Thursday, May 15, 2008

John 14:23 & Genesis 3:16

I've been having a discussion in another place in the internet world with someone who called the TNIV heretical. I thought I'd share some of that here so you can see how to have a conversation with someone and attempt to bring light into the conversation without heat. This conversation is still going on. Sometimes it can be hard, if not impossible, to convince people. However, we need to conduct ourselves properly.

Heretical, the term this other individual used, is a strong term. It's not one I use often of anyone or anybody. I have a book that is out of print entitled Orthodox and Heresy by Robert Bowman. On page 50, Bowman presents a definition that I defer to:
A teaching which directly opposes the essentials of the Christian faith, so that true Christians must divide themselves from those who hold it.
I think that is fair and useful. For what I believe to be essential or non-essential check out this post at my personal blog. I don't think Bible translations is in that category.

When he stated that the TNIV is heretical, the first thing I did was ask how do you define heretical? He defined heresy as that which opposes traditional church doctrine and then he told me that the TNIV makes God gender neutral.

I could have made a declaration at this point, but often the best way is to proceed with questions. I asked him How did you come to the conclusion that the TNIV makes God gender neutral? Can you show me some verses where it does this?

He backed off that position at that point. He came back saying that in the original version it did but not in the current edition. Now Wayne and the guys can correct me, but usually translations have extra copyright dates when they do revisions. The TNIV I have has only two dates and it isn't due to revisions being made. One date is the New Testament and the other was the Old Testament. I have, to my knowledge, the first published edition. Anyway I let that point slide. Sometimes you have to pick and choose what points to discuss.

He held on to the heresy charge and brought up three verses: John 14:23; 1 Corinthians 14:28; Revelation 22:19. These are passages where the third person, singular, masculine terms in the NIV and other translation are changed to third person plurals (John 14:23 & 1 Corinthians 14:28) or second person singulars (Revelation 22:19). The point being as you all know to demonstrate that these verses in their application don't apply only to males, but to females also. For this he claims that the TNIV is heretical.

My counter has been to ask him if the KJV is heretical when it translates masculine terms in the original languages as gender neutral terms in English. I've been doing this by talking about John 14:23. The TNIV reads . . .
Jesus replied, “Anyone who loves me will obey my teaching. My Father will love them, and we will come to them and make our home with them.

The Holy Bible : Today's New International Version.
2005 (Jn 14:23). Grand Rapids, MI: Zondervan.
The NIV reads . . .
Jesus replied, “If anyone loves me, he will obey my teaching. My Father will love him, and we will come to him and make our home with him.

The Holy Bible : New International Version
. 1996, c1984 (electronic ed.) (Jn 14:23). Grand Rapids: Zondervan.
The KJV is even more masculine by translating τις as a man rather than anyone at the beginning of the verse. Even the NASB and NKJV use anyone at that point.

I asked a couple questions. One was to ask him if females love Jesus and obey his teaching, will the Father love them and make his home with them? He said he was 99.99% sure that He would. His counter was to ask if I believe the Holy Spirit and if He needed correction from 21st century scholars. He claims it changes meaning.

I asked how he can possibly justify the KJV. In Genesis 3:16, the KJV tells us that in sorrow Eve would bear children. The Hebrew is masculine. I asked him if the Holy Spirit needed correction from 17th century scholars. By his own approach the KJV should read that in sorrow Eve would bring forth sons. If I used his approach, then the KJV changed the meaning. Maybe Eve would not bring forth daughters in sorrow. Yet, the KJV translators translated that masculine term as the gender neutral term children. I think the KJV translators made the correct choice and that the TNIV translators are just continuing by making careful choices as to whether a text is applicable only to males, or both males and females.

So how can he charge the TNIV with heresy but not the KJV? Now he claims it's the motive. At that point I asked him if he knows who the translators of the TNIV are, if he's tried corresponding with them, and how did he determine their motive. Judging motives is dangerous ground to cover. I can look at a finished product and judge the product. Judging motives is something I think we should leave to Jesus.

There is no heresy. I hope this helps illustrate how to counter someone who opposes the TNIV. When someone attacks the TNIV, step back and let them make the claims while you ask questions. It keeps the other person in the hot seat and keeps you out. It makes them do all the work. You can relax and enjoy yourself. The only time I brought data into the conversation was to use examples from the KJV to demonstrate that if he wants to be consistent then he must charge the KJV with heresy.


Peter Kirk said...

Thanks, Joe, for this good post.

Some minor revisions were made to the TNIV New Testament when it was republished as part of the complete Bible. But your other individual may have had in mind the NIV Inclusive Language Edition (never published in the USA) which was to some extent the precursor of TNIV. However, I am almost certain that in none of these versions was there anything making God gender neutral.

Suzanne McCarthy said...


I am confused. Why do you say that tis is masculine? What have I missed?

Thanks for pointing out Gen. 3:16 and the use of "children" in that case.

Joe Myzia said...

Hey Peter,

I've also considered that he has the NIVI in mind. I haven't brought that up with him because I know very little about the NIVI. I'd bet a can of pop/soda that you're correct that it never makes God gender neutral. I have Carson's book The Inclusive-Language Debate. When he wrote that the TNIV was not out yet but the NIVI was and he writes about it a lot and I don't remember him ever mentioning any passages that made God gender neutral. Surely, Carson would have mentioned that.

Joe Myzia said...

Hey Suzanne,

You probably missed nothing in regard to tis.

Let me state that I am the "ugly duckling" of the writers at TNIV Truth. I know the least about the languages of this group of writers. I have more tools than the average lay person. However, I'm heavily dependent on books and tools I have.

I have a Nestle-Aland that lists the gender, tense, mood, voice of each word. It lists whether a word is plural or singular. It probably gives me enough information to make me dangerous in both good and bad ways. My Nestle-Aland states that tis in John 14:23 is masculine.

I'm guessing from your comment that my NA has a typo. If that is a typo, let me know and I will correct the post. That would help explain why only the KJV and ASV read that way compared to even the NASB (either my old NASB or 95 update).

The fellow I'm discussing this with hasn't even brought up the difference between the KJV and the TNIV at tis. So it has not impacted our discussion.

If I'm wrong, I'll be glad to learn something new. I'm glad everyone here let's me hang out with the crowd.

Suzanne McCarthy said...

No, its not a typo. I didn't check the text. Tis itself has no masculine or feminine gender, semantically or grammatically - it is indefinite. Only a few words have no masc. or fem. gender.

However, later in the verse it says "my father will love auton (that person/him) and this has masculine grammtical gender but no semantic gender. This is usually translated as "him" but it is not an exact translation.

For example, oudeis meaning "no one" also has masculine grammatical gender but the Colorado springs whatsit allow the gender neautral translation of oudeis as "no one" instead of "no man" but they do not allow the gender neutral translation of autos as "that same person" which is what it means, instead of "him."

So, because autos is used later in the verse with grammatical masculine gender, the N-A says that tis, which has no gender of its own, must be masculine.

As long as we realize that this is a discussion about grammatical gender and not semantic gender. Autos does not make a thing masculine in actuality but only grammatically. Oh well. One can never really explain this.

So no, tis itself has no gender but autos has grammatical masculine gender.

Joe Myzia said...

Cool. Thanks for the Greek lesson, Suzanne!

Joe Myzia said...

Let me ask you, Suzanne, and the other more informed members on language issues:

Sometimes my NASB has "any man" for tis. I've noticed a couple things. Sometimes the Greek text is literally tis (those actual letters) but I can see how context may have caused them to use "any man". 1 Corinthians 7:18 is a good example where the verse is talking of circumcision.

However, other passages where the NASB has "any man" tis becomes (and I'll keep transliterating) tini or tina. Does that have a gender impact linguistically? See Matthew 18:12 and Acts 19:38 for examples of those.


Peter Kirk said...

tina, tinos, tini are inflected forms of tis and so don't specify masculine or feminine. Note that there is a distinct neuter form ti, and tinos, tini may also be inflected forms of this. When these words carry an accent (acute or grave) they are interrogative pronouns "who? what? why?", but without an accent they are indefinite: "anyone, anything".

Suzanne McCarthy said...

As Peter says, those other forms are inflected to indicate direct and indirect object. There is no way to indicate masculine or feminine with tis or any of its forms.

The fact that the word anthropos (human) has a masculine grammatical ending does not mean anything either. For example, in French the word for person is "la personne" with a feminine ending. Grammatical endings are for the most part meaningless.

When I first heard of some of the complaints against the TNIV, I thought that I had wandered into an alternate reality. They are so ridiculous.

If you want ammunition for why anthropos should be translated as human and not "man" look at Numbers 31 - there are 32,000 anthropos, and all of them female. They are human, but not male. They are anthropos in the LXX and adam in the Hebrew.

Joe Myzia said...


Thank you both for continuing to expanding my understanding.