Monday, November 28, 2011

The Gender Gutting of the Bible in NIV 2011

Disclaimer: Let it be understood from the beginning that nothing that follows is meant to contradict this Scriptural truth: That God loves men and women equally, has given them equal access to his grace as believers in Christ Jesus, equal "sonship" in his house, and an equal inheritance in his kingdom (Gal. 3:26-29), and that God wants men and women to treat each other with love and respect (1 Pet. 3:1-9).

As noted in this well-written open letter by Rev. Robert Koester, one of the biggest problems with the NIV 2011 is its use of gender neutral language. This problem manifests itself in several different ways:
    “Brother” becomes…

      brother or sister” - “If your brother or sister sins, go and point out their fault, just between the two of you. If they listen to you, you have won them over.” (Matt. 18:15)

    “Brothers” becomes…

      brothers and sisters” - “Brothers and sisters, the Scripture had to be fulfilled in which the Holy Spirit spoke long ago through David concerning Judas, who served as guide for those who arrested Jesus.” (Acts 1:16)

      or “friends” - “Therefore, my friends, I want you to know that through Jesus the forgiveness of sins is proclaimed to you.” (Acts 13:38)

      or “own people” - “This is the Moses who told the Israelites, ‘God will raise up for you a prophet like me from your own people.’” (Acts 7:37)

      or “believers” - In those days Peter stood up among the believers (a group numbering about a hundred and twenty) (Acts 1:15)

      or “fellow Israelites” - The LORD your God will raise up for you a prophet like me from among you, from your fellow Israelites. You must listen to him. (Deut. 18:15)

    “Man” becomes…

      mankind” - He created them male and female and blessed them. And he named them “Mankind” when they were created. (Gen. 5:2)

      or “human beings” - Peter and the other apostles replied: “We must obey God rather than human beings!” (Acts 5:29)

      or “people” - “Come, follow me,” Jesus said, “and I will send you out to fish for people.” (Matt. 4:19)

      or “person” - How much more valuable is a person than a sheep! (Matt. 12:12)

    “Fathers” becomes…

      ancestors” - to show mercy to our ancestors and to remember his holy covenant, (Luke 1:72)

    “He who...” becomes…

      The one who…they” - Jesus said to her, “I am the resurrection and the life. The one who believes in me will live, even though they die;” (John 11:25)
These changes in gender language affect literally thousands of verses throughout the Bible. While the change to any given verse may appear subtle, when considered from the wider perspective of the whole Bible, the changes are, in reality, monumental. An entirely different cultural context is being superimposed on the context in which the Holy Scriptures were written. The WELS Translation Evaluation Committee recognizes this shift:
    So far as its use of inclusive language is concerned, no participant in the study or member of the committee would quarrel with a judicious use of it where it clarifies the intention of the biblical writer for a contemporary reader. An obvious example would be 1 Timothy 2:4, where the new NIV replaces “men” with “people” in the sentence, “God wants all people to be saved and to come to a knowledge of the truth.” More troubling are those places where a standardized use of it (i.e. wherever the original has a vocative αδελφοι the NIV routinely translates “brothers and sisters”) seems to go contrary to what Paul meant to say. In 1 Corinthians 7:29, for example, the explicit inclusion of “sisters” seems odd since Paul immediately goes on to speak of “those who have wives.”

    A larger issue, but a more difficult one to get a handle on, is the matter of introducing, by means of a routine use of inclusive language, a subtle cultural distortion into the text. We certainly have a right to expect that a translation will accurately reflect the culture and worldview of the original (see criterion # 3 above). It’s fair to say that in the ancient near east, men were seen as representatives for their entire family, their entire tribe, and their entire people (e.g. “the God of your fathers, the God of Abraham, the God of Isaac, and the God of Jacob”—see Exodus 3:6). The language the Bible uses reflects that point of view. When many of these references are absorbed into a more inclusive manner of phrasing, will the reader come to the incorrect conclusion that the ancient near east was culturally very similar in this respect to 21st century America? (Lines 183-199)
Unfortunately, even though they recognize the inaccurate worldview that is being presented by the NIV 2011, the members of the TEC still draw the following conclusion:
    In evaluating this concern, the committee would like everyone to bear in mind that a certain amount of cultural distortion is part and parcel of any translation. After all, neither Moses nor Paul spoke English! Furthermore, a translator as we have already said has to make decisions about what features of the original he will preserve and which he must regretfully let go, since no one translation can do it all. We may disagree with the translator’s choices in this context or in that one. But we do understand that such choices have to be made. Readers also have to consider the importance of this issue relative to all the other matters that need to be weighed in evaluating a translation. So far as the committee is concerned, we remain of the opinion that the respective callings of men and women are clearly and fully taught in the new NIV in those Biblical passages that deal with the doctrine directly. (Lines 200-208)
I would like to point out that there are only a handful of passages in the Bible that “deal with the doctrine” of the different callings of men and women “directly,” and even in some of these cases, the NIV 2011 muddies the waters (cf. 1 Timothy 2:12 NIV). But the doctrine is reflected, reinforced and certainly taught indirectly in thousands of verses of the Bible that present the man as the head of the woman and as the divinely ordained representative of the family, the church and the broader society. (It is not an accident that language itself, and especially the Biblical languages, has reflected the divine arrangement for some six thousand years.)

When the language of those thousands of verses is distorted to remove the male-oriented character of the Scriptures, then we are left with a handful of passages that make a direct distinction between the roles of men and women (e.g., 1 Tim. 2:11-15 NIV, 1 Cor. 11:3-12 NIV, 1 Cor. 14:34-35 NIV). And the result is this: those few passages, although they used to be supported and taught by the whole context of Scripture, now appear to be an anomaly in the Scriptures! With the language of the rest of the Bible neutered, the (mostly Pauline) statements that limit the authority of women seem incoherent and arbitrarily restrictive.

How strange that Jesus would allow only men to be his apostles, when, in the language of NIV 2011, God has been addressing men and women equally all along! How out of place that Peter should in one place call upon both men and women to choose the replacement apostle for Judas (Acts 1:16-26 NIV), but then Paul, in another place, forbids women to "assume authority" over men (1 Tim. 2:12 NIV)! How odd that Paul calls on the "brothers and sisters" to be eager to prophesy in the church (1 Cor. 14:39 NIV) immediately after the same Paul just got done commanding women to remain silent in the churches (1 Cor. 14:34 NIV)!

Doctrine = teaching. And the teaching behind the NIV 2011 can be summarized as follows: In the past 30 years, American society has evolved beyond the male-oriented character of former societies, including those in which the Scriptures were written. Language, too, has evolved to reflect this societal evolution. Therefore, Christians must learn to embrace these societal changes as well as the language that accompanies them, or else Christianity will quickly become incomprehensible and irrelevant.

It saddens me that some of the brightest men in our synod seem to agree with this philosophy. Changes in language may occur over time, many of which are neutral in nature. "Withers" has replaced "withereth" in common speech, and the word "conversation" no longer resembles its former meaning (cf. Eph. 4:22 KJV). But when the changes in language arise out of a pagan, egalitarian worldview, we should not accommodate our Bibles to match it, or gut the male-oriented character out of the language of the Bible because some will be offended by it.
    All flesh (er, "people") is as grass, and all the glory of man (er, "their glory") as the flower of grass. The grass withers and its flower falls away. But the word of the Lord endures forever.” (1 Pet. 1:24-25 NKJV)


Anonymous said...

Instead of us changing the word of God, the word of God should be changing us.

Rick Techlin

Joe Krohn said...

We have all been conditioned...look at media and see how women are elevated to roles of independence and being the 'smart one' and males are regarded as doofs...


Mr. Douglas Lindee said...

...or else Christianity will quickly become incomprehensible and irrelevant

It always has been. Hasn't it? Seriously. The foundation of the Gospel message is an event which is as incomprehensible to us as it was to the pagan society in which Christianity was birthed and grew – it could not be rationally predicted by powers of human reason, nor can it be explained. It is an occurance which is generally outside of man's experience, and therefore the idea of it is foreign to his sensibilities. Nevertheless, it happened as a matter of historical fact – so we are forced to deal with it on that basis. If the Gospel is to be received by its hearers, it is on the basis of the force and veracity of eyewitness testimony to this event, an event from which the Gospel cannot be separated. That historical event is the Resurrection of Jesus Christ; and it was testimony to this astonishing fact (what eyewitnesses had seen with their eyes) that caused people to actually hear and consider the message attending it – the Message of the Gospel (what they had heard Christ teach) (see Acts 4:12-21;17:1-7, and also Who is Jesus? – From the Facts presented in the Gospels, Part 3). "Yes," the early Christians were known to have said, "this actually happened! This man, Jesus, who claimed to be the Christ and performed many miracles, was publicly crucified but raised Himself from the dead three days later, just as He said He would in order to establish His authority, claims, and promises (see John 2:13-22;, and also Who is Jesus? – From the Facts presented in the Gospels, Part 1). And He has a message for all of sinful man: the promise of forgiveness of sins, life and salvation to all who believe this promise."

And relevant? This contrived need for "relevance," for cultural palatability, is among the biggest mis-characterizations of the teachings of Christ imaginable, not to mention a gross mockery of the sufferings of the early Christians. There wasn't a single one of the teachings of Christ that endeared Him or His followers to the culture of Judaism or the pagan culture of the Roman Empire. Everything He taught flew in the face of what was common or expected in terms of social and religious practice. He and His followers were notable – notably peculiar, that is, and weird. They were considered seditious and were reviled. Jewish leaders plotted to kill Jesus, and when that did not end His "movement," they engaged in campaigns of persecution against His followers – St. Paul (prior to his conversion) was among these persecutors, and was present at the murder of St. Stephen.

Continued in next comment...

Mr. Douglas Lindee said...

...Continued from previous comment.

For three centuries following the Crucifixion and Resurrection of Jesus, the Roman government engaged in nearly continuous programmes of persecution against the Christians. In these, the first Ten Great Persecutions of the Church, Christians were hunted down, and when found, ordered to recant their faith – most of whom refused and were then tortured to secure denial of their Christian religion, many of whom continued to refuse and were then executed, often in gruesome ways. Did these Christians change their teaching to "honor the government" or accommodate the sensibilities of prevailing pagan society? Did they "soften" the Scriptures to make them more palatable to those who thought them odd or even "irrelevant"? No! They did not! Rather than give up the pure teaching of the Scriptures, they went into hiding, worshiped in the catacombs, and communicated in code. Despite this – yes, despite this! – on the basis of the education they provided for themselves, education they required in order to read and understand the Scriptures and to hold on to its teaching, they rose through the ranks of Roman society such that by the time of Constantine, in the early 4th Century, Christians dominated the high-culture of Rome to such a degree that to position Rome for future stability, Constantine ended the persecutions and virtually made Christianity the official religion of the Empire. When God caused the Empire to collapse in the 6th Century, the only thing left was the Church and the "weird, irrelevant, word of Scripture" – which the Christians had tenaciously held on to, despite the mortal challenges from the Jews and from Rome, and the dangerously false teaching of the Gnostics, the Arians, and from every antogonistic source one may imagine.

Am I going to follow the men of the TEC into their version of the future? Am I going to allow them to make changes to my, and my childrens’, English version of the Bible in order that they may secure a more popular status for Christianity – or is it WELS Lutheranism? – in the eyes of pagan egalitarian society? Am I going to allow a Lutheran pastor of any stripe to catechize my children according to the peculiar phraseology of egalitarianism, as it is informed by the history lesson of militant feminism? No. Not even for a minute. Ideas which require that the Scriptures be emasculated in order to make them "relevant" are superimposed on the Scriptures and change their character – the Scriptures do not speak this way naturally. Moreover, such posturing before the world, that would have us fiddle with the words of Scripture to make them more palatable to unregenerate and pagan sensibilities, smacks of Church Growth priorities. But even if the TEC is correct about the immediate future of Western Society, I would sooner take my family, along with a faithful Bible, underground – "into the catacombs," so to speak – where things as insignificant as "jots and tittles" – every single one of them – are still regarded as part of God's inspired Word, are preserved and handed down as the most precious of posessions, and retained as much as the English language will accomodate in our own standard versions of the Bible, and where commitment to unique and rigorous education will attend the higher English in which such versions will necessarily be rendered.

My Opinion,

Douglas Lindee

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