NIV Bible - Inclusive Language Edition

NIV Bible Inclusive Language Edition
Hodder & Stoughton
ISBN 0 340 59140 4

The New International Version is the most popular modern English Bible translation. This new version 'has been revised to provide a sensitive and balanced gender-inclusive text'.
Where terms used in the original languages refer to both men and women but the translation into English uses a word which has become exclusively masculine, the translation has been revised to reflect the original - or at least that is what the publisher's blurb says. So, for example, Psalm 1 no longer reads: 'Blessed is the man who does not walk in the counsel of the wicked ...' but: 'Blessed are those who do not walk in the counsel of the wicked...'. The many references to 'brothers' in the New Testament now reads 'brothers and sisters'. In addition, the gender used in the original languages to refer to God, angels and demons has been retained.
The revision has not been too badly done, although there are some blunders; for example, the godless men of Jude 4 have become godless people, but the heading still refers to 'the sin and doom of godless men'. But the main question is surely should such a revision have been attempted at all? I would answer no, for at least four reasons:

1. It ignores the biblical way of speaking. Grudem (in Systematic Theology, p. 439) explains that he decided to use the word 'man' to refer to the human race because: 'such usage has divine warrant in Genesis 5, and because I think there is a theological issue at stake. In Genesis 5.1-2 we read: 'When God created man, he made him in the likeness of God. Male and female he created them, and he blessed them and named them Man when they were create (cf. Genesis 1.27). The Hebrew term translated 'Man' is: 'Adam, the same term used for the name of Adam and the same term that is sometimes used of man in distinction from woman ... Therefore the practice of using the same term to refer (1) to male human beings and (2) to the human race generally is a practice that originated with God himself, and we should not find it objectionable or insensitive.' I think Grudem is right; there is at least one theological issue at stake.

2. It originates from social pressure. The pressure for the use of 'gender inclusive language' comes primarily from those who bridle at the biblical teaching about male headship which has been part of our society's structure (and that of most other societies too) for millennia. This pressure is reflected in the text of this revision in, for example, 2 Timothy 2.2 which now reads: 'The things you have heard me say in the presence of many witnesses entrust to reliable people who will also be qualified to teach others.' This may be permissible as a translation of anthropos, which usually just means a human being; but it is not permissible from the rest of the Scripture's teaching about authority and teaching.

3. It reflects an inadequate respect for what the words actually say. Yes, translating from one language to another inevitably necessitates an element of paraphrase, otherwise the result would be unreadable and unintelligible; but if we believe 'God spoke all these words', then we must keep that element to a minimum. The Holy Spirit could have said (for example) 'brothers and sisters' if he had wanted to; he chose not to and we should respect and accept that.

4. It leads to inevitable weakness in some doctrinal areas. In New Testament times (as in ours) being 'a son' often carried more privileges than being 'a child'. Hence, Paul says about all Christians, male and female, that they are God's sons (Galatians 4.26) and, because sons, then heirs (Galatians 4.7). To change this to 'children' is, in effect, to rob us (both male and female) of a great truth.

Other lesser teachings are affected too. In 1 Corinthians 16.13, 'men of courage' be-comes 'courageous' - apparently harmless enough. But the word used in the Greek literally means 'be manly'; what if there is a biblical doctrine of 'manliness' and what if, in that doctrine, courage - while often shown by women is always expected of men - and expected even by God? Does this matter? It does if you believe that one of the problems of our society is that men will no longer act like men!
Really, this will not do; such playing with the text of Scripture for the fads (passing or otherwise) of the age is appalling. It is still worse in that a spokesperson (!) at Hodder told me that, while the 'old' NIV and the new will continue to be sold in parallel for the time being, from about the turn of the century only the gender-inclusive version will be available. The publishers are letting down the many, many conservative evangelical churches who switched to the NIV from the AV and then remained faithful to it when the NKJV appeared.

Gary Benfold