Southern Baptists have long defended literal approaches to the Bible, but their recent translation of the Good Book might have them switching sides.
Last fall, the publishing arm of the 15-million member Southern Baptist Convention (SBC) released the Christian Standard Bible (CSB). LifeWay Christian Stores, America's largest Christian retailer, which is owned by the SBC, sells the translation at hundreds of its locations nationwide and touts it as a work of superior scholarship. But patrons are largely unaware that the denomination-approved translation is gender-inclusive.
Such news would presumably shock many in the evangelical body. The denomination has affirmed that the Bible commands wives to submit to their husbands and that modern notions of transgender identity blur the line between God-ordained masculine and feminine roles. The group has passed numerous resolutions since the late 1990s publicly condemning Bible translations that attempt to utilize gender-inclusive language.
When several revisions to the popular New International Version (1984) appeared to employ gender-neutral language, for example, Southern Baptists condemned the translation by name and chastised its publishers. A 2011 resolution even instructed LifeWay to cease selling the translation in its stores. (LifeWay has continued to sell the NIV despite the resolution to remove it; the translation remains the most popular among Southern Baptists with a 40 percent share.)
The rationale behind the rebuke was two-fold. First, inclusive translations abolish many gender-specific terms. For example, they may change "father" to "parent," "son" to "child," and "man" to "mortal." And second, these translations added words and phrases not found in ancient manuscripts for the sake of inclusion. A common example is the translation of "brother" as "brother or sister."