Today’s New International Version

John H. Stek et al., The New Testament: Today’s New International Version. Grand Rapids: Zondervan, 2002.

John H. Stek et al., Today’s New International Version. Grand Rapids: Zondervan, 2005.

On Jan 28, 2002 the International Bible Society announced the publication of this third gender-neutral revision of the New International Version, and distributed advance review copies of the New Testament at the Christian Booksellers Association annual convention. The New Testament was published in the Spring of 2002, and the complete Bible in February of 2005.

The International Bible Society previously published a gender-neutral revision of the NIV in Great Britain (“The New International Version Inclusive Language Edition,” 1995), and also a gender-neutral children’s Bible in America (“The New International Reader’s Version”), but when its plans for replacing the current NIV in America with the “inclusive language” revision became known in 1997, strong opposition arose among evangelical leaders. The pressure to abandon their planned revision was such that four of the men who were responsible for it went so far as to sign a document (the Colorado Springs Guidelines) positively stating that they had dropped all intention of producing or publishing any such version. (1) On the same day the International Bible Society also issued a statement in which it promised that it would continue to publish the NIV unchanged. But soon afterwards the IBS apparently re-evaluated the situation, and proceeded with the revision as if its officers had never signed the Colorado Springs Guidelines. (2) And so we have Today’s New International Version.

The version features the usual gender-neutral alterations: “brothers and sisters” is put instead of “brothers” (but the reader is not informed of the change in a footnote, as in the NRSV); the generic masculine use of “man,” “he,” “his,” etc., is eliminated, usually by recasting the sentences with plural forms. In one respect, however, the TNIV breaks new ground by employing plural pronouns in a singular sense: Singular nouns (e.g. “someone”) are followed by plural pronouns (“they” instead of “he”), so that the pronouns actually disagree in number with their antecedents. This solecism, which feminist language reformers have lately sought to legitimize, is common enough in casual speech; but the TNIV does not otherwise employ such colloquialisms, and it is very strange and somewhat confusing to see it in the midst of prose which otherwise adheres to the rules of English grammar. (3) This and a number of other things about the version may be illustrated by the following passage, quoted (with all footnotes) from the TNIV, the NIV of 1984, and the New Revised Standard Version, which also offered a gender-neutral text.

Mat 18:15-21

NIV 1984

If your brother sins against you,a go and show him his fault, just between the two of you. If he listens to you, you have won your brother over. But if he will not listen, take one or two others along, so that ‘every matter may be established by the testimony of two or three witnesses.’ b If he refuses to listen to them, tell it to the church; and if he refuses to listen to the church, treat him as you would a pagan or a tax collector.
... Then Peter came to Jesus and asked, ‘Lord, how many times shall I forgive my brother when he sins against me?
a Some manuscripts do not have against you
b Deut. 19:15

NRSV 1990

If another member of the church a sins against you, b go and point out the fault when the two of you are alone. If the member listens to you, you have regained that one. c But if you are not listened to, take one or two others along with you, so that every word may be confirmed by the evidence of two or three witnesses. If the member refuses to listen to them, tell it to the church; and if the offender refuses to listen even to the church, let such a one be to you as a Gentile and a tax collector.
... Then Peter came and said to him, ‘Lord, if another member of the church d sins against me, how often should I forgive?
a Gk If your brother
b Other ancient authorities lack against you
c Gk the brother
d Gk if my brother

TNIV 2002

If a brother or sister sins,a go and point out the fault, just between the two of you alone. If they listen to you, you have won them over. But if they will not listen, take one or two others along, so that ‘every matter may be established by the testimony of two or three witnesses.’ b If they refuse to listen to them, tell it to the church; and if they refuse to listen to the church, treat them as you would a pagan or a tax collector.
... Then Peter came to Jesus and asked, ‘Lord, how many times shall I forgive someone who sins against me?
a Some manuscripts sins against you
b Deut. 19:15

Regarding the Greek text here, both the NRSV and the 1984 NIV represent the best attested reading in the opening phrase, αμαρτηση εις σε (sins against you), though the words εις σε (against you) are omitted in the fourth century uncials, Sinaiticus and Vaticanus. This is a case however in which these two related manuscripts (in which omissions are especially frequent) are not supported by any other Greek copies except for two later miniscules, and by none of the ancient versions — and it is hard to account for the addition of these words in all other streams of transmission if they were not original. Therefore the words are included (in brackets) in the Nestle-Aland text, despite the usual respect of the editors for Sinaiticus and Vaticanus. Why the TNIV revisers should have decided to remove them from the NIV now is unclear, but this seems to be a case of the same kind of over-evaluation of these two manuscripts which marred the work of Westcott and Hort. The same tendency may be seen elsewhere in this revision. For example, the words “the Son of God” are removed from Mark 1:1, in agreement with Westcott and Hort, although the words υἱοῦ θεοῦ are omitted in only one ancient manuscript: Sinaiticus. (4)

In verse 21, the NIV’s “came to Jesus and asked” evidently supplies “Jesus” in place of “him” for the sake of style, because there is no manuscript authority for the word “Jesus” here.

Regarding the translation, first of all it should be noted that none of these versions are very literal. The 1984 NIV is the most literal with respect to the gender language, but otherwise the NRSV is more literal. (e.g. “Gentile” for ethnikos, and a number of other renderings are more literal than the 1984 NIV). When we compare the NRSV to the TNIV, we find that the NRSV is by far the more literal of those two, and the NRSV also conscientiously informs the reader of the gender-neutral substitution for “brother” in a series of footnotes. The TNIV fails to do this, and also fails to give a suitable equivalent for “brother” in verse 21 — in which Peter refers to a member of the church. The clumsy use of “they” and “them” in the TNIV to refer back to a singular subject is blatantly ungrammatical and becomes rather confusing by the end of the passage. In all, both in text and translation, the NRSV is clearly better than the TNIV.

The gender-neutral language of both TNIV and NRSV presents problems in this passage for reasons that may not have occurred to the translators, but which become obvious when we think about the practical application. The difficulty is, no respectable man in ancient times would have considered seeking a private interview with a woman concerning a personal grievance. If the woman were married, the aggrieved party would be expected to take up the matter with the woman’s husband, who is understood to be her protector and public representative. A husband would be greatly offended if any man were to approach his wife directly and privately for such a purpose, and there is no reason to suppose that Jesus would have it otherwise. (We may recall the incident of the “woman at the well” in John chapter 4, where Jesus says, “Go, call your husband ...”). Married women were never to be dealt with privately, apart from their husbands, and the same holds true today, as any pastor knows very well. And we might also notice that a truly unisex understanding of the passage would require a woman to first go to a man privately also, without bringing along or consulting with any other person about the matter, including her husband. If she has not the boldness for such a private confrontation with a man, she cannot begin to observe the required procedure. (5) And so it turns out that the passage cannot be gender-neutralized without doing violence to the cultural context and our common-sense allowances for the differences between men and women. The passage sets forth a male example, presumes a male reader, and has in view what we would call a “man to man” talk. Its application to women, as very often in Scripture, requires a certain amount of adjustment. This is the fatal flaw of all gender-neutral Bibles. The Bible for the most part focuses upon men, and the different roles of men and women (specified in the Bible itself) are such that many passages cannot be applied to women without important adjustments and qualifications being made. And these cannot be made in a translation.

The problematic nature of gender-neutral or “inclusive” language may be further illustrated by the passage in 1 Thessalonians 4:3-8.

1 Thessalonians 4:3-8

RSV 1952

Finally, brethren, we beseech and exhort you in the Lord Jesus, that as you learned from us how you ought to live and to please God, just as you are doing, you do so more and more. 2 For you know what instructions we gave you through the Lord Jesus. 3 For this is the will of God, your sanctification: that you abstain from immorality; 4 that each one of you know how to take a wife for himself in holiness and honor, 5 not in the passion of lust like heathen who do not know God; 6 that no man transgress, and wrong his brother in this matter, [a] because the Lord is an avenger in all these things, as we solemnly forewarned you.

a. Or defraud his brother in business.

NIV 1984

Finally, brothers, we instructed you how to live in order to please God, as in fact you are living. Now we ask you and urge you in the Lord Jesus to do this more and more. 2 For you know what instructions we gave you by the authority of the Lord Jesus. 3 It is God’s will that you should be sanctified: that you should avoid sexual immorality; 4 that each of you should learn to control his own body [a] in a way that is holy and honorable, 5 not in passionate lust like the heathen, who do not know God; 6 and that in this matter no one should wrong his brother or take advantage of him. The Lord will punish men for all such sins, as we have already told you and warned you.

a. Or learn to live with his own wife; or learn to acquire a wife.

TNIV 2002

As for other matters, brothers and sisters, we instructed you how to live in order to please God, as in fact you are living. Now we ask you and urge you in the Lord Jesus to do this more and more. 2 For you know what instructions we gave you by the authority of the Lord Jesus. 3 It is God’s will that you should be sanctified: that you should avoid sexual immorality; 4 that each of you should learn to control your own body [a] in a way that is holy and honorable, 5 not in passionate lust like the pagans, who do not know God; 6 and that in this matter no one should wrong or take advantage of a brother or sister. The Lord will punish all those who commit such sins, as we told you and warned you before.

a. Or learn to live with his own wife; or learn to acquire a wife.

Here the Revised Standard Version in verse 4 follows the interpretation favored by many scholars. There are several good reasons for this interpretation which we will not enter into here. (6) But we will point out that the singular adelphos “brother” in Greek never has the meaning “brother or sister,” as it is rendered in verse 6 of the TNIV. The interpretation of verse 4 also has implications for the translation of the plural adelphoi in verse 1, and for the translation of all the masculine-gender forms of the passage. These forms cannot be made gender-neutral if the RSV’s interpretation of verse 4 is correct. In fact, Ian Howard Marshall, who was one of the members of the TNIV committee, has stated his opinion that a gender-neutral translation of this passage is inappropriate because of this. He says the “instructions given in 1 Thess 4.3-8 are specifically for males” and “the context makes this exclusiveness clear.” (7) Again, Paul does not begin this instruction with any words to indicate that it is specifically for males (e.g. “as for you men...) because his letters in general have a male orientation. The forms of address and the discourse in general are male-oriented by default, not gender-neutral, and that is why no specific indication of “exclusiveness” is called for when certain passages focus on males. But making the discourse gender-neutral by default (e.g. translating adelphoi as if its default meaning were “brothers and sisters,” as in the TNIV) covers up this aspect of the text, and occasionally it prevents English readers from recognizing the gender-specific meaning of a text.

Many other examples of inappropriate gender-neutralization could be given. In 1 Corinthians 14:39 the word adelphoi “brethren” is translated “brothers and sisters” by the TNIV— “Therefore, my brothers and sisters, be eager to prophesy.” Yet Paul has just finished saying (in verses 34-35) that “women should keep silent in the churches” and “it is shameful for a woman to speak in church”! So how can adelphoi in verse 39 be considered a gender-inclusive term? Obviously Paul is addressing only the “brothers” at this point, according to the normal usage of adelphoi, because it makes no sense for him to be telling the sisters to “be eager to prophesy” in church after he has prohibited them from doing so. (8) In James 3:1 the TNIV has “Not many of you should presume to be teachers, my brothers and sisters,” which implies that James envisioned some “sisters” being teachers of doctrine. (The context indicates that doctrinal teaching is in mind, for he has just finished talking about inadequate ideas about justification by faith.) Further, it should be noted that when James wishes to be explicitly gender-inclusive in 2:15 he uses the compound expression “brother or sister,” (adelphos e adephe), not the word adelphos “brother” or adelphoi “brothers.” (9) In a few places the TNIV revisers could not even refrain from neutering the Greek word aner, which can only refer to an adult male. In the first edition of the New Testament (2002) they gave “the number of believers” as a rendering of the phrase arithmos ton andron in Acts 4:4, lit. “the number of adult males.” (10) In 1 Peter 1:22 the word philadelphian “brotherly love” is translated merely “love for each other,” concealing the fact that Peter is here emphasizing that the mutual love of God’s children (v. 14), who call on the same Father (v. 17), and are born again of the imperishable word of God (v. 23), must be a brotherly love. This was done because the translators were determined to avoid the politically incorrect adjective “brotherly” at all costs.

In the Old Testament the same strategies are used for eliminating masculine pronouns, avoiding the words “man,” “brothers,” and so forth. We note also that in Isaiah 19:16 where the prophet says “the Egyptians will become like women and tremble with fear,” the TNIV has “In that day the Egyptians will become weaklings,” apparently to avoid offending readers who might object to Isaiah’s use of a “stereotype” about women (similarly Jeremiah 50:37, 51:30, and Nahum 3:13).

Clearly, these renderings and many others like them in the TNIV are not the result of any scholarly attempt to be “gender accurate,” as the spokesmen for the International Bible Society have claimed. They are a result of the desire to avoid offending “modern sensibilities,” as the committee’s own Policy Statement on Gender-Inclusive Language states plainly enough, and a result of their belief that it is “appropriate to mute the patriarchalism of the culture of the biblical writers,” as stated in the preface of the British edition prepared by the same committee in 1996.

In the edition of the complete TNIV Bible (2005) a new “egalitarian” interpretation of 1 Tim 2:11-12 appears for the first time in a Bible version. The text reads, “A woman should learn in quietness and full submission. I do not permit a woman to teach or to assume authority over a man,” but in the margin we are told that the verses may be rendered “A wife should learn in quietness and full submission. I do not permit a woman to teach a man in a domineering way,” or “exercise authority over her husband,” etc. The reason for including these odd interpretations in the margin is, of course, to cast doubt upon the passage’s prohibition of women teaching men in the church. The idea is that perhaps the instruction has only to do with wives (!) or that a woman may be permitted to teach men if she does not do it in “a domineering way.” (11)

The marketing and public relations campaign launched on behalf of this Bible version has been extraordinary. The publisher has collected endorsements from scholars of the left wing of the evangelical movement to promote acceptance of the version. Its gender-neutralism is said to be necessary for “reaching young people,” who are said to require a Bible version in language that is “relevant” — that is, in language that corresponds to their own habits of speech. But in general the version does not reflect any such principle of translation. If we examine passages at random we find, for instance, such language as “For in my inner being I delight in God’s Law; but I see another law at work in me, waging war against the law of my mind and making me a prisoner of the law of sin at work within me” (Romans 7:22-23). These words are very relevant to young adults. But they are very far from colloquial speech. If the translators believed that a Bible version must be in colloquial style for young people to see its relevance to themselves, they have obviously failed to do what they set out to do. If they believed that a translation must be colloquial, then they ought to have rendered these verses something like, “I want to please God but it’s hard to live by his rules, because I have all these sinful desires inside me that keep tripping me up. I can’t escape from my own sinfulness!” That is how people today really talk. They do not say, “in my inner being I delight in God’s Law,” and they do not speak of the contrary tendencies as “the law of sin at work within me.” This is literary language. Obviously the translators did not feel that the version had to be in language that is actually used by young people, even in such passages as this, which have so much to do with the real-life struggles of youth. The “colloquial speech” idea has been used in a very limited and selective way in the version, to justify the gender-neutral language, but it is not in fact a reigning principle of the version. (12)

The disingenuousness of the Zondervan corporation in its marketing literature for the TNIV is evident on the web pages that have been set up to promote the version. On a page of “Common TNIV Bible Questions and Answers” the marketers answer the question “Why has the issue of the gender translation surfaced in recent years?” thus:

The English language keeps on changing. In 2003 when Merriam-Webster updated its collegiate dictionary, lexicographers made more than 100,000 changes and added more than 10,000 new words and phrases that did not appear in 1993. Even school and college textbooks have changed over the years, as ‘men’ rarely refers to both men and women today. (13)

Even school and college textbooks have changed, it says. True enough. But doesn’t the writer know that this change in the textbooks took place more than thirty years ago? In 1973 (the same year that the NIV New Testament was first published) feminists and other special-interest groups began putting heavy pressure on educational publishers to eliminate ‘sexist’ ideas and portrayals of people, and to use only gender-neutral language in their textbooks. This was long before anyone else thought that the generic “man” was problematic. The English style used in textbooks did not change “over the years” in response to any natural linguistic development; rather, it was introduced abruptly around 1975 in response to the demands of influential feminist organizations, such as the National Organization of Women. The textbooks used in American public schools are the most flagrant examples of political correctness that any American is likely to be exposed to outside of a liberal-arts college, and this has been the case for many years. (14) The idea that these textbooks could serve as an indicator of what is necessary in a Bible version is preposterous.

In addition to the gender-related revisions in the TNIV, there is another tendency in the revision that is not likely to sit well with conservative students and pastors. In the original NIV, one of the goals of the translators was to produce a version that would “reflect clearly the unity and harmony of the Spirit-inspired writings.” (15) One of the translators—Bruce Waltke—later explained that “with a high view of the text’s inspiration by one Author, the NIV translators sought to harmonize the Old Testament with the New Testament as much as possible (where the textual and lexical evidence would allow for it),” (16) and he pointed to the translation of Psalm 2 as an example. He explained that despite their opinion that “the original audience probably referred this coronation liturgy to Solomon,” the NIV translators have capitalized “King” in verse 6 and “Son” in verse 7 because “the New Testament interprets the psalm with reference to Jesus.” The capital letters indicate the divinity of this “King” and “Son.” Waltke regards this as a mark of the version’s orthodoxy:

Although on the historical level one might rightly opt for rendering the references to the king [sic] by lower case, on the canonical level one rightly opts for upper case, as in the NIV text. By using upper case in Psalm 2, the NIV translators expose their orthodox views, not only of inspiration, but also of Christology. (17)

We observe that the words are not capitalized in the TNIV.


4 The One enthroned in heaven laughs;
  the Lord scoffs at them.
5 Then he rebukes them in his anger
  and terrifies them in his wrath, saying,
6 ‘I have installed my King a
  on Zion, my holy hill.’
7 I will proclaim the decree of the LORD:
He said to me, ‘You are my Son; b
  today I have become your Father. c
8 Ask of me,
and I will make the nations your inheritance,
the ends of the earth your possession.
9 You will rule them with an iron scepter; d
you will dash them to pieces like pottery.’


4 The One enthroned in heaven laughs;
  the Lord scoffs at them.
5 He rebukes them in his anger
  and terrifies them in his wrath, saying,
6 ‘I have installed my king
  on Zion, my holy mountain.’
7 I will proclaim the LORD’s decree:
He said to me, ‘You are my son;
  today I have become your father.
8 Ask me,
and I will make the nations your inheritance,
the ends of the earth your possession.
9 You will break them with a rod of iron; a
you will dash them to pieces like pottery.’


a. Or king
b. Or son; also in verse 12.
c. Or have begotten you
d. Or will break them with a rod of iron


a. Or will rule them with an iron scepter (see Septuagint and Syriac)

Another significant change in this passage is in verse 9, where “rule them” has been revised to “break them.” Waltke explained that in the original NIV the translators preferred “rule them” because “it harmonized the text with such New Testament passages as Revelation 2:27; 12:5; 19:15,” where this verse it quoted with “rule them.” The difference of interpretation here involves only a difference in the vocalization of the Hebrew consonants, not a change in the consonants themselves. The Jewish scribes who created the Masoretic text during the sixth century A.D. supplied vowel points indicating the interpretation “break,” but the interpretation “rule them” is supported by the Septuagint (which predates the NT), and so the decision of the NIV translators is quite respectable, even apart from any inclination to interpret the Old Testament in the light of the New. But evidently the TNIV translators were not interested in following the interpretation found in the New Testament. Likewise, Waltke explains that in Psalm 4 the original NIV had “in your anger do not sin” in verse 4, because it is a possible interpretation of the Hebrew, and this interpretation is “the basis for Paul’s famous imperative in Ephesians 4:26.” He explains that “the preference of the NIV is based partially on the theological desire to harmonize the Testaments.” (18) But the TNIV translators cared little for that, and so they revised the text to read “Tremble and do not sin” in Psalm 4:4.

Another example of the same thing may be seen in Isaiah 40:6, which has been changed from “All men are like grass, and all their glory is like the flowers of the field,” to “All people are like grass, and all human faithfulness is like the flowers of the field.” Here the word translated “glory” in the NIV and “faithfulness” in the TNIV is chesed, which is ordinarily rendered as “kindness” or “love” in both versions. For the past sixty years or so the idea that the word primarily denotes “loyalty” has been gaining ground among scholars, and the TNIV rendering here reflects that development; but in the ancient translations of the Old Testament (Greek, Syriac, Latin, etc.) and in the Aramaic Targums the word is not rendered by words meaning “loyalty.” The Septuagint uses eleos “mercy” in most places, and in Isaiah 40:6 it has doxa “glory.” Consequently, the verse is quoted with the word doxa in 1 Peter 1:24, and in James 1:11 the euprepeia tou prosopou auto “beauty of its appearance” in James’ paraphrase of Isaiah 40:6-7 also reflects this understanding of the word. Lexicons have always acknowledged that the word may mean “beauty,” and so the interpretation found in 1 Peter and James is not without support. Nevertheless, the TNIV translators have decided to ignore the New Testament use of Isaiah 40:6, and to render chesed according to a relatively new understanding of the meaning of the word. (19)

Although today’s sophisticated “evangelical” scholars may have little respect for the idea that a Bible version should “reflect clearly the unity and harmony of the Spirit-inspired writings,” the fact remains that this approach to the interpretation of the Bible was important to the translators of the original NIV, and it continues to be important to people in conservative churches, where the Bible is considered to be the verbally inspired Word of God.

Reaction to the TNIV among conservative Christians has been strongly negative, as expected. In addition to observations like those made above, a common theme of criticism has been the evasive (some would say dishonest) behavior of those who have been involved in producing this version, and who seem to have little idea of their obligation to listen to the church.

Michael Marlowe
June 2006

1. The four signers were Kenneth Barker (Secretary of the NIV Committee on Bible Translation), Lars Dunberg (President of the International Bible Society), Bruce Ryskamp (President of Zondervan Publishing House), and Ronald Youngblood (now Chairman of the Board of Directors of the International Bible Society).

2. WORLD (6/5/99, p.16) obtained a copy of a letter by Eugene Rubingh, IBS vice president for translations, written on March 19, 1999, which stated, “I, the CBT and practically everyone involved, thoroughly support gender-accurate language. The matter is one of timing, of finding the appropriate hour to move ahead.”

3. Champions of “descriptive” (as opposed to “prescriptive”) linguistics will have no trouble finding instances of “singular they” in printed sources these days. Recently one example came to my attention in an Associated Press article, “Times Square Confetti to Carry Messages” (Sunday, December 30, 2007), in which a New Yorker named Tim Tompkins is quoted as saying, “Another person wrote that they wanted their husband to get a green card so that they could join them here in the states.” This illustrates the extent to which gender-neutralism has become normal in some varieties of American English. But the question is, can such barbarous usage of “they,” “their,” and “them” ever be seen as more acceptable than “aint” in English prose? Probably not.

4. The other Greek witnesses that are listed for this omission in the UBS edition of the Greek text (in which the words are bracketed) are codex Coridethianus, from the ninth century, and miniscule no. 28, from the eleventh century (which omits “Christ” as well). The only versional evidence supporting the omission is the so-called Palestinian Syriac manuscript, and one manuscript of the Georgian version. This evidence is quite inadequate. It is obviously outweighed by the authorities which include υἱοῦ θεοῦ: the Greek uncials B A D L W K Δ Π, all but one miniscule, all Latin and Coptic witnesses, all but one Syriac, etc. Metzger explains in his Textual Commentary that despite the weakness of the documentary evidence for it, some critics believe that υἱοῦ θεοῦ may have been originally absent but added here because “there was always a temptation (to which copyists often succumbed) to expand titles and quasi-titles of books.” Among critical texts only that of Westcott and Hort omits the words, and among English versions only the TNIV and the New World Translation.

5. At the risk of belabouring this point I will add that in a sermon on Mat 18:15-21 I recently heard a preacher (who was careful to use “inclusive language” in his sermon) use this not very apt illustration of the scriptural procedure: Three women who had been “touched” by a friendly but overly-familiar man in the congregation privately asked an elder to speak with the man, which he did, and the man afterwards behaved with more reserve. Thus the problem was solved by a private admonition, without undue publicity and embarrassment. But the preacher who used this illustration did not seem to realize that the women in his illustration did not follow the prescribed method. Rather than speaking with the man individually or as a group, they went straight to an officer of “the church.” Of course everyone understands why the women acted as they did, and why there is nothing wrong with this in their case. Being women, they could not be expected to follow the procedure with a man, though they made their complaint known discretely enough through a male intermediary. This only illustrates how the male orientation of the biblical text goes much deeper than pronouns, and why it cannot really be made gender-neutral in a translation, though in application we make the necessary male/female adjustments without even thinking about it.

6. For a good discussion see William Hendriksen, Exposition of Thessalonians, the Pastorals, and Hebrews (Grand Rapids: Baker, 2002), pp. 100-103 [reprinted from the Thessalonians commentary first published in 1955]. Hendriksen translates it, “that each one of you know how to take a wife for himself in sanctification and honor.”

7. Ian Howard Marshall, “Brothers Embracing Sisters?”, Technical Papers for the Bible Translator 55/3 (July 2004), p. 308. The article in general argues in favor of “brothers and sisters” as a rendering of the plural adelphoi, with this one exception being mentioned. We note that Marshall holds to egalitarian views. In his article he refers to W. J.Webb’s Slaves, Women and Homosexuals: Exploring the Hermeneutics of Cultural Analysis (Downers Grove: InterVarsity, 2001) for the idea that the Bible’s teaching on the place of women can be set aside because in the Bible there is a “trajectory” towards egalitarianism which “offers principles for discerning when teaching in Scripture requires to be re-expressed in a different cultural situation” (p. 305), and he invokes this “trajectory” concept to justify “brothers and sisters” as an ordinary translation for adelphoi: “If this translation is thought to go too far in the direction of seeing male and female as equal partners rather than focussing on the males ... then it does so in a way that corresponds with the direction of the redemptive trajectory in Scripture that sees male and female as ‘all one in Christ Jesus’” (p. 310). This is certainly a novel principle of lexical semantics — the idea that the meaning of a word can be established by an ideological “trajectory.”

8. Despite the clear and emphatic prohibition given in 1 Corinthians 14:34-35, Marshall (op. cit., p. 307) insists that “from 1 Corinthians 11 it is clear that women prophesied and prayed in mixed company, i.e., in congregational settings,” and he ludicrously asserts that “we would require some positive evidence that women were treated as separate from the men in the congregational meetings” before the TNIV’s “brothers and sisters” could be considered a very doubtful translation of adelphoi in general. But there is abundant evidence of this kind in the Bible itself. 1 Corinthians 14:34-35 is not brought to nothing by a single word in 1 Corinthians 11:5, after all.

9. See also the compound expressions in 1 Corinthians 7:15, Matthew 19.29, Mark 3:32 (Nestle-Aland), Mark 10:30, and Luke 14.26, all of which show that adelphos in both its singular and plural forms was normally understood as masculine in sense, so that “inclusiveness” required the addition of the femine form next to it. This evident fact of usage cannot be ignored. For more information on the meaning of the Greek word adelphos see the web article here.

10. When people are numbered in the Bible, it is the men who are numbered. In Matthew 14:21 we are told that “those who had eaten were about five thousand men (andres), beside women and children,” and likewise Mathew 15:38 mentions “four thousand men (andres), beside women and children.” Obviously the phrase arithmos ton andron in Acts 4:4 indicates the number of men also, according to the same custom. We note that this problem in Acts 4:4 was corrected in the edition of the complete TNIV Bible issued in 2005, in which the verse now reads “the number of men,” but the gender-neutral rendering of the 2002 edition was inexcusable, and it seems that this is the only place where a gender-neutral rendering of aner has been corrected. In Romans 11:4 the TNIV follows the original NIV in its inaccurate rendering, “I have reserved for myself seven thousand who have not bowed the knee to Baal” (the Greek says seven thousand andras, ‘men’).

11. On this, see the online article by R. Fowler White, “The Concept of ‘Authoritative Teaching’ and the Role of Women in Congregational Worship,” Ordained Servant 10/1 (January, 2001).

12. Nor should it be. The “colloquial speech” principle is wrong, because the Bible was not written in such a style. And even if it were written in a colloquial style, we may doubt the wisdom of translating it in such a manner. In a review of one Bible version which made a limited use of colloquial language, Henry J. Cadbury (one of the translators of the Revised Standard Version) pointed out that “If the wording is fresh, contemporary, and idiomatic it will make the text not only understandable but natural and vivid. At the same time it will obscure the fact that these are ancient minds of a different world or mentality from our own. Perhaps the reader is kept aware of this better by more formal, not to say archaic, style. To keep a translation life-like but also true to antiquity and history is to combine two almost incompatible aims.” (Review of the New English Bible, Theology Today 18/2 [July 1961], p. 200.) The gender-neutral language of the TNIV does indeed obscure the fact that these are ancient minds of a different world or mentality from the secular mentality of our age, and evidently it is designed to obscure that fact in one area.

13., accessed 5 Jan 2005.

14. The “bias and sensitivity review” editors employed by educational publishers had already banned such words as “man-made,” “middleman,” and “mailman” by 1975, and in more recent years they have gone to ridiculous extremes in their attempts to comply with the demands of feminist organizations. For details see Diane Ravitch, The Language Police: How Pressure Groups Restrict What Students Learn (New York: Random House, 2003). In an appendix Ravitch gives an extensive “Glossary of Banned Words, Usages, Stereotypes, and Topics.” Guidelines given in a 1975 document used at Holt, Rinehart, and Winston forbade several words compounded with “man.”

15. Stephen W. Paine, “Twentieth-Century Evangelicals Look at Bible Translation,” Wesleyan Theological Journal 4/1 (Spring, 1969). Paine, who was one of the original 15 members of the CBT, quotes this from a “position paper” adopted by the CBT in 1967.

16. Bruce K. Waltke, “Translation Problems in Psalms 2 and 4,” chapter 7 in Kenneth L. Barker, ed., The NIV: The Making of a Contemporary Translation (Grand Rapids: Zondervan, 1886), p. 89.

17. ibid., p. 94.

18. ibid., p. 91.

19. On this whole question of the meaning of chesed see the article by R. Laird Harris in Theological Wordbook of the Old Testament, vol. 1 (Chicago: Moody Press, 1980), pp. 305-307. The idea that the word means “steadfastness” in Isaiah 40:6, and that the ephemeral nature of man’s “steadfastness” is there being contrasted with the firm and reliable word of God, was maintained by the British scholar Norman Snaith even before the publication of the RSV’s Old Testament in 1953 (see his article “Loving-Kindness” in Alan Richardson, ed., A Theological Word Book of the Bible [New York: Macmillan, 1951], pp. 136-37); but the RSV translators rendered the word “beauty” without giving a marginal alternative, and we note that in the most recent English edition of the Hebrew and Aramaic Lexicon of the Old Testament by Koehler and Baumgartner, the meaning at Isaiah 40:6 is explained as “charm.” (vol. 1 [Leiden: Brill, 2001], p. 337). In 1989 the NRSV revisers changed the RSV’s “beauty” to “constancy,” and it seems that the TNIV revisers have merely followed the lead of the NRSV in this place, as they have done in several other places.

The Gender-Neutral NIV: Reactions from Church Leaders

a sacrifice to the god of political correctness“Adjustments made by what I call the feminist edition are not made in the interests of legitimate translation procedure. These changes have been made to pander to a cultural prejudice that I hope will be short-lived.” —J.I. Packer, quoted in World magazine, vol. 12, no. 5 (Apr. 19, 1997).

“We must always be careful taking the cultural climate of our day into consideration when retranslating Scripture because culture will change again. Our mission is not to make the Bible relevant to culture but to bring culture under the rubric of Scripture. If we as translators and theologians change our view based on what is politically correct, we are going to have Bible translation changes all the time, which, I think, is confusing to the reading public. I don’t think it would be a wise move to go against the guidelines evangelical leaders set in the past for translations. We believe very much in the authority of Scripture and the inerrancy of God’s Word. We believe that the Bible was revealed by God to men, that it is verbally inspired, and that the very words are important. Those words, no matter what they are, are important to us.” — Ken Hemphill, president of Southwestern Baptist Theological Seminary in Fort Worth, Texas, as quoted by Baptist Press, Jan 28.

“I am appalled but hardly surprised at the revelation that the International Bible Society is pursuing its longstanding goal of a so-called ‘inclusive’ language version of the Bible. If you issued a ‘gender-neutral’ version of Shakespeare, it would be the imposition of ideology on what the English bard believed and wrote. To impose this ideology on the writings of Moses, Isaiah, John, Paul, etc. is to change what they wrote and often what they meant. It is fundamentally simply dishonest and grossly unfair to the writers of Scripture. Further, it is an insult to the English language and contributes to the continuing decadence of that language. Besides, what the world really needs right now is just one more Bible translation. Thankfully most evangelicals will not buy it,” — Paige Patterson, president of Southeastern Baptist Theological Seminary in Wake Forest, N.C., as quoted by Baptist Press, Jan 28.

“No one is authorized to treat the Bible like silly putty. Whenever a translation occurs, a document’s integrity can be skewed as a result. It’s threatened by intrusion of hypersensitivity and political correctness. You cannot apply the changing cultural mores to determine what the word of God says.” — William Merrell, vice president for convention relations of the Southern Baptist Convention Executive Committee, as quoted in Washington Times, January 29, 2002.

“[The TNIV follows an] agenda of political correctness at the expense of the clarity of the biblical text. Those who love the Scripture should use and commend those translations that are most accurate and faithful to the text. No knowledgeable person would claim that accuracy is easily achieved or that any translation has achieved absolute accuracy; nevertheless, it is sad to see a major publisher and Bible society produce a translation with this degree of compromise.” — R. Albert Mohler Jr., president of Southern Baptist Theological Seminary in Louisville, Ky., as quoted by Baptist Press, Feb 1.

“The problem with this new Bible is not the translation, but with the trendy notion that people today cannot relate to the Bible unless we balance the language. This new publication is nothing more than acquiescence to feminists who are more concerned with the so-called language of ‘equality’ than they are with the message of the Gospel of Christ ... The altering of God-inspired biblical meanings—important meanings—for whatever reasons, especially the sole intent of satisfying politically-correct critics, is simply unforgivable. While IBS and Zondervan no doubt feel their decision to publish this new translation is a correct one, I feel this capitulation to political correctness and to accommodate many ‘feminist-minded’ persons is nothing more than gradualism toward the slippery slope which will ultimately lead to theological disaster.” — Rev. Jerry Falwell, as quoted in World Net Daily, Feb 1.

“In light of troubling translation inaccuracies—primarily (but not exclusively) in relation to gender language—that introduce distortions of the meanings that were conveyed better by the original NIV, we cannot endorse the TNIV translation as sufficiently accurate to commend to the church.” — Henry S. Baldwin, Ph.D. (Singapore Bible College, Singapore); Hans F. Bayer, Ph.D. (Covenant Seminary, St. Louis, MO); S. M. Baugh, Ph.D. (Westminster Theological Seminary in California, Escondido, CA); James Borland, Ph.D. (Liberty University, Lynchburg, VA); Harold O. J. Brown, Ph.D. (Reformed Theological Seminary, Charlotte, NC); E Ray Clendenen, Ph.D. (Lifeway Christian Resources, Nashville, TN); Clifford John Collins, Ph.D. (Covenant Seminary, St. Louis, MO); William Cook, Ph.D. (Southern Baptist Theological Seminary, Louisville, KY); Jack Cottrell, Ph.D. (Cincinnati Bible College and Seminary, Cincinnatti, OH); Daniel Doriani, Ph.D. (Covenant Seminary, St. Louis, MO); J. Ligon Duncan III, Ph.D. (First Presbyterian Church, Jackson, MS); Paul D. Gardner, Ph.D. (Church of England Evangelical Council, Hartford, England); Wayne Grudem, Ph.D. (Phoenix Seminary, Scottsdale, AZ); W. Bingham Hunter, Ph.D. (Former Academic Dean of Trinity Evangelical Divinity School and Talbot School of Theology); Peter Jones, Ph.D. (Westminster Theological Seminary, Escondido, CA); Reggie M. Kidd, PhD. (Reformed Theological Seminary, Orlando, FL); George W. Knight, III, Ph.D. (Greenville Presbyterian Seminary, Taylors, SC); J. Carl Laney, Th.D. (Western Seminary, Portland, OR); R. Albert Mohler, Ph.D. (Southern Baptist Theological Seminary, Louisville, KY); William D. Mounce, Ph.D. (Cornerstone Fellowship, Spokane, WA); Raymond C. Ortlund, Jr., Ph.D. (First Presbyterian Church, Augusta, GA); Paige Patterson, Ph.D. (Southeastern Baptist Theological Seminary, Wake Forest, NC); John Piper, D. theol. (Bethlehem Baptist Church, Minneapolis, MN); Vern S. Poythress, Ph.D., Th.D. (Westminster Theological Seminary, Philadelphia, PA); Mark R. Saucy, Ph.D. (Kyiv Theological Seminary); Thomas R. Schreiner, Ph.D. (Southern Baptist Theological Seminary, Louisville, KY); R. C. Sproul, Ph.D. (Ligonier Ministries, Lake Mary, FL); Bruce Ware, Ph.D. (Southern Baptist Theological Seminary, Louisville, KY); Robert Yarbrough, Ph.D. (Trinity Evangelical Divinity School, Deerfield, IL). Statement issued by the Council of Biblical Manhood and Womanhood on Feb 1, with names added on Feb 2.

“This is a retrograde move that the translators have made. I have read a text of a statement by Wayne Grudem and others, and I find myself in sympathy with it. I find it to be a passing modern fad, frankly, to object to the inclusive masculine pronoun. To change the shape of biblical verses to fit this fad leads to a good bit of under-translation. The masculine pronoun belongs in almost every language of the world. The gains that this translation seeks to achieve are far outweighed by the loss. I appreciate the NIV, and I think they have taken a wrong turn.” — J.I. Packer, Professor of Theology at Regent College in Vancouver, British Columbia, as quoted by Baptist Press, Feb 1.

Resolutions Against the TNIV

Southern Baptist Convention. In a resolution passed by the 16-million member Southern Baptist Convention at its June 17-19, 1997 meeting in Dallas, the denomination resolved to “urge every Bible publisher and translation group to continue to use time-honored, historic principles of Bible translation and refrain from any deviation to seek to accommodate contemporary cultural pressures, understanding that we are anxious to support the most accurate translations ... Bible publishers and translators are consistently faced with the tension of accuracy and readability along with the pressure from those who do not hold a high view of Scripture to take license with the use of particular terms, including, but not limited to, the use of so-called gender inclusive language.”

Presbyterian Church in America. The resolution adopted virtually without dissent by the 268,000-member Presbyterian Church in America at its June 9-13, 1997 General Assembly in Colorado Springs stated, “The PCA Concurs in the decision by (NIV) CBT, IBS and Zondervan Publishing not to pursue their plans to publish a ‘gender-inclusive’ version of the NIV in the United States, believing that such a version is inconsistent with the Biblical doctrine of divine inspiration.” (Minutes of the Twenty-fifth General Assembly, 1997, p. 193). The Assembly also directed the Stated Clerk (who at that time was Dr. Paul Gilchrist) to communicate the Assembly’s concerns to (NIV) CBT, and Zondervan Publishing Company.

Conservative Congregational Christian Conference. In its July 20-25, 1997 meeting in Greeley, Colorado, the 40,000-member Conservative Congregational Christian Conference passed a resolution stating that it “would encourage those involved in Bible translation to continue to clearly and faithfully preserve the distinction between men and women which our wise and gracious God has established in creation and revealed in his Word ... while we appreciate and share their desire to communicate God’s truth as clearly as possible to the people of our own day, we would also urge upon them to continue to use time-honored historic principles of biblical translation, and to steadfastly resist the pressures of sinful human culture which would obscure, diminish, or subvert any aspect of God’s inerrant truth.”

Bibliography and Links