Study: Bible readers oppose gender-inclusive translations - Word&Way

Study: Bible readers oppose gender-inclusive translations

NASHVILLE, Tenn. (ABP) – American Bible readers overwhelmingly oppose gender-neutral translations of the Bible, according to a new study by LifeWay Research.

Eighty-two percent of participants in a study released Oct. 1 said verses in biblical Hebrew and Greek that use masculine words like “man” to describe people in general ought to be translated literally instead of with gender-inclusive terms like “humankind” or “person.”

Just 12 percent preferred a gender-inclusive translation, and 6 percent were unsure.

Opposition rose to 89 percent when making gender-inclusive references to God. Two thirds (68 percent) said they strongly oppose translating references in Greek and Hebrew to God as “father” with gender-inclusive terms such as “parent.”

The study found that readers in general prefer word-for-word Bible translations over those in which translators attempt to reproduce the intent of the original thought rather than translating the exact word.

Scott McConnell, director of LifeWay Research, noted that Bible sales do not necessarily follow those preferences. The best-selling Bible translation is the New International Version, which uses a method called “dynamic equivalence,” where a word or phrase that literally says one thing but functionally means something else is translated to convey the original meaning to the modern reader.

“Bible readers can share their preferences for different translation principles but may not be aware of which characteristics are present in specific translations — even the ones that they own,” McConnell said. “Without specific instruction most readers will not notice when a translation moves away from a literal or word-for-word translation."

In June the Southern Baptist Convention passed a resolution criticizing gender-neutral language in the 2011 version of the NIV and requested that it not be sold in LifeWay Christian Resources bookstores.

A total of 2,000 Bible readers participated in the study through a demographically representative online panel. To qualify, participants had to read the Bible in a typical month either individually or as a family and not merely in a corporate setting.


Bob Allen is managing editor of Associated Baptist Press.