Changing God's words

"Changing God's words" Continued...

Issue: "Lebanon: Democracy now," Feb. 26, 2005

Change in meaning: The change from singular "man" to plural "human beings" obscures the unity of the race as "man" (indicated by the singular Hebrew noun 'adam). The word "man" in English can mean either "a male human being" or "the human race," and thus it is the best translation for Hebrew 'adam, which can also refer either to man in distinction from woman (Genesis 2:22, 25) or to the human race as a whole (as here). The TNIV thus fails to convey as much of the meaning of 'adam as it could in English today. Why is the male-oriented aspect of the meaning of the Hebrew word removed?

Genesis 5:2

Current NIV: He created them male and female. . . . And when they were created, he called them "man."

TNIV (2005): He created them male and female. . . . And when they were created, he called them "human beings." [identical to NIVI (1996)]

Change in meaning: God's activity of naming is important in the Bible. Here the TNIV has renamed the human race, refusing to use the male-oriented name "man." But in the previous four chapters this same singular Hebrew word 'adam has been used eight times to refer to man in distinction from woman (as in "The man and his wife were both naked, and they felt no shame," Genesis 2:25), and also five times as the proper name "Adam." So Hebrew readers would hear clear male nuances when God named the human race 'adam in Genesis 5:2, and "man" is the best English translation. The TNIV incorrectly removes the male-oriented aspect of the name God gave the human race.

TNIV supporters say the change was necessary because the English language has changed. But people today still understand that "man" can mean the human race, as in the Wall Street Journal headline about the recent tsunami, "Man, Nature, and Disaster" (Dec. 28, 2004, p. A10).

Psalm 1:1

Current NIV: Blessed is the man who does not walk in the counsel of the wicked or stand in the way of sinners or sit in the seat of mockers.

NIVI (1996): Blessed are those who do not walk in the counsel of the wicked or stand in the way of sinners or sit in the seat of mockers.

TNIV (2005): Blessed are those who do not walk in step with the wicked or stand in the way that sinners take or sit in the company of mockers. [identical in gender language to NIVI (1996)]

Change in meaning: Here the word "man" means "a male human being," and it is the correct translation of the singular Hebrew word 'ish, which (except in special idioms) means "man" in distinction from woman, and surely is singular, not plural. The Hebrew text holds up an individual righteous man as an example that all Israel should imitate. The next verse says more about this man: "His delight is in the law of the Lord, and on his law he meditates day and night" (vs. 2). But the TNIV changes "the man" to "those," removing the concrete example of an individual man. It changes the Bible's singulars to plurals in hundreds of such cases, in each case removing one of the primary teaching methods of the Bible: holding up an individual man as an example for all believers to imitate.

The result is (1) an incorrect translation of the singular noun 'ish, (2) a loss of the picture of the moral courage of a solitary righteous man standing against plural sinners, (3) a shift away from the Bible's emphasis on the relationship between God and individual persons to a greater emphasis on groups, (4) a loss of any possibility of seeing this "blessed man" in the Psalms as a foreshadowing of Christ, the truly righteous Man, and (5) a loss of historical accuracy, because the original writer of Psalm 1 did not speak of "those" but of "a man."

The change to plural also produces a comical picture in verse 3: "He is like a tree planted by streams of water, which yields its fruit in season" (NIV) becomes "they are like a tree. . ." (TNIV). All God's people around the world are like one tree? Another amusing example is a whole group of sluggards now reaching into one dish: "Sluggards bury their hands in the dish and are too lazy to bring them back to their mouths" (Proverbs 26:15).

Psalm 8:4

Current NIV: What is man that you are mindful of him, the son of man that you care for him?


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