Gender-Language Issues In The NIV 2011: A Response To Vern Poythress -- By: Mark L. Strauss

Journal: Westminster Theological Journal
Volume: WTJ 74:1 (Spring 2012)
Article: Gender-Language Issues In The NIV 2011: A Response To Vern Poythress
Author: Mark L. Strauss

Gender-Language Issues In The NIV 2011:
A Response To Vern Poythress

Mark L. Strauss

Mark L. Strauss is Professor of New Testament at Bethel Seminary San Diego, San Diego, Calif.

I am grateful for the opportunity to respond to Dr. Poythress’s review of the NIV 2011 and its use of “gender-neutral” (I would say, “gender-accurate”) language.1 Dr. Poythress’s review is clear and irenic, avoiding much of the misinformation, attribution of motives, and inflammatory rhetoric that so often characterizes this issue in the popular Christian press. For this dispassionate tone I am most grateful.

I have been on the Committee on Bible Translation (CBT) for the NIV since 2005, but have been writing about gender language in Bible translation since 1996. I am a complementarian, and my interest in this subject arose not because of any particular view on gender relations in the church and the home, but because it seemed to me those opposing gender-accurate Bible versions were basing their arguments on faulty linguistics and poor hermeneutics. I can say from firsthand experience on the CBT that every gender-related decision is based on the goal of accurately reproducing the biblical author’s meaning. No decision is ever made to avoid offense, to be politically correct, or to promote a feminist agenda.

I appreciate that Dr. Poythress has affirmed some positive changes in the NIV 2011 over the TNIV (pp. 80–82). Because of space constraints, I will not repeat his points on these improvements. It should be noted, however, that since his review concerns only gender issues, he does not note the thousands of improvements of the 2011 edition over the 1984 in non-gender related issues. This revision comprises twenty-seven years of improvements related to advances in biblical scholarship, interpretive clarification, and English style. I suppose the extolling of these vast improvements will have to wait for another review.

I. General Observations About The Review

Before moving to specific concerns related to Dr. Poythress’s review, I would like to make two general observations. (1) First, most of his review concerns what he considers to be the loss of very small (even “tiny”) nuances of meaning resulting from the NIV 2011’s use of gender-inclusive language. Scattered throughout

the review are phrases like “a slight difference,” “a small nuance,” and “a tiny difference.” The problem with this approach—as anyone who has ever translated a text from one language into another knows—is that every translation entails some loss of meaning. As the say...

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