Explore
Click here to view CMI's position on climate change.

Pronoun wars around new version of Dutch Bible

by

Published: 27 April 2021 (GMT+10)
humble
Let us all humbly bow before our God (See Ephesians 3:14)

According to Netherland News Live,1 there is opposition to capitalizing pronouns for God—like ‘He’ and ‘Him’—in a new edition of the Nieuwe Bijbelvertaling (New Bible Translation) (NBV21) set for release in 2021.

A group of female religion researchers and theologians argues for using lower case letters, just like the 2004 version. They deem using a capital a “slap in the face” for women.

These objections come as the NBV21 is already at the printers, after a process that started in 2017 by the Dutch Bijbelgenootschap (Bible Society). The Society says: “For some, ‘He’ with a capital letter may hurt the eyes, but for others, ‘He’ with a lower case letter may hurt the heart”.

When the new translation work began, it was stated that capitals would be used, so this protest comes rather late.

Holding whether or not a pronoun should be capitalized is not necessarily a mark of godliness; English Bible translations generally do not—e.g. KJV, ESV, NIV. But that does not appear to be the issue here anyway. The basis for the objection by the Synod of Women is their claim that using capital ‘H’ emphasizes the ‘patriarchal’ image of God, i.e. God as father (male). They deem this as having tragic and damaging consequences for women in the church.

However, as Jesus taught us to pray, God actually is: “Our Father…” (Matthew 6:9). We are meant to let the inspired text teach, reprove, and correct our thinking (2 Timothy 3:16), not override it by imposing our own preferences, no matter how popular. To use the language of modern ‘political correctness’, He/Him are God’s ‘preferred pronouns’.

Mary, in the Magnificat, sings the line, “for he who is mighty has done great things for me, and holy is his name” (Luke 1:49), using male pronouns. In the verse before, she confessed to be a humble servant of God her Saviour. Genesis 1:27 makes it clear that men and women are both made in God’s image and are thus created equal by Him. There is no inferiority, because “there is no male and female, for you are all one in Christ Jesus” (Galatians 3:28).

It is common knowledge that the majority in evangelicalism have failed to take a stand against the onslaughts of secularism. This is especially serious when it comes to the foundational history in Genesis upon which the New Testament builds its doctrine—including who we are, and who God is. Inevitably, this has led to an increasing erosion of the Bible’s authority, both within and without the church. Men and women together should humbly bow before the sovereign Creator, because “the Earth is the Lord’s”, including those who dwell therein (Psalm 24:1).

References and notes

  1. Cloutier, C., Synod of Women appoints Bible Society to ‘He’; netherlandsnewslive.com, 10 Feb 2021. (The translation ‘appoint’ in the English title doesn’t do justice to the Dutch version, which uses a play on the word kapittelt meaning both ‘to bring up for discussion’ as well as ‘to chastise’.) Return to text.

Helpful Resources

Affirming God’s Image
by J. Alan Branch
US $17.00
Soft Cover
How Did We Get Our Bible?
by Lita Cosner, Gary Bates
US $3.50
Soft Cover
Christianity for Skeptics
by Drs Steve Kumar, Jonathan D Sarfati
US $10.00
Soft Cover
The Genesis Account
by Jonathan Sarfati
US $39.00
Hard Cover

Readers’ comments

Angela C.
It is clear in the Bible that we are both respected, both men and women were created to be in God’s image. But, I as a woman only see God as our Father, not mother, because that’s how God is referred to.

It doesn’t make me feel less valuable than men. I’m not even sure why we’re thinking about this—to me this type of thinking is too close to comparing ourselves to God.

Personally I like thinking of God as our Father. Because I automatically think of God as having a parental relationship and traditionally the father is the protector and leader of a family. I don’t see anything wrong with that. It gives a comforting and secure feeling to me.

Don’t most women love their biological fathers? And our dads are the ones who are protective of us. So, again that’s what I think of. A loving father. A protector. I never once thought that my biological father was more valuable than me. He’s the one who is there for me no matter what. Not someone I’m competing against.
Stephen A.
At least these folks are willing call God "he" just as many translations have done for centuries. No problem exists until someone wants to actually translate the masculine pronoun "he" from the original language improperly to read as if it was neuter (it) or feminine (she). The same would be true if someone inaccurately translated those other two pronouns into the masculine. We must retain what the original said. For it is the original words that are God's words.
Robert C.
The capitalization of the words relating to the Lord have nothing to do with feminism it has to do with the respect, honour and fear of the Lord. Period. If we lose this then we lose our faith.
Claudius P.
........ Not...... Mother , Daughter , Holy Spirit. ........ but ......... FATHER , SON , HOLY SPIRIT ........ as per Word of GOD ...... the Holy Bible.
Matthew C.
As God the Father is spirit He doesn’t have a male body but He is our Heavenly Father. He set up the family unit and the male is the head (not superior) of the family. Likewise God is the head of everything. And Jesus, God in the flesh, was a male. Probably not explaining myself well but the gist is God is a He as the Bible clearly states. Take God on His word for that!
Carol E.
Helpful article - thank you for addressing the gender of God issue, as well as the humility issue. When Jesus taught His disciples to pray, He gave us the answer. By addressing, "Our Father, which art in heaven...," He clearly shows our Father is a He. But maybe the bigger question is whether we can trust Him as a He. I think women need to know God is not a man that He should lie (sin against us) and we can stop comparing Him to our earthly fathers or anyone else. If we could get over the gender thing and just trust Him, we might experience His love, along with the healing power of His Holy Spirit that dwells within every believer (Acts 2). A healthy relationship with the living God might cover confusion and damage done by human beings.
Howard P.
“Search the scriptures; for in them ye think ye have eternal life: and they are they which testify of me....For had ye believed Moses, ye would have believed me; for he wrote of me. But if ye believe not his writings, how shall ye believe my words?” (John 5:39, 46-47)

“If they hear not Moses and the prophets, neither will they be persuaded, though one rose from the dead” (Luke 16:31)

“He that believeth not God hath made him a liar” (1 John 5:10)

“Believe in the Lord Jesus, and you will be saved …” (Acts 16:30-31)
Chuck R.
Lucien,
The context of 1 Timothy from which I quoted - 1 Timothy 2:11-12 "Let a woman learn in silence with all submission. And I do not permit a woman to teach or to have authority over a man, but to be in silence." clearly states the difference of leadership and teaching between man and women, but in our modern feminist society, for me to state this is now blasphemy.
Lucien Tuinstra
Sorry Chuck
I had misunderstood you before.
Roy L.
These women folk are offended by much more than this in the Bible. They want to write it in their own image. May they come to the light of the love of their Father YHWH. He is God. He made Adam in His own image and took Eve from a rib of Adam.
Chuck R.
Just as this group of female religion researchers and theologians are insisting on the pronoun change, men still have the burden of responsibility to adhere to God's word -
1 Timothy 2:14 "And Adam was not deceived, but the woman being deceived, fell into transgression."
Lucien Tuinstra
"men still have the burden of responsibility to adhere to God's word", as do women, including those researchers and theologians (which I think you implied).
RONALD M.
Such controversies are not new. Indeed, some older translations have a few gender problems. For example, John 1:12 “sons of God” (KJV) should be “children of God” from Greek teknon.
Even back in 2003 I published a theological journal article, “Gender-Inclusive Bible Translations.” One quote to show how distorted they can be:

Extreme feminist Bibles may refer to “God the father” as “God the fathermother” or “God the eternal one” (e.g., see Oxford’s Inclusive New Testament).
Many would be surprised to find Matthew 3:9, We have Abraham as our father rendered “We have Abraham as our father and Sarah and Hagar as our mothers.” Yet this is done in extremely radical editions like An Inclusive Language Lectionary. Jan DeWaard and Eugene Nida, From One Language to Another, 24–25, correctly call this “an almost incredible distortion.” It might also be noted that the Greek language did have separate words for father, mother, and parent.

So these controversies like the one in Holland are likely to increase more as society drifts further toward a low view of God’s inerrant Word.
Garth J.
I totally agree with the previous biblical comments that God is He.

Our Lord prayed to "Abba, His Father", that's 'Daddy'!

As humans we're created in His image having His characteristics: love, caring, compassion, communication, just, anger, etc as described throughout God's Word. (Exo 33:19; Ps 116:5; Dan 7:13-14, ) Humour too, subtly. (Gen 1:16; Mt 19:24) God has male and female attributes that He's shared with us. It's a beautiful Bible study!

Having worshipped in a Bible preaching church for decades, a new minister started and for 3 years I noted many questionable non-biblical comments. The final was to have everyone pray from a sheet beginning with God as all 3 Persons then including 'She'. I crossed it out, refused to say it, shared with others, emailed to meet with the minister promptly. She gave no reasoning so I resigned from that church and the denomination for another reason. This minister is a national trainer for Lay Preachers!

[...]

Sadly this isn't new. In R.A. Torrey's book "How to Pray", he says "Our future ministers oftentimes are being educated under infidel professors, and being immature boys when they enter the college or seminary, they naturally come out infidels in many cases, and then go forth to poison the church." (p78) That was printed in AD 1900.

As believers in the only Saviour (Acts 4:12) we must stand for, and witness God's truthful authority given in the Bible. (1 Tim 3:16)
Jean-paul D.
Why don’t we call him by his name JEHOVAH.
Lucien Tuinstra
We do (although JHWH is oft rendered LORD), but this article was about His (!) pronouns and Him being our Father.
B M.
I’ve heard these types of arguments before and I’m always puzzled. Many want God to be referred to as a genderless “it” which is allegedly more suitable to His divine nature seeing as God transcends biological gender distinctions. But how exactly does God being referred to in the masculine mean that I as man can relate Him better than a woman? It is true that God is not a human (save the Son of God) but although He is referred to in the masculine I can no more relate to Him than I can a male seahorse. I do not share the same nature of countless male creatures in this world and could barely tell the difference between their female counterparts let alone relate more closely with them. This masculine pronoun issue arises not when we fail to see God as transcendent but when God is reduced to our level. Besides, nowadays we’re told that it’s disrespectful not to refer to someone with the gender pronoun they prefer. Shouldn’t we extend that same respect to God who refers to Himself in the masculine?
Lucien Tuinstra
It is clear that we all (both male and female) are made in God's image (Genesis 1:27). There is neither Jew nor Greek, there is neither slave nor free, there is no male and female, for you are all one in Christ Jesus (Galatians 3:28). Thanks to Jesus, we can directly relate to God our Father:
For there is one God, and there is one mediator between God and men, the man Christ Jesus (1 Timothy 2:5)
John W.
Instead of quibbling over pronouns they should just try actually reading and believing it.
David B.
This is insane! The reason we capitalize the pronoun He is because He is the Supreme He above all others.

Maybe we should take a page from John the Baptist - for whom Jesus Christ had great regard for - and declare the we should decrease and HE should increase. This applies to both women and men. Maybe taking that humble attitude and zeroing out our pride will keep us from grumbling over these childish inanities and get us back to true ministry.
S H.
It all comes about from people misapplying the latest worldly ‘trends’ to the Bible rather than applying the Bible to the world around us. We need to believe God and his truth, not reapply God’s truth in light of our limited human understanding. We read and know God and his Word rightly when we do so the way he intends it, not the way we think, feel or want it. Ultimately the Bible is God’s Word not ours, his story not ours. It is pride when the created claim to know more than the Creator!
MICHAEL R.
When the ancient Israelites started incorporating idolatrous practices from their neighbours into their worship, it aroused God's anger, eventually leading to the exile in Babylon. Too many Christians today think that they can mix worldly ideas such as feminism, gender ideology, Marxism, LGBTQ rights etc. into the Christian faith. They are making the same mistake as the Israelites made and will bring God's anger down upon themselves. It is clear from the Bible that God loves obedience and humility in His children. “For my thoughts are not your thoughts, neither are your ways my ways,” declares the Lord. Isaiah 55:8
Guy W.
Remember that in the beginning the Devil deceived Eve and Adam, abandoned his responsibility and submitted to his wife. Adam was responsible has the direction was given to him not eat of the tree of knowledge of good and evil. If he had said no to Eve, history would have been different but when he ate of the fruit both their eyes were opened and the trouble began. Satan cleverly deceived Eve, and this seems to be the same thing today. Men are increasingly emasculated into abdicating they responsibilities both in the world and in the Church. They are equal in the sight of God but the responsibility is carried by men and certainly so in marriage. I know this gets up the nose of many women but it is in their interest to obey what God has set out not only to reduce strife but so that both sexes flourish within God's will rather than pandering to PC. Anyway the key thing is to be led by the Holy Spirit (Rom 8:14) Being half Dutch, this issue really gives me a picture back in Holland of classic Dutch disagreements which are a wee bit more polarized than they are in England. The saints in Holland told me 1 Dutch Christian is a church. 2 Dutch Christians are a Revival and 3. Dutch Christians and you have a split. However Dutch believers are generally very strong in a crisis. My mother was lined up by the Gestapo in Arnhem for being in the Resistance and helping English paras escape. She called on the Lord and she saw her angel, a blaze of light who gave her revelation that she would not be shot by the firing squad. Well the Germans believed her to be shot already and forgot about her until the Canadians came and set her free. It really does pay to believe in and trust in the Lord. By the way my mum thought feminism was nonsense.
Mark A.
The ‘rabbit hole’ Heather S is talking about is this bizarre idea that there are 50 different genders. It states in Genesis that God made them man and women, not man, woman and 50 other genders but this is how secular thinking is invading the church and again it goes back to Genesis where Satan said to Eve, “Did God really say …” If Christians keep questioning what God really did say then they will end up down the road to perdition. Jesus described God as ‘Our heavenly Father’, fathers are men, that is good enough for me.
Jonathan Sarfati
Hehe, there are stores that advertize T-shirts that say, “There are More than Two Genders”—but then buyers must make a choice of Fit type: Men or Women!
Geoff C. W.
"... tragic and damaging consequences for women in the church". Having trouble seeing what tragic and damaging consequences they are. Must be missing something.
On a similar note, our church on the weekend quoted Jesus as saying: "Greater love has no one than this: that one lay down one's life for one's friends". Well, that's not exactly what he said, is it (and it's a bit of a mouthful)? I have been wondering if we have the right to make such changes to a quote. It could be argued that there was no call for gender neutrality in those days, and that now we know "better", but Jesus would have been aware of what's happening these days. Should He have been more sensitive? Should He have preempted the future? I can tell you that from one's perspective, this doesn't sit well with one.
Heather S.
Oh, for pity’s sake. God relates to us as the FATHER. And as the SON. And as the HOLY SPIRIT. Two of these are definitely MALE. (The Holy Spirit I never saw as female either, but I’m unsure whether the HS is a personal “it” or a personal “he”—I think of him as neuter but tend to refer to him as male, given that referring to the HS as “it” tends to put him on the level of a pot plant or a pair of slippers rather than a person. But FEMALE … that’s just bizarre to my mind.)

What is female-bashing about using the way God wants to be described to describe God? I don’t get it. One could just as easily say that it’s male-bashing to describe the members of the Synod of Women as “female”. Or, indeed, female-bashing to describe my grandfather as “male”. And if we go down THAT rabbit-hole, where do we stop?
Jonathan Sarfati
Jesus must be male bashing when he describes Satan as male:

You are of your father the devil, and your will is to do your father’s desires. He was a murderer from the beginning, and does not stand in the truth, because there is no truth in him. When he lies, he speaks out of his own character, for he is a liar and the father of lies. (John 8:44).

Comments are automatically closed 14 days after publication.