There’s been some dustup about the Bible in regards to its gender usage, so I asked Trevin to jump in and answer a few questions.
A recent article in The Atlantic claimed that the CSB has embraced a gender-inclusive translation philosophy. Then, Denny Burk responded and said that the CSB does not.
So, which is it, Trevin?
Well, the Christian Standard Bible is not a gender-inclusive translation—that’s not the philosophy that undergirds our translation work. The CSB is gender accurate.
The CSB’s translation committee is made up of conservative biblical scholars, and their approach on gender usage lines up with the aim of the entire translation effort: fidelity to the original text of the Bible. Translating accurately is our agenda—when the original text means male, we translate as male; when it means both, we translate as both. Masculine terms (Father, Son, King, etc.) and pronouns (he, him, his) are retained whenever they refer to God. Likewise, when Scripture presents historical accounts and parables referring to male humans, the Translation Oversight Committee retained masculine terms and pronouns.
So, we think that is gender accurate. Sure, some hold different views, but our translation team, made up of biblical scholars from multiple denominations (10 members, from 7 denominations for the update team; 100 scholars from 17 denominations on the original), from North American and beyond, was driven by the text, not another agenda.
The best place to get an overview of the CSB Translation Oversight Committee’s treatment of gender is this FAQ on the website. There you’ll find a fuller explanation and specific examples.
So, how does CSB handle gender language since it’s obvious that when Paul writes to the “brothers” at Colossae, he is not just meaning the men.
We need to make a distinction here between gender-inclusive translation philosophy and gender-accurate word choices.
A gender-inclusive philosophy has the aim of eliminating gender-specific pronouns wherever possible. You have a predetermined outcome in mind, and then you make your translation choices according to that philosophy.
That’s just not how the CSB translation team operated.
Instead, they focused on making the right word choices for accuracy, not philosophy. That’s what is driving each translation decision.
For example, in Luke 9:23, the KJV says, “If any man will come after me, let him deny himself, and take up his cross daily, and follow me.”
The word for “man” there includes male and female in its range of meaning. This is why translations that are highly literal translate this verse as “If anyone would come after me, let him deny himself and take up his cross and follow me” (ESV) or “If anyone wants to follow after me, let him deny himself, take up his cross daily, and follow me” (CSB). Although both translations render “any man” as “anyone,” this is not due to a gender-inclusive philosophy, but a commitment to being as accurate as possible in rendering a word that has both men and women in view.
The CSB translators determined that going further to change the masculine pronouns in the second half of the verse would lose the individual and personal meaning of the text and would sacrifice accuracy.