In every other sphere I know of, intellectuals are always pushing for the purest of the pure, the real McCoy. We want our baroque music on period instruments, bows made with horse hair, strings of sheep gut, organic hops, free-range chickens. And if your Shakespeare isn’t “OP,” forget about it! (OP stands for “original pronunciation,” and is an amazing revelation to anyone who thinks they know Shakespeare. (His work would have originally sounded like pirate-talk by folks from Appalachia rather than the posh British accent you’ve always heard. )
Yet (some) ostensibly educated folks go all squishy when it comes to translations of The Bible. Why is that?
The latest example of this comes from Prof. Denny Burk who is one of the driving forces behind the (more gender-neutral) Christian Standard Bible being pushing on the Southern Baptist denomination. Of course, Dr. Burk is trying to have his cake and eat it too, claiming that the new translation is not gender-neutered because Southern Baptists would never…!
You can read more on the theological debate here, but I’d rather talk (briefly and) broadly on ‘why anyone would want to obscure the texts of the Bible?’
In short, what Prof. Burk and his ilk have done is altered the words in scripture that are originally masculine and yet have clear inclusive meaning. As The Atlantic correctly points out:
The CSB translates the term adelphoi, a Greek word for “brother” in a gender-neutral form 106 times, often adding “sister.” “Brotherly love” is translated “love as brothers and sisters.”
As the CSB translates the Hebrew term ‘dm (the word for adam), the generic “man, men,” it uses gender-neutral language of “human(s), humanity, human kind, people, person(s)” 242 times. The CSB also uses the term “mortal” or “mere mortal” to replace a masculine term 6 times. Numerous other instances of gender-neutral translations of masculine terminology exist across both testaments.
If you think about it, non-religious people, comedians, stars and rappers use this masculine inclusive language all of the time. Off the top of my head, I pulled up this (random) video clip of Kimmy Robertson, actress and comedian, talking about her work with the filmmaker, David Lynch.
“I think David Lynch’s entire repertoire (body of work) touches the chord of every man…everybody…”
Now, unless you’re a college professor, you probably didn’t cringe when she said, “every man,” right?
Why in the world, when it comes to investigating an historical and revered body of literature like The Bible, would anyone want to obscure the original text in any way? Even if you are offended by it, don’t you want to encounter the real text? Wouldn’t the ideal be to read the text in the original languages—as far away from current trends and ideology as possible?
Come on, Southern Baptists, get your act together. Don’t worry, we can always borrow a censored translation from our Unitarian friends. Give it to us raw and wriggling!
This video is more relevant than I realized, watch it!