Conservative Christians Deny That New Southern Baptist Bible Translation Is 'Gender Neutral'

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Conservative Christian groups and intellectuals are rejecting a recent claim that the latest version of the Christian Standard Bible has been edited to be more "gender neutral."

The Atlantic published a piece on Sunday that claimed that the theologically conservative Southern Baptist Convention was embracing a more gender-neutral version of the Good Book.

"Although the CSB's translation isn't totally gender-neutral, it's difficult to deny its significant deviations from rigidly literal interpretation methods. Perhaps gender-inclusive would be a more accurate term," argued the authors.

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"In the CSB, there are hundreds of verses that fall within the 'gender-neutral' category condemned in Southern Baptists' own resolutions. Together, they provide an illustrative survey of the kinds of quietly progressive changes that have been inserted into this conservative denomination's Bible translation."

For example, the Atlantic article explains, "the CSB now translates the term anthropos, a Greek word for "man," in a gender-neutral form 151 times, rendering it 'human,' 'people,' and 'ones.' The previous edition had done this on occasion; the new revision adds almost 100 more instances. 'Men of Israel' becomes 'fellow Israelites;' when discussing Jesus's incarnation the 'likeness of men' becomes 'likeness of humanity.'"

One critic of the Atlantic article was Denny Burke, associate pastor at the Kenwood Baptist Church in Louisville, Kentucky, and a professor of Biblical Studies at Boyce College.

Over 4,300 messengers came to the Southern Baptist Convention's annual meeting, held in Phoenix, Arizona, June 13, 2017.
Over 4,300 messengers came to the Southern Baptist Convention's annual meeting, held in Phoenix, Arizona, June 13, 2017. | (Photo: Screengrab/SBC Annual Meeting)

Burke labeled the Atlantic article "demonstrably false" and "riddled with factual errors," stating that the authors "reveal very little evidence of familiarity with the debate or with the issues in contention."

"The debate has not focused on examples such as the ones cited ... Rather, the debate has focused on examples where the biblical author clearly intends masculine meaning," wrote Burke.

"A gender-inclusive translation will often mute the author's masculine meaning with a rendering that is gender-inclusive. That is the point of the debate."

Burke went on to argue that the Atlantic piece showed "not a single example of the CSB muting masculine meaning with a gender-inclusive rendering. Not one example."

The CSB uses male pronouns for God, pastors, and where masculinity is obviously intended.

Jonathan Merritt, one of the authors of the Atlantic piece, responded to the criticism by posting to Twitter on Monday the evidence backing up his arguments.

Tweets included an example comparing the CSB translation to a gender neutral version and a link to a past SBC resolution condemning gender inclusive Bible translations, including changing "brothers" to "brothers and sisters," which the CSB does, Merritt argued.

The Council on Biblical Manhood and Womanhood also rejected the claims of the Atlantic piece, stating that "the CSB Translation Oversight Committee consulted the Colorado Springs Guidelines, agreed upon in 1997 to ensure future translations would remain gender accurate."

"The CSB translates 'mortal' or 'mortals' words for 'man' in the OT less than ten times, when forms of the word 'man' appear hundreds of times in the OT. And in the NT, the CSB doesn't change the word 'man' (anthropos) to 'mortal' even once," argued the Council.

"Rendering anthropos or adam as 'human,' 'people,' 'persons,' etc. in some contexts fits with the Colorado Springs guidelines. If the referent includes males and females, the translation should reflect such. The authors of the Atlantic article fail to realize or note the semantic nature of how meaning is expressed in a language's lexicon."

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