Changing God's words

"Changing God's words" Continued...

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

The most frequent reason given for the TNIV is that updates in language are needed to reach younger readers today, especially those 18-34. But the words that are systematically removed are not archaic words. What reader 18-34 cannot understand the words "father," "son," "brother," "man," and "he/him/his"? Yet these male-oriented words have been removed many hundreds of times where they correctly represented the original Hebrew or Greek in the current NIV. The best term to describe this Bible is not "gender-accurate" but "gender-neutral."

I agree with removing male-oriented words when there is no male-oriented meaning in the original Greek or Hebrew text. But when there is a male meaning, we dare not under-translate and conceal that meaning just because that emphasis is unpopular today.

If we believe that "all Scripture is God-breathed" (2 Timothy 3:16), and that "every word of God is flawless" (Proverbs 30:5), then we must believe that every word of Scripture as originally written is the very word God intended to be written. To put it another way, our doctrine of the "verbal inspiration" of Scripture is that the very words of Scripture-not just the general ideas-are "God-breathed" and are therefore the very words of God. Jesus and the New Testament authors sometimes base arguments on a single word of Old Testament Scripture (Matthew 4:10; John 10:34; Galatians 3:10, 16; Hebrews 3:13; 4:7) and sometimes a single letter of a word (Matthew 22:44). Anyone who does expository preaching knows how often good preaching makes use of the sense of individual words. These words are not ours to tamper with as we wish; they are the words of God.

If the TNIV should gain wide acceptance, the precedent will be established for other Bible translations to mute unpopular nuances and details of meaning for the sake of "political correctness." The loss of many other doctrines unpopular in the culture will soon follow. And at every case Bible readers will never know if what they are reading is really the Word of God or the translators' ideas of something that would be a little less offensive than what God actually said.

In many hundreds of places, then, the new words in the TNIV do not accurately reflect the meaning of the words God originally caused to be written, and thus they are not the words of God. They are human words that men have substituted for the words of God, and they have no place in the Bible. "You shall not add to the word that I command you, nor take from it" (Deuteronomy 4:2).

-Wayne Grudem is research professor of Bible and Theology at Phoenix Seminary in Scottsdale, Ariz. He is a past president of the Evangelical Theological Society. He holds his B.A. from Harvard, M.Div. from Westminster Seminary, and Ph.D. in New Testament from Cambridge University.

Wayne Grudem
Wayne Grudem

Wayne is professor of theology and biblical studies at Phoenix Seminary. He has authored 20 books and was the general editor for the ESV Study Bible.


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