The news cycle is loud, but we need to hear those who can’t shout
The New International Version Inclusive Language Edition, already available in England (Hodder and Stoughton, 1996), allows comparison of the current NIV and the new edition being considered for publication in the USA. Although presently available only in Europe, the Hodder and Stoughton edition is published with the authority of the Committee on Bible Translation.
**red_square**TEXT: Genesis 1:26-27
CURRENT NIV: Then God said, "Let us make man in our image...." So God created man in his own image ... male and female he created them.
INCLUSIVE LANGUAGE NIV: Then God said, "Let us make human beings in our image...." So God created human beings in his own image ... male and female he created them.
CHANGE IN MEANING: "Man" is the correct translation, because the Hebrew word '-ad-am is also used to refer to man in distinction from woman (Genesis 2:22, 25). An accurate translation should use the word man, which is the name both for males and for the human race. The unity of the race as "man" is also lost, and only diversity as "human beings" is affirmed. Parallel with God's unity and diversity is also lost.
**red_square**TEXT: Genesis 5:2
CURRENT NIV: He created them male and female.... And when they were created, he called them "man."
INCLUSIVE LANGUAGE NIV: He created them male and female.... And when they were created, he called them "human beings."
CHANGE IN MEANING: God's activity of naming is very important in the Bible. Here the NIV has renamed the human race, refusing to use the male-oriented name "man," which accurately reflects the male-oriented term '-ad-am as used in Genesis.
**red_square**TEXT: Psalm 1:1
CURRENT NIV: Blessed is the man who does not walk in the counsel of the wicked, or stand in the way of sinners, or sit in the seat of mockers.
INCLUSIVE LANGUAGE NIV: Blessed are those who do not walk in the counsel of the wicked or stand in the way of sinners or sit in the seat of mockers.
CHANGE IN MEANING: Moral courage of solitary righteous man standing against plural sinners is lost; singular Hebrew word 'ish, which ordinarily means "man" in distinction from woman, is mistranslated.
**red_square**TEXT: Psalm 8:4
CURRENT NIV: What is man that you are mindful of him, the son of man that you care for him?
INCLUSIVE LANGUAGE NIV: What are mere mortals that you are mindful of them, human beings that you care for them?
CHANGE IN MEANING: Smallness of the individual man looking up at the stars is not evident; quotation of this text in Hebrews 2: 6, and application to Christ, now looks inaccurate.
**red_square**TEXT: Psalm 34:20
CURRENT NIV: He protects all his bones, not one of them will be broken.
INCLUSIVE LANGUAGE NIV: He protects all their bones, not one of them will be broken.
CHANGE IN MEANING: Specific prediction of Christ's crucifixion is obscured; fulfillment in John 19:36 is obscured.
**red_square**TEXT: Proverbs 5:21
CURRENT NIV: For a man's ways are in full view of the Lord.
INCLUSIVE LANGUAGE NIV: For your ways are in full view of the Lord.
CHANGE IN MEANING: New NIV now restricts the text to "you," who is the son being warned by his father in the previous text; the text no longer affirms God's observation of the ways of every person.
**red_square**TEXT: Proverbs 29:3
CURRENT NIV: A man who loves wisdom brings joy to his father, but a companion of prostitutes squanders his wealth.
INCLUSIVE LANGUAGE NIV: Those who love wisdom bring joy to their parents, but companions of prostitutes squander their wealth.
CHANGE IN MEANING: It is unclear why the NIV would change to "gender-neutral" language in talking about someone who visits prostitutes; clearly a mistranslation of the Hebrew word 'ish, which means "man" here, not "person."
**red_square**TEXT: Luke 17:3
CURRENT NIV: If your brother
sins, rebuke him, and if he repents, forgive him.
INCLUSIVE LANGUAGE NIV: Rebuke a brother or sister who sins, and
if they repent, forgive them.
CHANGE IN MEANING: Trying to make "they" singular impoverishes English by leaving us no clearly plural pronoun; but understanding "they" as plural mistranslates the singular Greek pronoun autos and corresponding singular verb. (And the lack of agreement in many verses like this creates dissonant English as well.) Jesus could easily have said "brother or sister" if he had wanted to (see 1 Corinthians 7:15).
**red_square**TEXT: John 6:44
CURRENT NIV: No one can come to me unless the Father who sent me draws him, and I will raise him up at the last day.
INCLUSIVE LANGUAGE NIV: No
one can come to me unless the Father who sent me draws them, and I will raise them up at the last day.
CHANGE IN MEANING: Might easily be understood to support the neo-orthodox and Arminian view that God chooses and calls groups of people, not individuals; this is done by mistranslating two singular Greek words. Individual assurance of resurrection is also obscured.
**red_square**TEXT: John 11:25
CURRENT NIV: Jesus said to her, "I am the resurrection and the life. He who believes in me will live, even though he dies...."
INCLUSIVE LANGUAGE NIV: Jesus said to her, "I am the resurrection and the life. Those who believe in me will live, even though they die...."
CHANGE IN MEANING: Forcefulness of promise to individual person is lost. Mistranslates four singular Greek words. (Note that Jesus did not hesitate to use generic "he" even when speaking to Martha.)
**red_square**TEXT: John 14:23
CURRENT NIV: 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.
INCLUSIVE LANGUAGE NIV: Those who love me will obey my teaching. My Father will love them, and we will come to them and make our home with them.
CHANGE IN MEANING: Dwelling of Father and Son with individual person is lost; new NIV speaks of Father and Son dwelling among a group of people. Six singular Greek words which John wrote as part of Scripture are mistranslated in this one text.
**red_square**TEXT: Acts 20:30
CURRENT NIV: Even from your own number men will arise and distort the truth in order to draw away disciples after them.
INCLUSIVE LANGUAGE NIV: Even from your own number some will arise and distort the truth in order to draw away disciples after them.
CHANGE IN MEANING: Obliterates the fact that Paul used a specific Greek noun andres to say that the false teachers coming at Ephesus would be "men"; this word never refers to women, and "some" is thus a mistranslation.
**red_square**TEXT: 1 Corinthians 14:28
CURRENT NIV: If there is no interpreter, the speaker should keep quiet in the church and speak to himself and God.
INCLUSIVE LANGUAGE NIV: If there is no interpreter, the speakers should keep quiet in the church and speak to themselves and God.
CHANGE IN MEANING: Can easily be understood to encourage groups of tongue-speakers to go off together and speak in tongues "to themselves." Mistranslates three singular Greek words which Paul wrote.
**red_square**TEXT: James 1:12
CURRENT NIV: Blessed is the man who perseveres under trial, because when he has stood the test, he will receive the crown of life....
INCLUSIVE LANGUAGE NIV: Blessed are those who persevere under trial, because when they have stood the test, they will receive the crown of life....
CHANGE IN MEANING: NIV suggests groups of people who endure trial, and reward waits until "they" all have stood the test.
Mistranslates six singular Greek words, including an-er, which means "man," not "person."
**red_square**TEXT: Revelation 3:20
CURRENT 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.
INCLUSIVE LANGUAGE NIV: 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: Idea of Christ coming into an individual person's life is lost; new NIV suggests Christ coming into a church and eating among a group of people. Mistranslates six singular Greek words.
These examples could be multiplied by the hundreds. No complete count is available yet, but a comparable example might be found in the first major "gender-neutral" translation, the New Revised Standard Version (1989), which had to change the sense of over 3,400 verses in order to eliminate just the generic uses of "he-him-his."
If we believe that "all Scripture is God-breathed" (2 Timothy 3:16), and that "every word of God is flawless" (Proverbs 30:5), then we must believe that every word of Scripture as originally written is the very word God intended to be written. To put it another way, our doctrine of the "verbal inspiration" of Scripture is that the very words of Scripture--not just the general ideas--are "God-breathed" and are therefore the very words of God. Jesus and the New Testament authors sometimes base arguments on a single word of Old Testament Scripture (Matthew 4:10; John 10:34; Galatians 3:10, 16; Hebrews 3:13; 4:7) and sometimes a single letter of a word (Matthew 22:44). Anyone who does expository preaching knows how often good preaching makes use of the sense of individual words. These words are not ours to tamper with as we wish; they are the words of God, and the warnings against adding to or taking away from the words of God are severe (Revelation 22:18-19).
Nor is there any real reason to think the changes will stop here, once they are begun. Many other things in the Bible can also be thought to be "offensive" to modern readers (such as calling God "he" and "Father," and calling Christ "Son of God" rather than "Child of God"). Once evangelical translators give in to the principle of changing what the Bible says in order to make it acceptable to our culture, the demands for changes will never end.
No one can foresee all the different understandings and applications that people will derive from any one of these changes. It is terribly presumptuous of translators to think they can be sure they are able to foresee all the possible implications and subtle nuances that the Holy Spirit intended when he caused Scripture to be written exactly as it was.
For example, the generic use of "he-him-his" has consistently been changed to "we" or "you" or "they." The result is that whenever readers of this inclusive-language NIV read the words "we" and "you" and "they," they will never know whether what they are reading is what God originally caused his Word to say, or what the translators have decided his Word should say instead. In hundreds and probably thousands of places, readers will never know whether these are the words of God or the words of man.
Such revisions are not the words God originally caused to be written, and thus they are not the words of God. They are human words that men have substituted for the words of God, and they have no place in the Bible.
Mr. Grudem is professor of Biblical and Systematic Theology at Trinity Evangelical Divinity School, Deerfield, Illinois, and is president of the Council on Biblical Manhood and Womanhood (www.cbmw.org). Mr. Grudem holds his B.A. from Harvard, M.Div. from Westminster Seminary, and Ph.D. in New Testament from Cambridge University.