The Holy Bible: New International Version. Grand Rapids: Zondervan, 2011.

Mr. Al Somervell

THE ARMINIAN MAGAZINE. Issue 1. Spring 2012. Volume 30.
Date Posted July 02, 2012

The 400th anniversary of the King James Bible coincided with another publishing milestone that was not as clearly defined nor as loudly trumpeted — the release of the 2011 NIV. The well-received and respected familiar 1984 NIV as well as the 2005 TNIV Bible were both replaced by this edition.

The NIV New Testament was originally released in 1973, followed by the complete Bible in 1978. The Bible was revised in 1984. The NIV was introduced as a dynamic equivalency (thought-for-thought) translation. The current preferred term is functional equivalency. The NIV has more recently been labeled "mediating." That is to say it combines a mix of functional equivalency and formal equivalency (word-for-word) translation. A recent formal equivalency translation would be the English Standard Version or the New American Standard Bible. More recent functional equivalency translations would include the New Living Translation.

In 2002, Zondervan, which holds commercial rights to the NIV in the U.S., announced a gender-inclusive update. It was greeted with strong protest from evangelicals. The entire Bible in TNIV was produced in 2005. Though some greeted it warmly, it never enjoyed the trust and circulation of the '84 edition.

The 2011 edition is simply marked NIV. If one wants to know which edition he's purchasing, he must look at the copyright inside. The book has no stamping showing it's a different edition. The packaging and covers received a makeover. There's even a QR code for your smartphone. But nothing informing the buyer clearly that this is a revision of the popular text.

  • What does this mean? It means that unless the buyer can find old stock, the available copies will be the 2011. Some vendors have elected not to sell that edition. The Southern Baptist Convention asked Lifeway to consider not selling it. Lifeway's board announced in February of 2012 that the stores would be selling it. Some Cambridge editions remain available. Kirkbride, by arrangement, will produce the Thompson Chain-Reference Bible with the 1984 text until sometime in 2013. Some vendors were required to return unsold 1984 editions as the replacement for that Bible became available with the new text.
  • Why go into all of this? You need to be able to trust the text you use and to be able to put that text into the hands of others without reservation. The new text is not as gender inclusive as the TNIV but more so than the 1984 text, which Zondervan agreed to "freeze" as the NIV. Both publicity and protest have been more muted than with the TNIV.
  • What's gender inclusive and why does it matter? Gender neutral (the term often used by opponents) and gender accurate or gender inclusive (the term often used by proponents) means that the general idea of a passage is translated and male-oriented details of meaning are omitted. English has demonstrably shifted in this direction. The shift is cultural.

Biblica and the Committee on Bible Translation offer a perspective in defense of the 2011. Also of interest is How to Choose a Translation for All Its Worth (Zondervan, 2009. 170 pages. ISBN: 978-0310278764) by Gordon D. Fee and Mark L. Strauss, both now members of the CBT.

Here are three web links that express more concern:

http://www.slowley.com/niv2011_comparison
http://www.cbmw.org/Resources/Articles/An-Evaluation-of-Gender-Language-in-the
http://www.worldmag.com/articles/17442

In addition to links cited, a useful start is Why is my Choice of a Bible Translation so Important? (CBMW, 2005. 110 pages. ISBN: 978-0977396801) by Wayne Grudem with Jerry Thacker. It critiques the 2005 TNIV but forms the basis for a detailed look including spreadsheets prepared by the Council on Biblical Manhood and Womanhood. The core of their conclusion is that about two-thirds of the places cited as problematic in the TNIV were not improved.

Consider some examples of the 2011 NIV:

"What is mankind that you are mindful of them, human beings that you care for them?" (Psalm 8:4). Note the shift to plural (mankind instead of man and human beings instead of son of man). But when the verse is quoted at Heb. 2:6, the term "son of man" is used.

"A fool spurns a parent's discipline" (Prov 15:5). But the Hebrew text uses ‘ab which means "father" and never "parent." There are fifteen other references where the 2011 NIV makes the same change.

"Jesus replied, ‘Anyone who loves me will obey my teaching. My Father will love them, and we will come to them and make our home with them'" (John 14:23). This translation omits "if." It also shifts three masculine singular pronouns to plural pronouns. This is sometimes explained as use of the singular "they" to replace a masculine resumptive pronoun, a pronoun following and renaming an indefinite noun or pronoun (See Fee and Stauss, 103) But how will the reader know when "they" is one or more than one? The 2011 NIV throws over 40,000 pronouns into question.

"Here I stand at the door and knock. If anyone hears my voice and opens the door, I will come in and eat with that person, and they with me" (Rev. 3:20). Similar to above. Arguably diminishes emphasis on personal relationship.

When cultural shift in language intersects Scripture, a high view of Scripture and the necessity for clear, accurate translation require that absolute priority go to making the intent and message reliably plain for the reader.

The Bible is the book of the living God. The Bible so reveals its source and origin that theologians aptly restate it as "plenary" (entire) "verbal" (extending to the words themselves) "inspiration" (God-breathed). The words matter. It is arguable that the significance of them matters more deeply than the original writer may have had any way of knowing.

It ought to be the task of Bible translators to render as accurate a translation as possible. The more a translation attempts to smooth out or fix culturally sensitive issues, the more the reader gets the opinions of the translator, without knowing it. A formal equivalency philosophy of translation reflects a higher view of inspiration.

It is the task of hermeneutics and ultimately of the pastor/teacher to interpret the text and make application. But students of the Word need to start with a reliable translation, if not the text in its original languages. While we would not conclude that the Bible discriminates against women, we question the philosophy behind gender inclusive translations.