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Monday, 22 February 2010

Gender insensitivity in Matthew 8:28

All three Synoptic Gospels--Matthew, Mark, and Luke--record the story of Jesus allowing a swarm of several thousand demons to enter a herd of swine, which then committed mass sooey-cide. The textual matter of where this occurred can be saved for a later post; right now I'd like to focus on the question of just who was possessed by the Legion.

Both Mark and Luke give the story in some detail, but refer only to a man (Luke specifically uses the word aner) who was demon-possessed. Matthew, on the other hand, gives a much briefer account, but mentions "two possessed with devils." At least, that's how the KJV reads. The NKJ adds the word men, in italics because it is only implied in the Greek. This would not do, of course, in a gender-sensitive version, where females must be read into every context where they are not specifically excluded.

Or would it?

Yes, and even worse: all three translations of the CBT (NIV, NIrV, and TNIV) call them 'two men' without any italics. As does the Amplified, an earlier project of Zondervan's. Even the NLT does, in both editions.

What's up with that? There's nothing in the Greek of Matthew to even hint that the demonicas were both men. The NRSV at least allows for this, calling them "two demoniacs."

Nothing gender-sensitive about that, though; it turns out to have already been the reading of the RSV. And of the ASV, of which the RSV was a revision. The ASV, of course, was an update of the KJV--and we can continue this chain back through every English version all the way to Tyndale. Nobody called them 'men' until about 50 years ago, when the NASB began taking liberties with the text which have yet to be corrected.

The CBT still hasn't attained to the level of "gender-sensitive yet accurate" translation that some have enjoyed since 1525.

UPDATE: The NNIV is unchanged.

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