Re: Searchng for an agenda-neutral Bible

From: Ward Powers (
Date: Wed Nov 25 1998 - 17:38:09 EST

At 09:03 98/11/25 EST, wrote:
>In a message dated 11/24/98 8:16:56 PM Eastern Standard Time,
> writes:
><< Again, we need not assume that the Bible itself is agenda-neutral (that
> seems rather silly, once one thinks about it!) >>
>Is the thread "agenda neutral" (which I agree does sound silly when you think
>about it) or "gender neutral" (of which I'm less sure)?

"Gender-neutral" sure enough seems to be what people are talking about on
this thread.

>To me, being from New
>Jersey, they sound kinda the same. It seems to me (a very little greek) that
>if the translator believes that the author meant men-the-folks and not men-
>the-guys then s/he should find some way of conveying that fact in a way that
>prevents men-the-guys from assuming (or choosing to assume) that they are the
>only ones meant.

Agreed. Whem it is quite clear. As for example in 2 Timothy 2:2 ANQRWPOS
should be translated "people" (as in the NRSV) not "men" (as in the NIV,
NKJV, et al). The problem is, especially when what you have is the third
person singular of the verb and no external subject, what else can you say
but "he"? The allied problem in the field of meaning is that it is not
always obvious (or opinions differ as to) whether the meaning is a male
person or either a male or a female. Sometimes the NRSV solution is to say
"brother or sister" instead of "he" - which seems to me to be going a bit
too far.

>Personally, I wish there were some elegant way of avoiding
>the men-the-normative construction which doesn't mess up singular and plurals
>but there doesn't seem to be.

One way is the device of using "s/he" as you have done in your post, as
cited above. There is also another way.

Some time back this issue was discussed on b-greek and some of us thought
then that there was a simple solution (whether it is elegant I would not
venture to say). We already have in English the transition of the word
"you" from referring to one number only to its use for both singular and
plural (which of course is not without its own set of problems at times).
What we need is a non-gender-specific third person singular pronoun; the
answer is to press "they/them" into service for singular as well as plural.
For example, such a sentence as "Ephesians 4 teaches that Christ has given
gifts to each believer, and they must use these gifts in ministry to the
body of Christ." Indeed, this would well suit your own sentence above,
which could readily be recast as, "... then they should find some way ..."

Some issues still need to be decided, however. When using the "they" group
of words as singular, should we speak of "themselves" or "themself"?

>Now this is getting far from a discussion of Greek, so I'll stop before you
>have to stop me.

No, no! To the contrary. This is a very relevant discussion of how to
convey a feature of Greek, which has no trouble with a gender-neutral third
person singular, into English, which has no such facility (until we all
agree to co-opt "they/them" for the job).




Rev Dr B. Ward Powers Phone (International): 61-2-9799-7501
10 Grosvenor Crescent Phone (Australia): (02) 9799-7501
SUMMER HILL NSW 2130 email:

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