Scholars and Others Debate Gender-Neutral NIV Revision

A group of 26 scholars drawn from several denominations has signed a statement declaring that "we cannot endorse the TNIV translation as sufficiently accurate to commend to the church." The TNIV is the new gender-neutral Today's New International Version unveiled Jan. 28 by the International Bible Society. It is a revision of the widely-used 1984 New International Version (NIV) Bible translation.

Meanwhile, a list of more than 100 "inaccuracies" in the TNIV was compiled by the Council on Biblical Manhood and Womanhood (CBMW) in a review of the TNIV. A 25-page document listing the translation objections was posted at the organization's Internet site, www.cbmw.org.

The objecting scholars include Wayne Grudem of Phoenix Seminary in Scottsdale, Ariz., and past president of the Evangelical Theological Society; Harold O. J. Brown of Reformed Theological Seminary; R. C. Sproul of Ligonier Ministries; John Piper of Bethlehem Baptist Church in Minneapolis; Raymond C. Ortlund, Jr., of First Presbyterian Church, Augusta, Ga., R. Albert Mohler, Jr., of Southern Baptist Theological Seminary, and Paige Patterson of Southeastern Baptist Theological Seminary. J. I. Packer did not sign the statement, but said he was in sympathy with it.

The statement said that "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."

The CBMW noted: "we are saddened by what we have found in this translation. After examining hundreds of passages in the TNIV, the Council on Biblical Manhood and Womanhood is disappointed to announce that many of the changes in the TNIV actually mistranslate Greek words, thereby distorting the meaning of the text of the Word of God."

Bruce Ware, CBMW president, said most, but not all, of the inaccuracies in the TNIV relate to the Bible's gender language. "The TNIV changes multitudes of singular pronouns to plurals, thus removing the sense of individual relationship or responsibility God intended us to know." Ware gave these as examples of the changes introduced: "The ‘Son of Man' in Hebrews 2:6 is changed to ‘human beings'; the ‘men' of Acts 20:30 are now merely ‘some' who will arise; James 3:1 now warns not ‘brothers' but ‘brothers and sisters' not to presume to be teachers…oddly, in John's Gospel, the ‘Jews' who oppose Christ are, in the TNIV, the ‘Jewish leaders' only."

James Dobson of Focus on the Family commented: "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 translations of the original Greek and Hebrew texts of the Bible would be done consistently and accurately, in accordance with the accepted principles of translation."

Zondervan responded with its own list of endorsers, including author Philip Yancey, John Ortberg, teaching pastor of Willow Creek Community Church, John R. Kohlenberger III, editor of The Exhaustive Concordance of the Greek New Testament, and Gary Burge, Gilbert Bilezkian, and Alan Johnson, all professors at Wheaton College and/or its Graduate School.

One of the most telling endorsements was from Adam Hamilton, senior pastor of the Church of the Resurrection, in Leawood, Kansas, who wrote: "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…. I am very excited about this revision that will allow the NIV to speak to an entirely new generation."

But the most telling comment of all was from 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....'"