My concern with the most recent changes to the ESV Bible regarding Genesis 3:16 is no secret. The ESV has become the standard in my reformed circles. I have a number of copies myself. But I was suspicious of my reaction to the change in Genesis 3:16 in light of my own baggage/experience with Mark Driscoll/Mars Hill concerning that verse. So I asked other leaders without similar baggage about it. Pretty much all of them had similar concerns to mine, and several mentioned plans to switch their churches or ministries over to the Christian Standard Bible when it was released. I have been interested since then to read the new CSB, and at this year’s Gospel Coalition conference, I finally got my hands on one.
The really neat thing about this Bible is the LACK of agenda regarding translating gendered language beyond 1) accuracy and 2) readability.
Printed inside the cover–
The Gender Language Use in Bible Translation
The goal of the translators of the Christian Standard Bible has not been to promote a cultural ideology but to translate the Bible faithfully. …
From their website—
Translating Gender Language into English
The Christian Standard Bible retains a traditional approach to translating gender language into English. Masculine terms (Father, Son, King, etc.) and pronouns (he, him, his) are retained whenever they refer to God. To improve accuracy, the Translation Oversight Committee chose to avoid being unnecessarily specific in passages where the original context did not exclude females. When Scripture presents principles or generic examples that are not restricted to males, the CSB does not use “man,” “he,” or other masculine terms. At the same time, the translators did not make third person masculine pronouns inclusive by rendering them as plurals (they, them), because they believed it was important to retain the individual and personal sense of these expressions.
Here are a few examples of this difference.
The NASB, a Bible I have always considered the most accurate of our day (though not the most readable), uses brothers only to refer to the plural form of male siblings. Here is an example from the NASB that uses brothers.
1 Timothy 5:1 (NASB) Do not sharply rebuke an older man, but rather appeal to him as a father, to the younger men as brothers,
Brothers here in I Tim 5:1 is limited to male siblings. When the mention of siblings is without respect to gender, the NASB uses brethren, the CSB generally uses brothers and sisters, and the ESV uses brothers.
Often times, the ESV will footnote “brothers” at the bottom of the page with the clarification “brothers and sisters.” But though the same word in James is used multiple times and footnoted multiple times in the ESV that way, in James 3:1, the ESV limits brothers only to men (the context is teaching in the church) without footnoting the addition of women. Here’s a comparison of all three translations, the NASB being most consistent of all.
- 3:1 Or brothers and sisters
James 3:1 (ESV)
3 Not many of you should become teachers, my brothers, for you know that we who teach will be judged with greater strictness.
(There is no footnote at the bottom of the page for this verse in the ESV for brother and sisters, despite footnotes for the same word elsewhere in James.)
James 3:1 (NASB)
3 Let not many of you become teachers, my brethren, knowing that as such we will incur a stricter judgment.
To some that may be a big deal, to others it may not. It was a big deal to me, reflective of an agenda to limit references to women in ways that the Bible does not. I believe that agenda has harmed the very cause that ESV translators were hoping to aid, a conservative understanding of women in Scripture.
But the new Christian Standard Bible is now widely available, and I feel relieved of this conundrum I found myself in for a bit. I recently received their women’s study Bible, She Reads Truth. I initially wasn’t interested in checking it out, but someone whispered to me that it was actually better than average, so I gave it a look. I was pleasantly surprised. It has some pretty, feminine script that doesn’t do much for me, and the pages are thin in the hardcover version. Also, the font is tiny, which is a problem for many women.
The good of this study Bible makes up for thin pages and small font though (get some reading glasses). I particularly appreciate the clean look overall and key features – genre indicators, key verses, cultural context, timelines, and so forth. They are factual and helpful resources for biblical literacy, as Jen Wilkin calls it. Every day older I grow in the faith, I realize the singular thing women need in the church is this BIBLICAL LITERACY. I spent a long chapter early in Is the Bible Good for Women? for this reason. How can women know if the Bible is good for them if they don’t understand the basics of the Bible?! The She Reads Truth Study Bible gets this, and I hope it will become a best selling women’s study Bible for the long haul in the church.
Check it out for yourself here. I also have one to give away on Friday, so comment below if you are interested, and share this post with friends that you think might benefit.