It sometimes comes as a surprise to people in our church studies or classes when I quote approvingly from different Bible translations. They seem to think that, since our church uses the NLT, this must be the authoritative text for us. There are definitely churches that follow such a rigid adherence to one Bible version, whether it’s the KJV or ESV. But an obsessive insistence on one translation is actually a strong indicator a pastor or teacher doesn’t really know much about the translation of Scripture. The truth is there is no perfect translation. No matter how much you may love a particular Bible version, if you continue studying, you’re bound to run across places where you prefer a different reading.
Though I now teach from the NLT, I still love the NIV’s rendering of “God-breathed” in 2 Timothy 3:16. (I think the rest of the verse is even more clear in the NLT though.) In my opinion, the NET communicates the clear meaning of John 3:16 when it begins the verse: “For this is the way God loved the world . . .” rather than the traditional “For God so loved the world . . .” (The HCSB and God’s Word Translation have similar readings.) I appreciate the way the TNIV and the updated NIV clarify Philippians 4:13: “For I can do all this through Christ who gives me strength [emphasis added].”
So we shouldn’t seek the one Bible translation that has no issues and gets every reading perfectly; this is simply not a realistic expectation. And we need to understand that if we put any Bible version through an in-depth examination, we’re going to find readings on which scholars disagree and which we may not prefer. Most of us aren’t accustomed to such meticulous analysis of a popular translation. Before we begin, we need to remind ourselves that, though the wording may differ, the various translations of Scripture all communicate the same gospel and faith in Jesus Christ. So just what are the differences in the 2011 NIV?
The NIV was last revised in 1984, and some of the wording sounds dated or has different connotations now. For instance, the word “alien” today tends to conjure up visions of beings from outer space, so the 2011 NIV now uses the word “foreigner.” We normally don’t refer to a woman as being “with child,” so the NIV now describes expectant mothers as “pregnant.” Because of increased knowledge of Greek, we can now specify when Jesus faced opposition from the “Jewish leaders” rather than implying that all of “the Jews” resisted him. These kinds of improvement haven’t provoked much criticism.
More formal readings
One of the criticisms of the more functional translations (including the NIV) is that they are sometimes specific when the original language is not. [For an explanation of what we mean by formal and functional translations, see Which Bible version should I use?] Some feel translations should leave the wording more ambiguous and allow the reader to decide how to interpret the word or phrase. In the 2011 NIV, the translators more frequently opted for such formal readings. For instance, Romans 1:17 no longer tells us that in the gospel “a righteousness from God is revealed,” but that “the righteousness of God is revealed.” In many of the places where the 1984 NIV spoke of the “sinful nature,” the 2011 NIV relies on the more ambiguous, traditional reading of the “flesh.” While some applaud this change, others feel this is actually a step backward in clearly communicating the meaning of the text. Regardless, these kinds of changes have not been controversial. The lightning rod for critics of the 2011 NIV (and the previous TNIV) has been the changes regarding gender—how we refer to men and women. Let’s take a closer look at this issue.
Changes in gender references
Language is constantly changing. This is the very reason why new versions of the Bible are sometimes needed. Remember the purpose of a Bible translation is to accurately communicate the Word of God in the common language used by the people so they can readily understand it. Whether we like it or not, the way we use words related to gender has changed. One can still find old books that refer to Queen Elizabeth as a “man of distinction.” * This sounds silly to us now. If I were to stand up in church and ask, “Will all the men please stand,” how many women do you think would rise? None, of course. Why is that? Because most of us no longer hear the word “men” as including both men and women, but as being exclusively male.
The current translators of the NIV are not advancing these changes, but they must take them into consideration in order to provide the most accurate translation possible. Indeed, some have suggested it is irresponsible not to. If a large percentage of readers think masculine terms such as “men” or “brothers” specify males only, then these words no longer accurately convey the meaning of Scriptures where both men and women are intended. No one is claiming these language changes are universal; one can still find examples of the term “man” being used for people in general. But it’s hard to deny that such usage is becoming continually more rare, particularly among the younger generations and in more urban areas.
Should we adapt to these kinds of changes in language? Some would say no, that we should withstand cultural influences on our language. But then, how many of us would stubbornly insist on describing ourselves as “gay” when we’re feeling happy and lighthearted? By not using this word to describe ourselves are we advancing an ideological agenda? Or are we merely seeking to communicate clearly and unambiguously? Like it or not, language does change, and for a variety of reasons. We must communicate to people in the language they actually speak and understand. Let’s look at some examples:
men and women
The Greek words traditionally translated as “man” or “men” can mean either male persons or people in general. The meaning is determined by the context:
What good will it be for a man if he gains the whole world, yet forfeits his soul? Or what can a man give in exchange for his soul?
What good will it be for someone to gain the whole world, yet forfeit their soul? Or what can anyone give in exchange for their soul?
1 Timothy 2:3-4
This is good, and pleases God our Savior, who wants all men to be saved and to come to a knowledge of the truth.
This is good, and pleases God our Savior, who wants all people to be saved and to come to a knowledge of the truth.
brothers and sisters
If I were to announce Sunday, “Would all the brothers meet at the front of the church building after the service,” how many women do you think would show up? We commonly use the word “brothers” to indicate men today, rather than all of the people. We understand though the Greek word adelphoi often refers to both men and women.
Therefore, I urge you, brothers, in view of God’s mercy, to offer your bodies as living sacrifices, holy and pleasing to God—this is your spiritual act of worship.
Therefore, I urge you, brothers and sisters, in view of God’s mercy, to offer your bodies as a living sacrifice, holy and pleasing to God—this is your true and proper worship.
To the holy and faithful brothers in Christ at Colosse: Grace and peace to you from God our Father.
To God’s holy people in Colossae, the faithful brothers and sisters in Christ: Grace and peace to you from God our Father.
sons and daughters
The Greek word huioi can mean either sons or children, depending on the context.
John 12:35-36 (Jesus speaking to the crowd)
The man who walks in the dark does not know where he is going. Put your trust in the light while you have it, so that you may become sons of light.
Whoever walks in the dark does not know where they are going. Believe in the light while you have the light, so that you may become children of light.
because those who are led by the Spirit of God are sons of God.
For those who are led by the Spirit of God are the children of God.
Out of all of these examples, which ones communicate most clearly that both men and women are intended? Remember, the goal is to accurately convey the meaning of the text. At this point, many of you are probably thinking, “So what’s the big controversy?” Let’s see what the critics are saying:
“They’re changing the Word of God!”
It’s not uncommon, unfortunately, to hear this charge, accompanied by ominous warnings to those who would alter Scripture (e.g. Revelation 22:18-19). Surprisingly this accusation isn’t being made only by ordinary Christians who lack knowledge, but by those who should know better. Of course, unless we’re all going to read the Bible only in the original Hebrew and Greek, Scripture must be “changed” from the original languages into the languages that people now speak—for us, English. Does this mean we’re altering God’s Word? Not if we faithfully convey the original meaning. As we’ve seen in a previous post, woodenly formal translations often obscure the original sense of a passage. If the text conveyed the meaning of “men and women” to the original readers, then to use wording that doesn’t convey that meaning today—when we can easily communicate the actual meaning—is an approach that is more vulnerable to the charge of altering the Word of God. If the original reading meant “brothers and sisters” in their context, then to render this as “brothers” is to translate Scripture in a less accurate manner.
“They’re obscuring how Scripture applies to individuals.”
Finish this question: “Everyone likes pizza, ________?” * If you said “don’t they,” you would be using normal, everyday English. You also might be considered grammatically incorrect, at least by a small, diminishing number of English teachers. At one time, the proper way to say this would have been, “Everyone loves pizza, doesn’t he?” But no one speaks this way anymore—not even English teachers! It just sounds odd to the current English speaker. Virtually all of us use what scholars call the ‘singular they.’ This isn’t a new innovation (even Shakespeare used it), but it’s become universal in everyday speech and is being utilized even in formal English. When the context shows the text is not specifying males, the NIV translators frequently used a singular they rather than an exclusive “he,” “she,” or the ever-awkard “he or she.”
If your brother sins against you, go and show him his fault just between the two of you. If he listens to you, you have won your brother over.
If your brother or sister sins, go and point out their fault, just between the two of you. If they listen to you, you have won them over.
Now, the truth is most people use “they” in precisely the same manner the current NIV does in this verse and similar passages. Its critics, however, claim this reading obscures the fact that a sinning individual is being confronted. They say this now implies a group is involved. (This despite the fact the verse speaks of a “brother or sister”—singular—who sins, and specifies that one should point out their fault “just between the two of you”!)
If I told a class, “If anyone doesn’t have a book, they can see me after class,” would anyone infer I was referring only to groups of students who didn’t have a book? * God told Abraham, “I will bless those who bless you, and whoever curses you I will curse” (Genesis 12:3 1984 NIV). Would anyone read this and assume it applies only to groups of people blessing and cursing, not individuals? In the English Standard Version, Jesus is quoted in Matthew 5:6 as saying: “Blessed are those who hunger and thirst for righteousness, for they shall be satisfied.” Because he used plural pronouns, does this mean we must hunger and thirst for righteousness only as a group, and can be satisfied only as a group? Did Christ himself remove any individual nature to this promise? Of course not. And neither do similar passages in the updated NIV.
“They’re obscuring references to Christ.”
This is a serious charge, and perhaps I should devote a follow-up post to examining the passages in question. (This post is getting too long already.) In each case, what is being emphasized is not the masculinity of Jesus, but his humanity. These references are included in a widely publicized list of thousands of supposed “inaccurate translations” in the 2011 NIV. What these critics fail to mention is that each of these “inaccurate” translations are supported by a broad range of conservative evangelical scholars—often by a majority of scholars! The detractors actually represent a tiny fraction of qualified biblical translators.
“This translation includes feminist readings.”
This small, but very vocal, group of critics are part of an association focused on issues regarding distinguished gender roles in the home and church. What you may not get from their flood of articles and blog posts is that many, if not most, of the NIV translators and supporters agree with them concerning these gender roles! Yet these critics insist on decrying the translation of certain passages as “feminist.” Here’s one example:
1 Timothy 2:11-12
A woman should learn in quietness and full submission. I do not permit a woman to teach or to have authority over a man; she must be silent.
A woman should learn in quietness and full submission. I do not permit a woman to teach or to assume authority over a man; she must be quiet.
This is the only place in Scripture where the Greek word authentein is used, and the meaning is hotly contested. Some say it means to have any authority and others claim that it means to usurp authority. So the NIV translators sought a neutral term that didn’t strongly imply either meaning. The critics, though, believe they’ve given away the farm with this choice. They say “assume authority” is a feminist reading, insisting that it puts the nature of the authority in a negative light. I would challenge these detractors to Google the words ‘assume’ and ‘presidency.’ Are all of these references using the word “assume” in a negative connotation of inappropriately grasping power? When we’re told that “Ronald Reagan was the oldest man to assume the presidency,” does it mean this was a “self-initiated action” as is claimed about ‘assume’ in the current NIV reading? Can these critics see why others are perceiving them as hysterical and strident? While complaining that the 2011 NIV is ideologically-driven, it becomes clear they do want the NIV to be driven by ideology—as long as it’s theirs!
I don’t have space to go over each of the other complaints in detail. They are appalled that Romans 16:7 now identifies Junia (feminine) instead of Junias (male) and that 1 Corinthians 14:33-34 changes the referent for “as in all the congregations of the Lord’s people,” despite the fact that a large number of complementarian commentators have supported these conclusions for years! Even though they admit women can teach children and other women, the critics are incensed that 2 Timothy 2:2 now instructs Timothy to entrust what Paul had taught to “reliable people” instead of only men. Apparently, for Timothy (and us) to teach women the actual content of what they were to teach others was beyond the pale. (Of course, there is nothing explicitly male in the original Greek.) As an unabashed complementarian, I would have no problem teaching from the 2011 NIV translation of these passages.
Unlike some liberal translations that have been motivated by ideological agendas, the NIV translators sought only to accurately translate the meaning of the text. Contrary to the terminology of their critics, the desire was not to produce a “gender-neutral” translation, but a gender-accurate one. Where men are intended in the biblical text, the masculine forms are retained. God is never referred to as “she” or “Mother,” and Christ remains the “Son.” The improvements made in the 2011 NIV do not alter in any way how we view God, and they do not endanger the scriptural views of the roles of men and women in the home or church. But when the Scriptures include both men and women, the translators sought to do the same.
As I expressed in my previous post, a disheartening aspect of this controversy has been the methods employed by many of the opponents of the TNIV and 2011 NIV. While it is very appropriate to publicly discuss and debate new Bible translations, this opposition has focused on highly questionable and misleading claims, and has often included prejudicial comments regarding the motivations of the translators. Not only have these detractors been wrong in their accusations, they have done real harm to the body of Christ.
While I personally use a different translation, I think the 2011 NIV is a fine Bible for personal study, public worship and teaching. It enjoys strong support from a broad range of well-known, conservative evangelical scholars who have great expertise in translating Scripture. I pray that this excellent translation will be widely used by the evangelical Christian community for the glory of God, the benefit of his people, and as a witness to the world.
* I’ve taken some illustrations from Mark Strauss (see below).
For an excellent, and far more detailed, review of the 2011 NIV, see Rod Decker’s review in Themelios.
Another insightful, revealing source is a debate between Wayne Grudem and Mark Strauss.
13 thoughts on “The NIV controversy, part 2”
Pingback: The NIV Controversy, Part 2 | exploring the faith | biblicalscholarblog.com
Thanks Curt for your post. It also might be helpful for your readers to read Michael Marlow’s post on dynamic-equivalence.
Here is an except: “Another controversial application of this principle may be seen in some recent Bible versions that aim to suppress the “patriarchalism” of the Bible for readers who would find it offensive. In preparation for the Inclusive Language Edition of the NIV published in Great Britain in 1996, the NIV Committee on Bible Translation adopted a policy statement which included the following paragraphs:
Authors of Biblical books, even while writing Scripture inspired by the Holy Spirit, unconsciously reflected in many ways, the particular cultures in which they wrote. Hence in the manner in which they articulate the Word of God, they sometimes offend modern sensibilities. At such times, translators can and may use non-offending renderings so as not to hinder the message of the Spirit.
The patriarchalism (like other social patterns) of the ancient cultures in which the Biblical books were composed is pervasively reflected in forms of expression that appear, in the modern context, to deny the common human dignity of all hearers and readers. For these forms, alternative modes of expression can and may be used, though care must be taken not to distort the intent of the original text. 6
The NIV committee also explained in the Preface of this revision that their purpose was “to mute the patriarchalism of the culture of the biblical writers through gender-inclusive language,” and claimed that “this could be done without compromising the message of the Spirit” (p. vii). It is to be noticed here how the NIV translators have turned the tables on St. Paul, by saying that he and the other authors of Scripture “reflected” (i.e. conformed to) the age, and that we enlightened modern people, being more spiritual, have good reason to be offended by the unfortunate cultural “patriarchalism” of the biblical text.
An examination of the new “inclusive” edition of the NIV shows that most of the “forms of expression” that are thought to “deny the common human dignity of all hearers and readers” are perfectly ordinary expressions which use various words meaning “man” (אישׁ and אדם in the Hebrew, ανθρωπος and ανηρ in the Greek) and masculine pronouns to express general truths. For instance, we find that in Psalm 1:1 the NIV committee has changed “Blessed is the man [אישׁ] who does not walk in the counsel of the wicked” to “Blessed are those who do not walk in the counsel of the wicked.” Apparently the revisers feared that the Psalm’s focus on a “man” here would be seen as “sexist.” In 2005 this committee also produced another revision of the NIV known as Today’s New International Version (TNIV), in which the same principles were followed. In this revision they have changed the rendering “brotherly love” (φιλαδελφία, Romans 12:10) to “love”—removing “brotherly” from the text. We also find that in Isaiah 19:16, where the prophet says יִהְיֶה מִצְרַיִם כַּנָּשִׁים וְחָרַד וּפָחַד (“Egypt shall be like women, and shall tremble and fear”), the revisers have changed the original NIV’s “the Egyptians will be like women” to “the Egyptians will become weaklings.” We can only suppose this was designed to avoid giving offense to readers who might object to Isaiah’s use of a “stereotype” about women (similarly Jeremiah 50:37, 51:30, and Nahum 3:13). Yet another “inclusive language” revision of the NIV was published in 2011, and in this latest edition we find the same kinds of neutered renderings that had been adopted in 1996 and 2005. Over a thousand occurrences of “man” and “men” were eliminated in these NIV revisions, along with several hundred “fathers,” “brothers” and “sons.” Nearly three thousand personal pronouns were neutralized. 7 In their efforts to avoid masculine pronouns, the revisers have sometimes used a clumsy “that person” instead of a “he,” and they have even resorted to using the colloquial “singular they”—a substandard usage never before seen in a Bible version. Thus the 2011 revision of Psalm 1:1-3 reads, “Blessed is the one who does not walk in step with the wicked … That person is like a tree … whatever they do prospers.” Proverbs 14:7 now reads, “Stay away from a fool, for you will not find knowledge on their lips.” All this squirming to avoid “he” is necessary to protect the “dignity” of female readers, they insist, although obviously this was no matter of concern for the biblical writers, and even in our culture there are very few people who would pretend to be offended by it.”
There was a reason Curt, when the first time I read the 2011 NIV, that I felt no presence of the Holy Spirit (no inspiration) in this rendering of Holy Scripture. Klaas
Thank you for your comment, Klaas. First, the author you quote is somewhat selective in his quoting of the NIVI Preface, which changes the nuance, IMO. While one could question the wisdom of referring to “mut[ing]” “patriarchalism” (and I don’t recall the translators or publishers using this expression since then), I think it’s clear in context—and in all of their subsequent writings and discussion—what they meant. By muting cultural patriarchalism, they simply mean no longer using exclusively male words when the original meaning included both male and female. These exclusively male expressions once were widely understood to include females also, but this “patriarchalism” must now be “muted” because it no longer clearly communicates the original meaning of the Word of God. The primary concern has always been accurate translation, not being inoffensive.
Secondly, none of the examples your author cites include an explicitly male connotation that is essential to the proper meaning of the text. Actually, the more inclusive readings seem more accurate, since they better convey the full meaning of the original without artificially restricting it to males.
Third, you’re welcome to make comments that oppose a viewpoint I’ve expressed and even to post a URL to an opposing post or article. But, in the future, please refrain from quoting long sections from another source in your comment. Either make the point yourself, or refer us to your source.
And finally, if I recall correctly, the differences between the 1984 NIV and the 2011 NIV amount to only 7% of the text. Do you also feel no presence or inspiration of the Holy Spirit when reading the 1984 NIV? Your closing statement tells us more about your own prejudice and resistance than of the limitations of any particular translation of Scripture.
Dear Curt: I am sorry for the long delay in responding to your question and also for including so much of Marlow’s article. Not being an academic man myself. I thought it better to reply to your post by another learned person who could better explain what doubts and misgivings I have had all along concerning the 2011NIV. Please do not think that I am saying that the CBT members are not spirit filled. Nor an I saying that the whole version is corrupt. I am saying that in my opinion, the 2011NIV is corrupted in certain areas and is not a good version to use for general Bible Study and should be pulled out of print and replaced with the 1984 version.
I love the Bible. I love the Word of God. I have used many different translations and paraphrases over my forty years as a Christian and have even written out the entire Bible by hand over a 7 and a half years span, writting a single page of lined paper every day, 365 days a year. In my own eyes I am not an expert but I have come to know the “feel” for God’s Word and with the above version which you do not have a problem with, I smell a skunk.
This bad smell was even more confirmed when I heard that Murdock owns Zondervan and now had to fire his son for corrupt doings in the U.K. The acorn does not fall far from the tree.
I would like to say one more thing about my prejudiced heart that you mentioned at the end of your reply. You are right! As a matter of fact it is deceitful and desperately wicked above all things.My heart needs the purity and honesty of God’s Word in it in order to be saved. Everything else that is a substitute become a prostitute for my sinsick soul. Curt, if you can’t tell your students that the book your quoting from is the inspired and infallible Word of God… that can be trusted 100%… don’t tell them it’s from the Bible. The culture says, language is always changing, Jesus says,
“Heaven and earth will pass away but my words will never pass away”
Thanks for listening,
Hi, Klaas. Thank you for this clarification. I appreciate your experience with the Word. I also welcome you sharing your concerns, although I think we may have reached the point of agreeing to disagree. I will say that I myself am not too thrilled with the ownership of a Christian publishing company by a secular corporation. Of course, this is a widespread phenomenon involving many more Christian publishers (and Christian recording companies) than just Zondervan. And—while I share your distaste with this arrangement—since I see absolutely no sign of this having affected the work of the CBT I feel this is a red herring as far as the current discussion is concerned.
I would have no problem teaching from a number of current translations (including the 2011 NIV) as the authoritative Word of God. I would caution you though that no translation is inerrant in and of itself. This is why when we speak of inerrancy (or infallibility) we always refer back to the original autographs as being inerrant. There is always meaning lost (and added) in translation, which is why there simply is no 100% perfect translation. This is why translation is an ongoing process of fine-tuning and improvement, and also why multiple translations are a good thing. This is also why we can never enshrine one translation as the standard. It appears from your comment that you also value multiple translations.
“Language is always changing” is not something that culture tells us, it’s something that history tells us. This is so easily demonstrated through the history of any language that I’ve never heard anyone suggest otherwise. I hope you’re not contending that language does not change. Even ancient Hebrew and Greek changed over time, as anyone familiar with these languages will readily acknowledge. Jesus’ assurance that his words will never pass away doesn’t contradict this ongoing change in language in any way.
And I hope you’ll forgive me for pointing out that—technically—Jesus didn’t say what you’ve quoted him as saying. Jesus wasn’t speaking English. I don’t make this observation to be nitpicky, but to caution all of us to not oppose any particular translation by utilizing heavy-handed pronouncements about the unchanging nature of God’s Word. It is the message which is unchanging, not the occasional linguistic mechanism (i.e. specific words and grammatical structure). All reputable translation teams are seeking to convey the timeless message of Scripture. We need to be careful of over-applying this unchanging nature of the biblical message, because the very passages we quote have been “changed” from their original words and grammatical forms in order to be understood by those who speak other languages. I think you’ll agree that this is entirely appropriate and necessary. But this means that when evaluating a translation the primary question is whether the translators have altered the message of Scripture. I don’t see how such a charge can be sustained against the CBT in their update of the NIV.
Grace and peace,
Dear Curt: Grace and Peace to you as well. It is very unusual for me to speak against a particular version of the Bible because in my heart I hold the Bible so dear and the Word therein dearer still. I have enjoyed our exchange and you have explained yourself well however please bear with me one more time, as I find it difficult to explain myself not having the academic disciplines that many others like yourself have. While I lack in my ability to explain myself clearly at times– due to my academic ignorance– I cannot deny the fact that Jesus Christ has called me into His kingdom and has given me freely of His Holy Spirit. Along with His Spirit comes a discernment of what is truth and what is error and I don’t have to know Greek or Hebrew to discern either. Jesus is very capable in speaking in English and giving His sheep, in what ever age and culture, the instructions they need in order to keep them on the straight and narrow.
“Language is always changing” is quoted out of context when,”needing” another translation of the Bible. Please forgive my sarcasm, but when did you know that a zebra was not called a zebra? Possibly, when it was called an eguus asinus in Latin? But, Curt, when was it ever called a bear?
This hype about language is always changing is completely overblown especially when it has to do with matters of the faith. It is interesting to note that the more ‘accurate’ they make the Bible the less people start believing in it. God’s truth is never changing, just like God Himself and He is more than able to convey His perfect will to those He loves. What it requires is that people (preachers, teachers etc) explain it more clearly, prayerfully and more convincingly.
The logical route to your reasoning is that no one, including our young people, can believe that the Bible they hold in their hands is the infallible and inspired Word of God. From there, we will have Ministers of the Word come out of seminary and refuse to read or preach on parts of the Bible they feel is not included in the original texts.You go down a slippy slope there Curt. Be careful!
Therefore, when the CBT (if it really was the CBT) felt they needed to upgrade or revise or tweek some wording of the older and very popular version that’s one matter, but to eliminate by copyright law the version that was being used by millions and not allow it to be copied by the succeeding generations seems almost, well,…unfair….Unless, your in the publishing buisiness and you need to generate some more income. I stand by my orginal premise, and pray, that God would do away with the above version and thus the controvery.
God bless you,
Klaas, thank you for taking the time to express your thoughts. While it’s necessary for us to respect and listen carefully to biblical scholars in order to genuinely understand the issues related to the translation of God’s Word, we aren’t required to have any special academic expertise to discuss these issues. What is needed is for us to move past seemingly persuasive sound bites and think through the issues carefully and consistently. I find your argument to be primarily emotional rhetoric and not a sober, reasoned analysis of the subject matter. I must ‘push back’ on some of your statements because I feel them to be unsound and irresponsible:
Is your spiritual discernment infallible? What happens if your discernment is in conflict with that of others? Do you have any checks and balances for what you perceive to be discernment from the Spirit—especially when a majority of highly regarded, godly, conservative scholars disagree strongly with you?
No doubt, Jesus is capable of speaking in any language he chooses to. But how does he speak in English? Are you meaning direct communication independent of Scripture? If so, is Scripture unnecessary? Does not Jesus speak to us in English through the translation of Scripture? And if so, do we not want to strive to translate his words as accurately as possible?
The extent to which we “need” another translation can be (and is) debated. But is the 2011 NIV the only new translation to be produced? Are you opposed to all updates of translations—or only the 2011 NIV? Are you a proponent of continuing to use the King James Version? I would challenge you to get your hands on an actual 1611 text of the KJV (not the updated KJV commonly in use today), not only use it as your personal Bible but teach from it and give it to people completely unfamiliar with the Bible, and then tell me how “hype[d]” and “overblown” are changes in the English language when it comes to Scripture and matters of the faith.
I don’t mind your sarcasm, but I fail to understand your point. The way we use words do change over time, and usage determines definition. So words do change in meaning. Let me give you an example. In the King James Version, 2 Thessalonians 2:7 reads: “For the mystery of iniquity doth already work: only he who now letteth will let, until he be taken out of the way.” The problem is “let” and “letteth” mean to us today to allow something—but when the KJV was translated it meant completely the opposite! I could give you dozens of such examples from the KJV, but it’s an extreme case because of its age. But we can see this easily even in our own lifetime. Would you still insist on calling yourself “gay” when you’re feeling lighthearted and carefree? Why not? Are you secretly motivated by a desire to appeal to ungodly cultural norms? And to use your questions: When did you know that gay was not called gay? When was it ever called homosexual behavior? (Doesn’t sound as silly now, does it?) Is this claim of changes in language really that hyped and overblown?
Again, is this aimed only at the 2011 NIV or all recent translations that are seeking to be more accurate? And on what do you base this assertion? My experience has been quite the opposite. I can’t tell you how many times I’ve heard people exclaim, “At last I can understand clearly what the Bible is saying,” when they begin to read the NLT (which is more idiomatic than the 2011 NIV). I’ve seen—beginning with the original NIV—more accurate, new translations make great impact in the spiritual lives of individual believers and also in the spiritual health and soundness of churches.
And what exactly does this rhetoric have to do with evaluating a particular translation of Scripture? Are you implying that we shouldn’t try to translate Scripture because God is able to convey his perfect will to us without it? (If so, then we don’t need preachers or teachers either.) Or are you suggesting that since God’s truth doesn’t change that neither should the language and grammatical forms used to communicate God’s truth? Should we all simply read the Hebrew and Greek and expect the Holy Spirit to supernaturally give us the meaning of the text?
As a pastor/teacher who spends a great deal of time studying and teaching the Word of God, it is much more beneficial for everyone to use a clear translation of Scripture so that I can spend my time explaining clearly, prayerfully and convincingly the message and content of the passage instead of wasting valuable teaching time translating the translation.
What exactly do you mean by a translation of Scripture being infallible and inspired? Do you mean it is infallible and inspired in that it faithfully (i.e. accurately) translates the meaning of the original? If so, show me the error of my reasoning that leads to such a loss of authority for the Bible. Or do you claim that a specific English translation is itself infallible and inspired? If so, which one? Are you a ‘King James Version only’ advocate?
Do you mean they won’t teach passages that they personally and independently have concluded are not found in the original texts, or are you referring to passages that an overwhelming consensus of biblical scholars have found to have been added to the original texts? Surely you’re aware that every major translation in the last 40 years (with one exception) includes footnotes that tell us when certain passages are not part of the earliest and most reliable manuscripts. (The one exception is the New King James Version which relies on the same few manuscripts that were used for the 1611 KJV.) If you have a problem with this then you not only have a problem with the 2011 NIV, but with the 1984 NIV, and the HCSB, and the ESV, and the NASB, etc., etc. Again I would ask: are you an advocate for a KJV only approach, or a reliance on the majority/Byzantine text? This seems to to be the direction your questions are taking, but I don’t want to assume your viewpoint or motivation.
With all due respect, Klaas, here you lose all credibility for your argument. On what basis do you so blithely dismiss the many, many explanations from the godly, respected members of the CBT regarding their motivation in this process, and suggest some secret motivation for this new translation? Do you have substantive evidence of this? Or can you see the human heart? There are many new translations that have been produced the last few years. Do you question all of them? Are you aware that every translation that is updated causes the previous version to be discontinued? Why are you aiming this only at the 2011 NIV? This sounds to me like typical conspiracy theory hype.
There are translations that I do not prefer and with which I would disagree regarding their translation methodology. But I don’t wish for them to be ‘done away with.’ I don’t criticize them as somehow lacking the Spirit or being produced because of ungodly motivations. I don’t use these translations as much as others, and I don’t recommend them—but I’m very grateful that other believers are blessed and edified by them. Why not simply say that you don’t agree with the choices and methods shown in the 2011 NIV, but be thankful that God is using it for his glory, for the benefit of his people, and for the communication of the timeless gospel truth recorded in Scripture? I have no problem with you being opposed to the 2011 NIV, but I feel strongly that by the nature of your opposition you are doing a grave disservice to not only the dedicated translators of this version but to the whole body of Christ.
I apologize for the length of this reply, but I felt that I had to respond to your assertions, claims I find to be baseless and harmful. I urge you to reconsider the vehemence of your opposition. You are in danger of not only unjustly condemning your brothers in Christ, but of quite possibly fighting a version of God’s Word that he himself is blessing.
Dear Curt: You are my brother in the Lord and I appreciate you taking the time to respond to my reply. However, and I say this with a smile, you left me with 36 question marks to answer. It took me over two hours alone to write my simple reply to you above and for me to respond to your questions and insights is somewhat overwhelming. I would love to answer your questions because there is much that I could add to our discussion, but In fairness to you for an early response and my limited time I must conclude, by saying what you would like me to say, I “don’t agree with the choices and methods shown in the 2011 NIV, but (am) be thankful that God is using it for his glory, for the benefit of his people, and for the communication of the timeless Gospel truth recorded in Scripture” Philippians 1:18
I definitely do not want to condemn my brothers in Christ nor be found opposing God Himself.
In Christ alone
LOL. Well, I guess if you can’t beat ’em, overwhelm them! 🙂 I’m sorry, Klaas. My intention wasn’t to flood you with so many questions and comments that it would be difficult to respond to everything. I understand you have much more that you could contribute. At some point it’s wise to no longer pursue this kind of back and forth, especially if we seem to be going over the same ground. Thank you for your gracious response. I very much appreciate your devotion to Scripture. If we remain passionate about the truth of God’s Word, I’m sure the Holy Spirit will keep giving both of us needed insight into these issues. May God richly bless you, brother.
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I don’t believe there’s a “perfect” translation. I do believe that if one desires do know God, He will reveal Himself through His word, whatever the translation. I enjoy reading many versions personally. However, I’m wondering what you think about the missing verses in the NIV? Thank you.
Good thoughts. I agree that God will reveal himself through any legitimate translation.
Depending on one’s view of NT manuscripts, either practically all current translations (not just the NIV, but the NASB, HCSB, NET, NLT, ESV, etc.) are missing verses, or the KJV and NKJV have added verses. There’s an overwhelming consensus among NT textual scholars that the KJV and the NKJV are drawn from inferior Greek manuscripts that are, in many places, inaccurately inflated. There are a few holdouts, and many years ago I agreed with them. But I became convinced that the majority of NT scholars are correct. I may do a blog post about this. If you want to do more reading on this topic, the best book I’ve found that clearly explains why the current translations are far more accurate than the KJV/NKJV is The King James Only Controversy: Can You Trust the Modern Translations? by James R. White. He doesn’t just counter the KJV-only arguments, but helps the reader understand how we get our different Bible versions.
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