Gender-Neutral Agenda in the #CSLewis Bible?

Christianity Today reports that C.S. Lewis scholar Louis Markos circulated a petition back in November protesting the new C.S. Lewis Study Bible. The recently released study Bible uses the gender-neutral NRSV as the text.

The Houston Baptist University English professor began circulating the petition soon after the November 9 release of the Bible, published by HarperCollins. The author of two recent books on Lewis calls it unjust to tie the apologist’s writings to an implicit push for the gender egalitarianism that Lewis would have opposed.

“The NRSV has been around so long, a lot of people don’t realize there was an agenda behind it,” said Markos, who wants HarperCollins to reissue the Bible in the King James or Revised Standard Version. “How can we do this to Lewis? He and his legacy have been hijacked.”

Agenda? When did using more accurate language become an agenda? And have you noticed that it always someone else’s agenda that’s wrong (I have to admit to doing this myself!)?

Even if Lewis would not agree (and it is always hard to tell for someone who died 50 years ago), would the breadth of what he wrote really have been hijacked by this one issue?


17 thoughts on “Gender-Neutral Agenda in the #CSLewis Bible?

  1. Pingback: Quote of the day | connexions

  2. Agenda? Probably. I don’t use the RSV or NRSV. If all the editors are doing is making a more accurate translation, as you imply, there is no problem. If they are following the winds of political correctness, then we have a big problem. Not knowing from my own research, I can’t say but if experience and discernment are any indication I would not put my money on the goal being accuracy.

    And actually, yes, I think we could guess how C.S. Lewis would feel about a politically correct translation and an accurate translations.

    Thanks for the post.

    Grace and peace.

  3. Pumice: Thank you for your comment. I didn’t imply that the translators were trying to make an more accurate translation. I actually stated it. Why is being clearer about what the writers were talking about (e.g., if all humans were meant, why not use that word? If Paul was writing to women as well, why not brothers and sisters?) need to be accused of political correctness? What goal do you believe the translators (NRSV, TNIV, etc.) have that makes you so certain as to put money on it and why is it such a threat?

    And Lewis died 50 years ago. If he lived today, it is hard to tell how the current debates would have affected him. The article I linked to shows other scholars who feel he may have had no problems with gender neutral language, and if that’s so, he may not have seen it as an ‘agenda’ for ‘political correctness’.

    Tim: Whatever happened to the J.B. Phillips? šŸ™‚

  4. The term “gender neutral” is a modern term that reflects a philosophy of translation. If the Greek says “brothers” and the translator decides in their wisdom that God made a mistake and changes it to “brother and sisters” then I would refer you to verses that talk about people who add or subtract from what has been written.

    Gender neutral does not make anything more accurate except in the mind of the translator. We have enough difficulty getting it right without adding to our problems.

    I remember years ago when the NIV came out I decided to use it in my preaching. After a few weeks I came across this terrific passage that was going to supply my main point. Unfortunately when I checked the Greek, it wasn’t there. Since that day I have only used the NIV as a paraphrase for insights, not a real translation.

    It sounds like the NRSV would be in the same category.

    Grace and peace.

  5. I’m not sure how much we can discuss this, as I think we come at this from two different angles and it would end up as if we were having a discussion about flying if one of us didn’t believe in gravity.

    I assume that by saying that ‘gender neutral’ is a ‘modern term’ you mean that it is wrong. ‘Philosophy of translation’ is a modern term, but accurate and useful. Regardless, many have a philosophy that tries to express in a well, modern language what the authors were trying to say in a language that is now dead. Paul was obviously writing to women as well as men, so in Paul’s mind he was writing to his brothers and sisters. Why not state it?

    As far as the verse you mention about adding and subtracting, this is where an argument would get difficult because don’t have the same assumptions. I do not believe that the author had ideas of 21st century translators when he wrote that, and given that words in English must be added and rearranged for the translation to make sense, anyone might be accused of adding. Chapter and verse numbers and headings in some versions are additions, and while make it easier, can also add another layer of interpretation.

    All this means that the verses you mention have to be interpreted as talking about the entire Bible. Again, I doubt we will find we have the same assumptions.

    I have had the same problem you mention, which is why I find it good to look at a number of translations and commentaries.

  6. This discussion reminds me of being told by our Greek professor that the main reason we were learning Greek was so that we would understand that, in translation, there is no such thing as a direct translation and that one is always translating ideas, no matter how accurate one tries to be. (I’m sure that the person in our class who spent 5 years teaching French and German probably didn’t need to learn that particular lesson.)

    Still, at the end of the year of studying Greek, immediately after the professor had said “There is no real way to translate this directly into English…the closest we can come is such-and-such” someone raised their hand in exasperation and asked “But what is the real translation into English?”

    Sometimes I think that a lot of this insistence is a lack of understanding about language and translating.

  7. Pingback: Bible Translation Difficulties « Ramblings from Red Rose

  8. Pingback: Bible Translation Difficulties « Ramblings from Red Rose

  9. Thanks folks for this good discussion of my petition. If you’d like to read my fuller thoughts on why I consider the NRSV to be gender neutral, and why that is a problem, please feel free to visit my webpage at:

    and scroll down to the link that will let you read my essay, “Why I do not use Gender neutral language.”

    Thanks for the good dialogue,


  10. I believe the NRSV has a gender-neutral agenda. What I don’t believe is that it’s any more of a problem than a patriarchal agenda.

  11. I do not believe that there is some kind of “Platonic Ideal Language” that is “True” and “Objective” and devoid of social context, social agenda, etc. Nor do I believe that there is a “Platonic Ideal Hermenutic” that is culture-free. So you pick your agenda. My agenda, in my opinion, has just as much Scriptural support as the Patriarchal agenda. Of course, we approach Scripture with different presuppositions, we read Scripture differently and we put different emphasis on various parts – that’s where our disagreement will come from.

  12. I agree, Pam. Did I say something that led you to believe otherwise? I am talking about people using the word ‘agenda’ like the Tea Party say that Obama has ‘an agenda’. Well, I want to scream at them, so do you! So, I really don’t think we have a disagreement.

  13. No, you didn’t say anything that suggested otherwise. My post was more like a continued elaboration on a theme. I believe that inerrantists DO generally deny that there is more than one way to “correctly” interpret the bible and this is where the divide comes from: “I don’t have an agenda; I read the bible as God intends us all to read it. You read the bible differently, therefore you must be reading it incorrectly.”

    In the inerrantist world in which I grew up, one of the most egregious insults was suggesting to someone that they “interpreted” the bible.

    • Oh, Pam your comment was like an old home week celebration! Yes, we had those types as well. I ran into a few who would only answer by quoting scripture at me. They would say that any further comment was interpretation, not realising that they had to think through what I was saying and think of an appropriate scripture. They would refuse to see that was itself interpretation!

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