The Release of NIV 2011

The online version of the NIV 2011 was just released this morning, and the video above is the chairman of the translation committee, Doug Moo, offering an introduction to its release. The translation committee has produced a number of materials that readers will want to consult: an executive summary, translator’s notes, and the text itself.

A word is in order about why Zondervan is putting so much into the release of the NIV 2011. The last two attempts at revising the NIV were met with a great deal of controversy. The first attempt was the NIVI, and the second was the TNIV. Both revisions were controversial because they adopted a gender-inclusive philosophy of translation, and for this reason neither caught-on with American evangelicals. The TNIV in particular was the American revision, and it never established itself as a major translation because of its gender-inclusive approach. If the new NIV were to be rejected as the TNIV was, it would be a disaster for the publisher. Zondervan has a lot riding on the release of the NIV 2011.

The debates in the late 1990’s and early 2000’s over gender-inclusive translation were never really resolved. Although they are still using the TNIV as the textual base for the NIV 2011, the translators of the NIV 2011 are well-aware of those debates (as the translator’s notes make clear). One of the ways that the publisher is addressing the unresolved issues is by hosting an online forum to discuss Bible translation theory. Zondervan has teamed-up with The Gospel Coalition to bring together voices from both sides of the debate to discuss some of the issues. The new blog is called “Perspectives in Translation,” and it’s being moderated by Colin Hansen.

I have already contributed a piece there in answer to the question, “What makes a translation accurate?” Other contributors so far include Jim Hamilton, Tremper Longman, Robert Yarbrough, Ray Van Neste and others. You’ll want to follow the conversation there to see how scholars are discussing the release of the new NIV. [Please note: Our answers to this first question were written before the release of the NIV 2011.]

I’ll be interacting with the NIV 2011 here on this site, on the “Perspectives in Translation” site, in the pages of JBMW and in other publications as there is opportunity. Stay tuned.

75 Responses to The Release of NIV 2011

  1. Donald Johnson November 1, 2010 at 2:36 pm #

    http://www.biblegateway.com/versions/New-International-Version-NIV-Bible/#books

    is a better link to access the books and chapters.

  2. Brent Hobbs November 1, 2010 at 3:22 pm #

    I’ve been anxious to see how decisions were made regarding this update, especially with reference to gender inclusivity. After reading the long version of the Translator’s notes and seeing the changes they’ve made, I’m cautiously optimistic.

    They have certainly backed off the TNIV renderings in some areas, though not all (not saying that’s good or bad at this point).

    I’m sure many people will look through the text in the coming weeks and months to see where changes have been made and plenty will be written about it. I look forward to the discussion.

    I currently use the NIV as my main text for reading and teaching, but this update will likely force me to make a final decision about staying with the NIV or moving to the ESV.

  3. Ron Dodson November 1, 2010 at 3:37 pm #

    Doug Moo is great, but thought by thought is silly — and it ends up with audience pandering or commentating in the text.

    I almost wish I could go and unlearn what (little) Greek I know, because now every time I get to a pistis or sarx passage I cringe, not to mention the dik-word group. And since nobody reads Leviticus, the travesty of what should be the “tributes” goes unnoticed.

    One day Denny will be lead editor, and we’ll all be happy. 🙂

  4. Jeff Brewer November 1, 2010 at 3:44 pm #

    I just read the NIV 2011 text and noticed the change in 2 Corinthians 5:17. I’m disappointed in the wording here. I understand the decision for the change, but just wish they left it as “he is a new creation”. Also, I wish they left Hebrews 2:6-8 as it is translated in the 1984 NIV.

  5. John Holmberg November 1, 2010 at 5:39 pm #

    Denny,

    Your obsession with complementarianism completely clouds your perspective on translational issues, & there is so much more to translational theory than how to translate pronouns. Your perspective will fall on deaf ears to all who are outside your tribe. People make way too much of this “gender inclusivity” thing, & the arguments I’ve seen put forth by yourself and Grudem are really just silly, as if Doug Moo is in on the feminist conspiracy (isn’t he a Calvinist? I thought you guys always stuck together?). D.A. Carson even thinks it’s silly, Denny. Come on man, that should tell you something. You’ve made a mountain out of a molehill and are sending the wrong message out to lay Christians. It’s such an insignificant issue I can see clear as day why Christians in parts of the world other than the West think we’re silly.

    It’s how people are speaking now, Denny. People are speaking this way in church, in regular conversation, on television, in class, and on the radio. It’s a losing battle, and anybody with linguistic capability can see this. It’s not a bad thing, brother! A few semesters of masters-level Greek grammar (probably with no contemporary linguistic theory) and a PhD on the Greek articular infinitive doesn’t make you an expert on this. The contrarian position will only serve to strengthen the reason why gender inclusivity is legitimate.

  6. Derek November 1, 2010 at 6:49 pm #

    John,
    There are very passionate people on both sides of the issue. It’s silly to ridicule only one side upon the basis of their passion or concern for the issue.

  7. Tom1st November 1, 2010 at 8:05 pm #

    What John said.

  8. Donald Johnson November 1, 2010 at 9:05 pm #

    Translators should strive to be accurate, including accuracy in regards to gender.

  9. John Holmberg November 1, 2010 at 9:38 pm #

    BTW, Denny, you say that the “gender inclusivity” thing is why the NIVI & TNIV never caught on with American evangelicals. How can you say such a thing? Your view of “American evangelicalism” is incredibly narrow if you believe this. I know many people who use & love the TNIV, and these people are evangelicals. Just because a small sub-culture in American evangelicalism were hostile to the translation philosophy doesn’t mean it didn’t catch on. In other words, “American evangelicals” consist of much more than complementarian Calvinists. The TNIV is a major translation whether you like it or not, and is has been since it came out. Zondervan is just trying to be more ecumenical and please all people

  10. Sue November 2, 2010 at 1:55 am #

    We have to assume that Denny knows that Cleopatra and Ptolemy were called adelphoi and that Moses parents were called pateres.

    And using the masculine pronoun in 1 Tim 5:8 has rendered that passage completely incomprehensible to anyone with a shaky knowledge of Greek.

    So far the NIV2010 appears to be a reaonable compromise.

  11. Brent Hobbs November 2, 2010 at 9:15 am #

    John above is right in many ways, as well as Denny. People on both sides of this question are making valid points and we end up talking past one another in this discussion too often.

    Contemporary usage is clearly moving (has moved) toward gender inclusivity in many ways. I think our discussion needs to center around which passages need to remain gender specific, for theological reasons, and which passages we can legitimately translate neutrally.

    It looks like the NIV update has tried to walk that line, and I’m interested to see how successful they’ve been. We should be far enough in to this debate for people to realize its not all-or-nothing.

  12. Derek November 2, 2010 at 9:58 am #

    Suzanne McCarthy (aka Sue) likes the changes that have been made with this revision, in case that means anything to anyone. She wrote on her blog that the compromises are “cleverly done”.

  13. Ron Dodson November 2, 2010 at 10:59 am #

    I’m amazed at the overall post-modern/existentialist presuppositions on display here. The only question would seem to be “what is the intent of God?” and NOT “what is the current culture?”

    Christ and His Church shape culture, not the other way around – unless you are desirous of being syncretistic afterthoughts of Church History.

  14. Donald Johnson November 2, 2010 at 11:51 am #

    God inspired the NT we have to be written in the common Greek of the 1st century, that which was spoken and written in the marketplace by everyone, so it could go as far as possible.

    I like it when translations seek the widest audience by using the common version of language as it is actually used.

  15. Brent Hobbs November 2, 2010 at 4:26 pm #

    Ron, if that were true, we could just as well use the King James version. Contemporary usage absolutely affects how we should translate the Bible. That’s the whole purpose of translation!

  16. Ron Dodson November 2, 2010 at 4:35 pm #

    Partially — we don’t use the KJV because the manuscript evidence is much broader now that it was centuries ago as well (though the older Textus Receptus line has held up nicely).

    Plus, that is a flawed comparison – centuries versus decades.

    Furthermore, you are comparing issues where the meaning of words CHANGED, or fell out of use. That isn’t the case here.

    Finally, there is a liturgical pattern set forth in Scripture that speaks to the translation issues, but I’m assuming most here aren’t liturgical sorts so I’ll drop that.

    I’m all for accurate translations that can be understood clearly. But the what of understanding is the what God intended.

  17. Derek November 2, 2010 at 4:49 pm #

    Brent,
    A good translation should provide maximum clarity to the intended audience, not accomodation to the audience. That’s a critical distinction.

  18. John Holmberg November 2, 2010 at 6:02 pm #

    Derek,

    You’re absolutely right. In 99% of gender neutrality cases I’ve seen, maximum clarity (not accommodation) is provided to the intended audience. Females in the modern day may get confused when a “he” or “brother” is used. The gender neutrality debate is all about maximum clarity, not accommodation. There’s nothing sacred about the English usage of patriarchal terms in our past, so we should be willing to change as language changes. Authorial intent drives this.

  19. Sue November 2, 2010 at 6:58 pm #

    The only question would seem to be “what is the intent of God?” and NOT “what is the current culture?”

    If we are talking about Hebrew then the intent of God is that gender be displayed in the verb ending. If we are talking about Greek then the intent of God is that no gender be displayed in the verb ending and no pronouns are necessary. In the NT, the closest we can come to the Greek is to use an indefinite pronoun which does not display gender. I believe the NIV2010 still does this.

  20. Sue November 2, 2010 at 9:13 pm #

    Females in the modern day may get confused when a “he” or “brother” is used.

    I honestly do not think it is a matter of just females being confused. I made a list of preachers who were confused about 1 Tim. 5:8. They thought that the “he” pronoun in English reflected a Greek masculine pronoun although there is none at all in this passage.

    Russell Moore writes,

    “The headship of men in the church and home is rooted everywhere in Scripture in protection and provision. This is why the apostle Paul calls the man who will not provide for his family “worse than an unbeliever”” (1 Tim 5:8 ESV). (on the CBMW website)

    Clearly the Greek does not say “the man who” and, there is not one indication that the passage refers to men rather than to both men and women.

    I would argue that those who misunderstand the generic pronouns the most in English are preachers. Preachers need to be provided with a gender accurate translation. The NRSV is about the best now.

  21. Mark November 2, 2010 at 11:08 pm #

    As a Calvinist complementarian evangelical, I say this isn’t as a serious issue as people like Wayne Grudem make it to be. I think when appropriate it is okay to use gender-neutral language (e.g., when a writer is addressing Christian people in general).

    I think this debate has gone overblown. I would be more concerned about how a Bible version translates Isaiah 7:14 than whether it is okay to use gender neutral terms for Christian addressees.

    Having said that, I hope the NIV2011 doesn’t go to the modernist route that the NRSV has. Most evangelicals stay away from the NRSV and I hope the new NIV doesn’t lead to that same fate.

  22. John Holmberg November 3, 2010 at 12:09 am #

    Mark,

    What do you mean “the modernist route”? I have no idea what that means. Based upon my dealings with evangelicals, many welcome the NRSV as a good translation that complements the others. For me in particular, I try to use a good 5-6 translations when I study a passage in some depth (yes, this includes the ESV & NASB). I haven’t been too disappointed with the NRSV yet. If there were any criticism I would have, it would be that it’s too word for word and doesn’t always capture the nuance of the Hebrew or Greek it translates properly (a criticism I also have for the ESV & particularly the NASB).

  23. John Holmberg November 3, 2010 at 12:16 am #

    BTW, I’m encouraged by the responses from some of the “complementarian Calvinists” on here about this being a silly issue many of the times. I would agree with the logic that many times it’s fine but sometimes maybe not. Authorial intent should drive each individual conclusion, not some over-riding principle to be either “politically correct” or “a committed complementarian obsessed with keeping language patriarchal.”

  24. Robert Slowley November 3, 2010 at 3:13 am #

    I thought you and your readers might find it useful to know that I’ve just put up some pages that show how similar the NIV2011 is to the NIV1984 and the TNIV. My pages also show each verse where the NIV2011 differs from the NIV1984 or the TNIV in an easily read / clear manner.

    The pages are online @ http://www.slowley.com/niv2011_comparison/

    I’d appreciate any comments or suggestions if anyone has any. Please either email me robert@slowley.com or leave a comment on my blog post http://community.livejournal.com/robhu_bible/4977.html

    Thank you,
    -RobHu

  25. Derek November 3, 2010 at 11:43 am #

    John,
    You said “The gender neutrality debate is all about maximum clarity, not accommodation.”.

    That’s a pretty bold statement, John. As just one type of example, passages such as I Cor 14:28 and Revelation 22:19 are switched from singular pronouns to plural in order to preserve gender neutrality. These verses can take on a very different meaning and application when you switch from singular to plural. Reasonable people on your side of this debate generally understand that there are at least some clarity problems when shifting to a gender neutral language. Yet you are dismissing virtually out of hand any objections coming from critics and skeptics of the TNIV.

    As I mentioned about your post in #5, you’re coming at this in a very one side and uncharitable manner (I noticed that you still will not criticize or even acknowledge “passionate” advocates on your side, only those on the critic side). I can certainly appreciate the perspective that Dr. Moo and Dr. Carson approach this, because they understand that there are legitimate reasons to be concerned and that in our rush to communicate clearly, we have to literally go through these verses one by one and make sure that we’re not damaging clarity in the pursuit of accommodation. Their approach is more oriented towards Christian unity and I encourage you to follow their lead.

  26. John Holmberg November 3, 2010 at 12:26 pm #

    Derek,

    Did you not read my previous post (#23)? I said I agree with the logic that many times it’s fine but sometimes maybe not. I also said political correctness should not drive our conclusions. That doesn’t seem very one-sided & uncharitable to me, and I’m criticizing ardent defenders of gender neutrality. I don’t think it’s okay to go gender neutral in every case, but I think an overwhelming majority of cases favor it. I don’t really know what else you’re asking me to do…

  27. Mark November 3, 2010 at 2:12 pm #

    John,

    When I used the phrase “modernist route” I meant that the translation (NRSV) is translated in a way that accommodates to modernist-liberal sensibilities. I attend a school where the official translation is the NRSV (all others being too conservative). You’ll also be surprised how many people who go giddy over the NRSV hold to very heretical doctrines or ethical positions: pluralism, universal salvation, pro-homosexual marriage, and even the denial of the deity of Christ.

  28. John November 3, 2010 at 3:11 pm #

    The fact that the ESV has a footnote when some masculine terms are used (e.g. adelphoi), demonstrates that this is an issue of genuine concern.

    That being said, one must carefully consider the implications of changing the gender language of the Bible. Why didn’t Paul say “brothers and sisters”? Why didn’t he say we are “sons and daughters” of God? I think one reason is that he wanted to make it plain that we are all – regardless of gender or bloodline – equally blessed and sharing in the same inheritance of the firstborn Christ.

    I think these examples are excellent reasons to retain the gender distinction for collective nouns that imply all believers.

  29. Sue November 3, 2010 at 10:06 pm #

    John,

    You must be saying that Cleopatra was a brother.

    The term adelphoi is not actually the equivalent of “brothers” but more like “siblings”. Can a brother and sister pair ever be called “brothers” in English? No, they cannot. But adelpoi refers to a brother and a sister, as a normal way of referencing them.

    The simple fact is that in Greek the gender system operates on different lines than in English.

    Moses parents are called his “pateres.” This simply refers to his father and his mother. This is not making a theological statement about the mother being called “father.” No, this is the NORMAL way to refer to a pair of two people of mixed gender. This is NORMAL. This is not normal in English. We cannot say that Moses “two fathers” had faith to hide him.

    The most basic entry in a Greek lexicon states that “adelphoi” means “brothers and sisters.” The problem is that when Grudem drafted the original gender language guidelines, and when he made his initial complaints about the TNIV he did not look in the lexicon.

    I have emailed him on this. Also on aner, anthropos and so on. Each of these words can refer to groups of mixed gender, that is to “people,” whereas “men” in English really does indicate a group of males. ONce again Grudem told me that the references I mentioned to prove this “were not available to him.” I cannot understand this because I understand that he attended some reasonable educational institutions. There is no way that Plato was not available to him.

    I doubt that anyone will really accept the reality of the Greek gender system. My view is that those who are blind to the language of the Bible do not have the level of accord with the mind of God that they think they have.

    This is a huge blindness and stumbling block.

  30. MatthewS November 3, 2010 at 10:14 pm #

    Robert, that’s a very impressive tool there. “Source control” for the Bible 🙂

    I would be curious to know more about how you did that…

  31. Robert Slowley November 3, 2010 at 10:20 pm #

    Hi Matthew –

    As far as I know the text of the NIV2011 is only available electronically on the Bible Gateway and beta (Biblica?) Bible Gateway sites at the moment, so unless someone has a special relationship with the publisher (e.g. maybe a Logos employee), if they have an electronic copy they will have obtained it by writing a program that reads the Bible Gateway site.

  32. Sue November 3, 2010 at 10:21 pm #

    Here is another example from the ESV. Luke 20: 34-36

    And Jesus said to them, “The sons of this age marry and are given in marriage, 35but those who are considered worthy to attain to that age and to the resurrection from the dead neither marry nor are given in marriage, 36for they cannot die anymore, because they are equal to angels and are sons of God, being sons of the resurrection.

    Does this passage make more sense by saying “sons” than if it said “people” or “offspring” or “children.”

    The preface says that the masculine is used where there is a masculine meaning component in the Greek. But does it not seem that this is refering to both men AND women? Is there some hidden agenda in talking about women as the “sons of this age.” Doesn’t it mean that those who are given in marriage are women? Why are they called “sons?”

    No, the reality is that the term huioi was used to refer to groups of people, and that is where we get the term “children of Israel.” Why was this term not changed to “sons of Israel?” Why did Israel have “children” but God has only “sons?” In English, that is.

    Okay, if women were given the same rights as men to lead a halfway normal life, then it might not be so bad. But why the confusion? Why is anthropos translated as “people” in some places and “men” in other places, and the same with huioi. The so-called “literal” translations preserve far less concordance than translations like the TNIV. The NIV 2010 is a mishmash, and I think that is about the best that can be expected.

  33. Robert Slowley November 4, 2010 at 4:47 am #

    I’ve significantly updated my NIV2011 comparison pages. I’ve improved the wording, fixed the colouring in of changes (and made it clearer), made some of the tables clearer, fixed some mistakes that made some of my numbers slightly off, and have added more explanatory text.

    Perhaps the biggest additions though are these two new pages:

    Top 250 added / removed words:
    http://www.slowley.com/niv2011_comparison/most_added_removed_words.html

    Top 250 most changed verses:
    http://www.slowley.com/niv2011_comparison/most_changed_verses.html

    You can also look at the details of the changes within a book (this was always there, but some people didn’t realise), e.g.
    http://www.slowley.com/niv2011_comparison/Genesis.html

    The start page itself can be found @
    http://www.slowley.com/niv2011_comparison/

    It’s also worth knowing that John Dyer has made a series of similar (excellent) pages:
    http://donteatthefruit.com/2010/11/niv-2011-every-last-change/

    -RobHu

  34. Robert Slowley November 4, 2010 at 8:10 am #

    I’ve just updated it again. The measure used for how different a verse is has been improved, and you can now see every instance of when a word has been added / removed.

    For instance here is the list of every time the word ‘humankind’ has been added or removed when going from the TNIV to the NIV2011:
    http://www.slowley.com/niv2011_comparison/words/tniv_humankind.html

    The full list of changed words can be found here:
    http://www.slowley.com/niv2011_comparison/most_added_removed_words.html

    -RobHu

  35. Derek November 4, 2010 at 10:55 am #

    John Holmberg,
    #23 is the best you can do at being charitable? That post only reinforces what I said in #25 because is a continuation of your rant that those who remain concerned about political correctness driving and affecting the TNIV “are silly”.

    Many of us know people described by Mark in #27, who do champion the TNIV and NRSV versions upon the basis of political correctness and other agendas. We are happy to engage with Dr. Moo and others, but our concerns are not illegitimate or “silly”.

    Everything I said in #25 stands.

  36. henrybish November 4, 2010 at 12:54 pm #

    John Holmberg:

    There’s nothing sacred about the English usage of patriarchal terms in our past

    That is just pure assertion. What if God intended for masculine terms to represent both men and women as a reflection of gender roles? If that is true then your assertion is false.

    I don’t think it is wise to just write of God’s choice of a patriarchal culture/language as insignificant and meaningless.

  37. John November 4, 2010 at 2:13 pm #

    Dear me, I seem to have communicated quite poorly. Let me see if I can be more clear for sister Sue. Koine uses gender inclusive substantives in the masculine form. I would recommend a good introductory grammar for an explanation of this. If the New Testament authors had meant to specify gender, Koine does provide female substantives. However, using these words specifically would imply a difference between gender (which is why female-specific substantives are used in the New Testament when referring to female-specific roles). This is important, because several sects of 2TJ distinguished sharply between males and females in a way that Christianity does not. Specifically, males only received inheritance, and in some writings of the Essenes, women could only be part of the eschaton if they bore their husband a male heir. If the New Testament had used language for both genders, the reader might (intentionally or otherwise) assume that men and women had unequal share in the body of Christ (or, metaphorically, that the Jews were the males who received the inheritance, while the gentiles were the females who did not – a distinction that would be equally unchristian). My fear is that if we introduce language like the ESV has (“brother and sisters”) we may import a false distinction back into the text. For what it is worth, by the way, Cleopatra was not a second temple Jew. Assuming you are referring to Cleopatra VII, she was a Ptolemaic puppet Pharaoh (and the last Pharaoh), whose cultural influence included Egyptian and Hellenistic ideas, bot not likely 2TJ. Perhaps you had someone else in mind. I hope this helps clear up some of your confusion.

  38. Sue November 4, 2010 at 3:15 pm #

    What if God intended for masculine terms to represent both men and women as a reflection of gender roles?

    And what if God intended that adam and ish be different words in order to understand his creation. Are we not obliged to translate adam as “human” and ish as “man?” Are we not transgressing because 4 Hebrew words are all translated into the English as “man.”

    And are we not transgressing when the identical word is translated as “mighty” when it refers to a man, and as “virtuous” when it refers to a woman? Is this not veiling the word of God? Are we not imposing English gender values on the word of God?

    And do we not transgress by inserting words into the Bible text, as in Phil 2:29 where the ESV says “honor such men” when there is no Greek word for men in this passage?

    If there were a literal Bible terms of gender then it should be recommended. Does anyone know of one?

  39. Donald Johnson November 4, 2010 at 3:48 pm #

    God accomodated to whatever culture was around in bringing people into the Kingdom step by step. The NT being in street Greek ensured the potential for a wide distribution.

  40. Derek November 4, 2010 at 4:06 pm #

    Donald Johnson,
    You’re making the same basic point Brent made earlier. Personally, I think it is a great idea to consult with a dynamic translation, even a really dynamic one like The Message because literal translations can read in a more formal or wooden manner than originally written. But any translation expert will tell you that there are numerous and unresolvable problems that arise when we transfer street Greek to street English, not least because street English changes so much from decade to decade and sub-culture to sub-culture. So the more literal translations like ESV and NASB help to limit these difficulties and it is advisable to consult with them at least as much as the dynamic translations.

    Also, you didn’t acknowledge that accommodation can be made for the purposes of clarity AND/OR for cultural pressures (i.e. political correctness or very narrow agendas on the part of the translator). There is an enormous difference between these types of accommodation and that is why it isn’t enough for us to say “we need to accommodate”. There’s a right way to accommodate and a wrong way. The difference can be as dramatic as the difference between drinking a glass of water and poison.

  41. Donald Johnson November 4, 2010 at 4:25 pm #

    I am all for learning as much of the Bible languages as possible and using as many translations as feasible. Things get lost in translation and any translation will involve interpretation (and sometimes perhaps misinterpretation). It is wise to know the worldview of the translators as much as they will tell you as it WILL affect their translation. So I can read Catholic Bibles but I “hold them a little further away” than Bibles translated by evangelicals. But I am very grateful for all the hard work that translators do.

  42. Sue November 4, 2010 at 11:57 pm #

    JOhn,

    I am not sure how confused you think I am. I suspect that we share the confusion equally.

    Regarding Cleopatra, I refer to the fact that she was female. She and her brother were called adelphoi, also Electra and Orestes. This is the normal way to refer to a brother and sisters whether they are 2TJ or not.

    The lexicons also indicate that this was the usual practice and I believe that this is still true today, that the word adelphoi refers to all the brothers and sisters in a family. We cannot use the word “brother” that way in English.

    Perhaps you mean that God chose a language with this type of gender system in order to communicate his truth. Is that what you mean? Do you feel that French or German, or any language with grammatical gender is more acceptable to God than English or perhaps Cree or Swahili?

    If that were the case, it seems as if there is something intrinsically defective in reading the Bible in English. We would do well to all switch to Spanish in which the brothers and sisters in the family are all referred to as hermanos.

    In English, however, we are unable to communicate the notion that both brothers and sisters in a family are being referred to without actually saying “brothers and sisters.” However, I now suspect that you think English will not reveal God’s gender truth so we perhaps we should have a Latin Bible.

    I am sorry but I must be misunderstanding you. I assume that you know that the LSJ provides “brothers and sisters” as the meaning of adelphoi.

  43. henrybish November 5, 2010 at 2:24 pm #

    Sue said:

    In English, however, we are unable to communicate the notion that both brothers and sisters in a family are being referred to without actually saying “brothers and sisters.”

    Those are just your words. On the other hand, the English speaking world has not had a problem for the last 400yrs of bible translation with understanding from the context that ‘brothers’ usually refers to both men and women.

    The real reason for your passion, I suspect, is that you are not so much concerned about ‘clarity’ as you are about overthrowing any vestige of male headship.

  44. henrybish November 5, 2010 at 2:34 pm #

    In addition, I have just checked 2 English dictionaries and they both provide one meaning of brother as ‘fellow human being’ or equivalent.

  45. Sue November 5, 2010 at 7:07 pm #

    Those are just your words. On the other hand, the English speaking world has not had a problem for the last 400yrs of bible translation with understanding from the context that ‘brothers’ usually refers to both men and women.

    I cannot think of what Bible you might be refering to over the last 400 years. The only one I know used the word “brethren” for the collective. I attended a Brethren assembly and considered myself part of the collective. However, in all my years with that group, I never once heard of a woman attending a “brothers’ meeting.” The distinction was as binding as any law.

    I do know that technically a “brother” should be any fellow human being, – as you say – but I have never heard the word used that way. I have read a very touching poem, written in French from the early 20th century, asking if a woman could ever be considered a “brother/frere” or fellow human being to a man. In fact, I was over 50 before I thought that a woman could be treated as a neighbour, as in “love your neighbour as yourself.”

    I do not have any idea what it would feel like to be treated as a fellow human being to men in the church. I cried when someone asked me if I did not think that the Bible had intended to communicate that. I have to say that honestly, I do not feel that I was ever treated as a fellow human being.

  46. Sue November 5, 2010 at 7:34 pm #

    To clarify, I mean by fellow human being, that a woman would have the same rights as a man, to have agency, to initiate, to take simple actions, to have ambition and to be able to at least desire to create or express anything at all. All of this requires a certain amount of autonomy, the ability to act. That was missing in my life, and many doors were shut, although not all.

    Like the woman who came to John Piper and said that she was required to ask permission to go from one room in the house to another, some women are simply deprived of the normal expectations that any man would have in life.

  47. henrybish November 6, 2010 at 8:47 am #

    I cannot think of what Bible you might be refering to over the last 400 years. The only one I know used the word “brethren” for the collective.

    First, I am not just referring only to the collective ‘brethren’ but also the singular ‘brother’. They are both used to include women.

    Second, that misses the point: ‘brethren’ is still a masculine term and translates the same Greek word that is often also translated ‘brother’ in the KJV.

    Third, the masculine word ‘brother’ is used frequently in the KJV to include both men and women, as is the masculine term ‘brethren’, here are a few examples:

    2Th 3:6 Now we command you, brethren, in the name of our Lord Jesus Christ, that ye withdraw yourselves from every brother that walketh disorderly, and not after the tradition which he received of us.

    Jas 4:11 Speak not evil one of another, brethren. He that speaketh evil of his brother, and judgeth his brother, speaketh evil of the law, and judgeth the law: but if thou judge the law, thou art not a doer of the law, but a judge.

    1Jn 3:14 We know that we have passed from death unto life, because we love the brethren. He that loveth not his brother abideth in death.

    Mat 5:22 But I say unto you, That whosoever is angry with his brother without a cause shall be in danger of the judgment:

    Mat 5:23-24 Therefore if thou bring thy gift to the altar, and there rememberest that thy brother hath ought against thee; Leave there thy gift before the altar, and go thy way; first be reconciled to thy brother, and then come and offer thy gift.

    Rom 14:10 But why dost thou judge thy brother? or why dost thou set at nought thy brother? for we shall all stand before the judgment seat of Christ.

    Rom 14:13 Let us not therefore judge one another any more: but judge this rather, that no man put a stumblingblock or an occasion to fall in his brother’s way.

    The fact remains that for the last 400yrs of English bible translation there has never been the current difficulty some seem to have with understanding that masculine terms such as ‘brother’ and ‘brethren’ can include women.

  48. henrybish November 6, 2010 at 8:55 am #

    And it goes without saying that the KJV is not the only translation (massive understatement) to do such a thing in the last 400yrs of english bible translation.

  49. Donald Johnson November 6, 2010 at 10:02 am #

    The problem is that English has changed and the current primary meanings of brother do not include sister, etc. So a goal of modern translations is to NOT use obsolescent terms, but be understood.

  50. henrybish November 6, 2010 at 10:58 am #

    The problem is that English has changed and the current primary meanings of brother do not include sister

    1) Nobody ever said it has to be a ‘primary’ meaning (or that is was ever a ‘primary’ meaning even in the past). The relevant point is that is is a meaning – as standard English dictionaries clearly testify.

    2) Regardless of how well known this usage is is in the populace at large, anyone who reads the Bible can quite easily understand that brethren/brothers/brother can include women. The context defines the meaning, you don’t need to look in a dictionary to find the particular nuance. I suspect this was how people came to understand this nuance of ‘brother’ in KJV days – from reading the Bible not from culture at large.

    3) The Bible has many terms that have specific nuances that are generally only found in scripture, such that we also rely on context to define meaning in those cases. It is nothing new.

    a goal of modern translations is to NOT use obsolescent terms, but be understood

    4) But this assumes that the patriarchal language that is woven all throughout the Bible is insignificant. If it is not then you are doing precisely the opposite – you are NOT being understood but are losing an important part of the original meaning.

    5) Even if you think the patriarchal language in the Bible is insignificant, why foist this interpretive choice on others by translating it out of existence? Why not leave it up to the reader to form his or her own judgment as to whether the patriarchal language in the Bible is significant?

  51. henrybish November 6, 2010 at 11:15 am #

    Also, even if we lived in a world where these terms were not understood, there would be another way to approach that hypothetical problem:

    Instead of jettisoning a word for another that does not carry the full range of nuance we could just simply explain it! Humans make up new words (or new meanings for existing words) all the time when they want to communicate a non-existing nuance.

    I think this idea that there are multitudes of people out there who are desperately struggling to get to grips with the Bible because of the word ‘brothers’ is ridiculously inflated and overplayed. I have never met a single person who fits that description.

    Rather, we are have become infested by a vile and rebellious political correctness that masquerades under the banner of ‘equality’.

  52. Sue November 6, 2010 at 12:10 pm #

    I don’t think that it is possible to explain to a woman who has never been treated as a fellow human being to man that she is a “brother.”

    And there is no point in insinuating that women who reject male headship are rebellious. They may simply be choosing to live moral lives over male headship lives. It is not up to others to judge this.

  53. Robert Slowley November 6, 2010 at 1:27 pm #

    Sue – clearly it is a terrible evil if a woman has never been treated as a fellow human being, but that some women are terribly mistreated and so have more difficulty understanding the biblical text does not mean we should change it just for them, especially if that change negatively affects the understanding of the general reader.

  54. Robert Slowley November 6, 2010 at 1:28 pm #

    To clarify slightly what I mean: Some people I know have been terribly abused by their parents, but that doesn’t mean that we shouldn’t use the word “father” to refer to God, does it?

    The solution surely is to help the individual rather than to alter the text for everyone?

  55. Donald Johnson November 6, 2010 at 2:45 pm #

    Using the term brother in an inclusive sense (meaing sister) is obsolescent in English, this is shown by studies of how people actually use it which is what counts.

    It is not that it cannot be explained, it is that many reading today do not know the “church” definition, as that is the only place where it might include females. Why make it harder for someone reading the Bible on their own.

    The best way I think is to go to the Greek and explain what the Greek words can mean. It is fighting a losing battle to try to get 1950s English back into major use.

  56. Donald Johnson November 6, 2010 at 3:03 pm #

    Another aspect of the confusion is that masculine terms are used for both exclusive male groups and inclusive groups in the same Bible, when there is no need to do this. Sometimes men means males and sometimes it means humans, so my pref is simply to use humans or people in the second case.

    Also, grammatical gender has no necessarily correlation with physical gender, English is not a gendered language like Spanish is, and so people that only speak English may think (wrongly) that grammatical gender implies more than it does in Hebrew or Greek.

  57. Sue November 6, 2010 at 3:55 pm #

    First, there needs to be some acknowledgement that the word “brothers” is NOT an equivalent for adelphoi. In fact, “brothers and sisters” is the semantic equivalent. This is a linguistic fact.

    One could say that features of the Greek and Hebrew language are part of how the will of God is revealed and we should translate grammatical gender. But then we are obliged to address the Holy Spirit as a female. This is a necessary corollary.

    If only male gender in Greek and Hebrew, but not female gender in these languages, is carried over, then it must be assumed that only male terms are important in this discussion. I must assume that this reflects the self-centredness of the males in the discussion and does NOT reflect the will of God.

    This is what I have felt compelled to believe up to this point. It is through email and real life discussions with Wallace, Packer, and Grudem, that I have come to understand the centrality of manhood to men – their inward focus – in spite of the linguistic facts.

    Regarding abuse, there are several categories of authority and submission in the Bible.

    Emperor and subjects
    priests and people
    slave owners and slaves
    husbands and wives
    parents and children

    In each of the first three categories, we now have a form of participatory and voluntary contractual agreement. The main vehicle is democratic. As Tim Keller has written,

    “In summary, the pattern of rule-and-submission is greatly muted in society because of sin. People abuse authority, so politically, all authority must be elected authority—and all individuals must have access to places of authority.”

    But Keller excludes women from having access to places of authority in the home. Why? Is it because there is no abuse in the home? Clearly not.

    Children also are excluded. In my view, children are under their parents authority only inasmuch as this is to their benefit. As soon as it no longers benefits them, they need to leave. Children must gain legal majority in order to be full adult human beings. Children are raised with a view to their own adulthood.

    But women are expected to live out a life in submission. If they are abused, they are in a life sentence of abuse, unless they can find a way to escape. They escape, mostly by denying male headship.

    This is reality. This is the way life is.

  58. Sue November 6, 2010 at 6:29 pm #

    but that some women are terribly mistreated and so have more difficulty understanding the biblical text does not mean we should change it just for them, especially if that change negatively affects the understanding of the general reader.

    All I am suggesting is that the translation be in agreement with the standard lexicons. I don’t understand why men wish to deviate from this. I can only assume that it is because they do not regard women as equal human beings.

  59. Sue November 6, 2010 at 6:42 pm #

    especially if that change negatively affects the understanding of the general reader.

    If you are referring to the change from “sons” to “children,” you must know that the Reformation was founded on a translation which never used the expression “sons of God.”

    I think it would be best to discuss these issues using a lexicon and the history of translation rather than just assuming that masculine is better.

  60. Sue November 6, 2010 at 7:01 pm #

    It is fighting a losing battle to try to get 1950s English back into major use.

    I don’t think that even in the 1950’s a woman was a man, or a sister was a brother. It is simply that “siblings” does not sound stylistically correct in English. And once upon a time, back in the 1500’s women were “men” because that is what the word meant at that time.

  61. Donald Johnson November 7, 2010 at 9:49 am #

    Women were “men” except when they were not in the 1950s. It was supposedly not confusing.

  62. Daniel December 14, 2010 at 2:09 pm #

    Perhaps someone who prefers the ESV over the NIV can explain why it is more “proper” to render “brothers” and then include a footnote in smaller print telling everyone that this word actually means “brothers and sisters”, rather than simply rendering it “brothers and sisters” in the main text?

  63. Ron December 15, 2010 at 10:19 am #

    Daniel – I think you are getting at a main aspect of the NIV. It is a thought-by-thought style of translation. I’m not worked up over this because, honestly, this is the kind of thing you get with the NIV. I like the ESV, I still love the NAS. Both of those translations have issues, but the goal should be (IMHO) linguistic coherence and consistency. I don’t want dynamic equivalence. Give me all the idioms and so forth just as written. Don’t tell me the “Wise Men” saw the star “rise”. Tell me the Magi saw the star in the east. Because that is what it says. I like the footnotes, but heck, I read from an interlinear so I’m used to it.

  64. Ron December 15, 2010 at 10:26 am #

    One more thing, and I don’t want to ruffle feathers — I think this calls to the fact that we need (and the Bible expects) a Christian culture that is distinct and high. Yes, I know Koine wasn’t high Classic or Attic. Yes, I know the early converts of the Oikoumene were poor. But the cultus of the Tabernacle and then the Temple show a cultural trajectory that should spread throughout the world. The Church, therefore, is a bulwark against language blowing in the wind.

  65. Donald Johnson December 15, 2010 at 2:40 pm #

    I think language is created by people using it and if this is seen as blowing in the wind sobeit.

    The church should decide to translate into the common venacular as a means to spread the gospel.

  66. Ron Dodson December 15, 2010 at 3:33 pm #

    But Jesus is the Logos, He is Alpha and Omega, the Spirit is the Breath of God. God makes it clear that He is sovereign over language and it must glorify Him and His purposes. The Second Person is language incarnate. When man gets uppity about his language you get Babel.

  67. Johnny February 20, 2011 at 10:01 pm #

    This has nothing to do with accuracy, it is political correctness creeping into Bible translations.

    I am recommending all the churches I have influence with to stay clear of this translation and go HCSB or NAS 95.

    After 25 years, I feel this is huge bait and switch.

    http://www.eljachin.org/2011/02/where-do-we-go.html?spref=fb

  68. Donald Johnson February 21, 2011 at 10:38 am #

    Languages are what is spoken and written by the people. It is an artifact of the cultures that produce it.

    Each of the books of the Bible was written to an original audience, we need to try to understand as best we can how that original audience would have understood it, except for perhaps some prophecies, some of which seem intended to be understood at a later time. A translator should help us achieve this goal and there are various ways to try to do this.

    There are some words in the Bible that are shocking when understood in context and people can have various ideas about how these should be translated and how much euphemism to use, if any.

    ANY AND ALL translators are in effect trying to make it easy for the reader to agree with the translator’s theology, so it does help to know what it is. This is true because there are always translation choices to be made. An agenda-free translation is simply not possible.

    The NIV-2011 was translated in an attempt to have a Bible that could be used by both comp and egal evangelicals, but CBMW has declined to endorse it. The HCSB and ESV were translated using masculinist principles, so if one is a comp, one will likely like those. I see the lack of a common Bible as an unfortunate development, it does seem like the Bible translations will split.

  69. Derek February 21, 2011 at 12:47 pm #

    If the TNIV 2011 was indeed a substantial effort to bridge the gap between egals and complementarians, that would be one thing. But I have not heard many complaints or concerns from the ideologically driven egals. Their support for TNIV seems to be intact. So it stands to reason that the “concessions” were more political or marketing oriented than substantial.

  70. Donald Johnson February 21, 2011 at 3:22 pm #

    I have some concerns with some translation choices the NIV 2011 made. I am not sure if you consider me ideologically driven, but am egal.

    I do not think there were “concessions”, I accept the claim of the committee that they did not want their translation to favor either position on the comp/egal question.

  71. Sue February 22, 2011 at 2:18 am #

    Egals don’t have a command centre for complaining about Bible translation so it is more difficult to tell what they think. I can’t think of any egal organization which focuses on commenting on Bible translation.

  72. Brian May 14, 2011 at 10:33 pm #

    I’m not sure why those of you quoting I Timothy 5:8 are ignoring the masculine possessives in the verse. It is very correctly translated in the masculine.

  73. Sue May 16, 2011 at 1:31 am #

    εἰ δέ τις τῶν ἰδίων καὶ [a]μάλιστα οἰκείων οὐ [b]προνοεῖ, τὴν πίστιν ἤρνηται καὶ ἔστιν ἀπίστου χείρων.

    Are you referring to τῶν ἰδίων? Do you mean that the one who provides only provides for the masculine members of the household? I suppose one could derive that meaning, but I hope one would not carry it out.

  74. Donald Johnson May 16, 2011 at 9:23 am #

    Brian,

    Look at the Greek.

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