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Ann Nyland on publishing the GLTB Study Bible

September 13, 2011

Rachel Held Evans has made her blog a central meeting place for evangelical Christians. And she is taking on the tough questions. The most recent person in her interview series is a gay Christian. Predictably, Denny Burk questions the validity of such a term, arguing ” that Christians committed to the Bible would be wise to drop the phrase altogether.”

I would like to bring attention to the experience of Ann Nyland on this issue, here 

When The Source, my New Testament translation, first came out, Christian women’s groups embraced it wholeheartedly. When my Study Bible for Gay, Lesbian, Trans and Bi came out, these very same groups were outraged, refused to stock The Source, and started hate campaigns against my work.

When The Source first came out, anti-women Christians attacked me, saying I, being a woman, put it out to suit my own agenda.

When the GLBTIQ Bible came out, I received constant hate email making statements such as, “You group of gay men will burn in hell for twisting God’s Word to suit your own perverted lifestyle.” Trouble is, I am not a group; I am not a man; I am not gay. I soon found out that not all feminists are fast to embrace social justice for others.

The truth is that we don’t live by the details of morality in the Biblical narrative. We don’t think that a girl should marry a man who has violated her, even if she is pregnant. Nor would we be shocked at a couple who divorced and later remarried each other. Onan’s behaviour is not sinful today but an accepted form of birth control in some Christian circles, but we do  convict men for marrying teenage girls, especially more than one.

After reading this passage and others on abomination,

31And Joseph said unto his brethren, and unto his father’s house, I will go up, and shew Pharaoh, and say unto him, My brethren, and my father’s house, which were in the land of Canaan, are come unto me;

32And the men are shepherds, for their trade hath been to feed cattle; and they have brought their flocks, and their herds, and all that they have.

33And it shall come to pass, when Pharaoh shall call you, and shall say, What is your occupation?

34That ye shall say, Thy servants’ trade hath been about cattle from our youth even until now, both we, and also our fathers: that ye may dwell in the land of Goshen; for every shepherd is an abomination unto the Egyptians.

I have come to  believe that there were, and still are, certain cultural beliefs which serve to cement a society but are of questionable moral value. There is polygamy and polyandry, male circumcision and female circumcision, the practice of dedicating young children to lifelong celibacy, or marrying off young girls without their consent. Clearly some of these practices seem more repugnant than others.

There was an especially vivid passage in Sky Burial, in which the main character, Shu Wen, realizes that the Tibetan woman in whose home she is living, has been having an affair with her husband’s brother. Shu Wen is repulsed by this behaviour and isolates herself, causing some concern to the family. Finally she is told that the woman is legally married to both men, and that this behaviour is natural and accepted. Her sense of moral revulsion retreats and she is once again at ease with the family.

She is astounded at other behaviours which are completely foreign to her but natural in this culture. For example, one of the brothers acts as midwife for their wife, and the children recognise both men equally as their fathers. The children, for all intents and purposes, have two fathers. Even more astonishing, the complex embroidery work is done by the men, whose rough hands and stubby fingers present such a contrast to Shu Wen’s own delicate hands. Shu Wen, herself a medical doctor, finds that her own hands are not strong enough for the traditional work of the Tibetan women.

Bonds of affection are functional in society, and protected by customs and taboos. People need to be in relations of affection and care, and society as a whole benefits from people being in relationship. In our society, it is acceptable for older people, those who are past childbearing, to enter into relationships for the purpose of having someone to care about, and to have someone care about them. We view this as functional even though these relationships do not produce children. They may or may not involve marriage, and they may be heterosexual, homosexual or platonic, that is, partnerships of care without sexual relations.

10 Comments leave one →
  1. September 14, 2011 9:24 am

    Wow, what a thoughtful post, Suzanne! Since you start in with Rachel Held Evans, here’s more from her (from her book Evolving in MonkeyTown):

    “I wanted an explanation from God, and according to [the gospel of] John, the best place to start is with Jesus. . . . So in spite of my doubts, or perhaps because of them, I decided to see if Jesus had the answer. Well, he didn’t. You can’t get too far into the Gospels without noticing that Jesus made a pretty lousy apologist. I’m convinced he would have flunked out of any halfway decent Christian liberal arts institution. Jesus responded with more questions than with answers. He preferred story to exposition. Despite boasting infinite wisdom and limitless knowledge, Jesus chose not to overtly address religious pluralism, the problem of evil, hermeneutics, science, or homosexuality.”

    The questions your post raises are like the questions Held Evans, and Jesus, and Craig raise; and I love that question, “Biblical Translation: Art, Science, or Politics?

  2. September 14, 2011 4:11 pm

    I have read The Source but not Nyland’s GLBT Study Bible.

    It is a little strange to me that groups would protest the latter while embracing the first. The Source is dominated by Nyland’s annotations (which are quite interesting) and which contain views completely compatible with what you might expect to read in a GLBT Study Bible. I wonder if in this case, the groups weren’t reacting purely to the title, and not to the substance.

    Speaking of titles, Nyland’s The Source must be one of the most oddly title translations to date. One would expect a book called The Source to present the source text, but Nyland only presents her translation and annotations. Especially in the view of its later history (as Suzanne relates in her post above), a much better (if slightly punny) title would have been:

    The Target

  3. September 15, 2011 10:19 am

    One of my daughters has noticed that by reader-reviewers, Ann Nyland’s The Source New Testament With Extensive Notes On Greek Word Meaning gets so many more positive reviews than her Study New Testament for Lesbians, Gays, Bi, and Transgender: With Extensive Notes on Greek Word Meaning and Context. The two volumes are essentially the same book with a different title and cover. In an interview about the latter, Nyland says the following in response to the question “Are you expecting controversy?”:

    “A scholarly article I wrote in a peer-reviewed academic journal led to me be being described as ‘a shrill feminist author from Australia’, rather than a Greek scholar commenting on the blatant mistranslation of a common Greek word by a group of lobbyists.”

    (I only have her LBGT Study NT but always just assumed her “Source” NT referred to the fact that she was taking readers back to the Greek sources for the NT Greek.)

  4. Daniel Marsh permalink
    August 6, 2016 1:39 am

    Daniel Marsh
    6539 Linville Dr
    Brighton, MI 48116-9531 USA

    Dear Dr Ann Nyland,

    Please forward if need be, Please pray, I am now recovering from Gallstone surgery.

    There has been a lot of deaths in our families — My Father ( murdered during a home invasion), My Brother (murdered by a drunk driver on Christmas), Wife’s’ Mother (decrease and age), My Uncle Joe (murdered by a neighbor), Uncle Glenn (Cancer), and many more.

    My Sister Terry recently died this Christmas, Holiday season in a drive by, wrong place, wrong time.

    My Wife’s Dad died last month.

    I had to retire early from Teaching without a pension due to Cancer.

    I volunteer in classrooms and teaching Teachers.

    I am the care giver for senior family members — Walt(wife’s dad), Mary(my Mother), Gladys(Wife’s Aunt) and Joyce(also related to my wife).

    May I have a copy of your The Source New Testament With Extensive Notes On Greek Word Meaning, free of charge, please.
    Maybe someone has a good used set floating around somewhere.

    Thank You for your Time, Efforts and Kindness.
    Daniel Marsh

  5. barbara Zmmerly permalink
    November 10, 2018 10:30 am

    I love this translation. It is the only one that is not “Animal Farm”, ie, women are equal, but not as equal as men. I am straight, I am married. I speak in tongues. The Source has revitalized my Christian life. I think we have to be willing to hear the truth and to revere it. Thank you, Dr Nyland, for giving us the truest translation out there.
    Barbara Zimmerly

  6. Jonathan permalink
    December 18, 2018 2:56 am

    Overview of Dr. Nyland’s career with links to a few of her smaller books.

    View at


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