Thursday, August 17, 2006


My biggest concerns with the TNIV (to answer a comment to the previous post) are when the change to gender neutrality has Christological implications:

TNIV: For since death came through a human being, the resurrection of the dead comes also through a human being.

TNIV: he protects all their bones, not one of them will be broken.


Blogger R. Mansfield said...

The first verse you referenced in 1 Cor 15:21. The word in question (man or human) is ἄνθρωπος/anthropos in the Greek which has a primary meaning of person or human. The emphasis in the theology of the verse is on Jesus' humanity, not his manhood. Therefore, the TNIV's rendering is quite accurate.

Regarding Psalm 34:20, I would refer you to where the following explanation is given:

But it is alleged that this has created an inner-canonical problem, since this verse is quoted in John 19:36 as applying to Jesus—that it is "fulfilled" in Jesus' experience. However, it should be noted, first, that it is not certain that John quotes Ps. 34:20. He may be referring to the provisions for the Passover Lamb, as found in Exod. 12:46 and Num. 9:12. But even if Ps. 34:20 is being quoted, the connection between the two passages is still clear enough. That Jesus is preeminently the Righteous One, and so fulfills the description of "the (generic) righteous" of Psalm 34, experiencing with them God's care for "the righteous," should be obvious to all careful readers of the Bible. Moreover, quotations of the OT in the NT are generally not exact, so that the shift from the plural of the TNIV of Ps. 34:20 to the singular of John 19:36 should not obscure the connection. Note, for example, how NT writers occasionally change OT singular references to plurals (compare Isa. 52:7 with Rom. 10:15; Ps. 36:1 with Rom. 3:10,18; Ps. 32:1 with Rom. 4:6-7). Do such changes "obscure" the connections between the OT and NT passages? Of course not. Moreover, entirely apart from the gender issue, the shift from singular to plural in this verse is actually a gain in that it makes clearer to the reader that the reference in Ps. 34:20 is generic rather than particular, and that in John 19:36 the author of the Gospel was applying this generic statement about "the righteous" to Jesus as the supreme Righteous One.

9:11 PM  
Blogger Peter Kirk said...

Kletos, on 1 Corinthians 15:21 the "change" is not in TNIV but in the English language. When the KJV translators wrote "Since by man came death, by man came also the resurrection of the dead", they probably intended to be understood, and actually were understood, in a gender generic way. Note that KJV has "man", not "a man" which is the RSV and NIV reading. Even now "man" without the article is commonly understood in a gender generic sense for "humanity", and so it seems clear to me that KJV intended a gender generic understanding - although I think a rather dubious one, for the point here is surely not that death and resurrection came by humanity in general, but that each came by one particular man. In RSV, as commonly in English of the 1950s, even "a man" is regularly used in a completely gender generic sense, and that was probably the RSV translators' intention here. But over just a few decades this usage has become almost obsolete, such that "a man" is now understood to imply that the person is certainly male. Thus the RSV reading, read today, is no longer understood as it was when that version was published. This is why TNIV, like NRSV before it, has replaced "a man" by "a human being". This is not at all a change of meaning, but simply restores the meaning of the passage to what was intended by the RSV translators.

I don't think it has ever been a part of normal Christian theology, at least until the innovations of Wayne Grudem and his associates, that the maleness of Christ has been considered significant. What is highly theologically significant is his humanity. He is able to save women as well as men because the humanity he assumed was not specifically male. Thus it is a definite improvement in this verse that the focus is taken off Christ's irrelevant maleness and restored to what is really significant, his humanity.

5:34 PM  
Blogger John said...


I would agree with you that the change to gender neutral renderings has broader implications - even Christological implications. The translators of the TNIV would not intend to blur typoogical texts, but that is the the result of their acquiescing to the postmodern pressure to nullify gender distinctions.

"Wouldn't you want the translation to be understandable to the common man?" - is the common question. Yes! But please don't imply that a moderately educated doesn't understand the generic use of "he" and so on. I work with marginally literate inner city youth, and the gender specific Bibles are not a problem. In fact, the language is gender specific in the same way that their speach is gender specific.

Surely educated folks like ourselves wouldn't be hindered in our understanding of the text if these children aren't. We read much more jumbled material in our institutions of higher learning. With that issue in the background, my prejudice would be for a translation that renders the original texts as accurately as possible. The autographs were inspired to the iota and dot so I would dare say Christ's maleness is not irrelevant under the rubric of the plenary verbal inspiration of Scripture.

Kletos, you might enjoy Vern Poythress. He is not only a quite competent scholar. I happen to know that he is a very godly fellow, which does make a difference when I read him.

You are probably aware of CBMW's material as well as Kept the Faith. However, you can look at them if you haven't yet.

Your friend,


10:23 PM  
Blogger R. Mansfield said...

Kletos and John,

I had a very interesting experience that helped changed my view on the issue of gender accuracy in translation.

Until recently I taught high school Bible in a very conservative Baptist sponsored private school. This was a fairly large school of about 750 students (as opposed to some Christian schools of 30 kids in the church basement).

While studying creation, one day we read Genesis 1:27, probably in the NIV.

"So God created man in his own image, in the image of God he created him; male and female he created them."

A female student in the back of the class raised her hand and made the comment, "Mr. Mansfield, I didn't know women were made in God's image!" I stared at her incredulously.

"What?" I asked.

"I didn't know that women were made in God's image until I saw the second half of this verse. All I've ever heard is that 'MAN is made in God's image.'"

I still couldn't believe what I was hearing. Was she kidding or serious? Was she just not the sharpest tack in the box? So I asked the rest of the class, "How many of you thought only men were made in God's image?" At least a third of the class (of probably around 24 or so students) raised their hands, and most of them were young ladies.

You should also know regarding this school that in general, these were very smart kids. They always ranked in the top five schools of the county in regard to their test scores, including the public schools. I was amazed that these sharp kids wouldn't realize that when they heard "Man is made in God's image" that it referred to both males and females.

Unfortunately, our language has changed. We can't take for granted anymore that everyone--especially those in younger generations--understands masculine universals. Can you imagine what it did to these young ladies' concept of self to think that their male peers were made in God's image, but they were not? Such misunderstandings are extremely disturbing to me.

And that's the issue--this is a misunderstanding based on the ENGLISH language. We already have the task of bridging God's Word across language and culture. My greatest concern is that we can communicate the Bible clearly and effectively. It doesn't matter if personally I would tend to be a bit conservative in my use of language. It doesn't matter if my preference in Bibles is a formal equivalent version. What's important is that my audience with whom I'm trying to teach God's Word doesn't have any extra impediment to their hearing the Gospel message. They need to hear it clearly and effectively in language, words, and terms that they understand.

John, I would agree with you that Kletos should read Poythress, but he should also read the other side.

Have either of you ever read these two books:

D. A. Carson, The Inclusive Langauge Debate: A Plea for Realism

Mark Strauss, Distorting Scripture?: The Challenge of Bible Translation & Gender Accuracy

See, here's what I've found in my experience. Those who are opposed to gender accuracy in translation are opposed usually for one of two reasons. (1) Someone like James Dobson said not to read the TNIV so that's good enough for them. Or (2) They've read Poythress, Grudem, and Ryken and were convinced that gender accuracy was wrong.

But if you've only read these three gentlemen, you've only studied one side of the debate. I find that the average person who is opposed to gender accuracy has not read Carson and Strauss. And if that's the case you've only read half the argument.

If you were to look at my bookshelves you would find works by all five men. After reading everything that there pretty much is on the subject, I found Carson and Strauss much more convincing and they certainly had a better handle on the original languages.

I'd encourage you to at least read both sides. Even if in the end you don't agree with Carson and Strauss, you will be better informed on the subject.

8:47 AM  
Blogger John said...


It is wonderful that you had a great opportunity to correct some wrong views about creation. Youth as well as adults never cease to amaze me with their misunderstandings of the Scriptures. I have taught for the last eight years and cannot think of one occasion where gender specific language caused a misunderstanding of a doctrine or the Gospel. Yet, I have encountered wrong presuppositions about the Bible because of Bible ignorance or bad teaching.
Surely, you wouldn't argue to changing the trinitarian formula to Parent, Child, and Spirit even though the inspired gender specific language "may" cause someone to think God is a man. I am confident that you would teach them better rather than change God's self-relevating titles.

What people need, like my inner city youth, is sound Bible teaching and preaching. They can understand the gender specific language of their Bibles. It is worded with masculine universals - the way they talk, the way I talk, and probably the way you talk. Their misunderstandings arise from false presuppositions about the Scriptures or ignorance of the Scriptures. Additionally, the forced gender neutral paradigm obscures typological texts and prophecies. That can produce a misunderstanding of the Gospel if anything can as Kletos pointed out.

Brother, we both know that our language hasn't changed so significantly since 1984 (NIV) that we need a new Bible translation that is gender-neutral (TNIV). Our culture uses masculine universals so it seems our Bibles should too. We don't want to add an extra impediment to people's hearing the Gospel message. They need to hear it clearly and effectively in language, words, and terms that they understand.

Yes, it is helpful to read the other side. I really enjoy D. A. Carson. He is a wonderful scholar, a nice person, and surprisingly great preacher. I have Carson's work. I appreciate his desire to take a 'moderate position,' but this is one occasion I don't find him persuasive. I must sheepishly disagree with Dr. Carson. I have not read Strauss' book. However, I have a transcript of a debate between Poythress and Strauss. That was my introduction to Strauss. In my opinion, Dr. Carson provides a stronger argument for the gender-neutral translations than Strauss.

Rick, I have found that the issue is not a matter of who has the best grasp of the original languages or a better argument (Poythress or Carson; Strauss or Grudem). Christians come down on one side or the other based upon their preconceived attitudes toward the Scriptures. If we are honest with each other, we both know that people can understand the Bible whether they use the HCSV, NIV, ESV, or so on. Christians argue for or against the gender-neutral Bibles for other reasons.

More important than whether our culture does or doesn't use masculine language is - God's inspiration of the autographs with masculine univerals. I want my congregation's translation to capture the precise wording of the original text and the personal style of each Bible writer. I want it to let my congregation see as directly as possible the structure and meaning of the original becaure it is the Word of God. All this while it takes into account differences of grammar, syntax, and idiom between current literary English.

11:31 AM  
Blogger R. Mansfield said...

John, thank you for your friendly response. I appreciate it when we can discuss these issues and still treat and talk to each other charitably. I really mean that.

Here are a few minor thougts. I don't have time to be as long-winded as I was last time!

1. No, I wouldn't change the Trinitarian formula. That WOULD be political correctness, but the gender issue in the TNIV has never truly been about political correctness but gender accuracy. I can't fathom Douglas Moo, Bruce Waltke, or Gordon Fee striving for political correctness! Inclusive gender issues in the TNIV (as well as the NLT, NCV, Message, NRSV, etc. have only related to humans where the context is appropriate).

2. You referred more than once to this being a "gender neutral" issue. You realize, of course, that this phrase is a pejorative slur used by those who would oppose the above mentioned Bible versions. I could understand your not wanting to use the term "gender accurate," but at the very least "gender inclusivity" is more appropriate than gender neutral. Neutral would be "it" and "it" is a pronoun that does not apply to human beings. The goal of these translations is not neutrality but inclusivity (where the context warrants it).

3. You say that our language hasn't changed significantly since 1984 (technically the NIV was in near-final form in 1978, especially in its use of language; certain verses like John 1:18 was changed between the 1978 and 1984 editions). However, I would counter that our language has changed more in the last 30 years than it has changed in the previous 100 years, maybe more. I was an English major in my undergraduate, and I often teach grammar, writing, and literature part-time (helps put me through school!) at the college level. There have been very noticeable changes, and use of masculine universals is only one of them. We used to see about two decades between revisions of Bible translations. Regardless of the fact that most of us would agree we have too many, I predict that we are going to see major updates to our translations in half the time of the previous generations--ten years at best. Or we may see a series of quiet updates such as the ESV revision being released over the rest of this year and next.

4. You are right that Christians [often] argue for or against gender-[inclusive] Bibles for other reasons. But here's where I get aggravated... It annoys me when people make false claims about an otherwise good translation. The campaign against the TNIV has been shameful, petty, and at times hypocritical. Men [used in the sense of males :-)] whom I have always respected in the past have made outrageous claims against the TNIV and the Committee on Bible Translation. To go on national radio and claim that the TNIV translators had a feminst agenda, wanted to remove the masculinity of Christ, and playing with nonsensical slippery slope arguments--it's absolutley shameful. And for a chain of stores (which I used to work for and are still near to my heart) to "make a stand" against the TNIV and not sell it while still selling other translations guilty of the same thing (NLT, Message, NCV, NRSV, etc.) is downright hypocritical and also suspect once you factor in the release of their own new translation.

5. Your reference to "God's inspiration of the autographs with masculine universals" is a common misconception of the way these languages worked. If we're going to literally apply the gender of the words in the originals then we'd have to refer to the Holy Spirt as a "she" in the OT (ruach is feminine) and as an "it" (pneuma is neuter) in the NT. The first option would be idolatrous and the second would thrill the Jehovah's Witnesses. I'm not willing to do either because that's not how gender works in those languages. To stubbornly hold on to masculine universals in the BIble does two things I'm not willing to do. First it requires the reader to translate a second layer of meaning onto the word rendered by the original translator. The question has to be asked, "Is this refering to a male individual or male and female?" Yes, people are smart enough to figure out by the context in most cases (except my sophomore Bible students evidently), but that's causing the reader to stop unnecessarly. I tell my students that it's good to make their readers pause and reflect over a concept or argument in their writing, but it's not good for the readers to stumble over a word for lack of clarity. That's bad writing, and I would suggest bad translating.

The second problem with holding onto masculine universals is that it seemingly deifies a set segment of the English language much the way that KJV-only people will argue that God's Word can only be communicated in the Authorized Version. What do you do when translating the Bible into languages without masculine universals--do we require them to learn English so that they can know what the Scriptures really say? Surely not.

John, you say that you want your congregation to have a translation that captures the precise wording of the original text and the personal style of each BIble writer. I certainly agree. However I am suggesting that this level of clarity and accuracy takes place in a gender accurate translation moreso than translations of a generation ago. To translate in a way that reflects the intention of the biblical writer to address both male and female in a text is more literal and more accurate than not doing so.

4:10 PM  
Blogger Wayne Leman said...

John said:

More important than whether our culture does or doesn't use masculine language is - God's inspiration of the autographs with masculine univerals.

I'm not clear on what you have said here, John. What do you mean by "masculine universals"? Could you list a few examples? And are you referring to something in the Biblical languages or in English translations?

6:00 PM  
Blogger Suzanne McCarthy said...

I must say that as a Canadian, I bear a similarity to Carson in practice, and that is to routinely read academic literature in two languages in parallel for purposes apart from Bibilcal and theological.

I think that it is worth considering in Corinthians that 'man' really meant a human being. You quote 1 Cor. 15:21. Consider also verse 39, "For not all flesh is alike, but there is one kind for men, another for animals,..." Then read verses 42 to 50. The contrast is between the spritual and the physical nature, that is, the human and the heavenly nature. This is routinely expressed by anthropos.Using 'man' here to in any sense refer to the male over the female is tangential - a distraction from the point.

Christologcal implications are handled through concordance between OT and NT, another issue altogether.

It is worth noting that Philippians 2:7 - 8 became "Bearing the human likeness, revealed in human shape" in the New English Bible, 1961, which was emphatically not a feminist version. However, it was considered a scholarly version.

It is also interesting to note that the Berkely version, 1959, used 'human being' in this verse.

"he came like human beings, recognized in looks as a human being."

The notion that the TNIV has a 'feminist agenda' in its translation of any verse refering to Christ is ahistoric, and quite simply not true. It pains the translators, Fee, Waltke and Longenecker, whom I have known and heard teach, to hear others accuse them of any kind of 'agenda'.

And calling someone a 'huamn being' is not necessarily for the purpose of gender neutrality, it reflects the Greek, and points us in the direction of thinking about human qualities and frailties.

Someone is out there fussing about 1984 but that is not what actually happened. It is not about the transition from the NIV to the TNIV, it is about the many scholarly translations that were published in the time before 1984, from 1950 on.

Thanks to Rick and others who have been such stimulating commenters and interlocutors on the Better Bibles Blog, I have learned more than ever before about the history of Bible translation.

6:16 PM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

Okay, help me out here, R. Mansfield... Why would referring to the Holy Spirit as a "she" be blasphemous? (I agree that changing Father to Parent would be bad scholarship.)


8:21 AM  

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