Tuesday, September 05, 2006

Bible Translations, Part 5 of a Draft Article

This is the 5th installment of a series of draft portions of an article I am writing on Biblical translations. Comments are welcome via e-mail.See also Part 1, Part 2, Part 3, and Part 4.

5. Political Correctness

In recent decades we have been confronted with the new phenomenon of political correctness, and this has resulted in new version of the Bible that have attempted to neuter the English text to accommodate the concerns of radical feminists. This is silly for several reasons. For one, radical feminists are not likely to be happy with any translation of the Scriptures no matter how neutered the English in it might be. Secondly, the very idea that gender distinctions in a language are at all to blame for any grievances that feminists might have is ridiculous on the face it.

Only those who are completely ignorant of how languages other than English function could believe that gender distinctions are the cause of the ill-treatment of women, or that removing such distinctions would in any way improve the status of women. There are in fact two major languages that have no gender distinctions at all, and so the two cultures associated with these languages should have been feminist utopias throughout human history. The two languages I refer to are Turkish and Chinese. However, I think one could safely defend the argument that women in European cultures have been treated significantly better in the past two thousand years, despite them having to suffer the indignities of being “forced” to use languages that make gender distinctions. In fact, I think one would be hard pressed to find two literate cultures in which woman have historically been treated worse than that of the Turks and the Chinese -- and I say that as one who otherwise loves Chinese culture, but the way women were (and to a large extent, still are) treated is not the high point of Chinese civilization.

These neutered versions of the Bible have a problem with the words “man” and “mankind” and so replace them with “person, “human,” and “humankind.” However, it should be noted that the words “human” and “humankind” have the offending word “man” in them. One might also point out that the word “woman” also has this offending word. Anyone who understands English should know that when we speak of God’s love for man, we are including both the male and female members of this species. These translations are so averse to the use of the term “man” that they have distort the meaning of the text to avoid using it. For example, in the NRSV we have St. Peter telling Cornelius that he too is a “mortal”, when the word in Greek is “anthropos” (“man”), which is a term that does not focus on life expectancy. The NRSV also removes the very important messianic phrase “Son of Man” from the entire Old Testament (this being an exceptionally offensive phrase, having two gender distinctions it as it does). And so when we read Daniel 7:13, in the NRSV, we find:

“As I watched in the night visions, I saw one like a human being coming with the clouds of heaven. And he came to the Ancient One and was presented before him”

This totally disconnects Christ’s use of the phrase “Son of Man” from this prophecy. Fortunately we are spared readings such as ““Foxes have holes, and birds of the air have nests; but the Human has nowhere to lay his head” (Matthew 8.20), or “Who do people say that the Human is?” (Matthew 16:13), but all of the prophetic significance of this term is sacrificed on the altar of feminism.

These neutered translations also are forced to insert words that do not exist in the original text, to omit words that do, and to change the number and person of pronouns to avoid words with gender distinctions. The result is simply a translation that misleads the reader and obscures the meaning of the inspired text… and it is all just so silly.15

Versions that contain more or less neutered English include the New Revised Standard Version (NRSV), Today’s New International Version (TNIV), the New Living Translation (NLT), The Good News Translation (GNT or GNB), the New Century Version (NCV), the Contemporary English Version (CEV), the New American Bible (NAB), the Revised English Bible (REB), and the New Jerusalem Bible (NJB).

15 See Wayne Grudem, What's Wrong with Gender-Neutral Bible Translations? Sept. 4, 2006, <http://www.cbmw.org/resources/articles/genderneutral.php>, as well as The Gender-Neutral Bible Controversy, Sept. 4, 2006, <http://www.bible-researcher.com/links12.html>.