The Inclusive Bible: The First Egalitarian Translation

This translation has had a couple of mentions here recently in comments, enough to pique my interest and purchase it.

First the plusses. A lot of the translations in the NRSV that I wish had been done better have been dealt with quite well in this translation. For example: אָדָם (‘adam), in Genesis 2:7 formed from the אֲדָמָה (‘adamah), is rendered as a genderless ‘earth creature (an “it”) fashioned out of the clay of the earth‘. Only in verse 22, when God has divided the earth creature in two, does the story have a male and female.

The intention of this translation is to be a “fresh, dynamic translation of the Bible into modern English, carefully crafted to let the power and poetry of the language shine forth – particularly when read aloud.” I think it generally succeeds admirably in that.

There are people who find gender bias and discrimination so disturbing they would put down another Bible translation fairly quickly. This translation may very well be a doorway into the scriptures for them.

Where are your edges for dealing with a Bible translation?

Some renderings in the Inclusive Bible may send you back to a re-examination of the original, and you may return there to be surprised how prejudiced our images are, a prejudice not shared by the original.

For example: Mark 3:1 Καὶ εἰσῆλθεν πάλιν εἰς τὴν συναγωγήν καὶ ἦν ἐκεῖ ἄνθρωπος ἐξηραμμένην ἔχων τὴν χεῖρα is usually told something like, “Again he entered the synagogue, and a man was there who had a withered hand.” (NRSV). The Inclusive Bible has it as, “… someone who had a withered hand…” And actually The Inclusive Bible is correct, ἄνθρωπος means “a human being, whether male or female”.

So, similarly, where traditionally we have had a story picturing a male, a father, a son, and so on – when you look at the original, that is actually less clear there.

But, occasionally, The Inclusive Bible translation seems to have gone too far. Back to the Genesis story. Gen 2:21-22 “…YHWH made the earth creature fall into a deep sleep, and while it slept, God divided the earth creature in 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.” Well done, though, for having the literal translation clearly indicated in a footnote.

That quote also highlights another point. “YHWH” has been restored to the text which so many others have as “the LORD”. But I’m not sure what I’m supposed to say when reading the text aloud – the quality of its readability being one of its plusses.

Finally I want to stress, the Bible is a sexist document. A lot of it is addressed to men rather than to women. For example: the Ten Commandments are addressed to males. וְלֹא תַחְמֹד אֵשֶׁת רֵעֶךָ Deut 5:21 is, sorry people, “Neither shall you covet your neighbour’s wife” (NRSV). You can try and pretty up the sexist, dated ancient biblical texts. You can make them feel more contemporary, but in the end in doing so there is an element of dishonesty. The original does not say “Do not lust for your neighbor’s spouse” (Inclusive Bible – no footnote). That can be a contemporary application of those ancient words and ideas, but it is not an accurate translation.

My edges for a Bible translation: I want an accurate translation, that is gender-inclusive when the original is such, unclear about gender when the original is unspecific, and clear when the original is clear. I describe the ESV as “the Bible as some people wished God had written it”. There are elements of that wish here. The Inclusive Bible helps us re-look at the texts, it is a new doorway for many, but it is not yet the full answer to what I look for in a good translation.

Similar Posts: