At Sightings, James L. Evans comments on an upcoming revision to the New International Version of the Bible, an edition that has served for the past couple decades as evangelicals’ translation of choice. Evans does not mention the Conservative Bible Project, which attracted substantial media attention this week, but that project certainly gives his piece added resonance:
It’s amazing to notice how many of the translation disputes of the past have centered on issues of gender equality. For instance, the King James Version identifies a woman named Phoebe as a “servant.” The same Greek word is translated elsewhere as “deacon.” But since women were not allowed to be deacons in King James’ church, the more generic translation was adopted. The Greek word can certainly mean servant, but in the context of the New Testament it was also used to designate a particular office. In the current NIV translation, Phoebe is a servant, not a deacon.
And at the end of the day that is what it is all about—controlling the words. Whoever controls the words that are used in translation ultimately controls how we are able to think about theological issues. The words open or close doors for our understanding of God. And ultimately, the words determine who has status in the church, and who does not. Just ask Phoebe.
Read the rest of the piece here.