the Hebrew, Aramaic, or Greek original uses a masculine expression to refer to one or more persons that are meant to be understood as being either male or female, gender-specific expressions are to be avoided in the English translation. In order to achieve this, various (lexical and grammatical) strategies are employed: “humankind,” for instance, is generally preferred to “mankind,” “person” (when contextually appropriate) to “man,” “children” to “sons,” “brothers and sisters” to “brothers,” “they” or a semantically equivalent passive construction to gender-neutral “he,” etc. - a type of usage that has established itself widely outside the field of Bible translation, especially among writers and editors of academic prose who are particularly serious about avoiding gender bias (thought to be connected with the older usage). A point to be carefully noted is that in none of these (major) Bible translations has there been any changes in Scripture’s male-oriented references to God and Jesus.
Whereas the earlier gender-neutral translations such as the New Century Version/International Children’s Bible (1986/1987), the New Revised Standard Version (1990), or the Contemporary English Version (1995) went largely unnoticed or received only minor criticism, the situation changed in 1997 when it became clear that the publication of a gender-inclusive revision of the New International Version, the most widely used Bible translation, was imminent (a corresponding anglicized edition already being available in Great Britain). Sparked off by the cover story of the March 29, 1997 issue of the weekly news magazine World (“The Stealth Bible: The Popular New International Version is Quietly Going ‘Gender-Neutral’”), a major controversy started among evangelical Christians in North America involving many of the most respected leaders. A number of personalities - among these the theologians J. I. Packer, W. A. Grudem, R. C. Sproul, and John Piper - challenged the gender-neutral approach (to be adopted in the revised NIV) as definitely problematic, m...
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