Essay / Literature

Mark Roberts Misses the Point on the Revised NIV “But at this point some of my readers are no doubt thinking: ‘Come on, Mark. Get a hold of yourself! Isn’t this whole inclusive language thing just a matter of selling out to political correctness? And isn’t the whole shift in language that you keep talking about a result of an anti-Christian feminist agenda? Wouldn’t you be better off as a preacher and teacher if you opposed such social pressures and stuck with a clear, simple, traditional translation of the Bible?'”Mark Roberts continues his thoughtful series on the revisions to the NIV. I am unpersuaded by him on many counts. However, I think he has missed the simplest argument against his budding position (for the revised NIV). Here is a short informal argument:1. Ancient Greek has a patriarchal bias in grammar.2. Traditional English had a patriarchal bias in grammar.3. This patriarchal bias is offensive to some moderns to the point that they argue that modern language usage should be revised.4. This patriarchal bias was not offensive to the Holy Spirit and/or the human writers of the Bible. They did not modify their use of ancient Greek (which they could have done) to change it.5. It is possible in English to reflect the underlying patriarchal bias of the original Greek in English. 6. Translations should reflect the meaning of the original as much as possible.7. This bias is arguably part of the meaning of the text.8. The revised NIV needless hides this patriarchal bias. It fails to offend in a way that this ancient book would offend a modern reader committed to proposition 3. Put simply: ancient Greek treated male pronouns as if they could be used universally. This practice has been under fire in an organized way for the last thirty years by persons opposed to it on ideological grounds. The writers of the Bible either never thought of these arguments (under the power of the Holy Spirit), thought them unimportant (because they did not change the language), or thought patriarchy was good and normative (much more likely given the content of Scripture and the cultural context.) Modern translations that soften this truth do a “bait and switch” on a seeker not justified by the demands of modern English (English does have a “patriarchal mode.”) They pretend that there is no issue for a feminist with a religion founded on a very traditional text. They fail to build a wall where the text itself would build a wall for the modern feminist reader if he were reading the original Greek text. Since it is possible to reflect this wall and style, which all good readers of English must learn to understand other historical documents that were originally written in English, even translators who do not like patriarchal English should use it in their translations or risk being perceived as having put their own bias overtly in the translation for inadequate reasons.

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