More Inclusive Than You Think

This article from Patheos explains in detail something that you probably already know–the Bible, as it is usually translated into English anyway, uses a great deal of male-centered language.  What you may not know is that this language is often a result of the translation and NOT of the original language itself.  As the article points out, the culprit is often the greek word anthropos (or some variation on it) which is not gender specific.  Thus: “The things which you have heard from me in the presence of many witnesses, entrust these to faithful MEN who will be able to teach others also,” should really be “…entrust these to faithful PEOPLE…”  

I am in agreement with the article 100% and I do not deny that many translators of the Bible either had an unconscious bias or a malicious one and aimed to remove women from the text.  However, I do just want to offer a little caveat in the interests of being fair to history.  For a long time in the English language “Man” WAS the gender neutral word for humanity, equal in meaning to “anthropos.”  That’s why we have words like “mankind” and “manslaughter” sticking around.  It really wasn’t originally a sexist word at all: before the 14th century, the English word for “adult male” was Werman.  “Man” was the universal term to which “wer,” meaning male, was applied. 

I say that only to give a break to the older translators into English.  More recent translators don’t get off the hook so easily. Clearly the sense of the word has changed.  There’s part of me that wants to hang on to it because it is, frankly, a more poetic word than either “human” or “people.”  It sounds better.  But there are women out there who think because the Bible says “man” that they don’t count.  And as the article shows, that’s not just morally wrong — it’s literally and textually wrong!  The Bible is more inclusive than you think.

Leave a Reply