Editing out the inspired singular "they"

James 2 is a real challenge to gender guidelines. I wonder if there was a statement of concern against the NIV for editing out gender neutral terms along with the inspired singular “they”.

14 τί τὸ ὄφελος ἀδελφοί μου ἐὰν πίστιν λέγῃ τις ἔχειν ἔργα δὲ μὴ ἔχῃ μὴ δύναται ἡ πίστις σῶσαι αὐτόν

14 What good is it, my brothers, if a man claims to have faith but has no deeds? Can such faith save him?

15 ἐὰν ἀδελφὸς ἢ ἀδελφὴ γυμνοὶ ὑπάρχωσιν καὶ λειπόμενοι τῆς ἐφημέρου τροφῆς

15 Suppose a brother or sister is without clothes and daily food.

16 εἴπῃ δέ τις αὐτοῖς ἐξ ὑμῶν ὑπάγετε ἐν εἰρήνῃ θερμαίνεσθε καὶ χορτάζεσθε

16 If one of you says to him, “Go, I wish you well; keep warm and well fed,”

μὴ δῶτε δὲ αὐτοῖς τὰ ἐπιτήδεια τοῦ σώματος τί τὸ ὄφελος

but does nothing about his physical needs, what good is it?

17 οὕτως καὶ ἡ πίστις ἐὰν μὴ ἔχῃ ἔργα νεκρά ἐστιν καθ’ ἑαυτήν

17 In the same way, faith by itself, if it is not accompanied by action, is dead. NIV

The first thing I noticed in this chapter of James in the NIV is that three different words are translated by man in English. They are ανθρωπος, a “person”; ανηρ, a “man” or “citizen”; and τις, the gender neutral “someone”.

But even odder is the way that the Greek was tidied up in English in the NIV. Note the “him” and “his” in verse 16, “if one of you says to him” and then “does nothing about his physical needs”. In fact, in the Greek it says, “to them”.

Somehow an English stylist must have come along and decided that the singular “they” was a product of the English translation, not the Greek, and edited it out. The TNIV has restored it. But if singular “they” is acceptable in Greek, why isn’t it used more often? I don’t know – maybe this one was just overlooked. Each epistle was written by a different author, or scribe, etc. They all had their preferences. So do we.

What is even odder is that the ESV, which does include the inspired singular “they”, but whose translators have sworn, up, down and around that the singular of anthropos should be translated as “man”, has suddenly translated anthropos as “person” in verse 20 – and inserted the word “you”.

ὦ ἄνθρωπε κενέ
you foolish person

I wonder if this goes against the Colorado Springs Guidelines!

And at the end of all that, how many of us stopped to think about how we can help to clothe and feed our brothers and sisters. We don’t need good grammar for that. Let us remember Rahab.