Linking 'Southern Baptist' with gender-neutral TNIV draws protest
COLORADO SPRINGS, Colo. (BP)--The use of the words "Southern Baptist" has become a point of concern with the gender-neutral "Today's New International Version" being released by the International Bible Society and Zondervan publishers.
IBS/Zondervan, in a five-page "open statement" Feb. 12 defending their gender-neutral TNIV revision of the widely used 1984 New International Version, placed "Southern Baptist" atop a list of "denominations" represented among those involved in the TNIV translation/revision process.
Bill Merrell, vice president for convention relations with the Southern Baptist Convention's Executive Committee, issued a statement Feb. 13 distancing the SBC from the new gender-neutral IBS/Zondervan translation.
"This regrettable citation could give the impression that some association exists between the Southern Baptist Convention and the Today's New International Version (TNIV) translation project, or that we are giving the translation our endorsement," Merrell stated, noting: "Such an association or endorsement does not exist.
"We are very concerned that the stated values and principles of the Southern Baptist Convention not be distorted or misrepresented, even inadvertently, in the interest of overzealous marketing," Merrell said.
"The Southern Baptist Convention position on translation was declared in a 1997 resolution in which it is stated that we believe that the Bible is truth without any mixture of error and are deeply committed to the preservation of the Scriptures," Merrell continued.
"The resolution noted that Bible publishers and translators are faced with the tension of accuracy and readability and find themselves under pressure from those who do not hold a high view of Scripture to take license with the use of particular terms. It particularly addressed, though it was not limited to, the use of so-called gender-inclusive language. We urged Bible publishers and translation groups to continue to use time-honored, historic principles of biblical translation. We further urged them to refrain from any deviation to seek to accommodate contemporary cultural pressures, and we stressed our intention to support the most accurate translations. In fact, the convention requested that the agencies, boards, and publishing arms of the Southern Baptist Convention refrain from using translations that do not follow those principles in our various publications."
The IBS/Zondervan "open statement" placing "Southern Baptist" atop a list of denominations represented in the TNIV project followed this paragraph: "The TNIV was developed by the Committee on Bible Translation (CBT), the same group that produced the NIV. The CBT includes renowned, conservative linguists and biblical scholars from the most trusted institutions in the world. They come from a variety of denominational affiliations and theological backgrounds. This diversity creates a system of checks and balances, ensuring absolute accuracy."
The IBS/Zondervan statement gave no further details related to placing "Southern Baptist" or any of the other nine denominations on its list, including "Independent Baptist," "Assemblies of God" and "Presbyterian Church in America."
Merrell, in his statement, said, "Southern Baptists continue to be vitally interested in the enormously decisive work of Bible translation. We believe that reverent, careful, biblical translators are of great value to the work of the kingdom of God. We are committed to remain vigilant regarding this matter and prayerful for Bible publishers and translators in the tasks they undertake, knowing them to be crucial to both the church and the world."
And Southern Baptists are paying close attention to the debate surrounding the new gender-neutral TNIV, Merrell said.
"Of course, the intense debate now over the TNIV is of great interest to us," he noted. "Competent scholars and linguists will give close scrutiny to the proffered translation and will pass their judgment upon its merits or its demerits. We resolutely believe that Bible students and readers need unqualified confidence that solid textual and linguistic principles alone drive translation decisions."
The TNIV's New Testament will be published this spring, according to an IBS/Zondervan news release Jan. 28, and the complete Bible is "expected in 2005." They said the NIV also will continue to be published.
The TNIV announcement Jan. 28 immediately sparked controversy. James Dobson of Focus on the Family, theologian J.I. Packer and SBC seminary presidents R. Albert Mohler Jr. and Paige Patterson are among those who have taken stances opposing the gender-neutral revision of the NIV. Meanwhile, the Council on Biblical Manhood and Womanhood has posted on its www.cbmw.org website a 12-point "Concise listing of TNIV inaccuracies" and a longer list of 100-plus challenges to TNIV renderings of various Bible passages.
IBS/Zondervan's Feb. 12 open statement listed a number of TNIV endorsers, including Craig Blomberg, professor of New Testament, Denver Seminary; John Kohlenberger, editor of the "Exhaustive Concordance to the Greek New Testament"; Mark Strauss, associate professor of New Testament, Bethel Seminary San Diego; Linda Belleville, professor of biblical literature, North Park Theological Seminary, Chicago; John Ortberg, teaching pastor, Willow Creek Community Church in suburban Chicago; author Philip Yancey; Robert C. Andringa, president of the Council for Christian Colleges & Universities, Washington, D.C.; Gordon Fee, professor of New Testament studies, Regent College, Vancouver, British Columbia; and Bruce K. Waltke, professor emeritus of Old Testament studies, Regent College.