You may have got the idea from my recent posts on the ESV (English Standard Version) of the Bible:
that the way gender is understood and presented by Christianity is important to me. Adrian is still (nicely) encouraging discussion in Adrian Warnock's UK Evangelical Blog: ESV and stirring up controversy so here is more.
Actually, I don't think I have really started to say how important I feel Gender is for Christianity. For many years I resisted the call to ordained ministry on the grounds that the Church has too many middle class, white, male ministers and another one was definitely not needed.
My own denomination is still struggling to implement its own understanding of this issue see the 2002 conference report from the Methodist Church Committee for Gender Justice.
Ok, so when I read about the ESV and its gender policy and the comments by many of the same people on the TNIV I get upset and worried. Now I am not an expert on Hebrew and Greek, so I go and read those who are (lots of links below). Despite all the rhetoric about the differences in translation policy I am now of the opinion that Gender is the only really key difference between the ESV and TNIV. I believe the ESV tries to pretend that it is about more than this (and to hide this they are forced to use a lot of antiquated English), but it seems to me that much of their comments boil down to finding reasons to support their gender policy.
Therefore I have been collecting links to experts writing on this issue (and there is a lot of very non expert writing out there to wade through). Here is what I have so far:
Second an interview with Eugene Nida in Meaning-full Translations - Christianity Today Magazine, I know a lot of Conservatives just won't bother reading that due to their prejudices about Dr Nida. But it is full of good stuff:
How do you react to complaints about the way gender has been handled in meaning-based translations?
Face the fact that ancient Israel was a male-dominated culture. You had to have ten men to form a synagogue. Sixty women couldn't be a synagogue without ten men.
In many instances, though, it is good to talk about people and leave it ambiguous. There is nothing sacred about specifying always men, men, men.
What are the limits in our translating gender references for the modern American church? Should we say brothers and sisters everywhere Paul writes adelphoi?
We're stuck with English, and we have to make a decision if we're going to be inclusive. It seems to me that the words in those contexts are referring to people in general. It's not referring just to men, although we have to admit that in many instances they were men who were involved in the discussions. But the implications of such passages are for people in general.
Then a whole list of important papers on this subject that I am still working my way through. But includes a key paper for the ESV camp: Can Greek aner ("man") sometimes mean "person"? No, says Dr. Wayne Grudem but there are also two rebuttals that you should read
- Against Grudem: Aner and Masculinist Misprisions of NewTestament Meaning, [a PDF file] by Ann Nyland
- Can Greek aner ("man") sometimes mean "person"?, [a doc file - aargh] by Daniel B. Wallace (27KB)
You will see that others are picking this up regarding the ESV such as SansBlogue: The ESV (doctrine : language : usability) that I have referred to in 42: Flattery or Punishment? and the points are not minor.
Finally I would like to return to an aspect of the (long) articles by Mark D. Roberts which is Is the TNIV Good News? Volume 2: Part 15: How Common Is Inclusive Language in Today's English? where he makes 4 theses (lots of supporting detail in his articles):
Inclusive Language in Contemporary English, Thesis 1: In contemporary English usage there is a wide range of practice when it comes to inclusive language.
Inclusive Language in Contemporary English, Thesis 2: The use of inclusive gender language is more common among younger speakers, though this fact can be exaggerated.
Inclusive Language in Contemporary English, Thesis 3: People who actively participate in conservative evangelical Christian communities are less likely to use inclusive gender language and more likely to be comfortable with traditional male generic language.
Inclusive Language in Contemporary English, Thesis 4: There are different kinds or degrees of inclusive language.
This makes sense to me except that it seems to me that in UK English culture we now have moved generally in society towards thesis 2 so that thesis 3 (as typified by the ESV) is more out of sync with the general population than it maybe is in the US (I would be interested to hear what Adrian thinks about this).
My fear is that there is an agenda with the ESV to re-inflict an even more patriachial view of scripture onto Christianity than existing translations. It plays on fears and mis-information such as the campaign against the TNIV, which so far, I believe, shows a much more accurate rendition of intention regarding gender in the original texts. It plays on phrases like political correctness (gender accurate translation is nothing to do with political correctness).
Let us end with Galations 3:28 which even the ESV has as
Galations 3:28 There is neither Jew nor Greek, there is neither slave nor free, there is neither male nor female, for you are all one in Christ Jesus.
May that be as true for the Church as it is for Christ.