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Are Gender-Inclusive Bibles Bad for Women?

Mary Kassian certainly thinks so. (HT: Mark Hopkins) In a piece titled 10 Reasons Why the New NIV Is Bad for Women on her site “Girls Gone Wise”, Kassian explains why. Here is her introduction:

The new gender-inclusive NIV was published earlier this year. It contains thousands of changes to the Bible’s male-gendered language. Having a gender-inclusive Bible appears to be the latest trend amongst cutting-edge, cappuccino-slurping Christian hipsters. Don’t get me wrong. I like to be hip. And I enjoy cappuccino as much as the next person. But my biggest beef with gender-inclusive Bibles is that they lack doctrinal precision. If you mess with the words, you mess with the meaning. Respected Bible scholars have explained why inclusive translations such as the New International Version (NIV), New Revised Standard (NRSV), and Common English Bible (CEB) are deeply flawed. If you haven’t yet considered their arguments, you might want to check out these Gender Neutral Bible Articles.

Notwithstanding the doctrinal imprecision and blatant politically-correct translating agenda, there are additional reasons why I dislike gender inclusive Bibles. Undoubtedly the publishers had good intentions, and genuinely wanted to help women, but in my mind, a gender-inclusive Bible is BAD for women. Really, really bad for women! I react to people reading from the new, gender-inclusive NIV the way I react to nails scratching down a chalk board.  Here are ten reasons why:

Her ten reasons:

  1. It obscures the profound symbolism of gender
  2. It exalts gender above that to which it points
  3. It diminishes the unique beauty of womanhood
  4. It is less inclusive of women
  5. It demeans women
  6. It patronizes women
  7. It calls God’s attitude toward women into question
  8. It calls God’s wisdom into question
  9. It encourages further changes to Scripture
  10. It leads women away from truth

She then concludes:

I understand that language changes over time, and that translation is not always an easy task. But I am saddened that Christians seem so eager to jump on the cultural bandwagon to update God’s Holy Book with inclusive language. I don’t think they realize what is at stake. I have had students struggle with understanding concepts about God because their native language did not lend itself to translating/expressing the gendered concepts that exist in the original languages of the Bible. We will lose something very critical and essential if we lose the linguistic concepts afforded us by the gendered nature of English. Retaining gender distinctiveness in our language is a battle worth fighting. There is a great deal at stake.

So ladies, please don’t jump on the gender-inclusive Bible bandwagon. Be hip. Be courageous. Be politically incorrect. Insist on a Bible that acurately translates gender language– like the ESV, Holman Christian Standard, or  New America Standard.  Because in the end, inclusive language, and inclusive language Bibles, are bad for women.

Read the rest of her piece to see her reasoning. I’d love to hear what others think about this. My personal preference has long been the NASB, and I’ve generally felt that we simply need to disciple those bothered by the gender language to help them understand the intent of the original, not change the translation. At the same time, I do feel that we should not alienate people by keeping certain language if it is not needed for correct translation. Anyone more versed in Scriptural translation or the original languages have an opinion they would like to share?

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One comment on “Are Gender-Inclusive Bibles Bad for Women?

  1. I just got done reading a book on women, evangelicalism, and the Christian academic world… And, while on one level I agree that making a translation of Scripture OVERLY politically correct is bad… The NIV version that was published at the beginning of 2011 actually takes a couple of steps back from the extreme end of things and maintains a faithfulness to the original language. Where explicit pronouns for male and female gender are used in the original texts, those pronouns are preserved… where they are gender neutral or where they refer to humanity in general, a more gender neutral word is used. I’d recommend reading the translation notes (http://www.biblegateway.com/niv/Translators-Notes.pdf) for a full perspective as to what they were attempting, specifically go to page 4 and the following.

    But really, from this book on women and Christianity, for women who already feel oppressed and marginalized when it comes to involvement either in the ministry or in the Christian academy, to have such a patriarchal language is a turn off… perhaps it isn’t for everyone, but non-inclusive, male-dominated translations have been an oppressive factor for women and have been used to “put women in their place” for centuries.

    Certainly, let’s not sacrifice original text meanings in our effort for updated translations… but at the same time, as the culture around us changes and, therefore, words take on different connotations (like “alien” in Biblical texts doesn’t mean green men from mars), we need to make sure that our translations of those original texts impart the same eternal meanings to the culture that is reading them.

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