Christian Standard Bible: the Atlantic got it right...

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The current president of the Council on Biblical Manhood and Womanhood is indignant over an Atlantic Monthly piece pointing out that his denomination's Christian Standard Bible has gone "gender-neutral."1

Denny Burk says it's not true.

Sadly, it is. 2

We could get lost in a discussion of a host of Hebrew and Greek words in the Old and New Testaments, but two words will suffice: one is the Hebrew word...

"adam" and the other the Greek word "adelphoi."

In the Old Testament, God names the race "adam" after the first man "Adam." The first man and the race descended from him are both named by God using the same Hebrew word with an undeniably obvious male meaning component: "adam." Only the context tells us whether Scripture is speaking of the race or Eve's husband.

In the New Testament, the Holy Spirit inspires the Apostles to name the members of the church "adelphoi," the Greek word "brothers." When the Apostle Paul writes the church in Corinth, he uses this Greek word "adelphoi" to address the entire church, both men and women. This is the same word used for the members of the churches across the New Testament Epistles, both male and female. And like God's name for the race in the Old Testament, this word "adelphoi" inspired by the Holy Spirit has an undeniably obvious male meaning component

These words "adam" and "adelphoi" are what we call male inclusives.

God didn't name the race "adam-eve" or "eve," but "adam." He named the race after the man He created first and placed His Fatherhood upon—not the woman He created second and made to be the mother of all the living. God named the race "adam" and this name points to many weighty theological truths, including:

  • Woman is the glory of man, yet man is not the glory of woman. Rather, man is the glory of God (1Corinthians 11:7).
  • In Adam we all died. Not in Adam and Eve or Eve alone, but in that one man Adam (Romans 5:14, 19; 1Corinthians 15:21, 22). And this despite Eve sinning first.
  • The husband is the head of the wife as Christ is the Head of His Church (Ephesians 5:23). Marriage doesn't have two heads, but one.
  • The father is the head of the home, bearing the weight and glory of the Fatherhood of God we all confess when we say, in worship, "I believe in God the Father, Almighty," and when we pray "Our Father, Who art in Heaven" (Matthew 6:9). The home doesn't have co-equal leaders, but a father and a mother. Thus it was that God told Abraham to "command his household" to "keep the way of the Lord" (Genesis 18:19). God did not tell Abraham and Sarah to command "their" household. God did not tell Sarah alone to command "her" household.

We could continue all through Scripture outlining this truth God placed as the cornerstone of His creation: the male of the species is the head of the female of the species because God is the Father Almighty and the male of the species bears His glory in a way the female of the species does not. Even the animals bear witness to this truth when Noah's ark is filled with the male of the species and "his female" (Genesis 7:2).

This is the meaning of God's use of the male inclusive throughout His Holy Scriptures.

He names the entire race, both man and woman, "adam." The Hebrew word "man."

He names the entire church, both brothers and sisters, "adelphoi." The Greek word "brothers."

Now this is very straightforward. Simple, even. No one has the slightest trouble understanding that this naming God has ordained relegates woman to a subordinate position to man. She is his equal and she is subordinate. She is equal in value and shares with man the full image of God, but she is not the glory of God. God made her for man, to be his helpmate, so she can never stop being the glory of man as he can never stop being the glory of God.

Denny Burk is the Southern Baptist who is president of the Council on Biblical Manhood and Womanhood, and he disagrees. Hammering away at the Atlantic's simple observation that his denomination's Bible version has gone gender neutral, Burk is aghast that anyone would question his credentials and the credentials of his denomination as defenders of male headship and the plenary inspiration of Scripture.

This is the problem with the church today. Men like Wayne Grudem, Denny Burk, and Tim Keller present themselves as the guardians of the Biblical doctrine of sexuality, then under cover of their guardianship, they give away the very thing they profess to be defending.

Denny Burk informs his readers that he's president of the Council on Biblical Manhood and Womanhood and his denomination's Bible translation honors the Colorado Springs Guidelines, so how dare anyone accuse him and his denomination of going gender-neutral! After all, his non-profit organization and his denomination have a stellar reputation for being the true keepers of these Guidelines hammered out in the war zone of the Stealth Bible battle twenty-five years ago! Who in their right mind would accuse them of caving to the feminists by putting out a gender-neutral Bible?

But let me say it again: Burk is wrong and the Atlantic is right.

First, Burk wasn't at the Colorado Springs meeting and didn't write or sign the Colorado Springs Guidelines. I was and I did, so now let me say that the CSB is exactly the kind of translation that the Colorado Springs Guidelines were written to oppose. You can read John Piper's account of the meeting where the Guidelines were written as well as the full text of the Guidelines in this article published in Touchstone magazine.

Other than the word "father," there is nothing that makes a Bible more gender-neutral than changing the Hebrew word "adam" to "people" and the Greek word "adelphoi" to "brothers and sisters." The Colorado Springs Guidelines said this about the Hebrew word "adam" and the Greek word "adelphoi":

Hebrew "adam":

"Man" should ordinarily be used to designate the human race or human beings in general. 

Greek "adelphoi":

"Brother" (adelphos) and "brothers" (adelphoi) should not be changed to "brother(s) and sister(s)." 

So readers see that the Colorado Springs Guidelines explicitly condemn the very thing Denny Burk's Christian Standard Version has done. They say "no" to removing the male meaning component of the Greek word "adelphoi," "brothers." Nevertheless, the Christian Standard Bible has removed the male meaning component of "adelphoi," "brothers," changing it to "brothers and sisters."3 In fact, there are only four Bible texts explicitly mentioned in the Guidelines as needing to be translated a particular way. The Christian Standard Bible changes two of them to a gender-neutered form.

The Atlantic is entirely right to out the Christian Standard Bible for going gender neutral. That's exactly what they've done, just as the Atlantic reports:

The CSB translates the term adelphoi, a Greek word for “brother” in a gender-neutral form 106 times, often adding “sister.” “Brotherly love” is translated “love as brothers and sisters.”

And concerning the male meaning component of the Hebrew word "adam" by which God named the race, again, the Atlantic gets it right:

As the CSB translates the Hebrew term ‘dm (the word for adam), the generic “man, men,” it uses gender-neutral language of “human(s), humanity, human kind, people, person(s)” 242 times. The CSB also uses the term “mortal” or “mere mortal” to replace a masculine term 6 times. Numerous other instances of gender-neutral translations of masculine terminology exist across both testaments.

If removing the male meaning component of God's name for the race as well as the Apostles' form of addressing the men and women of the church is not the very definition of neutering Scripture, what on earth would be? Would the Christian Standard Bible have to go so far as to replace Jesus' names "son of man" and "son of God" with "child of man" and "child of God?" Would the Christian Standard Bible have to do the final dirty deed of changing the first words of our Lord's Prayer from "Our Father" to "Our Parent?"

What Burk ought to have done was to point his readers to the Atlantic's article and ask his readers to contact the Southern Baptists who deleted God's male inclusives from His Word hundreds and hundreds of times, just as the Atlantic reported. Denny Burk himself should have written an open letter to the woman and men who removed these hundreds and hundreds of words from God's Word calling every one of them to repent.

Denny Burk should have warned his fellow Southern Baptists against this neutered Bible, reminding them what God Himself said concerning those who change the words of His Word:

I testify to everyone who hears the words of the prophecy of this book: if anyone adds to them, God will add to him the plagues which are written in this book; and if anyone takes away from the words of the book of this prophecy, God will take away his part from the tree of life and from the holy city, which are written in this book. (Revelation 22:18, 19)

Denny Burk should warn the translators and publishers of his denomination's Christian Standard Bible that their removal of hundreds and hundreds of words with a male meaning component from Scripture places their souls in jeopardy of having their part in the tree of life and the holy city removed by God.

But you say, "Surely not! If anyone is saved today, it must be the Southern Baptists. Look at how despised they are! If anyone can be trusted to defend God's very words about sexuality, surely it is these very conservative men down South?"

Yet God says:

...if anyone takes away from the words of the book of this prophecy, God will take away his part from the tree of life and from the holy city, which are written in this book. (Revelation 22:19)

Are there men today who will stand for God and His Word against Denny Burk and his fellow Southern Baptists?

The whole world is now using Bibles in which thousands of words have been removed so people don't get offended at how God Himself speaks. Is there a man of faith who will publicly oppose this? Is there a woman of faith who will stand for God's words on her FB page?

Each of us has an obligation to Jesus that He put quite bluntly:

For whoever is ashamed of Me and My words in this adulterous and sinful generation, the Son of Man will also be ashamed of him when He comes in the glory of His Father with the holy angels. (Mark 8:38)

"My words."

What will you say today to show you are not ashamed of God's words?

  • 1. Most of the time, the Atlantic uses "gender-inclusive" rather than "gender-neutral." "Gender-neutered" is the only accurate term, linguistically. Deleting the male meaning component of Scripture's original Hebrew and Greek male inclusives is the neutering of God's words in His Word. When God named the race "adam," He created the male inclusive since the race includes both sexes—man and woman.
  • 2. Note Burk's weak defense of the Christian Standard Bible on NPR as he's interviewed along with the two authors of the Atlantic piece.
  • 3. After we wrote, signed, and released the Colorado Springs Guidelines (including Piper’s article in Touchstone), one of our number, Wayne Grudem, asked for the removal from the Guidelines of the statement saying “adelphoi” should not be translated “brothers and sisters." Vern Poythress and I fought against its removal. Still, Wayne was successful in getting the statement gutted and the revision was also issued as “The Colorado Springs Guidelines.” Denny Burk tells people the Christian Standard Version adheres to the Colorado Springs Guidelines without explaining that he is referring to the revised version of the Colorado Springs Guidelines that few people ever saw or read. The first version was released across the country and forbid the very deletion of "adelphoi" which he defends. 

    To my shame, I signed the revised version (as I'd signed the original) and I ask God to forgive me. 

    Here are the Colorado Springs Guidelines as they were adopted by those present in Colorado Springs and circulated across the country in May of 1997.

    Here are the revised guidelines released under the same name three months later, in September of 1997.

    Of course I have all the e-mail correspondence between Grudem, Poythress, Piper, Belz, myself, and the other signatories documenting this internal battle.

Tim Bayly

Tim serves Clearnote Church, Bloomington, Indiana. He and Mary Lee have five children and big lots of grandchildren.

Want to get in touch? Send Tim an email!