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Tuesday, April 15, 2008

The Inclusive Bible

Iyov has rather surprised me with his review of The Inclusive Bible. This is a complete new translation of the Bible (Hebrew Old Testament, deuterocanonical books, and New Testament) with detailed study notes. What surprised me was Iyov's generally positive reception of this Bible, although it is a dynamic equivalence translation with gender-inclusive language, two features of translations which Iyov has repeatedly attacked in the past. It seems that in Iyov's thinking these negatives have been counterbalanced by the Jewish-friendly rendering of divine names and the fact that
this translation is unabashedly liberal.
It is not really fair to evaluate a translation on the basis of just a few verses. But, since all I have read is the short passages quoted by Iyov, I will do just that. Here is the Inclusive Bible's rendering of Genesis 2:20b-22:
But none of them proved to be a fitting companion, so YHWH made the earth creature fall into a deep sleep, and while it slept, God divided the earth creature into two, then closed up the flesh from its side. YHWH then fashioned the two halves into male and female, and presented them to one another.
This gives a flavour of how this version avoids specifying the gender either of God or of the first human being. I consider this to be a reasonable translation option, considering that in the Hebrew text neither being is assigned natural gender, only grammatical gender which is arbitrary.

But I must take issue with this translation for inaccuracy in implying that the first human was divided in a purely equal way into male and female. This may reflect oriental mythology, but not the biblical text. In the Bible it is clear that the woman was taken out of the man, that there was not full equality here.

If this is how this Inclusive Bible handles matters like this, I have to say that it is not an acceptably accurate translation. This goes beyond inclusive language, into distorting the message of the Bible by making it reflect a generally inclusive philosophy. This is a distinction which Iyov does not seem to have noticed in his enthusiasm to endorse this Bible, rather than TNIV and NRSV which put translational accuracy before inclusiveness.

There is a lot more to Iyov's review which I have not covered here, so read it for yourselves.


At Tue Apr 15, 06:27:00 PM, Blogger Suzanne McCarthy said...


It can't be "in a purely equal way" because women are smaller on average than men - maybe 80% - I don't know.

What is should say is that "God took one side of earth creature and made 40% of it into a woman leaving the rest to be called man."

If God only took a "rib" then they would made more than one flesh put back together.

At Tue Apr 15, 07:55:00 PM, Blogger Iyov said...

Why Peter, what a snarky review of a review! You are fortunate that I am quite busy today, or I'd snark you back.

But, speaking of surprises . . . what a surprise to read that I am opposed to gender-inclusive translations. Does that mean I need to throw out those translations that I treasure such as Stein's Contemporary Torah or the NRSV? Especially after my posts praising them?

My recollection is that I have repeatedly criticized the TNIV, which I know is one of your favorite translations. I'd recap the reasons why, but as I said -- I have a full agenda over the next few days, so that debate will need to wait for another day. However, suffice to say that I don't think the discourse over the TNIV as been particularly honest or enlightening -- on either side.

You are right that I am tickled pink to read a well-written liberal translation of the Bible -- as you know, they are not so common.

As to the other points you make, I think I already address them in my review -- so thanks for the (and I mean this sincerely -- not sarcastically) very entertaining post.

At Wed Apr 16, 05:54:00 AM, Blogger Peter Kirk said...

Iyov, I'm glad I was able to entertain you. I didn't intend to be snarky. Maybe my memory was wrong about your objections to gender neutral translations. I know your main problem with TNIV was with singular "they", a perfectly good English construction with a long history which you arbitrarily object to, but I suppose we will have to agree to differ on that one.

Suzanne, God would have no trouble making a rib grow to be nearly the same size as a man if he wanted to. And I think that is what the text says. Indeed your own literal translation is

... [God] took one of its sides, and closed up the flesh instead thereof [sic! - who else has used "thereof" in the last 200 years?];

22 And made the side, which the LORD God had taken from earth creature (adam), a woman ...

which gives a very different picture on this one point from the Inclusive Bible.

At Wed Apr 16, 08:09:00 AM, Blogger Suzanne McCarthy said...

who else has used "thereof" in the last 200 years?];

I did say that I was using the KJ as a base. I need a neutral translation to use as a base, right? When I want to quote the Bible, I need a "common" translation thereof. ;-)


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