Part two of four parts; click here to read part one.
THE DISAPPEARANCE OF THE RIGHTEOUS MAN
Psalm 1 begins with a description of a righteous man: "Blessed is the man who walks not in the counsel of the wicked, nor stands in the way of sinners … but his delight is in the law of the Lord" (RSV). Here the Hebrew word for man is 'ish, which ordinarily means a man in distinction from woman (except in some rare idiomatic constructions). The default sense of the word (the sense readers would attach to this word unless the context required another sense) is man. Psalm 1 holds up a solitary righteous man who stands against plural sinners as an example for all Israelites to emulate. (Similarly, Proverbs 31 holds up a godly woman as an example to emulate.)
But this righteous man is gone from the NRSV: "Happy are those who do not follow the advice of the wicked … but their delight is in the law of the Lord." The NIVI similarly says, "Blessed are those … their delight … ," and the NLT, NCV, and CEV do the same.
The NIVI preface explains what led to this translation of Hebrew singular words with English plural words. It was not that scholars suddenly discovered in 1992 that the singular Hebrew word ha'ish ("the man") was really plural. Rather, the translators tell us that "in order to avoid gender-specific language in statements of a general kind, it was agreed that the plural might be substituted for the singular and the second person for the third person." Evangelical Christians should ponder that sentence well: it says they "substituted" or changed what the Bible said for what it did not say.
In Galatians 6:7, Paul wrote, "Whatever a man sows, that will he also reap" (RSV). Changing man to person would have ...1