Wednesday, April 25, 2007

TNIV is more literal

I have been reading through 1 Corinthians first in Greek and then in the TNIV as preparation for taking a course from Gordon Fee this summer. In 1 Cor. 3 verses 16 and 17 I felt immediately that something was different. It seemed at first as if something had been added but the meaning had not been changed. However, the rhythm of the sentence was different.

Sure enough, the words "yourselves" and "together" had not been there in the KJV, the only translation that I am likely to remember offhand, nor were these words evident in the Greek.

    Don't you know that you yourselves are God's temple and that God's Spirit dwells in your midst? If anyone destroys God's temple, God will destroy that person; for God's temple is sacred, and you together are that temple. TNIV

    Don't you know that you yourselves are God's temple and that God's Spirit lives in you? If anyone destroys God's temple, God will destroy him; for God's temple is sacred, and you are that temple. NIV

It is simple enough to see why these words were added. In Greek the word "you" is in the plural, and in English there is now no other way to indicate this distinction without adding a word. It could be "all" as in "you all" or "all of you", but the the TNIV has opted for "yourselves" and "together" in these verses.

Here are some other examples of how the TNIV has made the plural "you" clear in English. I consider this to be a great improvement in literalness over the NIV.

    Luke 22:31

    "Simon, Simon, Satan has asked to sift all of you as wheat. TNIV

    "Simon, Simon, Satan has asked to sift you[a] as wheat NIV (with footnote)

    Luke 17:21

    nor will people say, 'Here it is,' or 'There it is,' because the kingdom of God is in your midst TNIV

    nor will people say, 'Here it is,' or 'There it is,' because the kingdom of God is within[a] you." NIV (with footnote)

In some way, this appears to be less literal because a word is added, but I would judge it to be more literal, more transparent to the Greek. It is the only way to represent the meaning that is clear in the Greek.

So the question then becomes whether or not a translation should represent the plural "you" each and every time it occurs. There are three options, represent the plural by some means every time, none of the time or only when necessary to disambiguate, as the TNIV does.

It would be somewhat unnatural to indicate the plural every time - in fact, many translations leave it out altogether or put it in the footnotes. I appreciate the approach taken by the TNIV since a Bible should be understandable when read out loud from the pulpit or at the dining room table.

I personally consider this to be a small example of where the TNIV is more literal than the NIV and most other modern so-called literal translations.

Does anyone know of other cases where a plural "you" has been made clear in the English translation, or maybe cases where it should be made clear but hasn't been?

blog advocates open-mindedness toward TNIV

Joe Myzia blogs that we need to do more than just listen to those who criticize the TNIV:
In part 1 on the TNIV, I listed respected people on both sides of the TNIV controversy. What I did in that post was not take any particular side. I have people on both sides that I look up to. What this does is remove the issue of going with a "protestant pope". It forces a person like me, when their are multiple respected names on both sides, to be a Berean and check the issue out for myself. Of course, even if everyone was on one side, personally I think I should check it out anyway to avoid the "protestant pope" trap.

The way I check out a translation is I buy it. Then, I carry it around with me and no matter what church I may be at, or who I am listening to, I compare that version with what the teacher is saying. Sometimes, if need be, I look at the Greek if some interesting difference pops up.
If you'd like to read some material that seeks to refute the TNIV, then I would recommend this link from the website of The Council of Biblical Manhood & Womanhood (CBMW). Grudem is a part of this along with several other respectable names . . . men I read attentively.

However, may I say that while their stuff sounds convincing at first glance, when one reads the counters to their material, it might not seem so strong. Proverbs 18:17 tells us:
17 The one who states his case first seems right,
until the other comes and examines him.

The Holy Bible : English Standard Version.
(Wheaton: Standard Bible Society, 2001), Pr 18:17.
If you've taken a stand on this issue, have you read both sides? How much on both sides? Has your review been lop-sided?
Let's follow Joe's advice and carefully examine the claims for and against the TNIV. At this blog we believe that if you do, you will find the TNIV to be a trustworth translation, not deserving of the the negative campaign which has been waged against it.

Tuesday, April 24, 2007

Read through the TNIV in 90 Days

You may have seen the Bible in 90 Days curriculum at your local bookstore. Although this sounds like a highly ambitious challenge, reading the Bible in 90 days only means reading about 12 pages a day in a specially formatted NIV Thinline Bible. Of course you can certainly read through the Bible on your own in 90 days, and technically you don't need a special Bible (simply take the complete page numbers in any Bible and divide by 90!). However, attempting to complete a goal like this within a group creates for better accountability and raises the odds that you will actually finish on time. I'm contemplating leading a group at my church through this program this summer if there's enough interest.

So what does any of this have to do with the TNIV? Well, I noticed while looking at the curriculum that it's also been adapted for those who want to use the TNIV instead of the NIV. Page numbers in this plan can be used with The TNIV Bible: Timeless Truth in Today's Language or the TNIV Thinline XL, Larger Print Edition.

As I said, I'm contemplating leading a group at church through this program if there's enough interest. I have the XL edition of the TNIV mentioned above, so I would probably use that Bible. I'd be interested to hear from others who have gone through the Bible in 90 Days (the actual program/plan). Did you use one of the adapted Bibles or your own? Did you make this goal by yourself, or did you participate in a group using the curriculum? If you were in a group, what was the success rate like regarding those who actually finished reading the Bible in 90 days?

Sunday, April 22, 2007

NIV vs. TNIV: 1 Peter 4:12

This morning, we will study 1 Peter 4:7-19 in our Bible study. As part of my preparation this week, I read Thomas R. Schreiner's commentary on the passage from the New American Commentary series. Commenting on v. 12, Schreiner writes

...believers should not be astonished...that sufferings strikes them. They should not consider it as if "something strange were happening." Such suffering is to be expected because its purpose is "to test you" (pros peirasmon). The NIV, unfortunately, leaves out the purpose altogether and hence fails to communicate why the readers should not be astonished.

Schriener's criticism of the NIV here is justified. It simply does not fully reflect the full intent of Peter's words in the Greek:

Dear friends, do not be surprised at the painful trial you are suffering, as though something strange were happening to you. (1 Pet 4:12 NIV)

Does the TNIV improve upon its predecessor? Absolutely.

Dear friends, do not be surprised at the fiery ordeal that has come on you to test you, as though something strange were happening to you. (1 Pet 4:12 TNIV)

Not only does the TNIV correctly communicate the purpose of the suffering "to test you" (πρὸς πειρασμὸν/pros peirasmon), it also renders πύρωσις/purosis correctly as "fiery ordeal" rather than the NIV's weaker "painful trial." Thus, Peter's allusion to the OT idea of a "trial by fire" (Prov 27:21; Psalm 66:10; Zech 13:9; Mal 3:1-4) which was all but absent from the NIV rendering is clearly presented in the TNIV.

The TNIV improves upon the NIV not only in regard to the changes in the English language over the last generation, but more importantly in terms of accurately reflecting the original biblical texts. From this point forward, publishers who are considering the NIV as a basis for a commentary or reference work would do well to choose the more accurate TNIV instead.

Saturday, April 21, 2007

bookstores selling TNIV

An increasing number of bookstores are selling the TNIV. Here are some that do:
Family Christian Stores

Christian Family Bookstores

Christian Supply



Koorong Books (Australia)

Word Bookstore (Australia)

Lighthouse Bookstore (Canada)

Mitchell Family Books (Canada)

Scott's Parable Christian Stores (Canada)

St. Andrews Bookshop (UK)

WesleyOwen (UK)

Fuller Seminary Bookstore


Northwestern Book Stores

The Open Door

The standard "secular" bookstores, such as, Barnes & Noble, etc. have been selling the TNIV for some time. I'll add more to this list as time goes on. I would appreciate your letting me know in Comments of other bookstores that sell the TNIV. I would especially like to know of local Christian bookstores and local branches of Christian bookstores chains that sell the TNIV.

Friday, April 20, 2007

poll re-done

I left out too many Bible versions which should have been in the most recent poll on this blog. So I am re-doing the poll. Here are the results so far:
Which is the pew or pulpit Bible at your place of worship?

NIV 29% 5

TNIV 18% 3

NRSV 12% 2

ESV 6% 1

NASB 6% 1

HCSB (Holman) 0% 0

KJV 0% 0

NLT (New Living Translation) 6% 1

GW (God's Word translation) 0% 0

other 24% 4

17 votes total

Unfortunately, I cannot save these results to put them into the results for the new poll. So, if you read this and are willing, please vote again. Thanks.

Thursday, April 19, 2007

TNIV as pew Bible

Dave Wheatley has blogged that his church in Cheltenham, Great Britain, recently decided to adopt the TNIV as its pew Bible. It's a good choice. Many Christians are already familiar with the NIV. If the TNIV is a pew Bible it is easy to follow along with an NIV. Similarly, if a church has used the NIV as its pew Bible, the TNIV will sound almost identical.

I wonder how many churches have adopted the TNIV as their pew Bible. To find out what pew Bibles churches are using, I'm going to put up a new poll in the margin of this blog. Please vote in this poll and invite others who may not know about the TNIV Truth blog to vote in the poll as well.

Tuesday, April 17, 2007

NIV vs. TNIV: Hebrews 11:11

Some changes between the NIV and TNIV have bucked the status quo of renderings found in other translations (for example, see my posts on Mark 1:41 here and here). On the other hand, there are some places in the TNIV that have brought the text more in line with the majority of scholarship). One example is Hebrews 11:11--


By faith Abraham, even though he was past age — and Sarah herself was barren — was enabled to become a father because he considered him faithful who had made the promise.

Note: Or By faith even Sarah, who was past age, was enabled to bear children because she

And by faith even Sarah, who was past childbearing age, was enabled to bear children because she considered him faithful who had made the promise.

Note: Or By faith Abraham, even though he was too old to have children—and Sarah herself was not able to conceive—was enabled to become a father because he

Note that essentially the TNIV has opted to go with the optional translational note of the NIV, although the wording was updated somewhat. Readers should know that "Abraham" does not actually appear in the text. The question has to do with whether or not Abraham or Sarah is the subject of "δύναμιν εἰς καταβολὴν σπέρματος" (lit. power/ability to build seed ).The word καταβολὴ/katabole, which I translated literally as "build" in the parentheses is a very interesting word. According to the BDAG lexicon, it means "the act of laying someth[ing] down, with implication of providing a base for someth[ing], foundation." It's also used as a technical terms for the sowing of seed and is used in the Scriptures as a term for "begetting."

So the question here, I suppose is whether or not there's a biological conflict with the idea that Sarah could "build seed" seeing that technically "seed " (we'll keep this G-rated) is "built" by the man, and not the woman. In reality, I don't think there's a conflict here. We're not being presented with a lesson in biology, but rather a common biblical idiom is being used to refer to Sarah's conception even though she was well beyond her years. In my opinion, the attempt at harmononization in the NIV is really not necessary. The TNIV is not only simpler, but closer to the Greek text. Both versions offer the other alternative in the footnotes.

For those who are interested, translations that agree with the NIV include the GNT, GWT, NET (note the use of "he"), and the NRSV.

Translations that agree with the TNIV include the ASV, CEV, ESV, HCSB, KJV, The Message, NASB, NLTse (the NLT1 makes an interesting compromise), REB and the Tyndale NT.

For a defense of the interpretation such as that found in the NIV, see William L. Lane's commentary on Hebrews in the Word Biblical Commentary series.

Sunday, April 15, 2007

Don Imus, Hosea, and whores

As most of you know, if you have been following U.S. national news, anyway, radio talkshow host Don Imus recently got himself in bigger trouble than he has in the past with his on-air language when he used racist, demeaning, stereotyping words for the Rutgers University women's basketball team. He called them "nappy-headed hos." I've been so sheltered from some kinds of language that I had no idea what these words meant when I first read that news. I googled on "hos" but it took quite awhile before I found a website that explained that "hos" was dialect for "whores." The reaction from the public was understandably one of being incensed at such insensitive, inappropriate language, especially for a team of athletes who had such a good season, and have risen above racial stereotypes to prove that the "content of our character is truly more important than the color of our skin."

Those athletes were not "hos." But even if they were, God would love them. There are a fair number of whores mentioned in the Bible. And some of them even got to be part of the bloodline of Jesus who was called the Messiah, King of the Jews.

Hosea must have gotten the shock of his life when his God, who asks people to live holy lives, told him to marry a whore. Here's how the NIV expressed it:

When the LORD began to speak through Hosea, the LORD said to him, “Go, take to yourself an adulterous wife and children of unfaithfulness, because the land is guilty of the vilest adultery in departing from the LORD.” (Hosea 1:2)
That's better translation than that found in some other versions, but its English is still not as smooth nor as clear as it could be. Few of us would normally speak or write about "taking to yourself a wife". No one would ever speak about taking to yourself "children of unfaithfulness," "children of harlotry (RSV, NASB), or "children of whoredom" (NRSV, ESV), let alone the most literal translation, "children of of harlotries," whatever any of these wordings might mean. And when you think about it, "the land is guilty ... in departing from the LORD" sounds strange in English since land is inanimate and incapable of departing from the Lord.

Fortunately, this is one verse where the TNIV extensively revised the NIV. The result is a translation which communicates the meaning of the original Hebrew more clearly in English:

When the LORD began to speak through Hosea, the LORD said to him, “Go, marry a promiscuous woman and have children with her, for like an adulterous wife this land is guilty of unfaithfulness to the LORD.”
There are many other passages where the TNIV improves on an already good translation, the NIV. We who blog here want to continue to point out such improvements.

Friday, April 13, 2007

TNIV: an ABCD translation

I just noticed this paragraph in a description of the TNIV:
In translating the NIV, the CBT held to certain goals: that it be an Accurate, Beautiful, Clear, and Dignified translation suitable for public and private reading, teaching, preaching, memorizing, and liturgical use. The translators were united in their commitment to the authority and infallibility of the Bible as God's Word in written form. They agreed that faithful communication of the meaning of the original writers demands frequent modifications in sentence structure (resulting in a "thought-for-thought" translation) and constant regard for the contextual meanings of words.
I like those goals which the CBT has had for the NIV and continues to have for the TNIV: Accurate, Beautiful, Clear, Dignified. The ABCD acronym is clever.

As I have studied the TNIV, I have found it to be accurate. In fact, it has been made more accurate than the NIV. These aren't just promotional words from the CBT or Zondervan. There are plenty of specific examples in the TNIV text which demonstrate a greater accuracy than the NIV, even though the NIV is an accurate translation. Some of these examples have been cited by Craig Blomberg and Mark Strauss in their articles about the TNIV. We will note other examples on this blog as time goes on.

I think it's fair to claim that the language of the TNIV is beautiful. Of course, literary beauty is somewhat subjective, "in the eye of the beholder." But most of us can at least spot language which jars us, which is so unnatural or uncommon or ungrammatical that it is ugly. TNIV wordings never strike me as being ugly. I sometimes prefer an even more natural wording than one found in the TNIV, but it's never because of a lack of beauty in the TNIV text.

Clear, now this is one of my hobby horses for Bible translations. I recognize that there are parts of the Bible which are not clear. I don't think we should make them clearer than they were in the original texts. But so many Bible translations are less clear than the original, and that is a pity. The TNIV is, on the whole, a good, clear translation.

Finally, dignified. This is a translation parameter that I have not given much thought to over the years, perhaps because my focus has been translating the Bible for people groups who do not yet have a translation in their language. But for languages such as English, where we have many Bible versions to choose from, there is a real place for having translations which sound dignified. Many Bible readers and congregations want to use a translation which has a good literary sound, more elevated in diction than a translation which is targeted for lower reading levels. The TNIV does have the same moderately formal sound that the NIV does. That makes both versions good as pulpit Bibles for public reading in church.

Wednesday, April 11, 2007

Former ESV Advocate Now Champions TNIV, NLTse

In his recent post, "Just Another ESV Rant," Gary Zimmerli, owner of the Friend of Christ blog says that he's no longer recommending the ESV. From now on, he'll be recommending translations like the TNIV and NLTse.

Why would Gary make this switch? Here's his reasoning:

I've said it before, and I'm sure I'll have to say it again and again: the ESV is an old translation (the RSV), simply revised to remove "liberalisms" that are not acceptable to the reformed/evangelical crowd. It's English in many cases is old and poor, and it contains a lot of "Biblese," what some people call "Church language." It may be all right for "scholars," but I think many of those "scholars" will find other translations are much more accurate and better for study.

For young people, and for the typical biblically-illiterate church-goer, they may be attracted to the neat, cool covers that Crossway is putting on the ESV, but they would be better off going for an NLTse or a TNIV, (or even an NIV!) with a neat, cool cover.

But even for "non-young people," Gary still recommends something besides the ESV:

And for us older folks and serious Bible scholars, we'd be better off going for an NLTse or a TNIV, (or even an NIV!) with a nice, conservative, black or burgundy cover. Or if we want to get a little deeper, an NASB or a NET Bible, with a nice, conservative, black or burgundy cover.

Be sure to read some of Gary's past posts as well, to see his journey regarding his Bible translation preferences.

Monday, April 9, 2007

a Bible scholar is carrying the TNIV

Bible school teacher and blogger Henry Neufeld is now carrying the TNIV:
That means I take it to church, Sunday School, study groups, and I keep it at hand during my study time in the morning.

Since I study primarily from the texts in their original languages, that doesn’t mean that the TNIV has become my study Bible. But it does mean that I follow scripture readings in church with it, and that I will read from it as appropriate in various groups.
Click here to read more of Henry's positive comments about the TNIV. There are other Bible scholars, like Henry, who also like the TNIV and regularly use it. I wish that they got as much press as those who have criticized the TNIV.

Sunday, April 8, 2007

The Bible Experience on CBS Sunday Morning

In the Beginning There Was the Bestseller
CBS Sunday Morning did a piece on Bible publishing this morning. Page two of the online story has an interview with Denzel Washington about his role in The Bible Experience.

Saturday, April 7, 2007


Dan Thompson has blogged about how Luke 23:41 reads better in the TNIV than the ESV.

Friday, April 6, 2007

Isaiah 53: the suffering servant

  1. Who has believed our message
    and to whom has the arm of the LORD been revealed?
  2. He grew up before him like a tender shoot,
    and like a root out of dry ground.
    He had no beauty or majesty to attract us to him,
    nothing in his appearance that we should desire him.
  3. He was despised and rejected by others,
    a man of suffering, and familiar with pain.
    Like one from whom people hide their faces
    he was despised, and we held him in low esteem.
  4. Surely he took up our pain
    and bore our suffering,
    yet we considered him punished by God,
    stricken by him, and afflicted.
  5. But he was pierced for our transgressions,
    he was crushed for our iniquities;
    the punishment that brought us peace was on him,
    and by his wounds we are healed.
  6. We all, like sheep, have gone astray,
    each of us has turned to our own way;
    and the LORD has laid on him
    the iniquity of us all.
  7. He was oppressed and afflicted,
    yet he did not open his mouth;
    he was led like a lamb to the slaughter,
    and as a sheep before its shearers is silent,
    so he did not open his mouth.
  8. By oppression and judgment he was taken away.
    Yet who of his generation protested?
    For he was cut off from the land of the living;
    for the transgression of my people he was punished.
  9. He was assigned a grave with the wicked,
    and with the rich in his death,
    though he had done no violence,
    nor was any deceit in his mouth.
  10. Yet it was the LORD’s will to crush him and cause him to suffer,
    and though the LORD makes his life an offering for sin,
    he will see his offspring and prolong his days,
    and the will of the LORD will prosper in his hand.
  11. After he has suffered,
    he will see the light of life and be satisfied;
    by his knowledge my righteous servant will justify many,
    and he will bear their iniquities.
  12. Therefore I will give him a portion among the great,
    and he will divide the spoils with the strong,
    because he poured out his life unto death,
    and was numbered with the transgressors.
    For he bore the sin of many,
    and made intercession for the transgressors. (TNIV)
Your reflections and comments are invited.

Wednesday, April 4, 2007

The Bible Experience: The Easter Story

Read today's blog post at Camy's Loft: The Bible Experience: The Easter Story. There's a great recommendation for The Bible Experience dramatization of the TNIV. And you can find out how to download the Easter story from The Bible Experience for free. I've been listening to it and it's good.

You can also click here to download The Bible Experience: The Easter Story from the Zondervan website. It's a free download in mp3 format.

Tuesday, April 3, 2007

Do Modern Translations Dilute Biblical Pronouncements Against Homosexuality?

I'll admit that this is not one of my favorite subjects. I've both known and counseled individuals who struggled with homosexual tendencies and urges. It's not an easy issue, especially in today's culture. I've also known those who seemed to be freed completely from the lifestyle and went on to lead normal heterosexual lives, while at the same time, I've known others who professed Christian faith, yet continued to struggle with temptation.

Jesus associated with and had compassion on people engaged in all kinds of sin. We're called to do that, too. We're called to help others overcome their weaknesses through prayer, counsel, and support within a community of faith (Gal 6:1-10). Biblically, homosexuality is not made out to be a "worse" sin than others. In fact, in 1 Cor 6:9-10, Paul seems to put it on the same level as a host of other offenses, including greediness and slander. But that doesn't take away from the fact that active engagement with a homosexual lifestyle is not compatible with Christian discipleship.

And that brings me to this post. This blog, TNIV Truth, has as its tagline, "Telling the truth about Today's New International Version." Why this tagline? Well, it's no secret that the TNIV has been accused of being many things which are simply untrue. Today, I ran across one of them that has roots all the way back to the original NIV Bible.

Wayne referred me to a post at another blog that brought up the old tired issue that a lesbian was on the NIV translation committee. Now, if this is news to you, you should know right off that she was not on the actual translation committee, but was hired as an English stylist in the early days of the translation process. The committee members themselves did not know about her lifestyle as it did not become public for a number of years. I'm not going to quote from the blog I responded to at any length because there's no need to add one more page to the rest of the exaggerated nonsense that's already out there about this issue on the internet. But I have adapted below the response I wrote on the other site so that I have yet another opportunity to provide clarity on this issue.

First, it is no "dirty little secret" (as suggested by the original poster) that Virginia Mollenkott was both a lesbian and briefly worked with the NIV translators strictly as a stylistic consultant. While unfortunate, this has been known for quite a while. She had no control over any of the actual translation, but merely offered suggestions regarding English stylistic issues. The translators themselves were under no obligation to follow any of her suggestions.

To say that if the translation team did not know of her lesbianism, they did not want to know is absurd. Such things were kept very private in those days (and sadly they no longer are). Some of those who knew her closely or worked at the same institutions may have known, but it's nonsense to blame a group (i.e. the NIV CBT) who essentially hired her to check for stylistic issues. Would it reflect badly on a pastor if he hired someone to edit his sermons for grammatical issues and that person turned out to be homosexual? I don't think so. And closer to this issue, a few years ago Mel White who was a ghost writer for Jerry Falwell, Billy Graham and Pat Robertson came out of the closet as a homosexual, and even wrote a book about it. Do we want to say that Falwell, Graham and Robertson were casting a blind eye at White just because people close to him knew of his inclinations and they were clueless? Certainly not. Do we want to say that the ministries of these three men should be forever marred (or even marred at all!) because of this unfortunate association? To suggest that these ministers or that the NIV translation committee had to have some kind of omniscient awareness of their employees darkest secrets seems a bit unfair and certainly uncharitable.

And as I said, this is not new information--there's no "dirty little secret." Kenneth Barker addressed this issue publicly and in print 12 years ago in his book, Accuracy Defined and Illustrated: An NIV Translator Answers Your Questions. This book is available for free in PDF form.

But if I may, let me offer a quote from Barker on this issue on p. 67:

Some have claimed that the NIV condones sodomy (that is, homosexual sins). The alleged reason for this is that some NIV translators and editors were homosexuals or lesbians. These charges have no basis in fact.

Here are the facts. In the earliest stages of translation work on the NIV (in the early 1970s), Virginia Mollenkott was consulted briefly and only in a minor way on matters of English style. At that time she had the reputation of being a committed evangelical Christian with expertise in contemporary English idiom and usage. Nothing was known of her lesbian views. Those did not begin to surface until years later in some of her writings. If we had known in the early seventies what became public knowledge only years later, we would not have consulted her at all. But it must be stressed that she did not influence the NIV translators and editors in any of their final decisions.

I hope that this is cleared up. But here's the reality. Even if Mollenkott were known to be a lesbian, and even if she had been senior translator, the NIV would still have to be evaluated on how accurately it conveys the message of the Greek and Hebrew manuscripts into modern English. But the fact that she was merely a stylist and for a short period of time, makes any assertions against the NIV even more egregious. This has NOTHING to do with the reliability of the NIV. Rather it is an argument based on the fallacy of guilt by association.

What about the change in wording in 1 Cor 6:9 between the NIV and TNIV? Is this a conspiracy on the part of the TNIV translators to make homosexuality more acceptable?

Do you not know that the wicked will not inherit the kingdom of God? Do not be deceived: Neither the sexually immoral nor idolaters nor adulterers nor male prostitutes nor homosexual offenders, nor thieves nor the greedy nor drunkards nor slanderers nor swindlers will inherit the kingdom of God. Or do you not know that wrongdoers will not inherit the kingdom of God? Do not be deceived: Neither the sexually immoral nor idolaters nor adulterers nor male prostitutes nor practicing homosexuals nor thieves nor the greedy nor drunkards nor slanderers nor swindlers will inherit the kingdom of God.

Does "practicing homosexuals" in the TNIV water down "homosexual offenders?" Why didn't the translators say "practicing idolaters" or "practicing thieves"?

The issue in 1 Cor 6:9 has to do with individuals actively involved in homosexual activity as opposed to simply a label like “homosexual.” Other recent translations have attempted to fine-tune the wording as well including the NLT and even the ESV: “neither the sexually immoral, nor idolaters, nor adulterers, nor men who practice homosexuality.”

Let’s all agree that same-sex relationships are being strongly condemned by Paul. These kinds of homosexual “offenders” (to use the NIV word) are included in the list of those who will not inherit the kingdom of God. Extremely strong language, no? Well, it’s the language that causes the problem, and it’s a bit more complex on the Greek side than the English side.

Remember how you’ve always heard that eskimos have eight words for snow while we only have one? Well the Greek language had more than one distinction for homosexual behavior. And the best way to translate two of the words in 1 Cor 6:9 has been a notoriously sticky issue for translators over the years.

The word translated “effeminate” in the NASB and “male prostitutes” in the NIV/TNIV is the plural of the Greek term, μαλακός/malakos. These are probably not the best translation of the word but it’s a tricky concept to move from the Greek to English. The Greeks, like many other ancient cultures, had separate words for the passive and active homosexual partners. The word, μαλακός/malakos is actually a very interesting term. When used in non-human contexts, it means “pertaining to being soft to the touch–’soft, delicate, luxurious.’” When referring to humans, it means “the passive male partner in homosexual intercourse–’homosexual.’” The second word, translated “homosexuals” in the NASB and “practicing homosexuals” in the TNIV is from the word ἀρσενοκοίτης/arsenokoitas. This word generally referred to the more dominant male partner of a homosexual relationship.

English translations have tried some very interesting combinations to bring these meanings across. In addition to the renderings mentioned above, other options include “male prostitutes and sodomites” (NRSV), and “male prostitutes and homosexual offenders” (NIV). The ESV probably makes the best compromise possible by combining the two terms to simply “men who practice homosexuality.” Regardless of how it’s translated, I don’t think there is any getting around Paul’s original intent.

Neither the TNIV translators nor the ESV translators are trying to soft peddle Paul’s words against homosexuality. But Paul is referring to those actively engaged in the practice and both of these translations reflect this.

Plus there should be no doubt that both the NIV and TNIV use strong language (reflecting that of the originals) in passages dealing with this subject:

Lev 18:22
Do not lie with a man as one lies with a woman; that is detestable. Do not have sexual relations with a man as one does with a woman; that is detestable.
Notice that the TNIV is even more explicit than the NIV here.

Lev 18:13
If a man lies with a man as one lies with a woman, both of them have done what is detestable. They must be put to death; their blood will be on their own heads. If a man has sexual relations with a man as one does with a woman, both of them have done what is detestable. They are to be put to death; their blood will be on their own heads.
Again, stronger language is used in the TNIV.

Romans 1:26-27
Because of this, God gave them over to shameful lusts. Even their women exchanged natural relations for unnatural ones. In the same way the men also abandoned natural relations with women and were inflamed with lust for one another. Men committed indecent acts with other men, and received in themselves the due penalty for their perversion. Because of this, God gave them over to shameful lusts. Even their women exchanged natural sexual relations for unnatural ones. In the same way the men also abandoned natural relations with women and were inflamed with lust for one another. Men committed shameful acts with other men, and received in themselves the due penalty for their error.
The versions are practically identical except for the last word. The NIV is stronger, but less accurate. TNIV’s use of “error” for the Greek word, πλάνη/plane, is more accurate.

1 Tim 1:10
for adulterers and perverts, for slave traders and liars and perjurers — and for whatever else is contrary to the sound doctrine for the sexually immoral, for those practicing homosexuality, for slave traders and liars and perjurers. And it is for whatever else is contrary to the sound doctrine
TNIV uses stronger and more accurate language here as well. Cf. the ESV’s similar rendering, “men who practice homosexuality.”

I hope this helps dispel the myth that either the NIV or TNIV waters down the fact that active homosexuality is incompatible with Kingdom living. For a related post I wrote a couple of years ago at This Lamp, see "Is the Message Soft on Homosexuality?"

Sunday, April 1, 2007

TNIV and translation of aner

Click here to read a blog post supporting the translation of the Greek word aner in the TNIV.