Friday, March 30, 2007

another change of heart

Andreas Kostenberger is a professor of New Testament at Southeastern Baptist Theological Seminary. In the late 1990s he was a critic of "gender inclusive" Bibles. He endorsed the Colorado Springs Guidelines drafted by Wayne Grudem, Verne Poythress, and a handful of others.
That's what makes Kostenberger's contribution to The Challenge of Bible Translation (published in 2003, a year after the TNIV NT released) so interesting.

Kostenberger wrote a chapter called Translating John's Gospel: Challenges and Opportunities, evaluating "the quality and accuracy of nine major English translations of the Gospel of John."
He makes several comments about the inclusive language debate that are well worth reading. Here are some excerpts (see page 8 of the full article for the entire discussion of inclusive language):
To make this an issue of doctrinal fidelity and orthodoxy (inerrancy)—as Grudem and Poythress continue to insist on doing—is erroneous and fails to appreciate the complexities involved in Bible translation.
To some extent, the difference is over perceptions to which degree the English language has in fact shifted or is expected to shift. While I am no expert in this area, I believe that translation committees should consider all the available options—including generic “he”—and then choose the best overall translation that presents the least amount of difficulties. In my consulting work I have seen a fair share of instances where translation committees were so intent on avoiding generic “he” that they chose inferior options instead.
Just as Poythress and Grudem criticize Carson for appearing to exclude generic “he” as an option, they should be open to other possibilities—including those that entail changes from singular to plural, from third to second person singular, etc. They should not claim divine sanction for English generic “he,” as if it were somehow intrinsically superior to possible alternatives. I am also not so sure that the latent masculinity Poythress and Grudem claim underlies certain generics is as widespread as they allege.
Incidentally, which translation was the winner in his study?
Hence, in our unscientific case study, the TNIV comes out on top with a superior “6” rating.
What prompted this apparent change of heart? It seems to have begun in 1999, two years after the inclusive language controversy that led to the Colorado Springs Guidelines. In an article that year for the Journal of the Evangelical Theological Society, Kostenberger shared this story:
The other day, my six-year-old daughter Lauren and I read the gospel account in which Jesus promises to make his followers "fishers of men" (or so it read in the NIV that we were using). My daughter commented: "Daddy, I'm going to be a fisher of women," and then adding, with customary "generosity," "Tahlia [her younger sister], she can be a fisher of men." I was struck by the perceptive nature of my daughter's remark: unaware of the recent inclusive-language controversy, she had unwittingly yet intuitively picked up on the need for Bible translators in this day and age to be sensitive to how they render gender-related terms in Scripture.
Even Bible scholars' children need translations like the TNIV.

Wednesday, March 28, 2007

TNIV: Isaiah 63

Henry Neufeld has blogged on his translation comparisons in Isaiah 63. The TNIV was one of the versions he studied. He found:
If you compare the CEV and the ESV, it looks like two completely different approaches, but the TNIV is somewhat mediating, and I know that if I added several more translations, the scale would be even more evident.
The TNIV did well in his comparisons.

Tuesday, March 27, 2007

TNIV: weighed down

The TNIV not only has improved upon the accuracy of the NIV but sometimes it improves upon its literary style. I think I have found an example of an improvement in literary style. In Eccl. 8:6 the NIV is worded as:
For there is a proper time and procedure for every matter,
though a man's misery weighs heavily upon him.
The TNIV revises this to:
For there is a proper time and procedure for every matter,
though a person may be weighed down by misery.
The TNIV increases gender-accuracy by revising "a man's" to "a person" reflecting the generic meaning of Hebrew ha'adam.

Stylistically, it sounds better to me that someone is "weighed down by misery" than that "misery weighs heavily upon him." In fact, I'm not sure that the English lexicon allows the collocation of "misery" with "weighs heavily".

I know that English allows me to say that something can weigh heavily on my heart. A burden can, I think, weigh heavily on my heart. I don't know if I can be weighed down by misery, but it does sound better to my ear than saying that misery weighs heavily upon me.

What do you think? (Don't repeat the words in question too often, or else they might start squishing into each other and you might lose your normal sense of what is natural English.)

Monday, March 26, 2007

NIV vs. TNIV: Matthew 11:12

For a while now, I've been thinking of starting an ongoing series of posts on This Lamp comparing revisions of translations to their predecessors. These will be short posts comparing usually on a verse or two at a time. This new TNIV Truth blog is the perfect forum to write about the ways that the TNIV improved on the NIV, so I will write those posts here and posts about other translations at This Lamp. Much of the attention that the TNIV has received has been over its supposed controversial aspects (which I always refer to as artificial controversy) to the neglect of the actual improvements in accuracy over the NIV.

One such example is found in Matthew 11:12. The intent of the writer's Greek can be very difficult to determine in this verse.

πὸ δὲ τῶν ἡμερῶν Ἰωάννου τοῦ βαπτιστοῦ ἕως ἄρτι ἡ βασιλεία τῶν οὐρανῶν βιάζεται καὶ βιασταὶ ἁρπάζουσιν αὐτήν.
From the days of John the Baptist until now, the kingdom of heaven has been forcefully advancing, and forceful men lay hold of it.

From the days of John the Baptist until now, the kingdom of heaven has been subjected to violence,* and violent people have been raiding it.

*Or been forcefully advancing.

The key phrase in question is "ἡ βασιλεία τῶν οὐρανῶν βιάζεται." Is the kingdom of heaven on the giving or receiving end of violence? This isn't a text critical issue because the text itself is not in question. We cannot determine a harder reading for guidance. In fact, harder readings don't apply here because obviously the context must weigh heavy on a translator's choice.

The NIV rendering is clearly in the minority among English translations, although the NLT also agrees and makes the action active rather than passive. The TNIV, however is clearly in line with the way most translations interpret the phrase (yet another case in point that ALL translations require interpretation, regardless of method). The NIV doesn't offer an alternative translation, but the TNIV includes one as do a number of other translations (ESV, NASB, NET, NLT, NRSV).

No doubt that during certain periods in Christian history, such as during the Crusades, the idea of the kingdom of heaven forcefully advancing would have been a popular one. And certainly, one could spiritualize the phrase to think of the kingdom of heaven advancing against powers and principalities. But what would the context (which is regarding Jesus' praise for John the Baptist) suggest?

The ICC commentary on Matthew by W. D. Davies and Dale C. Allison is one of my favorite works on the first gospel because they are so exhaustive when looking at the possibilities for a question such as this. In fact, Davies and Allison list seven different interpretations for this passage that have been offered down through the ages before hesitantly settling on this one:

N. Perrin, speaking for many, finds in 11.12 par. a reference to 'the death of the Baptist and the prospective suffering of Jesus and his disciples'. Further, 'In Matt 11.12 the use of kingdom of Heaven ... evokes the myth of the eschatological war between God and the powers of evil and interprets the fate of John the Baptist, and the potential fate of Jesus and his disciples, as a manifestation of that conflict'. In other words, the suffering of John and of the saints after him is interpreted in terms of the messianic woes or the eschatological tribulation of the latter days [p. 255].

If such things bother you, don't get hung up on the word myth in the quote above. It's being used in the straight literary sense, not as an evaluation of a truth claim. Regardless, the point is that John the Baptist is the prime example of one who would suffer violence for the sake of the Kingdom, and there would be more who would follow after him. Though the exact translation of the phrase is not a closed subject and still open to debate, in my opinion, the TNIV translators made a fair corrective to the NIV in this verse that fits in not only with the immediate context, but also with the context of the Bible as a whole and in many ways, with the context of church history.

Friday, March 23, 2007

The Bible Experience

Jeff Holton has reviewed The Bible Experience, perhaps the best dramatic recording of the Bible ever produced. I've listened to what I could download for free and it is very good. Jeff states:
The Bible Experience is definitely THE best audio production of the Bible PERIOD. It is an entertaining and captivating dramatization of the Bible.
From what I have heard of a number of recordings of various Bible versions, I would agree with Jeff.

Stephen Shields at Emergesque also has blogged about The Bible Experience and "thoroughly enjoying" listening to it

The Bible version read in The Bible Experience is the TNIV. Click here to read more about it.

new CBT chairman

The CBT (Committee on Bible Translation) that oversees translation and revision of the NIV and TNIV has a new chairman. He is Doug Moo, who has been a member of the CBT since 1997. Doug is the Blanchard Professor of New Testament at Wheaton College.

Mark Strauss became a member of the CBT a few months ago. I do not know if John Stek remains a member or not.

I have notified IBS that a couple of their webpages need to be updated to reflect recent changes in the CBT.

1 Thess. 2:7: "little children" or "gentle"

One of my favorite bloggers, Ted Gossard, has posted about being like children in mission. Ted begins:
I was struck in my Bible reading this morning by Paul's description of himself and his fellow workers when they had come and were serving the Thessalonians with the gospel and their lives. He likened himself and those working with him as being like young children among them (1 Thessalonians 2:7). It can read "gentle" among you, my Greek New Testament categorizing the reading the TNIV adopts as "almost certain". There is one letter difference. Gentle among you is powerful as well. But I especially find the thought of being like young children among these new believers, intriguing. He also likens himself and his fellow workers to a nursing mother and a father dealing with his children.
I want to follow up on Ted's observation that there is a text critical issue of whether Paul told the Thessalonians that he had been like "young children" or "gentle" among them.

The translators of the TNIV chose to follow the "B" reading of the UBS Greek New Testament 4th edition which has the word nhpioi in the text. The "B" grade is elevated one level from the "C" grade ("considerable degree of doubt") this reading was given in the 3rd edition of the UBS Greek New Testament. As Ted pointed out, there is only one letter difference between the two readings. nhpioi means 'little children' while hpioi means 'gentle.'

The NIV translates 1 Thess. 2:7 using the hpioi reading:
but we were gentle among you, like a mother caring for her little children.
The TNIV follows the nhpioi reading which was elevated in degree of textual certainty from the time the NIV was produced. Here is the TNIV translation:
7 Instead, we were like young children among you. Just as a nursing mother cares for her children, 8 so we cared for you.
Notice that versification differs from the NIV, as well, to better reflect the translation change.

Here are some other recent Bible versions which follow the "little children" reading:
We chose to be like children or like a mother nursing her baby. (CEV)

we were like children* among you. Or we were like a mother feeding and caring for her own children (NLT)

we became little children among you. Like a nursing mother caring for her own children (NET)
The NET Bible footnote on "little children" is instructive:
The variant hpioi (epioi, “gentle”) has fair support ('2 A C2 D2 Yc 0278 33 1739 1881 ˆ), but nhpioi (nepioi, “little children”) has significantly stronger backing (‰65 '* B C* D* F G I Y* pc it bo). It is not insignificant that the earliest Alexandrian and Western witnesses in support of nhpioi are actually not Alexandrian or Western; they are the second correctors of Alexandrian and Western MSS. Such correctors generally follow a Byzantine Vorlage. The reading nhpioi is thus superior externally. Further, nhpioi is much harder in this context, for Paul mixes his metaphors (“we became little children in your midst…Like a nursing mother…”). Thus, the scribes would naturally alter this reading to the softer hpioi (“we became gentle…”). Paul is not known for his consistency of figures, however (cf., e.g., Gal 4:19); hence, the intrinsic evidence points to nhpioi as original. On the other hand, it is possible that nhpioi was caused by dittography with the preceding -men (-men). It is even possible that nhpioi was caused by an error of hearing right from the beginning: The amanuensis could have heard the apostle incorrectly. But such a supposition cuts both ways; further, Paul would no doubt have corrected the reading in the ms before it was sent out. If so, one would surely have expected both earlier witnesses on the side of hpioi and perhaps a few first correctors to have this reading. The reading “little children” thus stands as most probably original. (For an extended discussion of this problem, see J. A. D. Weima, “‘But We Became Infants Among You’: The Case for NHPIOI in 1 Thess 2.7,” NTS 46 [2000]: 547-64; T. B. Sailors, “Wedding Textual and Rhetorical Criticism to Understand the Text of 1 Thessalonians 2.7,” JSNT 80 [2000]: 81-98.)
Recent versions which follow the traditional reading of "gentle" include:
Instead, we were gentle when we were with you, like a mother taking care of her children. (GW)

But we were gentle among you, like a nursing mother taking care of her own children. (ESV, with this footnote on "gentle": "some manuscripts infants"

we were gentle among you, as a nursing mother nurtures her own children (HCSB, with this footnote on "gentle": "Other mss read infants")

we were gentle among you, like a nursing mother tenderly caring for her own children. (ISV; footnoted on "gentle": Other mss. read infants)
I am thankful for the care that the TNIV translators paid to text critical issues. They were willing to revise the NIV text when they felt it was supported by the textual evidence.

Thursday, March 22, 2007

brothers, sisters, and the TNIV

This post is a response to a comment by Milton Stanley on the poll in the margin of this blog:
If Paul wrote adelphoi, we ought to translate it "brothers" and allow the reader to make the jump, now as then, to include sisters, too.
Yes, I know, many of us are tired of hearing about "brothers" and "sisters" and the TNIV. But there are some facts about the Greek of the New Testament which sometimes have not been correctly understood when the TNIV has been discussed. I'll try to keep this short.

As you probably know, Greek has grammatical gender, masculine, feminine, and neuter. The Greek word adelphos (masculine gender) means 'brother' or 'sibling'. Its plural adelphoi means 'brothers' if the group it is referring to is only composed of males. Otherwise, adelphoi means 'siblings'. In English 'brothers and sisters' means the same as 'siblings.'

The Greek word adelphe (Greek adelfh) is grammatically feminine and means 'sister'. Its plural only means 'sisters'.

Greek has no way to refer to 'siblings' (a mixed group of males and females) other than by using the grammatically masculine plural form, adelphoi. When a Greek speaker or author used this plural to refer to a group which included both males and females, the word did not mean 'brothers.' This is where some people have made a serious error in discussions about the TNIV. It is inaccurate to say that the Greek word "brothers" can also include women. Greeks knew the difference between males and females just as well as we English speakers to. But they did not have the same language forms to refer to brothers, sisters, and siblings as we do in English. When Greek speakers use the grammatically masculine plural adelphoi to refer to a group that includes both males and females, the word does not mean 'brothers,' but, rather 'siblings.' We have the word "siblings" in English, which is a different word from the two words "brothers" and "sisters". Greek did not have a separate word meaning 'siblings'.

So, in response to Milton, the Greeks didn't make a jump from "brothers" to include sisters. Sisters were already included in their gender-inclusive word adelphoi when sisters were part of the group a speaker or author was referring to. In such a context, the Greek word meant 'siblings' not 'brothers.'

The ESV footnote is accurate when it points out the meaning of adelphoi in Rom. 12:1. The ESV text of Rom. 12:1 is not accurate when it uses the word "brothers" *unless* the ESV translators believe that Rom. 12:1 was only addressed to male believers, or unless they believe that the word "brothers" can include females. But I have field tested with many speakers of English and I have yet to find anyone who actually refers to their sisters and brothers with the word "brothers." I have corresponded with the translators of the HCSB, which, like the ESV, was translated according to the Colorado Springs Guidelines (CSG) which were created to guide English translators in trying to retain masculine sounding words in English translations as much as possible. An HCSB translator responded saying that they believe that Rom. 12:1 is addressed to both males and females. Apparently they believe that their word "brothers" in Rom. 12:1 can include females.

For me, one of the best features of the TNIV is that it handles translation of such gendered words more accurately than other more traditional English Bible versions. When the biblical text refers to a male, the TNIV uses a clearly masculine word. When the biblical text refers to a person who could be either male or female (such as our English indefinite pronoun "anyone"), the TNIV is accurate, using wording which makes sure that the reader clearly understands that the term is gender-accurate as well as gender-inclusive. The same holds true in the TNIV when the biblical text refers to groups which include both males and females. In such cases the TNIV does not use a masculine term which, at least today, does not accurately communicate that both males and females are included.

The TNIV is a gender-accurate Bible. It has not neutralized masculine gender in the Bible, in spite of such claims from Dr. Grudem and a few others who believe as he does.

Wednesday, March 21, 2007

Topics invited

What are some topics of discussion about the TNIV that you would like to see blogged about here? Feel free to list them in comments to this post.

Tuesday, March 20, 2007

What is the TNIV scandal?

Gary Zimmerli of A Friend of Christ blog has just posted "Scandalous!" about the TNIV. I recommend his post to you to find out what he originally thought was scandalous and what he now does.

singulars to plurals

One of the commenters to my last post remarked that he wished I was there when the translators debated one of the more "contentious" changes in the TNIV — particularly, the use of plural nouns and pronouns in English to translate singular nouns and pronouns in the source language.

It's a great observation — worth mentioning in a proper post and not leaving to the comments. Psalm 1:1 is one such "contentious" verse; however, the translators were somewhat further along in Psalm 1 the day I observed them. So I can't give firsthand insight into the discussion that took place.

However, for those interested in reading the translators' "official" rational for using plurals to translate singulars, one of the committee members has provided a very thorough discussion of Psalm 1:1 on (Note: You have to scroll down a bit to get to it.)

I won't add anything to their explanation except to say it's well worth reading.

Last, something Wayne wrote in the comments section about singulars and plurals deserved to be mentioned here, because it's so good:

All Bible versions, including those which are essentially literal and those even more literal, such as the NASB, have had translators that recognize these facts, which show that forms do not always match up with meanings one-to-one between languages.

I, for one, am glad that all Bible translators have recognized this. I'm glad that the KJV, RSV, ESV, NASB, HCSB, NIV, TNIV, NLT, and other versions translate elohim as "God" when it meant "God" in the original texts, even though it was grammatically plural.


Monday, March 19, 2007

the anti-feminist TNIV

I have just seen a first. A blogger named James begins his post by quoting Genesis 2:18-23 from the TNIV to support his post against feminism.

Later in his post he says:
As Christ does not seek equality to God, man should not seek equality with Christ and woman should not seek equality to man.
Hmm, let all who accuse the TNIV of being a feminist Bible listen up!

poll on TNIV Rom. 12:1

I have just put up a poll in the margin of this blog. It surveys how people react to the translation of Rom. 12:1 where the TNIV addresses the plea to "brothers and sisters" instead of "brothers", the traditional wording in many English versions. I invite you to take the poll. There is space for you to add comments to your poll answers if you wish.

Sunday, March 18, 2007

TNIV—basic idea or details of meaning?

One common criticism of the TNIV is that it dispenses with the details of meaning, communicating only the "basic idea" of a passage.

In Key Issues Regarding Bible Translation, Wayne Grudem writes, "These gender-neutral Bibles only translate the general idea of the passage and omit male-oriented details of meaning." These "male-oriented details of meaning" are overlooked, the critics say, because of a politically correct, feminist agenda.

Such criticism moves beyond the realm of objective analysis. It attributes motive and makes assumptions about what takes place among the translators.

I feel I have a somewhat unique perspective on the matter since, unlike the critics, I've watched the TNIV translators at work. About four years ago, I was invited to observe the committee as they finished work on Psalm 1.

I was working for Zondervan at the time, preparing for the commercial launch of the TNIV. It was made clear to me that I was there to observe... and only to observe. (A clear line of separation exists between Zondervan and the translators, thus protecting the TNIV from commercial influence.)

While I was there, the translators discussed at length whether to use a comma or a semicolon in one verse. Which was more accurate? Which would more faithfully communicate the psalmist's intended grammatical structure? They debated these questions as if heaven and earth hung in the balance.

So it's no surprise to me that gender inclusive language was not incorporated into the translation by means of "search and replace." Instead, the translators pored over the texts—line by line, word by word, punctuation mark by punctuation mark.

Yes, the details matter. Yes, the words matter. Critics of the TNIV and proponents of literal translation do not have a monopoly on attention to detail.

Whatever else you believe about the TNIV, the suggestion that the translators do not care about the "details of meaning" is fraught with logical fallacy and presumption.

Saturday, March 17, 2007

TNIV Truth

The title of this blog is deliberately ambiguous. We want this blog to tell the truth about the TNIV, and we also want people to hear God's Truth from the TNIV.

Jesus asked his heavenly father to do this for those who had become his followers:
Sanctify them by the truth; your word is truth. (John 17:17, TNIV)
Jesus told the truth to people when he was here on earth. Today we have God's entire written word in the Bible. It is the truth, just as Jesus spoke the truth. Let us allow God to sanctify us through his word. We can find God's truth accurately and clearly translated for us in the TNIV.

Friday, March 16, 2007

Have you stopped beating your wife?

I hope you married men who read this are uncomfortable with the wording of the title to this post. Why should you be uncomfortable? Well, the question is worded with the assumption that you do beat your wife, and whether you answer "yes" or "no" you are stuck with that assumption. That's the way it's been for many of the accusations against the TNIV and its translators.

Without a shred of objective evidence, the TNIV has been accused of being a feminist Bible. It has sometimes been called a feminazi Bible. And there are other accusations made against the TNIV which have no basis in fact.

The TNIV translators have been accused of, at minimum, caving in to social pressures to conform to feminist restructuring of society and the English language. And where is the objective evidence? It's nowhere. The accusers find verses in the TNIV which they disagree with in terms of how generic terms are translated, and they make the logical fallacy that the TNIV translators must have been motivated by feminism or at least giving the nod to feminism in the way that they translated.

But that's just mind-reading.

What if the actual truth is as the TNIV translators have stated, that in each case of gender-inclusive language in the TNIV, they were motivated by the desire for translation accuracy? If we are going to speculate about the motives of others, we could speculate that the TNIV translators have been telling the truth.

We have choices in life about whether or not to believe people. Some people are so filled with certain kinds of ideas that it is nearly impossible for them to believe others when others say things that go fly in the face of all of their own ideas and assumptions. I have spent years grieving over this.

Rather than speculating about the motives of the TNIV translators, it would be better if we objectively examined each verse with which there is a difference of interpretation. In most cases we will discover that good Bible scholars differ on the interpretation of those verses and that the TNIV wordings are supported by lexical and exegetical evidence from the Bible itself as well as from good scholarship.

Have you stopped beating your wife?

Is the TNIV still a feminist Bible?

I hope that we know what the truth is for answering each of these questions. Let's not assume the truth of the presupposition behind either question. Let us base our debates on more objective evidence.

Thursday, March 15, 2007

Grudem-Strauss debate

On May 21, 2002, Dr. Wayne Grudem of Phoenix Seminary and Dr. Mark Strauss of Bethel Seminary West (San Diego) debated the topic The TNIV: A Bible Translation for Today or Political Movement for Tomorrow. The debate was sponsored by which has a webpage on the debate with links to its audio and a transcript. You can also read about the debate at You can access the audio of the debate, section by section, from that webpage. A link to the audio of that debate is also found on a webpage of the CBMW, which has been adamantly opposed to the TNIV. Thank you to Concordia University for hosting the debate.

We hope to have future posts which excerpt parts of the debate. It is important that the truth about the TNIV be told. There have been far too many untrue accusations against the TNIV spread by radio, in Christian magazines, and on the Internet. Please keep visiting us at this blog while we try to set the record straight. And feel welcome to help us do so yourself with comments to our blog posts.

Is the TNIV Good News?

Be sure to read the 3 post series by Rev. Dr. Mark D. Roberts, Is the TNIV Good News? This is a fair, balanced, and informative review of the TNIV.

Wednesday, March 14, 2007


English Bible readers today are, appropriately, concerned about which Bible version to use. There are so many available. How does one choose which is the best?

We believe that the TNIV, is one of the best. We have searched the blogosphere and have found a number of bloggers writing about English Bible versions. Some criticize the TNIV. But we want to try to set the record straight on this blog. We even found a blog named Better Bibles Blog. Well, in the wise words of President Carter, "Why not the best?" We don't simply want to have a better Bible. We would like the TNIV to be considered the best Bible, or at least one of the best. We're working toward that goal.

Welcome to our blog. We hope you return often to visit us. Feel free to add comments to any blog post.

Here is how we feel about God's word:
When your words came, I ate them;
they were my joy and my heart’s delight,
for I bear your name,
LORD God Almighty. (Jer. 15:16; TNIV)
In the TNIV you will find words which can bring joy and delight to your heart.

UPDATE: Henry Neufeld has blogged about the beginning of this blog. Thanks to comments from him, we have toned down the rhetoric from the first version of this post. We don't want to turn people off by our enthusiasm for the TNIV.