In March, Zondervan released a new revision of the NIV, and the new version signals a significant update to a translation that has not been revised since 1984. The 2011 NIV has many commendable improvements. Nevertheless, it represents a significant departure from the NIV that evangelicals have used for a generation. In particular, the 2011 NIV adopts a gender-neutral approach to translationâ€”a way of rendering the Bible that has been the subject of no little controversy over the last decade.
I want to highlight two critical reviews of the gender language in the 2011 NIV that have recently been released by the Council on Biblical Manhood & Womanhood (CBMW).
The two reviews overlap a good bit as they are drawing from the same underlying research. The reviews find that 75% of the problematic gender language in the TNIV is retained in the 2011 NIV. The reviews also find that the new NIV gives an egalitarian interpretation to the most contested verse in the gender debateâ€”1 Timothy 2:12. The CBMW report concludes this way:
“We regret, therefore, that we cannot recommend the 2011 NIV as a sufficiently reliable English translation. And unless Zondervan changes its mind and keeps the current edition of the 1984 NIV in print, the 2011 NIV will soon be the only edition of the NIV that is available. Therefore, unless Zondervan changes its mind, we cannot recommend the NIV itself.”
On Friday, Michael Foust published a report on the new NIV that includes interviews with Doug Moo (the chairman of the NIV translation committee) and Randy Stinson (the President of the Council on Biblical Manhood & Womanhood). Stinson outlines the reasons why CBMW will not endorse the new NIV, and Moo has a variety of responses to criticisms of the new NIV that have already appeared. If you haven’t read this article yet, I encourage you to do so here.
This discussion is only just beginning, and I would like to comment briefly on at least one of the issues that Moo raises in the news report. The report reads:
Moo said he is in “general agreement” with CBMW’s position on the complementarian issue but thinks CBMW is wrong in arguing their complementarian view “entails certain decisions about how to translate the Bible.”
“This is, I think, where the disagreement comes,” Moo said. “People can be solid complementarians and yet have pretty significant disagreements about just how to translate.”
I wholeheartedly agree with Moo on the latter point, but I disagree with him on the former. One need not be in lock-step with a certain translation philosophy in order to be a complementarian. There are committed complementarians on both sides of debate over formal equivalence vs. dynamic equivalence (or essentially literal vs. functional equivalence). Moreover, there are committed complementarians on both sides of the gender-neutral controversy as well. But this fact does not mean that all complementarians see with equal clarity how complementarian conviction should inform our evaluation of Bible translation.
That is why we need to have open and charitable dialog about these issues. My hope and prayer is that these reviews will be a step in that direction.
[Readers may be wondering what the differences are between the two reviews linked above. The first review is CBMW’s official statement on the 2011 NIV, and it is a more general review of the NIV’s gender language (though it is very extensive). The second review appears in the forthcoming issue of JBMW and goes into greater detail on a number of points (e.g., 1 Timothy 2:12 and the Collins Dictionaries Report).]