This is a good article outlining the dangers of the new version of the NIV (Today’s NIV). Let the relativism creep in.

where to begin

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20 Responses to TNIV

  1. Jon Wright says:

    Thanks Derek, that is a very informative article. The TNIV seems to be that going against the warning in Revelation 22:18 to me…

  2. Derek Lidbom says:

    I was surprised at what had to say about it:
    “Today’s New International Version is a conservative evangelical translation for this generation and the next.”

    Conservative meaning “not as liberal as some”…not “accepted by conservative evangelicals”

    I wonder how successfully it is going to creep in to the conservative evangelical body.

  3. Jon Wright says:

    I have pocketbible for my handhelp from and they were offering the TNIV for free. It “creeped” into my handheld because I got it before I knew what it was…I just thought it was a free version of the Newer Testament NIV :\. I also know a few people at Wake that have this translation. After I learned more about it, I have warned them of it. The articel equiped me with some passages to bring to discussions concerning this “translation”.

  4. Jon says:


    (sense the tone)

    ===more to come later…when I have time…

    Dealing primarily with:

    – *Philosophy of Biblical translation*
    – principles of translation
    – purpose of translation
    – Nuances and differences between greek grammar and english grammar that justify gender inclusive language.
    – A swift reminder towards good logic in making arguments for/against an idea.
    – Places where I have problems with any translation.

  5. Derek Lidbom says:

    I’m not against the concept of applying some of the passages that say “Brothers” to both men and women. But I think the application should be done by the church, not by the Bible translation. The article has some interesting contrasts (right after Paul talks about women and not speaking, in the gender neutral version, he then seems to encourage them to speak).

    I’m curious to hear your views on each of those bullet points, Jon.

  6. Jon Wright says:

    I agree with you derek in saying that some passages can be gender neutral. One of the points that the writer of this article makes is that “adelphos “brother” in Greek never has the meaning “brother or sister,” as it is rendered in verse 6 of the TNIV.” I think that it is fine in passages such as james 1:3 (maybe v 2…i forget) “my beloved brethern, count it all joy when you fall into various trials…” to translate adelphoi brothers and sisters because it is CLEAR that James is talking to both genders. However, I agree with the writer of the article when he/she says “In 1 Corinthians 14:39 the word adelphoi ‘brethren’ is translated “brothers and sisters” by the TNIV– ‘Therefore, my brothers and sisters, be eager to prophesy.’ Yet Paul has just finished saying (in verses 34-35) that “women should keep silent in the churches” and ‘it is shameful for a woman to speak in church’! So how can adelphoi in verse 39 be considered a gender-inclusive term? Obviously Paul is addressing only the ‘brothers’ at this point, according to the normal usage of adelphoi, because it makes no sense for him to be telling the sisters to ‘be eager to prophesy’ in church after he has prohibited them from doing so.” To be gender inclusive in some passages will cause problems in the future by creating “bible errors” such as Paul contradicting himself in saying that women should be quiet and then saying they should be eager to prophesy.

  7. Jon says:

    Here goes…

    I am by no means an expert on this subject. I have never personally worked on a translation of the Bible.

    At a recent ETS annual meeting in Toronto an interesting panel discussion including both defenders (Doug Moo, Mark Strauss) and detractors (Wayne Grudem, John Piper) of TNIV, generated both light and heat. Reading the notes of the discussion provoked me to think about the subject and to come up with my own opinions.

    I have a basic opinion about Bible translation, and my main thesis was summarized in a statement made by Rabbi Judah in the 2nd cen. AD, a statement that is recorded in the Tosephta:

    He who translates a biblical verse literally is a liar, but he who elaborates on it is a blasphemer (Rabbi Judah, in Tosephta, Megillah 4:41).

    In other words, a straight word for word translation from the original language into say English has the potential to obscure some important feature of the text that is not easily conveyed by a more literal translation. At the same time, a more free thought for thought translation also has the potential to obscure some important feature of the text by not staying as close as possible to the wording of the original. In other words, no translation is exactly the same as the original. Any translation has the potential to clarify some aspects of the original text while at the same time obscuring some other aspects of the text. If you decide to change the translation so that what was obscured is clarified usually something else will be obscured instead. (What does Revelation say about that?)

    Now this principle that no translation is exactly the same as the original has implications for how I view TNIV, but the principle cuts both ways with a message both for the detractors and defenders of TNIV. I have seen articles by detractors of TNIV that list a 1000 inaccuracies in TNIV. I am sure that such articles can be particularly upsetting to laypeople in churches, but I dont think they are particularly fair. Generally these so-called inaccuracies are simply examples of places where detractors feel that using gender inclusive language obscures something they feel is important. Defenders of TNIV simply respond by pointing out that refusing to use gender inclusive language in the passage also obscures something important. The fact is that every translation obscures something in the original, and it is not fair to tell laypeople that TNIV is inaccurate without telling them that the standard of judgment being used to evaluate TNIV is so high that using that same standard of judgment on any other translation would also lead someone to a list of 1000 inaccuracies in any other translation.

    The principle that no translation is exactly the same as the original also has implications for defenders of TNIV. Those who defend TNIV say that it uses gender accurate language. They argue that the translators have consistently used gender inclusive language in English when the meaning of the original is intended to be gender inclusive. My problem with that idea is that it is too consistent. It seems as though they decided up front that regardless of what else might be lost in translation they would always maintain gender accuracy. Personally I think that translation should be done on a case by case basis. Each verse needs to be examined on its own merits. There may be times when gender accurate language obscures something so important that it should not be lost. In other words, there are times when it is better to reject gender inclusive language than to lose some other factor that is more significant to the meaning of the verse. I think TNIV would be a better translation if it was more inconsistent. In looking at lists of places where TNIV uses gender neutral language, the majority of the time I find must thinking nothing of overwhelming significance has been lost. However, I have found about a dozen places where I would have not used gender inclusive language for the sake of some other overriding factor.

    Before we look at specific examples from TNIV, I think I should summarize the difference between Greek and English in the use of gender. The ways that I would summarize the difference would be to say that:

    In Greek, gender is more pervasive and therefore less significant in meaning, while in English, gender is less pervasive and therefore more significant in meaning.

    In Greek, all nouns have gender. The definite article has gender. You cannot say the word the without picking a gender for the. Greek has essentially 24 different ways to say the and one of the reasons why they have so many forms of the word the is because they thought that the should always convey gender. Just as a side note, I have never seen anyone criticize a translation for its gender neutral language because it uses the gender neutral term the for the gender specific Greek article. All adjectives have gender. You cannot say all people in Greek without using gender specific language. The noun for people is masculine and the adjective would therefore also be masculine. But certainly it would be a mistake to try to keep that kind of gender specific language in an English translation and say all male persons. Most pronouns in Greek have gender including words like they, who, and anyone. Participles and infinitives have gender. If gender is so pervasive in Greek, what if writers wanted to express something generic, something gender inclusive, what would they do? For the most part, they would use masculine terms and there were not many other options other than using masculine terms. So, if you are reading a passage in Greek and masculine terms are used you have to discern from the context whether the author intended the statement to refer just to males or whether the author used masculine terms to convey a message that was gender inclusive.

    What about English? English has much less in its language that is gender specific. We have 3rd person singular personal pronouns (he, she, it). And we have certain nouns or adjectives that sound gender specific to us (male, female, man, woman, brother, sister, husband, wife). Most of the rest of our language is gender neutral.

    The problem then is how do you make statements that are intended to be gender specific in Greek sound gender specific in English and who do you make statements that are intended to be gender inclusive in Greek sound gender inclusive in English? Every translator has to deal with this problem because the way the two languages deal with gender is different. To make matters more difficult, gender is certainly not the only factor that translators have to account for in moving from Greek into English.

    With that in mind, lets look at some specific examples of places where TNIV has been criticized for its use of gender inclusive language.

    For avoiding the generic he.

    Places where I see no reason to object: Eph. 4:25 (changes he to you); Eph. 4:28 (changes singular to plural)

    Places where something else important is obscured: John 3:4 (changes to plural in way that is grammatically awkward and negatively affects the metaphor); Rev. 3:20 (same); Gal. 5:10 (creates historical inaccuracy).

    For avoiding brother.

    Place where I see no reason to object: Phil. 1:12 (changes brothers to brothers and sisters).

    Place where something else important is obscured: Heb. 2:17 (changes brothers to brothers and sisters in a way that obscures the salvation history precedent to the work of Jesus).

    For avoiding man.

    Places where I see no reason to object: 1 Tim. 2:5 (changes man to human beings and man to human); Mark 1:17 (changes men to people).

    Places where something else important is lost: Acts 4:4 (changes men to believers and possibly creates a historical inaccuracy; Acts 20:30 (changes men to some and possibly creates a false impression about what would take place).

    For avoiding father.

    Place where I see no reason to object: Acts 7:20 (changes fathers home to parents home)

    Places where something important is obscured: Heb. 12:7 (changes father to parents in a way that changes the metaphor).

    Maybe we should all do more homework before we start making farcical charges against this dangerous translation.

  8. Derek Lidbom says:

    “Personally I think that translation should be done on a case by case basis.”

    I think that leads down the road of imparting too much theology to a translation. I know you can’t keep theology out of the translation process, but I’d like to leave as much out as possible (I think).

    Can you clarify your statement I quoted? Maybe I misunderstood…

  9. Jon says:

    That statement in particular was within the context of gender inclusive language, but I can see how you might derive theological implications from such a statement.

    I would argue that it is impossible to separate theology from translation. For instance, when I come to the word “hilasterion” (viz. Rom. 3:25 in referring to God’s placing of Christ as the “place of atonement”) the fact that I stand in a reformed position will cause me to translate it with the idea of propitiation(full satisfaction of God’s wrath) rather than expiation(a turning away of God’s wrath). Granted, to be fair to myself, I would say that the text supports that distinction and demands that idea, but those who hold to differing theological views would say that the text supports their decision as well.

    Translations are interpretations of the original, therefore interpretation is implicit in translation.

  10. Josh says:

    Jon brings up an interesting point – the thing that most people who head down this argument seem to forget is that all translation is interpretation. In the case of scripture this is doubly true due to the nature (religious, philosophical) of the text, the age (not to mention length of time over which the text was compiled) of the text, the cultural context (various – even when within the same culture!) in which the text was written and our own context (which has been colored by modernity, gender/sexuality politics, economic philosophy and a rate of technological change unprecedented in human history).

    The irony is that this comment will be seen by some as an excuse for moral relativism – a belief that is itself the result of late 19th/early 20th century modernity’s pursuit of a knowable objectivity!

  11. Scott says:

    I’ll come back and read these tremendously long posts soon, but we had a big discussion about this at SEBTS. I think most of it boils down to theory of translation. Is it most important to keep words at the cost of meaning or is it more important to preserve the message and risk textual accuracy. Should we need to keep coming back to a translation of the Bible and say, what Paul REALLY meant was….
    I’m still most comfortable with translations that render the brothers passages as brothers, but I’m still not ready to bash gender neutral references to Christian men and women. I don’t see this as relativism. It’s just a question of which parts of the message carried over. In any translation, some is lost.

  12. Derek Lidbom says:

    Would you guys agree that most of the TNIV proponents are more liberal (less conservative) than yourselves?

    If so, why? Is the rejection of this version by some of the other conservatives just an unjustified knee jerk reaction?

    What sets off the most warning bells for me isn’t my knowledge about greek (which is VERY limited), but what I’m hearing others I trust say about it. I would like to “do more homework” as Jon said. I would always like that. But I do rely on scholars I’ve learned to trust to give me some guidance when I’m initially learning about a new view, translation, etc.

  13. Jon says:

    “Would you guys agree that most of the TNIV proponents are more liberal (less conservative) than yourselves?”

    I probably wouldn’t agree. If you were to ask the same question about a translation such as the lectionary for modern liturgical reading which neuters and feminizes the Biblical concept of “God”, then I would certainly say yes, but having grown up in a KJV only setting, the majority of arguments being raised against TNIV are disgustingly similar to the arguments KJV-onlyers use against the original NIV.

    The best my research has brought forth makes me see this as a Christianized political battle rather than a scholarly or translational argument. Understanding that Zondervan agreed to (and signed a document stating so) not go ahead with this project, only to have the TNIV New Testament on several college campuses about two years later has really lit a fire under some of the individuals who were involved in formulating the original document setting “parameters” for translation principles. (Individuals such as James Dobson, D. James Kennedy, R.C. Sproul, to name a few) As a result, World magazine has turned the debate into a strictly visceral and unfair attack which has led many of its readers to become starry-eyed at the unending lists of individuals (Ph.D. or not) who “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.”

    As I mentioned in a much too verbose manner above, it is not fair to tell laypeople that TNIV is inaccurate without telling them that the standard of judgment being used to evaluate TNIV is so high that using that same standard of judgment on any other translation would also lead someone to a list of 1000 inaccuracies in any other translation.

  14. Josh says:

    I’m not sure I’d call myself more conservative – some of the people involved in the translation effort are pretty conservative – and some are pretty liberal. Either I’m just right or the issue is more complex than conservative/liberal dichotomies…

  15. Scott says:

    Learn Greek and travel back in time. There, problem solved.

  16. Josh Creason says:

    or even better, travel back in time, THEN learn greek.

  17. Derek Lidbom says:

    How exactly does secular homosexual marriage threaten or even affect the purposes of the church – evangelism, discipleship, fellowship, worship, and ministry?

    Just because it’s hard to draw a direct correlation between something and the affect it has on the purposes of the church doesn’t mean standing up against it isn’t a good idea.

    Our call to evangelize is useless (counterproductive even?) if we’re working from foundational doctrine that is flawed.

  18. Jon says:

    I follow the reasoning, but I think the homosexual marriage issue and the “dangerous TNIV” translation issue aren’t very similar.

    I might also proffer that the call to evangelism remains the same, it is merely the method that changes and therefore may become useless, based on flawes foundational doctrines.

    By the way, which “foundational doctrine”? Bible translation or on sexual orientation?

  19. Derek Lidbom says:

    Neither are foundational doctrines. My point was that truth is truth. If someone is deviating from truth in the tertiary issues, then they probably have some foundational doctrine that is flawed.

    I do agree that evangelism doesn’t necessarily become useless if a foundational doctrine is involved, but my point was to emphasize the importance of all the little pieces too. They do matter, and we should fight for the truth in all of them, not just in the majors. Obviously wisdom needs to be applied as to when to do the fighting…

  20. Brian Mann says:

    So how exactly does the TNIV threaten or even affect the purposes of the church – evangelism, discipleship, fellowship, worship, and ministry? And why (I have to ask because I’m a missionary) is it so important to know where we stand on one of many English translations when there are still millions and millions with no Bible translation whatsoever? I understand that all ministry must be founded on the authority of the word of God. And new translations always rattle the cage of the status quo (we’re all too young to remember how controversial the NIV was when it came out – but it was.) But if the end times are actually nearing our doorstep, I’d say this culture war (where you always have to lean hard left or right on every issue) is distracting us from our greater call as God’s Church.

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