TNIV--A Flawed Solution to a Knotty Problem

by Ted Kyle

TNIV-a Flawed Solution to a Knotty Problem

It seems to the editors of Pulpit Helps that, in the midst of the uproar over the International Bible Society's/Zondervan's Today's New International Version (TNIV), an important point is in danger of being ignored. As widely reported, including a brief summary in this issue's "News Update," on page 30, conservative scholars and others are upset by tinkering with the Word of God in the gender-neutral version.

We believe the critics are right to be outraged. As the Council on Biblical Manhood and Womanhood (CBMW) noted: "many of the changes in the TNIV actually mistranslate Greek words, thereby distorting the meaning of the text of the Word of God." One such change, which seems to betray a feminist agenda, was noted by Joel Belz of World magazine: "The publishers argue vigorously that they would never change any masculine references to God or to Jesus. But where John 6:33 in the original NIV says quite directly, ‘For the bread of God is HE who comes down from heaven and gives life to the world,' the TNIV changes a couple of crucial words: ‘For the bread of God is THAT WHICH comes down from heaven....'" Why this change, Belz asks, when Jesus Christ is obviously the One who comes down from heaven?

So the editors of Pulpit Helps do not like the TNIV either. It is a flawed attempt to solve a very real problem of communicating to today's youth.

Let us look at the problem: Adam Hamilton, senior pastor of the Church of the Resurrection in Leawood, Kansas, and one who favors the TNIV, put the problem poignantly in his endorsement: "I remember how excited I was when my daughter began reading her new Bible. But then one night, as I put her to bed, she asked, ‘Daddy, why is the Bible only written to boys?' My heart sank. I tried to explain to her that male pronouns are sometimes used to refer to both men and women. She was utterly perplexed by this. Nowhere in her life experience were male pronouns used to relate to everyone…."

There is the problem in a nutshell. The Feminine Revolution, whether we like it or not, has so changed our usage of language that "nowhere in her life experience" had Pastor Hamilton's daughter encountered the usage we find in our Bibles related to gender. It isn't that kids like her are ignorant. It's simply that our language has shifted. Today, many of us inside the church-and almost exclusively outside the church-tend to avoid using masculine pronouns to cover both sexes. So the younger generations are growing up in a new culture, in which male pronouns hardly ever include both genders. Except in the Bible.

Obviously, this problem must be addressed in some way. We simply must make the Word of God relevant to every generation. We must find a way to both be true to God's Word, particularly as recorded in the original languages, and also make sure that it is clear and not archaic to every generation. How do we do that?

The editors of Pulpit Helps don't have the answer, but there surely is an answer out there somewhere. We like Joel Belz's suggestion: "Why should it have been so difficult for IBS and Zondervan to approach some of those they knew were most troubled by the earlier effort, saying: ‘We still think such a contemporary version is important. Would you help us find the best and most balanced approach?'"

That approach has yet to be tried. God grant that someone will yet do so.