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New Bible texts translate the Bible away

Issue: "Miers doesn't fit the mold," Oct. 15, 2005

As evangelicals debate the inclusive-language Today's New International Version (TNIV), many liberal mainline churches have slipped far down the slippery slope in what they have done to the Bible.

In 1990, the National Council of Churches published the New Revised Standard Version (NRSV), an inclusive-language rendition of the well-accepted Revised Standard Version (RSV). This translation keeps masculine references to God and to Jesus, but changes them for human beings, getting rid of the generic "man," putting "brothers and sisters" where the original just has "brothers," and using awkward plurals and repetitions to avoid the generic "he." Never mind that the messianic title "Son of Man" is now "a human being." What the NRSV did to the RSV is pretty much what the TNIV did to the NIV.

But that much inclusive language was not enough for many mainline churches. An Inclusive Language Lectionary, a rendition of Scripture texts read during the worship service, takes the next step of changing the gendered language for God. Today, the congregations who use this lectionary in Sunday worship pray to "our Father-Mother." Jesus is not the Son of God, but the "child of God." The pronoun "he" is not even used for the man Jesus, replaced with ungrammatical constructions: "Jesus Christ, who gave Himself for us" becomes "Jesus Christ, who gave self for us" (Titus 2:13-14).

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But that much tinkering proved not to be enough either. In 1995, Oxford University Press published the New Testament and Psalms: An Inclusive Version. This revision of the NRSV not only uses gender-inclusive language for God and Jesus ("God our father-mother"), it also eliminates, in the words of the introduction, "all pejorative references to race, color, or religion, and all identifications of persons by their physical disability." In avoiding all "offensive language," "darkness" is changed to "night," lest it offend black people, and "the right hand of God" is changed to "the mighty hand of God," lest it offend left-handed people.

But that does not go far enough. The liberal Catholic group Priests for Equality published in 2004 the Inclusive Bible. "Kingdom" is both sexist and authoritarian, so the priests made up a new word, "kindom." Adam is not a "man," he is an "earth creature." And to avoid offending homosexuals or others in nontraditional relationships, the words "husband" and "wife" are changed to "partner."

But since radical theology depends on demonizing the "patriarchy" of the Bible, the Inclusive Bible includes footnotes admitting that "the actual Hebrew is even more brutal" and chastising the apostle Paul for his retrograde attitudes. Then the translators just change the text to something more suitable.

But the Inclusive Bible does not go far enough either. The Bible version Good as New: A Radical Retelling of the Scriptures uses what its introduction calls "cultural translation." Not only is it inclusive, it translates ancient terms into their modern-day equivalent. Thus, "demon possession" becomes "mental illness." Even names are changed: Peter, Nicodemus, and Bethsaida become "Rocky," "Ray," and "Fishtown." Religious terminology is eliminated, as not being in accord with our culture: "Baptize" is changed to "dip"; "salvation" is changed to "completeness."

The translation describes itself as "women, gay and sinner friendly." Thus, when Paul says that it is better to marry than to burn, the Inclusive Bible says, "If you know you have strong needs, get yourself a partner. Better than being frustrated." The Inclusive Bible follows the higher critics in leaving out the Pastoral Epistles and Revelation, and it follows The Da Vinci Code in including instead the Gnostic Gospel of Thomas. This translation is endorsed by the Archbishop of Canterbury, Rowan Williams, and the evangelical leader Tony Campolo.

But does any of this matter, as long as people are exposed to the Bible? Yes, it does. The bisexual deity "Father-Mother" is not the true God, nor is this made-up religion Christianity. These translations are not the Word of God. Just the Word of Man.

Gene Edward Veith
Gene Edward Veith

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