Tuesday

He, she, it? Gender-neutral argument is revived

Today, Crosswalk.com announced in its "Religion Today" news briefings that the brand-spanking new 2011 translation of the New International Version has hit the shelves. But, many people are upset because of the gender-neutral content. For those who don't know, gender-neutral means that instead of using male pronouns in verses that really mean everyone translators will insert neutral or more inclusive pronouns. It is not a novel idea; the New Revised Standard Version of the Bible has been doing this for years.

Here is an example from the New International Versions:

In the 1984 NIV version, Galatians 1: 1-2 reads

Paul, an apostle--sent not from men nor by man, but by Jesus Christ and God the Father, who raised him from the dead and all the brothers with me ...

While the 2011 version reads:

Paul, an apostle—sent not from men nor by a man, but by Jesus Christ and God the Father, who raised him from the dead— 2 and all the brothers and sisters[a] with me ...

Since [a] indicates a footnote here it is:

Galatians 1:1-2 The Greek word for "brothers and sisters" (adelphoi) refers here to believers, both men and women, as part of God’s family; also in verse 11; and in 3:15; 4:12, 28, 31; 5:11, 13; 6:1, 18. Note that the translators did not change the phrase "sent not from men nor by a man." The original Greek used words that specifically translate as "man" or "men."
What is wrong with this? Fundamentalists are highly agitated over this because they fear that the translators have given in to what started as feminist arguments for more inclusive language. But, if the Greek word indicates both men and women, what's wrong with putting that in? Doesn't it make the Bible more inclusive rather than just a book written by men who lived in a culture that considered women property? And is it not a more accurate translation?

One of the fears of fundamentalists is that pronouns for God will become female. But I ask ... who ever said that God was a male? Who said that God was a female? In my opinion, God is neither. God is God. In the scriptures God describes Godself with male and female attributes. Observe:

Luke 13: 34: “Jerusalem, Jerusalem, you who kill the prophets and stone those sent to you, how often I have longed to gather your children together, as a hen gathers her chicks under her wings, and you were not willing."
Here is a list of such usages compiled by the Women's Ordination Conference.

And here is a male attribute: "Our Father, who art in heaven ..."

In all this, those of us who like the gender-neutral language - at least those who think like me - do not like God being turned into a goddess in order to appease radical feminist. God is holy and to be respected for whom God is. God is much larger than any label that I use to describe God.

In the Bible, God, and the writers who describe God, use male and female terms so that humanity can relate. Jesus did this all the time in parables and so did the prophets.As for Jesus, it is perfectly correct to describe Jesus as a man. Jesus, who is God, is an actual historical figure who was a man. If you think about it, Jesus had to be a man because there was no way his culture would have identified with him if he had been a woman. This is evidenced by the way the men in the Bible treated women. For example, women were not counted in Biblical times. Scholars figure that the numbers of people that Jesus fed in the gospels can be doubled because of that custom. Another more moving example is found in John 8 where we read that a woman was brought to Jesus because she was caught committing adultery. But with whom was she committing adultery? It definitely takes two to commit adultery. Why didn't the Pharisees bring her adulterous accomplice before Christ?

The attitude of Christ toward the woman - he saved her from being stoned - demonstrates the attitude that his followers were to have toward women. They were to respect them and treat them as equals. The twelve apostles lived this out in the church since scripture talks about several women were ordained as ministers. Later on in the church's history, this example was ignored and certain denominations exclude women from leadership roles.

In some denominations that do not exclude women, there is often an underlying attitude that a man is better when it comes to ministry. I'm not entirely sure why this is true but it is. Women have to rise up against that attitude and do what they believe God has called them to do.

Another example of our attitude toward women shows in this gender-neutral argument since some are fighting its appropriate usage in the scriptures. In this regard, don't pick a fight with those who know the Greek language unless you know it at least as well.

We need to trust that our translators who are interpreting the scriptures do not have an agenda, or at least less of an agenda than in the past.

We need to drop our prejudices and remember that Paul wrote: "There is neither Jew nor Gentile, neither slave nor free, nor is there male and female, for you are all one in Christ Jesus."