Christianity,  Theology/Bible

TNIV Is Dead . . . Sort of

On Tuesday Zondervan, Biblica and the Committee on Bible Translation issued a joint statement announcing a new revision of the New International Version (NIV) of the Bible to be released in 2011. They also announced that when the new edition is released, the TNIV will be taken off of the market.

For those of you who are just joining this conversation and are wondering why this is important, let me bring you up to speed. In 1997 the translators of the NIV promised no revisions to the NIV. It was a defensive maneuver. Controversy had erupted after it was revealed that the translators intended to publish a “gender accurate” revision of the NIV. The backlash was so severe that the plans were scrapped and they promised to freeze the NIV in its current form. Several years later, the translators introduced a “gender accurate” version of the NIV under the title Today’s New International Version (TNIV). The release of TNIV was met with the same controversy that attended the defunct 1997 revision. Too many evangelicals simply were not interested in a “gender accurate” translation of the Bible. To many, the “gender accurate” approach looked more like a gender-neutral approach, and this was unnacceptable. As a result, the TNIV performed miserably in the market, and now it is all but dead. . . sort of. The 2011 revision of the NIV will be based on the TNIV, though we still do not know the extent to which gender-neutral translations will be included.

Why is this important? Why should you care? It’s important because we are talking about the proper translation of God’s word. In effect, we have opposing opinions among evangelicals about what makes a proper translation. One of the reasons that we have so many English translations of the Bible today is because of this disagreement. The Bible that you carry to church with you every week reflects the philosophy of one or more of these opposing viewpoints. In short, every time you read your Bible, this issue affects you.

I am the editor of the Journal for Biblical Manhood & Womanhood, a publication which has played no small part in opposing the TNIV. But my interest in this discussion is not merely academic. It is also pastoral. I count myself among those who think that the TNIV and other gender-neutral translations do not reflect the most reliable approach to rendering the Bible in English. The translators who claimed that generic masculines are no longer understood in the English language way overstated their case. In fact, the case was never really made so much as it was assumed. I suspect, furthermore, that this supposition is due more to pervasive feminist propaganda in the culture than to any profound changes in the English language (though I do not wish to imply that TNIV translators are consciously trying to promote a feminist agenda).

For this reason, it would be a mistake for NIV revisers to continue what amounts to a gender-neutral approach to translation. This approach produced profound distortions in the TNIV (e.g., Hebrews 2:8, which the TNIV renders as “human beings” against “Son of Man” in the NIV). Yet according to Doug Moo, the verdict is still out on this question. Ted Olsen reports that,

“Doug Moo, chairman of the the Committee on Bible Translation (which is the body responsible for the translation) said the committee has not yet decided how much the 2011 edition will include the gender-inclusive language that roiled critics of the TNIV. ‘We felt certainly at the time it was the right thing to do, that the language was moving in that direction,’ Moo said. ‘All that is back on the table. This has been a time of transition in the in the way the English language has handled gender, and it is in flux and in process as things are changing quickly.'”

I’m holding out hope that the Committee on Bible Translation will not do in the NIV 2011 what they did in the TNIV. If they do, I would oppose it, and so would many others. The NIV would then become the new “divisive” translation, and I don’t think that helps anyone.

That being said, I’m glad that the TNIV is going off the market. For the sake of the countless numbers who read the NIV, I hope its gender-neutral translation philosophy disappears too.


See also:

Scot McKnight

Albert Mohler

Ligon Duncan

Darryl Dash – “Interview with Douglas Moo on the NIV 20011”

Justin Taylor

Ted Olsen (Christianity Today)

Cathy Lynn Grossman (USA Today)

Erin Roach (Baptist Press)


  • Nick

    It’s no surprise that the ‘gender neutral’ TNIV didn’t fare well in the market. “He who marries the spirit of the age, shall soon become a widower”.

  • Sue

    The translators who claimed that generic masculines are no longer understood in the English language way overstated their case.

    Actually that is not quite true. I was once in a discussion with someone in a thread on this blog, I think, who argued that an elder was a man because of the “he” in this verse,

    “If anyone aspires to the office of overseer, he desires a noble task.”

    Of course, there is no “he” in Greek and it isn’t until “husband” is mentioned that we get a masculine.

    You might say this doesn’t matter, but it certainly demonstrates what people think.

    Mark Driscoll also preached from 1 Timothy 5:8 that it was the “man” who was to provide, and would be worse than an unbeliever if he did not provide.

    Interesting that Calvin wrote,

    “And if any person do not provide for his own Erasmus has translated it, “If any woman do not provide for her own,” making it apply exclusively to females. But I prefer to view it as a general statement; for it is customary with Paul, even when he is treating of some particular subject, to deduce arguments from general principles, and, on the other hand, to draw from particular statements a universal doctrine. And certainly it will have greater weight, if it apply both to men and to women.”

    If Driscoll can preach that based solely on the presence of a masculikne pronoun in English, (and the complete lack of any masculine reference in Greek) that a verse must apply only to men, then I think we have a serious problem.

    How old is Mark Driscoll anyway? 39. But he does not know that the “he” pronoun is generic. Hmm.

    What do you suggest as a solution, Denny?

  • Denny Burk


    I think the “Colorado Springs Guidelines” are sensible and fair. I don’t think that the NIV will remove all “gender accurate” language. But if the translators would follow these guidelines, it would improve the quality of the translation. It would also prevent some of the more divisive renderings from finding their way into the new edition.


  • Nick Mackison

    Denny, I love your blog and almost everything you stand for, but on this issue (of gender language) I fear that in supporting the Colorado Springs Guidelines, you are opposing Scripture being translated into the language of the common people.

    Whether it was a pervasive feminist agenda that changed our language or not, whatever the case, we’re stuck with gender neutral pronouns. The man (or woman!) on the street speaks and thinks using plural gender-neutral pronouns.

    I find it amazing that godly men such as Poythress, Piper, Grudem et al are advancing a translation philosophy that prizes translating Greek into a form of English that has long since disappeared from modern parlance. And I thought we were Protestants. As I’ve already said, to oppose a translation that seeks to ustilise gender-accurate language, at the last analysis, is to oppose God’s words being translated in the language of the common people.

    I’m sad that I disagree with you Denny (as well as other good men who are contending for the faith). As Carson believes, I too worry that in 40 or 50 years those who oppose such language in our bibles will be looked upon in the same light as those who opposed the removal of ‘thees’ and ‘thous’ from our bibles 50 years ago.

  • Denny Burk

    Thanks for the feedback, Nick. And thanks for reading the blog.

    I don’t have a problem with “gender accurate” language per se. The problem comes, however, when gender accuracy produces other distortions (lack of concord in number for instance) or when gender-neutral renderings creep in (like the elimination of “father” from Hebrews 12:7 in the TNIV). The Colorado Guidelines would eliminate some of these difficulties.

    One other item that I would push-back on. You say that generic masculines comprise “a form of English that has long since disappeared from modern parlance.” Where are the studies showing this to be the case? The data to support such a claim has not been forthcoming. What has happened in the last 50 years or so has been an effort to remove all forms of “patriarchy” embedded in the English language. All of the changes in our style guides have resulted from that agenda, not from actual documented changes in English usage.

    No doubt there has been some changes in English usage. But this change owes more to an agenda foisted upon the language than the to the spurious claim that English users no longer comprehend generic masculines.


  • Joel

    It is unfortunate, but perhaps unavoidable, that the translation discussion has been so closely joined with the complementarian/egalitarian debate.

    I once sat in a discussion with a group of Wycliffe translators who were bewildered by how the debate formed in the United States. One translator said, “The language I am working with has eight genders!” Another said, “My language has no gender pronouns at all!” Their focus was on clear communication of the Word, not fighting or upholding a cultural or biblical philosophy of gender. And yet, we live in a culture where the gender debate rages. What are we to do?

    Denny, in your blog post, you wrote that the TNIV translators were not necessarily driven by feminist ideology. You also suggest that English usage has not changed, but ideologically driven English usage guides have. Do you think, if the guides successfully influence English usage to the point that “man” or “he” are no longer acceptable generics, that the Colorado Guidelines will change?

    As for the NIV 2011, I hope that some of the other changes in the TNIV, those unrelated to gender and that increase its accuracy and clarity, are maintained!

    Thanks for the work on the blog. I enjoy reading.


  • Adam Omelianchuk

    I just did a search on Bible Gateway:

    Hebrews 12:7 (Today’s New International Version)
    7 Endure hardship as discipline; God is treating you as his children. For what children are not disciplined by their father?

    Doesn’t the TNIV already retain the use of the word “father?”

  • russware


    I am curious. What if you were to become convinced that generic masculines do in fact confuse the meaning and intent of the text for a preponderance of English speakers today?

    Nick says we are there. His statement regarding such might be overstated, but I certainly agree that we are far enough down that road to legitimize the argument. Furthermore, surely we all understand gender neutral syntax for what it is. Therefore, I think we should view the accurate understanding of the intent of the text as our priority. I support this approach not because I have any gender related agenda, but rather precisely because I do not.

    You’ve based push-back here on the assertion that there is no real intelligibility issue as suggested by Nick and so many others. But what if it could be shown that there was such an issue? If not now, then what about 10 yeas from now? If, then, the point could not be denied, would you still be willing to sacrifice intelligibility and understanding by the masses at the altar of your well stated and documented agenda related to gender?

  • russware


    Yes! A great example of the TNIV translator’s precision in rightly applying stated principles related to gender accuracy in the context of intelligibility. ‘Father’ stays ‘father,’ ‘son(s)’ changes to ‘children.’ Brilliant! And a perfect example.

    Incidentally, and for the record, I’ve never been a big NIV fan in general (NIV or TNIV), and prefer the ESV. But, I support the NIV philosophy of gender accuracy. The ESV actually takes a ‘softer’ version of the same approach, but makes a number of changes related to gender accuracy in the context of contemporary usage. And now we have the Apocryphal books in ESV too. Brilliant!


  • Nathan


    The TNIV doesn’t retain “Pater” in verse 9 of chapter 12, but instead replaces it with “parents” So, how far do we go to have gender equality, because the word parents is in the greek text (see 2 Tim 3:2, etc.) and that is not the word used.

    Russ, it might be one thing to speak about pronouns, but I don’t believe society has moved so far that I am referred to as a parent and not the father of my children. So, do you think we are moving to a time where mother and father will no longer be words we use, but something like guardians or parents instead? I guess I don’t see us anywhere near that point.

    Don’t we want to be accurate to the text in our translation without taking liberties such as this example in Heb 12:9. I personally think there is a feminist bent for changing father to parents in this verse. Can anyone think of any other reason to explicitly change father to parents and assume that was what the writer intended to say.

  • Mike Aubrey

    One other item that I would push-back on. You say that generic masculines comprise “a form of English that has long since disappeared from modern parlance.” Where are the studies showing this to be the case?

    Why are studies necessary when a construction like singular “they” have been used since the 1300’s and is in fact old than generic “he.”

    What’s the point of fighting so hard against something that has a better and older linguistic pedigree than your personal pronominal preference?

  • Sue


    You didn’t mention how you would instruct men your own age, I am guessing, like Driscoll to understand the generic masculine, when he clearly does not.

    I am also wondering if the Luther, Tyndale, KJV and other Bibles would be rejected as well since they do not follow the CSG. In fact, the ESV does not follow the CSG for most of those terms at some point.

    The ESV does not mention that Moses has two fathers, for example, but rather that he has parents in Hebrews 11. The little girls in Numbers 31 are called persona and not “men” although the word is adam since it simple means “human.”

    In fact, not one of the CSG stands up to usage. And any Bible that translates 2 TIm. 2:2 and Eph. 4:8 with men, is simply saying that anthropos in the plural means “men.” This, of course, would simply eliminate women from salvation.

    What the ESV often does is translate anthropos in the plural as “men” if the action is teaching and leadership and “people” if the action is related to salvation. It is hardly transpaent to the Greek.

    I don’t think you could actually defend even one of the CS Guidelines.

  • Tim

    Dr. Burk,

    From what Scot McKnight mentioned on his blog, they’re revising the _TNIV_ and not the NIV. The TNIV will be the basis for the revision, so I’m not sure how many of the changes you’d like to see will come through in the end.

    This whole thing is funny to me… because of the ESV, which I use because it is always so close to how I translate the originals. I was going to say the same thing that Russ did… the TNIV has indeed had a strong influence in the way that it’s affected the ESV.

    Another funny thing to me is that people talk about wanting an “accurate” translation. Fine. But accurate for whom, and for what purpose? For liturigcal worship in the church? Or for reaching out to the average American, who has never set foot in the church and may barely have a 6th grade reading level? The ESV, which I love, is well suited as an elegant translation for our church liturgy and for private reading by Christians. But for the man on the street, I’m hard pressed. Eugene Peterson’s paraphrase “The Message” is probably the best!

  • russware


    Obviously, the principle of gender accuracy must be applied carefully and thoughtfully. The decision was made in v.7 to retain ‘father.’ The decision was made in v.9 to change to ‘parents.’ I can understand the decisions here in light of context.

    I can see no basis for alarm.


    I’m with you bro! Though I wouldn’t want ‘The Message’ to be the only thing in a persons hand for long. We use the ESV in our church for liturgical readings as well, but I always tell the interns here at the camp where I work (with a bit of a twinkle in the eye), that the ESV and ‘The Message’ is all you need!

  • Mike Aubrey

    Where are the studies showing this to be the case?

    Well, you can start here:

    Baranowski, M. “Current usage of the epicene pronoun in written English.” Journal of Sociolinguistics 6, no. 3 (August 2002): 378-397.

    Here’s the Abstract:

    The article focuses on the social aspects of the epicene pronominal usage in written English. As this study has shown, “he” is no longer the preferred singular epicene pronoun in English. The English epicene pronoun has come full circle and returned to where it was a few centuries ago, when three forms existed alongside each other. However, as this study shows, the change has gone even further. It can be seen that singular “they” is now the predominant form. He is being used less and less, and is now probably demoted to very formal contexts. As far as the type of antecedent is concerned, singular they is by far the most likely pronoun to be used when the antecedent is specified by a quantifier. The proportion of they is slightly lower with indefinite and definite antecedents, but it is nevertheless the most likely choice. This study provides support for the hypothesis that American writers are more conservative than British ones in that they are less likely to use singular they. Both groups rarely use the traditionally prescribed form, “he,” the main difference being in the use of non-androcentric, unbiased forms which have supplanted the masculine generic: a higher rate of “they” for British writers and a higher frequency of “he” or “she” for Americans.

    And I’m sure if you dig through the bibliography you’ll find a few more articles and studies as well. At the very least, I’d suggest that this particular study should validate the need for a gender-accurate version for our friends across the pond.

  • Nathan


    If you look at Pater in every English translation I looked in, until the TNIV there were only two instances in the New Testament where it was changed to parents (which is a potential translation) Hebrews 11 as was pointed out and Mt 10:21. Plus, the contextual flow of Heb 12 is a comparison between earthly fathers and our heavenly father, so I really don’t see how you think it was an appropriate decision because it changes the flow of the argument.

  • Adam Omelianchuk

    I really don’t see how you think it was an appropriate decision because it changes the flow of the argument.

    Fair enough. I actaully agree with you on this point. But I don’t think this agreement entails some sort of feminist plot to subvert the testimony of Scripture. If so, wouldn’t you have to be committed to the view that ONLY father and NEVER mothers have the right to discipline their children?

  • Nathan

    That’s a fair statement Adam. However, I do think we are witnessing in our society a desire to de-legitimize men and fathers. Look on TV, read the news, look at the flow of arguments. Fathers are not seen as responsible, good, necessary, etc. My statement about the TNIV probably was over-the-top, but I am concerned about the world gaining inroads into the church. So, when the TNIV begins changing specific issues (like the passage in Hebrews) and not just generic ones it concerns me.

  • Matthew Staton

    Couple of thoughts:

    1) “Comprehend” (in OP) is about propositional truth but words also have affect. Smell, scent, and odor carry very similar propositional truth but different affect.

    2) Our society has made many changes. Some of them are good, some of which happen to generally align with feminist ideals. It is not sufficient grounds to judge a change bad merely because it somewhat accords with feminist goals.

    Example: changes for the better are that women are not required to wear corsets and are allowed to vote. These changes are good, even if they happen to be agreeable to feminists.

    This is an important point because it is possible to get the impression that some people evaluate a potential change (linguistic or behavioral) with a litmus test of whether it is agreeable to feminists. If it is found to be so, it is declared an enemy subterfuge and rejected. (I’m not pointing a finger at anyone here, just dealing with the basic idea.)

    3) Good scholarship is not partisanship. “We” don’t reject this word mainly because “they” like it.

    I believe these points imply that evangelicals need to be open to some gender changes even though it might make some of us uncomfortable. I most certainly will not use a Bible that refers to God with feminine pronouns. God revealed himself using male terminology; I think it would be out of line to refer to him differently. In other places, the affect of gender inclusive language is likely to be more accurate to the original intention.

    It would not be appropriate to reject all gender inclusive language just because people can figure out the exclusive term means (propositional) without considering the affect, or because feminists might agree with the change, or because a constituency will react negatively. Of course, it is appropriate to reject a gender inclusive change that renders a meaning less fair to the originally intended affect/effect. Knowing the difference requires wisdom and tact; I wish large doses of both for the scholars, editors, and other decision-makers involved.

  • Sue

    But this is why “people” was rejected for 2 Tim. 2:2, because the editors decided that women should not be included in a reference to teaching.

    However, a transparent translation would simply translate the plural of anthropos is “people” becuase both men and women are equally human.

  • Denny Burk


    Read the abstract carefully. It does not say that generic masculines are unintellible, only that usage of them is on the decline in favor of “non-androcentric, unbiased forms.” The abstract confirms what I am arguing; it does not contradict it.


  • Don Johnson

    Grammatical gender has no necessary connection to physical gender. So discussing something that has grammatical gender in Greek as if it implied physical gender is simply a category error.

    In Hebrew and Greek the male plural forms of words are used when a group has at least 1 male, up to all males. For example, the Greek paternes MIGHT mean fathers or it MIGHT mean parents, it depends on the context and other clues. And in some cases, faithful people can differ.

  • David (NAS) Rogers


    Although, I have agreed with you in the past in some areas, your comment here is not the best linguistic-semantic conclusion.

    “The Holy Spirit was revealed to be either feminine or neuter. Why do we change this?”

    James Barr in his “Semantics of Biblical Language” cautions on taking grammatical gender (ruach in Hebrew which is grammatically feminine and pneuma in Greek which is grammatically neuter) as a clear decisive indication of a perceived thought about a gender of the object to which it refers. Sexual gender of a referent in real life is determined by other factors not by the grammatical gender of the word used as a tag for it. (In Hebrew, the word for female breasts is grammatically masculine.)

  • Mike Aubrey

    The abstract confirms what I am arguing; it does not contradict it.

    Perhaps, but that’s not the point. This article gives you absolutely no linguistic basis for condemning the use epicene pronouns other than “he” in translation. That’s the issue here, is it not?

    Besides, to many children (i.e. the next generation), generic masculines are not intelligible – which is the very reason Craig Blomberg decided to support the TNIV. His daughter didn’t understand generic masculines.

    Also, if I were a gambling man (and I’m not), I’d probably be willing to put money of the fact that even Grudem has, at one time or another, mistook an English masculine generic for having a male referent. And if I’m right about that, then you and I both should have a serious problem with the use of masculine generics in English since they are prone to be misinterpreted even by professional scholars. What should we do with such a thing?

  • Sue

    Besides, to many children (i.e. the next generation), generic masculines are not intelligible

    My observation is that most people under 40 do not assume a generic masculine. They automatically compartmentalize into activities that in their mind are for men and those that are for women.

    I spoke to a lawyer last week and she said she used “they” and couldn’t operate without it.

    How else can you explain Driscoll?

  • Denny Burk


    For me, “the use epicene pronouns other than ‘he'” is not my main point (even though that is the first item in the Colorado guidelines). I’m sure there are some cases in which it is relatively inconsequential, even though I don’t like the approach as a general rule.

    I have heard the story that you cite from Craig Blomberg, and it is not compelling to me. Children often don’t understand metaphors either. But this fact is simply a matter of linguistic competency, not a basis for claiming that such expressions are unintelligible by the majority of English users.

  • John Holmberg


    So are you basically saying that you oppose gender neutrality because you think we give in to the feminist agenda when we go that route, and they are the result of feminist propaganda? Is this the main reason you, and many others, are against the TNIV?

    What if our culture moved to the place where gender neutral pronouns were what was being spoken by the majority of people? What if those people could care less about feminist propaganda and that’s just the way they speak? Would you be willing to consent then?

    It’s an honest question

  • Mike Aubrey

    For me, “the use epicene pronouns other than ‘he’” is not my main point (even though that is the first item in the Colorado guidelines). I’m sure there are some cases in which it is relatively inconsequential, even though I don’t like the approach as a general rule.


    I have to say that I’m glad to hear that, though it does create some extra confusion for me.

    1) What about professional scholars misreading a generic “he” as a male referring “he”? If a professional scholar misread a generic, then that is rather clear evidence of unintelligibility.

    2) The article I referred to still shows that the language is changing. And according to this article: “The All Purpose Pronoun”, its likely to continue changing. My concern is this: If we do not adapt our translations to the language of the people, then over a long enough period of time, we’ll be in the same position as the Catholic church was when its congregants no longer understand Latin. Now, perhaps you don’t have that concern and if not, then you probably have reason for it. I can tell that you’re a very thoughtful person (I don’t many professors who aren’t – that and I like your book thus far). I’m honestly interested in your views of the issue holistically speaking. If you’d be willing, to share in more detail – perhaps off-blog by e-mail or something (or have you written about it elsewhere?). In short, I’m curious about what is the main point for you and your thoughts and reasonings behind that main point.

  • Nick Mackison

    The argument that says by translating using gender-nuetral pronouns we cave in to a feminist agenda is idealistic. Whatever the motive for the change, we’re stuck with it.

    Does that mean I should go back to using the word “gay” to describe happiness, for fear of sucumbing to the agenda of the homosexual lobby?

    Furthermore, to ask for documented proof as to whether the language has changed is like asking for documentation proving that it gets dark at night.

  • Denny Burk


    We all agree that grammatical gender doesn’t equal biological gender. There are many cases in which masculine forms in Greek can and should be rendered in English with generic equivalents.

    The drift in our language against generic masculines has been the result of feminist attempts to purge patriarchal forms from language. To a certain extent, they have succeeded, usage has changed, and we are not likely to go backwards.

    Having said that, translators have to beware of unwitting accomodations to the Feminist aversion to patriarchy. One may oppose feminism but nevertheless unwittingly adopt linguistic patterns that distort translation. I suspect that is what has happened in many TNIV renderings (thought I’m sure the translators have the best of intentions).

    For example:

    Matthew 7:4
    NIV: How can you say to your brother, ‘Let me take the speck out of your eye,’ when all the time there is a plank in your own eye?

    TNIV: How can you say, ‘Let me take the speck out of your eye,’ when all the time there is a plank in your own eye?

    The entire phrase “to your brother” (Greek: TO ADELPHO SOU) is left out apparently to make the phrase gender neutral.

    1 Corinthians 15:21
    NIV: For since death came through a man, the resurrection of the dead comes also through a man.

    TNIV: For since death came through a human being, the resurrection of the dead comes also through a human being.

    The Greek word for “man” is anthropos, which can mean either “man” or “person,” depending on context. Clearly in this context it’s referring to Adam, who was a male human being. I think it unnecessarily distorts the meaning to make the reference to Adam into a gender neutral reference.

    Examples like this are all over the TNIV, and you can read more of them here:

    My concern is that the gender-neutral impulse can lead to distortion in translation. No translation is perfect, but the best ones will avoid these kind of errors.


  • Sue

    But the word in Greek was gender neutral. A group of all women could also be called anthropoi. How do we know that the word anthropos was used to emphasize that Adam was male, rather than that Adam was a human being.

    If Paul had meant to emphasize that Adam was male, surely he would have used the standard word for man – aner. \but instead he used the word for human being.

    If you look at at 1 Cor. 15:39, all of a sudden the translators of the ESV have switched to “humans” for anthropos. It is this kind of swetcheroo that the ESV pulls all the time, right in mid chapter.

    39 “For not all flesh is the same, but there is one kind for humans, another for animals, another for birds, and another for fish.”

    How on earth would any English reader be able to make the connection that the theme in general was about being human, and not about being male at all. It was about being a human being, and not an animal, fish or bird.

    In fact, the ESV is the least of all Bibles in terms of transparency on gender.

  • Don Johnson

    Denny wrote: “The Greek word for “man” is anthropos, which can mean either “man” or “person,” depending on context. Clearly in this context it’s referring to Adam, who was a male human being. I think it unnecessarily distorts the meaning to make the reference to Adam into a gender neutral reference.”

    As I see it, the point is not that Jesus was male, the point Paul is making is that Jesus was human. So it unnecessarily distorts the meaning to make the reference to Adam into a gendered reference.

  • Mike Aubrey

    Matthew 7:4
    NIV: How can you say to your brother, ‘Let me take the speck out of your eye,’ when all the time there is a plank in your own eye?

    TNIV: How can you say, ‘Let me take the speck out of your eye,’ when all the time there is a plank in your own eye?

    The entire phrase “to your brother” (Greek: TO ADELPHO SOU) is left out apparently to make the phrase gender neutral.

    In translating ADELPHOS into English in such cases you must do one of two things. The ESV does one. The TNIV does the other. I’m sure, Denny, that you know the terms “sense” and “referent.” The ESV follows the lexical sense of ADELPHOS, but fails miserably to translate the referent of ADELPHOSThe TNIV translates the generic referent of the word, which bothers you because it fails to do justice to the lexicon sense.

    So the question isn’t about feminist anything unwittingly or not. The question is about lexicography & grammar and how they interact (I would argue that the “literal” translation advocate creates a disturbing divide between grammar and lexicon that doesn’t exist in any language, but that’s another issue). In any case, if we accept BDAG 2c as a reasonable gloss, we can actually get around both problems by translating ADELPHOS as neighbor.

  • Don Johnson

    Yes, this is a debate about the best choice among valid translation choices. Faithful people can see things slightly differently.

  • Sue

    David NAS ROgers,

    I didn’t see your comment. Sorry I was being tongue in cheek.

    Sexual gender of a referent in real life is determined by other factors not by the grammatical gender of the word used as a tag for it.

    That was my point exactly. What has grammatical gender got to do with anything. Of course, I don’t think the Holy Spirit could be both feminine and neuter at the same time. 🙂

    That’s the thing. Why bother with grammatical gender at all. That is my question. Sorry that I wasn’t clearer.

  • KD

    Zondervan’s folks defended the TNIV, yet even they now admit it was a blunder. Though at the same time I expect the 2011 NIV will look a lot more like the TNIV than the current NIV.
    I’m more concerned about the plural vs. singular changes in Bible translation. To me plural changes often make the verses less personal. I don’t mind the use of “brothers and sisters” where the verse is usually translated brothers, but I dislike the generic “people” or “they” in place of “he or him”. I would rather see those translated as: someone, the one, the person, etc. Yet there are places where “he or him” should be used just for common sense’s sake, such as the ridiculous TNIV verse regarding Jesus being ‘like His brothers and sisters in every way.’ That really sounds dumb and a bit weird.

  • Mike Aubrey

    To me plural changes often make the verses less personal. . . . I don’t mind the use of “brothers and sisters” where the verse is usually translated brothers, but I dislike the generic “people” or “they” in place of “he or him”. I would rather see those translated as: someone, the one, the person, etc.

    How is “they” less personally than “someone” or “the one”…?

    “They” has been a generic pronoun since the 14th century. Everyone’s aversion to it is so strange.

  • Sue

    ‘like His brothers and sisters in every way.’ That really sounds dumb and a bit weird.


    Are you saying that it is weird to think of Christ as fulfilling the role of merciful and faithful high priest for women as well as men?

    Regarding the use of “they” vs “him,” the problem is that the Greek often uses a pronoun tis, which means someone, either man or woman, and then is followed by a verb with no pronoun. So a pronoun has to be inserted into the English text. Inserting a masculine pronoun has often led to a wrong interpretation, as I have pointed out.

    We know already that the masculine pronoun has caused a false reading, but I don’t know of cases where sermons went off course becsuse of the singular “they.”

    If you give me an example of where it would be used for a wrong teaching that might help.

    The pronouns in a gendered language work in a completely different way than in English. For example the Holy Spirit was feminine in Aramaic and neuter in Greek, but the Spirit is called “he” in English.

    Grammatical gender should never be a transferred from one language to another. Instead we should always seek to determine the referent and if the referent is “men and women,” or a “person” of “anyone” (anthropos or tis) then the translation should reflect that or it isn’t really a translation.

    So, either grammatical gender and the feminine/neuter Spirit, or abandon grammatical gender, what say you?

    I feel very sad that some people are going to be deprived of easy access to a gender accurate Bible because of this.

  • KD

    I just think “they” is bad grammar and confusing. If someone says: “You know what they say.” Is that singular or plural? Are we talking about an individual or a group? Much clearer to say he or him, or that person, or those people.
    Re: Singular vs. Plural:
    Take for example Psalm 1:1

    1 Blessed is the man
    Who walks not in the counsel of the ungodly, (NKJV)

    1 Blessed is the man
    who does not walk in the counsel of the wicked (NIV)

    1 Blessed are those
    who do not walk in step with the wicked (TNIV)

    1 Oh, the joys of those who do not
    follow the advice of the wicked, (NLT)

    It seems to me there ought to be someplace between the masculine first two versions and the less personal second two versions. Why not use: “a person”, “an individual”, “someone”, “the one” ?

    Why not something like:
    “Blessed is the one who does not follow the counsel of the wicked,” ?
    “Blessed is the person who does not walk in step with the wicked,” ?

  • KD

    Sue said:
    Are you saying that it is weird to think of Christ as fulfilling the role of merciful and faithful high priest for women as well as men?

    That was not my point at all. The TNIV is stylistically a mess in the following verse:
    Hebrews 2:17 (Today’s New International Version)

    17 For this reason he had to be made like his brothers and sisters in every way, in order that he might become a merciful and faithful high priest in service to God, and that he might make atonement for the sins of the people.

    compare that to another Functional Equivalence version:
    Hebrews 2:17 (Contemporary English Version)

    17He had to be one of us, so that he could serve God as our merciful and faithful high priest and sacrifice himself for the forgiveness of our sins.

    I would argue that stylistically the CEV is much better and does not sound awkward in that passage.

  • KD

    Lest you think I’m making too much over that verse in the TNIV about Jesus being like His brothers and sisters “in every way”, I point you to the following article:

    The second concept has to be presented as a theory, though a plausible one: that Jesus was considered by followers as androgynous in a significant symbolic sense.

    Though I’m not a Greek scholar I have some tools to help me with Biblical Greek, and I do find that the person of the Holy Spirit is referred to with gender-neutral words in the Greek NT. That could only make sense as the Holy Spirit is a Spirit. Yet as being being one with the Father and Son, to refer to the person of the Holy Spirit as “He or Him” is sensible.
    I really do believe there is a feminist agenda backing some of these supposed fears regarding needing gender neutral Bibles. Many churches today are made up mostly of women if you look around at the congregation, and women have told me they never felt their KJV Bibles were discriminating against them, they always saw man, men, mankind as referring to them, after all wo-man is simply man with a womb and included with the male as mankind. So if women are being shunted aside by most Bible versions–why are women making up most church congregations? Is it possible they do not approach the Bible through an exclusive, excluded viewpoint?
    I think the real challenge for Bible translators is to weed through the extremism and stick to the job of simply translating as close as reasonably possible to the source language, instead of interpreting broadly, with a good dose of Common Sense thrown into the mix.

  • Sue

    Many women don’t read the preface perhaps. This is from the ESV preface,

    “But the words “man” and “men” are retained where a male meaning component is part of the original Greek or Hebrew.”

    The following verses are from the ESV. They are verses in which the English word “men” is found without any male meaning component in the Greek.

    Unlike the complaints against pronoun usage in the TNIV, this is an outright distortion of dozens of nouns in the ESV. This is a significant semantic inaccuracy in the ESV Bible.

    Every time the word “men” is used in the following verses, the ESV is communication something that is not in the semantics of Greek NT. Is there some explanation for this?

    The TNIV, however, only leaves out what is in the grammatical gender, and you have agreed that it is permissible to leave out grammatical gender.

    on that day when, according to my gospel, God judges the secrets of men by Christ Jesus. Romans 2:16

    so death spread to all men Romans 5:12. 5:18

    Whoever thus serves Christ is acceptable to God and approved by men. Romans 14:18

    For the foolishness of God is wiser than men, and the weakness of God is stronger than men. 1 Cor. 1:25 and following chapters the same

    Give recognition to such men. 1 Cor. 16:18

    And as for our brothers, they are messengers[f] of the churches, the glory of Christ. 24So give proof before the churches of your love and of(AD) our boasting about you to these men. 2 Cor. 8:24

    Therefore it says, “When he ascended on high he led a host of captives,and he gave gifts to men.” Eph. 4:8

    So receive him in the Lord with all joy, and honor such men, Phil 2:29

    Whatever you do, work heartily, as for the Lord and not for men,
    Co. 3:23

    For there is one God, and there is one mediator between God and men, the man Christ Jesus, 1 Tim. 2:5

    and what you have heard from me in the presence of many witnesses entrust to faithful men who will be able to teach others also. 2 Tim. 2:2

    For every high priest chosen from among men is appointed to act on behalf of men in relation to God, to offer gifts and sacrifices for sins. Heb. 5:1

    For no prophecy was ever produced by the will of man, but men spoke from God as they were carried along by the Holy Spirit. 2 Peter 1:21

    I am sure that you think that women can live without these verses, but the ESV nonetheless deprives women of a part of the word of God to all people, not to “men.” Men have appropriated to themselves and denied to women, a part of the word of God.

  • Don Johnson


    1 a : those ones —used as third person pronoun serving as the plural of he, she, or it or referring to a group of two or more individuals not all of the same sex

    1 b : 1he 2 —often used with an indefinite third person singular antecedent

    2 : people 2 —used in a generic sense

    “They” can be used as either a plural or a singular. Some may think otherwise, but both uses are common throughout English literature.

    I do agree that the TNIV botched some verses and they could be improved, and this is the time they are reading such suggestions for NIV 2011. But using “they” as a singular is not one of them.

  • Ryan Szrama


    I’m responding primarily to your statement in Comment 46,

    Unlike the complaints against pronoun usage in the TNIV, this is an outright distortion of dozens of nouns in the ESV. This is a significant semantic inaccuracy in the ESV Bible.

    Not sure where you got your information, but it’s at least a little faulty and I think based on an improper interpretation of the ESV Preface (yikes, I’m interpreting prefaces, now!).

    Your opening comments presume an exclusivity that is not present in “the text.” Whereas the preface says it does retain man/men where a male meaning component is part of the original Greek or Hebrew, it does not say those are the only places where that will be used. Similarly, in the sentence preceding, they used the term “regularly” which doesn’t sound to me like “we will always be doing this or we’re lying to you.”

    I just wouldn’t be so hasty to write them off as intentionally saying one thing in the preface and doing another in their translation.

    Then, when I see you include verses from Romans to back up your claim and look at them in the Greek, I see God judging the secrets ton anthropon (erm, long o’s) and death spreading to pantes antropos (same deal). Given that anthropos has a male meaning component, even though it can be generically used as men/women, it seems entirely consistent with the guidelines espoused in the preface to translate this as “men”.

    I might add that in verses like Rom. 5:12 it helps the flow of the verse… one man + woe -> woe for all men -> well, b/c all (i.e. all, not just all men) sinned. (Ahah, and in the ESV study Bible’s notes, they even point to this as the reason for preserving “men” instead of “people”.)

    Summary: I don’t see an outright distortion of these verses (granted, I didn’t review all you included), and I certainly don’t see any semantic inaccuracy – unless you’d want to argue that a generic use of “men” is not in the semantic range of anthropos.

  • Don Johnson

    The concern as I see it is that the ESV INSISTS on using both a generic and exclusive use of “men”, which simply results in less clarity rather than more. That is, they insist on using 1950’s English rather than 2009 English.

  • Sue


    You could be right. Perhaps the ESV preface is saying that “men” is retained for a male meaning component AND for the generic “people.” But it also says,

    “In the area of gender language, the goal of the ESV is to render literally what is in the original. For example, “anyone” replaces “any man” where there is no word corresponding to “man” in the original languages, and “people” rather than “men” is regularly used where the original languages refer to both men and women. But the words “man” and “men” are retained where a male meaning component is part of the original Greek or Hebrew.”

    So then, one has to decide if anthropos has a male meaning component. Anthropos is considered a common gender noun. That is, it can be for either feminine or masculine. I realize that all software lists it as masculine, but that is neither here nor there.

    Anthropos means a human being. It is used for the 30,000 young girls in Numbers 31 – and not one male among them.

    Anthropos has no male meaning component but does have a grammatical masculine ending.

    When you use the term philanthropy in English is this the same as homosexual love, or does it mean the love of human beings?

    I also think that of the verses above some mean “men” males, but some definitely mean “men” all people. It is not clear and one can hardly call the TNIV a distortion for chosing a different pattern.

  • Ryan Szrama

    Hey Sue, points well taken, esp. that some (or most) definitely mean “men” all people. The only reason I felt confident to attribute a male meaning component to anthropos was the third meaning listed in BDAG – it specifically mentions the group of males meaning. However, I’d be the last person to stand by BDAG as a non-interpretive authoritative work. ; )

  • Sue


    The basic meanings are

    1) “a person of either sex, with focus on participation in the human race.”

    2 a member of the human race with focus on limitations and weaknesses

    3) a male person,

    4) someone, anyone

    The meaning #3 depends on a contrast with women, or on knowing for sure that the referent is a man. In none of the verses mentioned was “man” in contrast to “woman.”

    Most often, anthropos is going to refer to a member of the human race, and a translation should reflect that whereever possible.

    I regard the ESV use of “man” to designate a male person, in many of the cases, not a reflection of the Greek, which refers to members of the human race.

    I consider the TNIV to be much more gender accurate than the ESV.

    I am not actualy aware of any TNIV translator who has launched an attack on the ESV. They are a really good bunch of people. I feel that the attack on the TNIV discredits those who contribute to it.

  • Ryan Szrama

    Sorry, didn’t have BDAG handy at the time, but the definition and verses it references are:

    3. a male person, man–a. adult male, man (Mt. 11:8; Lk. 7:25). In contrast to woman (Mt. 19:5; Eph. 5:31; 1 Cor. 7:1)
    b. married person husband (Mt. 19:10)
    c. an immediate descendent son, opp. father (Mt. 10:35)
    d. a person owned and therefore under the control of another slave (Lk. 12:36)

  • Sue


    Yes, I have that. These are under heading #3. This is not the core meaning of anthropos, but only the meaning when the word appears in conjunction with woman, or where the person is married.

    I believe that in these verses listed in BDAG it is best translated as “man” also.

    But for the rest, “human” or “person/people” provides the meaining.

    I am sure that if you read meaning #1 you can see that this lexicon believes that anthropos refers to Christ as a member of the human race.

    If you look at 3D you will see that it says “a person” owned and therefore under the control of another. Odd that the ESV translates this “men.”

  • Ryan Szrama

    Thought that, too! It really is interesting to dig into… as you probably guessed, I’d still consider myself a newbie but enjoying the learning.

    (Certainly not coming to the discussion with a bone to pick – a friend of mine was on the ESV translation committee and has defended the TNIV as well. It’s fun to be a fly on the wall sometimes!)

  • KD

    Though I’m wary of the gender-neutral business, I think those wanting more gender-neutral Bibles are missing the stronger argument: “sons”. Where the verse specifically says sons, like in Romans ch.8 that could be argued as exclusive language. I believe Psalms 126 & 127 does the same thing in some versions.
    In such instances I would not be averse to seeing that changed to “sons and daughters” or “children” with footnotes explaining the literal wording.

  • Sue

    Luther always used Kinder, that is children. The KJV often also. The Reformation was for the “children of God” and not for the “sons of God.”

    I don’t think any extra footnote need to be added. If Abraham has children, why can’t God have children? Otherwise one gets the distinct impression that Christ downgrades women and makes them less visible.

  • A Liberal Bulldog

    It seems to me that main issue against the TNIV is the gender accurate language, and that the problem with this is that “gender accuracy” does not translate the original language with the same gender distinction in English.

    I think this argument fails at many points. First it does not even seem to make an argument against “gender accuracy.” The reason the TNIV has translated genders as they have is because they believe it to translate more accurately than “formal equivalency.” To say, then, that it does not translate accurately is not an argument. The argument against this should not be based on translation philosophy, as the original post does, but should be based on a philosophy of language. The TNIV’s decision is not on translation philosophy alone, but on how language operated in the original languages and how current English is understood today.

    Sue’s first post is the subject of my next critique. She quoted 1 Timothy 3:1 and pointed out that there is no masculine in the text until husband is mentioned in the next verse. This being the case, why is there no complaining that the ESV, as do others, add he before the verb? The verb and the pronoun are both ambiguous on there own terms. How dare they “add” something to the Bible, or “change” the gender of the text?

    My final point can also be illustrated by 1 Timothy 3. I think it is legitimate to translate this verse with a he, because the verb and pronoun can have a masculine meaning. The problem is that saying these words necessarily have a masculine meaning. This goes back to my first argument with language. “Formal equivalents” say the words have gender impacted in them, but that is just not the case. There are indeed masculine and feminine cases, however, the masculine form would often be used to include females (Note the ESV’s annoying footnote every time brother is used). My point is that words do not carry weight by themselves; they are given meaning by co-text. It is clear that men are intended in 1 Timothy 3 because of the co-text that surrounds it, both in chapter 2 and 3. This being the case, the TNIV is no less clear because it translates the surrounding text gender accurately.

    Having defended the TNIV, I do want to make clear that I am not opposed to other translations. I used the ESV for years and do not trying to get people to stop reading it. In fact, it is not until reading Doug Moo’s commentary on Colossians last semester that I picked up my first TNIV. The post mentions that a new gender accurate NIV would be divisive. I am assuming with this statement that Denny is wanting to promote unity among believers. However I do not think it would be the translation which causes division, so much as those who oppose it. I would encourage all of those who disagree with people who hold my postion as brothers and sisters in Christ who deserve love and not hate. Can we not simply say that I do not like the translation you use, but it clearly presents the gospel and instructs in matters of faith, so therefore I encourage you to read your Bible? I would guess that there are more TNIVs being read during the week than ESVs. Must we continue to ban gender accurate translations as the SBC has done and ostracize those who read them? I think there is a better way, and hopefully we will grow to love God and neighbor more with the introduction of this new translation.

  • djp

    As a graduate of a highly academic seminary, a pastor of a wonderful church, and lover of the Greek and Hebrew language, I am dismayed at the decision to pull the TNIV from the market. It is a solid translation that needs to be read (the best translation of the Psalms in my opinion).

    It sounds like it was more of a marketing issue than a concern for biblical translation. The TNIV did not perform well in the market. Sounds like Zondervan reacted to the bottom line more than anything else. The last thing Zondervan wants to do is upset the powerful group of conservative evangelicals. That is their bread and butter. I don’t mean to sound uncharitable, but a lot of the articles I have read on this issue mention the poor selling performance. Popularity doesn’t always equate with truth.

    Also, I don’t see why being accurate in the rendering of non-specific nouns and pronouns in the text is apart of some agenda. As if Paul was only addressing the men in his congregations. You learn in first year Greek and Hebrew that groups with both genders are addressed with a masculine noun or pronoun. Why is this so troubling to some? We need to stop blaming everything on the “agenda” bogeyman.

    If you want to talk about agendas, then let’s start with using the term, “gender-neutral.” The correct term is gender accurate. Saying the former frames the conversation in a particular way that is to the advantage to the beliefs of the organization. Just like the “radical feminists”, even the CBMW has it’s agendas. See, it isn’t too much fun to get accused of having an agenda, is it?

    I for one will keep the reading the TNIV. I think pulling it from the shelves is a big step backwards for biblical translation as a whole. I hope that the translation committee can stand up to political pressure from groups like the CBMW and the financial pressure of Zondervan and Biblica.

  • Don Johnson

    While I think the TNIV was an overall improvement over the NIV, I do not think any translation is perfect and the TNIV had a few klunkers. So I am hopeful about the NIV 2011 effort to improve those. We will see.

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