Monday, September 7, 2009

"gender neutrality is out in new Bible"

This headline, buried next to a huge Vons ad on page A19, LA Times, Sept 6, 2009, caught my eye. The president of Biblica, Keith Danby, was quoted, "If we want to maintain the NIV as a Bible that English speakers around the world can understand, we have to listen to and respect the vocabulary they are using today."

2011 will be the dawn of this new vocabulary that is forcing a change upon the editors of the NIV. So drastic the change will be, the TNIV, a version that has sought to bring up to date the original intent of biblical authors by including women in traditionally male references, will be phased out. The TNIV, of course, does this without taking away from the gender of the Second Person of the Trinity (born a son), or of messing with the Fatherhood of God. The TNIV, under attack for years by misguided and mis-representative assertions, has simply sought to present a reading and text that were clearly in the vocabulary of modern people (see, I even said it; should I had better said "modern man").

So what is this current vocabulary that "English speakers around the world" are clamoring for? Evidently, a return to a time when male words were used to include all - like "mankind" and "men of faith." I supposed those who editorially control the NIV have caved into pressure from people who claim to represent "English speaking people around the world," who claim to believe that contemporary (dare I say Postmodern?) people could not understand a phrase that includes women as well as men?

Take Matthew 7:4, for example. Here are the translations:
Confusing TNIV: How can you say, "Let me take the speck out of your eye," when all the time there is a plank in your own eye?
Clarifying NIV: How can you say to your brother, "Let me take the speck out of your eye," when all the time their is a plank in your own eye.

Okay, now I get it. Wow, and for all these years I had thought we were beyond asking, nope, telling, women and girls that they have to learn how translate archaric texts, including the Bible, so that they find a way to be included in such writings! Good thing the NIV editors caught this... we wouldn't want anyone to miss out on the beauty, power, and wonder of God's Word because they didn't "understand" the scriptures because of the vocabulary they were used to.

Perhaps we'll simply go back to doing what I was taught three decades ago as a Young Life intern: Learn to translate these words and phrases as you go, while staying faithful to the intent and meaning of the text. Find ways to make sure that everyone you speak to knows that God is interested in them, and is wooing them into his kingdom. So if that means changing "brother" to "brother and sister," then honor Christ and the women you serve by being a faithful communicator of the truth of the scriptures to those God loves. Perhaps someday, then, the men of the future will come to see that gender is a gift of God, and that Jesus (and Paul et al) spoke and speaks to all of us as his children.


B-W said...

Thanks for weighing in. At the risk of self-promotion, here's what I had to say about the TNIV matter over at my blog.

What I didn't say there, but definitely felt as I was watching the video, is that Zondervan/Biblica/CBT (all three had representatives present at the announcement) seemed almost desperate to not have to mention the TNIV at all. It got one throwaway reference during the prepared remarks, so it was very natural that pretty much the very first question asked (when the floor was opened for them) was "so what about the TNIV?" Only at that point did they finally admit that they were going to discontinue the TNIV and started to talk about the controversy (never QUITE admitting that they were caving in to the anti-gender-inclusive language folks by doing so).

They did talk about the fact that the English language is changing quite a bit, but it was hard not to wonder if they somehow imagined that the English language itself was changing to be less inclusive, which strikes me as an absurd notion.

Yet I couldn't stop thinking it.

Kristie Vosper said...

This is so frustrating to me. Thank you for writing about it. I try so hard not to be a woman (in ministry) who gets too angry about these gender issues in the Church. I have not wanted this to be the flag I wave...but to be obedient to what Jesus whispered to me years ago and said "Just follow me, I'll show them..."

However secure I am in my theology and understanding that God is rather inclusive of women, I am becoming more and more angered for the young women who come behind me. I don't want them to think that God doesn't include them or want to use their gifts to their fullness.

I was glad that we just ordered a full set of TNIV pew bibles for our new Malibu Presbyterian sanctuary even if they are going to "go out of style" in a few years.

Frustrating how ingnorance can be so pervasive..."sigh".