Updated: Oct 31, 2019
This is the perfect verse to revisit the subject of gender neutral language in modern Bible versions! I shared this picture on social media today.
It is the job of translators to take the original language manuscripts and translate them into our language so that we can read them. The original language manuscripts were written in masculine gender language. It was the way it was done back then.
I read from the New American Standard Bible (NASB), last copyright 1995, and it is in masculine language. Hence in 2 Corinthians 4:16 above it uses the word "man." I am a woman and I can read masculine gender language and know it is applicable to me too. It just isn't a biggie to me. For 2000 years women have heard and read Scripture knowing that it is applicable to them too.
Our language evolves quite quickly. And it has evolved rapidly over the past 20 years alone!
We used to say just a few short years ago, "If anyone..., let him..." (masculine)
Now we say, "If anyone..., let them..." (plural)
We used to often say "man" in referring to a human being - more like a being of the human race. Now we say "person."
When the 1984 New International Version (NIV) was revised in 2011 it went from masculine language to gender neutral language. It was a HUGE revision to the number one sold Bible version in the world and literally a firestorm erupted at the time! That is just 8 short years ago. Not long in the scheme of things.
Newer versions of the Bible use gender neutral language. Even some versions that are considered on the literal end of the scale. Literal means the translators stay as close to the language of the original language manuscripts as possible - even if some of the meaning is lost to modern day readers.
In ALL versions pronouns referring to God, the Father, the Son, and the Spirit are MASCULINE. That did not change. That should not change. And if that does change, we are in hot water. They only changed the pronouns in verses that were meant for all people. From masculine pronouns to gender neutral pronouns or they pluralized words (brothers and sisters). They were including the women as I think we can all agree was the intent of the writers and the Author.
Unless you are fluent in ancient Hebrew, Aramaic and Greek, you have to rely on the translators to accurately translate Scripture into our language. They are scholars and work in committees on revisions. Every word is chosen carefully. Every phrasing is chosen carefully. They know they are working with the holy word of God and they take their work seriously. We have to trust the scholars to accurately translate for us.
Let's compare 2 Corinthians 4:16 in different versions. The best way to do this is by going to Biblegateway.com which is an excellent resource!
1. Enter the verse (or passage) you want to compare.
2. Enter the Bible version you read from and search.
3. Add parallel versions.
4. You can compare four versions on a computer. (Three on a phone.) You can click on the down arrow to change the versions you want to compare.
Note the footnote and information about the Bible version below the verse.
Let's compare 2 Corinthians 4:16 in popular Bible versions and I'll note the year of the latest revision. I will put them in order of literal to more liberal dynamic equivalent versions by this spectrum.
Note: This is a very old chart. TNIV is no longer sold (it was rejected by scholars as having errors) and this chart does not include some of the newer popular versions.
New American Standard Bible (NASB), 1995 - masculine
Therefore we do not lose heart, but though our outer man is decaying, yet our inner man is being renewed day by day.
English Standard Version (ESV), 2001 - gender neutral
So we do not lose heart. Though our outer self is wasting away, our inner self is being renewed day by day.
King James Version (KJV), original 1611, many revisions, latest printing 1987 - masculine
For which cause we faint not; but though our outward man perish, yet the inward man is renewed day by day.
Holman Christian Standard Bible (HCSB), 2009 - gender neutral
Therefore we do not give up. Even though our outer person is being destroyed, our inner person is being renewed day by day.
New International Version (NIV) 2011 - gender neutral
Therefore we do not lose heart. Though outwardly we are wasting away, yet inwardly we are being renewed day by day.
New Living Translation (NLT), 2015 - gender neutral
That is why we never give up. Though our bodies are dying, our spirits are being renewed every day.
They changed from "man" in the older versions to "self", "person", or "we." Note the NLT version uses "bodies" and "spirits" because it flows a little freer in the translation process. Modern versions use gender neutral language. (The Catholic versions I've looked at also use gender neutral language.) We speak in gender neutral language these days and the translators purposefully use language which is the most understandable for us to read.
Closely read the above versions of 2 Corinthians 4:16. They DO NOT say different things! They may use some different words or phrasing, but they say the same thing. We do not lose heart is the more formal way of saying we do not give up. We are aging; our bodies are aging; but inwardly we are being transformed day by day. It says the same concept/intent in each verse. This is why people can sit in a Bible study and read from different Bible versions and follow along.
Gender neutral language. It's here to stay. Centuries from now when people are studying the various versions of the Bible and when going over the translation process someone will say, "An important thing to note is around 2000 translators went from masculine language to gender neutral language." And the students will go 'OK, noted', but they will have no idea what a big deal it was when it happened!
For additional reading on this subject see:
Including the Women dated 11/29/15
Language Evolves QUICKLY dated 2/12/18