Bill Mounce

For an Informed Love of God

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Monday, March 4, 2024

Gender Language We Can All Agree On — Almost (Rom 2:1,3)

I was reading in Romans this morning and came across a passage that uses ἄνθρωπος in a totally generic sense. I thought that all the translations would use some generic word or phrase. Well, all but one.

Having asserted the total sinfulness of all people in chapter 1, in chapter 2, Paul turns to the Jewish people and says, “Therefore you are without excuse ὦ ἄνθρωπε when you judge someone else, for in that which you judge another, you condemn yourself, for you who judge are practicing the same things.” His argument is that their ethnic heritage does not mean they can commit the same sins as Gentiles and not be held accountable. ὦ ἄνθρωπε is used again in verse 3 with the same generic meaning.

The generic “whoever you are” is used in the NRSV and NET. The CSB uses the equally generic “every one of you.” The NIV ignores the phrase, “You, therefore, have no excuse,” as does the NLT and, surprisingly, the NET, which is too bad because Paul is being explicitly inclusive, and the simple “you” does not convey that emphasis.

The ESV alone goes word–for–word by saying “O man,” which I think is unfortunate since a generic all-inclusive phrase is readily at hand, and nothing is gained by omitting reference to Jewish women, at least to some modern ears.

What surprised me is the NASB: “you foolish person.” Where does “foolish” come from (also v 3)? I appreciate the shift in the 2020 update to be a little less wooden while keeping true to their original philosophy, but I can’t figure out where “foolish” comes from, even if it is in italics.

Just so we won't be too hard on the Jewish belief that because of their ethnicity, they could commit sins and think they would go on punished, I find the same sentiment in my own country. Sometimes I hear people say, “God bless America,” and I want to ask, “Why”? “Why do you do we think we can continue to sin with impunity and not experience the justice of God?”