In 2011, a new translation of the NIV will be published by Zondervan. This new translation will replace the older version first published in 1984. Since the NIV (1984 version) is the most widely used translation in the pews of Protestant churches and the homes of evangelical Christians, a choice will soon have to be made. Will churches and believers switch to the new 2011 version or change translations completely?
In September of 2009 Zondervan released a statement saying that when the new 2011 version came out, they would discontinue the 1984 version and the controversial TNIV as well. The TNIV (Today’s New International Version) was an attempt at a translation which used more “gender neutral” language. It was mostly rejected by evangelicals and their churches, hence the likely reason for its discontinuation. But many feared that the TNIV’s gender neutral language would make its way into the 2011 NIV version. And according to some bloggers who have seen the text, it has indeed done so.
John Dyer has created a few graphics that show what the general picture of the 2011 edition will look like. It appears that 31% of the changes introduced in the TNIV will be carried forward in the new translation. Another site, which can be found here, shows the most commonly removed and added words. Over 2000 uses of the word “he” and “him” have been removed and replaced with words like “their, they, people, them.”
Let’s look at one example (out of many):
NASB 1995 Update – “and He made from one man every nation of mankind to live on all the face of the earth”
NIV 1984 – “From one man he made every nation of men, that they should inhabit the whole earth”
NIV 2011 – “From one man he made all the nations, that they should inhabit the whole earth”
I’m no Greek or Hebrew scholar, but the choice to push gender neutral language puzzles me. Especially considering that some mostly conservative evangelical scholars are on this translation team, like Douglas Moo, Bruce Waltke, Craig Blomberg, and Bill Mounce. The Greek word for men or mankind is anthropon. In the oldest Greek manuscripts for Acts 17:26 antrhopon is clearly there. No one disputes this. So why choose to leave it out of the new NIV translation?
I think the reason is more cultural, more “worldly” than some would like to admit. On their website (Biblica.com), when asked about gender neutral language, they state:
“To the extent that gender inclusive language is an established part of contemporary English and that its use enhances comprehension for readers, it clearly was an important factor in decisions made by the translators.”
The support they use for this “established part of contemporary English” is the Collins Corpus Report. This report analyzed different dictionaries, word banks, etc. to determine which words are most commonly used by English speakers worldwide. Not just Christian English speakers, but anyone and everyone. So since the world has changed its used of pronouns to be more politically correct, so should the English Bible?
I will grant that not all the changes in the 2011 NIV are bad. Some are good, and clarify some bad translations in the 1984 edition. But overall, the changes are not for the better in my opinion. This is the danger of “thought for thought” or dynamic equivalence translations. I prefer the more literal translations (NAS, NKJ, ESV). See my previous post here for the reasons why.
Was the Bible written as God’s unchangeable Word or not? Of course the Bible was not written in English, so some translation must occur and there will always be a few nuances lost in translation. But to think that Paul or Matthew or the Prophets or Moses did not know what they were doing when they used the words man, mankind, fathers, forefathers is to question the whole inspiration of Scripture.