Dale Buss writes a bit about the Today's New International Version of the Bible, whose central feature is its usage of "gender neutral" phrasing.

In the TNIV New Testament, many masculine singular pronouns have become generic and plural. For example, here's how NIV renders Hebrews 12:7: "Endure hardship as discipline; God is treating you as sons. For what son is not disciplined by his father?" But TNIV translates that passage this way: "Endure hardship as discipline; God is treating you as his children. For what children are not disciplined by their parents?" The new version, goes the critique, loses the crucial reference to God as Father.

Similarly, in Luke 17:3, translators changed "If your brother sins, rebuke him" to "If any brother or sister sins against you, rebuke the offender." The problem, critics say, is that "sister" isn't found in the original language, nor is "against you," nor is "offender." And on and on.

In my opinion, this translation is just another bit of historical revisionism. In many (even most) specific instances, there's no theological problem with interpreting a given passage in a gender neutral manner. God deals with both his sons and daughters in pretty much the same manner; we are to rebuke both our brothers and sisters who sin. Adding "against you" and "offender" to Luke 17:3 changes the meaning far more than adding "sister".

It comes down to a matter of accuracy. Are you interested in what the Bible actually says, or are you interested in what you want it to say? What's the problem with reading a literal translation and then applying these gender neutral interpretations where appropriate? It's dangerous to corrupt the actual text by incorporating what are, after all, merely our interpretations of its literal contents. In fact, this is one of the principle objections that my non-Christian friends raise with regard to Christianity: they think of the Bible as merely a collection of human writings. If we allow ourselves to take such liberties with the translation, they aren't far wrong.



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