Examining the Bible Versions

Today’s New International Version

This will be the last of our articles about the various Bible versions available today. The Today’s New International Version (TNIV) is a revision, but not a replacement, of the popular New International Version. Among the differences between the NIV and the TNIV is the use of more gender neutral language, referring in some places, for example, to “children of God” instead of “sons of God” and changing phrases like “a man is justified by faith” to “a person is justified by faith.” Male references to God, however, are not modified. This is similar to the approach taken in the New Revised Standard Version.

In the TNIV some original Greek text references to hoi ioudaioi (literally, the Jews), are translated as referring to Jewish leaders of Jesus’ day. Although this change is based on biblical scholarship concerning who were included in hoi ioudaioi, especially in John’s gospel, one result is that the TNIV sounds less anti-Semitic than English versions which retain the literal translation of “the Jews.” The TNIV is not alone among English Bible versions in following recent biblical scholarship on this matter. For example, in the Gospel of John (e.g. John 18:36), in the belief of the TNIV translators and a number of other biblical scholars, some contexts call for hoi ioudaioi to refer to Jewish leaders not the Jews, as a whole. This change from “the Jews” has contributed to criticism, from some, of the TNIV as being untrue to the biblical languages source texts. Others, however, regard this change as bringing the translation closer to the intent of those source texts.

When TNIV was launched first in 2002, its publication caused considerable controversy, especially among American fundamentalist Protestants. Some claimed the publication of a gender-inclusive bible was a betrayal, because Zondervan Publishing House promised (in a press statement in 1997) not to revise the existing NIV to include gender-accurate language. Although TNIV was published as a separate translation, and its word choices are much more conservative than many other Biblical translations, TNIV has received much more attention than other comparable projects, mainly because the original NIV has been the best-selling English Bible version in the United States for many years.

A few evangelicals feel that changing the original Greek grammatical masculine gender to something more generic distorts the meaning of the Scriptures. Evangelical supporters, on the other hand, argue that the critics confuse grammar for meaning, and the TNIV clarifies the original meaning in contemporary language.

On the other hand, the TNIV translators have at times opted for more traditional Anglo-Saxon or poetic renderings than those of the NIV. To give an example, Othe heavens’ (Anglo-Saxon) is sometimes chosen to replace the NIV’s Othe sky’ (Danish – Middle English) [c.f. “I clothe the heavens with darkness and make sackcloth its covering” (Isaiah 50:3; TNIV); “I clothe the sky with darkness and make sackcloth its covering” (Isaiah 50:3; NIV)].

BETTER…

The first publication of the TNIV in 2001 was extremely liberal. It seems the criticism noted above caused for some changes to be made when the full Bible was completed in 2005.

1 Timothy 3:11

TNIV 2001: “In the same way, women who are deacons are to be worthy of respect, not malicious talkers but temperate and trustworthy in everything.”
TNIV 2005: “In the same way, the women are to be worthy of respect, not malicious talkers but temperate and trustworthy in everything.”

I am thankful that the TNIV 2005 made the change from the liberal interpretation “women who are deacons.” However, this phrase remains as a marginal footnote in the 2005 edition.

There are also some instances where the TNIV is a moderate improvement upon the NIV.

1 Corinthians 6:9

NIV: “Do you not know that the wicked will not inherit the kingdom of God? Do not be deceived: Neither the sexually immoral nor idolaters nor adulterers nor male prostitutes nor homosexual offenders…”
TNIV : “Or do you not know that wrongdoers will not inherit the kingdom of God? Do not be deceived: Neither the sexually immoral nor idolaters nor adulterers nor male prostitutes nor practicing homosexuals…”

While still not ideal, nor literal, the TNIV does “fix” somewhat the very poor reading of the NIV, which suggested that only “homosexual offenders” will not inherit the kingdom of God. We cannot try to make the scriptures”politically correct” to 21st century Americans. Those who practice homosexuality will not inherit the kingdom of God, and the TNIV accurately reflects this truth.

…BUT SAME PROBLEMS:

However, the TNIV contains many of the same problems discussed concerning the NIV. The TNIV at many times is an interpretation of the text rather than a translation. It also has the many of the same missing words from the text, just like the NIV, as noted concerning Romans 4:1. The TNIV shows its Calvinistic preference in its translation of Psalm 51:5, suggesting that we are sinful at birth. The TNIV also translates the Greek word sarx, which means “flesh,” as “sinful nature.” This rendering also has a Calvinistic bias.

Conclusion

The TNIV does not make enough improvements upon the NIV to warrant recommending its use. In fact, there are some places where the TNIV is worse than the NIV. Add to the fact that the TNIV has decided to use gender-inclusive language, which can easily cover up, and at times make difficult to understand, the original meaning of the text. With its usage of gender-inclusive language and rejection from the mainstream evangelicals, it is likely that the TNIV will not see the success that the NIV experienced. In fact, it may find only minimal use by people, like the other gender-inclusive version, the NRSV.

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