Darrell Bock has weighed-in on the discussion about the 2011 NIV. In general, he thinks the negative responses to the new translation are unwarranted. There are several remarks he makes that I think are worth responding to. Readers need to read Bock’s post for themselves, but I will try to summarize his concerns here and respond to each briefly.
1. CBMW has too much invested in the gender issue to look at these texts in a balanced manner.
I do not think this kind of statement helps to move the discussion forward. Yes, CBMW has a complementarian point of view on the gender issue. It does not follow from that observation that people with a theological point of view are unable to treat an issue fairly. If that were the case, none of us would be able to participate in the discussion because we all have theological and philosophical commitments.
Instead of ruling out a priori the arguments of complementarians, why not rather engage directly with their handling of the text? At this point, I know of at least three critical reviews of the NIV 2011 (Vern Poythress, CBMW, Denny Burk et. al), and I would love to see a serious discussion of the issues raised in them.
2. CBMW’s theory of translation was questioned in the original dispute and has been found wanting. The translators of the NIV have impeccable credentials.
Number two is a paraphrase of Bock’s remarks, but I think it captures his intent. If not, I will gladly stand corrected.
CBMW does not have a “theory of translation.” The Danvers Statement does not require adherents to subscribe to either formal equivalence or functional equivalence. One can advocate functional equivalence and still be a complementarian. It is not a litmus test. The issue here is not translation philosophy per se, but how one’s translation philosophy impacts the rendering of gender language. It is here that we believe there is an issue.
I could not agree more with Bock’s statement that “the credentials of those working on the NIV are impeccable.” He is absolutely right about that fact. In the world of biblical scholarship, these translators are superstars in my book. But as impressive as they are, their credentials do not by themselves vindicate the rendering of gender language in the NIV. Once again, we have to deal with the text itself to really engage this issue, and appeals to authority don’t really move the conversation forward.
3. Accusations of “gender neutering in NIV 2011” are misdirected because there are staunch complementarians on the committee (e.g., Doug Moo).
I understand the frustration behind this complaint, and I think it would be helpful to clarify what we are saying and not saying. The reviews have tried to focus criticism on the translation, not on the translators. In my review, for instance, I wrote the following:
“We recognize that the NIV’s Committee on Bible Translation expended a large amount of effort and scholarly discussion to make these changes. In fact, many of these improvements were made in verses that were highlighted in previous criticisms of the TNIV by CBMW and others. And there are numerous other improvements as well” (p. 18).
“This is not to presume upon the motives of the translators or their individual convictions about the gender debate. Indeed, we know that there are complementarians on the Committee for Bible Translation” (p. 22).
It has been my aim to engage the issues, not the personalities. I have no reason to believe that they are acting unfaithfully or untoward in their work as translators. I think they are motivated to render the biblical text accurately into English. When I argue that this or that rendering is “gender neutral” or “feminist,” I do not speak with reference to intent but to result. If that has not been clear so far, I hope it is now.
I think it is useful for us to be having this conversation about translation and gender language, and I am grateful to see Dr. Bock’s participation and interest as well. We come at this from different points of view, but that does not diminish my thankfulness for him, for his ministry to me over the years, and for his many contributions to the evangelical cause.