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RE: [GTh] The Emasculation of Thomas

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  • Judy Redman
    ... [cut] ... [cut] ... I agree that making something gender neutral can be taken too far and that it has been in some spots in some English translations of
    Message 1 of 2 , Apr 27, 2008
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      Mike says:
      > I had been aware that the Patterson-Robinson translation was
      > one of many that often substituted gender-neutral words
      > (e.g., 'person') for masculine references in Thomas. "Men"
      > are much more common in Thomas than "women", for both
      > historical and linguistic reasons, and the elimination of
      > some of this is understandable, but I didn't realize how far
      > it went until I worked through every saying. What I found was
      > that the word 'man' has been almost entirely erased from
      > Thomas, even where it doesn't make sense to do so, while the
      > word 'woman' is left untouched. Furthermore, this massive
      > emasculation of Thomas occurs in other well-known
      > translations as well - e.g., the Jesus Seminar translation in
      > _The Five Gospels_ (i.e., the so- called "Scholars
      > Translation"), and Meyer's in _The Gospel of Thomas_.

      > I am not arguing here against the general idea of
      > gender-neutral translating, but rather against the blind
      > extension of gender neutrality to sayings where the context
      > makes clear that it's a man who is the actor, while at the
      > same time failing to extend gender neutrality to ANY case
      > where the word 'woman' appears.
      > Because of the use of gender-identifying pronouns, complete
      > gender-neutrality is impossible and shouldn't even be attempted.
      > Some sayings do yield to gender-neutralization, but many
      > others simply don't, and IMO it would be wise for translators
      > to realize that, as they say, you can't make a silk purse out
      > of a sow's ear.

      I agree that making something gender neutral can be taken too far and that
      it has been in some spots in some English translations of Thomas. What
      happens when you substitute "person" every time "man" appears is that you
      often have to come up with a personal pronoun. It's not helpful if "a
      person" is always "he" - in order to get any sense of gender neutrality,
      "person" has to be able to be either he or she. You often get idiocy if you
      say "they" - a person who had a treasure buried in their field or a person
      who wanted to kill a strong person, so they tested their sword in a wall....
      Alternating "he" and "she" also causes idiocies. I think it is perfectly
      reasonable that when a story is being told about an activity that is likely
      to be carried out by someone of a particular gender, you use the gender of
      the person in the text and when it is clear that the text is referring to
      human beings in general, you make it gender-neutral.

      Unfortunately, deciding when the text is referring to human beings in
      general is apparently a bit problematic. I was recently reading about the
      ESV translation of the Bible which chooses to translate "anthropos" as "men"
      in one spot because, in the opinion of the translation team, it could not be
      referring to men *and* women because it was talking about teachers and women
      cannot teach.


      "Politics is the work we do to keep the world safe for our spirituality" -
      Judith Plaskow, Phoenix Rising, 2000

      Rev Judy Redman
      PhD candidate, Postgraduate member of Council & Uniting Church Chaplain
      University of New England Armidale 2351
      ph: +61 2 6773 3739
      fax: +61 2 6773 3749
      web: http://www-personal.une.edu.au/~jredman2 and
      email: jredman2@...
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