Neutrality

I dislike gender-neutral Bible translations, because they are neutral. Here’s what I mean:

NIV 1984: If any man would come after me, let him deny himself and take up his cross daily and follow me.

NIV 2011: If anyone would come after me, let them deny themselves and take up their cross daily and follow me.

That’s from SBC a ‘One Issue Voter’ on the New NIV, by Jessica Miller Kelley, who makes some good points.

Recasting these words of Jesus from singular to plural makes them not just gender-neutral; it makes them bland. Pluralizing it blunts the point. It’s not that I want to make women feel excluded. It’s that I prefer good writing. Far more than that, I want to know what Jesus said to his disciples two thousand years ago, not what some committee concludes He would have said to them last week.

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4 thoughts on “Neutrality

    • Yes, it is ideologically driven. I didn’t want to dilute my own point in the main post, but I also dislike the ‘inclusive’ translation of this particular verse because it seems to imply taking up the cross is a team effort. Someone more liberal than I pointed out to me, correctly, that the Lord’s Prayer says “Give us this day our daily bread.” Fair enough; I probably tend stray to the ‘non-communitarian’ side of the error. But if I read scripture and listen, I’m corrected. Skewing the translation (even if unintentionally) to emphasize community is as wrong as skewing it any other way, and deprives people tempted to the ‘overly communitarian’ side of their own opportunity for correction.

  1. Rather than try to write around the problem, which often ends up being awkward–and clouds the distinction between “give us this day our daily bread” and “if any man come after me, let him deny himself”–a better solution probably is to just footnote it.

    I’m not a big fan of arguing over how it would be said or written today and trying to render it as such anyway. When I read The Message, hearing the creator of the universe speaking in tired cliches just doesn’t sit right. Better to read the text and understand the culture. That’s how the Classics are taught. Use understandable language, but don’t try to rewrite it. There’s a series of videos by Ray Vander Laan (I think I spelled his name right) that sheds a lot of light on Middle Eastern culture and the life of shepherds, and other details that are lost on modern Westerners.

    • Yes, I agree. In my Bible study, we all have different translations, or at least different Study Bibles with their own footnotes, and that’s been tremendously helpful. I’ll watch for the videos you mention.

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