The Cult of Domesticity and Translations

In 1997 two groups formed: one that believed gender-inclusive translations were on a slippery slope of mismanaging God’s revelation in Scripture, and one that believed gender-inclusive translations were accurate. This was an inner-evangelical debate. The NRSV had already paved the way. This debate is discussed by Beth Allison Barr in her The Making of Biblical Womanhood: How the Subjugation of Women Became Gospel Truth.

Recall that the RSV was the preferred translation by both John Piper and Wayne Grudem when the NRSV came out, and to choose the RSV over the NIV was at the time perceived to be – listen to this one – on the liberal side of the ledger. I know this because I loved my RSV wide margin leather bound Bible and was told by a number that it was liberal to use the RSV.

Piper and Grudem got control of the RSV, edited it and revised it, and out came the ESV.

The TNIV was gender inclusive; it irritated Grudem and Piper and the controversy was explained in favor of the Grudem-Piper side in World magazine and from those days on the ESV got the press by some for being accurate and the TNIV for not being accurate. Politics has lots of influence, so much so the TNIV was scratched and we got the NIV 2011 (in this newsletter the NIV). It’s not the translators behind the NIV were liberals; they were conservative evangelicals. To be honest, this was a storm in a coffee cup and the Grudem side made it seem like one side was faithful and the other side unfaithful, while most of us were watching with surprise that anyone could claim the NIV was anything but reliable and faithful. The SBC weighed in and evidently sided with the Grudem-Piper debate. Numbers, by the way don’t count, in translations. Judgments do. Politics seemed to rule the day.

The ESV is no plain reading translation but favors complementarianism, male headship, and at times Calvinism.

Leave a comment

Barr says this debate amuses and scares her. Gender inclusiveness is not new to the second wave feminist impulse in the world today; it’s medieval in some ways.

Fact: the Bible was being translated into English before Tyndale and before Coverdale. English books and passages proliferated in English in late medieval times. The Reformation, in other words, did not make the Bible available in English.

Medievals knew the Bible as well, if not better, than we do today. Yes, she’s got evidence for this. So at least put a big question mark on the preacher who exalts the Reformation and downgrades medievals by saying they didn’t know their Bibles. They did. (And most of us don’t know it that well today.)

Preachers were popular and priests and preachers often provided readings that were gender-inclusive. She provides solid technical discussions of the evidence, and inclusiveness illustrates their desire to be more accurate. Hear this:

“Modern evangelicals denounce gender-inclusive language as a dangerous product of feminism.

Medieval clergy used gender-inclusive language to better care for their parishioners” (143).

“Woman” is the word in the OT and NT; to translate it ever as “wife” is an interpretation. When the word becomes “wife” it can reflect the social conditions of the translators more than the original contexts.

The implication of Reformation and post Reformation social ethics included the modesty of women, the domesticity of women, and sanctified subordination emerged out of the Enlightenment, early modern science theories, and the industrial revolution.

The cult of domesticity develops: piety of women, purity, submission, and domesticity. This is a late development and one conservative evangelicalism has favored with religious zeal. James Dobson, she contends, wasn’t biblical but derived from the development of the cult of domesticity. She illustrates this with examples, say, of Matt Chandler’s wife’s identity markers: wife, mother. Women can exercise some teaching/writing callings as long as they fit the general profile of the cult of domesticity.

A long chp that brings into play ideas and trends that dominate current evangelicalism.

Leave a comment