Gender-Neutral Translations, Revisited

In recent years, there’s been very little discussion about so-called “Gender-Neutral Translations.”

But just recently, a couple new items have come out. The first is from Vern S. Poythress, reiterating his position from before.

Poythress, Vern S. “Gender-Neutral Bible Translations, Some Twenty Years Later.” Westminster Theological Journal 84 (2022), 51–64.

The second is a video from Darryl Burling of the Biblical Mastery Academy (formerly Master New Testament Greek). The video is entitled “Gender-Neutral Bible Translations: Good, Bad or Ugly?

Read the paper, watch the video, and post a comment!

Suzanne McCarthy, requiem

Suzanne McCarthy was a BBB blogger. She died of cancer in 2015. Yesterday I learned that her husband, daughter, and a sister brought a book to publication that she had been writing before she died. It is titled Valient or Virtuous?: Gender Bias in Bible Translation. I am reading it. It is a good book that reflects Suzanne’s scholarship in the biblical languages and her keen interest in Bible translation.

One of the issues Suzanne raises is that the Hebrew word chayil is translated by many English Bible translations as “valor” when it refers to men, but as “virtuous” when it refers to women. Better Bibles translate a word the same way unless context requires a difference in translation.

What do you think? Can a woman be a woman of valor?

Suzanne was a woman of valor. We honor her.

Mike Aubrey, who blogs about the Greek of the New Testament, also honored Suzanne, on his blog.

Fact Check: How English Has Changed

There is a popular meme that illustrates language change. It is entitled “How English has changed over the last 1000 years: the 23rd Psalm.”

I don’t know the source, but it appears to be from a printed book. Maybe someone can help me hunt down the reference.

Now there are some problems with this analysis. Language is primarily spoken, not written, so comparing writing is not necessarily indicative of language change. It could simply be showing differences in spelling. Also, it is comparing different translations of the Bible. That a different translator rendered a passage differently doesn’t necessarily mean there was language change. It could mean they interpreted it differently, or used a different source text (early English translations were from the Latin Vulgate), or had a different translation philosophy, or it simply reflects stylistic differences.

But the most glaring error represents a common misconception: that the King James Version we have today is what they had in 1611. However, what is printed above is not the King James Version of 1611, but the King James Version of 1769! This misconception is continually perpetuated when we refer to the King James Version that we use as the 1611.

The 1611 King James Bible reads this way:

The LORD is my ſhepheard, I ſhall not want.
He maketh me to lie downe in greene paſtures:
he leadeth mee beſide the ſtill waters.

A helpful web site is King James Bible Online. You can compare the 1611 and 1769 there, and even view an original 1611 manuscript.

Take the Plunge

I’ve spent a good amount of time in the last few months cleaning up and re-organizing the pages with updated content. One of the pages includes links to lots, and lots, and lots of English Bible versions. And when you have that many Bible translations, many of them, especially the single-author ones, will be idiosyncratic.

I just came across one recently that had an interesting translation of the word normally transliterated into English as “baptize.” The Original Word of God translation, translated by Kenneth Allan Clark, instead consistently uses the word “plunge.”

However, that has the unfortunate result that “John the Baptist” becomes… wait for it… you guessed it… “John the Plunger” (Mark 6).