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Topic: Public Square

Is the CSB Really Gender-Neutral?

June 12, 2017
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A recent article for The Atlantic online claims that the Christian Standard Bible is a gender-inclusive bible. Unfortunately, the article misrepresents the CSB and may be intending to create controversy at the Southern Baptist Convention meeting this week in Phoenix.

To set the record straight, the CSB Translation Oversight Committee consulted the Colorado Springs Guidelines, agreed upon in 1997 to ensure future translations would remain gender accurate. Readers can read the guidelines here: http://www.bible-researcher.com/csguidelines.html

You can also read an important post on this issue by Denny Burk. Burk lists several of the many misleading statements in The Atlantic article.

The Atlantic article begins by mentioning that gender-neutral translations change “father” to “parent,” “son” to “child,” and “man” to “mortal.” Readers might fail to notice that this was not the general practice of the CSB. Consider the facts.

  1. The CSB translates “mortal” or “mortals” words for “man” in the OT less than ten times, when forms of the word “man” appear hundreds of times in the OT. And in the NT, the CSB doesn’t change the word “man” (anthrōpos) to “mortal” even once.
  2. What about changing “father” to “parent?” We invite the reader to look at key passages like Eph. 6:4; Col. 3:21 and Heb. 12:7 and 9. In each case, the word is translated as “fathers.”
  3. Did we change “son” to “child?” Check out Acts 3:17; Rom. 8:14; Rom. 9:26; Gal. 3:7, 26; 4:4, 6, 7; Heb. 12:5, 6, 7, 8.
  4. Rendering anthrōpos or ʾādām as “human,” “people,” “persons,” etc. in some contexts fits with the Colorado Springs guidelines. If the referent includes males and females, the translation should reflect such. The authors of the Atlantic article fail to realize or note the semantic nature of how meaning is expressed in a language’s lexicon. “Mankind,” for example, has always included male and female. Using a surrogate word in translation is not necessarily an example of gender inclusivity that violates lexical semantics as the authors seem to imply by their examples.

The same goes for translating adelphoi as “brothers and sisters.” Again, the Colorado Guidelines agree. The word is accurately rendered “brothers and sisters” since the word “brothers” today suggests to many that just males are intended.

Readers of The Atlantic article would not know that the CSB continues to use the third person singular pronouns “he” or “him” or “his” instead of turning the pronouns into plurals. The CSB also uses the word ‘man’ in Gen. 1:26-27—the crucial text about Adam and Eve being created in God’s image.

Note also the use of the word “man” in 2 Tim. 3:17 or “faithful men” in 2 Tim. 2:2. The application of some of these verses is up for debate and discussion, but our point is that one can hardly call the CSB translation “gender-neutral” here.

The goal of the Translation Oversight Committee of the CSB was to be gender accurate. Sadly, the word “accurate” can’t be used with reference to this article in The Atlantic.


Dr. David Allen is Dean of the School of Preaching at Southwestern Baptist Theological Seminary and Co-Chair of the Translation Oversight Committee for the CSB. You can follow him on Twitter @DrDavidLAllen.

Dr. Thomas Schreiner is James Buchanan Harrison Professor of New Testament Interpretation at The Southern Baptist Theological Seminary and Co-Chair of the Translation Oversight Committee for the CSB. You can follow him on Twitter @DrTomSchreiner.

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