The Gender of Proverbs 14 in 2011
When writing Part II of this series, I had just read the official and public Southern Baptist Convention (SBC) statement against the NIV 2011 denouncing its gender inclusive English. So we looked at Proverbs 14:12 in the NIV 1984 and also in the NIV 2011; and, in our discussion, we didn't stop short of looking at the proverb's translation from the potentially gender-neutral words of Hebrew and Greek: ish (אִ֑ישׁ) and anthropois (ἀνθρώποις). In Part III, we started in with Kristen's suggestion that "Perhaps the NIV 2011 was incorrect in leaving out that the word 'iysh' does appear here." I'd also suggested that, in a later post, "we may get into the fact that, in Proverbs 14, the Hebraic Hellene translators from the Hebrew have in certain verses have really restricted the translation and have confined the meaning to men only, to males and not to females. For example, in verses 7, 10, 30, 33 there are the words ἀνδρὶ, ἀνδρὸς, and ἀνὴρ [andri, andros, aner] that are not at all gender neutral or gender universal." Now, in this Part VI, let's look carefully and closely at gender in all of Proverbs 14, in 2011, in English translation.
Let's do this because the gender words are the now-very-public problem that the official SBC men have with the NIV 2011. I'm going to ask that you look with me at every English gendered word in five different translations of Proverbs 14. The five are these:
1. the HCSB, produced by the SBC publishing house;
2. the ESV, which R. Albert Mohler Jr., president of Southern Baptist Theological Seminary, also recommended to the SBC "for serious study" before the HCSB was produced;
3. the NIV1984, the old version which is less of a "profound disappointment" to the SBC men and less of an "inaccurate translation of God’s inspired Scripture" in the eyes of the SBC resolvers because the older Bible did not have so much "use of gender-neutral [English] language";
4. the NIV2011, the newest version that really is now a publicly "profound disappointment" to the SBC men and really does seem to be an "inaccurate translation of God’s inspired Scripture" in the eyes of the SBC resolvers because it really does have the "use of gender-neutral [English] language";
5. the NLT, the newest translation to just narrowly beat out the HCSB in familiarity among SBC pastors and to very widely to beat out the HCSB in familiarity among other Christian ministers in the USA.
So let's read these five English Bibles and compare their gendered words in Proverbs 14. Let's read each verse, each proverb, below, in this order: HCSB then ESV then NIV1984, and then NIV2011 and last NLT. I've highlighted with various colors the feminine, masculine, neuter (i.e., gender-neutral), and gender-inclusive nouns and pronouns.
I'll let you figure out which Hebrew and Greek nouns and pronouns are being translated from. But can you also answer these English-only questions?
1. In which proverbs below do all five translations agree with respect to the gender of the nouns and pronouns?
2. Are there any proverbs for which the HCSB does the "profoundly disappointing" thing of making "use of gender-neutral language"? (Do look below for yourself. Okay, let me answer: YES. Now can you tell me which verses in Proverbs 14 below the HCSB uses gender-neutral language for?)
3. Are they any proverbs for which the HCSB makes MORE "use of gender-neutral language" than the other four translations? Does the HCSB really make more "use of gender-neutral language" than the NIV 2011 in some of the proverbs noted below? (Again, Yes. So please note which proverbs.)
4. Is there a proverb for which the HCSB genders "Wisdom" feminine? Which one?
5. Are there any proverbs for which the ESV does the profoundly disappointing thing of making "use of gender-neutral language"? (Do look below for yourself. Okay, let me answer: YES. Now can you tell me which verses in Proverbs 14 below the HCSB uses gender-neutral language for?)
6. Are they any proverbs for which the ESV makes MORE "use of gender-neutral language" than the other four translations? Does the ESV really make more "use of gender-neutral language" than the NIV 2011 in some of the proverbs noted below? (Again, Yes. So please note which ones.)
7. Is there a proverb in which the NIV1984 makes God's gender inclusive? YES. And which one is it?
So what does the gender-neutral language of Proverbs 14 in the HCSB, the ESV, the NIV1984 and 2011, and the NLT say about the SBC men who have made their targeted resolution?
(Now, for anybody wanting it, here's a bit of the background on the controversy surrounding these words in 2011. If you would like to read the SBC resolution against the NIV 2011 for yourself, Suzanne McCarthy links today to several bloggers who've quoted it directly and have given links to the primary sources.
Moreover, for more background, since we're getting into the language of Proverbs 14 (language which Robert Alter refers to as ancient "Hebrew" poetry), you may also want to see this. You may also want to how John Hobbins claims that "Old Testament scholars who blog have expressed dissatisfaction with the new NIV." He links to 4 bloggers total, unless you also count him with his 2 links to his own blog. He agrees with 3 and disagrees with the 4th. However, 1 blogger John agrees with has mainly expressed only dissatisfaction with the advertising of the NIV 2011 and not with the gender-neutral language of the translation. Likewise, another 1 has expressed dissatisfaction but not so much with the gender-inclusive English "beef" that the SBC has. Then there's the 1 who does express dissatisfaction with the gender-neutral language of the NIV 2011, as the SBC resolvers have. As mentioned, John includes himself among the dissatisfied, as 1 who shares the gender "beef" of the SBC men. To be clear, John only links to 3 other "Old Testament scholars who blog who blog have expressed dissatisfaction" and only 1 of whom [other than himself] actually shares the gender "beef" of the official Southern Baptist men resolving to denounce the NIV 2011. That John so far finds only 1 in agreement with him as he validates the resolution of the SBC men is important. It's important because he goes on to mention 1 blogger with whom he has the disagreement, and John puts that this way:
So far as I know, the only blogger/ Biblia Hebraica scholar who offers praise for the new NIV is Joel Hoffman. He expressed satisfaction for the its gender-sensitive modifications of NIV 1984; he describes them as gender-accurate. These kind of changes satisfy some but raise the hackles of others. In Roman Catholic and Southern Baptist contexts – the largest church polities in the US – a reaction against gender-sensitive translation has set in. Both faith traditions seek to retain a degree of independence from prevailing cultural trends. This is no doubt salutary. At the same time, it would be easy to build bridges across some of the divides if the debate were not dominated by Ninja warrior types on both sides.
It's curious the way John has put this. He's called "salutary" what he sees as independent "Roman Catholic and Southern Baptist" efforts to resist cultural corruption, suggesting that the SBC resolution against the NIV 2011 and its language and its use and its sales is somehow a resolution against "cultural trends" that ostensibly must be reacted against. And John has mentioned the "Roman Catholic and Southern Baptist" as if in some contrast to Joel, who self identifies not as a Catholic or a Baptist or even a Christian of any sort but as the child of someone who has built language bridges with Christians. One of Joel's parents - also a blogger/ Biblia Hebraica scholar - says this: "I am a liturgist. 'Liturgy' is a common enough word among Christians, but it does not flow trippingly off Jewish tongues, and I am not only Jewish but a rabbi to boot." Here we have the SBC vs / the NIV2011 and "accurate" vs. / "inaccurate" and a few scholarly bloggers vs / the NIV2011 and John vs / Joel and "the largest church polities in the US" vs / "prevailing cultural trends." All these divisions. These are important background to how we might read Proverbs 14 in 2011. Sorry for the long digresssion. [To see John's words here in 2011 on his "beef" with the words of the NIV 2011, go here. ])