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A fair analysis of the new NIV

"A fair analysis of the new NIV" Continued...

The NIV 2011 translates Psalm 8:4 by saying, “What is mankind that you are mindful of them, human beings that you care for them?” The phrase “son of man” is translated as “human beings” in this verse. In the Bible, the title “son of man” is often used messianically (see Daniel 7:13-14), and Jesus applies the title to himself on numerous occasions (Matthew 8:20, 9:6, 10:23, etc.). The author of Hebrews interprets Psalms 8:4 messianically and quotes the entirety of the verse in Hebrews 2:6.

Ironically, the Committee on Bible Translation (CBT) recognized the messianic nature of Hebrews 2:6 by retaining the “son of man” language and avoiding the gender-neutral translation “human beings.” But the gender-neutral translation of Psalm 8:4 obscures the clear messianic implications of the text, and the reader will struggle to make the connection of this verse with Jesus. Recognizing this problem, the CBT included a footnote for Psalm 8:4 that says, “Or what is a human being that you are mindful of him, / a son of man that you care for him?” If the CBT understood Psalm 8:4 to have messianic implications, why did they obscure the text with gender-neutral language?

Agenda-based translation

Second, the NIV 2011 includes translations that promote egalitarian positions, even though the biblical text does not warrant such readings. This is found in the translation of 1 Timothy 2:12, which reads, “I do not permit a woman to teach or to assume authority over a man; she must be quiet.” In contrast, the NIV 1984 reads, “I do not permit a woman to teach or to have authority over a man; she must be silent.” To “have authority” and to “assume authority” carry very different connotations. The former presumes the possession or the exercising of authority, whereas the latter could be interpreted to mean that Paul merely opposes women taking on positions of authority by their own power or volition.

Thus, it could be argued from the NIV 2011 translation that women could teach or have authority over men as long as the authority was given to them, and not merely assumed by the woman herself. However, this translation is contrary to Greek text, which is most naturally translated “have authority” or “exercise authority.” Even the egalitarian/gender-neutral NRSV translates this verse with “have authority,” which they would unlikely have done if “assume authority” was a valid rendering of the Greek text.

The CBT makes their agenda known in their translation notes in response to 1 Timothy 2:12: “The exercise of authority that Paul was forbidding was one that women inappropriately assumed, but whether that referred to all forms of authority over men in church or only certain forms in certain contexts is up to the individual interpreter to decide.”[3] This response makes it clear that the CBT has come down on the side of egalitarianism, and their translation of 1 Timothy 2:12 reflects their theological position, not the best grammatical/syntactical reading of the Greek text.[4]

The TNIV in NIV clothing

Third, Biblica (formerly the International Bible Society) has made the egalitarian/gender-neutral TNIV the new NIV. In an interesting marketing decision, Biblica decided to use the NIV moniker for a translation that more closely resembles the TNIV. Not only this, but Biblica no longer publishes the NIV 1984 and the TNIV since the NIV 2011 was released two years ago.

This is unfortunate, considering that evangelicals, primarily due to egalitarian/gender-neutral Bible translation issues, did not embrace the TNIV. It seems that Biblica has forced NIV users to either embrace egalitarian/gender-neutral Bible translation philosophies or abandon the NIV.

Yes, there are millions of 1984 NIVs floating around, and one will be able to find second-hand 1984 NIVs for many years to come, but it is extremely difficult to secure an electronic copy of the NIV 1984 for Bible software programs. The reality is that Biblica has made it more difficult for people to access an NIV that is gender-specific.

Furthermore, there seems to be a slight deception in Biblica’s tactics. Zondervan president Moe Girkins publicly admitted that the TNIV “divided the evangelical community,” which was primarily over gender-neutral/egalitarian issues.[5] Considering Zondervan’s close relationship with Biblica as the primary publisher of the NIV, one can safely assume that Biblica is also aware that gender-neutral Bibles lack broad-based support and struggle with receptivity in the evangelical world. It is almost like Biblica has passed off the TNIV by covering it in the NIV’s clothing.

The NIV is one of the most trusted names in Bible translations, and many will flock to the NIV 2011 because it is presented as a new and improved NIV. It would have been more honest for Biblica to call the NIV 2011 a revised TNIV, but they understood that a revised TNIV would be less successful, if not doomed.


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