Re: Translating and inclusive language

Date: Wed Sep 03 1997 - 14:07:26 EDT

Dear David,

In a message dated 97-09-01 23:58:55 EDT, you write:

<< 1st September, 1997
 I have been reading a critique of the inclusive language editions of the
 New International Version of the Bible. It is written by Wayne Grudem and
 its URL is>>

I have had a series of correspondances with a conservative scholar concerning
this issue. He made an excellent suggestion. He suggested that the
discussion should drop the term "gender inclusive" and opt for the term
"gender accurate." This would be as opposed to "gender exclusive". This
term probably better reflects the intent of the NIV translation committee.
 It does not appear that they were attempting to be politically correct or to
appease the feminists. Rather, they were attempting to produce a translation
that reflected the meaning of the Greek in contemporary English language. As
you noted, in your high school you are criticized for using "gender
exclusive" language. Whether this was artificially induced because of a fad
or not, the application of terms such as "brothers," "man," and to a lesser
extent, "he" to women is becoming awkward and confusing to most people under
30. It certainly provides awkward reading for my three daughters.
 <<One of Grudem's main points is that substituting the common plural for
 singular masculine pronouns, etc obscures the meaning.>>

This one of the weaker policies. However it does reflect modern English
usage if not the grammars. I agree with you that footnotes should be
employed to clear up misunderstanding.
 The NIV inclusive version translates this thus:
         Blessed are those who persevere under trial, because when they have stood
 the test, they will receive the crown of life...
 Grudem comments '[this] suggests groups of people who endure trial, and
 reward waits until "they" all have stood the test.' He goes on to say that
 ANHR definitely means "man" and not "person.">>

But isn't this the exception to the "rule"? Or am I to understand when I
read this that my husband will receive the crown of life if he perseveres,
but if I persevere it will be something else...or nothing. It is strange, I
have translated this passage and memorized it, but always took it as
proverbial or gnomic. It never occured to me that the author would intend
for women to be excluded from this particular blessing. But certainly, if
ANHR only means male, I can have no confidence that this passage applied to
me, personally or theologically.

But of course, this raises the issue of how the traditional renderings also
obscure meaning. If ANQRWPOS and ANHR are both translated as "man," we have
a problem. In my generation, women were taught to read the Bible as if these
kind of masculine references included women. Apparently we have had women
running around dangerously out of theological control having the audacity to
assume that James 1:12 applied to them. Some good submissive conservative
women actually believe that they will receive crowns of life like men, and
exercise a sphere of authority (I hope all of you will detect irony at this
point, not belligerance).
 <<One solution, to keep the language "politically correct" and the meaning
 clear, would be to always footnote how the original is worded. >>

Agreed. And I wonder why Gruden didn't suggest this imminently practical
solution instead of his more inflammatory approach. The fallout from this
issue hasn't yet begun to hit the ground (or should I say the fan?) in full
force. It is hard for me to understand why anyone would demand that a
publication be suppressed because of the issues that were raised.

I acually felt that the most questionable call made by the translation
committee was Acts 1:21 where I understand that ANDRWN was rendered
generically as "people." Context shows that the candidates were all men, and
it was a risky call, but not unwarranted. It challenges the "rule" that ANHR
must always mean male (but of course, use women have been reading this as
"people" in the English anyway, since we were trained to read all masc.
plurals that way). But then, since context shows that all the candidates
were men, nothing is affected immediately by the call either. However, I
recognize that the implication would be that a woman could be considered for
apostleship. Of course, many believe that Junia was an apostle, as was
discussed in an earlier thread.

<< The NIV [inclusive] renders this as " ... those who believe in me will
 even though they die..."
  Grudem comments that "the forcefulness of the promise to the individual
 person is lost."

I guess what is a loss to him as an individual would be a gain for my three
daughters, if the publication had been allowed to go forward.

Cynthia Westfall
and might be/wannabe a student
in the doctoral program
at Roehampton, London
by the end of the month.

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