Cover Story

Should we trust the TNIV?

Issue: "TNIV makes its debut," Feb. 23, 2002

The justification given for making extensive gender changes in modern Bible translations is that today's readers, women especially, either don't understand or are offended by traditional usage.

If the problem is lack of understanding, the simple solution would be to explain that in English, as in many languages, "he" or "his" is generic-it includes women. That simple explanation clarifies not only the Bible but a world of literature.

But of course, the real problem is not understanding, but feminist-inspired offense. Some women whose consciousness has been "raised" don't like the fact that the inspired writers of the Bible often used a male example to represent a larger truth. As Westminster Theological Seminary Professor Vern Poythress wrote in WORLD (Nov. 21, 1998), "At this point modern ideology clashes with the Bible, which teaches that Christ and Adam were representatives for larger groups (Romans 5:12-21), and that fathers are representatives for their families (Ephesians 5:22-6:4)." Other Greek verses use masculine pronouns "to convey to Greek readers a picture of a male figure representing a general truth."

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The result of the process is sometimes even an unwillingness to say that Jesus is both God and a male. Although IBS and Zondervan both say they have not changed gender language for Christ, one counter-example is 1 Timothy 2:5. The NIV has it as, "For there is one God and one mediator between God and men, the man Christ Jesus ..." The TNIV has it as, "For there is one God and one mediator between God and human beings, Christ Jesus, himself human ..."

Sometimes the retranslation result is ugly, ludicrous, or both. The NIV's Mark 1:17 is the famous, "'Come, follow me,' Jesus said, 'and I will make you fishers of men.'" The TNIV makes the apostles seem like slave traders: "'Come, follow me,' Jesus said, 'and I will send you out to catch people.'"

Western, Bible-based culture emphasizes individual reward for endurance under trial, and not merely group identity. But to rid the Bible of the generic "he," the TNIV often turns singulars into plurals.

James 1:12 in the NIV, for example, reads, "Blessed is the man who perseveres under trial, because when he has stood the test, he will receive the crown of life ..." But the TNIV James 1:12 reads, "Blessed are those who persevere under trial, because when they have stood the test, they will receive the crown of life ..."

Although IBS and Zondervan say the changes don't affect meaning, they often distort history. NIV Acts 17:22 states, "Paul then stood up in the meeting of the Areopagus and said: 'Men of Athens! I see that in every way you are very religious.'" But the TNIV contends, "Paul then stood up in the meeting of the Areopagus and said: 'People of Athens! I see that in every way you are very religious.'" It may be pleasant to think that "Henrietta Hudson" discovered the Hudson River and Hudson Bay (a children's game about explorers gives retrospective sex-change operations of that kind), but there is no evidence to indicate that the Areopagus included women.

In current debates about church leadership, conservatives sometimes note that the early churches did not have women elders; among other verses they quote Acts 20:30, which in the NIV states, "Even from your own number men will arise and distort the truth in order to draw away disciples after them." The TNIV Acts 20:30, though, states that "Even from your own number some will arise and distort the truth in order to draw away the disciples after them." The Greek word here is ane¯r, which means a male human being, not anthropos, which can mean "person," so this would appear to be one more politically driven change.

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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