Tuesday, February 08, 2005

Catholics' awkward 'inclusive' Bible follows Protestants' lead

By: RICHARD OSTLING - Associated Press

Should the Bible call God the "Father" or "Lord"? Should Jesus be termed the "Son" of God or "Son" of "Man"? Should masculine words such as "king" and "kingdom" be allowed? Should Holy Writ have so many male pronouns?

Not if militant feminists have their way, as they do in an awkward rewrite of the complete Bible issued in four volumes: The Inclusive Hebrew Scriptures (three volumes subtitled The Torah, The Prophets, and The Writings) and The Inclusive New Testament (all from AltaMira).

These "degendered" Scriptures were produced for the liberal Roman Catholic Priests for Equality. The revisers say that "most scriptures read in worship services are still grossly sexist," and "the continued self-destructiveness of an all-male clergy" only worsens matters.

They don't appear to like the Bible all that much.

The basic concept here is nothing new. In 1983-85, a National Council of Churches (NCC) panel performed similar surgery on familiar Bible readings in a three-year liturgical listing. NCC Protestants then published these in a trade edition.

Some gleanings from The Inclusive New Testament:

Start with the Lord's Prayer ---- er, make that the "Teacher's" Prayer. Since God can no longer be addressed as "Father" and his ---- er, make that God's ---- "kingdom" cannot come, we get: "Abba God in heaven, hallowed be your name! May your reign come ..."

"Abba" is simply Aramaic for "father," so the change seems pointless. But it's preferable to a proposed NCC option, "O God, Father and Mother," which sounded like two gods. "Reign" is awkward for oral readings because it hits the ear like a prayer for "rain." Elsewhere, the translation invents "kindom" minus "g" to replace the supposedly sexist "kingdom."

Euphemistic replacements for "Lord," designed to be "free of oppressive connotations," include "Our God," "Most High," "Almighty" and "Sovereign."

Shunning "Son of Man," these Catholics came up with "Chosen One" or "Promised One." That's preferable to the NCC's "the Human One," which sounded like an utterance by the Coneheads space aliens from "Saturday Night Live."

Or take Babylon, "the mother of harlots." Please. The famous symbol of the evil Roman Empire in Revelation 17:5 is deemed "genderist" and full of "misogyny" because "male prostitution is as old as female prostitution." The squeamish substitute: "Source of All Idolatry."

The revisers add words that are not in the Hebrew and Greek texts, for instance inserting women's names when genealogies name only men.

On pronouns, the revisionists de-emphasize "his" or "him" in passages that describe Jesus Christ's earthly ministry, and bar them altogether following the resurrection.

Besides women, the inclusive Catholics are worried about "marginalized" minority groups, and gays and lesbians. They shun "slave" and change "Jews" to "Temple authorities." "The poor" become "poorer people" or "people in need."

This Bible uses "partner" in place of traditional marriage terminology "to acknowledge and value nontraditional relationships." In the list of sinners in 1 Corinthians 6:9-10, instead of the usual "homosexuals" it restricts the denunciation to "hustlers" and "pederasts." In 1 Timothy 1:10, criticism of "sodomites" is rewritten to target only "men and women who traffic in human flesh."

Overall, the theology underlying this effort runs as follows: "The Bible is not itself the Word of God, for that would be idolatry. Rather, the Bible contains the Word of God ---- or better yet, the Bible is the unique document of human beings' encounters with the Living God." Presumably, that makes it easier to monkey around with the scriptural words.

Turning briefly to the Old Testament, we read of the creation of "an earth creature." Whatever this being was, it certainly couldn't be called a "man," much less a particular fellow named Adam. But when Eve ---- er, make that "the woman" ---- appears on the scene, she joins "the man," and eventually they gain their Adam and Eve monickers.

Note: The four-volume set costs $160 in hardcover, $120 in paperback, so The Inclusive Bible isn't likely to be a sales smash.

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