Bible in need of gender-neutral language

In the beginning, God created a glorious being called Adam, man, and when he got bored he scrounged up the leftovers and made some chick named Eve.

According to Genesis, Eve really screwed up the whole humanity game one day when she nibbled on a Granny Smith.

Because of Eve’s Vitamin C deficiency, God got pissed, threw them out of this really epic garden and, ever since, the girl’s reputation has been in the pits.

Eve hasn’t been the only girl picked last on the Bible’s all-star kickball team; women have been historically excluded from consideration in the religious text.

Saturated with phrases such as the Father, the son, Him, brothers and mankind, it seems an impossible feat for women to get in this creed conversation. Can I get an a-women?

Luckily, the New International Version Bible has given a woman-word or two in the book that structures more than 2.1 billion worldviews throughout the globe.

Though the capital “Him” and “He” terms are kept in their patriarchal preservation, words like brother are accompanied by an “or sister” and the new Bible refrains from the usage of “he” or “him” when referring to an unidentified person.

The benefits of gender inclusivity in the text read by more than 33 percent of the world’s population is immeasurable. Since many young Christian girls often hear a sermon before a history lesson, acknowledgement from the supposed almighty entity might give a small boost of confidence for later years, wouldn’t you say?

However, the gender-neutral Bible has been met with heavy opposition. Namely, the Council on Biblical Manhood and Womanhood, an organization dedicated to spreading the word of Christ’s love through male domination, believes that such equality would shift from the “natural” order permitted by God.

“In the home, men lovingly are to lead their wives and family as women intelligently are to submit to the leadership of their husbands,” the CBMW website says.

According CBMW, the rise of feminist egalitarianism has become a huge threat to the gender divisions that serve as a foundation to Christian men and women.

Are we really supposed to believe that when Mother Theresa entered heaven, accompanied by her renowned compassion and incomparable kindness, Jesus took one look at her and said “Make me a pie, woman”?

Gender-neutrality must be implemented into religious texts in order for society to work toward a state of equality.

If we can apply equality to a text considered so cardinal to centuries of oppressive chauvinists, think of the implications this could have to each little girl in her Sunday best.
And to the CBMW, for the love of God, get over yourselves.

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  • J

    JordanMay 9, 2011 at 12:32 pm

    I’d like to note that the editor attempted to delete my comment and that’s why I reposted my response. Censorship at a university newspaper is fairly shocking and should not be condoned–especially at SFSU! This confirms for me that the Xpress is in need of better ethical standards in addition to higher quality writing.

  • B

    BrutusMay 6, 2011 at 2:22 pm

    This is the dumbest most useless article to come out of the Xpress since the last Xpress article I read

    • S

      Spencer DevineMay 7, 2011 at 9:37 am

      Brutus it’s great that you have an opinion, because everyone does and should share them. But at some point you just come off as a jerk rather than having anything to offer.

      If you don’t like Xpress, fine, but it’s sort of pointless to waste your time just trying to make people feel bad.

      • B

        BrutusMay 8, 2011 at 1:03 am

        Spencer take a shower and go read a real newspaper, then you’ll realize how bad this is

  • E

    Emily B.May 5, 2011 at 11:03 am

    In all fairness, I can understand why Zondervan has chosen to implement gender neutral words in their newer version. Clearly, the church hasn’t done a great job in teaching and interpreting the Bible to its people, and Zondervan feels convicted to make the Bible better. In my Sunday School, the teacher/pastor would always explain that women were included in the messages, but maybe that’s not the case in other churches. God forbid that there are churches out there that purposefully exclude that women are subject to the same messages as men. In this case, maybe the new version will be helpful.

    If anything, I hope that this new version accomplishes exactly what it was meant to do – make women feel more included. The down side is that it is guaranteed that the meaning of the text will change and be misconstrued in some cases. It’s impossible to hold true to the Bible’s intent when you’re changing a bunch of pronouns for gender neutrality’s sake.

    I would like to actually applaud the Bible for choosing to acknowledge several important women throughout Israel and the church’s history – namely Rebecca, Esther, Rahab, Mary Magdalene, etc. Though the Bible is written through a patriarchal lens (I don’t see how it could be otherwise at that time in history), God still makes a point to recognize women.

    With respect to the author, you would have to be completely ignorant of the Bible and the stories inside to say that women are left out. If you were to actually study the Bible and or even read it, then you would see that women get the spotlight too.

    I don’t think anyone here thinks Mother Theresa would get that response from Jesus; the outrageousness of your sarcasm is offensive, to be honest.

  • N

    NickMay 5, 2011 at 8:38 am

    In the Opinion, the author provides us with an “argument” that we ought to revise many portions of the Bible in order to avoid perpetrating male domination over women. I use scare-quotes above because what we are actually provided is a long line of rhetorical devices and ad hominem fallacies. No doubt the author was trying to be funny or engaging by using such provocative language, however, I think that this topic ought to be handled more carefully than it is.

    That said, though, it seems to me that if we were to extract an argument from this Opinion, a key premise of it would have to be that revising the Bible would have net utility, most noticeably by making the lives of some women and girls better off.

    We should notice two things about this claim.

    The first is that it is not obvious that the de-gendering of pronouns in the Bible would have much effect at all (as Jordan pointed out above). The author writes that, “[t]he benefits of gender inclusivity in the text read by more than 33 percent of the world’s population is immeasurable”. But, of course, such benefits might be immeasurable because they are of so small a magnitude.

    Second, insofar as the author proposes such a broadly utilitarian motivation for revising the text, she must also include in her calculations any negative effects that revising might have, including the fact that revision might upset, and upset deeply, many who would rather keep the Bible as it is. Such negative effects cannot simply be dismissed, as many take their holy book to be sacred and beyond reproach. Such people would likely be deeply opposed to the project of revision. If the author opts instead for a rule-utilitarian calculus, then (again as pointed out by Jordan above) she is committed to revising many texts that contain patriarchal themes or language if she is to remain consistent.

    If the Bible ought to be revised, then a better argument will have to be offered.

    • Z

      ZigMay 5, 2011 at 1:29 pm

      Well, from a utilitarian perspective there is a point. While you’re right that the distress caused to those who consider the Bible above such meddling should be considered, even early stage Mills-ian Utilitarianism does acknowledge that the value of everyone’s distress is not equal.

      One could argue that the oppressive nature of the Bible’s current incarnation diminishes the significance of those who want it unchanged within the utilitarian calculus.

      I don’t agree with this approach personally, and you’re definitely right on the fact that if you do manage to justify it, you’d be committed to doing it to other texts as well, would we want to edit and change Taming of the Shrew because of it’s sexist overtones?

  • J

    JoshuaMay 5, 2011 at 7:42 am

    “Are we really supposed to believe that when Mother Theresa entered heaven, accompanied by her renowned compassion and incomparable kindness, Jesus took one look at her and said ‘Make me a pie, woman’?”

    I would be a lot more open to hear what you were saying if you hadn’t summed up the other team’s ideas with this intensely ignorant accusation.

    That said, I’m on board with the ideals of feminism. I fully support them. I don’t think that the Bible should remain unchanged because I support any kind of male domination.

    I think, as the commenter above posted, the Bible should remain unchanged because it is history. You can’t rewrite history just because you saw some of its mistakes.

    Educate young women – and young men! – that the Bible was written by people, in different genres, for different reasons, from their culture, and to their culture. Educate them that the Bible, especially the Old Testament where most of what could be considered the Bible’s sexism is found, is an account of the Hebrew people’s history and interactions with God as they understood them.

    Don’t change something to make it more comfortable. Don’t change it to fit what you (and I) perceive as right. It is what it is. Take it or leave it. If you take it, examine it carefully to learn what it is saying and why it is saying it. I think you’ll find that the ideals of feminism are perfectly in line with the Bible as it is, without any changes.

  • Z

    ZigMay 5, 2011 at 7:40 am

    I think Jordan hits the nail on the head. Audrey’s initial point of patriarchal bias and the potential negative consequences are valid, but the solution of ‘re-writing the Bible’ feels like attacking the symptom, not the cause and, as Jordan says, smacks of re-writing history for our own tastes.

    Perhaps rather then pushing for an edited Bible we should push for more educated clergy who will better contextualize the Bible and the lessons (both good and bad) that it has to teach.

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Bible in need of gender-neutral language