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Sacrificing grammatical precision for political correctness (Scripture Edition)

Posted on : 11-27-2011 | By : Andy | In : pop culture, religion


In preparing to talk with some of my teens at church about sexual purity, I was jotting down some notes. Rather than type out all of 1 Corinthians 6:18, I jumped over to Biblegateway and searched for “sins against his own body” so I could copy and paste. No results were returned!

Obviously, the 2011 revision of the NIV has changed the verse I was looking for. Immediately the question popped into my mind: how did they revise the masculine pronoun out of that sentence? Surely they didn’t write “sins against his or her own body,” did they? I searched for 1 Corinthians 6:18, and lo and behold…

“Flee from sexual immorality. All other sins a person commits are outside the body, but whoever sins sexually, sins against their own body.”

Did they really just do that? In case you missed it, “their” is a plural pronoun, where as “whoever” is a singular one. To be gramatically correct, it should either say “those who sin…sin against their” OR “whoever sins…sins against his or her” OR “whoever…his”. The original greek here doesn’t mix singular and plural, nor should the english.

What’s happened is that we’ve traded grammatical correctness for political correctness. The simplest way to write this sentence would be (as in the 1984 version), “he who sins sexually, sins against his own body.” To get closer to the actual greek would be something along the lines of “the one sinning sexually sins against his own body.” But those options use masculine pronouns only, so it’s not good enough, and instead we must use shoddy grammar. Granted, the 2011 NIV corrected a number of other passages to be closer in meaning to the original text, but in this case it seems they’re moving away from precision in favor of political correctness–a very dangerous road to start down.

Makes me even happier that our church is moving to the ESV next spring!

(How does the ESV render this verse? “Flee from sexual immorality. Every other sin a person commits is outside the body, but the sexually immoral person sins against his own body.”)