The Rising ESV-Onlyism and Gender-Inclusive Language

Let’s rehearse:

There is renewed talk about the ESV, which began, I am surmising, in the wake of some favourable posts about this translation a few weeks ago. CD-host took up the topic, and then Aberration blog, and now Polycarp and Onward, Forward, Toward. (From Suzanne)

And then from here:

It may come a surprise to some in the current controversy over gender-inclusive language that both Tyndale and the KJV translators included gender inclusive words in their translations. Instead of the more literal ‘sons of Israel,’ from the Hebrew word ‘ben’ meaning ‘sons,’ the KJV used the more inclusive ‘children of Israel’ hundreds of times in the Old Testament. Likewise, in the New Testament, both Tyndale and the KJV translators translated the Greek word for ‘son’ (hoios) as ‘children’ 42 times. For example Matt 5:9 states, “Blessed are the peacemakers for they shall be called the children (hoios) of God.” Had the KJV only recently introduced these changes to earlier versions that had instead used ‘sons of Israel’ and ‘sons of God,’ the KJV might well have been attacked for being gender-inclusive.

The problem the argument from Sproul and others of the ESV-Only camp is that it is hypocritical (I’ll forgo the use of  ‘purposely dishonest rhetoric’, for the moment).

Examining the point made above, however briefly, we find that in Genesis 32.32, the ESV, for all of it’s move ‘toward biblical accuracy’ proves a bit gender inclusive:

Therefore the children of Israel eat not of the sinew which shrank, which is upon the hollow of the thigh, unto this day: because he touched the hollow of Jacob’s thigh in the sinew that shrank. (Genesis 32:32 KJVA)

Therefore to this day the people of Israel do not eat the sinew of the thigh that is on the hip socket, because he touched the socket of Jacob’s hip on the sinew of the thigh. (Genesis 32:32 ESV)

The Hebrew is literally ‘sons of Israel.’ In Genesis 36.31, while the KJV translates the word בּן as ‘children” while the ESV glosses over the fact by merely saying ‘Israelites.’

While you and I would bore easily going through the over 600 times that the phrase appears in the Scriptures, a cursory examination reveals that while the ESV is more ‘literal’ sometimes, it is not always so. Further, we have a distinct history in English translations – going back to Tyndale, the Bishops’, the Geneva, and even Mace, where gender inclusiveness is allowed, to a point.

Do you really think that the Scriptures only refer to men when it says ‘sons,’ ‘men,’ or ‘brothers?’ Rest assured, it is nothing new to translate these words to reflect both genders. The problem that I have with the rising tide of ESV-Onlyism is that if dismisses the long strides which we have made in bible translation. Further, the dishonesty is distracting to unbelievers, and believers alike, because it creates doubt in the underpinning of men who should be men of God.

For a more detailed look at the ESV-Onlyism, click here.

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