Life on the Bible beat

National | A personal account of tracking down a story

Issue: "There they go again," June 5, 1999

A funny thing happened on the way to these Bible translation articles. A WORLD reader received a copy of the book catalog for Christians for Biblical Equality (CBE). She found it interesting that CBE, headquartered in Minneapolis, Minnesota, was selling the New International Version-Inclusive Language Edition (NIVI) in the United States. After all, Zondervan Publishing House holds the publishing license for the NIV in North America, and Zondervan does not publish the NIVI.

Those sales of the NIVI also seemed interesting because Zondervan president Bruce Ryskamp two years ago signed the Colorado Springs statement that not only distanced Zondervan from the NIVI but explicitly criticized the regendered version: "We agree that many of the translation decisions made by those who produced Hodder and Stoughton's New International Version Inclusive Language Edition in the United Kingdom were not the wisest choices."

So does Zondervan approve of NIVI sales in the United States?

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Jonathan Peterson, who until recently was Zondervan's communications director, refused to talk to WORLD. He referred me to his boss, Scott Bolinder, who did not return a call. A secretary put me through to Zondervan vice president Tom Mockabee, who was apologetic: "I just need to get permission from my boss [President Bruce Ryskamp] before I can answer." The next day he said, "I did talk to Bruce Ryskamp.... I did ask if I may answer and he said, 'I prefer not.' If you want to call him, I think he'll give you some response."

Mr. Mockabee was too optimistic. Twice he tried to reach Mr. Ryskamp while I held on the phone. Twice the line was busy. He apologized and said, "It's frustrating." And when I pressed him to answer a question about whether Zondervan knew that CBE was selling the NIVI, he said, "Fair question." But when I asked if he wouldn't like to answer it so that WORLD could accurately report the story, he said, "I couldn't," citing a no-speak-to-WORLD decree from Mr. Ryskamp.

David Bayly, a pastor who is a part-time WORLD correspondent, had a similar experience several weeks ago. He called Zondervan wanting to know when NIV sales surpassed those of the King James Version. Jonathan Petersen refused to answer. Scott Bolinder refused to answer and suggested that David Bayly talk to Bruce Ryskamp, Zondervan's president.

Since Zondervan was unwilling to discuss Bible importing, I called CBE's book service coordinator, Britta Petersen. She unhesitatingly answered, "We have been doing two things. We have an airline stewardess who travels to London quite a bit. She buys them over there and brings them to us.... A store in London also sends them to us."

Does she know whether Zondervan minds? "Zondervan has had no problem with it," Ms. Petersen said.

Susan Olasky
Susan Olasky

Susan pens book reviews and other articles for WORLD as a senior writer and has authored eight historical novels for children. Susan and her husband Marvin live in Asheville, N.C. Follow Susan on Twitter @susanolasky.


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