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Redefining Gender in the Bible

Dear Tom Harley:

Why does the Watchtower say “he” all the time? I counted it (or “him”) nine times in just one paragraph in that article on how to conduct a Bible study. The funny thing was, all the photographs were of a female student.”

Dear Person:

English is clunky that way. It is awkward to constantly say “him/her” or “he/she.” You have to choose one or the other. Somewhere in that study I recall reading that a, “he” can mean “he” or “she.” No way should it be “they.” Singular makes it more personal, and a personal connection with the student was a sub-theme of the article. I wouldn’t mind if it was straight “she’s.” 

But the problem is, if you say “he” with the addendum that you also mean “she,” the sisters will understand it that way. But if you say “she” with the addendum that it also means “he,” the brothers will not. They’re all lazy louts to begin with, and if given the out of, “Oh, they’re talking about sisters,” (drawing upon poetic license) what little they do now will be transformed into nothing. 


The trend in Bible translations to become inclusive. The New World Translation has gone along with it, as can be seen in the latest (2013) revision. One can find many examples. Such as:

Proverbs 20:11) . . .Even by his practices a boy makes himself recognized as to whether his activity is pure and upright. - (NWT)

(Proverbs 20:11) . . .Even a child is known by his actions, Whether his behavior is pure and right. (REVISED NWT)

The examples you can find involve nouns. Alas, there is no comparable pronoun which is singular yet undetermined as to gender. That is why, though the noun changes, the pronoun does not. Note how “boy” becomes “child” but “his” does not become “his or hers.” Too clunky to do it that way. It’s a limitation of the English.

For example,: says one professor, “when speaking about a representative student, I used to say that “he is writing his paper,” and no one seemed to mind. Now in our gender-conscious world, I have to consider whether to use the cumbersome expression “he or she is writing his or her paper,” or the gratingly ungrammatical “they are writing their paper.” And should I still refer to first-year students as “freshmen” or do I use something silly like “freshpeople”?

It is a drawback of English. It used to be that male pronouns were once understood as sometimes referring to both men and women, but that is no longer the case. There are some gender-neutral translations that will do things as replace “brothers” with “brothers and sisters. It looks like the NWT conforms to sensitivities to the extent it can without adding words. Thus “son” can be replaced with “child” but not “brothers” with “brothers and sisters.”

Redefining gender is now a growth industry, with some “progressives” identifying dozens (now that’s progress). Can you imagine when some inclusive Bible translators try to cater to them all? Elon Musk recently stepped in it when he tweeted how “absolutely support[s] trans, but all these pronouns are an esthetic nightmare.”

Another revision welcome for not grossing people out but maybe not so much for safety:

1 Samuel 25:22) . . . “So may God do to the enemies of David and so may he add to it if I shall let anyone of all who are his that urinates against the wall remain until the morning.” (OLD)

(1 Samuel 25:22) “May God do the same and more to the enemies of David if I allow a single male of his to survive until the morning.” (NEW)

Yes, yes, this is all very fine and contemporary. But what if I borrow George’s time machine, race back to that era, take a stroll on a warm day and begin to imagine how refreshing it might be to sit against the wall in the cool shade?

Defending Jehovah’s Witnesses with style from attacks... in Russia, with the book ‘I Don’t Know Why We Persecute Jehovah’s Witnesses—Searching for the Why’ (free).... and in the West, with the book, 'In the Last of the Last Days: Faith in the Age of Dysfunction'


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