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Can I Still Trust My Bible?

In recent controversies over so-called "gender-neutral" Bibles, Christians have begun to wonder which Bibles they can trust to translate gender-related language accurately.

Here are some guidelines recently endorsed by Christian leaders who agreed that "it is inappropriate to use gender-neutral language when it diminishes accuracy in the translation of the Bible." These guidelines were written at a meeting convened by Dr. James Dobson in Colorado Springs on May 27, 1997.

If you want to know what Bible translations you can trust, one place to start is to ask your Christian book dealer or your pastor if your translation meets these guidelines. Several widely used translations already meet these guidelines, including the NIV, NASB, KJV, and NKJV.

Colorado Springs Guidelines for Translation of Gender-Related Language in Scripture

A. Gender-related renderings of biblical language which we affirm:

1. The generic use of "he, him, his, himself" should be employed to translate generic third person masculine singular pronouns in Hebrew, Aramaic and Greek. However, substantival participles such as ho pisteuon can often be rendered in inclusive ways, such as "the one who believes" rather than "he who believes."

2. Person and number should be retained in translation so that singulars are not changed to plurals and third person statements are not changed to second or first person statements, with only rare exceptions required in unusual cases.

3. "Man" should ordinarily be used to designate the human race, for example in Genesis 1:26-27; 5:2; Ezekiel 29:11; and John 2:25.

4. Hebrew 'ish should ordinarily be translated "man" and "men," and Greek aner should almost always be so translated.

5. In many cases, anthropoi refers to people in general and can be translated "people" rather than "men." The singular anthropos should ordinarily be translated "man" when it refers to a male human being.

6. Indefinite pronouns such as tis can be translated "anyone" rather than "any man."

7. In many cases, pronouns such as oudeis can be translated "no one" rather than "no man."

8. When pas is used as a substantive it can be translated with terms such as "all people" or "everyone."

9. The phrase "son of man" should ordinarily be preserved to retain intracanonical connections.

10. Masculine references to God should be retained.

B. Gender-related renderings which we will generally avoid, though there may be unusual exceptions in certain contexts:

1. "Brother" (adelphos) should not be changed to "brother or sister"; however, the plural adelphoi can be translated "brothers and sisters" where the context makes clear that the author is referring to both men and women.

2. "Son" (huios, ben) should not be changed to "child," or "sons" (huioi) to "children" or "sons and daughters." (However, Hebrew banim often means "children.")

3. "Father" (pater, 'ab) should not be changed to "parent," or "fathers" to "parents" or "ancestors."

C. We understand these guidelines to be representative and not exhaustive, and that some details may need further refinement.

Affirmed at a meeting at Focus on the Family headquarters, May 27, 1997 (and revised September 9, 1997), by:

Ken Barker, Secretary
Committee on Bible Translation; Member, Executive Committee of Committee on Bible Translation

Timothy Bayly, Executive Director
Council on Biblical Manhood and Womanhood; Pastor, Church of the Good Shepherd, Bloomington, Indiana

Joel Belz, Publisher
God's World Publications

James Dobson, President
Focus on the Family

Wayne Grudem, President
Council on Biblical Manhood and Womanhood; Professor of Biblical and Systematic Theology, Trinity Evangelical Divinity School

Charles Jarvis, Executive Vice President
Focus on the Family

John Piper, Member
Council on Biblical Manhood and Womanhood; Senior Pastor, Bethlehem Baptist Church, Minneapolis, Minnesota

Vern S. Poythress, Professor
Westminster Theological Seminary

R.C. Sproul, Chairman
Ligonier Ministries

Ron Youngblood, Member
Committee on Bible Translation; Professor of Old Testament, Bethel Theological Seminary West

These guidelines have also been endorsed by Gleason Archer, Hudson Armerding, Clinton E. Arnold, S.M. Baugh, Alistair Begg, James Montgomery Boice, James Borland, Bill Bright, Vonette Bright, Tal Brooke, Harold O.J. Brown, Bryan Chapell, Edmund Clowney, Robert Coleman, Charles Colson, Jack Cottrell, Jerry Falwell, John Frame, W. Robert Godfrey, Jack Hayford, H. Wayne House, Elliott Johnson, Peter Jones, Mary Kassian, D. James Kennedy, George Knight III, Andreas Kostenberger, Beverly LaHaye, Timothy LaHaye, Gordon R. Lewis, Robert Lewis, Erwin Lutzer, Richard L. Mayhue, R. Albert Mohler Jr., J.P. Moreland, Joel Nederhood, J. Stanley Oakes, Stephen Olford, J.I. Packer, Dorothy Patterson, Paige Patterson, Dennis Rainey, Pat Robertson, Adrian Rogers, Paul Sailhamer, Robert Saucy, Jerry Vines, John Walvoord, Bruce Ware, Stu Weber, William Weinrich, David Wells, and John Wimber.

A Unified Front

Resolutions opposing "gender-inclusive" Bible translations were passed this summer by the Southern Baptist Convention, the Presbyterian Church in America, and the Conservative Congregational Christian Churches.

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