Wednesday, May 30, 2007

flaming arrows of death

Josh Tinley likes the wording "flaming arrows of death" in the TNIV, Prov. 26:18-19:
Like a maniac shooting flaming arrows of death is one who deceives a neighbor and says, “I was only joking!”
Josh prefers that crisp metaphor over the wordings in the NIV:
Like a madman shooting firebrands or deadly arrows is a man who deceives his neighbor and says, “I was only joking!”
and NRSV:
Like a maniac who shoots deadly firebrands and arrows, so is one who deceives a neighbor and says, “I am only joking!”
It's nice to see that the TNIV not only updated some of the language of the NIV to be more current, but also made some revisions like this which are more effective from a literary standpoint.

Tuesday, May 29, 2007

TNIV Reference Bible: THICK It Is! [UPDATED*]

Last week, I wrote a post titled, "TNIV Reference Bible: Thick or Thin?" In that post I pointed out that we did not know whether or not the upcoming TNIV Reference Bible would be a standard reference Bible or a thinline reference Bible. Personally, I did not want a thinline for a number of reasons, and I felt like most of you who are interested in this Bible felt the same way. I asked you for your opinions in the comments and you gave them.

And then we waited...

Well I've been given authority to tell you that around mid-day today, the powers-that-be at Zondervan made an official decision. They made the decision to change the paper in this Bible to a heavier weight--specifically one more suitable for writing notes! I'm drawing from two sources here, but one says that the paper is indeed heavier than what was originally planned, which was already heavier than the standard thinlines produced by Zondervan. My other source gave me some specifics: the TNIV Reference Bible will use a 39 GSM TerCoat Plus Paper stock. If you want to get a feel for this paper's thickness, go check out the Archaeological Study Bible (best-selling study Bible in the marketplace in 2006) which basically uses the same stock.

Of course, this is extremely good news! Here are a few of other little tidbits:

  • Because of the change in paper stock, the list price goes up from $29.99 to $34.99.

  • The thickness will be approximately 1.25 inches.

  • The downside is that the change in paper means a delay in delivery. Rather than a September/October release date, realistically, we'll be looking more realistically at December.

I imagine that I speak for a lot of folks when I say the extra $5 is not a problem, nor is the extra wait. I believe most of us would rather wait a couple of extra months and get a quality Bible, all things considered.

Based on the specs we've already seen and the information about the paper weight revealed today, I can fully endorse the TNIV Reference Bible as THE edition for pastors, teachers, and other serious students of the Bible to use--at least until that wide-margin edition comes out one day :-)

I know that I'll look forward to using one of these Bibles myself for teaching and preaching.

*UPDATE: I just got further good news about this Bible from Zondervan. In addition to the thicker paper mentioned above, the TNIV Reference Bible will, in fact, feature a smyth-sewn binding!

Translation Philosophy

As I continue to read articles and books and listen to debates and read my ESV and read my TNIV, etc., this issue doesn't bother me a whole lot. I like a variety of types of translations: formal equivalent OR functional equivalent OR balanced/mediating as Dr. Kenneth Barker would call the NIV/TNIV. I see great strengths in each.

I wonder how much of our background affects our approach. I'm 36 years old. When the full TNIV was released, I was 34 - right at the tail end of their target audience. I've always lived in the Midwest. While I only have a handful of college credits under my belt, I was academically gifted throughout school.

Thus, I've never had much problem reading a KJV, for example. So as I approach this subject, I have no problem reading an ESV and knowing who the intended audience is, genderly speaking. I know when male pronouns are applying to the whole human race. I don't mind a formal equivalent translation.

However, I can't say I'm having a lot of problems with gender-accurate translations such as the TNIV and the NLT so far either. I listen to both sides and see their points. Some points are better than others.

How much of our background and our personality affects our ability to form an objective conclusion on this issue? I'm not saying an objection conclusion isn't attainable. Indeed, I think mine's objective. But why do I come out differently than theological heros of mine such as Grudem or Sproul, et al? They're objective too, aren't they? I can think of two possibilities:
  1. Either they or I have better data to form a more informed conclusion.
  2. Either they or I are allowing subjective things or outside pressures to slant our conclusion.
When it comes to non-formal equivalent translations, people (notice the gender-accurate word people) appear to like them or not like them. People (there I go again) are not indifferent on this issue. Wayne Grudem is one of the more respected and outspoken people against the TNIV. But Wayne Grudem is not too hip on non-formal equivalence.

In commenting on Grudem's book The TNIV and the Gender-Neutral Controversy, one person stated in a book review at
Grudem fears that the TNIV will grow in popularity and that his beloved NIV may fade in popularity.
I don't think this person is too familiar with Grudem. Beloved is too strong a word for Grudem in regard to the NIV as far as I can tell. After listing many problems he has with functionally equivalent translated verses, Grudem writes in a co-authored book Translating Truth: The Case for Essentially Literal Bible Translation . . .
When I look at examples like these I know I cannot teach theology or ethics classes using a dynamic equivalence translation . . .Although the NIV is not a thoroughly dynamic equivalence translation, there is so much dynamic equivalence influence in the NIV that I cannot teach theology or ethics from it either. I tried it for one semester several years ago, shortly after the NIV first came out, and I gave it up after a few weeks . . . Nor can I preach from a dynamic equivalence translation . . . Nor can I teach from an adult Bible class at my church using a dynamic equivalence translation without checking the original at every verse . . . Nor can I lead our home fellowship group using a dynamic equivalence translation . . . Nor would I ever want to memorize passages from a dynamic equivalence translation.
Though I bought the book, you can read it yourself for free here so that you can see I did not leave out anything that changes Grudem's meaning as I skipped over portions.

Grudem reads functional equivalent translations as commentaries only (see the link above to the book). His Systematic Theology has memory verses. In the chapters, he uses the RSV for the memory verses (a predecessor to the ESV . . . though his book has been revised since I bought it and my guess is it uses the ESV now), and the NASB & NIV at the end of the book for the memory verses.

His personality and background, it would seem, give him a disposition against functional equivalence. So of course he will not agree with the TNIV. We should hear his arguments. But if his translation philosophy doesn't even give a hearty thumbs up to the NIV, can we expect any better with the gender accurate TNIV?

It seems to me the bottom line might be people who prefer formal equivalent versions are not for the TNIV while people who don't mind non-formal equivalent versions don't have serious problems with the TNIV.

So what causes a person to prefer formal over non-formal and vice versa? Does our age, our extent of education, our geographical location, and our function in life (or ministerial calling) affect our conclusion on this?

I don't think one of those things by itself makes the decision. But a combination might slant us more in one direction than the other. Does growing up in the Midwest give a slight different bent for me than someone growing up in the New England area? What about your function in life? Does one person whose function is being a theology professor at a seminary have a different effect on them than the person reaching out to minister to a postmodern society or to junior and senior high students? Does it make a difference if you were born in 1951, 1971 (me), or 1991?

What causes a person to prefer formal equivalence only? Or am I making a category mistake by asking what what causes the cause? Or is this thought of translational philosophy and its relation to one's conclusion of the TNIV not accurate? Are there people that are pro-functional equivalence that are still anti-TNIV?

Monday, May 28, 2007

Skeptic becomes sold on TNIV

Kristy has been Frustrated by Bibles. She's been searching for a version she could trust and feel comfortable with. She blogs:
One of my problems lately has been an over-awareness of translation. I could feel the interpretation of the translators working under the surface of the text, and it made me skeptical. How could I be sure that the translator hadn't been fidgeting with the meaning of the text? I knew this was a problem, and I wanted to make sure that I could trust as much as possible whatever version I bought.

On a whim, I decided to investigate the TNIV. I heard horrible things about it, but I wanted to make sure it was as bad as I heard. To my surprise, of all the translations that I had read, it was the one that made me feel the least skeptical. I really have no idea why that was. I started reading Luke, and I looked up and found myself at chapter four, sucked into the story. I was surprised, but I was sold, so I skipped off to Borders to claim a copy.

Read the rest of her post to find what happened.

Sunday, May 27, 2007

Pentecost Sunday reading

1 When the day of Pentecost came, they were all together in one place. 2 Suddenly a sound like the blowing of a violent wind came from heaven and filled the whole house where they were sitting. 3 They saw what seemed to be tongues of fire that separated and came to rest on each of them. 4 All of them were filled with the Holy Spirit and began to speak in other tongues as the Spirit enabled them. 5 Now there were staying in Jerusalem Godfearing Jews from every nation under heaven. 6 When they heard this sound, a crowd came together in bewilderment, because each one heard their own language being spoken. 7 Utterly amazed, they asked: “Aren’t all these who are speaking Galileans? 8 Then how is it that each of us hears them in our native language? 9 Parthians, Medes and Elamites; residents of Mesopotamia, Judea and Cappadocia, Pontus and Asia, 10 Phrygia and Pamphylia, Egypt and the parts of Libya near Cyrene; visitors from Rome 11 (both Jews and converts to Judaism); Cretans and Arabs—we hear them declaring the wonders of God in our own tongues!” 12 Amazed and perplexed, they asked one another, “What does this mean?” (Acts 2:1-12, TNIV)

Saturday, May 26, 2007

Doctrine and the TNIV: monotheism

This is the first in a series of posts I plan to write to evaluate whether or not the TNIV accurately translates passages in the Bible which teach doctrines considered important by many faith communities.

The belief that there is only one God is central to Judaism, Christianity, and Islam. Monotheism is emphasized in the Shema of the Hebrew Bible. The Shema has been memorized and recited by Jews for millennia. Jesus summarizes the Shema in the two greatest commandments that he speaks of, as recorded in the New Testament (Mark 12:29-31).

The full liturgical recitation of the Shema includes three passages:
  1. the Shema proper: (Deut. 6:4-9)
  2. Vehayah (Deut. 11:13-21)
  3. Vaiyomer (Numbers 15:37-41)
In this post we will only evaluate the TNIV in its translation of the core prayer of the Shema, Deut. 6:4-9:
4. Hear, O Israel: The LORD our God, the LORD is one. 5. Love the LORD your God with all your heart and with all your soul and with all your strength. 6. These commandments that I give you today are to be on your hearts. 7. Impress them on your children. Talk about them when you sit at home and when you walk along the road, when you lie down and when you get up. 8. Tie them as symbols on your hands and bind them on your foreheads. 9. Write them on the doorframes of your houses and on your gates.
Here is the NIV wording from which the TNIV was revised:
4. Hear, O Israel: The LORD our God, the LORD is one. 5. Love the LORD your God with all your heart and with all your soul and with all your strength. 6.These commandments that I give you today are to be upon your hearts. 7. Impress them on your children. Talk about them when you sit at home and when you walk along the road, when you lie down and when you get up. 8. Tie them as symbols on your hands and bind them on your foreheads. 9. Write them on the doorframes of your houses and on your gates.
The TNIV and NIV wordings are nearly identical. Did you spot the revision? TNIV verse 6 ends with "on your hearts" while NIV ends with "upon your hearts". I sense no meaning difference between "on" and "upon" in this context. If you considered the NIV rendering of the Shema accurate, the TNIV wording is as well.

Both versions footnote verse 4 whose Hebrew can be accurately translated in more than one way. The TNV footnote reads:
Or The LORD our God is one LORD; or The LORD is our God, the LORD is one; or The LORD is our God, the LORD alone
The NIV footnote is identical to that of the TNIV.

The TNIV translation of the Shema compares favorably with that of the Jewish scholars who translated the Tanakh, the most recent (1985) revision of the Hebrew Bible produced by the Jewish Publication Society:
4. Hear, O Israel! The LORD is our God, the LORD alone. 5. You shall love the LORD your God with all your heart and with all your heart and with all your soul and with all your might. 6. Take to heart these instructions with which I charge you this day. 7. Impress them upon your children. Recite them when you stay at home and when you are away, when you lie down and when you get up. 8. Bind them as a sign on your hand and let them serve as a symbol on your forehead; 9. inscribe them on the doorposts of your house and on your gates.
Verse 4 differs slightly, reflecting the various ways its Hebrew can be translated. Like the NIV and TNIV, the Tanakh footnotes this verse to give an alternate translation:
Others "The LORD our God, the LORD is one."
The wording in this footnote is identical to the translation in the text of the TNIV.

The NASB has often been promoted as the most accurate English Bible translation. Note how close its wording is to that of the TNIV:
4. Hear, O Israel! The LORD is our God, the LORD is one! 5. You shall love the LORD your God with all your heart and with all your soul and with all your might. 6. These words, which I am commanding you today, shall be on your heart. 7. You shall teach them diligently to your sons and shall talk of them when you sit in your house and when you walk by the way and when you lie down and when you rise up. 8. You shall bind them as a sign on your hand and they shall be as frontals on your forehead. 9. You shall write them on the doorposts of your house and on your gates.
The only major difference I can see between the NASB wording and that of the TNIV is that in verse 7 the NASB has "sons" being taught rather than "children." The Hebrew root here is ben which in the plural can refer to either male children or both male and female children, depending on the context. The context of this verse does not tell tell us whether all children or only sons were to be taught. So either "sons" or "children" can be considered accurate translation. The majority of English Bible versions I have checked translate those being taught in Deut. 6:7 as "children", including Coverdale, Bishop's, Geneva, KJV, ERV, ASV, RSV, Smith-Goodspeed, Beck, REB, NAB, NJB, JPS, NJPS, NIV, TNIV, NKJV, NRSV, WEB, ESV, New Life Version, TEV (GNT), CEV, NLT, GW, NCV, NET, Christian Community Bible, The Message, HCSB, ISV. Versions I have found which have "sons" are Wycliffe (1395), NASB, NWT, Alter, Darby, Young's Literal, Farrar.

In the past few years the ESV has been promoted by some as a more accurate translation than the TNIV, especially with regard to gendered language in the biblical texts. Some of the most vocal critics of the TNIV served on the ESV translation committee. Here is how the ESV translates the Shema:
4. Hear, O Israel: The LORD our God, the LORD is one. 5. You shall love the LORD your God with all your heart and with all your soul and with all your might. 6. And these words that I command you today shall be on your heart. 7. You shall teach them diligently to your children, and shall talk of them when you sit in your house, and when you walk by the way, and when you lie down, and when you rise. 8. You shall bind them as a sign on your hand, and they shall be as frontlets between your eyes. 9. You shall write them on the doorposts of your house and on your gates.
The ESV wording is essentially identical to that of the TNIV. There are minor word differences but none that reflects any meaning difference. Note that the ESV, which is promoted by its advocates as more accurate than the TNIV with regard to gendered language, translates those who are taught in verse 7 as "children," the same gender-inclusive word as in the TNIV and most other English versions, not gender-exclusive "sons."

I conclude that the TNIV is an accurate translation of one of the most important passages of the Bible, the Shema, which emphasizes monotheism, total devotion to God, and the need to teach the commandments of God to our children.

Shabat shalom.

Friday, May 25, 2007

Preacher chooses the TNIV

Jay Davis has settled on using the TNIV as the Bible he preaches from. Click here to read his blog post about his decision.

Thursday, May 24, 2007

A Bible-shaped Hole

Gary Zimmerli, of A Friend of Christ blog, has A Bible-shaped Hole. Read his post to find out what he's been missing.

Tuesday, May 22, 2007

TNIV Reference Bible: Thick or Thin?

A lot of us are excited about the upcoming TNIV Reference Bible. Some want to use this Bible to teach or preach from. Others simply want a quality TNIV in an edition with readable print and a cover that doesn't call attention to itself. We've been told that the Bible will measure 6.25" x 9.25"

But how thick is it?

This is something that Zondervan hasn't told us. Is the TNIV Reference Bible going to be a Bible with standard thickness with Bible paper at least at a weight we can scribble an occasional annotation, or is it going to be a thinline with paper too thin for any reasonable amount of handwritten notes?

Consider some numbers for a moment. A lot of us who wanted a decent looking TNIV for public use have bought the TNIV Thinline Bible XL which according to the Zondervan website is 1248 pages and 1.2" thick.

So what if the TNIV Reference Bible is only 1" thick? At 1408 pages, that would mean that the printers would have to use thinner paper in the Reference Bible than what's already used in the Thinline XL.

In my own experience with the XL, the anecdotal information I've heard from others, and from the reviews I've read on, everyone seems to complain that the paper in the Thinline Bible XL is too thin.

So what would you think if I told you the upcoming TNIV Reference Bible is a thinline and there's a possibility that paper even thinner than that in the Thinline XL would have to be used?

I should state up front that NO ONE has told me this is the actual case. So far Zondervan has not released information regarding the thickness of the upcoming TNIV Reference Bible, and I cannot find any definite information yet.

Earlier today, I was in a bookstore and I looked at a leather-bound TNIV College Devotional Bible (not for me--I was just looking). Now it is listed as being over 1600 pages, and it is 1.7" thick. It's definitely not a thinline, the paper is not too thin, and I imagine it would be fine to write on. At the same time, this Bible is neither too thick nor too bulky. In fact, as far as leather Bibles go, I thought its thickness was just right.

So at 1408 pages, why can't the upcoming TNIV Reference Bible also be a non-thinline somewhere between 1.5" to 1.7" thick? I'd like to know your opinion. I'd like to open up this post as a bit of an informal poll. We aren't going to have anything in the sidebar, simply your discussion in the comments. Try to answer the question along these options as best as you can:

• I do not want the TNIV Reference Bible to be a thinline. Why?

• I'd really like the TNIV Reference Bible to be a thinline. Why?

• Although I plan on buying this Bible, I really don't care whether it's a thinline or not. Why?

Please be polite and constructive in your comments. This Bible, as far as I know, has not yet gone to press, so maybe there's still room for some influence. I would also like to limit discussion in the comments to the topic at hand, so if you have no interest in this Bible, please refrain from posting.

But for those of you who want a copy of the TNIV Reference Bible, what do you think?

Monday, May 21, 2007

An Androgynous Jesus?

Another powerful argument made against the TNIV is that it presents an androgynous Jesus!
an•drog•y•nous \an-ˈdrä-jə-nəs\ adjective
[Latin androgynus hermaphrodite, from Greek androgynos, from andr- + gynē woman — more at queen]
1 : having the characteristics or nature of both male and female
2 a : neither specifically feminine nor masculine the androgynous pronoun them
b : suitable to or for either sex androgynous clothing
3 : having traditional male and female roles obscured or reversed an androgynous marriage
an•drog•y•ny \-nē\ noun

Merriam-Webster, Inc. Merriam-Webster's Collegiate Dictionary. 10th ed. Springfield, Mass., U.S.A.: Merriam-Webster, 1996, c1993.
This is a serious charge that should cause any Evangelical to have a double take towards the TNIV. However, just because one of your favorite Evangelical teachers may make this claim, don't take it for granted. Be a Berean. Don't let that teacher be your protestant pope!

Joe, give an example. Sure, again I will use Dr. Wayne Grudem. Why do I keep picking on him? Because he is one of the most respected names that has set himself up as an opponent to the TNIV. He is the type of person that I would be more likely to walk away saying Well, if Dr. Grudem says so, it must be so and never end up doing the research for myself. Dr. Grudem writes . . .

VERSE: Hebrews 2:17

NIV Hebrews 2:17 For this reason he had to be made like his brothers in every way, in order that he might become a merciful and faithful high priest in service to God, and that he might make atonement for the sins of the people.

TNIV Hebrews 2:17 For this reason he had to be made like his brothers and sisters in every way, in order that he might become a merciful and faithful high priest in service to God, and that he might make atonement for the sins of the people.

CHANGE IN MEANING: Did Jesus have to become like his sisters "in every way" in order to become a "high priest in service to God"? All the OT priests were men, and surely the high priest was only a man. This text does not quite proclaim an androgynous Jesus (who was both male and female), but it surely leaves open a wide door for misunderstanding, and almost invites misunderstanding. Meditate on that phrase “in every way” and see if you can trust the TNIV.

Let's drop the TNIV! Right? Hang on. Not so fast. First of all, let's apply the rule never read a Bible verse, and look at a whole paragraph.

Hebrews 2:14-18 (Today's New International Version)

Today's New International Version (TNIV)

© Copyright 2001, 2005 by International Bible Society

14 Since the children have flesh and blood, he too shared in their humanity so that by his death he might break the power of him who holds the power of death—that is, the devil— 15 and free those who all their lives were held in slavery by their fear of death. 16 For surely it is not angels he helps, but Abraham's descendants. 17 For this reason he had to be made like his brothers and sisters in every way, in order that he might become a merciful and faithful high priest in service to God, and that he might make atonement for the sins of the people. 18 Because he himself suffered when he was tempted, he is able to help those who are being tempted.

A good test to see if there truly is a gender problem is to perform the paraphrase test. Every time we see the word man, or brothers or whatever gender word is in question, substitute the word male(s) and see if the text makes sense or if it appears the word means something more inclusive. You can do this with any verse in question.

The key in the Hebrews 2 passage is in verse 14 . . . Jesus is sharing our humanity. Notice also in verse 14 the word children. That's not a TNIV gender "neutral" choice either. Even the ESV has children in verse 14.

This passage is referring to the essential doctrine of the incarnation. Jesus was made 100% human. Dr. Grudem is reading way too much into this. The point of the writer of Hebrews wasn't that Jesus was made fully male, it was that Jesus was made fully human. The passage is a contrast to angels. Even Grudem himself acknowledges this outside of the context of speaking on the TNIV . . .

Jesus had to become a man, not an angel, because God was concerned with saving men, not with saving angels. But to do this he “had to” be made like us in every way, so that he might become “the propitiation” for us, the sacrifice that is an acceptable substitute for us. Though this idea will be discussed more fully in chapter 27, on the atonement, it is important here to realize that unless Christ was fully man, he could not have died to pay the penalty for man’s sins. He could not have been a substitute sacrifice for us.

Wayne A. Grudem, Systematic Theology : An Introduction to Biblical Doctrine (Leicester, England; Grand Rapids, Mich.: Inter-Varsity Press; Zondervan Pub. House, 1994), 540.
Point being that while Grudem uses the word man, he's using it in contrast to angels. The emphasis in Grudem's paragraph above being that Jesus was fully human, not that he was fully male. It's clear when Grudem states God was concerned with saving men, not angels. Does Grudem mean only males? Of course not. Grudem believes Jesus was a substitute for both men and women. But once the discussion is turned towards the TNIV, Grudem takes man to mean male, not humanity.

For fun, perform the paraphrase test on Grudem's paragraph. Substitute male for man, and males for men, every time and see if you think that is what Grudem really wants to communicate. I'm serious. Stop and do that test right now on the above quote.

Secondly, does every always mean every? Of course it does, Joe! Not really. When the waitress (or waiter) asks is everything okay? do they (notice my use of the singular they) literally mean everything? No, of course not. They mean everything in regard to the restaurant: the meal, the restrooms, the environment, etc. They aren't inquiring how your job is going and how the kids are doing at school, etc.

Same thing here. Even if we limit it to just males, Jesus isn't like each of us males in every way if we take that in the most wooden literal way we can take it. I'm 5'8", about 200 lbs give-or-take, an ISTJ, married, father of biological children, not Jewish, not a carpenter . . . Jesus is not like me in every way. But he became fully human, just like me.

I'm sure even Grudem knows every doesn't always mean every in the most wooden literal way possible every time it's used.

I love your work, Dr. Grudem. Please reconsider your position on the TNIV.

Sunday, May 20, 2007

Changing he/him/his/himself TO they/them/their/themselves

One problem members of The Council on Biblical Manhood & Womanhood have with the TNIV is that the TNIV several times translates singular pronouns such as he/him/his/himself into plural forms such as they/them/their/themselves in order to avoid masculine gender. They state that the TNIV inaccurately translates that way some 217 times in the New Testament where the verb in Greek is singular and there is a masculine third person pronoun. The same substitutions are made an additional 159 times according to their study when the antecedent in English is singular.

I will not dispute their stats. I don't doubt the Greek is singular and that the TNIV is translated in the plural those times. If I understand the basic complaint with it, other than changing a masculine singular into a neuter plural, is that readers might miss personal application in some passages by mistakenly taking such passages to be applicable to a group setting. Take for example Wayne Grudem's comment on Revelation 3:20 . . .

VERSE: Revelation 3:20

NIV: I stand at the door and knock. If anyone hears my voice and opens the door, I will come in and eat with him, and he with me.

TNIV (2005): I stand at the door and knock. If anyone hears my voice and opens the door, I will come in and eat with them, and they with me.

CHANGE IN MEANING: The idea of Christ coming into an individual person's life is lost; Christ no longer eats with “him” but with “them.” Readers may well understand “them” to refer to the plural group “those whom I love” in the previous verse, so the TNIV now pictures Christ coming into a church and eating among a group of people. The clear teaching on individual fellowship with Christ is blurred.

I like Wayne Grudem. But I think he's overstating his case. I looked up these plural pronouns in Merriam-Webster's Collegiate Dictionary, 10th ed. MW allows for this translation of the TNIV . . .

usage They, their, them, themselves: English lacks a common-gender third person singular pronoun that can be used to refer to indefinite pronouns (as everyone, anyone, someone). Writers and speakers have supplied this lack by using the plural pronouns and every one to rest themselves betake —Shakespeare I would have everybody marry if they can do it properly —Jane Austen it is too hideous for anyone in their senses to buy —W. H. Auden. The plural pronouns have also been put to use as pronouns of indefinite number to refer to singular nouns that stand for many persons ’tis meet that some more audience than a mother, since nature makes them partial, should o’erhear the speech —Shakespeare a person can’t help their birth —W. M. Thackeray no man goes to battle to be killed. — But they do get killed —G. B. Shaw. The use of they, their, them, and themselves as pronouns of indefinite gender and indefinite number is well established in speech and writing, even in literary and formal contexts. This gives you the option of using the plural pronouns where you think they sound best, and of using the singular pronouns (as he, she, he or she, and their inflected forms) where you think they sound best.

Merriam-Webster, Inc. Merriam-Webster's Collegiate Dictionary. 10th ed. Springfield, Mass., U.S.A.: Merriam-Webster, 1996, c1993.
This is the way people in the 21st century speak. I was born in 1971. As far back as I can remember, people have been using these plural pronouns in reference to individuals. It's the course that English has gone. If an antecedent is singular, the plural pronoun is acceptable in the consequent or predicate or what have you.

Besides it being acceptable English in the 21st century and thus an exceptable translation, the Bible has cases even in formal translating where a plural referent is meant to be applied on an individual basis. Take the Beatitudes (from the ESV - the preferred translation of the CBMW) - emphases mine . . .
3 “Blessed are the poor in spirit, for theirs is the kingdom of heaven.
4 “Blessed are those who mourn, for they shall be comforted.
5 “Blessed are the meek, for they shall inherit the earth.
6 “Blessed are those who hunger and thirst for righteousness, for they shall be satisfied.
7 “Blessed are the merciful, for they shall receive mercy.
8 “Blessed are the pure in heart, for they shall see God.
9 “Blessed are the peacemakers, for they shall be called sons of God.
10 “Blessed are those who are persecuted for righteousness’ sake, for theirs is the kingdom of heaven.

The Holy Bible : English Standard Version. (Wheaton: Standard Bible Society, 2001), Mt 5:3.
Should we conclude that none of these are applicable on an individual basis but only in a group setting because of the use of they and theirs? I don't think so and you probably don't either (and I doubt Dr. Grudem does either).

Now while I think the TNIV did fine in Revelation 3:20, I'm not saying every time is perfect. Revelation 3:20 was fine to me because the antecedent was singular which interprets them and they as singular also in the context based on MW. In Matthew 10:24, I think the TNIV could have represented the singular more clearly. Here is the NIV . . .

24 “A student is not above his teacher, nor a servant above his master.

The Holy Bible : New International Version
(Grand Rapids: Zondervan, 1996, c1984), Mt 10:24.
And here is the TNIV trying to remove the masculine term his . . .
24 "Students are not above their teacher, nor servants above their master."
The subject and predicate are both plural in the TNIV. I don't know why they didn't do something like this. . .
A student is not above their teacher, nor a servant above their master.
This would have done away with a masculine gendered pronoun in a teaching that obviously applies to women also, yet it would have retained some of the singleness of the Greek by basically doing the same thing that was done in Revelation 3:20, i.e. having a singular antecedent. The NRSV and the NLT handled it more the way I just suggested by removing the pronoun and replacing it with a definite article . . .
24 A student is not greater than the teacher. A servant is not greater than the master.
24 “A disciple is not above the teacher, nor a slave above the master;
The Message (which doesn't even pretend to be a translation - it's an extreme paraphrase) made one feminine and one masculine . . .
24 “A student doesn’t get a better desk than her teacher. A laborer doesn’t make more money than his boss.
I would recommend that option the least. Because surely students can be male and laborers can be female, correct? And sometimes laborers do make more than the boss. Eugene Peterson could have done better on this. But let's not sidetrack . . .

However, even with the TNIV as is, I don't see any grievous crime. Whether students and servants are represented singularly or in the plural, no theology is changed by the TNIV's rendering of Matthew 10:24. I don't see any change in meaning whether we have one laborer or multiple laborers or one student or multiple students. Perhaps in other passages, theology is changed. I have yet to run across that and I would be glad to look at any that you may think change theology by doing so. I don't think Grudem's comments on Revelation 3:20 are convincing.

Bottom line . . .
  • Be informed.
  • Look at the issue -- from both sides.
  • Both sides have multiple people who are Bible believing conservatives and complementarians (people who hold to traditional roles of men & women).
  • Don't make a reactionary/hasty conclusion.
  • Don't accuse either side of bad motives.
Sometimes, such as in Revelation 3:20, I think the TNIV translation is fine and will not be misunderstood. Sometimes it isn't as good as it could be, such as in Matthew 10:24. In no case have I yet seen something that gives me reason to make a lot of noise of concern as if this Bible is leading us down some road of feminism or anything anti-Evangelical.

Maybe that will change. If so, I need to hear better arguments from those who have problems with the TNIV. Meanwhile, I will keep carrying around the TNIV along with my ESV (and my NIV, NASB, KJV & NKJV) as I listen to pastors and read through the Bible and compare how the TNIV reads and what impact all these points make or do not make.

Friday, May 18, 2007

Greetings from Joe

I am the new co-blogger at TNIV Truth. Thank you to Wayne and the guys for inviting me to the party. A little about myself . . .

I am not a linguist like Wayne. I am not a Greek scholar. In fact, I am a high school graduate. My English skills are decent, though I'm sure an English professor could point out numerous problems in my writings. My comprehension skills are decent (I think).

I know how to use Greek tools pretty well. The average Christian possesses usually a Strong's Concordance and perhaps a Vine's Expository dictionary of one kind or another. I own several introductions to Greek and intermediate texts in book, audio, and video formats and have gone through them to varying degrees. I own several Greek texts including multiple versions of the Textus Receptus, the Nestle-Aland 27th, the United Bible Society's 4th, Westcott & Hort, and one version of the Majority text.

I have Kittel's ten volume Theological Dictionary of the New Testament and Kittel's one volume abridged edition, Theological Wordbook of the Old Testament by Harris, Archer, & Waltke, and a few other miscellaneous items.

I use all of these tools often. I probably know enough to be dangerous, but not authoritative.

With that ground work laid, on the one hand, don't take what I say for granted. Be a Bearen and check it out. Please verify what I say and check to see if it corresponds with reality. On the other hand, don't cast off what I say and think to yourself this guy is simply an unschooled, ordinary man. While I am that, that's not a good enough reason to dismiss any comments I make.

I work in secular employment for the electric utility for the West suburbs of Chicago all the way to the Iowa border. I help get the lights on when they go off. I've been married since 1992. I have three kids: one daughter (1995) and two sons (1999 & 2002). I'm a Chicago Cubs fan, so I know what it is to suffer. I was born the first time in 1971, the second time in 1986.

In regard to the translation issue: I used to be a Textus Receptus Only adherent, meaning I would use only the KJV or NKJV. That was until the mid 90's. I basically argued like a KJV Only advocate but I thought the NKJV was good too because its New Testament is based off the Textus Receptus. So, as you can see, I've come a long way from where I was. Some think for worse, I think for the better.

Looking forward to sharing at this blog. Grace & peace to you.

Welcome, Joe!

We welcome Joe Myzia as another blogger for TNIV Truth. Joe has been blogging about the TNIV on his own blog, Blaugmenting Your Christian Worldview as well as commenting on posts here at the TNIV Truth blog. He has agreed to blog about the TNIV here, as well.

Thursday, May 17, 2007

TNIV Bookshelf

As a complete translation, the TNIV is only a couple of years old. That's still infancy stage in the life of a major translation of the Bible. Nevertheless, we're already starting to see a number of new books being published that use the TNIV as a default/primary translation. Some of these are scholarly and some are popular. And at least one so far extends a bit outside the boundaries of the "Evangelical" world.

Wayne has highlighted some of these books in the sidebar of this blog, and we're calling it the TNIV Bookshelf.

So far, the following books are in our list:
An Introduction to the New Testament by D. A. Carson and Douglas J. Moo

The Writings of St. Paul, 2nd ed. by Wayne A. Meeks & John T. Fitzgerald

How to Read the Bible for All Its Worth by Gordon D. Fee and Douglas Stewart

Becoming Conversant with the Emerging Church by D. A. Carson [this book was released before the publication of the entire TNIV, so only NT references use the TNIV as its base]

Sex God: Exploring the Endless Connections Between Sexuality and Spirituality by Rob Bell

Velvet Elvis by Rob Bell

Just Walk Across the Room by BIll Hybels

The Deity Formerly Known as God by Jarrett Stevens

Peppermint-Filled Piñatas by Eric Michael Bryant
We're confident this list will grow and hopefully the TNIV will eventually supplant the NIV as the nearly default translation for most writers and publishers. In the meantime, if you spot a book using the TNIV as a primary translation, please let us know so that we can include it in our list.

Wednesday, May 16, 2007

The new is live...

The new (and much improved) went live today...
The new site is a great improvement over the old one. It's well designed and easy to navigate. Here are some examples of what you'll find:
  • Passage comparisons (under "About TNIV")
  • An up-to-date list of endorsements (under "Who's Reading It")
  • Product details (under, surprisingly, "Product Details")
  • An online, searchable edition of the TNIV (under "Experience It")
As with almost all new sites, there may be a few bugs still to be worked out. But on the whole, the site looks and works great. Check it out.

TNIV Reference Bible Packaging

Most of us who are TNIV aficionados are looking forward to getting our hands on the TNIV Reference Bible to be released in October. Recently, I happened to notice that the packaging for this Bible is now displayed on Zondervan's website .

Although we could probably all agree that an edition of the TNIV like the Reference Bible should have been introduced much sooner than now, this Bible--like the TNIV Study Bible released last year--may be one of the most significant TNIV offerings to date. This is a TNIV Bible for pastors, teachers, and other serious students of the Bible.

For more about the TNIV Reference Bible, see my First Look at This Lamp.

Tuesday, May 15, 2007

Habakkuk 1:12 Revisited: The TNIV Angle

Last week, over on my other blog, This Lamp, I wrote about the way different versions handle Habakkuk 1:12. You can go to that post to see the details on the issue, but a good example of the different renderings is represented by the NIV and TNIV:


O LORD, are you not from everlasting?

My God, my Holy One, we will not die.

O LORD, you have appointed them to execute judgment;

O Rock, you have ordained them to punish.

[no note]

LORD, are you not from everlasting?

My God, my Holy One, you* will never die.

You, LORD, have appointed them to execute judgment;

you, my Rock, have ordained them to punish.

*An ancient Hebrew scribal tradition; Masoretic Text we.

Again, you can read my other post for the details, but in a nutshell, this verse represents a place in the Hebrew text where the scribes purposefully changed the wording because they were so offended by even the suggestion that God could die. Of course this is not what it means at all. In fact, the NLT surely gets the intent correct by translating the phrase, "you who are eternal."

This is an interesting passage because although there are no manuscripts that say "you" instead of "we" (even the LXX says "we"), we have the testimony of the scribes that it was, in fact, changed.

So what do good translators do? Do they blindly follow a manuscript (in this case the Masoretic Text) even if they know it is incorrect, or do they offer a correct reading even if there is no manuscript evidence to support it? The TNIV translators chose to do the latter--that is, they chose to translate the passage as it was originally worded by Habakkuk under the inspiration of the Holy Spirit.

This is yet another example of how the TNIV displays greater accuracy in translating the original texts than does its predecessor, the NIV.* If you're not using the TNIV, check out your own Bible. Does Hab 1:12 in your version reflect the words of the prophet or the words of an overly-pious scribe?

*Side-note: I've written a number of posts here on TNIV Truth that compares the TNIV with the NIV. However, I haven't ever paid any attention to the oft-forgotten New International Version: Inclusive Edition (or NIVi) that was released for only a very short time in the UK. If there hadn't been so much negative reaction and misinformation about the NIVi, we would simply be using that translation more than likely, and the TNIV would have never seen the light of day. The bright side of the NIVi controversy is that we actually have an even better translation represented in the TNIV. And this truth is evidenced in Hab 1:12 because the NIVi still carried forth the same translation as the original NIV. The NIVi was, in general, more accurate than the NIV. But with the TNIV, scholarship advanced another decade and this translation represents even greater accuracy in Bible translation.

Monday, May 14, 2007

Gary's Complaint to Zondervan re: TNIV

Gary Zimmerli likes the TNIV so much, he has a complaint about how Zondervan has marketed it. Click here to read more.

Friday, May 11, 2007

The Bible Experience - complete Bible

We can now pre-order the complete TNIV audio in The Bible Experience dramatized format. The Old Testament package is scheduled for release in October. I assume that the package of the complete TNIV audio Bible will be released at the same time or soon after that.

There may be some savings on the New Testament and abridged The Bible Experience packages on eBay.

I have only listened to free downloadable files so far and have been impressed by them. I would enjoy hearing comments from others who have listened to larger portions of The Bible Experience.

Wednesday, May 9, 2007

New Preview

One of the things I bemoaned a few weeks ago in my open letter to Zondervan about the TNIV was the inattention given to over the past few months.* Last week, I was given a fairly thorough preview of the changes coming in a wholly revamped TNIV website. Melinda, a Bible marketing manager at Zondervan, has given me permission to post these screenshot of the upcoming site.

Besides looking a whole lot nicer, in my opinion, the new site is much more focused in its content, and it's easier to find information that you might be looking for.

First, here is a tentative screenshot of the home page (click on images to enlarge):

And here is the main product details page. Notice the menu system on the left that breaks down TNIV offerings into various categories.

Keep in mind that these are just screenshots, so the actual links do not work. Also this is not a finished project. Certain content or information may change by the time the new site is launched.

And when will that be? When will the new site be launched. The only official word right now from Zondervan is COMING SOON!

*Note: I don't want to take credit as being an impetus for change with the website. By the time I wrote my open letter, the project was already well underway.

Tuesday, May 8, 2007

TNIV free download

The entire TNIV is still available as a free download. It is in the PDF format. I use it often as I work with different versions on my computer.

Monday, May 7, 2007

Is the TNIV a Dynamic Equivalent translation?

Some bloggers are debating whether or not the TNIV (and NIV) is a Dynamic Equivalent translation. Kevin Wilson, of the Blue Cord, blogged on Analysis of the ESV. Kevin stated:
Interestingly, the ESV does not have a lot in common with the NIV, even though both were produced by conservative, evangelical scholars. This is due to the different translational philosophies. The ESV (along with the RSV and NRSV) employ a word for word translational approach (although not as strictly as the ASV and NASB). The NIV on the other hand uses a phrase by phrase approach (usually called a ‘dynamic’ approach).
Peter Kirk, one of the TNIV Truth bloggers, disagreed in a comment on Kevin's post:

I was surprised that you claimed a large difference between ESV and NIV and that that was because of a fundamentally different translation philosophy. In fact I am surprised how close they are, considering that NIV is a new translation, and ESV is an adaptation of ESV [RSV] which is itself an adaptation of ASV - yet ESV is closer to NIV than to ASV!

In fact it is very misleading to claim that NIV uses a a phrase by phrase approach or a ‘dynamic’ approach. In fact the approach of NIV is only rather slightly different from that of ESV and NRSV, with the translation departing from the literal only where the translators consider that necessary. The difference is that the NIV translators depart from the literal a bit more than the ESV translators - but in fact not a lot more. For a real phrase by phrase or ‘dynamic’ translation, see NLT, TEV/GNT or CEV. In fact it would be interesting to see your graph redone with those translations added. I suspect that you would find NIV much nearer to ESV than to any of them - and that the three of them would be more widely spread than any of the more literal group.

Kevin responded with the post More on the ESV. Kevin quoted Peter and reiterated:
Kirk goes on to say:
In fact it is very misleading to claim that NIV uses a a phrase by phrase approach or a ‘dynamic’ approach. . . For a real phrase by phrase or ‘dynamic’ translation, see NLT, TEV/GNT or CEV.
This is the claim that is made by the NIV itself and most scholars would place the NIV into the category of dynamic.
Mike Aubrey commented on Kevin's post, linking to a post of his own which had a chart which displayed more Bible versions than the chart in Kevin's first post. Mike noted:
I’m providing a few more translations for a better context…but its pretty clear in both of them that the NIV/TNIV are roughly midway between the ESV and the NLT.

From this graph, I’d have to say that Kevin and Peter were each about half right, respectively…
I commented on Mike's post yesterday but that comment isn't displayed yet and I neglected to make a copy of my comments which I sometimes do.

Today I commented on Kevin's second post:
"while the Good News Bible is much looser than a dynamic translation"

Actually, Kevin, the GNB was produced by the American Bible Society, where Eugene Nida, the originator of dynamic equivalence translation theory worked. The GNB was produced to be an example of DE translation. The GNB and its successor the CEV are the two prototypical examples of DE translation theory. If we are going to categorize Bible versions as being DE, we need to do so relative to their similarity in translation philosophy to the GNB and CEV.

To be "looser" than a DE translation is to be what non-technicians call a paraphrase, and among the paraphrases would be the Living Bible, The Message (even though it was translated from the biblical languages it is ranked as a paraphrase as the term paraphrase is used by non-technicians), Philips translation, and the Cotton Patch translations.

The NIV is clearly not as literal a translation as the ESV or NASB, but it is not really a DE translation. It is, rather, a modified literal translation, as is the NET Bible.

The NLT is on the low end of the DE translations. It has many literalisms which are characteristic of FE translations.

None of this takes away from what you and Mike Aubrey have noted, that the NIV is somewhere between the NASB and GNB translations in terms of degree of literalness. It is not easy to assign a category label to the NIV/TNIV in terms of the three main categories usually described: Formal Equivalence, Dynamic Equivalence, and Paraphrase.

My own sense and that of many of my colleagues in the missionary Bible translation effort has been that the NIV is essentially a Formal Equivalent translation with some features of a DE translation. Mark Strauss and Gordon Fee who are on the CBT for the TNIV call Bible versions between rather literal and DE translations "mediating versions".

My own quantified studies, based on translations of specific passages, supports the claim that the NIV and TNIV are approx. half-way between the fully FE translations and true DE translations. The kinds of literalisms in the NIV and TNIV versions, however, do not allow me to label either version as a DE translation. They were not translated according to the DE translation theory as it was developed by Eugene Nida.

My studies can be accessed from this webpage:

(UPDATE, May 8: Today Kevin has blogged another irenic post, Even More on the ESV, in response to my comments. Stay tuned. There may be more to come.)

From my point of view, this good debate shows how difficult it is, at times, to categorize some things in life. The charts which Kevin and Mike have displayed show us the positions of Bible versions relative to each other in terms of degree of literalness. Sometimes knowing a degree of difference or a point on a continuum is more valuable than category labels, such as whether we can categorize the TNIV as Dynamic Equivalent (DE) or Essentially Literal (EL).

I would continue to maintain that in terms of how DE and EL translation approaches have been described, the TNIV (and NIV) are in the EL category, but they are less literal than other versions such as the NRSV and ESV which easily take the EL label. And I consider this moderate positioning of the TNIV on the translation continuum to be one of the assets of the TNIV. Because it is less literal than a number of other English Bible versions, it usually reads better than they do. And it is more easily understood when it is read. Yet, the TNIV is, in my opinion, just as accurate, and in some passages, more so, than more literal translations, since literal translation does not equate with accuracy, as I have written elsewhere in an essay When literal is not accurate. Literalness and accuracy are two different translation parameters.

The TNIV is a trustworthy Bible version which reads relatively well. Those churches and individuals who are accustomed to the NIV will notice few differences if they follow public reading of the NIV with a TNIV which is in their hands. And since the TNIV has increased accuracy over the NIV in a number of passages, I would encourage churches and individuals who have been using the NIV to transition to the TNIV.

Saturday, May 5, 2007

Another pastor switches to TNIV

Pastor Jeremiah Gomez blogs:
I've decided to switch my preaching translation to the TNIV once we start at the new church (I’ve been using the NLT here in Monticello). I suppose making the ‘switch’ is still up for discussion, though. These are the pros and cons I’ve worked through with the TNIV so far:
Click on the title to this post to read Jeremiah's pros and cons.

Friday, May 4, 2007

Rick Warren and the TNIV

Last year, Rick Warren re-released his Bible Study Methods: Twelve Ways You Can Unlock Gods Word, a book he had first written long before the success of Purpose-Driven Life.

Take a look at his updated advice for choosing a Bible translation:

I won't go so far as to call this a formal endorsement, but worth noting anyway.

(And yes, I did notice the generic "he" on page 23...)

Thursday, May 3, 2007

Logos Drops TNIV Disclaimer

In March, I reported on This Lamp about the disclaimer that Logos Bible Software placed on its TNIV module:

SPECIAL NOTE: We understand, as does the publisher, that the TNIV is a particularly controversial Bible translation. Logos Bible Software does not endorse the TNIV, or any particular modern translation. We believe, though, that it is important to offer this translation in Libronix DLS compatible form for both its critics and supporters, and we would encourage you to look at it, as you would at any translation from the original, with a critical eye. Compare it to other modern translations, and, as you are able, to the original text. You may also wish to visit these two sites for more information supporting and criticizing this translation: and

In my opinion such a disclaimer was a double-standard because there was no similar disclaimer for other translations. And other Bible software companies didn't post any kind of "warning" about the TNIV on their sites. Moreover, the disclaimer said the TNIV was particularly controversial, but never stated exactly what this supposed controversy was about. So I asked Logos at the time to remove the disclaimer. Bob Pritchett, president/CEO of Logos responded himself to my email, defending the disclaimer, but not offering any promise to remove it.

Today, a commenter on This Lamp brought it to my attention that the disclaimer on the Logos TNIV page has disappeared. I'd like to think that the attention brought to the issue on my other website had something to do with the removal of the disclaimer, but regardless, I'm glad it is gone because it was clearly unnecessary and unfair.

Cheers to Logos for doing the right thing and removing the TNIV disclaimer.

Two New Scholarly Endorsements

The TNIV has received two new endorsements. Both come from Asbury Theological Seminary:

"Of the making of translations there is no end," but sometimes more is better, and in the case of the TNIV we finally do have a much better translation than any of the other ones out there on the market. This translation is fresh, very readable, faithful to the original language texts, and just perfect for men and women to use for everything ranging from preaching to teaching to Bible study to devotions. Jargon and antique language are left behind but eloquence and quotability are not. This translation is both memorable and memorizable. As a New Testament scholar I cannot commend this translation highly enough. It passes everything else out there in the fast lane.

Ben Witherington, III Ph.D.

Professor of New Testament

Asbury Theological Seminary

Taking advantage of recent advances in biblical scholarship, linguistics and archaeology, Today's New International Version translates the original languages of the Bible into contemporary, very readable, English. Focusing on the meaning of the original text, rather than merely its form, the TNIV is gender accurate, scholarly precise and verbally relevant in today's changing world. It has now become my devotional Bible and I highly recommend it to all my students.

Kenneth J. Collins, Ph.D.

Professor of Historical Theology and Wesley Studies

Asbury Theological Seminary

Both of these endorsements will join the list at the soon-to-be-updated website. I got a chance to preview the new site earlier this week, and I must say that it's coming along quite well. It is a huge improvement over the previous site with greater focus, a more intuitive interface and a consistent look and feel that is modern, but simple.

While you're waiting for the new site to be launched (perhaps by the end of next week?), check out other scholarly endorsements listed at the IBS site, And even more endorsements can be found here.

Tuesday, May 1, 2007

Ignoratio Elenchi and the TNIV

Joe Myzia has just posted another thoughtful, truthful, incisive piece about one of the arguments used in debates about the TNIV. It is well worth reading.