Today’s New International Version Bible Review

Q. I would like to know if you have had the opportunity to review the new “Today’s New International Version” of the Bible. What are your thoughts on this new translation? Do new translations destroy the concept of inspiration as taught in the Scriptures?

 The Bible is the complete, inspired word of God.

2 Pet. 1:3
“seeing that His divine power has granted to us everything pertaining to life and godliness, through the true knowledge of Him who called us by His own glory and excellence.”

2 Tim. 3:16-17
16 All Scripture is inspired by God and profitable for teaching, for reproof, for correction, for training in righteousness;
17 so that the man of God may be adequate, equipped for every good work.”

John 12:48
“He who rejects Me and does not receive My sayings, has one who judges him; the word I spoke is what will judge him at the last day.”

John 14:10
“Do you not believe that I am in the Father, and the Father is in Me? The words that I say to you I do not speak on My own initiative, but the Father abiding in Me does His works.”

John 17:8
“for the words which You gave Me I have given to them; and they received them and truly understood that I came forth from You, and they believed that You sent Me.”

John 6:63
“It is the Spirit who gives life; the flesh profits nothing; the words that I have spoken to you are spirit and are life.”

John 8:47
“He who is of God hears the words of God; for this reason you do not hear them, because you are not of God.”

Matt. 4:4
“But He answered and said, “It is written, ‘MAN SHALL NOT LIVE ON BREAD ALONE, BUT ON EVERY WORD THAT PROCEEDS OUT OF THE MOUTH OF GOD.'”

1 Cor. 2:12-13
12 Now we have received, not the spirit of the world, but the Spirit who is from God, so that we may know the things freely given to us by God,
13 which things we also speak, not in words taught by human wisdom, but in those taught by the Spirit, combining spiritual thoughts with spiritual words.

Eph 3:1-5
1 ¶ For this reason I, Paul, the prisoner of Christ Jesus for the sake of you Gentiles–
2 if indeed you have heard of the stewardship of God’s grace which was given to me for you;
3 that by revelation there was made known to me the mystery, as I wrote before in brief.
4 By referring to this, when you read you can understand my insight into the mystery of Christ,
5 which in other generations was not made known to the sons of men, as it has now been revealed to His holy apostles and prophets in the Spirit;

I believe that the same God who could inspire His Word, and use man to convey it to man can and has providentially watched over the transmission of His Word through the centuries to insure that man is able to discern His will. This does require of us a certain amount of investigation to insure that we have found the most reliable version available.

In my opinion, versions of the Bible can be divided into three categories. “Word for Word” translations, “Dynamic Equivalent” and “Paraphrases.”

We need to understand that we do not have the original manuscripts on which Paul or Moses or the other Bible writers actually penned our Bible writings. We have copies of those manuscripts. Thousands of them. These copies have proven to be extremely accurate. According to the scholars who study all the manuscripts available, our New Testament is about 98% textually accurate and the other 2% which may be in question is verified very clearly somewhere else in the New Testament. Where there are difficulties they almost never happen in a doctrinal area. We can rest assured that the manuscripts we have are very accurate.

Part Two

This point is illustrated in Galatians 3:16:

Gal. 3:16
“Now the promises were spoken to Abraham and to his seed. He does not say, “And to seeds,” as referring to many, but rather to one, “And to your seed,” that is, Christ.”

In this passage the apostle Paul quotes from a passage in the Old Testament that was, at the time he quoted from it over 1400 years old. Paul did not have the“original manuscript” to read or quote from, yet he makes an argument based on the difference between a plural and a singular. He said the promise that was made to Abraham was made to his “seed,” singular, not “seeds”plural. That seed, of course, is Christ. This is very important, for if that seed was not Christ, the basis of Christianity falls.

Paul demonstrated for us that it is possible to use a “copy” of the original manuscripts to make a very specific and detailed argument. God providentially watched over the transmission of His Word through the centuries.

The Dead Sea scrolls provide us with another illustration. Before their discovery, the oldest copies of the Old Testament dated to 1008 A.D. When the Dead Sea scrolls were discovered in 1948 we were able to determine that they had been placed in the the caves near Qumran around 100 B.C. When the book of
Isaiah from the Dead Sea scrolls was compared to the scroll from 1008 A.D. there was virtually not difference in the text. This illustrates how God has watched over His Word.

Jesus and the apostles used the Old Testament in their teaching and preaching. In fact, they most often quoted not from the original Hebrew text, but from a “translation” of the original Hebrew, the Greek version called the Septugiant. They put their stamp of approval on copies and translations. Therefore, we can trust the manuscripts we have today. The challenge comes in looking for a “version” which is true to the manuscripts available to us.

And here is the problem we have. Most people cannot read the original Hebrew and Greek. Even though we have very accurate “copies” in Hebrew and Greek, unless you have spent years studying the original language, these manuscripts do you little good. We are therefore dependent upon translations.

There are now dozens of English versions of the Bible. Which one will MOST accurately give us God’s Word today? I think the answer is the “Updated Edition” of the NAS, also known as the NAS’95 edition. The TNIV is not yet published but I have been given an opportunity to review the New Testament portion of the TNIV. First, let’s start with the original NIV.

NEW INTERNATIONAL VERSION

The NIV was translated by a committee of 100 conservative scholars from five English-speaking countries representing 10 different churches. The New Testament was published in 1973. I would consider this to be a “Dynamic Equivalent” as opposed to a “Word-for-Word” translation. The NIV has attempted to provide a translation which could be accepted and understood by the whole English speaking world. It is not slanted toward one country’s English more than another’s, is basically accurate, and very clear. The NIV took great pains in translating Greek verb tenses clearly. It is without question, one of the most popular versions of the Bible today.

There are some weaknesses. Because it is a “Dynamic Equivalent” it tends to “paraphrase” a number of passages. This leaves out words the Lord gave us by inspiration in an attempt to make the passage more easily understood. While this may seem like a good idea, it at times misses the point of the original.

For example, in Matthew 13:33 the NIV has the woman “mixing” yeast rather than “hiding” it, which misses the point of Jesus’s parable. In the Romans 7:18ff the expression “sinful nature” has been used to replace the Greek term “flesh.” But in Romans 8:6 a different word is used for the same Greek word. Greek words are not consistently rendered by the same English words, even when they mean the same thing. The NIV also leans heavily toward the doctrine of Premillennialism.

In 1997, Dr. Ken Barker and Dr. Ronald Youngblood were among those who affirmed a document called the “Colorado Springs Guidelines for Translation of Gender-related Language in Scripture.” Both Dr. Barker and Dr. Youngblood were, and still are, members of the Committee on Bible Translation, a group of
about 15 scholars who recently translated the text of the TNIV. Affirmations in the Colorado Springs Guidelines included the following:

1. The generic use of “he, him, his, himself” should be employed to translate generic 3rd person masculine singular pronouns in Hebrew, Aramaic and Greek. [Though exceptions may occur, such as rendering ho pisteuon as “the one who believes” rather than “he who believes.”]

2. Person and number should be retained in translation so that singulars are not changed to plurals and third person statements are not changed to second or first person statements, with only rare exceptions required in unusual cases.

3. Hebrew ‘ish should ordinarily be translated “man” and “men,” and Greek aner should almost always be so translated.

4. The phrase “son of man” should ordinarily be preserved to retain intracanonical connections.

5. “Brother” (adelphos) should not be changed to “brother or sister”; however, the plural adelphoi can be translated “brothers and sisters” where the context makes clear that the author is referring to both men and women.

6. “Son” (huios, ben) should not be changed to “child,” or “sons” (huioi) to “children” or “sons and daughters.” (However, Hebrew banim often means
“children.”)

7. “Father” (pater, ‘ab) should not be changed to “parent,” or “fathers” to “parents” or “ancestors.”

It was also noted that these guidelines indicated what the signatories would generally avoid, and it included a statement that “we understand that these guidelines are to be representative and not exhaustive, and that some details may need further refinement.” (The full text of the Colorado Springs Guidelines is available online at http://www.bibleresearcher.com/csguidelines.html

None of these seven principles are consistently followed in the TNIV. All seven are repeatedly ignored — not infrequently, but frequently; some of them are ignored typically. I have collected some examples from the TNIV. I list them here along with some comments explaining my concerns with the new translation.

Luke 10:5-6
NIV ~
“When you enter a house, first say, ‘Peace to this house.’ If a man of peace is there, your peace will rest on him; if not, it will return to you.”

TNIV ~
“”When you enter a house, first say, ‘Peace to this house.’ If the head of the house loves peace, your peace will rest on that house; if not, it will return to you.”

Neither the NIV or the TNIV render the Greek literally as “son of peace.” But at least the NIV sustains the idea that a “son” is not a daughter. This is one of several passages in the TNIV which translate “huios” ~ the same Greek word that is translated “son” in the usual phrase, “Son of God” ~ as something other than “son.” Now suppose someone makes a translation in which all the references to the “Son of God” are replaced with references to the “Child of God.” People would say, “That’s not right.”

But the TNIV could come in handy for the person defending the rendering “Child of God,” because the TNIV contains an abundance of instances in which Committee on Bible Translation has translated “huios” as “child” (or, in the case of Luke 10:5-6, as “the head of the house”). A person who insists that the TNIV is good, but a version which refers to Jesus only as the”Child of God” rather than as the “Son of God” is bad, would have quite a time explaining why it’s okay to translate “huios” as “head of the house” — a meaning which I do not remember it ever having! — but not as “child” when referring to Jesus.

(I would also note that the IBS’ claim that the Committee on Bible Translation is “the same eminent group” that produced the NIV does not tell the whole story. Some of the originalCBT-members have died, and the current CBT membership includes Dr. Karen Jobes, who did not participate in the original NIV translation. Also, the NIV-team consisted of over 100 scholars led by the CBT; the CBT itself only has about 13 or 15 members.)

Also, I think it is highly unlikely that any of the disciples commissioned here in Luke would have made a base of operations in a household which was not led by a male (as a point of propriety, and to reduce the risk of romantic entanglement). Surely there is no feminist agenda to intentionally avoid giving readers the impression that Jesus took it for granted that the head of a household was male, but there might as well be, because the TNIV obscures that.

Part Three

Acts 15:10
NIV ~
“Now then, why do you try to test God by putting on the necks of the disciples a yoke that neither we nor our fathers have been able to bear?”

TNIV ~
“Now then, why do you try to test God by putting on the necks of the disciples a yoke that neither we nor our ancestors have been able to bear?”

Since the Greek says “pateres” and since only the males, not the females, were circumcised, I see no rationale to change from “fathers” to “ancestors.” While Peter’s words may refer to the whole Law and not just circumcision, a TNIV reader might get the idea that females as well as males were circumcised.

Acts 20:30 (referring to the elders from Ephesus)
NIV ~
“Even from your own number men will arise and distort the truth…”
TNIV ~
“Even from your own number some will arise and distort the truth…”

The group Paul is here addressing = the elders from Ephesus. The Greek word “andres” is translated literally in the NIV. In the TNIV, though, the word “men” is replaced, as if one were translating from a manuscript which substituted some other word instead of “andres.” It has been noted that in the course of time, Jezebel arose in Thyatira. But was Jezebel among this group? No — right?

Or was she? When one removes “men” and replaces it with the word “some,” one can easily get the impression that “Jezebel” ~ a woman referred to in Revelation 2:20 ~ could easily have been a fulfillment of this verse — and furthermore, one could reason that Jezebel was thus “from your own number,” i.e., that Jezebel was one of the elders of Ephesus. And thus this passage could indeed be used to impact the question of male-female relationships in the church.

Acts 21:17-18
NIV ~
“When we arrived at Jerusalem, the brothers received us warmly. The next day Paul and the rest of us went to see James, and all the elders were present.”

TNIV ~
“When we arrived at Jerusalem, the believers received us warmly. The next day Paul and the rest of us went to see James, and all the elders were present.”

The IBS website states that “The TNIV uses generic language only where the meaning of the text was intended to include both men and women.” In the case of Acts 21:17-18 (and many others), it appears that the TNIV translators figured that “tous adelphous” means “believers” or “brothers and sisters,” even though the default meaning of these words is “the brothers.” If there is a contextual basis for assuming that “tous adelphous” here refers to a group that included women, I would like to see it. Till then, it appears that the default meaning of “tous adelphous” has been intentionally substituted so as to remove a particular gender from the word. A feminist might do this so that readers would more readily accept the idea that females could have been among the “elders” who are mentioned in verse 18. It has been stated that none of the CBT-members had a feminist agenda. Whether they did or did not, they have translated the text in ways that lend themselves readily to feminist manipulation.

I Corinthians 11:10
NIV ~
“For this reason, and because of the angels, the woman ought to have a sign of authority on her head.”

TNIV ~
“For this reason, and because of the angels, the woman ought to have authority over her own head.” (accompanying the word “own” is a footnote, which reads, “b10 Or have a sign of authority on her.”

I would note here that few Christians who maintain that the head-covering is a sacrament will agree with this rendering. I, too, disagree with it; I think this rendering creates serious dissonance: Paul seems to construct a clear case; he presents his position and gives evidence for it; then when it is time to re-state his position — he states that a woman ought to have authority over her own head??? In the same argument in which Paul says that [a] man is [a] woman’s head? In the TNIV, v. 10 completely disrupts the flow of the passage, as if, after presenting reasons 1-3 why women should cover their heads, reasons 4 and 5 suddenly become reasons why a woman should have authority over her own head. I find the reasoning given by Piper & Grudem against this rendering to be very persuasive.

I Corinthians 14:33-35
NIV ~
“For God is not a God of disorder but of peace. As in all the congregations of the saints, women should remain silent in the churches. They are not allowed to speak, but must be in submission, as the Law says. If they want to inquire about something, let them ask their own husbands at home; for it is disgraceful for a woman to speak in the church.”

TNIV ~
“For God is not a God of disorder but of peace — as in all the congregations of the people of God. Women should remain silent in the churches. They are not allowed to speak, but must be in submission, as the law says. If they want to inquire about something, they should ask their own husbands at home; for it is disgraceful for a woman to speak in the church.” (Verse 35 in the TNIV is accompanied by a footnote, which reads, “a34, 35 In some manuscripts these verses come after verse 40.”)

And that footnote (borrowed, it seems, from the NRSV) concerns me, because such minor variants are common. The only motivation I can think of for pointing out this manuscript variation in a version aimed at ordinary readers — a variation which is far, far, far more insignificant than dozens which neither the NIV nor TNIV mention — is to provide a basis for the casual dismissal of verse 34-35. One could propose that this variant indicates that these verses originated as a non-Pauline interpolation and, voila, a major verse related to male-female relationships in the church disappears, in effect. Gordon Fee, one of the translators of the TNIV, does exactly that in his commentary on First Corinthians. Can you think of any other motivation?

Also, notice the new punctuation. In the NIV, Paul’s statement about women here was declared as an observation of the practice of all congregations. Now, though, the phrase “As in all the congregations of the people of God” has been attached to the previous sentence.

I Tim. 3:1
NIV ~
“If anyone sets his heart on being an overseer, he desires a noble task.”
TNIV ~
“Whoever aspires to be an overseer desires a noble task.”

Um … Dr. John Kohlenberger III stated in Christianity Today (Feb. 4, 2002 – online article) that “Every single passage that deals with male-female relationships in the church and in the home [is] translated exactly the way [it is] translated in the NIV.” But I see some change here. And I’m not saying the change is not good — this particular change might not violate the Colorado Springs Guidelines. But it is a change.

I Tim. 3:4
NIV ~
“… and see that his children obey him with proper respect.”
TNIV ~
“…and see that his children obey him, and he must do so in a manner worthy of full respect.” (w/footnote giving the NIV rendering)

I can practically guarantee that some readers will think that this phrase in the TNIV touches corporeal punishment. Also, it seems rather novel. Can you think of any other translation that has a similar rendering?

I Tim. 3:11
NIV ~
“In the same way, their wives” (with a footnote reading, “d11 Or way, deaconesses”)

TNIV ~
“In the same way, women who are deacons” (with small half-brackets around “who are deacons” and a footnote reading, “a11 Or deacons’ wives”)

I think this rendering is much harder to justify than the TNIV’s rendering of 3:1. How does one squeeze “Women who are deacons” out of gunaikas? I suspect that most readers will not realize the significance of those little pieces of brackets. Perhaps a footnote would be more straightforward, if it said something like, “The Greek word here is Gunaikas, which normally means “Women” or “Wives,” and Paul uses gunaikos in the very next verse to refer to deacons’ wives. The words ‘who are deacons’ are not in any manuscripts; however, it made very good sense to the CBT to insert them, since we think it was a reference to female church-officers.” The NIV rendering seems to say something like that, in shorthand. I prefer it to the change-related-to-male-female-relationships-in-the-church in the TNIV.

Hebrews 2:6b
NIV ~
“What is man that you are mindful of him, the son of man that you care for him?”

TNIV ~
“What are mere mortals that you are mindful of them, human beings that you care for them?”

This appears to break three of the points affirmed in the Colorado Springs Guidelines in a single verse.

Hebrews 12:7b
NIV ~
“For what son is not disciplined by his father?”

TNIV ~
“For what children are not disciplined by their parents?”

Notice that in the TNIV, four subtle leaps away from the original text have been made: “huios” (son) becomes “child,” and “child” becomes “children.” “pater” (father) becomes “parent,” and “parent” becomes “parents.”

Hebrews 12:9
NIV ~
“Moreover, we have all had human fathers who disciplined us and we respected them for it. How much more should we submit to the Father of our spirits and live!”

TNIV ~
“Moreover, we have all had human parents who disciplines is and we respected them for it. How much more should we submit to the Father of spirits and live!”

Hebrews 12:10
NIV ~
“Our fathers disciplined us for a little while as they thought best; but God disciplines us for our good, that we may share in hisholiness.”

TNIV ~
“Our parents disciplined us for a little while as they thought best; but God disciplines us for our good, that we may share in his holiness.”

The Greek text here simply uses a pronoun, yielding the meaning, “They disciplined us…” Both the NIV and the TNIV make insertions here.

The IBS website (I say again) claims that “The TNIV uses generic language only where the meaning of the text was intended to include both men and women.” I would really like to know why the CBT thought that the author of Hebrews in these three instances had any intention to refer to mothers as well as fathers — especially since the author of Hebrews explicitly parallels human fathers with the Father of spirits. The author of Hebrews used a different Greek word in 11:23 to refer to “parents.”

James 3:1
NIV ~
“Not many of you should presume to be teachers, my brothers, because you know that we who teach will be judged more strictly.”

TNIV ~
“Not many of you should presume to be teachers, my brothers and sisters, because you know that we who teach will be judged more strictly.”

A casual reader might think that the TNIV’s rendering of James 3:1 (in which James cautions women about becoming teachers, but allows them to do so) conflicts with the TNIV’s rendering of First Timothy 2:12 (in which Paul states “I do not permit a woman to teach or to have authority over a man”). I think that if James had meant to be addressing woman there at 3:1, he would have explicitly mentioned them (adelphoi kai adelphai), the way he includes “brother or sister” in 2:15. If James were shown the TNIV’s rendering of 3:1, he might say that he is being misquoted.

Unrelated to the question of the TNIV’s translation-methods is the way the TNIV deals with John 7:53-8:11 and Mark 16:9-20. In the TNIV, both of these passages are printed entirely in an italic font. If the reason for doing so was to lower the authority of these passages, so that readers do not consider them canonical, I believe that the tactic of italicizing them will reach that goal in the case of many readers. I would add that, as far as I know, no new manuscript evidence has arisen that would affect these passages since the original NIV was published; the font-change appears to be due entirely to the views of the [majority of the] CBT regarding whether or not these passages belong in the Bible.

James 5:19-20
NIV:
“My brothers, if one of you should wander from the truth and someone should bring him back, remember this: Whoever turns a sinner from the error of his way will save him from death and cover over a multitude of sins.”

TNIV:
“My brothers and sisters, if one of you should wander from the truth and someone should bring them back, remember this: Whoever turns a sinner from the error of their way will save their soul from death and cover over a multitude of sins.”

I mention this passage as an outstanding example of the TNIV’s unusual grammar. Throughout the TNIV New Testament, singular subjects change into plurals in the same sentence.

Hebrews 2:17 ~
NIV ~
“For this reason he had to be made like his brothers in every way…”
TNIV ~
“For this reason he had to be made like his brothers and sisters in every way…”

This passage is referring to Jesus as our high priest. Two objections to the TNIV rendering come to mind: first, the priesthood to which the author refers was exclusively male. There were no “sisters” among the Levitical priests. Second, the TNIV’s insertion of the words “and sisters” may give readers the impression that Jesus was androgynous. This is no improvement, to put it mildly.

One may observe (by visiting the TNIV/Zondervan website) that Gilbert Bilezikian (a staff member at Willow Creek Church, near Chicago) has enthusiastically endorsed the TNIV. Gilbert Bilezikian also endorses full equal roles for women in the family and full participation by women in all roles and offices in the church (if I understand him correctly). I believe this is no coincidence. The TNIV and feminism work very well together. If the TNIV’s translators did not have a feminist agenda, they might as well have had one. Special thanks to Jim Snapp II Minister, Wayne Church of Christ (Wayne, OH) (www.waynecoc.org) for the notes and research above.

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