Re: "The Stealth Bible Exposed"

From: Jonathan Robie (
Date: Mon Jun 23 1997 - 14:37:00 EDT

At 01:22 PM 6/23/97 EDT, Paul S. Dixon wrote:
>On Mon, 23 Jun 1997 07:33:33 -0400 "Carl W. Conrad" wrote:

I think that we probably all agree that we want a translation to be accurate
about the use of gender - if the reference is clearly to men, then we don't
want it to sound generic, and if it is clearly generic, we don't want it to
seem to refer only to men. The disagreement may be largely about whether
"men" is still used in a generic sense in modern American English.

In the 1970s, I argued that English used "man" in a generic sense, and that
this usage was important to teach to children, so that women would not feel
excluded by such references in the great wealth of American and English
literature. Today, I think that the language has changed. I have written for
five computer magazines, and every one of them would remove generic
masculines. I suspect this is also true in non-technical publications. When
I was in college, one of my psychology professors referred to studies
showing that most female children did not think they were included by
references to "man" or "men". If some women don't feel that texts apply to
them when they do, I think we have translated inaccurately. As John Stott
says, "When "man" means human being, without any intention to exclude women,
and when the use of "brothers" was never intended to exclude sisters, then
to retain such gender-specific words would be offensive."

>The term "stealth" was taken from the title of the article in World
>magazine, so I certainly cannot take credit for its use.

The NIV board has strongly objected to that article, and particularly to
terms such as "gender-neutral", "unisex", etc. The NIV board uses the term
"gender-accurate" to describe their intent, and Kenneth Barker points out
that "WE are all conservative evangelicals who are totally committed to all
the great evangelical doctrines of the historic faith--including the Bible
as the authoritative, infallible, inspired, and completely truthful Word of
God." Some conservative scholars, such as John Stott, feel they did a good
job. I think that Packer's claim that this is "the feminist edition" are
rather ludicrous. Do the changes Paul cited earlier promote feminism? I
don't think so.

The NIV has always done periodic revisions, a fact which surprised me when I
found that texts I had memorized in the 1970s no longer matched the current NIV!

>>>John Piper brought forward at least 5 passages of "serious
>>>mistranslations." I submit them for your consideration:
>>>1. Rev. 3:20 where the NIVI had, "Here I am! I stand at the door
>>>and knock. If anyone hears my voice and opens the door, I will come in
>>>and eat with them, and they with me." The "them" and "they" translate
respectively AUTON and AUTOS
>>>(both singular in the Greek).
>>Is the objection here against translation of the singular pronouns as
>>plurals or against translation of masculine pronouns as gender-neutral
>>pronouns. And if the objection is the latter one, is the
>>interpretation of this passage suggested that Jesus in Rev 3:20 will not
>> come in and eat with women?
>Speaking for myself, not John Piper, I would say this. Certainly "him"
>and "he" would be good and safe translations of the Greek. Now it is true,
>that "him" may mean and refer to "them" and "he" may mean and refer to
>"they," but this is far from certain in every passage. Why not leave
>that determination up to the interpreter, and not give the impression by the
>translation that such is necessarily implied by the Greek?

I don't like the plural here, which could cause misinterpretation.

But I don't think that it *is* certain that "him" and "he" are good and safe
translations of the Greek. They would be for older people or those who have
read a fair amount of older literature, but I really don't think that most
younger women think that "him" or "he" refers to them. You may overestimate
the extent to which modern Americans are comfortable with older usages.
Although women who have grown up in conservative evangelical families may
generally be comfortable with these usages, women who have not are probably
less familiar with them, less comfortable with them, and more liable to
interpret them differently than we might intend.

"You" and "me" might do the trick: "if you hear my voice and open the door,
I will come in and eat with you, and you with me".

>>> 5. 1 Cor 15:21 where the NIVI had, "For since death came
>>through a human being ..." where "human being" renders ANTHRWPOU
>> (contrast NIV,"man").
>>I'm puzzled by this objection. Is the objection that one ought to say
>>clearly that death came through a male (Adam) or through a woman
>While ANQRWPOS can be generic, it can also be specific. Certainly in
>this context where the first ANQRWPOU in v. 21 is explained (hWPER
>GAP) in v. 22 as ADAM and the second ANQRWPOU in v. 21 explained
>as XRISTW in v. 22, the translation ought to be "man" and not "human
In this case, I would like to see a footnote pointing out that both
interpretations are possible. I don't think that translating it "man"
sufficiently communicates the ambiguity here.


Jonathan Robie
POET Software, 3207 Gibson Road, Durham, N.C., 27703

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