Although the Southern Baptist religion has historically defended literal interpretations of the the Bible, they’re now embracing a more modern approach. To date, over 6 million copies of the Bible have been printed, but the Southern Baptists recently adopted a new version — one that includes more gender-neutral terminology.
In the past, this religious denomination has supported the idea that wives submit to their husbands, as laid out by biblical text. And in the ’90s, they publicly condemned translations of the Bible that were more gender-inclusive in language. The Southern Baptist church’s stance has been that the pursuit of political correctness has been in direct opposition to biblical integrity.
But now, they’ve changed their tune a bit. Declining millennial membership has forced the Southern Baptist Convention to look at the reasons behind their choice in language and whether those steadfast translations are actually accurate. Subsequently, they’ve released their Christian Standard Bible, which is reportedly not only more readable but contains many instances of gender-inclusivity.
The reasons for the update aren’t necessarily ideological ones but are an attempt to be more precise in terms of original intent. The Christian Standard Bible FAQ page states the translation committee “chose to avoid being unnecessarily specific in passages where the original context did not exclude females.” For example, Matthew 23:8 used to include Jesus saying, “you have one teacher, and you are all brothers.” The new version reads, “you have one teacher, and you are all brothers and sisters.”
Still, some experts are wary of using the term “gender-neutral” to describe the new Christian Standard Bible. Trevin Wax, the Bible and Reference Publisher for Holman Bibles, refers to it as “gender-accurate,” explaining that these translations still refer to God, pastors, and other individuals as male. The passages were meant to include both male and female individuals by the original author now reflect that.
Still, the move is an important one, as many of these changes were rejected by this sect only a few years ago. And while the denomination is still undoubtedly conservative, there are many issues now being addressed that no one in the church would have imagined a decade ago. For instance, women are starting to move into leadership positions within the Southern Baptist church, and the SBC moved to reject any display of the Confederate flag. Even though the denomination is no friend to Planned Parenthood or transgendered individuals, the shift may end up being more significant in the near future.