Nothing gets a bunch of evangelicals going like debates over Bible translation.
The latest chatter centers around one of the newest: the Christian Standard Bible (CSB). This translation came out in March as an update to the Holman Christian Standard Bible (HCSB), which Southern Baptist-affiliated LifeWay Christian Resources introduced about 15 years ago.
A recent article in The Atlantic compared the CSB’s use of inclusive language over masculine nouns for mixed-gender groups to the changes made in the 2011 New International Version (NIV) and the controversial Today’s New International Version (TNIV) before that, which Southern Baptists famously railed against.
“Such changes in Southern Baptists’ Bible translation of choice are more than a mere denominational matter,” wrote Jonathan Merritt and Garet Robinson. “The SBC is America’s largest Protestant denomination and one of its most conservative. If its leaders and members are tolerating a softer, more inclusive approach to gender, it might be a bellwether of things to come in the culture war over gender.”
Gender inclusivity is a polarizing term among American evangelicals, especially those eager to preserve the distinctions between male and female that they see taught in Scripture. Now, CSB supporters have defended the translation’s “gender accurate” revisions as a means of faithful translation, rather than a progressive agenda.
“In terms of The Atlantic piece, I would summarize it this way: It was an attempt to find a team of translators guilty of doing exactly what they set out to do as assigned and exactly within the guidelines for appropriate gender inclusivity and, more importantly, textual translation accuracy,” said Al Mohler, president of Southern Baptist Theological Seminary, speaking from the SBC’s annual meeting in Phoenix.
“We shouldn’t be afraid of the word inclusive so long as it’s in the biblical guidelines,” he said. “We’re as inclusive as Scripture would have us be. It’s when it violates Scripture that it becomes the problem.”
In Bible translations, not all revisions to gender-specific language reflect theological shifts. Such changes have more to do with the approach to translation. In this case, the 21-person team behind the revisions in the CSB aimed for “optimal equivalence,” a balance between the readability of thought-for-thought translation and the accuracy of word-for-word translation among today’s modern readers.