Wednesday, April 16, 2008

The Inclusive Bible: the logical conclusion of dynamic equivalence

The Inclusive Bible called the first egalitarian translation takes dynamic equivalence to its logical conclusion. It not only erases gender-specific language but everything else that anybody might find offensive. In other words it contextualises Scripture fully within the culture of modern western society. The author ("translator") describes it:
"It is a completely new translation of the Bible from the original Hebrew, Aramaic, and koiné Greek into richly poetic, non-sexist, and non-classist modern English."

According to reports in the version, God is no longer "Father" but "Father-Mother." The "Son of Man" is rendered "the human one." God's "Right Hand" is recast as God's "mighty hand." The word "night" is used to describe evil rather than "darkness" lest folk with dark skin should be offended. Children are called upon to "heed" their parents but not "obey" them. The Inclusive Bible, uses feminine pronouns in reference to the Spirit. "When the Spirit of truth comes, she will guide you into all truth. She won't speak on her own initiative; rather she'll speak only what she hears, and she'lll announce to you things that are yet to come."

Colossians 3:18-19 reads "You who are in committed relationships, be submissive to each other. This is your duty in Christ Jesus. Partners joined by God, love each other. Avoid any bitterness between you."

It is homosexual-friendly but not marriage-friendly

"Kingdom" is apparently both sexist and authoritarian, so it is replaced by the newly coined word, "kindom." Adam is not a "man," he is an "earth creature."

It is published by a group called Priests for Equality which the author describes as "a Catholic organization working for the full inclusion of women at all levels of the church. They're a project of the Quixote Center, though PFE's leader has retired and his second-in-command has moved on, so they're not sure the project will continue much further."
The author describes the background to the Inclusive Bible:
"Back in the 1980s, PFE started the Inclusive Language Project, resetting the church lectionary readings in non-sexist language because they felt that God-language was one of the biggest barriers to women (and at the time, it was certainly a major step). And since I had already worked on an inclusive lectionary for the Episcopalians, they were glad to have me on board. This grew into wanting to do a full translation of the Bible."

The author describes himself as 'spiritually, an explorer of the edges of consciousness, from Taoism and Zen Buddhism to existential Christianity and Jewish mysticism to everything in between—including Native American medicine practices and various forms of aboriginal shamanism'. He says that the extensive footnotes are especially liberal. 'The commentary, in particular, honors many different religious traditions and perspectives, and owes a great debt to Jungian psychology as well'.

Sr. Nancy Sylvester of the Immaculate Heart of Mary lauds it enthusiastically in the National Catholic Reporter
'This translation frees the text so that you can listen to the Spirit within.'

As Gene Veith points out 'Good as New: A Radical Retelling of the Scriptures' goes further in taking dynamic equivalence to its logical conclusion. It describes itself as "women, gay and sinner friendly." Good as New leaves out the Pastoral Epistles and Revelation, including instead the Gnostic Gospel of Thomas.

For a different post that reflects upon 'Good as New' as the culmination of Bible version projects in the 20th century go to

It should be evident why these versions represent dynamic equivalence taken to its logical conclusion when we consider the statements of Eugene Nida father of this theory of translation.

"...God’s revelation involved limitations. ... Biblical revelation is not absolute and all divine revelation is essentially incarnational. ... Even if a truth is given only in words, it has no real validity until it has been translated into life. ... The words are in a sense nothing in and of themselves. ... the word is void unless related to experience" (Nida, Message and Mission, pp. 222-228).
"Because it is a medium of communication within a limited cultural context, human language is unsuited as a vehicle for supernatural, eternal truths that would, in fact, need a language that is unhuman or divine" (Nida, Message and Mission, pp. 224-228, cited by Van Bruggen, p. 76).

Nida writes, "Similarly, in the biblical account, the holy kiss, the wearing of veils, women speaking in the church, and wrestling with an angel all have different meanings than in our own culture" (E. Nida, Message and Missions, p. 41). According to Nida, Jacob’s struggle with the angel is being interpreted psychoanalytically or mythologically (E. Nida, Message and Mission, pp. 41-42). If wrestling with an angel is cultural then what could not come under this category? Nida makes this definition:
"The only absolute in Christianity is the triune God. Anything which involves man, who is finite and limited, must of necessity be limited, and hence relative. Biblical culture relativism is an obligatory feature of our incarnational religion, for without it we would either absolutize human institutions or relativize God" (Eugene Nida, Customs and Cultures, New York: Harper & Row, 1954, p. 282, footnote 22). Yet isn't God being relativised when translators use a name that a tribe or language already has for a heathen deity? This is just the same as what "The Inclusive Bible" does when it too renames God. It has simply reached a further stage on the dynamic equivalence/blasphemy continuum.