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A Review of The Inclusive Bible


I’m asked from time to time what I think about The Inclusive Bible. In short, I don’t like it. I want a Bible translation that is both gender-inclusive and gender-accurate in how they translate from the Hebrew Bible and from the Greek New Testament. The Inclusive Bible is not gender-accurate, and deliberately so.

The following are my somewhat random and cursory observations about the Inclusive Bible (IB). But I did make a point of looking at certain passages in the New Testament that mention women, especially in Paul’s letters. (The IB can be read for free on Internet Archive.)

“Man” and “He”

The translators of the IB have altered words they think are sexist. They avoid the word “man” and they avoid masculine pronouns. “Man” is often replaced with “one” and masculine singular pronouns are sometimes replaced with non-gendered plural pronouns. Jesus and other male individuals, however, are still “he.” They also avoid the word “slave.”

God as “Father”

In the IB, God is rarely, if ever, referred to as “Father.” I couldn’t find one example where God is called “Father” in the New Testament. Matthew 23:9 (IB), for instance, is altered to read, “And don’t call anyone on earth your ‘Mother’ or ‘Father.’ You have only one Parent—our loving God in heaven.”

Jesus frequently refers to his Father as “Abba” or “Abba God,” even in the Lord’s Prayer (Matt 6:9 IB cf. Matt. 26:53; John 16:10; 20:17; Col. 1:3; 1 Thess. 1:1; 2 Thess. 1:2). God the Father is also occasionally called “Loving God (e.g., 1 Cor. 1:3). Even though the masculine term “father” has been removed, “Papa” is used, with “Abba,” in John 5:18 (IB).

See the second footnote here about God as Father in the Bible:

Is God Male or Masculine?

“Son of Man” and “Son of God”

The IB translators have doctored the terms “Son of Man/ Humanity” and “Son of God” in order to remove the masculine word “son.” “Son of God” is rendered as “God’s Own,” “Only Begotten,” or “Eternally Begotten.” (I have issues with the English word “begotten.”) “Son of Man/ Humanity” is rendered as “Chosen One” or “Promised One,” two phrases that do not adequately reflect the sense of the original phrase. Furthermore, the simple fact that “Son of God” and “Son of Humanity/ Man” are rendered in various different ways is problematic; there is little consistency in how these significant terms are treated in the IB.

I’ve written about these phrases that describe Jesus here:

The Son of Man – John 5:27

The IB even substitutes the word “Lord” (Greek: kyrios) for non-gendered words such as “sovereign.”

Feminine before Masculine

In Genesis 1:27, “male and female” (which reflects the Hebrew texts) is switched to “female and male.” There are numerous instances in the IB where the feminine is mentioned before the masculine (cf. Acts 2:17-18 IB). It’s a pattern in the IB. As another example, Melchizedek has “no mother or father, no genealogy” in Hebrews 7:3 (IB), but the Greek has “father” before “mother.”

Along the same lines, adelphoi is consistently translated as “sisters and brothers” in the New Testament of the IB (Acts 18:18, Rom. 7:1; 1 Cor. 15:1; Gal. 5:13; Phil. 3:1, 4:8; Col. 4:15, 2 Thess. 2:1, Heb. 3:1, Jas 2:1, etc). I didn’t see “brothers and sisters” anywhere in the IB.

I’ve written about translating adelphoi here:

“Brothers and Sisters” (Adelphoi) in Paul’s Letters

Adam and Eve

I don’t mind that ha’adam (AKA Adam) is called the “earth creature” in Genesis 2, but the IB takes too much liberty in how they say this creature is split into male and female. And the IB says that God presents the couple to each other. But that’s not what the Hebrew says.

I’ve written about “splitting the ‘adam” here:

The Human (Ha’adam), Man (Ish) and Woman (Ishshah) in Genesis 2

Wive’s Names Added and First

Where the Bible (in the Hebrew and Greek) just speaks of Abraham or Isaac, etc, the IB adds the wife’s name, and the wife’s name is usually given first before her husband’s. In Genesis 26 (IB), for example, Rebekah’s name is repeatedly first, before Isaac’s. In John 8:33 (IB), the temple authorities tell Jesus, “We are descendants of Sarah and Abraham …” This is not what the Hebrew and Greek say. As another example, Hebrews 6:13 (IB) says, “When God made the promise to Sarah and Abraham …” But, again, Sarah isn’t mentioned in the Greek here.

Obscure Gender in Parables

The Parable of the Ten Virgins is the Parable of the Ten Attendants in Matthew 25 (IB), and the Ten weren’t waiting for the (male) bridegroom, but for the non-gendered bridal party. I don’t understand why anyone would find this tampering with the text as helpful.

The woman who lost her coin is referred to as the “householder” in Luke 15:8-10 (IB), not as a “woman.” However, she is referred to with feminine pronouns. On the other hand, the father in the story of the Prodigal Son in the following section of Luke 15, is referred to as a man and as a father with sons. There is no attempt to obscure the gender of these male figures.

Romans 16

In Romans 16:1-2 (IB), Phoebe is a deacon and “she has looked after a great many people …” This phrase doesn’t capture Phoebe’s role as a prostatis (“patron”). And I don’t like that Romans 16:3 (IB), about Prisca and Aquila, is given in the past tense: “they were my coworkers …” Andronicus and Junia in Romans 16:7 (IB) are identified as “outstanding apostles,” rather than the more correct “outstanding among the apostles.” And Tryphena and Tryphosa are identified as sisters in Romans 16:12 (IB). The Greek doesn’t say they were sisters, but they probably were. There’s nothing particularly noteworthy, one way or the other, in the IB’s treatment of Romans 16:1-16.

My article on the people in Romans 16:1-16 is here:

A List of the 29 People in Romans 16:1-16

1 Corinthians 7

1 Corinthians 7 (IB) opens with: “Now for the matters about which you wrote. [So far so good, though the sentence could be smoother.] Yes, it is a good thing for a woman or a man not to marry.” Many translators, however, take the second half of 1 Cor 7:1 to be a quotation from a letter that Paul refers to.

Here’s the NIV for comparison: “Now for the matters you wrote about: ‘It is good for a man not to have sexual relations with a woman.’” Paul’s concern wasn’t about marrying as such, but about renouncing sex altogether. Some Corinthians were saying that it is good not to have sex. This is not as clear in The Inclusive Bible.

I’ve written about the context of 1 Corinthians 7 here:

A wife has no authority of her own body? (1 Cor. 7:4)

1 Corinthians 11:2-16

On the other hand, 1 Corinthians 11:2-16 (IB) is presented as though Paul is quoting a letter from the Corinthians: “You say in your letter, however, that since God is the head of Christ, then Christ is the head of man, and man is the head of woman” (v.2) There are a few oddities and issues here. The IB keeps going in this vein, and in verse 8 (IB) it says, “Man did not come from woman, you say …” However, there are no markers which indicate Paul was quoting the Corinthians in this passage.

My basic article on this passage is here:

1 Corinthians 11:2–16, in a Nutshell

1 Corinthians 14:34-35

1 Corinthians 14:34-35 is strange in the IB: “… only one spouse has permission to speak, the other is to remain silent, to keep in the background as it says in the Law. If the silent one has questions to ask, ask them at home. It is disgraceful for a spouse to speak improperly in church.” There are several issues with this translation which doesn’t come close to reflecting the Greek.

I understand 1 Corinthians 14:34-35 as Paul silencing nuisance questions from women, not from spouses. (These verses were not intended to silence gifted, edifying, orderly speech from women.)

My basic article on this passage is here:

1 Corinthians 14:34–35 in a Nutshell

The Ephesians 5-6 Household Code

In the Inclusive Bible’s version of Ephesians 5-6 household codes, the instructions to wives (in the Greek) are given to “those of you who are in committed relationships.” The instructions to husbands are given to “partners” in the IB. The instruction to fathers in Ephesians 6:4 is given to “mothers and fathers.” The instructions to slaves are given to “workers.” And masters are people “in a position of authority.” Plus there are other odd things in this passage. Again, I don’t understand why anyone would find this tampering with the text as helpful.

One of my articles on the Ephesians 5-6 household code is here:

Paul’s Main Point in Ephesians 5:22–33

Euodia and Syntyche

Euodia and Syntyche in Philippians 4:2-3 (IB) are plainly referred to as coworkers, more plainly than in the Greek. The IB also presents the women as having a disagreement, which may be the case, but this is not clear in the Greek. Paul simply urges the two women “to think the same thing.”

I’ve written about Euodia and Syntyche here:

Euodia and Syntyche: Women Church Leaders at Philippi

The Colossians 3-4 Household Code

The short instructions to wives and husbands in Colossians 3:18-19 are addressed to “you who are in committed relationships” in v.18 (IB) and to “partners” in v.19 (IB). The addressees in the Colossians 3-4 household code follow the pattern of the Inclusive Bible’s version of the Ephesians 5-6 household code; however, parents and fathers are not mentioned at all in Colossians 3:20-21, rather it is generic people “responsible” for children.

1 Timothy 2:8-15

1 Timothy 2:8 which is about angry, quarrelling men in the Greek, is rendered in a gender-neutral way; it’s “people” in the IB. But 1 Tim 2:9-10 (IB) is rendered correctly as being about women. Unfortunately, however, the woman in 1 Timothy 2:12 (IB) has to be silent. “Silent” is not the best word to translate the Greek here. “Quiet” is more accurate, which is what the IB has used in 1 Timothy 2:11. They have translated the identical Greek word (hēsychia) in two different ways, with different nuances, in verses 11 and 12.

Moreover, the IB has translated the singular Greek word that means woman or wife as “women” (plural)  in 1 Timothy 2:11 (IB), and they have translated the singular Greek verb in 1 Timothy 2:15 as “women will be saved …” giving it a plural sense by adding the word “women.” This section, 1 Timothy 2:8-15, has been poorly handled by the IB translators.

My basic article about this passage is here:

1 Timothy 2:12, in a Nutshell

1 Timothy 3

The qualifications for overseers in 1 Timothy 3 (the IB calls them “bishops” even though overseers probably weren’t bishops, as such, at this stage of the church’s development) are gender neutral, as are the qualifications for deacons (or, ministry providers). But the “women” in 1 Tim 3:11, who I take as women deacons (or, ministry providers), are “spouses” in the IB.

I’ve written about the language of 1 Timothy 3:8-13 and deacons, here:

(5) Phoebe: Deacon of the Church in Cenchrea

Caring for Widows

I’m mystified why the IB kept “woman,” and not a gender-inclusive word, in 1 Timothy 5:16: “If a Christian woman has relatives who are widowed, she must assist them …” This verse is a strange mix of keeping the correct “Christian woman” but making the “widows” gender-inclusive. “Relatives” is not in the Greek.

I suspect this verse is speaking about the scenario of a group of (female) widows who are looked after by a Christian woman with resources.

Tabitha seems to have had this ministry of caring for widows:

Tabitha: An Exemplary Disciple (Acts 9:36-42)

1 Peter 3:1-7

1 Peter 3:1-6 contains some relatively harsh words to wives which reflect the harsh situation these women were facing. The IB does not reflect this situation and they have rendered this passage so that it is not addressed to wives but to “those in relationships” who have “spouses.” Moreover, the IB translators add the word “Abraham” here: “You are children of Sarah and Abraham when you fearlessly do what is good.”

My article on the words to wives in 1 Peter 3:1-6 is here:

Submission and Respect from Wives in 1 Peter 3:1-6

On the other hand, 1 Peter 3:7 (IB) is addressed to men, as it is in the Greek, but it adds to the verse. The IB says, “Husbands have a special obligation to be understanding and nurturing.” How is this statement not sexist?

My article on the words to men in 1 Peter 3:7 is here:

Submission and Respect from Husbands in 1 Peter 3:7-8

Hidden Women

I’m disappointed that 1 Peter 5:13 (IB) has, “The church in Babylon, chosen just as you are, send greetings.” A word meaning “church” does not occur in the older Greek manuscripts of this verse, and I argue that this greeting may be from a woman.

I’ve written about “she who is in Babylon” here:

Who is “she” who is in Babylon? (1 Peter 5:13)

The chosen lady in 2 John is “the chosen one” in 2 John 1:1 (IB), and she is not addressed at all in 2 John 1:5 (IB). She is completely absent in 2 John 1:5 in the IB.

I’ve written about the chosen, or elect, lady here:

The Elder and the Lady: A look at the language of 2 John

The Feminine Figure in Revelation 17

In Revelation, “The Great Prostitute” of Babylon becomes “The Great Idolator” in the IB.

I’ve written about this figure here:

The Woman on the Scarlet Beast in Revelation 17

Accurate Inclusivity

Some verses that are translated accurately and inclusively in The Inclusive Bible are Romans 12:6-8, 2 Corinthians 5:17, and possibly 2 Timothy 2:2. And, apart from avoiding the words “slave” and “Lord,” I like some of how the IB has translated Philippians 2:4-11.

I also quite like how the IB has translated 1 Timothy 2:4-5 inclusively (except for the past tense “was one of us”): “… God our Savior, who wants everyone to be saved and to reach full knowledge of the truth. For there is only one God, and there is only one mediator between God and humankind—Christ Jesus, who was one of us …”

I compare these verses in several respected and popular English translations here:

Which Bible translation is best?

Overall Observations

Despite all these observations, in many other verses I saw, the words for men and women, male and female, sons and daughters are retained and are traditional. For example, the Inclusive Bible has the correct genders in the correct order in 1 Timothy 5:1-2.

Moreover, many passages are indistinguishable from popular and respected English translations. For example, the story of the Samaritan Woman and the regulations in Leviticus 12 read the same as in most other translations. There’s no hint of tampering with gender or preferring women in many passages.

In fact, overall, despite mentioning women like Sarah and Rebekah many more times than their names appear in the Hebrew or Greek, writing “sisters” before “brothers,” ruining the so-called household codes, making a mess of certain passages in 1 Corinthians, and distorting 1 Timothy 2:8-15, I don’t find the Inclusive Bible appreciably less sexist than many other recent English translations. As two examples (already mentioned), the woman in 1 Timothy 2:12 is told that she needs to be silent (“silent” is too strong a word), and the men in 1 Peter are told they have a special obligation to be understanding and nurturing (the Greek doesn’t say this).

If you want an accurate translation, the IB is not for you. And there is nothing about its style to recommend it. Furthermore, I’m disappointed this translation is described as an egalitarian translation, as it can make egalitarians look dishonest. I call myself an egalitarian, and I do not recommend The Inclusive Bible at all.

Explore more

Which Bible Translation is Best? 
Why masculine pronouns can be misleading in the Bible and in the church
Is God Male or Masculine?
Gender Bias in the NLT
The ESV-Bible’s Men-only Club
Manhood and Masculinity in the ESV
The Importance of Using Feminine Words and Images
I have more articles on English Bible versions here.

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