Re: Translating and inclusive language

From: Andrew Bromage (
Date: Tue Sep 02 1997 - 03:23:01 EDT

G'day all.

I realise I'm likely to get off the topic of the mailing list here.
Sincere apologies if I do.

McKay family <> wrote:

> New International Version of the Bible. It is written by Wayne Grudem and
> its URL is

Let me state at the outset that I have a lot of respect for Wayne
Grudem, and have always found his writings to be thoughtful and
insightful. If I have one criticism of him, though, it's that he
tends to deal unfairly with views which are different from his own
(which can be summarised as: "conservative reformed evangelical").
In more than one place in his "Systematic Theology" he has lapsed
into straw-man arguments, even with positions which are different
from mine.

Here's an example from the URL which was mentioned:

        Nor is there any real reason to think the changes will stop
        here, once they are begun. Many other things in the Bible can
        also be thought to be "offensive" to modern readers (such as
        calling God "he" and "Father," and calling Christ "Son of God"
        rather than "Child of God"). Once evangelical translators give
        in to the principle of changing what the Bible says in order to
        make it acceptable to our culture, the demands for changes will
        never end.

I appreciate Prof. Grudem's point, but it sounds a lot like some of the
conspiracy theories proposed by the more extreme elements of the
KJV-only movement. Of course the NRSV translator's brief (I don't know
about the NIVI or NIrV) was to make language inclusive where the
author's intent was to be inclusive, and not to compromise theology.

Many translators have already "given in" to the principle of changing
weights and measures into modern units (though not, I note, the NIV) to
aid understanding.

The English language has about 450 translations or partial translations
of the Bible. We are spoiled, because we can choose the translation
that we use to suit the application. We can use a more formal or
literal translation for in-depth study, a more dynamic translation for
personal devotion or reading in public, and so on. Inclusive language
translations are indeed less suitable for study (if we don't adopt the
footnoting convention noted below) than others, but they are excellent
for pastoral use. Not everyone does systematic theology for a living,
and anyone who does should be sacked if they base their theology on
NIV wordings. Just my opinion.

> One of Grudem's main points is that substituting the common plural for
> singular masculine pronouns, etc obscures the meaning.

This is true. Thankfully, the NRSV doesn't do this too often,
preferring to change the wording of the verse in question to
accommodate English style.

> One solution, to keep the language "politically correct" and the meaning
> clear, would be to always footnote how the original is worded.

I wholeheartedly agree with this practice. In addition, the
substitution of proper names for pronouns and vice versa should be
similarly footnoted.

Finally, a quote from Prof. Grudem:

        No one can foresee all the different understandings and
        applications that people will derive from any one of these
        changes. It is terribly presumptuous of translators to think
        they can be sure they are able to foresee all the possible
        implications and subtle nuances that the Holy Spirit intended
        when he caused Scripture to be written exactly as it was.

To my eyes, this isn't a good argument for inclusive language
translations, but it is an excellent argument for learning Greek. :-)

Andrew Bromage
(A Little Greek)

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