Gender-Inclusive Language in Bible Translation

The New Revised Standard Version (NRSV) was one of the first major translations to adopt the gender-neutral language. The King James Version translated at least one passage using a technique that many now reject in other translations, “Blessed are the peacemakers, for they shall be called the children of God” (Matt. 5:9). One of the last bastions of literal translation philosophy, the New American Standard Bible, has given into the gender-neutral translation philosophy.

Function Vs. Form – a False Dichotomy

The reader needs and deserves to know what the passage actually says, even if it is difficult to understand. A contextual interpretation that ignores or deviates from the Original Language does not provide that, and since this kind of interpretation is a basic element of Dynamic Equivalent / Functional Equivalent translation, there is little or no “equivalency” to the OL in these passages at all. So on this score, the distinction between DE/FE translations and literal translations truly is a false dichotomy. The real distinction is between translations whose philosophies permit this kind of contextual interpretation in place of literal translation and translations that formally correspond to the OL as much as possible.

GREEK NEW TESTAMENT: If the Public Deserves a More Accurate Greek Text…

“Functional” equivalence as a philosophy assumes that it is possible to create a translation with the exact same meaning as the OL text, without matching the grammatical forms found in the original or using words that match the meanings of the OL words, as established or recommended by lexical research. Of course, it also assumes that a translation done as a formal equivalent differs from a functional equivalent to such an extent as to be contrasted with it. In other words, two such translations will belong to these two separate categories, and there is a dichotomy between them.

Theological Bias in Translation

Theological bias has a negative connotation as something to be avoided, and in general, I think it is. But I do not think it would be realistic to argue that Bible translation can be done without theological bias. It is not simply a matter of whether the translator has a theological agenda or not; there are passages in which all the choices of wording necessarily reflect theological positions. Furthermore, if we are going to be completely objective, even orthodoxy is a bias. That is, it is by definition an opinion that inclines or prejudices the translator toward a particular choice of wording when his choices all have theological implications.

The Basics of the Bible Translation Process

While I cannot address this subject at length, it needs to be addressed, to lay the foundation for you, the reader. My approach here is to assume that you have no knowledge of Bible translation issues, or the process of translating from the Original Languages (OL) of Hebrew, Aramaic, and Greek, into what we call the Receptor Language (RL), such as English. However, this does not mean that we will pass over all the elements of this subject because some of them are essential to the issues of literal translation.

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