John H. Stek, et al, The New Testament: Today’s New International Version. Grand Rapids: Zondervan, 2002.
On Jan 28, 2002 the International Bible Society announced the publication of this third gender-neutral revision of the New International Version, and distributed advance review copies of the New Testament at the Christian Booksellers Association annual convention. The announcement stated that the New Testament will become available in bookstores during the Spring of 2002, and that the Old Testament is expected to be completed in 2005.
The International Bible Society previously published a gender-neutral revision of the NIV in Great Britain (“The New International Version Inclusive Language Edition,” 1995), and also a gender-neutral children’s Bible in America (“The New International Reader’s Version”), but when its plans for replacing the current NIV in America with the “inclusive language” revision became known in 1997, strong opposition arose among evangelical leaders. The pressure to abandon their planned revision was such that four of the men who were responsible for it went so far as to sign a document (the Colorado Springs Guidelines) positively stating that they had dropped all intention of producing or publishing any such version. (1) On the same day the International Bible Society also issued a statement in which it promised that it would continue to publish the NIV unchanged. But soon afterwards the IBS apparently re-evaluated the situation, and proceeded with the revision as if its officers had never signed the Colorado Springs Guidelines. (2) And so we have Today’s New International Version.
The version features the usual gender-neutral alterations: “brothers and sisters” is put instead of “brothers” (but the reader is not informed of the change in a footnote, as in the NRSV); the generic masculine use of “man,” “he,” “his,” etc., is eliminated, usually by recasting the sentences with plural forms. In one respect, however, the TNIV breaks new ground by employing plural pronouns in a singular sense: Singular nouns (e.g. “someone”) are followed by plural pronouns (“they” instead of “he”), so that the pronouns actually disagree in number with their antecedents. This solecism, which feminist language reformers have lately sought to legitimize, is common enough in casual speech; but the TNIV does not otherwise employ such colloquialisms, and it is very strange and somewhat confusing to see it in the midst of prose which otherwise adheres to the rules of English grammar. This and a number of other things about the version may be illustrated by the following passage, quoted (with all footnotes) from the TNIV, the NIV of 1984, and the New Revised Standard Version, which also offered a gender-neutral text.
If a brother or sister sins,a go and point out the fault, just between the two of you alone. If they listen to you, you have won them over. But if they will not listen, take one or two others along, so that ‘every matter may be established by the testimony of two or three witnesses.’ b If they refuse to listen to them, tell it to the church; and if they refuse to listen to the church, treat them as you would a pagan or a tax collector.
... Then Peter came to Jesus and asked, ‘Lord, how many times shall I forgive someone who sins against me?
a Some manuscripts sins against you
b Deut. 19:15
If your brother sins against you,a go and show him his fault, just between the two of you. If he listens to you, you have won your brother over. But if he will not listen, take one or two others along, so that ‘every matter may be established by the testimony of two or three witnesses.’ b If he refuses to listen to them, tell it to the church; and if he refuses to listen to the church, treat him as you would a pagan or a tax collector.
... Then Peter came to Jesus and asked, ‘Lord, how many times shall I forgive my brother when he sins against me?
a Some manuscripts do not have against you
b Deut. 19:15
If another member of the church a sins against you, b go and point out the fault when the two of you are alone. If the member listens to you, you have regained that one. c But if you are not listened to, take one or two others along with you, so that every word may be confirmed by the evidence of two or three witnesses. If the member refuses to listen to them, tell it to the church; and if the offender refuses to listen even to the church, let such a one be to you as a Gentile and a tax collector.
... Then Peter came and said to him, ‘Lord, if another member of the church d sins against me, how often should I forgive?
a Gk If your brother
b Other ancient authorities lack against you
c Gk the brother
d Gk if my brother
Regarding the Greek text here, both the NRSV and the 1984 NIV represent the best attested reading in the opening phrase, amarthsh eiV se (sins against you), though the words eiV se (against you) are omitted in the fourth century uncials, Sinaiticus and Vaticanus. This is a case however in which these two related manuscripts (in which omissions are especially frequent) are not supported by any other Greek copies except for two later miniscules, and by none of the ancient versions -- and it is hard to account for the addition of these words in all other streams of transmission if they were not original. Therefore the words are included (in brackets) in the Nestle-Aland text, despite the usual respect of the editors for Sinaiticus and Vaticanus. Why the TNIV revisers should have decided to remove them from the NIV now is unclear, but this seems to be a case of the same kind of over-evaluation of these two manuscripts which marred the work of Westcott and Hort. In verse 21, the NIV’s “came to Jesus and asked” evidently supplies “Jesus” in place of “him” for the sake of style, because there is no manuscript authority for the word “Jesus” here.
Regarding the translation, first of all it should be noted that none of these versions are very literal. The 1984 NIV is the most literal with respect to the gender language, but otherwise the NRSV is more literal. (e.g. “Gentile” for ethnikos, and a number of other renderings are more literal than the 1984 NIV). When we compare the NRSV to the TNIV, we find that the NRSV is by far the more literal of those two, and the NRSV also conscientiously informs the reader of the gender-neutral substitution for “brother” in a series of footnotes. The TNIV fails to do this, and also fails to give a suitable equivalent for “brother” in verse 21 -- in which Peter refers to a member of the church. The clumsy use of “they” and “them” in the TNIV to refer back to a singular subject, besides being unliteral and ungrammatical, becomes rather confusing by the end of the passage. In all, both in text and translation, the NRSV is clearly better than the TNIV.
The gender-neutral language of both TNIV and NRSV presents problems in this passage for reasons that may not have occurred to the translators, but which become obvious when we think about the practical application. The difficulty is, no respectable man in ancient times would have considered seeking a private interview with a woman concerning a personal grievance. If the woman were married, the aggrieved party would be expected to take up the matter with the woman’s husband, who is understood to be her protector and public representative. A husband would be greatly offended if any man were to approach his wife directly and privately for such a purpose, and there is no reason to suppose that Jesus would have it otherwise. (We may recall the incident of the “woman at the well” in John chapter 4, where Jesus says, “Go, call your husband ...”). Married women were never to be dealt with privately, apart from their husbands, and the same holds true today, as any pastor knows very well. And we might also notice that a truly unisex understanding of the passage would require a woman to first go to a man privately also, without bringing along or consulting with any other person about the matter, including her husband. If she has not the boldness for such a private confrontation with a man, she cannot begin to observe the required procedure. 3 And so it turns out that the passage cannot be gender-neutralized without doing violence to the cultural context and our common-sense allowances for the differences between men and women. The passage sets forth a male example, presumes a male reader, and has in view what we would call a “man to man” talk. Its application to women, as very often in Scripture, requires a certain amount of adjustment. This is the fatal flaw of all gender-neutral Bibles. The Bible for the most part focuses upon men, and the different roles of men and women (specified in the Bible itself) are such that many passages cannot be applied to women without important adjustments and qualifications being made. And these cannot be made in a translation.
Reaction to the TNIV among evangelicals has been strongly negative, as expected. In addition to observations like those made above, a common theme of criticism has been the evasive (some would say dishonest) behavior of those who have been involved in producing this version, and who seem to have little idea of their obligation to listen to the church.
1 The four signers were Kenneth Barker (Secretary of the NIV Committee on Bible Translation), Lars Dunberg (President of the International Bible Society), Bruce Ryskamp (President of Zondervan Publishing House), and Ronald Youngblood (now Chairman of the Board of Directors of the International Bible Society).
2 WORLD (6/5/99, p.16) obtained a copy of a letter by Eugene Rubingh, IBS vice president for translations, written on March 19, 1999, which stated, “I, the CBT and practically everyone involved, thoroughly support gender-accurate language. The matter is one of timing, of finding the appropriate hour to move ahead.”
3 At the risk of belabouring this point I will add that in a sermon on Mat 18:15-21 I recently heard a preacher (who was careful to use “inclusive language” in his sermon) use this not very apt illustration of the scriptural procedure: Three women who had been “touched” by a friendly but overly-familiar man in the congregation privately asked an elder to speak with the man, which he did, and the man afterwards behaved with more reserve. Thus the problem was solved by a private admonition, without undue publicity and embarrassment. But the preacher who used this illustration did not seem to realize that the women in his illustration did not follow the prescribed method. Rather than speaking with the man individually or as a group, they went straight to an officer of “the church.” Of course everyone understands why the women acted as they did, and why there is nothing wrong with this in their case. Being women, they could not be expected to follow the procedure with a man, though they made their complaint known discretely enough through a male intermediary. This only illustrates how the male orientation of the biblical text goes much deeper than pronouns, and why it cannot really be made gender-neutral in a translation, though in application we make the necessary male/female adjustments without even thinking about it.
The Gender-Neutral NIV: Reactions from Church Leaders
“Adjustments made by what I call the feminist edition are not made in the interests of legitimate translation procedure. These changes have been made to pander to a cultural prejudice that I hope will be short-lived.” --J.I. Packer, quoted in World magazine, vol. 12, no. 5 (Apr. 19, 1997).
“We must always be careful taking the cultural climate of our day into consideration when retranslating Scripture because culture will change again. Our mission is not to make the Bible relevant to culture but to bring culture under the rubric of Scripture. If we as translators and theologians change our view based on what is politically correct, we are going to have Bible translation changes all the time, which, I think, is confusing to the reading public. I don’t think it would be a wise move to go against the guidelines evangelical leaders set in the past for translations. We believe very much in the authority of Scripture and the inerrancy of God’s Word. We believe that the Bible was revealed by God to men, that it is verbally inspired, and that the very words are important. Those words, no matter what they are, are important to us.” -- Ken Hemphill, president of Southwestern Baptist Theological Seminary in Fort Worth, Texas, as quoted by Baptist Press, Jan 28.
“I am appalled but hardly surprised at the revelation that the International Bible Society is pursuing its longstanding goal of a so-called ‘inclusive’ language version of the Bible. If you issued a ‘gender-neutral’ version of Shakespeare, it would be the imposition of ideology on what the English bard believed and wrote. To impose this ideology on the writings of Moses, Isaiah, John, Paul, etc. is to change what they wrote and often what they meant. It is fundamentally simply dishonest and grossly unfair to the writers of Scripture. Further, it is an insult to the English language and contributes to the continuing decadence of that language. Besides, what the world really needs right now is just one more Bible translation. Thankfully most evangelicals will not buy it,” -- Paige Patterson, president of Southeastern Baptist Theological Seminary in Wake Forest, N.C., as quoted by Baptist Press, Jan 28.
“No one is authorized to treat the Bible like silly putty. Whenever a translation occurs, a document’s integrity can be skewed as a result. It’s threatened by intrusion of hypersensitivity and political correctness. You cannot apply the changing cultural mores to determine what the word of God says.” -- William Merrell, vice president for convention relations of the Southern Baptist Convention Executive Committee, as quoted in Washington Times, January 29, 2002.
“[The TNIV follows an] agenda of political correctness at the expense of the clarity of the biblical text. Those who love the Scripture should use and commend those translations that are most accurate and faithful to the text. No knowledgeable person would claim that accuracy is easily achieved or that any translation has achieved absolute accuracy; nevertheless, it is sad to see a major publisher and Bible society produce a translation with this degree of compromise.” -- R. Albert Mohler Jr., president of Southern Baptist Theological Seminary in Louisville, Ky., as quoted by Baptist Press, Feb 1.
“The problem with this new Bible is not the translation, but with the trendy notion that people today cannot relate to the Bible unless we balance the language. This new publication is nothing more than acquiescence to feminists who are more concerned with the so-called language of ‘equality’ than they are with the message of the Gospel of Christ ... The altering of God-inspired biblical meanings--important meanings--for whatever reasons, especially the sole intent of satisfying politically-correct critics, is simply unforgivable. While IBS and Zondervan no doubt feel their decision to publish this new translation is a correct one, I feel this capitulation to political correctness and to accommodate many ‘feminist-minded’ persons is nothing more than gradualism toward the slippery slope which will ultimately lead to theological disaster.” -- Rev. Jerry Falwell, as quoted in World Net Daily, Feb 1.
“In light of troubling translation inaccuracies - primarily (but not exclusively) in relation to gender language - that introduce distortions of the meanings that were conveyed better by the original NIV, we cannot endorse the TNIV translation as sufficiently accurate to commend to the church.” -- Henry S. Baldwin, Ph.D. (Singapore Bible College, Singapore); Hans F. Bayer, Ph.D. (Covenant Seminary, St. Louis, MO); S. M. Baugh, Ph.D. (Westminster Theological Seminary in California, Escondido, CA); James Borland, Ph.D. (Liberty University, Lynchburg, VA); Harold O. J. Brown, Ph.D. (Reformed Theological Seminary, Charlotte, NC); E Ray Clendenen, Ph.D. (Lifeway Christian Resources, Nashville, TN); Clifford John Collins, Ph.D. (Covenant Seminary, St. Louis, MO); William Cook, Ph.D. (Southern Baptist Theological Seminary, Louisville, KY); Jack Cottrell, Ph.D. (Cincinnati Bible College and Seminary, Cincinnatti, OH); Daniel Doriani, Ph.D. (Covenant Seminary, St. Louis, MO); J. Ligon Duncan III, Ph.D. (First Presbyterian Church, Jackson, MS); Paul D. Gardner, Ph.D. (Church of England Evangelical Council, Hartford, England); Wayne Grudem, Ph.D. (Phoenix Seminary, Scottsdale, AZ); W. Bingham Hunter, Ph.D. (Former Academic Dean of Trinity Evangelical Divinity School and Talbot School of Theology); Peter Jones, Ph.D. (Westminster Theological Seminary, Escondido, CA); Reggie M. Kidd, PhD. (Reformed Theological Seminary, Orlando, FL); George W. Knight, III, Ph.D. (Greenville Presbyterian Seminary, Taylors, SC); J. Carl Laney, Th.D. (Western Seminary, Portland, OR); R. Albert Mohler, Ph.D. (Southern Baptist Theological Seminary, Louisville, KY); William D. Mounce, Ph.D. (Cornerstone Fellowship, Spokane, WA); Raymond C. Ortlund, Jr., Ph.D. (First Presbyterian Church, Augusta, GA); Paige Patterson, Ph.D. (Southeastern Baptist Theological Seminary, Wake Forest, NC); John Piper, D. theol. (Bethlehem Baptist Church, Minneapolis, MN); Vern S. Poythress, Ph.D., Th.D. (Westminster Theological Seminary, Philadelphia, PA); Mark R. Saucy, Ph.D. (Kyiv Theological Seminary); Thomas R. Schreiner, Ph.D. (Southern Baptist Theological Seminary, Louisville, KY); R. C. Sproul, Ph.D. (Ligonier Ministries, Lake Mary, FL); Bruce Ware, Ph.D. (Southern Baptist Theological Seminary, Louisville, KY); Robert Yarbrough, Ph.D. (Trinity Evangelical Divinity School, Deerfield, IL). Statement issued by the Council of Biblical Manhood and Womanhood on Feb 1, with names added on Feb 2.
“This is a retrograde move that the translators have made. I have read a text of a statement by Wayne Grudem and others, and I find myself in sympathy with it. I find it to be a passing modern fad, frankly, to object to the inclusive masculine pronoun. To change the shape of biblical verses to fit this fad leads to a good bit of under-translation. The masculine pronoun belongs in almost every language of the world. The gains that this translation seeks to achieve are far outweighed by the loss. I appreciate the NIV, and I think they have taken a wrong turn.” -- J.I. Packer, Professor of Theology at Regent College in Vancouver, British Columbia, as quoted by Baptist Press, Feb 1.
Resolutions Against the TNIV
Southern Baptist Convention. In a resolution passed by the 16-million member Southern Baptist Convention at its June 17-19, 1997 meeting in Dallas, the denomination resolved to “urge every Bible publisher and translation group to continue to use time-honored, historic principles of Bible translation and refrain from any deviation to seek to accommodate contemporary cultural pressures, understanding that we are anxious to support the most accurate translations ... Bible publishers and translators are consistently faced with the tension of accuracy and readability along with the pressure from those who do not hold a high view of Scripture to take license with the use of particular terms, including, but not limited to, the use of so-called gender inclusive language.”
Presbyterian Church in America. The resolution adopted virtually without dissent by the 268,000-member Presbyterian Church in America at its June 9-13, 1997 General Assembly in Colorado Springs stated, “The PCA Concurs in the decision by (NIV) CBT, IBS and Zondervan Publishing not to pursue their plans to publish a ‘gender-inclusive’ version of the NIV in the United States, believing that such a version is inconsistent with the Biblical doctrine of divine inspiration.” (Minutes of the Twenty-fifth General Assembly, 1997, p. 193). The Assembly also directed the Stated Clerk (who at that time was Dr. Paul Gilchrist) to communicate the Assembly’s concerns to (NIV) CBT, and Zondervan Publishing Company.
Conservative Congregational Christian Conference. In its July 20-25, 1997 meeting in Greeley, Colorado, the 40,000-member Conservative Congregational Christian Conference passed a resolution stating that it “would encourage those involved in Bible translation to continue to clearly and faithfully preserve the distinction between men and women which our wise and gracious God has established in creation and revealed in his Word ... while we appreciate and share their desire to communicate God’s truth as clearly as possible to the people of our own day, we would also urge upon them to continue to use time-honored historic principles of biblical translation, and to steadfastly resist the pressures of sinful human culture which would obscure, diminish, or subvert any aspect of God’s inerrant truth.”
* Signers of the Colorado Springs Guidelines call upon the representatives from the International Bible Society who also signed this document to honor the agreement.
* Statement of Concern signed by 110 ministry leaders on May 28, 2002.
* Resolution against the TNIV adopted by the Southern Baptist Convention in June 2002.
* Resolution against the TNIV adopted by the Presbyterian Church in America in June 2002.
* Forum of Bible Agencies refuses to endorse the TNIV in June 2002.
* Resources about the TNIV at the Council on Biblical Manhood and Womanhood. Includes files reporting “Evangelical scholars issue joint statement that the TNIV distorts Scripture” and “TNIV Inaccuracies - A listing of over 100 passages incorrectly translated in the TNIV.”
* The International Bible Society’s promotional site for the revision.
* Gender-Neutral Bible Controversy Links. A large number of up-to-date links on the subject.
by Michael D. Marlowe, 2001
‘This is the book of the generations of Adam. In the day when God created man, he made him in the likeness of God. He created them male and female, and he blessed them and he named them Man in the day when they were created.’ (Genesis 5:1,2)
One of the most controversial features of several recent versions of the Bible has been the use of gender-neutral language. Many articles and at least three books have appeared dealing with this issue in the past five years. In this article I will do no more than offer a brief history of the controversy.
The Feminist Origin of Gender-Neutral Language
Gender-neutral language is a style of writing that adheres to certain rules that were first proposed by feminist language reformers in universities during the 1970’s, and which have been accepted as normative in many schools since about 1980. The rules prohibit various common usages which are deemed to be “sexist,” as for example the use of the word “man,” and the generic use of masculine pronouns, in referring to persons of unspecified gender. A number of new words were also recommended, as for example “chairperson,” “spokesperson,” etc., as substitutes for the “sexist” words in common use. Feminists hoped that by means of such reforms in the universities the language of the whole society might gradually be reformed, and that by means of such a reform in the language, the consciousness of people would be rendered more favorable to feminist ideas. (1)
There is some disagreement as to what to call this new style of writing. Its advocates have called it by various names and descriptions: “inclusive language,” “gender-inclusive language,” “gender generic language,” “non-discriminatory language,” etc. Some translators have even preferred to call it “gender accurate” language, because they claim that only the use of such language in a translation will accurately reflect the inclusive intent of the original. Conservatives have of course objected to the term, “gender accurate.” They have also objected to the word “inclusive” as a description for the new style, because this word implies that the ordinary English usage (e.g. the generic “he”) is not inclusive. Therefore they prefer to call the new style “gender-neutral.” But there is a sense in which the term “inclusive language” is most fitting: The word “inclusive” in modern academic discourse is often used as a sort of code-word for a whole ideology of “inclusivity.”
Feminism in the Seminaries
During the late 1970’s the liberal mainline seminaries generally adopted these new rules of usage. The feminists in these seminaries where not satisfied, however, with the gender-neutral language as applied only to persons, and insisted upon gender-neutral language in reference to God also; and so during the 1980’s gender-neutral language in reference to God became normal and even prescribed by codes of speech. Today it is not permissible for students in many schools to use the pronoun “he” in reference to God, and even such usages as “God Godself” (instead of “God himself”) have gained currency in these places. The feminists have insisted upon the use of such language as a very important moral duty.
The Patriarchal Bible Problem
After this change in language was brought about in seminaries, the next effort was to promote its use in the churches at large, by means of denominational publications. But a great hindrance to this campaign was the fact that the Bible itself did not abide by their new rules.
The Hebrew and Greek texts of the Bible often use generic masculine nouns (adam and anthropos, both meaning “man”) and generic masculine pronouns in a gender-inclusive sense, in reference to persons of unspecified gender. In the Epistles, believers in general are addressed as adelphoi, “brethren.” Such usages are not merely figments of “sexist” English translations; they are a normal feature of the original languages, just as they are normal in English and many other languages. In most cases the inclusive intent of the writer is obvious from the context, and when the intent is not inclusive, this is also obvious enough from the context. The interpreter must not proceed mechanically with the idea that every occurance of adam and anthropos is to be understood in a gender-inclusive sense, because the Bible for the most part records the names and actions of men, uses male examples, assumes a male audience, and in general focuses on men and their concerns while leaving women in the background. For instance, the genealogies rarely mention wives or mothers. Often when a woman does appear in a narrative she is not even named, but is referred to only as the wife of a certain man. In the Ten Commandments (Exodus 20) we read, “You shall not covet your neighbor’s wife,” and in Deuteronomy 29 we read, “Moses summoned all Israel and said to them ... you are standing today all of you before the Lord your God ... your little ones, your wives, and the sojourner who is in your camp ... so that you may enter into the sworn covenant.” In Luke 18:29 we read the promise of Jesus, “there is no one who has left house or wife ... for the sake of the kingdom of God who will not receive many times more.” In the Epistle to the Galatians Paul says, “if you allow yourselves to be circumcised, Christ will be of no advantage to you” (5:2). In such places it becomes obvious that the authors of Scripture are addressing their words primarily to men. On a more subtle level also the same thing may be observed in many places, as in Luke 15, where Jesus introduces one parable in verse 4, “What man of you, having a hundred sheep” (second person plural), and the next parable in verse 8, “what woman, having ten silver coins” (third person). One feminist critic in pointing to this feature of the biblical text has said that it means the female reader must read much of the Bible as if she were a man, which is quite true. (2)
If we begin looking for places where women are specifically included or directly addressed in the Bible, we quickly discover that in such cases the message is usually very embarrassing to the feminist agenda:
Wives, be subject to your husbands, as to the Lord. For the husband is the head of the wife as Christ is the head of the church, his body, and is himself its savior. As the church is subject to Christ, so let wives also be subject in everything to their husbands. (Ephesians 5:22-24)
Obviously such passages present serious problems for those who wish to tone down the patriarchalism of the Bible, and many feminists have concluded that there is not much to be gained by making the language of such a book “inclusive.” According to one feminist critic this may even be a bad idea. After highlighting some examples of “patriarchal, misogynist, and androcentric” features which are only superficially camouflaged by recent gender-neutral Bible versions, she concludes:
By changing the language of patriarchy we run the danger of merely disguising, rather than eliminating, the deeply ingrained patterns which we struggle against. We thus risk embedding misogynist discourse even more deeply into our metaphoric constructions, while at the same time removing the signals which could alert us to its presence ... changing the language does not necessarily remove the bias or the sexism that remains embedded in the thought patterns, images and metaphors which, with language, combine to form a given text. Indeed, removing the language which signals sexist bias may result in obscuring that bias beyond conscious recognition, while allowing it to continue to quietly permeate our cultural subconscious ... The masculine bias has not been removed; it has simply been rendered more subtle and therefore more dangerous, because more difficult to discern and expose ... When symbol, image and metaphor are so deeply embedded in a text and culture as is the case with the Bible, perhaps it is time to recognize that we cannot easily eliminate the gendered biases which so often define the very essence of its thought and to set our energies rather to exposing those biases. Language is only a symptom of a more deeply ingrained problem; in changing the language alone, therefore, we run the risk of merely disguising the biases which are inherent in the text and its cultural stance. Unrecognized, and unrecognizable, those biases become even more insidious, even more powerful. This is particularly dangerous with a text such as the Bible which has played a foundational role in the formation of our own culture to the extent that its influence is so subtle and pervasive that it goes unrecognized in a culture that believes itself sophisticated and free of such influence. Rather than empowering gender bias by rendering it implicit, perhaps it is better to expose its hidden power, retaining the language which signals its presence and eliminating its force by bringing it into the light of critical and analytical discourse. (3)
Nevertheless, most religious feminists who have taken an interest in the Bible have felt that something should be done to suppress its patriarchal aspects. But what was to be done?
The remedy proposed was twofold: (1) a revision of the Bible, in which the new “dynamic equivalence” method of translating would be employed so as to conform the text to the same stylistic guidelines which had lately been imposed on the seminary, and to otherwise obscure the “patriarchalism” of the Bible by the adoption of feminist interpretations; and (2) an elimination of the intractable “problem” passages (e.g. Ephesians 5:22-24) by means of a revised lectionary (schedule of readings) which was to omit all passages in which the subordination of women is so plainly taught that it could not be obscured by false interpretations. By this means the Bible might be exhibited as an example of political correctness to all who heard it read in the churches.
The earliest example of such an effort was the Inclusive Language Lectionary published by the National Council of Churches in 1983. This lectionary presented gender-neutral adaptations of Scripture for the readings prescribed in the Common Lectionary (1983, revised 1992), which excluded 1 Corinthians 11:3-16, 1 Corinthians 14:34-35, Ephesians 5:22-24, Colosians 3:18, 1 Timothy 2:11-15, and 1 Peter 3:1-6. The adaptations were thoroughgoing, and included gender-neutral language in reference to God. Soon after this, complete versions of the Bible which featured a moderate use of gender-neutral language began to appear. In 1985 the New Jerusalem Bible, a Roman Catholic version, became the first such version. But the first version to use gender-neutral language in a really thorough and systematic way was the New Revised Standard Version (NRSV), which appeared in 1990. This version was created under a mandate from the copyright holder, the National Council of Churches, to eliminate “sexist” language. It did not however substitute gender-neutral language in reference to God, and it did not incorporate many of the misinterpretations proposed by feminists, and so it did not satisfy many liberals.
In 1991 a version of the New Testament much more to their liking appeared: the Contemporary English Version, published by the American Bible Society (the complete Bible appeared in 1995). This version did not use gender-neutral language for God, but it did incorporate many feminist interpretations that went beyond the mere use of gender-neutral language. In Genesis 2:18, Eve is called not a “helper” but a “partner” of Adam; in 1 Peter 3:1, Colossians 3:18 and Ephesians 5:22 women are advised to “put their husbands first” rather than “submit” to them; in 1 Corinthians 11:10 the CEV says a woman should wear a head covering not merely as a “sign of authority” (usually interpreted to mean her husband’s authority) but “as a sign of her authority.” In 1 Timothy 3:3 and 3:12 gender-neutered officers of the church are required to be “faithful in marriage” rather than “the husband of one wife.” The CEV also featured some renderings designed to combat anti-semitism: The word “Jews” is changed to “religious leaders” wherever this group comes under sharp criticism in the New Testament.
Going still further, in 1994 a group of liberal Roman Catholics published the Inclusive New Testament, in which full advantage was taken of the principle of “dynamic equivalence.” Typical of this version is the following rendering of Colossians 3:18-19.
“You who are in committed relationships, be submissive to each other. This is your duty in Christ Jesus. Partners joined by God, love each other. Avoid any bitterness between you.”
In 1995, liberal Protestants published a similar version in the New Testament and Psalms, An Inclusive Version. Both of these versions featured gender-neutral language for God along with many other politicaly correct alterations designed to combat “racism,” “homophobia,” “ageism,” etc. The liberties taken with the text of Scripture in these versions were however so flagrant that they were met with ridicule in the popular press. For the time being at least, the most reputable liberal scholars have not ventured to publicly defend them as legitimate translations, although it remains to be seen how much headway such avant garde versions will make in the next generation.
None of the versions mentioned above were produced by organizations which professed to be evangelical, and they were intended for an audience which did not consider itself to be evangelical. Their use has been limited to the shrinking “mainline” churches controlled by liberals. But by 1990 feminism had made some inroads into evangelical circles also, and its influence was evident in several seminaries and Bible agencies which were considered to be evangelical. (4) Academics in these seminaries and agencies were involved in the production of five gender-neutral versions that were published between 1986 and 1996, and which were intended for the evangelical market. The first of these, the New Century Version, was a version intended for young children. It was brought out by a small publisher and attracted little notice. Next was God’s Word, another little-known version that made a very cautious use of gender-neutral language. The third was the New International Reader’s Version (NIrV), and the fourth version was The New International Version Inclusive Language Edition (NIVI). These last two were revisions of the popular New International Version (NIV). The NIrV was a simplification of the NIV intended for children, and its gender-neutral renderings were not noticed until later. The NIVI, which very much resembled the NRSV, was first published in England, where the people who consider themselves to be evangelical are much more liberal than in America, and for a year or two it went unnoticed in America. Then in 1996 the New Living Translation (NLT), which also made consistent use of gender-neutral language, appeared on the market with much fanfare; but, like the NIrV, this version made such heavy use of the “dynamic equivalence” method that the gender-neutral language was scarcely to be noticed in the general looseness of translation.
In 1997 the issue of gender-neutral “dynamic equivalence” came dramatically to the forefront after World magazine (5) revealed that the International Bible Society (IBS), which owns the copyright of the NIV and had apparently come under the influence of “evangelical feminists,” (6) was planning to publish its little-known NIVI soon in America, as a new edition of the NIV. Because the NIV was widely used as a trustworthy version in evangelical circles, a great uproar ensued, in which several conservative Christian organizations brought pressure against the IBS to abandon these plans. In May of 1997 James Dobson, the influential head of the Focus on the Family ministry, convened several prominent evangelical leaders for a special meeting on the issue at Colorado Springs. The participants issued a declaration of recommended guidelines which would discourage the artificial use of gender-neutral language in Bible translations. The IBS reluctantly yielded to this pressure, and at that time promised that it would not publish this new edition of the New International Version in America. It also issued a revision (1998) of its NIrV in which the gender-neutral language was replaced with more accurate renderings. The controversy was not settled by this however, because various scholars came forward with arguments for gender-neutral language, provoking counter-arguments, and then the IBS announced that it would publish its gender-neutral revision of the NIV, under another name. (7) Advance review copies of this revision, under the name Today’s New International Version, were distributed in January 2002. The reaction to it has been overwhelmingly negative.
The NIV “inclusive language” controversy has widened into criticism and defense of the “dynamic equivalence” method which had made such an objectionable revision possible in the first place. Many evangelicals who had been using the NIV began to doubt the trustworthiness of the version in its original form.
Although the liberal organizations that sponsored the earlier gender-neutral versions plainly avowed their ideological motives for such revisions, advocates of the revised NIV (writing for a conservative audience) produced some literature (8) that defended some of the changes on scholarly or linguistic grounds alone. The word anthropoi was mentioned as a word in the Greek text which is sometimes quite properly translated “people.” Examples were given where a plural “they” put in place of the generic “he” does not appear to affect the meaning at all, and the change was defended on the ground that the gender-inclusive meaning of the sentence is better conveyed by such a “dynamically equivalent” rendering. But critics (9) drew attention to places where the systematic substitution of plurals did significantly interfere with the sense. For example, in Psalm 1, the one man whose delight is in the law of the Lord is set in opposition to the many ungodly ones around him. But when the man is made to disappear into a group of genderless people, then a part of the meaning of this passage is lost. It was also noticed that the Messianic interpretations of some Old Testament passages were eliminated in the pursuit of genderless language, as in Psalm 8:4, where the phrase “son of man” becomes “human beings” (compare to Hebrews 2:6). The revisers’ motives were questioned concerning the revision of Acts 1:21. The passage relates Peter’s suggestion that a new apostle be picked from the men who had been with them from the beginning. The word used here is not the debatable anthropos, but the undoubtedly masculine aner, which corresponds to our word “male.” Yet the revised NIV (and the early printings of the New Living Translation) provided a genderless rendering at this point.
Another debated point was the extent to which the gender-neutral style adopted in the new versions could be justified on the basis of common English usage. Some claimed that the generic use of “he” was no longer commonly used or understood, and that a translation which aims to be understood must avoid this usage. In support of this idea they referred to the style of television and newspaper journalism as representative of the people at large, and as proof that the gender-neutral style had become normal and standard usage outside of the academic circles where it originated. Opponents responded with the observation that the current politically correct “journalese” was far from being representative of established English usage, or of English as it is commonly spoken.
More important in the long run were the arguments concerning the legitimacy of “dynamic equivalence” as a method of translating. This method, which was employed to a moderate degree in the original NIV, had for a long time been criticized by the more conservative evangelicals, who warned of its dangers. As the NIV controversy unfolded, these critics were in a strong position to argue that the NIV from the beginning embodied dangerous tendencies, and that it is time for evangelicals to turn away from it. This argument has been effective. Publishing industry trade journals have reported a significant loss of market share for the NIV since the beginning of the controversy. (10)
Gender-neutral Bible versions originated as an attempt by feminists to transform both the language and the beliefs of Christians. They were welcomed in liberal circles, but were met with strong resistance among evangelicals. Despite the efforts of “evangelical” feminists it appears that the attempt to introduce these versions in evangelical circles will fail. The creators and defenders of these versions have suffered a loss of reputation among evangelicals, and publishers are not likely to market them successfully among evangelicals in the near future.
For further study of this issue, see the books listed in the bibliography and the links in the Web Directory.
Chronology of Gender-Neutral Translations
* 1983. An Inclusive Language Lectionary
* 1985. New Jerusalem Bible
* 1986. New American Bible, revised New Testament
* 1987. New Century Version
* 1989. Revised English Bible
* 1990. New Revised Standard Version
* 1992. Good News Bible, 2nd ed.
* 1993. The Message
* 1993. The Five Gospels (Jesus Seminar).
* 1994. The Inclusive New Testament
* 1995. Contemporary English Version
* 1995. God’s Word
* 1995. New International Reader’s Version
* 1995. New International Version, Inclusive Language Edition
* 1995. New Testament and Psalms, An Inclusive Version
* 1996. New Living Translation
* 2002. Today’s New International Version
1. The importance of language reform to the feminist cause is indicated by the fact that an article on the subject appeared as the first article in the inaugural issue of the influential feminist magazine Ms.: Kate Miller and Casey Swift, “De-Sexing the English Language,” Ms. 1 (Spring 1972), p. 7. Since that time the preoccupation with language reform has spawned a large number of books, articles, and style guides. One widely used handbook of gender-neutral writing for academic writers is Guidelines for Bias-Free Writing by Marilyn Schwartz and the Task Force on Bias-free Language of the Association of American University Presses (Bloomington, IN: Indiana University Press, 1995). In a review of this book (“What Are Editors For?” Philosophy and Literature 20/2 [October 1996]), Denis Dutton notices the implications of its recommendations for translators:
Some of the advice ... is decidedly disturbing. Section 1.58, on translations, begins, “Translators must exercise careful judgment in rendering a text in English.” Quite so, but the “careful judgments” turn out to be about more than simply precision: translators “need to consider the readership and purpose of the translation--whether it be simply to render the ideas or also to reflect stylistic or cultural nuances--before determining whether gender-biased characteristics of the original warrant replication in English.” In other words, translators should consider expurgating gender bias from foreign writings where it is “unwarranted” to replicate them in English and distress readers with unhelpful and unnecessary stylistic or cultural nuances. It should not surprise anyone that what begins with overweening concern that language should never offend ends in a justification of expurgation. The Guidelines go on to say, “Translators should avoid recasting gender-neutral into sexist language, as in some biblical language.” While no one would argue with that, the Bias Persons glaringly omit the converse recommendation that gender-biased foreign-language texts should be translated so that readers can see the gender bias of the original. So does the path from courtesy take us, however deviously, to censorship.
The use of such oppressive “politically correct” style guides is now common even among reputedly evangelical publishers. For example, the relevant section from the InterVarsity Press Style Guide (Downers Grove, Illinois: InterVarsity Press, 2001) may be seen here.
2. Susan Durber, “The Female Reader of the Parables of the Lost,” Journal for the Study of the New Testament 45 (1992), pp. 59-78. For more on this subject see Steven Schlissel, “Hopelessly Patriarchal,” in Chalcedon Report, February 1998.
3. Catherine Innes-Parker, “Mi bodi henge with thi bodi neiled o rode : The gendering of the Pauline concept of crucifixion with Christ in medieval devotional prose for women,” Studies in Religion, Volume 28 Number 1 (1999).
4. The June 16, 1997 issue of Christianity Today reported that Eugene Rubingh, who until 1999 was the IBS vice president for translations, says “publishers Zondervan and Hodder & Stoughton first suggested a more inclusive text to the CBT [the IBS Committee on Bible Translation] because they knew of seminary professors dropping the NIV in favor of the New Revised Standard Version.” In particular, Bethel Theological Seminary and Denver Seminary appear to have become seedbeds of feminism in the evangelical churches.
5. Susan Olasky, “Femme Fatale,” in WORLD, March 29, 1997. The article is online. Use the site’s search utility to find subsequent articles published in WORLD as the NIV controversy developed.
6. For a history of the growing influence of feminism in American churches, see The Feminist Gospel: the Movement to Unite Feminism with the Church, by Mary A. Kassian (Crossway Books, 1992). The facts are truly disturbing and raise serious doubts about the “evangelical” feminists. For a book written from the “evangelical feminist” point of view, see Nancy A. Hardesty’s Inclusive Language in the Church (Atlanta: John Knox Press, 1987). Hardesty has now drifted into radical feminism, and is no longer called evangelical. For introductions to mainline church feminism, see Alice L. Laffey, An Introduction to the Old Testament: A Feminist Perspective (Philadelphia: Fortress, 1988); Letty M Russell, ed., Feminist Interpretation of the Bible (Philadelphia: Westminster Press, 1985); Luise Schotroff, Silvia Schroer and Marie-Theres Wacker, Feminist Interpretation: The Bible in Women’s Perspective Trans. Martin and Barbara Rumscheidt. (Minneapolis: Fortress, 1998).
7. WORLD (6/5/99, p.16) obtained a copy of a letter by Eugene Rubingh, IBS vice president for translations, written on March 19, 1999, which stated, “I, the CBT and practically everyone involved, thoroughly support gender-accurate language. The matter is one of timing, of finding the appropriate hour to move ahead.”
8. The most important “evangelical” defenses of gender-neutral versions are D. A. Carson’s The Inclusive-Language Debate: a Plea for Realism (Grand Rapids: Baker Books, 1998) and Mark L. Strauss’s Distorting Scripture? The Challenge of Bible Translation and Gender Accuracy (Downers Grove, Illinois: InterVarsity Press, 1998). Of these two books, Strauss (Associate Professor of New Testament at Bethel Seminary San Diego) gives the more detailed treatment.
9. See Vern S. Poythress and Wayne A. Grudem, eds. The Gender-Neutral Bible Controversy: Muting the Masculinity of God’s Words (Nashville: Broadman & Holman, 2000). Poythress and Grudem have been prominent in the evangelical opposition to gender-neutral language.
10. See David Bayly, “Decline of the NIV?” in WORLD, June 5, 1999 (Volume 14 Number 22). Bayley writes, “Since 1986, when it surpassed sales of the King James Version, the New International Version has been the biggest-selling Bible in the USA. But from 1993 to 1998 (the last year for which Spring Arbor, the largest distributor of Christian books, has statistics) the NIV’s market share declined from 37 percent to below 30 percent.”
Dear Christian Friends,
No one could ever overstate how important and critical the Word of God is to our lives as Christians. It is the primary tool God has used to reveal His truth to us.
Jesus knew its importance when He taught that “man will not live by bread alone but by every word that proceeds from the mouth of God.”
He knew its power when He quoted Scripture to resist the devil when tempted in the wilderness.
He experienced its comfort when He quoted Scripture upon the cross.
He rebuked the Saducees, telling them they were mistaken because they did not understand the word of God. When asserting that He was the Messiah, He appealed to the fact that “the Scripture cannot be broken.”
Therefore, when considering the importance of the Word of God, it ought to outrage us Christians when someone tampers with what the Scripture says. This is especially true when it is done by someone you had trusted.
But this is exactly what has been done by the International Bible Society and Zondervan Publishing with the soon to be released Today’s New International Bible (TNIV). The NIV is the most marketed and widely selling Bible in the world and Zondervan is sure to put it mighty economic strength and marketing ability behind this new translation as well.
It out to be of concern to each of us who desire the integrity of the Bible to be protected.
The TNIV is an attempt to make the NIV a “gender neutral” or “gender inclusive” Bible. The translators are willing to abandon the clear language with which the Bible writers wrote in order to have a wider appeal to today’s audience (translated: to be politically correct and yield to the demands of radical feminists!).
When word arose in 1997 that this project was being worked on, Zondervan and the IBS promised concerned Christian leaders that they would not persue this translation. Evidently, they lied. For they now reveal such a translation is ready and that they have already spent over 2 million dollars in completing the translation.
They have also promised that this new translation will not relate to God or Jesus in a gender neutral way. And yet, consider the following verses (NIV = Current New International Version, TNIV = the new Today’s New International Version)
NIV What is man that you are mindful of him, the son of man that you care for him?
TNIV What are mere mortals that you are mindful of them, human beings that you care for them?
The term “son of man” is a clear reference to Jesus Christ, and yet the TNIV changes it to a plural “human beings.”
NIV Endure hardship as discipline; God is treating you as sons. For what son is not disciplined by his father?
TNIV Endure hardship as discipline; God is treating you as his children. For what children are not disciplined by their parents?
This is relating to God’s discipline of His children, but the TNIV changes this reference from “father” to “parents.”
NIV For this reason he had to be made like his brothers in every way, in order that he might become a merciful and faithful high priest in service to God, and that he might make atonement for the sins of the people.
TNIV For this reason he had to be made like his brothers and sisters in every way, in order that he might become a merciful and faithful high priest in service to God, and that he might make atonement for the sins of the people.
Jesus was not made like “His sisters” in “every way.” And the high priests this was referring to were always male.
I could go on and on. You can find more examples at www.keptthefaith.org if you are interested. You can also find a letter recently released by many of the top Christian leaders in America who have expressed their outrage and disappointment in this new translation.
I unite my voice with theirs. I’m all for up to date and accurate translations, but I protest in the strongest terms when I feel the Word has been tampered with -- especially if I suspect it was tampered with for political motives or financial gain.
More concerns about the Bible
Did you know that the Bible remains the number one seller to this day. And yet, Bible literacy among Christians is shockingly low. How well do you understand the Bible? Are your values and beliefs really based on what the Bible says or are they simply a mixture of what you’ve heard in church, seen on TV, listened to on the radio, been taught in school and gleaned from interacting with you buddies.
Furthermore, how much do you OBEY the Bible? There are many scriptures that make it clear that true wisdom and understanding come from OBEDIENCE to the scripture, not just knowledge of it.
First we need accurate translation; then we need diligent study and mediation; then we need fervent and heart-felt obedience. Then, and only then, does one become a man or woman of God!
By Pete Winn, CitizenLink associate editor
Turn to Hebrews 2:17 in a New International Version (NIV) Bible and you read this about Jesus: “For this reason he had to be made like his brothers in every way, in order that he might become a merciful and faithful high priest.”
Now read the same passage in something called a “gender-accurate” Bible, titled Today’s NIV (TNIV): “For this reason he had to be made like his brothers and sisters in every way . . . “
Is it accurate to say that Jesus was made in every way like his sisters?
The International Bible Society, which developed the TNIV, and Zondervan Publishing House, which publishes it, think so. But a number of Bible scholars, church leaders and others, including Dr. James C. Dobson of Focus on the Family, disagree. What’s more, they say the translation itself violates an agreement made years earlier.
Twelve evangelical Christian leaders met in 1997 at Focus on the Family with representatives from the IBS, Zondervan and scholars in the fields of Bible translation. They shook hands on an agreement that IBS and Zondervan would drop plans for a “gender-neutral” NIV, a translation that would have removed the masculine pronouns “he” and words such as “man, “son,” and “brother.” Feminine nouns were unchanged.
Now, the controversy is back. IBS announced in January that it plans to release a new translation of the New Testament in April — “Today’s New International Version” (TNIV). A translation of the Old Testament is slated for 2005.
Dr. Ronald Youngblood, chairman of the IBS board of directors and a member of the Committee on Bible Translation (CBT), said the group developed the TNIV because the English language is always changing.
“We must continue the work of translation to guarantee that the Bible is accurately communicated in the language of the day,” Youngblood said. “We firmly believe that everyone should have access to the transforming power of God’s Word in language they can understand and relate to.”
IBS spokesman Larry Lincoln, meanwhile, described the TNIV as being “more accurate, gender-accurate” than the current NIV.
“We’re concerned about an entire generation of people who . . . may be turning their back on the Bible, not seeing the Scriptures as relevant to their lives,” Lincoln said.
The question: Is the TNIV gender-neutral?
“The TNIV is not a gender-neutral Bible, the TNIV is gender-accurate,” Lincoln said. “Gender-neutrality suggests the removal of specific male or female attributes to achieve neutrality. The TNIV doesn’t remove any of those attributes, or ‘neuter’ any passages of Scripture.”
But critics of the new version have been quick to speak out. They believe the TNIV does have some of the hallmarks of a gender-neutral translation, and they oppose its very release.
What had once been a difference of opinion among Christian scholars — Christian brothers — has now become a major battle over the most important foundation in Christianity: the Scriptures.
Entering the Fray
On Feb. 1, a coalition of 26 scholars issued a statement telling the world they refused to endorse the TNIV. The list is a veritable “Who’s Who” of biblical scholars and theologians. Among others, it includes: Dr. Harold O.J. Brown of Reformed Theological Seminary; Dr. R.C. Sproul, of Ligonier Ministries, and a professor at Knox Theological Seminary; Dr. Al Mohler, Jr., president of the Southern Baptist Theological Seminary in Louisville, Ky.; Dr. Paige Patterson, a recent president of the Southern Baptist Convention; Dr. Wayne Grudem of Phoenix Seminary in Scottsdale, Ariz., and a past president of the Evangelical Theological Society; and Dr. John Piper, of Bethlehem Baptist Church in Minneapolis, Minn.
The scholars said: “In light of troubling translation inaccuracies — primarily (but not exclusively) in relation to gender language — that introduce distortions of the meanings that were conveyed better by the original NIV, we cannot endorse the TNIV translation as sufficiently accurate to commend to the church.”
In addition to that statement, eight of the attendees at the 1997 meeting, including Dobson, issued their own statement asking IBS and Zondervan “to reverse their announced direction” — asking the publishers to “keep God’s Word and their own.”
Dr. Richard Land, president of the Southern Baptist Convention’s Ethics and Religious Liberty Commission, was more blunt. Noting that the SBC is the largest Protestant denomination to officially use the 1984 edition of the New International Version (NIV), Land accused the IBS of “(breaking) the commitment they made to abide by (the 1997) gender-related guidelines.”
“If we can’t trust each other’s word, where do we go from here?” Land asked.
IBS, for its part, stands firm in defense of its withdrawal from the Colorado Springs agreement — and its integrity.
“It’s very important to note that that (Colorado Springs) document contained two sections,” said IBS spokesman Lincoln. “The first section was a statement on gender-related language in Scripture, and that dealt with the philosophical principles that are associated with Bible translation. We signed those, and we still support them.
“The second component contained some very specific guidelines, and at that particular time, they (IBS and Zondervan) were able to agree to them and endorse that. However, after further review and consideration, and more importantly prayer and consultation with a broad group of scholars, we determined that many of those technical guidelines contained in the original (Colorado Springs guidelines) are too restrictive to facilitate our mission — which is producing the most accurate text possible in contemporary English language.”
Land countered, however, that IBS “clearly violate(d) the intent, if not the actual letter, of the pledge they made with evangelical scholars regarding a gender-neutral Bible translation.”
A Question of Accuracy
Dr. Vern Poythress, a professor of New Testament interpretation at Westminster Theological Seminary in Philadelphia, Pa., and a chief critic of the TNIV, said accuracy is indeed the major concern with the translation.
“In the TNIV they refuse to use the generic ‘he,’ referring to all people,” he said. “That one decision limits their ability to express nuances in English. They have to walk around their refusal to use generic ‘he’ and rephrase things, and it inevitably changes nuances.”
Take, for example, Luke 17:3:
NIV: “If your brother sins, rebuke him, and if he repents, forgive him.”
TNIV: “If any brother or sister sins against you, rebuke the offender; and if they repent, forgive them.”
Poythress added that many male “meaning components” in the NIV weren’t carried over in the new translation doesn’t carry over.
One example is from Acts 7:20. He explained that the verse, which is part of Stephen’s speech before the Jews, discusses the birth and boyhood of Moses. The NIV says, “. . .for three months, he was cared for in his father’s house.” Poythress pointed out that in the original Greek, the word for father — pater — is singular. Yet the TNIV renders the same verse, “. . .for three months he was cared for in his parents’ house.”
IBS, for its part, argues that in today’s cultural milieu, references to living in one’s “father’s house” connotes divorce — living with one’s father as opposed to one’s mother’s house.
Another example of the difference can be found in Hebrews 2:17. The NIV says, “For this reason he (Jesus) had to be made like his brothers in every way, in order that he might become a merciful and faithful high priest.” The TNIV changes that to: “For this reason he had to be made like his brothers and sisters in every way . . . .”
Focus on the Family Vice President of Public Policy Tom Minnery said many will have problems with that rendering.
“I can see, down the road, proponents of gay activism suggesting that Jesus is not fully man if he ‘became like his sisters in every way,’ and that would seem to even give biblical license to transsexuals to change their sexuality. I cannot imagine anything more confusing,” Minnery said.
Those examples are far from being the only ones critics find problematic. Indeed, the Council on Biblical Manhood and Womanhood has compiled a 25-page analysis containing what it calls more than 100 “inaccuracies” in the TNIV, which is posted it on its Web site.
A Question of Ideology
IBS, meanwhile, sees the problem not as one of accuracy, but as one of ideology — the “ideology” of those who oppose “gender-inclusiveness.” It maintains that the Council of Bible Translation — which did the actual translating — has simply produced “the most accurate and clear text available.”
“The criticism of this translation comes primarily from an ideological agenda about the role of men and women, not an issue of accuracy in translation,” Lincoln said.
IBS cites the endorsement of Christian notables, such as author Philip Yancey; Dr. Gary Burge, of Wheaton College Graduate School; Ted Haggard, pastor of New Life Church in Colorado Springs, Colo.; Tremper Longman III, a professor at Westmont College, and Dr. Craig Blomberg, of Denver Seminary.
Blomberg, a New Testament professor at Denver Seminary, said even the original New International Version (NIV) of 1984 — which is nearly universally supported — was never intended to be a word-for-word translation, but simply a more readable version for contemporary readers.
“Knowing real-life women readers who I want to have treasure the Bible, I realize that it’s not natural any longer for people to read that kind of language — particularly for women readers to read it and think that they are being addressed,” Blomberg said.
A ‘Sophisticated’ Attack
Critics of the TNIV, meantime, counter that the IBS translation itself caters to an ideology — that of feminism. They say the TNIV doesn’t just try to make the language of the Bible more accessible to women, but tries to make it conform to political correctness.
The Rev. Tim Bayly, pastor of the Church of the Good Shepherd in the university community of Bloomington, Ind., said feminism is the reigning ideology on many of the campuses where many professors — even otherwise conservative evangelical professors — teach.
“One of the most intense pressures that anyone in an academic community feels is the pressure to have the language one uses reflect the ideological commitments of one’s community,” said Bayly, also a member of The Council on Biblical Manhood and Womanhood.
He said feminists and other scions of political correctness have been intensively trying to force academics — and by extension, everyone else — “to change their language with respect to sexuality.”
“They have been trying to obscure the pattern of father-rule that has always been a central aspect of Western Judeo-Christian culture,” Bayly said.
He added the feminist attack on masculinity has been subtle and sophisticated.
“When you look at the attack upon the leadership of men in the church and at home and in society, and you think, ‘Well, how does that attack translate into battles over language?’ — it makes sense that you try to remove all masculine markings from our language.
“It changes people to have their language changed. When people’s habits of expression and words are forced to change by ideological pressures, inevitably it is going to change the way we think. Words are how we think.
Bayly didn’t go so far as to say the TNIV translators all agree with the feminist ideal of “removing father-rule and all vestiges of it from our culture.” But, he noted, people can be supportive of ideological changes through battles over language without being supportive of the battle’s overarching plan.
Unity and the Scriptures
But does this heated dispute mean actual disunity among brothers?
Professor Gordon Fee thinks so. A distinguished theologian and Biblical scholar at Regent College in Vancouver, British Columbia, Canada, and a member of the Committee on Bible Translation, Fee was one of the prime movers behind the new TNIV translation. He said the controversy pains him tremendously.
Many of the issues that have been raised by critics, Fee argues, are technical issues of translation — not questions that the Church should divide over.
“I feel it is a controversy that has brought division to the Church, rather than healing,” Fee said. “My experience of the controversy has been very, very painful. I just have the sense that it runs contrary to Psalm 133.”
Psalm 133:1 says, “Behold, how good and pleasant it is, when brothers dwell together in unity.” (English Standard Version)
Answering the charge that critics are spreading division, however, Professor R.C. Sproul said that anytime a theological issue is in question, it is divisive.
“Doctrines divide, they always have,” he said. “They also bind together. This (battle) will bring together people who are totally committed to the Word of God. I think (this battle) will create unity. But it will also divide those in the evangelical church who are strong on Scripture from those who are loose on Scripture.”
For Sproul, the real question is, disunity in what? While it is very important for brothers to dwell together in unity, Sproul said Christ nonetheless calls on all Christians to stand for His truth. What, he wonders, could be more important than to stand up for the Scriptures?
“I think there should be a hue and cry in the Church, such as has never been heard,” Sproul said.
In the end, many Christians observing this battle may wind up feeling like Dobson. After considerable discussion and thought, the president of Focus on the Family reluctantly concluded he could not help but speak out in opposition to the TNIV, but nonetheless felt a profound sense of sadness at having to take the stand:
“I love the Scriptures and I know them to be the very words of God to His creation,” Dobson said. “Like most evangelical Christians, I want my Bible to contain an accurate translation of the canonical Hebrew and Greek texts. Accordingly, I will continue to speak out against any effort that alters God’s Word or toys with translation methodology for the sake of ‘political correctness.’”
‘Today’s New International Version’ (TNIV) of the Bible
I am disappointed over the International Bible Society’s decision to withdraw their endorsement from the Guidelines for Translation of Gender-Related Language in Scripture. These guidelines were formulated in 1997 with great care and with the full participation of IBS. Their intent was to ensure that future translation of the original Greek and Hebrew texts of the Bible would be done consistently and accurately, in accordance with the accepted principles of translation.
When the Conference on Gender-Related Language in Scripture came to a close, I believed that all participating parties shared a firm commitment to the guidelines upon which we had agreed. That is why it is particularly unfortunate that the IBS has now chosen to go its own way. In so doing, it risks dividing the Christian community again, as well as damaging its own reputation and undermining the wonderful work in which it has been engaged for more than 150 years.
Being neither a theologian nor a linguist, I am not qualified to make an assessment of the translation accuracy of the recently released TNIV. However, I have now received sufficient feedback from a large number of evangelical scholars to convince me that this new work is a step backward in the field of biblical translation. Accordingly, I am now adding my name to the list of those who disagree with the liberties IBS has taken with God’s Word in the new translation.
I love the Scriptures and I know them to be the very words of God to His creation. Like most evangelical Christians, I want my Bible to contain an accurate translation of the canonical Hebrew and Greek texts. Accordingly, I will continue to speak out against any effort that alters God’s Word or toys with translation methodology for the sake of “political correctness.”
James C. Dobson, Ph.D. President
LOUISVILLE, Ky. — Citing “significant changes in the gender language” from its highly respected predecessor, the New International Version, 100 respected church leaders issued a joint statement May 28 declaring that they cannot endorse Zondervan Publishing and the International Bible Society’s controversial Bible translation Today’s New International Version.
“The TNIV raises more concern in this regard than previous Bible versions,” said the leaders, “because, riding on the reputation of the NIV, the TNIV may vie for a place as the church’s commonly accepted Bible. We believe that any commonly accepted Bible of the church should be more faithful to the language of the original.”
The statement was coordinated by the Council on Biblical Manhood and Womanhood, a Louisville, Ky.-based organization which has taken the lead in criticizing the TNIV.
The statement is the latest blow to the new translation, which Zondervan and IBS introduced in a New Testament version earlier in the year, and may affect their plans to follow up with the entire Bible in 2005.
Among the leaders signing on to the statement of concern were Ted Baehr, Alistair Begg, Ron Blue, Larry Burkett, Charles Colson, Nancy Leigh DeMoss, James Dobson, Tom Eliff, Steve Farrar, Wayne Grudem, Jack Hayford, Joshua Harris, Howard Hendricks, David Jeremiah, D. James Kennedy, Crawford Lorritts, Erwin Lutzer, Bill McCartney, James Merritt, R. Albert Mohler Jr., Marvin Olasky, Stephen Olford, J.I. Packer, Janet Parshall, Paige Patterson, John Piper, Dennis Rainey, Pat Robertson, Gary and Barbara Rosberg, R. C. Sproul, Charles Swindoll, Joni Eareckson Tada, Don Wildmon and Bruce Wilkinson.
The signers acknowledged that “Bible scholars sometimes disagree about translation methods and about which English words best translate the original languages.” Additionally, while conceding that “it is appropriate to use gender-neutral expressions where the original language does not include any male or female meaning,” they said “we believe the TNIV has gone beyond acceptable translation standards in several important respects.”
Chief among those concerns, according to the statement, are:
“The TNIV translation often changes masculine, third person, singular pronouns (he, his and him) to plural gender-neutral pronouns.” The statement cites as an example Rev. 3:20, in which the words of Jesus are changed from “I will come in and eat with him, and he with me”(NIV) to “I will come in and eat with them, and they with me” (TNIV).
“In hundreds of such changes, the TNIV obscures any possible significance the inspired singular may have, such as individual responsibility or an individual relationship with Christ,” the statement notes.
“The TNIV translation obscures many biblical references to ‘father,’ ‘son,’ ‘brother’ and ‘man.’” The statement cites Hebrews 12:7, in which the NIV offering is, “Endure hardship as discipline; God is treating you as sons. For what son is not disciplined by his father?” The signers object to the TNIV translation, which is rendered, “Endure hardship as discipline; God is treating you as his children. For what children are not disciplined by their parents?” The statement notes that not only is the reference to God as Father largely lost in the passage, but in many other passages “male-oriented meanings that are present in the original language are lost in the TNIV.”
“The TNIV translation inserts English words into the text whose meaning does not appear in the original languages.” The statement notes as an example Luke 17:3, in which TNIV translators changed “If your brother sins, rebuke him” (NIV) to “If any brother or sister sins against you, rebuke the offender” (TNIV).
“The problem is, the word ‘sister’ is not found in the original language, nor is ‘against you,’ nor is ‘offender,’” the statement reads.
The signers of the statement note that in hundreds of instances, the TNIV translators have transformed masculine words in the original Greek to “something more generic.” For example, the word “father” is changed to “parents;” “son” becomes “child” or “children;” “brother” translates into “someone” or “brother or sister” and “brothers” becomes “believers;” “man” (as in mankind or human race) becomes “mere mortals” or “people;” and the word “men” (male persons) becomes “people,” “believers,” “friends” or “humans.”
In hundreds of other instances in the TNIV, translators have switched whole sentences from a singular to a plural meaning.
“We wonder how the TNIV translators can be sure that this masculine language in God’s very words does not carry meaning that God wants us to see,” the signers said.
Another problem the church leaders note in their statement concerns the term “Jews” and other key words.
“How do the TNIV translators know that changing ‘Jews’ to ‘Jewish leaders,’ for example in Acts 13:50 and 21:11, does not make a false claim, and obscure a possible corporate meaning? How do they know that changing ‘saints’ to ‘those’ in Acts 9:13 or to ‘believers’ in Acts 9:32 or to ‘God’s people’ in Romans 8:27 does not sacrifice precious connotations of holiness which the Greek word carries?” the church leaders asked.
The statement of concern concludes, “Because of these and other misgivings, we cannot endorse the TNIV as sufficiently trustworthy to commend to the church. We do not believe it is a translation suitable for use as a normal preaching and teaching text of the church or for a common memorizing, study and reading Bible of the Christian community.”
Randy Stinson, executive director of the Council on Biblical Manhood and Womanhood, said that the signatures of the 100 church leaders demonstrated “the depth and breadth of the evangelical resistance to the TNIV.” He added that the leaders “represent various types of ministries, denominations and theological persuasions, but all have a passionate concern about the Bible and the translation process.”
Stinson argued that the TNIV controversy had “plunged the evangelical world into a crucial decision-making process that will affect the future direction of Bible translation in the English speaking world and will determine for years to come what kinds of Bibles will be commonly accepted as the preaching, teaching, devotional, memorizing Bibles of the church.”
The TNIV publishers responded to the statement of concern with its own press release.
“The recent attack on Today’s New International Version by the Council on Biblical Manhood and Womanhood is not new and continues to misrepresent the changes made in the TNIV,” the publishers’ statement read. “The TNIV is a highly accurate translation that is being widely embraced by the evangelical community. Support continues to grow among respected linguists, translators, biblical scholars, pastors and other church leaders as they carefully review this new translation.”
Among the scores of scholars, pastors, and church leaders listed as endorsers of the TNIV on its Web site are: John R.W. Stott, author and theologian; Mark Strauss, professor at Bethel Seminary in San Diego, Calif.; Timothy George, dean of Beeson Divinity School at Alabama’s Samford University and an executive editor of Christianity Today; Benny C. Acker of the Assemblies of God Theological Seminary; Jim Cymbala, pastor of the Brooklyn Tabernacle in New York City; John Ortberg of Willow Creek Community Church in Illinois; Ted Haggard, pastor of New Life Church in Colorado Springs, Colo.; Stuart Briscoe, author and pastor of Elm Brook Church in Milwaukee, Wisc.; author Philip Yancey; Jay Kesler of Taylor University in Indiana; and author Fiona Castle.
by David Kaiser
A new translation of the Bible hit the markets and immediately there is uproar in the evangelical community on whether this new translation is acceptable. It happened back in the early 1600’s. Believe it or not, the Pilgrims refused to allow the King James Version (KJV) on board the Mayflower for the voyage to America. The same type of furor arose again in the early 1970’s over the New International Version (NIV) when it was published. Now, another Bible translation has become the scorn of many sincere Christians over a “gender–accurate” version of the NIV, called Today’s New International Translation (TNIV).
Here is my take on this issue. Many times in the Old Testament it says the Word of the Lord came and spoke to a prophet. Jesus is called the Word of God (John 1:1,14). How did Jesus live while on this earth? Did he live in a cave on a mountain peek, far above the crowded streets of Jerusalem and Capernaum? Or did he live among the people of his day? Eat with them? Did he talk the language of his day? Did he smell like them? Jesus while he walked the earth was the physical incarnation of the Word of God. Today we have a continuation of that incarnation in the Body of Christ, which is the Church, and the written Word of God. Like Jesus when he walked the earth made himself relevant to the common folk in His parables and lifestyle, so the Church and the Word must make themselves relevant to the people of the surrounding culture.
Peter Bradley, president of the International Bible Society (IBS), which is publishing the TNIV in partnership with Zondervan publishing, explained, “We firmly believe that to effect change in our world, we must communicate with younger generations in the English they are being taught and that they speak. To accomplish this mission, we must make certain that Scripture is presented in a way that is unquestionably accurate and, at the same time, perfectly clear.” IBS and Zondervan report that there is just a seven percent change from the NIV. For example, while the NIV renders Matthew 5:9 as, “Blessed are the peacemakers, for they will be called sons of God,” the TNIV offers “children of God.”
The question may be justifiably asked, are we sacrificing accuracy for relevancy to our post–modern and unisex culture? I think a better question we need to ask ourselves is, what is the translation for? Is it to accurately produce in painstaking detail a translation of each word of the original language into a modern English equivalent? Or is it to translate the thought of the passage into a form that contemporary culture understands? Are we being exclusive or inclusive? There are translations on the market that satisfy either one of those purposes.
When I want to study the text with as much accuracy to the original language as possible, I usually use the New King James or the New American Standard Bible. These Bibles use a more “word for word” translation, although I have some concerns that the New King James has not incorporated the latest scholastic work regarding earlier manuscripts now being found. In reading from the pulpit for ease of comprehension for the congregation I use the NIV. For devotional reading, I presently like the Message by Eugene Peterson or the New Living Translation. Any time my devotional reading becomes stale, I move to another translation to get a fresh insight into the Scriptures.
So far, what I have read in the TNIV, I find nothing that’s objectionable. I will, with time, incorporate it as my pulpit Bible, because my purpose in the sermon is to make the Scripture relevant to the modern contemporary audience.
Dr. Ronald Youngblood was born into a non-Christian home in Chicago, Illinois, but after his parents became believers he accepted Christ as his Savior at the tender age of 8. He went to college in the midwest, seminary in the southwest and graduate school in the northeast, so his post-secondary education took him to all parts of the United States and exposed him to various cultures. Youngblood is currently the Chairman of the Board of Directors of International Bible Society. On July 31, 2001, he retired from his position as professor of Old Testament and Hebrew at Bethel Theological Seminary in San Diego, California, after teaching full-time for 40 years.
Youngblood became an NIV translator in 1970 and a member of the CBT 10 years later. His translation experience during the past 30 years has included extensive work on all parts of the NIV as well as more limited tasks related to the recently launched Spanish and Portuguese NVIs. He is also the executive editor of the NIrV, the simplified Bible so popular with children as well as with people for whom English is a second language. As an associate editor of the NIV Study Bible, Youngblood has been contacted by countless readers who have been helped and blessed by its text and notes.
Last year, the Dean of Bethel Seminary San Diego relayed to Youngblood a friend’s request for 25 NIV Study Bibles to be distributed free of charge to pastors and other church workers in several African countries. Through the generosity of IBS, the Bibles were delivered soon afterward. The many letters of appreciation Youngblood later received eloquently testify to the high esteem of Third-World Christians for the NIV. The following comments are typical:
“I had been praying for a study Bible which I could afford, but thank God yours came at the right time.”
“I will always remember you for your wonderful gift. God bless you.”
“Thank you, brother, for your love.”
“I just do not have suitable words with which to express my gratitude for the NIV Bible.”
“My prayer is that God may bless you and your family and may graciously meet your need as you labour to make the Word reach the world.”
“I am thanking you for your concern and gesture you have shown to us. It would have been quite difficult for me to buy one since this is quite costly in Zambia.”
“God bless you big!”
In reflecting on these responses, Youngblood said, “Such expressions of love and gratitude truly make Bible translation, publication and outreach worthwhile. Thanks be to God!”
Dr. Kenneth Barker is an author and speaker living in Lewisville, Texas. Until his retirement from IBS in 1996, he was Executive Director of IBS’ NIV Translation Center. He is one of the original translators of the NIV and a regular spokesperson for the CBT.
Dr. Barker has given talks all over the U.S. and abroad about the translation process of the NIV, and much of his time is spent writing, editing, preaching and teaching. He also worked on the NIrV, three books about the NIV, and the tenth-anniversary edition of The NIV Study Bible as its general editor.
[Note: Two of Dr. Kenneth Barker’s books are available for reading online - “Accuracy Defined & Illustrated” and “The NIV: The Making of a Contemporary Translation”. Chapter 5 of “The Balance of the NIV is also available.]
He holds a ThM from Dallas Theological Seminary and a PhD from the Dropsie College for Hebrew and Cognate Learning. He has served as Academic Dean of Capital Bible Seminary, Professor of Old Testament at three theological seminaries, and Visiting Professor at two others. He also is an author of commentaries on the books of Micah and Zechariah.
In his book The Balance of the NIV, Dr. Barker says, “[T]he NIV translators were a community of Christian scholars dedicated to the clear and faithful rendering of God’s Truth into contemporary, idiomatic English. Their association became a true biblical koinonia—a vital “fellowship” in Christ the Lord. Out of this came deepening insight into the demands of faithful translation and a surer feeling for the nuances of NIV style.
“For me, it was first of all an experience in fellowship with some of God’s greatest servants.
Second, it was an experience in humility. It was humbling to be voted down after lengthy argumentation. In fact, based on my experience as a Bible translator (NIV, NIrV, NASB), I have often said, ‘If you want to discover how little you really know, become involved in translating all the books of the Bible from Hebrew, Aramaic, and Greek into English or any other language.’
“Third, it was a broadening experience. I gained a greater appreciation for the whole Body of Christ instead of just one small segment of it.
Fourth, it was an experience in sovereignty. I had to learn to trust that the sovereign God, through his Spirit and in answer to prayer, was somehow accomplishing His will in the final decision of the majority of the CBT whether I always fully agreed with those decisions personally or not. For these experiences, I am humbly grateful to the Lord.”
Dr. Barker tells the story of a woman who wrote to him: “I was led to my Lord Jesus Christ through my NIV, which was a gift from my spiritual mother and physical mother-in-law. I was further discipled and continue to grow in my knowledge and faith of God and His Word through the NIV.”
Dr. Larry L. Walker holds a PhD from Dropsie College for Hebrew and Cognate Learning. He has taught Hebrew and other ancient languages (such as Aramaic, Akkadian, and Ugaritic) at the seminary level for 30 years. Although retired, he currently is a Visiting Professor at Beeson Divinity School of Samford University in Birmingham, Alabama. Dr. Walker also served on the International Council of Biblical Inerrancy that drafted the now-famous “Chicago Statement on Inerrancy.” Serving on the CBT has allowed him to work with fellow scholars who share the highest view of the nature of Scripture.
Dr. Walker joined the CBT shortly after it was formed. He comments, “I was for many years the youngest member of it. Now I am one of the oldest! The committee has matured together and understands the thinking of others almost like mates in marriage do. We each bring different personalities and background experiences to the work. I can think of times when some issue was illuminated by a member’s background in farming, medicine, chemistry, etc. “The experience of working thousands of hours over several decades with excellent fellow scholars is beyond description. In many ways, this far exceeds all my formal training in preparation for my life’s work.”
For Dr. Walker, it has been very rewarding to hear testimonies of how the Bible has come alive to readers who have never read it before in modern English. One seminary student’s wife told him many years ago that when she first picked up the NIV New Testament, she could not lay it down until she had read most of it straight through!
In addition, the NIV has had a significant impact on his students. Dr. Walker remarks, “I have used the NIV regularly in doctoral seminars where we analyze the translation on a very academic level. In this context, I am able to show graduate level students how the NIV translators made use of the latest discoveries in producing the best and most reliable translation humanly possible.
“Many seminary students, who have had a little Greek and Hebrew, thought at first they spotted mistakes in the translation, only to find on further reflection that we were right. The NIV is very sophisticated and ‘mature,’ and its translation is not always immediately understood by the beginning language student.”
Dr. Walker concludes, “Without question this work has been one of the greatest—if not the greatest—experiences of my life.
We all want to be of influence for the Lord, and I find this to be especially the case in this work. Over the years, I have taught over 4,000 students. But as one of the translators of the NIV, I have had an opportunity—through a suggested word choice here or a phrase there—to touch millions of lives for the glory of God!”
Other Members of the CBT:
Professor John H. Stek is a retired Professor of Old Testament at Calvin Theological Seminary in Grand Rapids, Michigan, where he continues to teach part-time. He holds a BD degree from Calvin Theological Seminary and a ThM from Westminster Theological Seminary in Philadelphia, Pennsylvania; he attended the Divinity School of the University of Chicago and received a Doctoradus degree from the Free University of Amsterdam. He was one of the translators of the NIV. Professor Stek currently serves as Chairman of the CBT.
Dr. Donald H. Madvig is a retired minister and Professor of Biblical Studies at Bethel Theological Seminary. He holds a PhD from Brandeis University. Dr. Madvig currently serves as Vice Chairman of the CBT.
Dr. Gordon Fee is Professor of New Testament at Regent College in Vancouver, British Columbia. He received a PhD in New Testament studies from the University of California. He has taught at Wheaton College and Gordon-Conwell Theological Seminary.
Dr. Richard T. France worked in the 1970s as a lecturer in religious studies at the University of Ife in Nigeria. From 1981 to 1988 he taught at London Bible College in New Testament studies and from 1989 to 1995 he was Principal of Wycliffe Hall at Oxford University. He was a parish minister in England and Wales from 1995 until his retirement in 1999. He has served for two periods on the CBT, from 1990 to 1995 and from 1999 to the present. Currently, he leads the UK delegation and is involved in Anglicizing the text to make it appropriate for readers in the UK and the British Empire.
Dr. Karen H. Jobes is associate professor of New Testament at Westmont College in Santa Barbara. She holds a PhD in Biblical Hermeneutics from Westminster Theological Seminary (Philadelphia). Among her publications are Invitation to the Septuagint (with Moisés Silva, Baker, 2000), and the NIV Application Commentary: Esther (Zondervan, 1999). She has been a member of the CBT since 1995.
Dr. Walter Liefeld is serving this year as Interim President of Tyndale Theological Seminary in the Netherlands, and is Distinguished Professor Emeritus of New Testament at Trinity Evangelical Divinity School in Deerfield, Illinois. He served as a member of the team working on the book of Philippians for the NIV and became a full-fledged member of the CBT in the mid-80s.
Dr. Douglas Moo is Blanchard Professor of New Testament at Wheaton College Graduate School, and has been on the CBT since 1997.
Dr. Martin Selman teaches Old Testament at Spurgeon’s College in London, England, where he is now the Deputy Principal. He received his university education at the University of Wales in Cardiff. His publications have been aimed at both academic and popular audiences, as he is concerned that the Bible’s message should be accessible to ordinary people. He has been involved since 1993 with the CBT, where he has the special responsibility of making sure the NIV translation is understood by speakers of the Queen’s English.
Dr. Bruce K. Waltke is Professor Emeritus of Old Testament Studies at Regent College in Vancouver, British Columbia and Professor of Old Testament at Reformed Theological Seminary (Orlando, Florida Campus). He holds a ThD from Dallas Theological Seminary and a PhD from Harvard University. He has also taught at Westminster Theological Seminary in Philadelphia and Dallas Theological Seminary. He has written numerous scholarly articles and edited or contributed to books such as the Theological Word Book of the Old Testament. He helped translate the NIV and continues to serve on the CBT.
Benny C. Aker, Ph.D.
Professor of New Testament and Exegesis
Assemblies of God Theological Seminary
Robert C Andringa, Ph. D.
Council for Christian Colleges & Universities, Washington, D.C.
Dr. John Armstrong
Reformation & Revival Ministries
Myron Augsburger, Th.D.
Eastern Mennonite University
Light and Life, Indianapolis
Center for Student Missions, San Juan Capistrano
Professor of Biblical Literature
North Park Theological Seminary, Chicago
Gilbert Bilezikian, Th.D.
Professor of Biblical Studies
Dr. John Binder
Faith Baptist Church, Minneapolis
Craig Blomberg, Ph.D.
Professor of New Testament
Denver Seminary, Denver, CO
Mark Braun, Ph.D.
Associate Professor of Theology
Wisconsin Lutheran College
Stuart Briscoe, D.D.
Phoenix Seminary (Adjunct Faculty)
Elmbrook Church (Retired Pastor)
Telling the Truth ministries (Co-founder)
James K. Bruckner, Ph.D.
Assistant Professor of Biblical Literature
North Park University, Chicago
Gary Burge, Ph.D.
Professor of New Testament
Wheaton College and Graduate School
The Giving Tree
Author and Speaker
Dr. Sidney DeWaal
International Council for Higher Education, Chancellor
Jerusalem University College, President (1993-2001)
Bible Society in Northern Ireland (The)
J. Scott Duvall, Ph.D.
Dean of the Chesley and Elizabeth Pruet School of Christian Studies
Ouachita Baptist University
Berean Christian Stores
Pastor Randy Frazee
Pantego Bible Church, Ft. Worth Author, The Connecting Church
John W. Frye, D. Min.
Author and Pastor
Bella Vista Church, Rockford, MI
Timothy George, Th.D.
Executive Editor of Christianity Today
Dean of Beeson Divinity School Samford University
Rev. Canon Dr. Michael Green
Senior Research Fellow at Wycliffe Hall
New Life Church
Rev. Adam Hamilton
Church of the Resurrection, Leawood, KS
Dr. Michael W. Holmes
Professor of Biblical Studies and Early Christianity
Chair, Department of Biblical and Theological Studies
Bethel College, St. Paul
Alan Johnson, Ph.D.
Professor of New Testament and Ethics
Wheaton Graduate School
Craig Keener, Ph.D.
Professor of New Testament
Eastern Seminary, Philadelphia, PA
R. T. Kendall
Westminster Chapel (1977-2002)
Allen Kerkeslager, Ph.D.
Assistant Professor of Theology
Saint Joseph’s University, Philadelphia
John R. Kohlenberger III
Editor, The Exhaustive Concordance to the Greek New Testament
Diane Komp, M.D.
Author, A Window to Heaven
Paul E. Koptak, Ph.D.
Paul and Bernice Brandel Professor of Communication and Biblical Interpretation
North Park Theological Seminary, Chicago
Christian Author and Writer
Tremper Longman III, Ph.D.
Robert H. Gundry Professor of Biblical Studies
Richard Longnecker, Ph.D.
McMaster Divinity College
Martin H. Manser
Reference book editor and Bible scholar
Alice Mathews, Ph.D.
Lois W. Bennet Distinguished Associate Professor of Educational Ministries and Women’s Ministries
Gordon-Conwell Theological Seminary, South Hamilton
David J. McCullough
Agape Fellowship Church, Nashville
Dr. David W. Miller
The Church at Rocky Peak
West Side Christian Church, Denver (Senior Pastor) Dallas Christian College (Adjunct Faculty)
Terry C. Muck, Ph.D.
Professor of Mission and World Religions
Asbury Theological Seminary
Edward G. Murray , Dr.
Institute for Biblical and Theological Studies
Campus Crusade for Christ, Eastern Europe and Russia
Dr. Norm Nelson
Life At Its Best Ministry
Roger Nicole, Ph.D.
Visiting Professor of Theology
Reformed Theological Seminary, Orlando
Dennis Okholm, Ph.D.
Wheaton College and Graduate School
Willow Creek Community Church
Glenn R. Palmberg
The Evangelical Covenant Church
Westmont College, Santa Barbara
Richard D. Patterson
Distinguished Professor of Biblical Studies Emeritus
Rev. Cornelius Plantinga, Jr., Ph.D.
President and Professor of Systematic Theology
Calvin Theological Seminary, Grand Rapids
Writer and Evangelist
Pastor Dean Pryor
Hagerstown Grace Brethren Church
Whitworth College, Spokane
Evangelical Christian Publishers
Ken Schenck, Ph.D.
Associate Professor of New Testament
Indiana Wesleyan University
Kentwood Community Church
Inspiration House North, Palm Beach Gardens
Ronald J. Sider, Ph.D.
Professor of Theology and Culture Eastern
Baptist Theological Seminary, Philadelphia
Klyne Snodgrass, Ph.D.
Paul W. Brandel Professor of New Testament Studies
North Park Theological Seminary
Flamingo Road Church, Fort Lauderdale
Christianity Today Magazine
Editor, The Student Bible
John R. W. Stott
Preacher, Evangelist, Author
Mark Strauss, Ph.D.
Associate Professor of New Testament
Bethel Seminary, San Diego
London Bible College
St John’s College, Nottingham
J. Ross Wagner, Ph.D.
Assistant Professor of New Testament
Princeton Theological Seminary
Writer and Pastor
Kairos Church, London
Pastor Ronald W. Waters
Former Assistant Professor of Evangelism, Ashland (Ohio) Theological Seminary
Pastor, Hammond Avenue Brethren Church, Iowa
Dr. Douglas D. Webster
First Presbyterian Church, San Diego
Associate Dean of Bible & Theology
Lincoln Christian College
But evangelical backers of new translation say gender changes are ‘accurate.’
By Timothy C. Morgan
In late January, news broadcaster Paula Zahn’s producer called professor Wayne Grudem of Phoenix Seminary to invite a critique of the new “gender accurate” New Testament, Today’s New International Version. Cable News Network, best known for its war coverage, had found another firefight.
With more than 30 percent of the Bible market, the NIV has a large and loyal following. When translators in 1997 introduced an inclusive language update of the NIV in the British market, American critics sounded the alarm. The International Bible Society, the NIV’s copyright holder, said at the time that it had “abandoned all plans for gender-related changes in future editions of the New International Version.”
Within days of the IBS announcement of the TNIV New Testament, conservative journalists and others took aim again (CT, Feb. 4, p. 19). WorldNetDaily called the translation “Today’s New International Perversion.” World magazine’s headline called it “The NIV’s Twisted Sister” (see “Why the TNIV Draws Ire,” p. 36).
IBS and publisher Zondervan laid out a comprehensive media strategy to build public support. Sample copies were mailed to pastors, educators, and ministry leaders. IBS created a Web site that offered the entire New Testament, downloadable in Adobe PDF. IBS also held a public forum in Colorado Springs in late February to answer consumers’ questions. John Ortberg, teaching pastor at Willow Creek Community Church in suburban Chicago, said on the Web site, “The TNIV combines a careful scholarly treatment of the text with great clarity for the contemporary reader.”
The Council on Biblical Manhood and Womanhood has been a leading critic of gender-focused changes in new English translations of the Bible. The group rallied 35 Ph.D.s, mostly seminary professors and pastors, to sign a joint statement saying the TNIV “distorts Scripture” by introducing many “troubling translation inaccuracies.” They say the TNIV inappropriately:
* Changes singular pronouns to plural.
* Removes male-specific meaning in the original Greek texts.
* Changes singular brother to brother and sister, someone, or person.
* Eliminates son/sons, using children or people.
* Changes Jews to Jewish leaders.
* Changes forefathers to ancestors and father to parent.
“It’s gender inaccurate,” Grudem told CT. “Let readers judge for themselves. Look at the changes that have been made. The basic issue is over five masculine words: father, brother, son, man, and he/him/his.”
Grudem cites many examples, including what he says is a mistranslation of Revelation 3:20, in which the Greek masculine singular pronoun autos is rendered as them. In that instance, he says, the TNIV translation loses the meaning of an individual’s relationship with God.
Other scholars criticize the TNIV, but for reasons other than its gender translation. Raymond Van Leeuwen, a professor at Eastern University in Pennsylvania, says TNIV translators seem to confuse meaning and referent. Words, he says, have a defined meaning, but may also refer to something else. He cites the phrase “The Lord is my rock” as an easy example.
“The church needs biblical scholars [and] pastors who can read Greek and Hebrew to constantly interpret and clarify Scriptures for the people of God,” he says. “Translation is never enough. It always distorts. It simplifies when there are multiple possibilities of meaning.”
Mimi Haddad, president of Christians for Biblical Equality, is a prominent supporter of the TNIV. “Updating language is critical,” Haddad told CT. “There was a time in the ‘50s and ‘60s when. … men was an appropriate term to use, but it is no longer appropriate.”
“What do we mean by gender accurate? Where the ancient texts indicate specific gender that’s how the text is translated,” Haddad told CT. “Where the intention of the original author is gender inclusivity, that’s how it’s translated.”
“The TNIV does not distort Scripture,” says Mark Strauss, a professor at Bethel Seminary–San Diego and author of Distorting Scripture. “Every word in Greek, as in English, has a range of potential meanings. The biggest issue for opponents is the generic he. They’re imposing English meaning on Greek words.”
Strauss says TNIV critics wrongly assert that a Greek pronoun may impose “its gender on the noun that precedes it.”
On the day after the release of the TNIV, Bible translation was national news on CNN for about four minutes. Grudem and Scott Munger, an IBS vice president, debated during a short segment. They agreed on the TNIV translation of Romans 3:28 and disagreed on James 1:12 and Luke 17:3.
“The [TNIV] does not in any way cater to a political, social, or religious agenda of any kind,” Munger said.
Grudem countered, “I’m concerned about the International Bible Society reneging on a promise that it made.”
But, just as the debate got rolling, the anchor cut it off, saying, “I’m sorry. I’ve got to step in here and stop this just because we’ve got to move the program forward.”
Zondervan says the TNIV New Testament will be available in bookstores nationwide this month.