Christianity,  Theology/Bible

Lutheran Church Missouri Synod on 2011 NIV

The executive staff of the Missouri Synod’s Commission on Theology and Church Relations has issued a statement about the NIV 2011 and its use of inclusive language. It’s four pages long, but the bottom line is in the final paragraph.

We find the NIV’s Committee on Bible Translation decision to substitute plural nouns and pronouns for masculine singular nouns and pronouns to be a serious theological weakness and a misguided attempt to make the truth of God’s Word more easily understood. The use of inclusive language in NIV 2011 creates the potential for minimizing the particularity of biblical revelation and, more seriously, at times undermines the saving revelation of Christ as the promised Savior of humankind. Pastors and congregations of the LCMS should be aware of this serious weakness. In our judgment this makes it inappropriate for NIV 2011 to be used as a lectionary Bible or as a Bible to be generally recommended to the laity of our church. This is not a judgment on the entirety of NIV 2011 as a translation—a task that would require a much more extensive study of NIV 2011—but an opinion as to a specific editorial decision which has serious theological implications.

Read the rest of the report here.


  • BruceSymons

    So is the Commission going to insist on using ‘she’ and ‘it’ as the pronouns to refer to the Spirit? If not, why not?

    • Chris Krycho

      Is the Spirit referenced with a female pronoun somewhere? I hadn’t caught that, if so; the only gender-specific reference with which I’m familiar is in John, and Jesus uses a masculine there. I believe all NT references are either neuter or masculine (and nearly all neuter). Are you conflating “Wisdom” in Proverbs and “the Spirit”, or looking at other references in the Hebrews? (No hostility implied, I’m quite curious, and haven’t any background in Hebrew yet.)

      • Don Johnson

        In Hebrew, the words for “Holy Spirit” or just “Spirit” are grammatically feminine. In Greek they are grammatical neuter. This does NOT mean the Holy Spirit is feminine sex or somehow lost any sexuality in the NT. A spirit is not gendered and one needs to distinguish between grammatical gender (a human convention to express ideas in a language) and physical gender (a part of God’s good Creation).

      • Henry Bish


        Regarding the OT Hebrew, there is at least one verse with the Spirit being referred to with pronoun(s), and guess what – even though in Hebrew ‘Spirit’ is grammatically feminine, a masculine pronoun is still used:

        Isa. 40:13–14:
        “Who has directed the Spirit of the Lord, or as his counselor has instructed him? Whom did he consult for his enlightenment, and who taught him the path of justice, and taught him knowledge, and showed him the way of understanding?”

        So in both the OT and NT where pronouns are used referring the the Person of the Holy Spirit, they are exclusively masculine.

        • Henry Bish

          For a more detailed look read p16-18 in a previous report from The Lutheran Church—Missouri Synod “Biblical Revelation and Inclusive Languages”. It can be accessed here:

          One other point that should be made. It is often said/implied that because the Spirit has a grammatically feminine gender in Hebrew that this undermines the argument of those against gender-neutral translations since they do not accept the Spirit as being a ‘she’.

          As should be clear from my previous comment, this is a red-herring since the argument is based on pronoun usage not grammatical gender.

          I found this footnote in the aforementioned report helpful:

          The grammatical gender of a word does not necessarily correspond to the actual gender of the person to whom the word refers. See the discussion in Bruce K. Waltke and M. O’Connor, An Introduction to Biblical Hebrew Syntax (Winona Lake, IN: Eisenbrauns, 1990), 99–102. Waltke and O’Connor relate that in French there are nouns which are feminine in form but refer to men (la sentinelle, “the sentinel”; la vigi, “the night watchman”). Some nouns designating professions are masculine in form even when referring to a woman (le professeur, “the professor”). A New Testament example of this would be the case of Phoebe (Rom. 16:1). Here Phoebe is called “servant,” even though the word for “servant” is , a word whose grammatical gender is masculine.

          • Henry Bish

            An interesting footnote:

            An example of the desire for inclusive language running roughshod over the actual language of the text is the way The Inclusive New Testament (Brentwood, MD: Priests for Equality, 1996) renders John 16:7–16. In a thoroughgoing way it renders the language about
            the Paraclete/Holy Spirit in the feminine. For example: “When the Spirit of truth comes, s h ewill guide you into all truth” (v. 13). The word translated “she” in fact is , the masculine form of the demonstrative pronoun. The Greek language has a feminine form,
            , which could have been used in John 16 had “she” been intended. Here The Inclusive New Testamentis not an accurate translation of the text, but an intentionally false translation.

            p18, “Biblical Revelation and Inclusive Languages”

            • Suzanne McCarthy

              “The Greek language has a feminine form,
              , which could have been used in John 16 had “she” been intended.”

              Typically the pronoun agrees with the grammatical gender of the word. In Hebrew the verb ending also agrees. Normally, in Hebrew the verb ending is feminine, but sometimes masculine, possibly agreeing with “the Lord” rather than with “the spirit of the Lord.”

              In Greek, the spirit is neuter, and then the pronoun is neuter, but when paraclete was used, it is masculine in gender and the pronoun agress with this. Does this make the spirit masculine? As you indicated in French, many words are grammatically feminine and refer to men and women, or vice versa. Paraclete is one of those words, just as ezer refers to Eve but is masculine.

              However, the early Syriac church, speaking Aramaic, did address the spirit as mother for the first several centuries. It is rather because the spirit has the title of mother in Aramaic that one considers her to be feminine.

          • Don Johnson

            Phoebe is a diakonos, and should be translated as deacon, some thing that Paul calls himself. She is a minister of Christ. It is actually of what is called “common gender” not masculine gender.

          • Don Johnson

            The truth is that grammatical gender has no necessary relation to physical gender, so many of the arguments of gender restrictionists are specious from the get go.

        • Don Johnson

          In Hebrew, Ruach/Spirit has grammatical feminine gender, but is not physically gendered. There are just 2 grammatical genders, masculine and feminine, there is no neuter like in Greek. The default pronoun is grammatical masculine, so Ithink the use of a grammatical masculine pronoun with a grammatical feminine noun does not mean anything, since a spirit has no phyiscal gender.

          The point is trying to make some kind of spiritual truth out of the way a language works is fundamentally flawed. God accomodated to the way Hebrew was used at the time a book in the Bible was written and that is all it means, and same for the Greek.

          • Suzanne McCarthy

            If, on the other hand, you are referring to grammatical endings, then we should look at all the time that ruach is used with feminine grammatical endings, and compare those to the times that the endings are masculine. One really needs to look at the Hebrew to do this.

        • Suzanne McCarthy


          Would you point out for me which of these English pronouns reflects and underlying Hebrew pronoun. I don’t think that this site supports Hebrew font, but perhaps you could tell me which of these English pronouns has an underlying Hebrew pronoun and I will look for it.

  • Russell Lewis

    I find it ironic that a statement that decries the use of politically correct language would call Jesus the Savior of “humankind.” Why use the the politically correct word “humankind” when the traditional “mankind” works just fine. Besides that, “Savior of humankind” is a bit clumsy rolling off the tongue. I’ve always thought that politically correct language, in addition to being ugly, is sort of like walking down the sidewalk, determined not to bring harm to ones mother.

  • Suzanne McCarthy

    I am still wondering how so many men, MacArthur, Driscoll, Moore, Rainey, and so on, have all mistaken the “he” in the English version of 1 Tim. 5:8 as a translation of an underlying Greek pronoun when it is nothing more than an insertion into the English text.

    Here is an example of the problem. Richard Strauss writes,

    “Dad must take the lead. But what is involved in properly managing a family? For one thing it means taking the lead in providing physical necessities, such as food, clothing, shelter, and medical care. Paul used masculine pronouns in referring to these kinds of things when he said, “If anyone does not provide for his relatives, and especially for his immediate family, he has denied the faith and is worse than an unbeliever” (1 Tim. 5:8, NIV). Mother may work, but the primary responsibility for meeting the family’s needs falls on dad. Indolent fathers who refuse to accept this responsibility need to heed this severe indictment.”

    Richard Strauss had a Doctoral degree from DTS. I have seen no evidence that preachers and theologians today are able to discern that “he” refers to both men and women alike.

    Of course, in this case there are no masculine pronouns in Greek, but Strauss believes that the English masculine pronouns must reflect underlying Greek pronouns, which they don’t. Sometimes there are grammatically masculine pronouns, refering back to a generic person, a human being. But Greek does not have pronouns in all the instances that English requires pronouns.

    And, yes the spirit was feminine at least by grammar in Hebrew and in Syriac up until the 6th century when she was transgendered in a similar manner to Junia.

    In Greek, the paraclete was masculine, but we don’t know the gender of the word that Jesus used to refer to the spirit in Aramaic. Since Syriac is really a written form of Aramaic, we have to assume that Jesus did use the feminine pronoun when referring to the spirit.

    Since in Latin “spiritus” is a masculine word, the spirit is often represented by a dove, a feminine word, and then refered to in Latin texts as “she” “una columba.” I was just reading an 11th century text in Latin recently (Christina of Markyate) where the columba played a significant role.

  • David Dollins

    I have watched as a prominent Lutheran (Paul Cain) over at Cyberbrethern website has spent much time bashing the NIV 2011 in favor of the ESV. I sent him the following email of which he was totally incapable of engaging me on the issues. He simply referred me to another ‘NIV 2011-bashing website’. For all those of you who think the ESV ‘walks on water’ and does no interpretation and never mistranslates, think again. I seriously hope women would read what I have provided. I am not ‘NIV only’, I am against leaders who spend all their time disparaging translations that are not like theirs. I use them all, including the ESV once in a while. It seems the leaders (and those who think they are) could benefit everyone by lifting up Jesus….a rarity today.

    “I speak as a Bible Teacher and a born again Christian. I must say I believe your wholesale bashing of the NIV 2011 is way over the top, especially coming from a person of leadership. It grieves me. It would be easy to turn the table on the ESV regarding their ‘forced’ translation in various texts as it relates to women (I am a complimentarian). First, the ESV translators mistranslated Romans 16:1 when the Greek word for ‘servant’ is diakonos. Yep, the same word that is called Deacon in 1 Timothy 3:8,12. That means Phoebe, a female, was a Deacon in the early church. Second, in 1 Timothy 3:11, the ESV translators again mistranslated a verse. The ESV says ‘their wives’, implying that Deacons were all male and it then referred to their wives. The NIV 2011, as well as the literal NASB, translate this word correctly. Its the Greek word for ‘women’. It should say…Likewise women should…This leaves open that even here it could have been talking about women being Deacons. At least the NIV took the correct middle-ground instead of forcing a translation on the text, the very thing they accuse the NIV 2011 of doing. Finally, the ESV mistranslated Romans 16:7. Now that everyone realizes that Junia was a female, the ESV forced a translation on the text that is just plain foreign to the text, saying that Andronicus and Junia were ‘well known TO the apostles’ as opposed to a correct translation of well known AMONG the apostles which would have left open the possibility, either way, and correctly so. The ESV translators solved it for everyone…yes, they interpreted. It is the ESV translation that has become agenda-driven. Females are subordinate and have their place, just not in any leadership role. Is the NIV 2011 perfect? Of course not. But to simply ‘go off’ on your web page is inadvisable, not to mention misleading people about the translations. I like the ESV and the NIV 2011 both, but for different reasons. But the tact you have taken? I just don’t think I would have gone there. I hope you are able to explain and justify to all the Lutheran women the above passages. Absolutely incredible.”

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