I know I can’t be the only one who cringes these days when I come across the grammar in various Bible translations. For those of us of a certain age who were taught proper English, i.e., how pronouns were supposed to agree with the tense of the verb, you know how that concept has been defenestrated. Say what? Thrown out the window.
What do I mean? The general trend in society has been to remove specific gender associations. We see it all the time. You’re reading an article online that refers specifically to a male or a female in whatever activity is being described. And what do we see? They did such and such. Am I right? Well, excuse me, but it was he or she that did that thing, not they. I mean, how many people are we talking about?
One. Yet, that singular person is referred to in the plural. Drives me nuts.
Now, the last place we’d think to see this kind of political correctness is in the Bible. Sadly, that’s not the case. The classic example revolves around the NIV – the New International Version. For anyone with the 1978 printing, you know what I’m talking about. For the longest time, Bible Gateway used that particular year’s translation. But then the publishers felt an update or two were necessary. They came up with 1984 and 2011 as “improvements.”
Let’s look at the NIV 2011 version – which is the only one currently available on Bible Gateway – and quote Mark 8:34-37:
“Then he called the crowd to him along with his disciples and said: ‘Whoever wants to be my disciple must deny themselves and take up their cross and follow me. For whoever wants to save their life will lose it, but whoever loses their life for me and for the gospel will save it. What good is it for someone to gain the whole world, yet forfeit their soul? Or what can anyone give in exchange for their soul?'”
Now, let’s go back in time to what the NIV 1978 version relates:
“Then he called the crowd to him along with his disciples and said: ‘If anyone would come after me, he must deny himself and take up his cross and follow me. For whoever wants to save his life will lose it, but whoever loses his life for me and for the gospel will save it. What good is it for a man to gain the whole world, yet forfeit his soul? Or what can a man give in exchange for his soul?'”
For further comparison, since I know many prefer the King James, here’s this same passage:
“And when he had called the people unto him with his disciples also, he said unto them, Whosoever will come after me, let him deny himself, and take up his cross, and follow me. For whosoever will save his life shall lose it; but whosoever shall lose his life for my sake and the gospel’s, the same shall save it. For what shall it profit a man, if he shall gain the whole world, and lose his own soul? Or what shall a man give in exchange for his soul?”
Softening the masculine and confusing tense as in the NIV 2011 is a bunch of garbage, isn’t it? Now you know why I cringe reading such a mishmash.
But it gets worse – of course. In the next verse, it just so happens that Jesus makes a critical point following what He just said. For our purposes in this little discourse, it drives home the necessity to not bow to what the gods of the day dictate is correct and proper.
Here is Mark 8:38 in the awful NIV 2011:
“If anyone is ashamed of me and my words in this adulterous and sinful generation, the Son of Man will be ashamed of them when he comes in his Father’s glory with the holy angels.”
There it is again: If anyone is . . . ashamed of them. Singular – plural. Didn’t anyone learn English in school?
In contrast, here are the NIV 1978 and KJV with this same verse:
“If anyone is ashamed of me and my words in this adulterous and sinful generation, the Son of Man will be ashamed of him when he comes in his father’s glory with the holy angels.”
“Whosoever therefore shall be ashamed of me and of my words in this adulterous and sinful generation; of him also shall the Son of man be ashamed, when he cometh in the glory of his Father with the holy angels.”
The irony we shouldn’t miss in speaking of political correctness and the dumbing down of language is what Jesus actually said.
He literally called out those who would twist His Words. Such people will be the object of shame for having distorted the Word of God.
This all seems like a minor issue. But, is it? Would you want to be on the receiving end of Jesus’ condemnation – whatever it might be?
We’re so conditioned to hearing and reading stuff that in days gone by would have earned us D’s in school. I’d bet the majority of people (except you, dear readers, who are now alerted to the problem) have no idea how bad the language has become and what even Jesus probably thinks of what’s been done to it.
But surely modern society is an improvement over the past – right?
Actually no, and the reason is likely related to a famous law of physics, namely the Second Law of Thermodynamics. It has to do with heat transfer and how hot things inevitably cool. But it’s also quite relevant in describing the simple truth that order inevitably moves downhill to disorder. We see that all around in the world today. And does it not apply in our situation with language and how it’s devolved and gotten worse over time? I think so.
Is there a point to this article? If there is one, it’s that purity of language is important. More vital, however, is to keep the Words of Jesus and not change them in order to please the culture.
Please click here to listen to the audio version of this commentary: https://rumble.com/v1mz4ts-biblical-audio-commentary-ashamed-of-my-words.html
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