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PETA: Don't call animals 'it' in the Bible
PETA wants Bible translators to consider using more animal friendly terms in the Bible
March 23rd, 2011
05:35 PM ET

PETA: Don't call animals 'it' in the Bible

By Eric Marrapodi, CNN Belief Blog Co-Editor

PETA, the People for the Ethical Treatment of Animals, is calling for a more animal-friendly update to the Bible.

The group is asking translators of the New International Version (NIV) to remove what it calls "speciesist" language and refer to animals as "he" or "she" instead of "it."

The NIV is a popular translation of the Christian Bible. An updated translation was released this month. The translators said 95% of the 1984 translation remains the same. But the committee of scholars made a move to be more gender-inclusive in their translation into English from the original Hebrew and Greek texts. According to the Committee on Bible Translation's website:

In general, much more often than not ... "People” and "humans” (and "human beings”) were widely used for Greek and Hebrew masculine forms referring to both men and women. ... "Ancestors” was regularly preferred to "forefathers” unless a specific, limited reference to the patriarchs or to another all-male group is intended.

PETA is hoping the move toward greater gender inclusiveness will continue toward animals as well.

“When the Bible moves toward inclusively in one area ... it wasn’t much of a stretch to suggest they move toward inclusively in this area," Bruce Friedrich, PETA's vice president for policy, told CNN.

Friedrich, a practicing Roman Catholic, said, "Language matters. Calling an animal 'it' denies them something. They are beloved by God. They glorify God."

“God’s covenant is with humans and animals. God cares about animals," Friedrich said. "I would think that’s a rather unanimous opinion among biblical scholars today, where that might not have been the case 200 years ago.”

Friedrich, who is also a vegan and suggests the Bible promotes vegetarianism, puts a religious face on PETA's ethical arguments.

“What happens in slaughterhouses mocks God,” he said. People know intuitively that "animals are 'who' not 'what.' ... Acknowledging it would better align our practices with our beliefs.”

David Berger, the dean of Yeshiva University’s Bernard Revel graduate school of Jewish studies, said  making the shift in English PETA is requesting would be difficult given the nature of ancient Hebrew.

“In Hebrew all nouns are gender-specific. So the noun for chair is masculine and the noun for earth is feminine. There’s simply no such thing as a neutral noun," Berger told CNN. “It’s unusual to have a noun that would indicate the sex of the animal.”

“In Proverbs it says, 'Look at the ant oh lazy person. See its ways,' " Berger said, quoting the English transition from the book of Proverbs. "In Hebrew it’s 'see her ways.' That's because the word for ant in Hebrew happens to be female. It’s not intended to exclude male ants as far as I know. It’s just an accident the Hebrew word happens to be feminine.”

He said that verse and many others are not intended to single out one sex or the other of the animals.

"It’s a little bit misleading given the fact in English the gender of the pronoun means something. It refers to the masculinity of the person or the animal that’s being referred to. In Hebrew in most cases its just sort of an accident of the masculine or feminine of the pronoun to which it referred," Berger said.

David Lyle Jeffrey, a distinguished professor of literature and the humanities at Baylor University, teaches about ancient texts and the Bible's relationship to literature and the arts.

“I agree with their contention that God cares for all of creation," Jeffrey said. "It is true that we have a responsibility to reflect that affection.

"In gender-inclusive Bible translation the generic terms for humankind, let's say, are then replaced with an emphasis on he or she. Instead of the generic he, you say he and she. I don’t quite see how that would work with animals," Jeffery said.

"Do we need to know the gender of the lion Samson slew? What would it give us there?" he said. "You could try to specify that, but you would be doing so entirely inventively if you did. It's not in the original language. ... Nothing is made of it in the story."

Jeffery said he sympathizes and agrees with PETA's position that God calls for humans to care for animals, but he said, "When you get to the point when you say, 'Don’t say it, say he or she' when the text doesn’t, you’re both screwing up the text and missing the main point you addressed."

PETA's Friedrich said his group's position has been bolstered by the creation care movement, in which many evangelicals are becoming more conscience about the environment.

"The creation care movement is certainly helpful,” he said.

Whether their arguments will be enough to sway the translators is yet to be seen. Friedrich said he has yet to hear back from the Committee on Bible Translation.

- CNN Belief Blog Co-Editor

Filed under: Belief • Bible • Christianity

soundoff (495 Responses)
  1. PitchBlack

    Can the media please just all agree to never give PETA publicity ever again? Seriously, unless they started firebombing, I'm not interested in whatever stunt they are pulling this week.

    March 24, 2011 at 1:56 am |
  2. Mike Linsky

    Even if the Bible was true or had merrit, it is held to the standard of the word od "God" in quotes...and can not be changed.
    Now after saying that....
    You actually printed this fluff piece? You actually gave these vege-idiots a voice?
    Even AFTER man has been domesticating animals for food for the last 250,000 years?
    If I didn't have 3 minutes to waste typing my opinion I wouldn't even bother but because the meer fact that peta is full of idiots I had to say that I gave my kids steak for dinner tonight and it was so damn tastey. I had Lamb yeterday and you know what...I don't care how they killed it. As far as KFC....I care less how they make a tasty, crunch, tender morsal of a bird. mmmmmmmmmm, goooooooooooood

    March 24, 2011 at 1:51 am |
  3. Robert

    This is so stupid. To say that calling an animal "it" denies them something...yes, that's right. It denies them the familiarity and personal relationship that HUMANS share with their God. Humans have an eternal soul which will either go to heaven or be eternally separated from God. Animals are part of this world, and will NOT be going to heaven.

    PETA wants the Bible rewritten to fit their agenda, at the expense of what the text actually is. It's foolishness, as some in this article point out. If "ant" in Hebrew is feminine, you translate the proverb so the lazy person looks at "her" ways. By the same thought process concerning gender equality, you MUST be offended on behalf of male ants for implying that they aren't as industrious as their female counterparts.

    The suggestion also affects other understandings. For example, in the Greek manuscripts, Matthew 14:21, Jesus fed 5000 "men, besides women and children". That is, over 5000 people, likely along the lines of 8000+. If you change "men" to "people", you create the logical non sequitur of "5000 people, besides women and children". So you must specify "more than 5000 people", and at what point do you stop sanitizing the most accurate translation for the sake of speciesist correctness? To say nothing of ignoring ancient practices, i.e. that counting was generally done according to men (heads of household). So muddying the translation also affects our understanding of ancient practices and potentially introduces contradictions, not in the original text but in a faulty translation.

    With all due respect, PETA can and should go die in a fire.

    March 24, 2011 at 1:28 am |
    • Squarejp

      PETA == ANTI-CHRISTS ORGANIZATION. They have offended the true Christians in the name of Christ. They shall be punished by God!

      Remember, Satan's words are lies and lies means altering the reality by using something similar but DIFFERENT!

      Animals' status are DIFFERENT than Human beings PERIOD!

      PETA! STOP INSULTING GOD and Jesus Christ! God Bless!

      March 24, 2011 at 1:51 am |
  4. James

    PETA, shouldn't you be attacking someone with red paint, or passing judgement without forgiveness on people that make mistakes in their lives like Michael Vick, or taking pictures in public without any clothes on, or etc...? Seriously! I just ate a huge steak (probably from a pretty friendly cow), a grilled chicken breast (it was probably so cute bobbing it's head around as it walked), and some sausage (from a friendly pig I'm sure). If you would just give bacon a chance, you'd see just how much you're missing in this life! If you don't, can I have your serving? All this PETA talk is making me hungry. Please post some more naked pictures so that I can look at 'em while I'm eating a burger.

    March 24, 2011 at 1:26 am |
    • Squarejp

      That's insulting LOL.... not to me but PETA. But this is a religious section of CNN. Shouldn't the topics be involved around the Bible teachings?

      Burgers are tasty but be careful of eating too much meat may cause heart diseases. Balance Diet is the most important. God has designed the world to be balanced not in extreme in order to show that he is a loving god and not a dictator.

      March 24, 2011 at 1:54 am |
  5. Albear

    Come on now it was written like that before any of us ever existed He would have specified it written in the he, she format, but since he didnt, don't try to fix something that dosent need to be fixed, it may ultimetley be us who are broken. Because we as humans love to pervert His original idea, and ultimetly His creation, please find something else worth while to do with your time. Like feed the poor, or help the needy, maybe even go to a land where devistation has left humans homless, there is alot of that going on right now isnt there?

    March 24, 2011 at 1:25 am |
    • Mike Linsky

      What was written before we existed? The Bible was written by men and for men to control men.
      You do have the right idea as to help your fellow brother, the poor and what not but don't do it because a book says so, you do it because it's right.

      Also, man is not broken but does get worse with passing generations because of the fact that in nature, survival of the fitest occurs...In the human world, we keep anything alive regardless of their capabilities and the genetic code gets perverted over time. Of course, in the jungle where a defective baby would take away from the tribe, they would kill it but in western societies...we have wellfare.

      March 24, 2011 at 1:57 am |
    • Squarejp

      @ Mike Linsky

      Based on the bible, humans were way superior than we are today. We kind of "degenerated" through out the ages since Adam and Eve separated from God. Remember God is the source of all life in the universe. Evolution theory sounds logical as I was once an evolutionist but now my believe in evolution is shifting more towards the Bible. Evolution through mutation is just not fast enough to create such complicated world. Unless God guided the whole evolution process to let the lowest possibility to happen. The probability of the random molecules to form a single cell with it's own survival system is 1/infinity which is zero.

      PETA just got the whole concept of the Bible wrong and taken into extreme positions. God has told us not to idolizing anything except him, Jesus Christ. We should learn what Jesus has done and following him instead of making up our own rules.

      In the Bible, it really has mentioned that when humans, Adam and Eve are still having close relationship with God, animals are peaceful and able to communicate with humans including lions and tigers or any animals that you think they are dangerous nowadays to humans. Ever since Adam and Eve sinned, the separation from God has led to the first great punishment - the Great Flood. After the Great Flood, humans are allowed to consume animals for survivals. You also know that Jesus who is a human has been sacrificed for the entire human race, but not a pig, cow, nor a goat.

      This shows that animals status is far lower than human beings. We however should love animals and take care of them. But we should NEVER EVER replace their status as human equivalent. That is wrong.

      We should have balanced diet with vegetables and meat. More veggies and less meat is what we need to keep ourselves healthy.

      When do we not eat animals? I guess that's after the Judgement Day and we humans are no sinners any more.... by that time, we can communicate with animals and even command them to do something to praise God.

      March 24, 2011 at 2:26 am |
    • Mike Linsky

      Squarejp
      I would say to that and counter that TODAY, more and more are turning towards Evolution because God is no longer relevant as we learn about the universe. This is why in the past the Catholics killed any man of science as a heritic.
      This is why the rest of the world was progressing while Europe was stagnant during the Middle Ages.

      In any case, evolution did not happen over night as those who adore the Bible claim. Millions of years of natural experimentation until the right combination stuck...the same with this planet. BILLIONS of years until the right conditions to hold life while 100x more planets and universes failed...

      Where everything came from, no one knows or probably ever know because nothing is possible or impossible. It came from somewhere and everyone has ALWAYS claimed God when they reach the limits of knowlege, how about...we just don't know yet....

      The vision of Heaven came from a man and when this physical body is dead...it's dead and doesn't come back to tell the tale. Heaven in any realistic form would be the concioud/body breaking down and going back to the source and the mere fact that out of some sense of "You will pay for that" The religious just can't get over the fact that someone who may have cheated someone for whatever reason DID get away with it. That's why, YOU will pay for your sins when you die so you better behave when you are alive. Each religion just makes the punishment more horrific each time even till burning for eternity in hell fire.

      March 24, 2011 at 8:43 am |
  6. Chad

    Hey PETA!! We have steak and lobster every Sunday in Afghanistan. You should come on over and enjoy the meal. He or she is very tasty.

    March 24, 2011 at 1:24 am |
    • James

      The retarded Quran refers to animals as "it". Why aren't you complaining about that? It's b/c you know Muslims will slit your throats if you do. You're all cowards. If you want props from me, complain about them for a change. That goes for the rest of all you liberal nutjobs too!

      March 24, 2011 at 1:28 am |
  7. Carl

    I blame Walt Disney for this.

    March 24, 2011 at 1:23 am |
    • James

      You're right! Disney has a whole host of good tasting animals...duck, dog, chicken, etc...

      March 24, 2011 at 1:35 am |
  8. David

    Eric Marrapodi, I wonder how you can consider yourself a credible and respectable journalist when your work consists of content such of this.

    March 24, 2011 at 1:22 am |
    • David

      *as

      I don't blame PETA for something as ridiculous as this article. The writers and editors of this blog need to seriously examine the content that they are attempting to qualify as quality journalism.

      March 24, 2011 at 1:25 am |
  9. Jeff

    omg..... "IT" is what I had for dinner last night! F**cking PETA... fight for a real cause and not for changing how we grammatically refer to lunch

    March 24, 2011 at 1:22 am |
  10. Jacob V.

    Are you kidding me?? This is ridiculous.PETA is a JOKE!..Spend your time and money on HUMANS that need your help!

    March 24, 2011 at 1:17 am |
  11. Rich

    Better yet, please stop calling them animals. How about that PETA? Why not call them friends or compatriots or maybe even brothers and sisters?

    March 24, 2011 at 1:15 am |
  12. James

    For every animal PETA don't eat, I'm going to eat three.

    March 24, 2011 at 1:15 am |
  13. Edward

    well in spanish and most romance languages, animals are already referred to as he or she. So if I would translate the sentence; "That is a cow, it is feeding," I would translate it as: "That (femenine) is a(femenine) cow(femenine), she is eating.

    March 24, 2011 at 1:15 am |
    • Robert

      In French, you would say "Voila un chien, il mange." (There is a cat, it is eating.) The noun and pronoun are both masculine. In practice, you would use this whether the cat was male or female. You just would not specify "une chienne" (female cat) unless you had a compelling reason to...especially since the feminine form has a couple of raunchy slang meanings.

      Context matters. Proper translation must consider context and meaning especially where word-for-word literal translation creates confusing wording.

      March 24, 2011 at 1:36 am |
    • Squarejp

      Don't let the translation agenda clouded our judgement!

      PETA has violated the Bible's teaching, raising animals status to be equivalent to human beings. That is just plain wrong. You don't see sacrificing a goat can save the entire human race but Jesus Christ the Son of God who is a 100% human being. PETA uses the passages from the Bible to support their arguments yet they have violated the fundamental teaching from the Bible.

      PETA = Anti-Christ

      March 24, 2011 at 1:59 am |
  14. Joe

    HAHAHAHAHAHAHAHAHAHA God created animals so we could eat them, God loved Abel instead of Cain because Abel sacrificed the first-lings of his flock, these people need to read the bible more.

    March 24, 2011 at 1:14 am |
    • Jacob V.

      RIGHT!!

      March 24, 2011 at 1:19 am |
  15. Squarejp

    PETAs are hypocrites. They claim they believe the Bible yet they try to alter the reality by changing the status of the animals. God love humans and animals but God treat humans as his own true citizens not chickens, cows, pigs, and even goats etc!

    God - Yaweh, used to ask humans to sacrifice animals to redeem their sins, and finally human, his beloved son Jesus Christ. You don't see God trying to sacrifice a chicken or a goat to save our human race!

    DO NOT ALLOW THE PETA TO MISLEAD PEOPLE! THEY ARE EVIL USING THE NAME OF LOVING ANIMALS.

    PETA treat animals as idols and ignore the true words from God! They took the bible from context and ignore the overall meaning.

    PETA are ANTI-CHRISTS!!

    March 24, 2011 at 1:11 am |
  16. PETALOVERS

    you cannibals! every single one of you. how could you bite into the flesh of the other without a second though? can you imagine how it would feel if someone bites into you and nibble your flesh off?

    March 24, 2011 at 1:05 am |
    • Ryan Cameron

      You realize they can't feel it when we eat them right?

      March 24, 2011 at 1:07 am |
    • Jen

      Um.... Hopefully I am dead and cooked before you nibble on me. I don't believe in eating raw vegies and fruits because I believe all of God's creatures have a soul and that the plant can 'feel' when I eat them raw. It is barbaric! lol

      March 24, 2011 at 1:09 am |
    • Squarejp

      PETAs are hypocrites. They claim they believe the Bible yet they try to alter the reality by changing the status of the animals. God love humans and animals but God treat humans as his own true citizens not chickens, cows, pigs, and even goats etc!

      God – Yaweh, used to ask humans to sacrifice animals to redeem their sins, and finally human, his beloved son Jesus Christ. You don't see God trying to sacrifice a chicken or a goat to save our human race!

      DO NOT ALLOW THE PETA TO MISLEAD PEOPLE! THEY ARE EVIL USING THE NAME OF LOVING ANIMALS.

      PETA treat animals as idols and ignore the true words from God! They took the bible from context and ignore the overall meaning.

      PETA are ANTI-CHRISTS!!

      March 24, 2011 at 1:12 am |
    • PETALOVERS

      i will tell you who is anti-christ. you. you who do not feel the others cannot feel yourself. you claim that you are pro-God, you follow God's teaching, but how many times a day do you make mistake in obeying God's command and doing his will? if you say, none. then you a liar. that also makes you a hypocrite.

      March 24, 2011 at 1:17 am |
    • Squarejp

      Anti-Christs are those who aren't following the bible as whole. You don't sacrifice a goat to save humans but Jesus. Notice human status is far greater than those of the animals. Read the bible as a whole and don't pull out passages from the Bible and claim the words from God!

      Anti-Christs should be punished! God will be the judge there is no point in arguing. We should love animals but not to raise up the status as IDOLS. God forbids anything but Jesus as idols, not even animals should be "worship or change in status"

      The Bible does mention when in Eternity, humans don't need to eat animals but we are not having eternal life yet. Ever since the Great Flood, humans are allowed to consume animals. Sorry but that's what the Bible says.

      March 24, 2011 at 1:26 am |
    • RTG

      @PETALOVERS : I respect your beliefs and your conviction. I even kinda admire the discipline that must go into not having a nice juicy steak once in a while.

      what i can't take about you and your whole organization is how you go around attacking other people who don't see it your way. If you can believe that you believe, so can we. Don't be an idiot and go around condemning other people with a different point of view. You can eat your grass, let me eat my steak, my roast chicken, my steamed fish, and your mother.

      we're not cannibals, we don't eat people. we eat "organisms" to help us live. every vegetable, every piece of meat was once alive. we kill them and eat them in order to survive. it's a natural necessity. it's the law of nature. you're the hypocrite thinking that animals are higher than plants (you're just applying our paradigm but on a lower level). any plant lovers wanna join me in addressing this idiot?

      I say, if we need to eat, we eat whatever we can. period. as long as we don't torture an animal before we kill it or "torture" the plants before we harvest it, whatever.

      go preach on a different forum where people are more... gullible.

      March 24, 2011 at 1:31 am |
    • James

      Well, if I was dead it wouldn't matter. Why do you think we kill the animals before eating them.

      March 24, 2011 at 1:37 am |
    • Squarejp

      I wish the true God should correct your extreme believes. But it seems like PETA has violated the Bible's teacher already. Idolizing animals instead of Jesus Christ. I don't want to talk science as this is a Religion Blog in CNN.

      I use logic, if I'm PETP, where the last "P" stands for Plants, I would say you guys can't feel how plants feel and dehumanize all plants. They all have cells and mitochondria and genetic materials.

      I guess it's time for Jesus to cleanse this corrupted world where people have all their concepts of nature and the relationship with God wrong!

      March 24, 2011 at 1:44 am |
  17. george

    PETA _ People Eating Tasty Animals

    March 24, 2011 at 1:05 am |
  18. Jen

    PETA is a joke. Get your food locally and donate to your local shelter. That way you know your money is going to something good instead of paying these people to send out a joke of a press release!

    March 24, 2011 at 1:04 am |
  19. Matt

    If we're gonna change the way we address animals in the bible, we might as well try and change how the people in it are continually talking to and praising an imaginary character. Just sayin...

    March 24, 2011 at 1:04 am |
    • dave

      You must be imaginary.

      March 24, 2011 at 1:30 am |
  20. ladrikius

    my favorite animal is STEAK.

    March 24, 2011 at 1:02 am |
    • Evan

      hahaha YUSSSSSSS

      March 24, 2011 at 1:08 am |
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The CNN Belief Blog covers the faith angles of the day's biggest stories, from breaking news to politics to entertainment, fostering a global conversation about the role of religion and belief in readers' lives. It's edited by CNN's Daniel Burke with contributions from Eric Marrapodi and CNN's worldwide news gathering team.