How Sexist is your Bible?

In my research for The Silent Queen, I was often amazed at how a single word in the Bible could be translated different ways leading to radically different conclusions. Here’s a simple example from 2 Timothy 2:2:

The things which you have heard from me in the presence of many witnesses, entrust these to faithful men who will be able to teach others also. (NIV 1984)

Note the word in bold: men. It sounds like Paul is saying that only men can be teach, but this is not what the apostle said at all. The word he used was anthrōpos which means a human being or a person, regardless of gender. A more accurate translation of this passage is as follows:

The things which you have heard from me in the presence of many witnesses, entrust these to faithful people who will be able to teach others also. (NIV 2011)

Man or people; it’s a subtle difference, but an important one. The first translation gives the impression that faithful women can’t teach, while the second translation says they can.

Verses like these led me to wonder, how many other times have translators added gender-specific words to the Bible?

How sexist is your Bible?

Turns out there are at least thirteen New Testament verses that are sometimes altered in ways that are detrimental to women. These scriptures are Acts 18:26, Romans 12:6, 16:1, 7, 1 Corinthians 14:36, 2 Corinthians 5:17, Colossians 4:15, 1 Timothy 2:11, 3:1, 5, 2 Timothy 2:2, 3:17, and 2 Peter 1:21. Some of these alterations are minor, like the examples above; others are blatant, as when notable women in ministry are turned into men or servants.

To assess the extent to which a gender bias has been introduced into our Bibles, I examined these thirteen verses in 25 different Bibles to calculate a “Sexism Score” for each translation. Full details explaining what I did and how I did it are outlined in the free Study Note that accompanies this article. Check it out!

Below is a summary of the results.

As you can see, some Bibles exhibit more gender bias than others. The Pure Word translation along with the KJV and its derivatives, the AKJV and the NKJV, were found to be the most biased Bibles in the study. At the other end of the scale, the 2011 version of the NIV was found to be the least biased.

Should you ditch your King James Bible?

Do the results of this study mean you should trade your sexist Bible for a less sexist alternative? Not at all. The KJV, which scored poorly, is a masterful translation filled with some of the greatest phrases in the English language. It would be criminal to dismiss a book that has helped countless people encounter the love of God.

But readers need to be aware that the KJV contains gender-specific language not found in the original text.

Christians believe what they read in the Bible. After all, the Bible is Holy Scripture and God’s Word. Many churchgoers have the attitude, “If the Bible says it, I believe it and that settles it.” The problem is, what the Bible says and what specific translations say are often very different things.

If your Bible is sexist, there’s a danger you’ll be sexist too. The remedy is to recognize that no translation is flawless and to read more than one translation.

These days it is a simple matter to read multiple translations of a scripture using an app such as e-Sword or free websites such as Bible Hub, BibleGateway, or Bible Study Tools.

Typically these sites allow you to read several versions of a verse side by side making it easy to compare translations. These tools also provide useful information on the meaning of the original words.

What the Bible actually says about women

Jesus came to set people free from all forms of bondage including sexual discrimination. Because Jesus and the men who followed him took a stand against patriarchy, the women of the New Testament church enjoyed unprecedented freedom.

Sadly, it didn’t last.

Within a few hundred years, the Church Fathers pushed women back into silent servitude. Theologians with Greek mindsets began introducing Aristotelian concepts of subservient womanhood into the church, while translators added them to the Bible. Some even omitted words from scripture. The damage was catastrophic.

The time has come to confront our sexist heritage. One way to undo the damage is to challenge those traditions and translations which are contrary to the liberating Gospel of Jesus.

A good place to start is to find out what the Bible actually says about women, their value to God, and their place in the world.

Special thanks to patrons on Patreon who provided constructive feedback on an earlier version of the study note that accompanies this article.

17 Comments on How Sexist is your Bible?

  1. Paul Feldhuhn // March 18, 2021 at 6:18 am // Reply

    Modern culture aside, all modern translations are inaccurate and corrupt..The KJV is the only english Bible we should use.If you think there is a “bias”, then that is what God intended.

    • “Bias” means the translators literally rewrote the words of the Bible, and the KJV translators did this more than most. Sometimes this was intentional (e.g., when they turned notable women into men). Other times it was unintentional (e.g., the meaning of some English words have changed in the past 400 years). Either way, the KJV gives the modern reader the impression that the Bible is far more sexist than it is. I encourage you to examine the evidence in the study note.

  2. The Lord is not bias, neither is He unstable,insecure,does not feel threatened by anyone or anything, He has nothing to prove,hide,justify,excuse or explain. He does not need to play games or use manipulative mind games with anyone no matter what sex,colour,creed,background or talent to offer as He is in no competition with anyone,anything,neither does He lack anything or has to worry about resources running out so He does not have to pitch Himself against anyone or create an atmosphere where on some level He feels like He has to jostle and fight for attention or an end game…

  3. Man is mentioned many times in the bible, more than women, instead of saying mankind we say man. In this country, I use to wonder why theres hardly any men in the church. The Holy Spirit is the interpreter however and we should rely solely on his interpretation. The grace that Paul in the bible was persecuted for, is often offered to male’s in the church far more than women. Yet females fill the church far more than men, in this country, strange that. What happened in the begining before the fall?…

  4. Samod Di Yesus // March 18, 2021 at 10:11 pm // Reply

    Hi. Yes, there had been so many mistranslation with our bibles, regardless of the version. I just have one concern, maybe the word ‘bible’ in this article’s title should’ve been changed to ‘bible translators’. The original title can easily make people that the sexist one is the scriptures itself, or even worse, God Himself. There’s zero wrong thing about God’s words. It’s the translators at fault. Should’ve emphasised on ‘bible translators’ sexism or faults’.

  5. This whole topic is silly and unnecessary IMO. What about the times the KJV translators used “men” in very negative connotations like Rom. 1:18 as an example? Same Greek word you describe above – this would have been a great time for those sexist translators to plug in “women” or “humans” into the verse instead of maligning all of us super-righteous “men”.

    Furthermore, you fail to mention the many times in the NT that women are elevated by the apostles and the Lord Himself as having tremendous value to the body of Christ as teachers, prophetesses, givers, gifts of hospitality, etc.

    This article does little to elevate Jesus, IMO. It only creates needless controversy and plants seeds of doubts in the minds of people about a translation (KJV) that has been providentially provided by the Lord to save untold millions of men AND women.

    Let’s get back to being UNITED in Jesus Christ.

    • You wouldn’t think it was silly if you had been the victim of abuse or had been silenced on account of your gender. For hundreds of years, women have suffered partly because men have rewritten the Bible in a way that promotes female servitude. I encourage you to read some of the articles linked in the post above before telling me what I fail to mention. There will never be unity in the body for as long as some deny that others have been and continue to be mistreated.

    • JF, just for clarity, are you saying the kjv is the best Bible option we have? If that is true, would you dip your toe into exclusivity, ie “the only Bible we should use”?

      Any tangible suggestions on being United in Jesus?

  6. Yes JF, I totally agree with and accept and respect what you are saying,And this is the case when we all first accept Jesus as our Lord and Saviour…

    • Sally, I don’t like deleting or editing comments. To have your comments published, please abide by the rules and keep comments short (3-5 sentences) and related to the article above. If you have more to say, I encourage you to do what I did and start a blog. Thanks.

  7. Yep, sorry Paul,got over enthusiastic there but yes God is.not bias therefore it follows neither is His word…

  8. Paul: “There will never be unity in the body for as long as some deny that others have been and continue to be mistreated.”

    That’s exactly what I was talking about. Unity in the body is found in Jesus and in His finished work, not waiting on every person to conform their views to ours on a given topic (we’ll all be waiting a long time for unity.)

    Jim, I’ve been around the block in terms of Bible versions from KJV, NKJV, NIV, CSB and others over the years. For me, it boils down to the manuscripts used, and all modern translations use an entirely different set for their NT than the KJV, and the histories of Vaticanus and Sinaiticus don’t generate any confidence in me.

    • Thanks JF

      I think what I find amusing is the extremist views regarding translations. Going as far as doubting if a person is even saved if they do not use the “chosen” translation.

  9. What does it mean for man to be “head of the house?” For example, if a female pastor is head of a church, then at home she would have to switch and be under the authority of husband. I’m not disagreeing, just asking for clarification. Also, I’ve heard the verse in Corinthians about women keeping silent is referring to a particular circumstance that has been turned into a generalization, and wanted to ask your thoughts on that.

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