26 scholars 'cannot endorse' the gender-neutral NIV revision
Posted on Feb 1, 2002 | by Art Toalston
NASHVILLE, Tenn. (BP)--A group of 26 scholars 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.
The 26 scholars' statement was released Feb. 1. Meanwhile, a list of more than 100 "inaccuracies" in the TNIV was compiled by the Council on Biblical Manhood and Womanhood in a daylong review of the TNIV Jan. 31. A 25-page document listing the translation objections is posted at the organization's Internet site, www.cbmw.org.
The 26 scholars who have stated their refusal to endorse the TNIV include two Southern Baptist Convention seminary presidents, R. Albert Mohler Jr. of Southern Baptist Theological Seminary and Paige Patterson of Southeastern Baptist Theological Seminary, along with Wayne Grudem of Phoenix Seminary in Scottsdale, Ariz., and a 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; and Raymond C. Ortlund Jr. of First Presbyterian Church, Augusta, Ga.
The one-paragraph scholars' statement in full:
"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."
Spokesmen for the International Bible Society were unavailable for comment the morning of Feb. 1.
Another leading theologian, J.I. Packer, did not add his name to the signatories, but told Baptist Press: "This [TNIV] 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." Packer is a theology professor at Regent College in Vancouver, British Columbia, and the author of numerous books, including "Knowing God."
The CBMW, in a statement accompanying its 100-plus findings, noted:
"The task of communicating the truth of the Word of God to the world is at the core of what it means to be an evangelical. With such the case, evangelical Christians should be zealous and eager for the translation and distribution of the Holy Scriptures. The New International Version (NIV) has served an entire generation of evangelical churches as one of the most widely used and widely distributed translations of the Bible.
"When the International Bible Society announced unexpectedly [Jan. 28] that they were once again moving forward with a 'gender accurate' translation of Scripture, Today's New International Version (TNIV), many of us hoped that the NIV would not return to the inaccurate gender-neutral translation practices that had caused widespread protests over the planned release in the U.S. of the NIV-Inclusive Language Version in 1997.
"However, 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."
The CBMW stated that its 25-page document notes "dozens of such changes. ... While we realize that there may be room for scholars to differ over a few of these examples, we are convinced that the vast number of them, taken as a whole, show this to be a translation that should not be commended for use by the church of Jesus Christ."
The CBMW statement was signed by the organization's president, Bruce A. Ware, professor of Christian theology at Southern Seminary; vice president, Wayne Grudem; and executive director, Randy Stinson.
Ware told Baptist Press, "One of our most cherished treasures is an accurate translation of the Word of God. If the translation gets it wrong, multitudes of Christians may be misled and never know what God actually said."
Most, but not all, of the inaccuracies Ware said are 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 continued, "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; and many, many more. Oddly, in John's gospel, the 'Jews' who oppose Christ are, in the TNIV, the 'Jewish leaders' only.
"Claims that no concern for political correctness or ideology promotion stand behind these translation decisions are hard to accept," Ware said. "In light of such inaccuracies and distortions of meaning, I would encourage Christian people to urge their Bible publishers to exercise exacting faithfulness to God's own Word. Yes, we need accurate translations, but unfortunately, the TNIV falls short of this goal."
Mohler, of Southern Seminary, stated that the TNIV seems to be following 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.
"We should be very careful not to exaggerate the deficiencies of this translation. Thankfully, no gender-neutral language is used for God," Mohler said. "Nevertheless, the deficiencies of this translation represent a significant loss and will add to confusion in evangelical circles.
"This controversy is also disappointing, since the IBS had at one point indicated that it was abandoning all plans for a gender-neutral NIV," Mohler said in reference to a 1997 statement by the International Bible Society that calmed a controversy over its intention to introduce a gender-neutral Bible translation in the U.S. market by 2001.
Stinson, of the CBMW, amplified several of the organization's findings, including:
Hebrews 2:6, which the NIV renders: "What is man that you are mindful of him, the son of man that you care for him?"
The TNIV: "What are mere mortals that you are mindful of them, human beings that you care for them?"
The TNIV translation, Stinson said, "removes the possibility of connecting this with Jesus, who called himself 'the Son of Man.' [It] mistranslates the singular Greek words huios ('son') and anthropos ('man'). [It] no longer calls the human race 'man,' but 'mere mortals.'"
Concerning Hebrews 12:7:
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?"
Stinson's assessment: The TNIV "mistranslates Greek terms huios ('son') and pater ('father'), which in their singular forms cannot mean 'child' or 'parent.' [It] obscures the parallel with God as Father."
In a Jan. 29 statement to Baptist Press, IBS communications director Larry Lincoln said, "Accuracy and clarity are prime with us." The TNIV, he said, uses "generic language" for men and women "only when the text was meant to include both men and women." He argued that the TNIV should be called a "gender-accurate" translation instead of the term used by some in the media, including Baptist Press, as "gender-neutral." An overview of the TNIV is available on the Internet at www.tniv.info.
Steve Johnson, IBS vice president for communication and development, sent an e-mail to Baptist Press after its Jan. 28 news story on the TNIV, stating: "I wish to state for the record that the overriding concern of the [Committee on Bible Translation, a 15-scholar group responsible for the NIV text] is ALWAYS accuracy and clarity. While there may be differences within the body on the specific rendering of Greek and Hebrew, the influence of social agenda into any translation is NEVER permitted. We regret that once again, the issue of providing God's Word to the next generation of English-speakers has become an issue of division in the Body of Christ."
Russell D. Moore & Michael Foust contributed to this article.