Why Cal Wants a Gender Neutral Bible Translation

Longtime preacher Cal Habig has just written one of the best blog posts I have read on the topic of gender neutral language (I prefer the term gender accurate, since I don’t want anything in the Bible neutralized, but I do want any Bible translation to be as accurate as possible, including with respect to gender language).

Cal’s post responds to a question he got on Facebook:

I guess I always looked at “gender neutral” as an effort to be politically correct. Have I missed something? And while I am sure Jesus loved and loves men and women equally, did he really use “gender neutral” terms? I’m open to your input.

Cal discusses the two kinds of gender neutral language that can be used in Bible translation (you’ll need to read his post to find out what they are).

In his penultimate (warning: technical term!) paragraph, Cal concludes:

The charge is made that gender-neutral Bibles “change” the Bible. Actually, they don’t.  They are seeking to maintain what the Bible says.  The non-gender neutral Bibles change the meaning of the Bible.  We want modern day hearers to “hear” what the original hearers heard.  In our culture using “man” when both men & women are intended actually changes what the Bible is saying.

I like that, putting accuracy first in translation. Whenever we do so we will have better Bibles.

UPDATE: Suzanne McCarthy has pointed her blog readers to a scholarly treatment of gender in translation of Biblical Hebrew. It is a paper given by David E. S. Stein at the SBL meetings.

As always, we welcome civil discussion of gender issues in Bible translation on this blog.

16 thoughts on “Why Cal Wants a Gender Neutral Bible Translation

  1. J. K. Gayle says:

    The non-gender neutral Bibles change the meaning of the Bible. We want modern day hearers to “hear” what the original hearers heard. In our culture using “man” when both men & women are intended actually changes what the Bible is saying.

    But how in our culture does reading “all men are created equal” actually change what the Declaration of Independence is “saying”? Don’t we want “modern day hearers” to “hear” what the original 1776 hearers heard? How does Jesus (since Cal Habig) mentions him use gendered language differently from Thomas Jefferson? And how does Jefferson’s language differ from Elizabeth Cady Stanton’s in the Declaration of Sentiments? Why does she (and some 100 men and women with her) in 1848 feel so disenfranchised by the gendered language of the Declaration of Independence? Is this silly political correctness? (Aren’t blacks ignored as they’re not free or freed in 1776, and aren’t “the merciless Indian savages” called out by Jefferson for their “undistinguished destruction of all ages, sexes and conditions”?) Don’t we more easily amend such declarations and constitutions (i.e., of our God-blessed nations) than we do the gendered language of Greek and Hebrew in the Bible? What if the Declaration of Independence had been written in ancient Hebrew? Would the Declaration of Sentiments be, then, unnecessary? Isn’t much of this interpretation, less of an attempt to render texts until our own powerful positions (i.e., pre-politically correct power) are challenged by reinterpretation?

    Do we intend “accuracy” in English translation of the Bible to mean that gender is “re-represented” in exactly the same way we perceive it in the original languages?

    These are sincere questions. We would all do well to read Stein’s positions, very carefully.

  2. Wayne Leman says:

    J.K. wrote:

    Do we intend “accuracy” in English translation of the Bible to mean that gender is “re-represented” in exactly the same way we perceive it in the original languages?

    I *think* I can take a stab at this question, Kurk. I don’t understand your other questions, so maybe someone else can answer them.

    Accuracy operates on a number of levels of meaning, the most of important of which, I think, is referential meaning. A Bible translation should correctly reflect what the original biblical text is referring to. If, for instance, when the biblical text has Greek anthropoi, and if that original text was addressed only to males, then the accurate translation into current English is “men.” If, on the other hand, the original text was addressed to both male and female Christians, then it would not be accurate to translate anthropoi in current English as “men.” Current speakers, unless given sufficient context such to know otherwise, understand the *plural* English word “men” to refer to adult males. The semantics of collective “man” is more complicated.

    The basic idea of accuracy in translation, whether with regards to gender or any other part of meaning, is that the translated text refer to the same thing that the original text does. That is the first aspect of translation of meaning that must be taken care of. Then, if we can get referential meaning right, we can work on other kinds of meaning such as connotational, poetic (aesthetic), allusional (if there is any), etc.

    Does my answer address that question of yours?

  3. J. K. Gayle says:

    Thanks Wayne. Your answer does address my question. Your “if” (as in “if we can get referential meaning right”) seems to assume there is a “right” meaning, that a word like anthropoi has a referent to either “men” (i.e., males only) or to “men and women,” and that the author, the readers through the ages, and the translator (as least someone) can find that “right meaning.”

    What would you say is the referent of the plural anthropo* (twice written) in this fragment of Sappho?

    http://www.sacred-texts.com/cla/sappho/sappho0.htm#3

    Edwin Marion Cox (whose translation is given here) has first “mortal perfectino” and then “Man” (as in “Man can never attain his greatest desire”). In the first instance, Helen in her beauty is compared to all anthropo*; in the second instance, there is similar generalization without reference to this woman. Does even the poet Sappho only mean reference (intentionally or otherwise)? How can the translator assume there must be only one referent (i.e., either males only or both men and women)?

  4. J. K. Gayle says:

    oops! Does even the poet Sappho only mean one particular reference (intentionally or otherwise) in each use of anthropoi?

    BTW, it should be clear that the first translation given is the “literal” one of J.M. Edmonds, who has “mortals” for the first translation of anthropoi and then (like Cox) “men” for the second instance. Do Edmonds and Cox know Sappho’s referents? Do they get them right? What about other translators who choose to see Sappho’s referents differently? And can you, a Greek reader, declare what’s “right” and “accurate”?

  5. Wayne Leman says:

    Kurk responded:

    Thanks Wayne. Your answer does address my question. Your “if” (as in “if we can get referential meaning right”) seems to assume there is a “right” meaning, that a word like anthropoi has a referent to either “men” (i.e., males only) or to “men and women,” and that the author, the readers through the ages, and the translator (as least someone) can find that “right meaning.”

    Sorry, I obviously miscommunicated. I’m with Pike on this one (and I suspect you are as well). Referential meaning is only applicable in a specific speech situation. We cannot have meaning outside of some context. As Pike would often say, there is the observer, the situation, and what is said about it.

    In a specific speech (or literary) context, the speaker (or author) refers to specific things, actions, states, modifiers, etc. It is this specific reference that referential meaning refers to. For referential meaning, there is no meaning (that I know of) in a vacuum.

    So, when I referred to the referential meaning of Greek anthropoi, we can only discover that meaning if we know who the author was addressing or speaking about. If the author was referring to male adults, then that is the referential meaning that must be translated in English or any other language. If the author was referring to a group of both males and females, then it would not be accurate to translate that referential meaning to English with the English word “men”, since the English word “men” does not include women, but there were women in the speech/literary context of the original textual usage of anthropoi.

    Unless authors are deliberately being ambiguous–and that only happens in linguistically “marked” contexts which are typically indicated as special by the author–authors have only one referential meaning. They are referring to only one referent at a time, in this case, for instance, either a group that has all males or a group that has both males and females. In another speech/literary context the referential meaning may be different from the first context. Meaning is always relative to its speech context. Speakers and authors intend meaning to be communicated from within the context they are speaking/writing and usually the context which they assume that they share with their audience.

    I hope this is enough to clarify what I meant. Perhaps someone else would like to tackle your questions about Sappho. I don’t have an adequate background to respond to that.

  6. J. K. Gayle says:

    Thanks again, Wayne. Can we move away from specific reference to gender per se (for a bit)? I’m curious about your general point here:

    “Referential meaning is only applicable in a specific speech situation. We cannot have meaning outside of some context.”

    What do you think about C. S. Lewis’s discussions of “second meanings” even in “a specific speech context”? In Reflections on the Psalms (p 100), Lewis tells of an account in Roman history in which a fire in a town was believed to be started in the public hot baths. The belief is because one of the patrons hears a slave warming the waters say “it will soon be hot enough.” The suspicion was, generally, that this young servant boy had something to do with the fire, that his “it” referred to the village in flames.

    Lewis goes on to discuss Plato talking about the noblest death of the noblest man and Virgil writing about a virgin birth. Plato’s first reference, of course, is Socrates. And Virgil’s prophecy refers, for sure, to “the new child sent down from high heaven.” Christians, through the centuries, all after Plato and Virgil naturally, have nonetheless attached second meanings to what these two writers have said in other contexts with clear reference. Plato was speaking of Jesus Christ and his passion, and Virgil of the Virgin Mary and her baby. The former (being platonic) would probably agree with his Christian meaning after the fact. The latter would deny he was speaking ever about the Christ – and yet Christians (Lewis says) perhaps know better. Lewis goes on after this chapter “Second Meanings” where he gets into these kinds of unintended references, to write the chapter, “Second Meanings in the Psalms.” What he shows there is how Christian readers of the Jewish Psalms find all kinds of latent references to Jesus. David and the other psalmists singing and speaking and writing in much different contexts (than Christian) and with very specific (non-Christ) referents – nonetheless mean also Jesus.

    Similarly, culture critics (like Elizabeth Cady Stanton and Mary Daly and Anne Carson) do find gender referents in language to be dicey. I’ve already (in my first comment above) mentioned Cady Stanton. Mary Daly (who is a Christian theologian familiar not only with sexism in Jesuit higher ed but also in the referents of English language) hears unadmitted gender referents in words like “therapist” (in which some women, in the 1970s in the US, hear “the rapist” – see Daly’s Gyn/Ecology). In Beyond God the Father, Daly observes that “women are really hearing ourselves and each other … words which, materially speaking, are identified with the old become new in a semantic context that arises from qualitatively new experience.” Wayne, this is not unlike what Lewis says is “new experience” for Christians in the Jewish “semantic context” out of which second referents of old words arise. Daly goes on to talk about the word “exodus” for some women; “the word’s meaning,” she says, can be “stripped of its patriarchal … context.”

    But it’s not just Christians and radical feminists (some Christians also) who find second meanings in old speech and texts. Greek language scholars and linguists do too. Anne Carson, for example, notes how scholar/ linguist Aristotle refers to sophrosyne, differently with respect to men and to women.

    (And Pike lets “light,” for English speaking quantum physicists, refer to “particles” or to “waves” or to “fields.” Isn’t Pike also rather unhappy with Chomskyan platonism that sees reality of language mostly in the referent? Doesn’t Noam Chomsky discount “performance” in favor of “competence”? Doesn’t Pike say that “talked-about reality” [i.e., “performance” and not just its referents and not just its “deep structure” competence] is and ought to be extremely important to etic linguists? It’s not, in the Pikean view, just important to consider the referents of a word like “man” but also the choices of the speaker-author w/ respect to whether “man” is an allo-meme or whether the semantic category is emic, right? This is not mere platonism – always looking for the more real in the referent – but is also a consideration of people making choices about language use in the context of listeners, right? The rhetorical in gendered nouns and pronouns is not always anchored first to referents, for Pike, I think.)

  7. Wayne Leman says:

    Kurk asked:

    What do you think about C. S. Lewis’s discussions of “second meanings” even in “a specific speech context”?

    Kurk, you bring up interesting points. I think you might be referring to things such as messianic interpretations of Old Testament passages for which the original writer was originally *referring* to something in his local context.

    If I’m understanding you right (that is, your referential meaning!), then we have had this discussion previously on BBB. And it is an important topic that needs to be revisited periodically.

    My answer would be that the *translator* should only translate the meaning that the original writer intended, not any secondary meanings that later interpreters of their text got from it. In other words, the job of the translator is different from that of a literary analyst.

    I have stated before and will say again now, that I now believe that translators of potentially messianic passages in the Hebrew Bible should not give any indication in the translation itself that the text is messianic IF there is indication that the original author was referring to a local context. Instead, second meanings should be extratextual, placed in footnotes, commentaries, noted by Bible teachers, etc. I believe, for instance, that when translators of modern Bible versions capitalize “His” in some Hebrew Bible passages which we Christians believe *ultimately* refer to the Messiah, they are doing what they accuse translators not following Formal Equivalance of doing, namely, limiting the interpretation of the text by how they translate.

    If there is such a term for translation (I know that there is for those who work with the U.S. Constition), I guess you would call me an originalist. Translators should translate the meanings intended by original authors, not meanings which later interpreters find in the text. Those later meanings are interesting and may be very important. In some ways they may even be more “accurate” than the original meaning if the original author did not realize how the Holy Spirit or later events would show that he was writing prophetically as well as to a local context. But later interpretations belong outside of the translated text itself, but close at hand so that those who read the translation can access them easily but not confuse them with meanings that the original author intended.

    Mine is not a philosophical position, Platonism, whatever. It is an acceptance that we are translating a text that someone else wrote or spoke. We are translating their thoughts and meanings, not the thoughts and meanings of those who came later and found other possible interpretations of the original text. Such later meanings are the business of hermeneutics and exegesis, theology, etc.

    So, in summary, I agree with you that secondary meanings are important. But I believe that they should not be part of the translated text itself if they were not intended by the original author. Instead, they should be placed near the translated text for easy access, but not within the text to mislead readers into thinking that they are part of the original meaning.

  8. J. K. Gayle says:

    My answer would be that the *translator* should only translate the meaning that the original writer intended, not any secondary meanings that later interpreters of their text got from it.

    Thank you, Wayne, for continuing and for revisiting the conversation here! You are patient with me.

    Does Matthew translate the Hebrew of Isaiah 7:14 in Matthew 1:23? Or does he have the second meaning “virgin” which Isaiah doesn’t necessarily have? In other words, is he using the LXX, a translation with secondary meanings (i.e., a maiden is a virgin here also)? Does Matthew not hold to the original Jewish referent, which doesn’t necessarily mean “virgin”?

  9. Wayne Leman says:

    Kurt asked:

    Does Matthew translate the Hebrew of Isaiah 7:14 in Matthew 1:23? Or does he have the second meaning “virgin” which Isaiah doesn’t necessarily have? In other words, is he using the LXX, a translation with secondary meanings (i.e., a maiden is a virgin here also)? Does Matthew not hold to the original Jewish referent, which doesn’t necessarily mean “virgin”?

    Kurt, I don’t have the answer to any of these questions. But I don’t need to know them to translate both Is. 7:14 and Matt. 1:23 accurately. One uses a Greek word which accurately translates to English “virgin.” The other uses a Hebrew word which probably (?!) most accurately translates, in its original context, to “young woman.” I must not change the intended meaning of either author during the translation process. Whether Matthew quoted the LXX or the Hebrew Bible doesn’t matter for the purposes of making an accurate translation of either passage. It matters for discussion of Judaic hermeneutics, “double prophecy”, views on inspiration and inerrancy, LXX vs. Masoretic text issues, and likely other issues, but not, as far as I can tell, for translation accuracy. Or am I missing something about translation accuracy for these two verses that you can see?

  10. JKGayle says:

    Wayne,
    You ask, “Or am I missing something about translation accuracy for these two verses that you can see?”

    I’m wondering if how “translation accuracy” can yield two different results when there’s ostensibly the same “referent” in the Bible. I’m wondering if both the LXX translator and if Matthew also as a translator have “translation accuracy.”

    You explain, of Isaiah 7:14 and Matt. 1:23, One uses a Greek word which accurately translates to English “virgin.” The other uses a Hebrew word which probably (?!) most accurately translates, in its original context, to “young woman.” I must not change the intended meaning of either author during the translation process.

    Similarly Cal Habig, speaking of “translation theory,” says this: A good translation attempts to take the Hebrew and Greek words of the Bible and put them into the same meaning in English (or whatever language is the target language). . . . We want modern day hearers to “hear” what the original hearers heard.

    But the Hebrew word of issue in Isaiah 7:14 is עלמה (`almah) translated by the LXX and by Matthew as παρθένος (parthenos). You’ve already noted the difference in meaning in those two words, although clearly there is one referent for the Hebrew, accurately (as you put it in English) a “young woman.” The LXX translators elsewhere in the Bible do use a perhaps “more accurate” Greek term for the same Hebrew word: for example, in Exodus 2:8, Ps 68:26, Prov. 30:19, Song of Songs 1:3 & 6:8. Respectively, the “better” Hellene noun used for the Hebrew term is νεᾶνις (neanis, with respective variants and cognates νεανίδων [neanidon], νεότητι [neoteti], νεάνιδες [neanides]).

    Does “translation theory” as you and Cal understand it assume that the LXX translator of Isaiah 7:14 and that Matthew himself (as translator) did not translate how you would translate the Hebrew? You say they use a term that can mean “virgin” in the Greek but not so much in the Hebrew. (And Matthew is translating, making clear, in actual translation, the LXX transliterated word Ἐμμανουήλ (i.e., עמנואל [`Immanuw’El]): “ὅ ἐστιν μεθερμηνευόμενον, Μεθ’ ἡμῶν ὁ θεός”).

    Is the “translation theory” assumption that the English translator using “young woman” actually does a better job translating than either Matthew or the LXX translator who both use “παρθένος” (parthenos)?

    And, even though Matthew and the LXX translator do a poor job of translating, the English translator of the New Testament translator must change Isaiah’s referent for Matthew’s, and keep the bad translation then as “virgin”?

    Not to belabor this too much, I think it’s no coincidence that Jews translating into English have consistently translated the Hebrew word of Isaiah 7:14 as “young woman.” And Willis Barnstone, a Jew not a Christian, translating Matthew has 1:22b-23a as follows: “… to fulfill the word of God uttered through his prophet Yeshayah, saying, / ‘Listen, A young woman …’.”

    It’s interesting to note how contemporary Jewish scholars of Hebrew translating the Bible are consistently “accurate.” The NRSV, having one Jewish scholar on its translation team, actually follows the “accuracy” of the Jewish only teams of JPS and JPCT. On the other hand, many (though not all) Christian Bible translator teams without Jews on the team follow the LXX or Matthew in making the referent to “almah” sometimes “virgin” as with “parthenos”:

    http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Almah#Comparison_of_Bible_translations

    I’m wondering, Wayne, whether “translation theory” and “accuracy” often bends toward the “referent” that supports one’s own views on gender and / or theology.

  11. Wayne Leman says:

    Kurk wrote:

    I’m wondering if how “translation accuracy” can yield two different results when there’s ostensibly the same “referent” in the Bible. I’m wondering if both the LXX translator and if Matthew also as a translator have “translation accuracy.”

    Firs, Kurk, I do not believe that Is. 7:14 and Matt. 1:23 must necessarily have the same referent. Many believe that they do, but I don’t think that belief is logically necessary. We are dealing with two different texts, one from the O.T., one from the N.T. Now, obviously, Matthew is quoting Is. 7:14. But that does not mean that the two authors had the same referent in mind when they wrote what they did. Jewish hermeneutics, including that found throughout the New Testament, is famous for changing the reference of some original text, to fit the purposes of the interpreter. It is not too different from how evangelical and fundamentalist preachers often proof text the points they make by using some verse (or even just a part of a verse) from the Bible. The point they are proof texting sometimes has little, if anything, to do with the meaning of the original biblical text, as its original author intended its meaning within its original context.

    OK, back to the translation of each passage. If I am translating Is. 7:14, I must translate Hebrew almah accurately to English (or any other language).

    Stop. Pause. Breathe. Wait several centuries. 🙂

    OK, now if I am translating Matt. 1:23, I am translating a different text. I must translate this different text accurately to English (or any other language).

    What text Matt. quoted from is irrelevant to how I must translate each of those two original texts.

    I do not know why you have been referring to Sappho, the LXX, views on gender, or theology in your comments. It’s not a problem of either of us that I don’t understand. We may be *referring* to different things in our messages. Our referential meanings may, therefore, be different.

    I don’t understand how these other issues (each important), such as Matthews source text, relates to the job of a Bible translator. My job as a translator is to accurately translate a text in front of me.

    My job is not to include interpretations of that text which people have suggested sometimes centuries after that text was written. My job is not to be concerned about theology. Theology is the concern of theologians. My job as a Bible translator is translation of biblical texts.

    Now, I am *not* saying that Bible translators must be ignorant of theology or textual matters or interpretational issues. All I am saying is that when an author references something in what they say, I must translate what they reference. I must not change the author’s meaning to any other referent. If I did so, I would be changing the meaning of the original author, and that is not my job as a translator.

    Let me illustrate. As you know, there have been a variety of interpretations of the book Song of Solomon (SoS). Some in the Church through the ages have been embarrassed by that book, by its sensuality and sexuality. Some have suggested that SoS is not at all about what it sounds like it is talking about, namely, a man and his lover admiring each other, especially physically, longing for each other. As you know, some suggest that SoS is *really* about Christ and the Church and their love for each other. Well, maybe they are right. As a Bible translator, it is not for me to say what a text is *really* about. It is only my job to translate the original text. So, when the original text speaks about the breasts of the beautiful woman lover, I must not translate the Hebrew word for breasts with some English word such as “doctrinal canons of the Church” or “the twin beauties of the Nicene Creed and the Westminster Confession”! 🙂

    The author of the SoS wrote the Hebrew word for “breasts”. And so the accurate translation is the English word “breasts”.

    My job as a translator is a linguistic one, to try to translate as accurately as I can what the original authors referred to. If they used a metaphor such as “the sons of Israel” and it referred to the entire nation of Israel, not simply the 12 sons of Jacob/Israel, then I must make sure that my English translation of the original Hebrew metaphor is clear that I am not talking only about Israel’s 12 sons.

    I leave all the rest to theologians, literary critics, et al.

    Phew! I’m glad I don’t have their job. It’s much too big for me! Even Bible translation is too big for me. But somebody has to do it and I’m willing to do my best. Fortunately, I don’t translate alone these days. I’m part of a team effort and we have an increasing number of good resources to help us understand the *linguistic* meaning of the biblical texts so that we can translate that meaning into other languages.

  12. JKGayle says:

    “Stop. Pause. Breathe. Wait several centuries. 🙂

    OK, now if I am translating Matt. 1:23, I am translating a different text.”

    LOL.

    My question is whether you and Matthew are translating the same text (Is. 7:14). Is Willis Barnstone’s translation of Matthew’s translation accurate, or not? That you bring up centuries and time is just brilliant. REally, this is some of this issue, I think. When it a text the same, when different? It doesn’t matter whether I wear the hat of a Greek scholar, Hebrew scholar, linguist, theologian, feminist, or translator – the basic question is where / when / do you and I draw the lines? (I love D. A. Carson’s chapter title in Gagging of God: “On Drawing Lines, When Drawing Lines is Rude.”). Seems to me we stand from our own emic perspectives, drawing lines. When does the grain become of heap? When does the fetus become a baby? When does a Greek masculine word (not grammatical masc) become inclusive of women? When does the Hebrew maiden become a virgin? To try to reconstruct a dusty text (as if it’s one author could intend, once upon a time, just one meaning) seems pretty simplistic. So is Barnstone, in translating Matthew, a worse or better translator of Isaiah than Matthew? It’s not a trick question. Rather, I’m asking how you (or I) or any translator can know exactly what Matthew intended by his choice of Greek words. If Matthew had written in Hebrew, how would he have written his quotation of Isaiah? The Sappho stuff I bring in because sometimes the Bible is so threatening, so predetermined by “several centuries” of viewing language a certain way and no other. Sometimes a lesbian Greek poet can help us maintain a distance from the text that a “disciple of Jesus” (like Matthew for example) can’t so easily.

  13. Wayne Leman says:

    Kurk responded:

    My question is whether you and Matthew are translating the same text (Is. 7:14).

    No, not likely the exact same text. I think Matthew is probably quoting from the LXX which is a translation of what Isaiah wrote. A translation, by definition, is not the same text as what it translates. Good translators make their translations as close as possible, but because languages differ, a text and its translation are never the same text.

    Is Willis Barnstone’s translation of Matthew’s translation accurate, or not?

    Sorry, but I don’t have Barnstone’s translation. But if you can copy his translation of Matthew’s translation and post it here, I’d be happy to look at it. It is not an easy question to answer whether something is an “accurate” translation or not. An easier question to answer is whether or not a translation is within an acceptable range for the gumbo stew created by a translator or different translators who have done translations of the same text. By gumbo stew I am referring to the many different factors which enter into translation of a text, including the original syntax, lexicon, lexical meaning at the time of the original writing, figures of speech, target language syntax and lexical issues, etc.

  14. J. K. Gayle says:

    Yes, Wayne. It seems we agree on one point, that translation is a gumbo stew and “perhaps” Matthew is simply quoting someone else’s less “better Bible” translation into Greek from Hebrew (although it’s clear from his word μεθερμηνευόμενον that he’s translating the Hebrew too).

    The only other thing I’d like to emphasize is that language (even any given word performed in Chomsky’s sense) has a range of meanings, not because of some inherent binary property of language but because we human beings are (perhaps like God) above human logic and even translation formulas. Isn’t it amazing that an acclaimed scientist like Alan Lightman would write novels and still wants his novels, when translated (into 30 languages so far), to be translated not only scientifically (i.e., with respect to formulas of meaning transferrence) but also artistically (i.e., with respect to the L2 translator’s own believable emic categories)? Isn’t it amazing that purely-Jewish bible translations today (i.e., AST, JBK, JPS, JPT, SPT, JPCT) restrict the range of meaning of עלמה – so that Barnstone can imagine that the Jewish Matthew using Jewish Greek (albeit παρθενος) would also restrict the range of meaning of the referent to “young woman”? Is the translator (or the text examined) ever really without his or her own emic categories with their own range of meanings?

  15. Sal Putiri says:

    I believe it is wrong, very wrong, to tinker with the bible. While I am not opposed to different translations, e.g., NIV, AMP, NAS, etc., I believe one is walking on dangerous ground to make gender neutral changes.
    Besides, God made His Word “gender neutral”, i.e., applicable to both men and women, all the way back in Genesis 5, verse 2:
    Gen 5:2
    2 He created them male and female and blessed them and named them [both] Adam [Man] at the time they were created. AMP

    Subsequently, when God generically speaks about man – women are included.
    This should not be used as an argument to “create” a gender neutral bible. If God had wanted one He would have written it that way from the beginning.

  16. Dannii Willis says:

    God did write it that way from the beginning… that’s why it’s better to talk about “gender accuracy” than “gender neutrality”. The argument goes that that in many places in the Hebrew and Greek texts the words that are used refer to both genders. And when the Bible was translated into English, “man” and “men” also referred to both genders. But languages change, and this is no longer the case. In current English “men” refers to only people who have an abundance of Y chromosones. To keep gender accuracy we need to understand the source languages as well as understand how English is used now, and that means not using the word “men” when the Hebrew and Greek is also refering to people with a lack of Y chromosones.

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