Tag Archives: gender inclusive language

God, Goddess, or Godde?

J.K. Gayle has several posts up concerning some book about what we didn’t we in Sunday school.

What is interesting is that Gayle uses Jewish and non-Christian sources, and their reception of the Christian canon for a discussion of gender.

On one comment, I did catch Gayle defending Christian orthodoxy, so I think we can throw out that postmodern, emergent label [imposed upon JK by that guy who is now #2 who is not to be named] :

And since you bring up non-Christian Bible translator Robert Alter, let me now bring up non-Christian and Jewish New Testament translator Willis Barnstone. Barnstone has this for Matthew’s Greek (for further comparison):

“The child engendered in her came from the holy spirit.”

“Washing them in the name of the father and the son And the holy spirit.”

Just to be clear, and absolutely accurate, I don’t think Matthew intended for his readers to think that Mary was pregnant from or through or by anyone or anything other than “the Divine Spirit” or “the Holy Spirit” or “the holy spirit.” Atteberry and Smith and their translation teams with Barnstone all have their English agree here with Matthew’s Greek.


So what of using Godde instead of God or Goddess?

For this, enter Suzanne:

I understand two things. Shawn is using Godde to show that God transcends gender. She is also using the feminine pronoun in the same way that masculine pronouns has been used for millenia by others who claim that God transcends gender.

It is possible that Shawn is not aware that the “e” ending on Godde suggests that it is a feminine word rather than one which transcends gender. But that is an artefact of Indo-European lingistics and does not invalidate her assertion that Godde transcends gender.


The problem with gender for Christians is not only one of  biblical interpretation or translation, (or are they the same?), but I think it has to do with struggling to reconcile God’s transcendence of gender with a God who forever enfolded Godself in the flesh of a Jewish rabbinical day-laboring male. One can take the Christian platonist approach of the Alexandrians (Athanasius and Clement, I will admit) who have what Joerg Rieger called in his Christ and Empire, space-suit Christologies, as if the Word of God was some alien invading the planet. Perhaps one can see a connection between the teaching of theosis and alienness, or being the Other?

I think this is why I find value in the doctrine of the Trinity, and the traditional co-equality of the persons within the Goddehead. YHWH has parental qualities of both mothers and fathers, Christ is the embodied Word and Sophia of God according to Scripture and the early church writers, and the Holy Spirit can be used both in gender neutral, masculine, and feminine terms, as the Spirit dwells in both men and women making Godde all the more immanently transcendent.

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Kevin Sam on the NIV and Gender-Inclusive Language

All the rage among the biblio-blogs recently seems to be discussion on gendered language in the NIV.

I think Kevin Sam has it right:

If we are being gender-inclusive only for the sake of being neutral even if the speaker’s intention was directed to men, then I want nothing of it.  But if it was the speaker’s original intention to speak to both men and women, then “Yes!  I’m all for the changes in the updated NIV 2011.

You can read the rest here at his blog.

Good thing there is no such thing a gender neutrality.

I would also suggest you check out Kevin’s fair comparison of the NRSV, ESV, and NASB.

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What Now Shall I Read? A requiem for the NIV

The NIV (New International Version) translation of the Bible was the Bible I first encountered the Scriptures with. I used it exclusively from my freshman year of high school until I started Seminary. I began to use the TNIV (Today’s New International Version) when the full version came out in 2005.

I liked the TNIV because it addressed many (but not all) of the translational errors of the 1984 NIV, but more important, it used gender inclusive language where the text itself seemed to indicate that this was appropriate. There was a large controversy regarding the TNIV, like it was some sort of liberal agenda at work, and this stifled the broader appeal it might otherwise have had among the evangelical community. Nevertheless, I found it to be a non-perfect, but adequate and readable/preachable translation.

But this week, the NIV 2011 was released electronically. The NIV 2011 will supersede and replace both the 1984 NIV and the TNIV. Many things have been changed for the better. Some things haven’t. Below is a comparison of a few verses from the 1984 NIV, the TNIV, and the NIV 2011. I will address the changes afterward.

Gen 1:6 And God said, “Let there be an expanse between the waters to separate water from water.” 

Matt 25:31 When the Son of Man comes in his glory, and all the angels with him, he will sit on his throne in heavenly glory.

1 Tim 2:5 For there is one God and one mediator between God and men, the man Christ Jesus

Gen 1:6 And God said, “Let there be a vault between the waters to separate water from water.” 

Matt 25:31 When the Son of Man comes in his glory, and all the angels with him, he will sit on his glorious throne.

1 Tim 2:5 For there is one God and one mediator between God and human beings, Christ Jesus, himself human

Gen 1:6 And God said, “Let there be a vault between the waters to separate water from water.” 

Matt 25:31 When the Son of Man comes in his glory, and all the angels with him, he will sit on his glorious throne.

1 Tim 2:5 For there is one God and one mediator between God and mankind, the man Christ Jesus

In the first two examples, you can see how the NIV2011 has taken the updated, better translation of the verse. Thus “expanse” is properly rendered “vault” (actually “dome”, but lets not get picky) and the “heavenly” glory properly gets replaced to fix the addition of “heavenly”, fixing the bias of the 1984. However, notice what happened with 1Tim 2:5. The TNIV authors made a conscious decision to use inclusive language where appropriate. The word “anthropos” in Greek, while masculine,  is not necessarily gender specific to males. It can and does mean “humanity”. There is another word to use in Greek that is specific to maleness, but that is not used, and clearly here, the author wanted to communicate that Jesus is the mediator for all humanity, not just for men.

So why make the change backward? Politics. When the TNIV hit the scene, there was a backlash from people like James Dobson (Focus on the Family), crying that the TNIV translators were liberals and trying to make God a woman, etc… This whipped up such a frenzy among conservative evangelicals (the NIV’s prime audience), that the TNIV, while being the third most downloaded electronic version, did not have nearly the commercial impact it might have.

So the translators gave in to pressure and went backwards. Because they were convinced it was right to do so? To remain true to scripture? No. Doug Moo, Chair of The Committee on Bible Translation, said (speaking of the TNIV), “We felt certainly at the time it was the right thing to do, that the language was moving in that direction.” Has the language stopped moving in that direction? No. In fact, there is a constantly growing cry for more gender-equal language in scripture translation. No one is asking you to translate the Bible in a way that is false. We are asking for responsible use of gender language in our Holy Scriptures.

All of this to say that while I applaud the NIV for fixing some of the larger errors in translation from the 1984, the giant step backwards in gender language, while not a complete deal breaker for me, leaves a bad taste in my mouth regarding the NIV2011.

Over the next few weeks or more, we have some guest bloggers from other Biblioblogs stopping by to give insight into their preferred Bible translations for our discussion. After we have had reasonable discussion, in which I wrestle with issues raised, I will choose my new translation in conversation with you all.

This should be fun.