Is the New Living Translation gender-inclusive in its translation?

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By Spencer D Gear

Gender-inclusive language is where there is an attempt not to be specific about gender, whether male or female. It is meant to have a neutral meaning. This is found in certain more recent Bible translations. Consider James 1:2:

KJV: My brethren, count it all joy when ye fall into divers temptations;

NKJV: My brethren, count it all joy when you fall into various trials;

NASB: Consider it all joy, my brethren, when you encounter various trials;

ESV: Count it all joy, my brothers,[a] when you meet trials of various kinds.

[the footnote for the ESV,[a] , states: “James 1:2 Or brothers and sisters. The plural Greek word adelphoi (translated “brothers”) refers to siblings in a family. In New Testament usage, depending on the context, adelphoi may refer either to men or to both men and women who are siblings (brothers and sisters) in God’s family, the church; also verses 16, 19″]’

NRSV: My brothers and sisters, whenever you face trials of any kind, consider it nothing but joy;

NIV (1984): Consider it pure joy, my brothers, whenever you face trials of many kinds;

NIV (2011): Consider it pure joy, my brothers and sisters,[a] whenever you face trials of many kinds [The footnote, [a] , states:”James 1:2 The Greek word for brothers and sisters (adelphoi) refers here to believers, both men and women, as part of God’s family; also in verses 16 and 19; and in 2:1, 5, 14; 3:10, 12; 4:11; 5:7, 9, 10, 12, 19];

NLT:: Dear brothers and sisters, when troubles come your way, consider it an opportunity for great joy.

Of all of these translations, only the NRSV, NIV (2011) and NLT are gender neutral, by translating the Greek, adelphoi, as “brothers and sisters”. This is the meaning in Greek when it is referring to siblings (brothers and sisters) in the body of Christ. Why don’t you trace the use of the Greek, adelphos (nominative case, singular) and anthropos (nominative case, singular) in the NT Greek? Do you have access to an interlinear NT (English translation under the Greek) where you could do that?

Differences with translations of gender

Notice the difference between the use of the Greek, anthropos [man, mankind, people) in the ESV versus the NLT:

James 1:12 ESV: Blessed is the man who remains steadfast under trial, for when he has stood the test he will receive the crown of life, which God has promised to those who love him.

James 1:12 NLT: God blesses those who patiently endure testing and temptation. Afterward they will receive the crown of life that God has promised to those who love him.

The NLT is accurately gender-inclusive in its translation in certain areas. This is what the “Introduction to the New Living Translation” states:

Gender-Inclusive Language
The English language changes constantly.  An obvious recent change is in the area of gender-inclusive language.  This creates problems for modern translators of the ancient biblical text, which was originally written in a male oriented culture.  The translator must respect the nature of the ancient context while also accounting for the concerns of the modern audience.  Often the original language itself allows a rendering that is gender inclusive.  For example, the Greek word anthropos, traditionally rendered “man,” really means “human being” or “person.”  A different Greek word, aner, specifically means a male.”

There are other occasions where the original language is male-oriented, but not intentionally so.  For example, in the Pentateuch most of the laws are stated in language that is replete with masculine pronouns.  But since it is clear in many cases that the recipients of these laws were both male and female, we have used gender-neutral language where appropriate.  Another example is found in the New Testament epistles, where the believers are called “brothers” (adelphoi).  Yet it is clear that these epistles were addressed to all the believers- male and female.  Thus, we have usually translated this Greek word “brothers and sisters” or “Christian friends” in order to represent the historical situation more accurately.

Finally, we have attempted to use a gender-neutral rendering where the text applies generally to human beings or to the human condition.  For example, a traditional rendering of Luke 9:62 reads:  “No man who puts his hand to the plow and looks back is fit for the Kingdom of God.”  We have translated it:  “Anyone who puts a hand to the plow and then looks back is not fit for the Kingdom of God.”  In many instances we have used plural pronouns (they, them) in place of the gender-specific singular (he, him).  For example, a traditional rendering of Proverbs 22:6 is:  “Train up a child in the way he should go and when he is old he will not turn from it.”  We have rendered it:  “Teach your children to choose the right path, and when they are older, they will remain upon it (1996. Holy Spirit Encounter Bible, New Living Translation. Orlando, FL: Creation House, p. xlii).

Copyright © 2013 Spencer D. Gear. This document last updated at Date: 16 October 2015.