The common practice in Christian circles of choosing a “life verse” isn’t a practice I’ve found helpful. It’s simply too easy to lift a biblical tweet out of context and misinterpret it entirely. It can be shattering only to discover years later that a verse that promised so much had nothing to do with how you understood it.It’s too easy to lift a biblical tweet out of context & misinterpret it entirely. Click To Tweet
Having said that, however, doesn’t mean I don’t have my favorites.
Back in my early twenties I came across a verse that I found useful in tormenting a young pastor with whom I was working. He had an annoying habit of pontificating on his views of women, often flinging verses at me, to make sure I knew my place. I recall once when he insisted that single female missionaries should step aside as soon as a man arrived on the scene, even if the man was a brand new convert. Evidently, it was more important for a male novice to do the job, than a woman with the training, gifts, and years of experience.
In a moment of inspiration, I asked him if he would like to hear my life verse. When he took the bait, from the New King James Version (the translation of choice at the time) I quoted Psalm 116:11: “All men are liars.” For some strange reason, he was not amused.
The look on his face was priceless.
Given the ESV’s stated aversion to what General Editor Wayne Grudem labels “gender-neutral” language found in other translations (e.g., NRSV, TNIV, NLT), I fully expected the ESV to back me up. After all, the Hebrew word for “men” in Psalm 116:11 (hā·’ā·ḏām) is the same Hebrew word that appears in Genesis 1:26-27 and that the ESV stubbornly translates “man” (see “Lost in Translation”). They insist on that translation even though “mankind,” “human beings,” or “people” is more gender accurate and certainly not subject to misinterpretation by modern readers for whom “man” or “men” signals male (as it did for my pastor friend at the time).
Imagine my surprise when I recently looked up Psalm 116:11 in the ESV and read “All mankind are liars” (emphasis added).
It seems, in this rare instance at least, ESV translators are unwilling to run the risk of readers thinking “men” in this verse is pointing a finger at males as liars at the exclusion of females.What price are we willing to pay for the cause of gender accuracy? Click To Tweet
The ESV’s inconsistency resulting in the loss of “men” in Psalm 116:11 is a price I’m willing to pay in the cause of gender accuracy. And although this represents a significant breach in the ESV’s firm commitment to retain “man” and “men” in universal statements to preserve a so-called “masculine feel” to the Bible, I applaud them for taking one small step for “mankind.”
Missio Alliance Comment Policy
The Missio Alliance Writing Collectives exist as a ministry of writing to resource theological practitioners for mission. From our Leading Voices to our regular Writing Team and those invited to publish with us as Community Voices, we are creating a space for thoughtful engagement of critical issues and questions facing the North American Church in God’s mission. This sort of thoughtful engagement is something that we seek to engender not only in our publishing, but in conversations that unfold as a result in the comment section of our articles.
Unfortunately, because of the relational distance introduced by online communication, “thoughtful engagement” and “comment sections” seldom go hand in hand. At the same time, censorship of comments by those who disagree with points made by authors, whose anger or limited perspective taints their words, or who simply feel the need to express their own opinion on a topic without any meaningful engagement with the article or comment in question can mask an important window into the true state of Christian discourse. As such, Missio Alliance sets forth the following suggestions for those who wish to engage in conversation around our writing:
1. Seek to understand the author’s intent.
If you disagree with something the an author said, consider framing your response as, “I hear you as saying _________. Am I understanding you correctly? If so, here’s why I disagree. _____________.
2. Seek to make your own voice heard.
We deeply desire and value the voice and perspective of our readers. However you may react to an article we publish or a fellow commenter, we encourage you to set forth that reaction is the most constructive way possible. Use your voice and perspective to move conversation forward rather than shut it down.
3. Share your story.
One of our favorite tenants is that “an enemy is someone whose story we haven’t heard.” Very often disagreements and rants are the result of people talking past rather than to one another. Everyone’s perspective is intimately bound up with their own stories – their contexts and experiences. We encourage you to couch your comments in whatever aspect of your own story might help others understand where you are coming from.
In view of those suggestions for shaping conversation on our site and in an effort to curate a hospitable space of open conversation, Missio Alliance may delete comments and/or ban users who show no regard for constructive engagement, especially those whose comments are easily construed as trolling, threatening, or abusive.