Is the KJV accurate in its treatment of gender?

The KJV is not a "gender neutral" translation. This makes the KJV accurate in its treatment of gender because the original Hebrew and Greek texts are not gender neutral. This gender neutrality debate is not particular to the KJV. The ESV, NASB, and the original NIV are also charged with being inaccurate in their treatment of gender. Vern S. Poythress and Wayne A. Grudem have written books and articles on the subject of gender neutrality in translation. Their jointly written book, The TNIV and the Gender Neutral Controversy, is a good introduction to the subject from the side of those who resist the politically-motivated gender-neutral movement in Bible translation. This page will not engage in a full discussion of this very complex subject. The errors of the proponents of gender-neutrality in translation are summarized briefly.

For more in-depth discussions on the subject, please refer to the following articles:

Self-compositions vs. translation

Proponents of gender-neutral translations provide countless examples of contemporary writers using gender-neutral language. This supposedly justifies gender-neutral translations. But this false argument does not justify what it ought to justify. Of course people are free to write their own compositions however way they like, but translation is a completely different issue. Writers writing their own compositions have the right to form their own creations however way they intend, but translations must be faithful not to the translators' intentions but to the original writers' intentions.

Gender-neutral revisions are deceptive

Gender-neutral translations are supposedly made in order not to offend people. But in doing so, gender-neutral translations are deceiving people into thinking that the biblical writers were egalitarian, which they were not. Famous atheist Christopher Hitchens remarked with respect to gender-neutral translations, "To suggest that Saint Paul, of all people, was gender-neutral is to re-write the history as well as to rinse out the prose" (Atheist Hitchens Praises King James Bible). Anyone who has even a brief understanding of gender history knows that egalitarianism is a modern development. As with Hitchens, non-believers can see through the tactics of translators who distort the text in order to try to make the Bible more palatable to modern sensibilities. Deception should not be used by Christians in order to make the faith more palatable to society. Since the Bible is a historical document, gender-neutral translations re-write the history as to how ancient people actually spoke and acted.

Is "human" really more gender-neutral than "man"?

Gender neutral translations change "man" to "human" in several places. But is "human" really any more gender-neutral than "man," or are we just culturally conditioned to think so? Look carefully at the word "human." The only gender we see in it is "man." It does not say, "hu-woman" or "hu-person." It is basically just "man" with "hu" in front of it. If gender-neutrality proponents think that "postman" and "policeman" are sexist, what makes "human" any better? Of course, "man" is not the etymological root of "human." "Human is derived from the Latin "homo," which refers to "man (male)." So both the etymology (homo) and grapheme (man) are anything but gender-neutral. The fact that "human" is nonetheless considered more gender-neutral than "man" reveals that the attack against "man" is not based on etymology, grapheme, or rationality, but something else.

"Adelphoi" should not be translated "brothers and sisters"

Greek has a word for "brother" and a word for "sister"

  • brother: adelphos

  • sister: adelphe

Greek has a word for "brothers" (plural) and "sisters" (plural)

  • brothers: adelphoi

  • sisters: adelphai

"Adelphoi" is used in scripture to refer to groups that consist of both brothers and sisters. Thus "adelphoi" is used in a gender-neutral sense in scripture. This is not disputed. However, it is an error of logic to say that "brothers and sisters" is that gender-neutral meaning of "adelphoi." The gender-neutral meaning of "adelphoi" is "sibling," not "brothers and sister." See the following example:

  • "Mike went to a prayer meeting and prayed with the "adelphoi."

In this statement, it is impossible to know whether Mike went to a men's only prayer meeting or a mixed prayer meeting. It would be highly speculative to say, "Mike prayed with both brothers and sisters." We simply do not know. However, it is factually accurate to say, "Mike prayed with brothers," or "Mike prayed with siblings." The only accurate gender-neutral translation would be "Mike went to a prayer meeting and prayed with the siblings." Such a statement would include both the possibility of a men's only prayer meeting and a mixed prayer meeting. So even if a translator were to uphold gender-neutrality, the choice must be "siblings" rather than "brothers and sisters." Proponents of using the phrase "brothers and sisters" would argue that the context makes it clear whether there were both brothers and sisters. But the context is not always clear, and it is dangerous to give the translator the license to insert a proposition (that women were present) in a passage where the context is unclear. Even where a translator thinks that the context is clear, it may only be the translator's presupposition of the context. For example, there is debate as to whether the writers of the epistles were always addressing themselves to a group of males and females or sometimes only to a representative group of male bishops. In such cases, translating the address, "brethren," as "brothers and sisters" circuitously shuts down the argument that only males were being addressed. We must leave such conclusions to interpreters, not to translators. "Brethren" and "siblings" are accurate terms because they state what is definitely true without necessarily shutting down the argument that sisters were also being addressed.

Is the KJV deliberately sexist by referring to "men"?

The KJV uses "man" to refer to all people. Since both "man (male)" and "woman" both contain the word, "man," "man" had long been used as a generic term to refer to both men and women. This is consistent with Hebrew, in which "male" is "ish" and "female" is "isha." The word for "male" is the root word for "female" in both Hebrew and English. The KJV refers to "man" even in a passage where the subject is obviously female:

  • "Likewise, ye wives, be in subjection to your own husbands; that, if any obey not the word, they also may without the word be won by the conversation of the wives; While they behold your chaste conversation coupled with fear. Whose adorning let it not be that outward adorning of plaiting the hair, and of wearing of gold, or of putting on of apparel; But let it be the hidden man of the heart, in that which is not corruptible, even the ornament of a meek and quiet spirit, which is in the sight of God of great price" (1 Peter 3:1-4).

Referring to women as "man" should not be confusing since the word "woman" contains the word "man." "Woman" is a specific kind of "man" that was taken out of the "man" Adam. The language reflects the biblical principle that the woman was taken out of man. If a person has a problem with the language, it is because he or she has a problem with the biblical principle. The current movement to remove the generic "man" from the Bible is based on politics, not linguistics, etymology or biblical hermeneutics.