NIV 2011: Yesterday’s NIV is now Today’s NIV: A Transformation of a Translation Reflecting Today’s Culture

(Editor’s Note: Si Cochran is a 2007 graduate of Southern Baptist Theological Seminary and currently serves as the youth pastor of Southern Hills Baptist Church in Sioux City, IA.  That would make him my  youth pastor!  Si blogs at “Holiness, Justice and Grace.”)

As the old Italian proverb goes, “Translation is treason.”  The treasonous nature of all translation work consists in the inability to accurately convey the nuance of meaning when moving from the original text to the receptor language.  While the translator may be able to convey the bulk of meaning found within a text, he will unlikely communicate every nuance, and may perhaps unintentionally deceive his readers.  Thus, translations have their consequences.  This is why the historian learns Greek, so that he does not misunderstand Herodotus.  In the same way, the New Testament scholar learns Greek, so that he does not misunderstand God.

For Christians dependent upon translations for reading God’s Word, the question becomes, “How treasonous is my translation?”  Answering this question should lead to the pursuit of Bible translations that accurately represent (as close as possible) the intended meaning of the biblical autographs (the original manuscripts).  Conversely, translations that are more prone to treason should be read less, and perhaps only used as comparison Bibles.

Release of the NIV 2011

Recently, the NIV 2011 was released online, with a publication date set for March of next year.  Since the NIV has been the evangelical standard for a number of years (particularly among English dynamic equivalent translations), it is important to asses the accuracy of the translation, and to explore any possible dangers that might be inherent in the text.

The NIV 2011 should be considered the offspring of the TNIV (Today’s NIV), and the grandson of the NIV 1984.  The genetic stock shared by all three translations is 18859 verses, which is 60.7% verse similarity.  Some genetic traits skip a generation, and this is the case 0.6% of the time, where the NIV 1984 and the NIV 2011 share 171 verses of commonality against the TNIV.  But as one would imagine, the child is more similar to the parent, and the TNIV and the NIV 2011 share 31.3% genetic makeup, or 9736 verses.  But genetics alone cannot prevent mutations and variation, so the NIV 2011 is unique 7.5% of the time, or 2320 verses of originality.  Broken down, this means that the NIV 2011 is 38.8% different than the NIV 1984 and 8% different than the TNIV.  (See Robert Slowley.  John Dyer has slightly different figures).

Positive Changes in the NIV 2011

From the outset, I want to make it clear that the NIV 2011 has made some positive translation changes from the NIV 1984, and often presents a superior reading in comparison to other English translations.  A few examples are in order.

Recently, I was working my way through Matthew 27 in preparation for a sermon, and stumbled upon the textual issues in 27:16-17.  Here, we find Pilate offering to release either Barabbas or Jesus to the Jews.  In some early manuscripts, we find a reading that attributes the name “Jesus” to Barrabas in verses 16 and 17.  So this reading has Pilate offering to the Jews either Jesus Barabbas or Jesus who is called the Christ.  I am no text critic, but I have enough knowledge of textual criticism to follow the arguments and make an informed decision regarding the manuscript evidence.  It appears that this reading is preferential for a number of reasons.  First, it is a harder reading.  There is more reason to exclude “Jesus” from Barabbas for reverential issues, than for a scribe to include the name “Jesus” in reference to Barrabbas.  This was in fact Origin’s opposition to the inclusion of “Jesus” in these verses (Metzger: Textual Commentary).  Second, it seems unlikely that a scribe would make the same mistake twice in vv. 16-17 of referring to Barabbas as “Jesus Barabbas” unless that was in fact his name.  Third, Jesus, which is the Greek form of the Hebrew Joshua, was a very common name in the first century.  Fourth, there seems to be a contrast of one Jesus with another Jesus.  So Pilate offers Jesus Barabbas, or Jesus “who is called the Christ.”  Pilate would not necessarily need to refer to Jesus as the one “who is called the Christ,” unless he is making a distinction between Jesus Barabbas and Jesus the Christ.  He could have naturally said, “Do you want Barabbas or Jesus.”  These reasons tend to persuade me that the proper reading of 27:16-17 should include “Jesus” before Barabbas.  This follows the NA27/UBS4, SBLGNT, NET, LEB, NRSV, and TNIV against the ESV, NASB, HCSB, NKJV, and NIV 1984.  In my opinion, the NIV 2011 rightly retains the TNIV reading in these two verses.  Though two of my favorite translations (ESV & NASB: favored largely due to the accuracy of translation) exclude this reading, it is likely that the NIV 2011 translation of Matthew 27:16-17 is superior.

The next positive translation example occurs in Philemon 1:6.  This is actually the first verse I turned to (or navigated to, since the text is only available online) when I began my examination of the NIV 2011.  The NIV 1984 reads, “I pray that you may be active in sharing your faith, so that you will have a full understanding of every good thing we have in Christ.”  The problem with this translation is that it can easily mislead the reader into thinking this verse is about evangelism.  To “be active in sharing your faith” sounds like Paul is praying in verse 6 that Philemon and the church at Colossae will be evangelistic.  In reality, Paul is praying for the fellowship (koinonia in Greek) of believers in the body of Christ.  Though koinonia does involve the sharing of the faith in a fellowship sense, this is not at all how we use the phrase “sharing your faith” in the American church.  “Sharing your faith” is almost exclusively used to describe Gospel proclamation.  Thus, Philemon 1:6 in NIV 1984 is not a mistranslation, but a poor translation (So also ESV, NKJV, NRSV).  The NIV 2011 follows the TNIV and translates Philemon 1:6 as follows: “I pray that your partnership with us in the faith may be effective in deepening your understanding of every good thing we share for the sake of Christ.”  This represents an important improvement over the NIV 1984.

Problems with the NIV 2011

While it is clear that the NIV 2011 has bright spots, bright spots alone are not enough to warrant the NIV 2011’s adoption as a reading/study Bible.  Are there glaring deficiencies?  And if so, are these deficiencies significant enough to relegate the NIV 2011 to a comparison Bible only?

Among the Bibles in my library, one that I would never recommend for reading, study, or comparison would be the New World Translation (except, of course, for apologetics).  Why would I make such a bold statement?  Because, it is clear that the translation committee (I hesitate to call the NWT’s compilers “translators,” for there is some evidence that they were not proficient in the biblical languages.) approached Bible translation with an agenda.  Their agenda consisted of systematically dismantling the deity of Christ in the biblical text.  In this vein, John 1:1 was made to say that Jesus was just a god.  The translator who employs an agenda upon the text is even more treasonous than the translator who tries his best to communicate the text, but fails at various points.  Even though I would never put the NIV 2011 in the same camp as the NWT, I do find disturbing the egalitarianism and gender neutral language imposed upon the text that is manifested in a number of ways.  Examples of this imposition will follow.

Problematic Gender-Neutral Language

First, the NIV 2011, following the TNIV, employs gender-neutral language by neutering the masculine pronouns.  Gender-neutral language is not illegitimate if the biblical text is speaking generically about human beings (e.g. Acts 17:25), but is suspect if the biblical text is referring to a specific sex.  Though gender-neutral language may not be an illegitimate translation practice for generic references of humanity, the translator might obscure the text’s meaning if not employed carefully.  This often happens when the translators take a masculine singular pronoun, and translate it as a gender-neutral plural.  For example, the NIV 2011 translates John 6:44, “No one can come to me unless the Father who sent me draws them, and I will raise them up at the last day.”  In reality, the pronoun translated “them” is actually a singular “him.”  The point of the verse is that God calls and regenerates individual people, but the NIV 2011 adds a corporate element by making the pronoun plural.  The verse now seems to say that God is calling and drawing a people to Himself, which is true theologically, but not the point of this verse.

Other gender neutral translations in the NIV 2011 are more treasonous, especially when the text contains messianic undertones.  The NIV 2011 translates Psalm 8:4 by saying, “What is mankind that you are mindful of them, human beings that you care for them?”  The phrase “son of man” is translated as “human beings” in this verse.  In the Bible, the title “son of man” is often used messianically (see Dan 7:13-14), and Jesus applies the title to himself on numerous occasions (Matt 8:20, 9:6, 10:23, etc.). The author of Hebrews interprets Psalms 8:4 messianically, and quotes the entirety of the verse in Hebrews 2:6.  Ironically, the Committee on Bible Translation (hereafter CBT) recognized the messianic nature of Hebrews 2:6 by retaining the “son of man” language and avoiding the gender neutral translation “human beings.”  But the gender neutral translation of Psalm 8:4 obscures the clear messianic implications of the text, and the reader will struggle to make the connection of this verse with Jesus.  Recognizing this problem, the CBT included a footnote for Psalm 8:4 that says, “Or what is a human being that you are mindful of him, / a son of man that you care for him?”  If the CBT understood Psalm 8:4 to have messianic implications, why did they obscure the text with gender-neutral language?

Agenda-Based Translation

Second, the NIV 2011 includes translations that promote egalitarian positions, even though the biblical text does not warrant such readings.  This is found in the translation of 1 Tim 2:12, which reads, “I do not permit a woman to teach or to assume authority over a man; she must be quiet.”  In contrast, the NIV 1984 reads, “I do not permit a woman to teach or to have authority over a man; she must be silent.”  To “have authority” and to “assume authority” carry very different connotations.  The former presumes the possession or the exercising of authority, whereas the latter could be interpreted to mean that Paul merely opposes women taking on positions of authority by their own power or volition.  Thus, it could be argued from the NIV 2011 translation that women could teach or have authority over men as long as the authority was given to them, and not merely assumed by the woman herself.  However, this translation is contrary to Greek text, which is most naturally translated “have authority” or “exercise authority.”  Even the egalitarian/gender neutral NRSV translates this verse with “have authority,” which they would unlikely have done if “assume authority” was a valid rendering of the Greek text.  The CBT makes their agenda known in their translation notes in response to 1 Tim 2:12: “The exercise of authority that Paul was forbidding was one that women inappropriately assumed, but whether that referred to all forms of authority over men in church or only certain forms in certain contexts is up to the individual interpreter to decide.”

This response makes it clear that the CBT has come down on the side of egalitarianism, and their translation of 1 Tim 2:12 reflects their theological position, not the best grammatical/syntactical reading of the Greek text (See Denny Burk’s post for an assessment of the Greek text.  He also provides helpful resources that go in depth on this issue).

The TNIV in NIV Clothing

Third, Biblica (formerly the International Bible Society) has made the egalitarian/gender neutral TNIV the new NIV.  In an interesting marketing decision, Biblica has decided to use the NIV moniker for a translation that more closely resembles the TNIV.  Not only this, but Biblica will no longer publish the NIV 1984 and the TNIV after the NIV 2011 is released in March.  This is unfortunate, considering that evangelicals, primarily due to egalitarian/gender-neutral Bible translation issues, did not embrace the TNIV.  It seems that Biblica is forcing NIV users to either embrace egalitarian/gender-neutral Bible translation philosophies or abandon the NIV.  Yes, there are millions of 1984 NIVs floating around, and one will be able to find second-hand 1984 NIVs for many years to come.  But Biblica just made it more difficult for people to embrace an NIV that is gender specific.

Furthermore, there seems to be a slight deception in Biblica’s tactics.  Zondervan president Moe Girkins publicly admitted that the TNIV “divided the evangelical community,” which was primarily over gender neutral/egalitarian issues.  Considering Zondervan’s close relationship with Biblica as the primary publisher of the NIV, one can safely assume that Biblica is also aware that gender neutral Bibles lack broad based support and struggle with receptivity in the evangelical world.  It is almost like Biblica has passed off the TNIV by covering it in the NIV’s clothing.  The NIV is one of the most trusted names in Bible translations, and many will flock to the NIV 2011 because it is presented as a new and improved NIV.  It would have been more honest for Biblica to call the NIV 2011 a revised TNIV, but they understood that a revised TNIV would be less successful, if not doomed.


In conclusion, it is has been seen that the NIV 2011 has many improvements and many regressions over the NIV 1984.  While the improvements make the NIV 2011 a valid comparison Bible, the imposed egalitarianism and extreme gender-neutral translations makes this an unhelpful and perhaps misleading reading/study Bible.  When released, I will purchase a copy for my Logos Bible Software to compare the NIV 2011 with other Bible translations, but I will unlikely purchase a paper copy for reading.  In the end, I cannot recommend this translation, and will actually encourage others to avoid it as a reading/study Bible.  While there are many Godly Christians serving on the CBT (as well as some complementarians), the committee as a whole has embraced a translation philosophy that often reflects our culture more than it reflects the biblical text.  As stated by the CBT, “The chief goal of every revision to the NIV text is to bring the translation into line both with contemporary biblical scholarship and with shifts in English idiom and usage.”  Here, the problem is that our culture despises gender distinctions, and the CBT must mute these distinctions to “bring the translation into line…. with shifts in English idiom and usage.”  As seen above, the unintended consequence of gender-neutral translations is an obscuring of the text.  If good translators commit treason unintentionally, how much more treasonous are those translators who impose an agenda on their translation work.


  1. Dave Miller says

    I always loved the NIV – not so much as a translation (I go to the Greek for that) but because it was such great literature. No Bible has ever been a mellifluous in public reading as the NIV, in my opinion.

    But when the TNIV came out, I became suspicious that the NIV translators were more concerned with agenda than accuracy. Now, I use the ESV and while I still prefer the (old) NIV as literature, I think the ESV is superior as a translation.

    • Frank and Larry says

      I am a big fan of the NIV primarily because of its readability and availability. As dynamic equivalence goes, it always seemed to be fairly faithful to the text.

      I am at point that I can probably make a change without disrupting the congregation too much. I love the NASB, but we do a lot of congregational reading (10-20 verses in unison a week) and the NASB just does not read well. The ESV reads a little better, but still has a wooden feel to it. I’m leaning that way because it is the Interlinear associated with my Logos software.

      The Holman Christian Standard Bible has much to offer, especially sense it is the version used in the Sunday School literature. I like the idea of “optimal equivalence.” It is very “readable.” The additional margin notes are abundant and very helpful. The Study Bible has some of the best expositional type notes that I’ve seen for a while. I’m leaning that way.

      While I could stay with the NIV as a pulpit version, I’m just not comfortable recommending it to my congregation. I think Zondervan has ruined a good thing.

  2. says

    This post fails to recognize the numerous places where the NIV2011 retained gender-specific terms, against the TNIV, e.g., Psalm 34:20, Proverbs 13:1, Matthew 7:3, Acts 20:30, and 1 Corinthians 15:21. These are important passages, where the TNIV’s gender-neutrality distorted the text but the NIV2011 upholds the gender-specific terms required by the context. I don’t find the “assuming authority” translation to be nearly as problematic as the author states, and it hardly indicates some egalitarian agenda. If there is some egalitarian agenda then Biblica would have not translated Acts 20:30 with gender-specific terms, which they did against the TNIV’s rendering. Bibica is comprised of both egalitarians and complementarians, and the evidence from the NIV2011 indicates that Biblica is genuinely trying to be faithful to the context of the time period and canonical norms (=messianic prophecy).

    I would have appreciated a more balanced review of the NIV2011. Moreover, the switch to “flesh” (instead of “sinful nature”) is a very positive gain in the NIV2011, as is the switch to “the righteousness of God” (instead of “a righteousness from God”) in Romans. These textual updates/revisions, along with a very modest amount of gender-neutral changes, will make the NIV2011 a success in the evangelical churches and academy.

    • says

      While I could have provided a more exhaustive review of the NIV 2011 (with more translation examples), I thought it more beneficial to limit the length of the review for the sake of readability. After all, this is a blog post and not an academic paper. This is why I chose to list a few examples of positive revisions, and few examples of regressions. You are right in saying that the the NIV 2011 has revised some of the gender-neutral translations found in the TNIV, but the fact remains that there are still a number of places where gender-neutral readings obscure the meaning of the text. Is the NIV 2011 a better translation in comparison to the TNIV? Of course, but this still does not make the NIV 2011 a good translation for reading and studying. Furthermore, this review is primarily comparing the NIV 2011 with the NIV 1984. I chose to do this because Biblica chose to name their new translation the NIV, even though it more closely resembles the TNIV. If Biblica had named their new translation TNIV 2011, I would have spent my time comparing the TNIV with their new translation. I really was not trying to downplay the positive changes in the NIV2011, but just trying to succinctly make the case that the CBT’s translation philosophy is problematic.

      As I stated in my post, I am also aware that the CBT contains complementarians. However, the nature of translation committees is complicated. Just because the CBT contains complementarians, does not mean that the entire translation will deftly navigate gender-neutral issues. Translation committees are made up of scholars who are given votes, overseen by editors, and governed by the adopted translation philosophy. If the complementarian is outvoted, edited, and falls outside of the translation philosophy, is the entire translation really safeguarded by the presence of the complementarian? I think in certain instances the presence of complementarians resulted in better translations (You mention some of those examples), but overall the egalitarians and the gender-neutral translation philosophy won the day.

      You also say that the NIV 2011’s translation of 1 Tim 2:12 is not “as problematic as the author states, and it hardly indicates some egalitarian agenda.” First, it is problematic because “assume authority” carries numerous connotations in the English language, one of which allows for an egalitarian reading (as mentioned in my post). Second, the CBT indicates their egalitarian agenda here by saying, “The exercise of authority that Paul was forbidding was one that women inappropriately assumed.” If Paul is is prohibiting authority that was inappropriately assumed, then the CBT understands that there would be an appropriate way for women to have authority over men.

      • Christiane says

        Hello Si Cochran,

        Would you be so kind as to comment on these two quotes, only if you care to, and if you have time?

        1. “With respect to the New Testament documents, the goal of study, in a word is not the idea of woman as expressed in the New Testament,
        but the historical reconstruction of two different situations of woman in the first century: that which was the norm in Jewish and Greco-Roman society, and that which represented the innovation that took shape in the public life of Jesus and in the Pauline churches,
        where the disciples of Jesus formed “a community of equals.” Galatians 3:28 is a text often cited in defense of this view. The aim is to rediscover for today the forgotten history of the role of women in the earliest stages of the church.”


        2. “With regard to the Old Testament, several studies have striven to come to a better understanding of the image of God. The God of the Bible is not a projection of a patriarchal mentality. He is Father, but also the God of tenderness and maternal love.”


        • Dave Miller says

          Si can jump in if he wants, but here’s the thing from my perspective, Christiane.

          What we are interested in is not cultural trends or perspective, but the most accurate translation of scripture possible. For biblical Christians, the actual meaning of the text is what matters most – not what the church says about it or what culture thinks of it. We prize the text of scripture as the ONLY perfect revelation of God, so our chief concern is getting the most accurate textual translation.

          In point 1, the author is essentially saying that she (or he) is ignoring the text and what it says to construct a new view of gender identity.

          When the author says, “The aim is to rediscover for today the forgotten history of the role of women in the earliest stages of the church,” what she is really saying is that she doesn’t like what the text says is trying to create something new.

          We do not get to do that. Truth is what God says it is – recorded in scripture. Whatever the Bible says, it says, whether it fits our cultural conceptions or not.

          Our goal is to be biblical, not to try to force the Bible into contortions of conformity to cultural ideas.

          • Christiane says

            Perhaps the intention was to show a CONTRAST between
            A. The role for women established by the “norm in Jewish and Greco-Roman society”
            as opposed to
            B. The new teaching in Galatians:
            ” For all of you who were baptized into Christ have clothed yourselves with Christ. There is neither Jew nor Greek, there is neither slave nor free person, there is not male and female; for you are all one in Christ Jesus. ”

            I don’t know, David, but if that is what the author(s) intended, then they were looking at the new position of all people (women included) as members of the Body of Christ which is taught in Galatians, Chapt. 3.
            So they were contrasting the known role of women in society before Christ came to the role of women in the early Church as expressed in Galatians. (?)

            My guess is that they meant to examine the change from a historical position of Greek, Roman, and Jewish women in those ancient cultures ;
            and comparing that position to Christianity’s effect on the position of women, as expressed in Scripture in the Book of Galatians.
            (I note that no other text is mentioned in this comparison)

          • says

            The intention was not to show a contrast of anything. The intention was to make the text mean what she wants it to mean because she doesn’t like it. “Why, that’s just male pigheadedness right there so that can’t POSSIBLY be what God REALLY meant. We’ve evolved since then.” When you get to a point where the Bible CAN’T mean what it clearly says, like you and the folks in Enid believe, you’re on the road to huge theological problems. Or in your case, you’re already there.

  3. says

    Thanks, Si, for the thoughtful response. I still think that the NIV2011, on the whole, is far more favorable to complementarian concerns than your review reveals. Even given the limits of a blog post — as a blogger myself, I am well aware — you could have pointed readers to some of the citations I gave, as important instances where the NIV2011 yielded to the criticisms of the TNIV. If you care, you can go to my blog, scroll down a few posts, and read my review of the new NIV. I share your concerns, Si. We’re both complementarians, and we both care about how a translation can shape the beliefs and praxis of the church. Thus, I could not endorse the TNIV, but I am quite willing to endorse the new NIV.

    • says

      Kevin, I understand where you are coming from, and appreciate your desire to emphasize the improvements that the NIV 2011 has made over the TNIV. You are right; I could have done a better job of showing this in my post. Although, I think we are coming at an assessment of the NIV 2011 in two different ways. You seem to primarily compare the NIV 2011 with the TNIV, and correctly recognize the improvements that the NIV 2011 has made. In your mind, these improvements are significant enough to overlook the NIV 2011’s imperfections. In contrast, my primary comparison is between the NIV 2011 and the NIV 1984. I focus on this comparison mainly because Biblica is trading in the old 84, for the new an improved model. Yes, in reality Biblica is trading in the 84 and the TNIV to boot, but most evangelicals don’t care about the TNIV. They want their NIV, and their NIV is about to radically change for better or for worse. So my main question is, “What is the main difference between the NIV 1984 and the NIV 2011?” This is the question I think NIV readers need to ask. What I am trying to do in this post is help to answer that question. If we forget the TNIV for a moment, the answer is obviously a gender-neutral Bible translation philosophy. The NIV 1984 is far more gender-specific than the NIV 2011, and NIV readers need to know what they are losing and gaining. Ultimately, I think NIV readers will lose clarity in the text just because a gender-neutral translation philosophy has been adopted. I can deal with poor translations of individual verses and still recommend the translation as a whole, because these are hopefully unintentional communication errors and more limited in scope. In contrast, a translation philosophy that obscures the meaning of the text and is not limited in scope, but runs throughout all of the translation is more difficult to embrace. This is especially true when the trade off is gender-neutral language. Is our culture really incapable of understanding gender-specific language? Do we really gain that much when we turn “he” into “they?” When Jesus says, “No one can come to me unless the Father who sent me draws him” (John 6:44 ESV), do women really think that only males can be drawn? The advantage of gender-neutral language does not seem to be in conveying more meaning, but in offending less. While gender-neutral Bible translations may be less offensive to our culture, they also tend to make the text less clear in a number of ways. I just don’t see this as a valid or good trade-off, and in the end we lose more than we gain. If you could take away the gender-neutral translation philosophy from the NIV 2011, I would likely find it to be an improvement over the NIV 1984, and would thus recommend it as a reading/study Bible.

      I really appreciate your responses Kevin, and have enjoyed our interaction.

    • Dave Miller says

      I know no one in Hartford, but I hope you find someone. There has to be a Best Buy around there. Tell them Dave sent you!

  4. says

    I’m a complementarian and did not use the TNIV because of some of it’s gender-neutral choices. However, the NIV update has significantly improved those instances and I am comfortable with the translation choices that I’ve seen so far, even those listed in the article.

    One can make a case for not using the NIV, but gender-inclusive language should not be a part of that argument. There is no egalitarian agenda.

    The use of the generic masculine is on it’s way out in modern English. I don’t like the fact, I think it would be better for us to retain it, but the truth is that people are speaking and writing with it less and less. The point of a translation is to give us the text in the vernacular – not critique the vernacular and let everyone know how they should be writing and speaking.

    • says

      I do want to be clear: I’m not against arguing “this verse or that verse should be translated differently.” I’m all for that! I’m just saying there is no overarching egalitarian agenda. It’s just not true and adds unhelpful emotion and rhetoric to the discussion.

      I think the NIV Update stands up pretty well on a case-by-case basis. Even those places where I might wish they had translated differently, I can still see the case that could be made for the translation that was chosen (like the Ps. 8:4 example above).

    • says


      Correct if I am wrong, but these two statements seem contradictory: “I’m a complementarian and did not use the TNIV because of some of it’s gender-neutral choices.” And “One can make a case for not using the NIV, but gender-inclusive language should not be a part that argument.” Why was it acceptable for you to dismiss the TNIV on the basis of gender-neutral translation issues, and at the same time hold the position that gender-neutral translations issues should not be part of the NIV 2011’s assessment? You also seem to imply that I am critiquing the “vernacular” and seeking to reverse language trends by taking it out on the NIV 2011. If I am guilty of this, you are implicated as well in your critique of the TNIV. Though I get the impression that you would feel uncomfortable with endorsing the TNIV. And I assume your discomfort stems from the imposed gender-neutral translation philosophy that effectively obscures the meaning of the text throughout the TNIV. Like Kevin above, you seem to be content with the victories won by the NIV 2011 over the TNIV. I applaud these victories, but still recognize that there are numerous places in the NIV 2011 where gender-neutral language obscures the meaning of the text. Therefore, I am uncomfortable with the final form of the NIV 2011, because the original authorial intent is often inaccessible to the reader. And communicating the authorial intent into the vernacular should be the main purpose of Bible translation, even if this means that the translator has to selectively draw from the common language. It is one thing to say that people prefer gender-neutral language, and quite another to say people don’t understand gender-specific language. I really do not think we are at the place where gender-specific language fails to communicate to the people in our culture.

      Thank you for your reply.

      • says

        I’m not saying that gender-neutrality should be ruled out as a criteria for evaluation of any translation. I am saying the NIV Update is much better than the TNIV in this area and that the wholesale label of “gender-neutral” like the TNIV (probably deservedly) got is not warranted for the NIV.

        I think it’s terribly overstepping to say that “there are numerous places in the NIV 2011 where gender-neutral language obscures the meaning of the text.” You’ve given a few examples in the article, but in all but one of them I think it’s questionable that the gender-neutral rendering actually has “obscured” the meaning. (I buy the John 6:44 explanation, but the others I don’t think are as clear as you’d like them to be.)

        In fact, in Psalm 8:4, the gender-neutral rendering actually makes the text more clear in some ways – though you are right it obscures the ‘son of man’ connection. It’s a question of which aspect of the text do we want to emphasize… the original meaning of the Psalm or the NT connection… I’d even argue that their main reason for choosing the reading they did was not because of gender-language, but because ‘son of man’ is meant to imply human beings in Ps 8:4.

        The 2 Tim rendering was chosen to reflect the same ambiguity in English that exists in our understanding of the word itself. Moo has rightly pointed out that they pulled that reading from Mounce’s commentary (who is a complementarian) so it can hardly be said to have an egalitarian agenda behind it. In fact, the more I think about it, the more I think “assume authority” is the best translation I’m aware of.

      • Frank and Larry says

        Perhaps one can miss seeing the forest because of the trees.

        The bigger issue is not “when is gender-neutrality” helpful or not helpful. The issue is: when is it ever Biblical? The text is the text and should be given utmost respect. Interpretation is not the same as translation.

        The bigger issue for me is that the NIV is “culture-driven, not text driven.” That is made clear explicity in the forward, and the whole argument over gender-neutrality (a feminist idea introduced nearly two millennia later) proves they stayed true to their translation philosophy.

        Two much man in the NIV for me (no pun intended, but it does work well with the discussion).

        • says

          Just a thought…

          If a Greek word references men and women but is translated into English as men the Bible has not been correctly translated. This isn’t a cultural issue but rather a translation issue. Sticking to the generic use of masculine pronouns when English is generally no longer used that way is not commitment to the text but rather a fundamentalist clinging to an old way of speaking similar to some KJV-only advocates.

          • Frank and Larry says

            While I do not accept the perjorative description of a “fundamentalist,” I do hold to a different view than you in regard to what constitutes translation and what constitutes interpretation.

            What you describe is “dynamic equivalence.” What I prefer is “formal equivalence.” The problem with “dynamic equivalence” is that it becomes harder and harder to tell where translation stops and interpretation begins.

            I simply prefer for people to learn to do their own interpretation. I don’t think that means I am a “fundamentalist hopelessly clinging to some archaic, outdated, translation.” That’s your perjorative slant.

            I am not saying any person should be a “KJV only,” or a “Name-your-preference only” person. You are reading more into my post than I intended.

            Plus, the KJV is not the only “formal equivalence translation” available. It’s not an “KJV or nothing” world anymore.

          • says

            What I described is not dynamic equivalence. If a Greek word refers to both men and women, to translate it as men would not be an example of formal equivalence. In fact, it would be a mistranslation.

            It seems reasonable to me that translation involves finding a word or words in the receptor language that accurately reflect(s) the meaning of the word or words in the source text. In my example above, men would not be a good translation as it does not include women, at least in current usage of the word men.

            Regarding KJV-only, please note the word similar.

        • says

          Any translation is an exercise in interpretation. And I think you’ll find that almost all modern translations use gender neutral renderings in some places… ESV, HCSB, NLT, NET, Original NIV. I don’t know of any in the NASB, but I bet there are some in there if one were to take the time to look.

          • Frank and Larry says

            And, I agree that all translation contains “some interpretation” (choosing from a range of meanings for any foreign word).

            My point is “how much is too much?” Also, I am making the point that the NIV2011 is too much influenced by one particular problem in translation — gender. This is not a “textual problem,” in my point of view, but a cultural problem. The issue did not arise because of any “problem” of understanding English, but because of a push by a “radical group” of feminist. That’s a very different matter in regard to translation.

            What group will get the “translation nod next?”

          • says

            Frank and Larry,
            Gender does not involve a problem with the original text. The use of language is certainly influenced by culture including feminist groups. I suspect there are other words that have changed in meaning due to the influence of ungodly movements. For example, if I referred to Frank and Larry as being gay, how would (the vast majority of) modern readers understand that statement?

            Many words change meaning over time. In the last several decades the biggest change of which I am aware is the use of gender related words. Most pastors I read and hear today, including several associated with the CBMW, do not refer to brothers in Christ but rather brothers and sisters in Christ. They also regularly use third-person plural pronouns when referring to an individual whose gender is not specified.

            The updated NIV and the TNIV are not examples of a translation nod. Rather, they are examples of a translation taking into consideration the changes in meaning that have occurred over the past several decades. The translators should be applauded.

          • Frank and Larry says

            Stan, the problem I have with your reasoning is that “man” and “woman” pretty much have had the same meaning from the first century to now. Your example of the word, “gay,” is a completely different problem. The “word” itself has changed meaning.

            Also, your example of when a Greek word means, “men and women.” I’m not aware of a Greek word with such a meaning. For example: “people,” which refers to men and women, still should be translated people, not they. In fact, the whole idea of a singular “they” as used in the NIV and TNIV, causes confusion, not clarity. If the Bible wants to say, “they,” it does so. To say that God meant “they” when He wrote, “men,” requires interpretation. Your view is that translation “requires” interpretation. My view is that “interpretation” should be kept to an absolute minimum in a translation. Now, a paraphrase, that’s a different matter.

            I respect your right to your opinion, and I note that some of the difference between us is semantic.

            And, I did note the word, “similar,” as you intended to draw the connection to “KJV only fundamentalists” in order to strengthen your point. I don’t see any similarity and both those terms are perjorative in the broader evangelical community.

          • Frank and Larry says

            PS — Just since Stan brought it up . . . I am a pretty happy fellow, but not “gay.”

      • Dave Miller says

        (This is a response from Si Cochran to Brent Hobbs. For reasons we can’t figure out, the site will not let Si comment. He suspects that his boss is creating havoc, but I think his boss is a great guy who would never do such a thing! Anyway, here is Si’s response.)


        Thank you for your clarification.

        First, while I understand that you think me to be alarmist concerning the NIV 2011, I am not alone in my assessment. See the CBMW’s review as an example: I know there is not safety in numbers, and just because other people agree with you does not make your position right, but my argument should not be dismissed just because the NIV 2011 is an improvement over the TNIV, especially since I am not alone in raising these issues. I just don’t think it is a good argument to say that because the CBT relented and dropped gender-neutral language on a number of passages, that gender-neutral language no longer affects the NIV 2011 on large scale. Furthermore, the real comparison here should be between the NIV 2011 and the NIV 1984. The NIV 1984 is not consistently plagued with gender-neutral translations that obscure the text.

        Second, Psalms are often meant to have typological fulfillments as seen in Psalm 8:4 (see also Psalm 22 which points to Christ’s crucifixion). Yes there is a human reference in Psalm 8:4, but there is also a pointing forward to Christ. We know this to be true because the author of Hebrews interprets this passage messianically in Hebrews 2:6 and ff. The best translation of Psalm 8:4 allows the reader to understand both implications, and the NIV 2011 limits the option of interpretation here. “Son of man” language is used of humanity and of the Messiah in the Bible, and it is context and canonical intertextuality that determines the meaning. In Psalm 8:4 it means both, so both should be communicated.

        Third, I checked Mounce’s commentary, and he actually translates 1 Tim 2:12 as follows: “but I do not permit a women to teach or to exercise authority over a man, but [she is] to be in quietness.” The only reference to “assuming authority” that I found (and I did a search in Logos) was a quotation of H.S. Baldwin, who was giving the semantic range of meaning for “authentein.” If I read Mounce correctly, he is not advocating “assuming authority” as a preferred translation (If he did advocate for “assuming authority,” it is odd that this reading is not reflected in his translation), but is tracing the history of exegesis on this verse. If my understanding is correct, it is hardly the case that the CBT has referenced the support of a complementarian, since the complementarian in question is not actually supporting the reading.

        I really appreciate your dialogue with me.

        Si Cochran

        • says

          I understand the CBMW has chosen not to endorse the NIV Update… I like the CBMW, but I’m slightly suspicious that has as much to do with a preference and desire to advocate for the use of the ESV as it does with translation concerns.

          Call me a conspiracy theorist, but I get the sense sometimes that some people have decided the ESV is THE Bible to use and anything else is to be passed off as second rate. And all this while the ESV has some pretty glaring issues itself that people seem all to willing to ignore.

          On Ps 8:4, I would argue that “son of man” significantly obscures the human reference – most people would need a footnote or study Bible to bring out the point that “son of man” is MORE than just a messianic prophesy. It’s one of those where you almost need both translations side-by-side so that both meanings come through.

          I don’t have Mounce’s commentary to look at, but Moo states here ( ) that it’s Mounce’s translation, but he may have been mistaken on that point, as Denny Burk’s response raised the question and I don’t see an answer.

          Regardless of the reference, Moo did make the point that in order to have or exercise authority, it must first be assumed, which I think is a valid point and the reason I don’t have a problem with the translation. You could even argue that “assume” is stronger than “have” or “exercise”.

          You can have authority but never exercise it.
          You could exercise authority without having it (in any official, designated capacity).
          But you can’t have or exercise authority without first assuming it.

          I’m enjoying the dialogue as well.

          • Frank and Larry says

            Thanks for the link to CBMW. It made things a little easier for me.

            The Bible is such an important part–the important part– of living the Christian life that I am just not comfortable with a revision that retains over 30% of the TNIV. It is NOT a revision of the NIV, but of the TNIV. I think that is a bit deceptive in and of itself.

            The link referenced above shows clearly that the NIV2011 is “culturally driven” with a gender-agenda. That simply has not gone away and I cannot see any effectiveness in choosing a translation that seems to be in constant flux–and a bit confused.

            I feel they have snatched away from me a great Bible (NIV1984) and as I look to another 20 years in ministry (hopefully) I don’t want to have to keep fighting this battle. I want the new believers I am seeing come to Christ now develop a life-long relationship with a Bible they can trust. I don’t think the “NIV2011 through ?” is that Bible.

            The Holman Christian Standard Bible completely missed the boat with the Sermon on the Mount (among other long established passages) by rearranging the word order for no apparent good reason. There seems to be quite a bit of this in the HCSB, so I’m not happy with that.

            I feel myself being drawn back to the NKJV. It is clear and readable for congregation use. It is long established in its translation philosophy. It is readily accessible.

            Wow! Sometimes I wish I didn’t know as much as I do (which isn’t all that much). Life seemed so much simpler from behind the pulpit 30 years ago.

          • says

            I understand your concern, since it appears there is much love heaped on the ESV, and much disdain for the NIV these days. That being said, I really don’t think the CBMW is driven by a desire to exalt the ESV over the NIV 2011 through attack and critique. I know some of the prominent CBMW members, and that is just not their heart. Though there are likely many CBMW members who prefer the ESV, it does not necessarily follow that this is their motivation for refusing to endorse the NIV 2011. One argument against your assumptions would be the time and effort that the CBMW has spent proposing translation changes to the CBT. Through this effort, it does appear that the CBMW desires to see the NIV 2011 be the best translation that it could possibly be. They are not just telling the public to stay away from the NIV 2011 (or TNIV in the past), but they are also hoping the CBT takes their suggestions seriously. When the NIV 2011 reflected some of the changes over the TNIV that had been proposed by the CBMW (and others), the CBMW applauded those changes. I know you want to make sense of the NIV 2011’s lack of support by various individuals and groups, but I just don’t think your hypothesis is the answer. For me, and I think for many others as well, the prominence of gender-neutral translations throughout the NIV 2011 is the primary concern (even though these gender-neutral translations are less prominent when compared to the TNIV).

            On Psalm 8:4, I think we inherently differ on translation philosophy. You are right, the “son of man” is a phrase that is not common in every day American English usage, so it has the potential of being misunderstood. But this is why God provides the Church with pastors and teachers. Many biblical words and concepts must be explained for them to be properly understood. For example, Jesus says, “Love the Lord your God with all your heart and with all your soul and with all your mind” (Matt 22:37 NIV 2011). The American who reads these words will likely think that the “heart” only refers to the seat of emotion (because that is the way we use the word “heart” in our culture). However, the word “heart” is used in the Bible to encompass not only the seat of emotion, but also the intellect and one’s entire being. My position is that the Bible read apart from discipleship will likely result in a failure to grasp the actual or full meaning of the biblical text being read. What dynamic equivalence translations (and to a greater extent paraphrases) attempt to do is to offer commentary or more interpretation within the translation so that the Bible may be understood apart from discipleship. What you are saying, is that you prefer a translation that requires less knowledge about the Bible in order to be understood. So because most Americans would not understand the biblical dimensions of the “son of man” phrase, you prefer a translation that people will understand without as much explanation. On this surface, this sounds like a good idea, except that the Bible continually alludes to itself through intertextual allusions, builds theological principles, and advances the story of salvation history through exact words and phrases. I prefer to retain the biblical language as much as possible because I think it opens up the meaning of the Bible on a deeper level. For Psalm 8:4, all I have to do is teach people that “son of man” in Hebrew is literally “son of Adam.” I can then explain that the Bible uses the phrase in a few different senses. One, is the Bible understands that everyone is a son or offspring of Adam. This is the human reference. Second, I can explain that the Bible also uses the phrase “son of man” in a messianic sense. A son of Adam will be the new Adam and save God’s people as Israel’s messiah. Once people understand this, they can begin to connect the dots if they are reading a formal equivalence (or more word for word) Bible. If I teach people this and they are reading from the NIV 2011, then they will likely fail to make the connection, and the deeper meaning in the text will elude them. I want to be clear that I am not opposed to the use of dynamic equivalence translations or even paraphrases for certain aspects of Bible reading (I am also not opposed to the NIV 1984), but I think it advantageous for one to make their primary study Bible a formal equivalence translation.

            With 1 Tim 2:12, I understand your point, but my point is that the NIV 2011 is giving the egalitarian an option to translate this verse in accordance with their theological position (The translation “assume” carries many different connotations in English.). My point is, that Greek text does not warrant that option. At the minimum, it appears that the CBT is being sympathetic and very generous to egalitarians by giving them an option that no other English translation (to my knowledge) gives them. Not even the clearly egalitarian NRSV gives this option in 1 Tim 2:12.

          • says

            Frank and Larry, there is more I’d like to say than can be helpfully conveyed in a comments section format. A few quick thoughts:

            1. Yes the NIV Update is “culturally driven.” Any translation must be. The point is to bring thoughts and ideas and words from one culture (language included) into another. If we were unconcerned with culture, we could just as well have stayed with the King James Version.

            2. The only gender-agenda that exists is to reflect the way we actually use the English language today—not how we think it ought to be used or what was proper in grammar books 30 years ago. People today very often use gender-neutral nouns and pronouns whereas even 15 or 20 years ago most would have used the generic masculine.

            I’m firmly opposed to the egalitarian agenda, but I can separate that from what is becoming the normal way we speak. They are certainly related, but are not the same issue and they need to be separated to think through this question clearly.

            3. Don’t use the NKJV. Its wording is terribly awkward, it’s unduly wedded to some bad KJV renderings and the publishers (not the translators) insisted on keeping many textual readings which are blatantly inaccurate (1 Jn 5:8 being the most prominent and egregious example). I’d recommend the ESV if you’re looking for something that follows in the KJV’s footsteps. Even the RSV would be better than NKJV.

            Look here for more info in the KJV/NKJV textual questions:

        • says

          No, no, no, my friend! :)

          You said, “But this is why God provides the Church with pastors and teachers.”

          The job of a translation is to convey the meaning of words and phrases so that, as much as possible, we DON’T need pastors and teachers to help us read our Bibles. Pastors and teachers for biblical and systematic theology, yes! For understanding the unfolding plan of God throughout biblical history, yes! But not to read.

          It’s even a little scary for me to think that your translation philosophy says it takes a Bible plus a pastor/teacher (discipleship, you say) to understand the Scriptures. If that’s the case, why even translate?

          If I can’t understand an English translation without a teacher sitting beside me, then what makes it any better than shoving a Greek New Testament into my hands? I need a teacher to help me understand that was well.

          I know this sounds absurd, but I’m just pushing your translation philosophy to its logical conclusion. Obviously there is a difference, but it’s just in degree.

          The job of a translation is to move as completely as possible from one language to another. Of course teachers will be needed at a certain level, but the job of a translation must be to move that threshold as high up the ladder as possible.

          I’m not sure if I’m making that as clear as I want to… I’m just saying a translation should take care of lexical meaning, grammar, and sentence structure—and let’s leave the pastors and teachers to focus mainly on biblical and systematic theology, biblical background, and application.

          • says

            My translation philosophy is not “it takes a Bible plus a pastor/teacher (discipleship, you say) to understand the Scriptures.” In context, I am speaking of the need for discipleship in theological refinement and growth in Scriptural understanding. The point that I was making, is that dynamic equivalence translations often limit the reader from pursuing deeper levels of meaning within the text because they do not know the right questions to ask of the text. You say that the “son of man” translation of Psalm 8:4 will be misunderstood or “significantly obscures the human reference.” I concede that individuals might read “son of man” and not fully know the full sense of this phrase. But they will then have a question, and hopefully will pursue an answer to that question. This is where discipleship comes in. In discipleship, the Bible reader seeks the biblical understanding of others, and then filters the received teaching with Scripture itself (Acts 17:11). So Bible reading spurs on discipleship, and discipleship spurs on further Bible reading. In this process, the Bible reader will likely grow in knowledge and truth at a deeper level than the Bible reader who merely reads on his own and fails to pursue discipleship.

          • says

            Si, again I appreciate the comments and think this is very illustrative of different translation philosophies. (I hope this comment ends up in the right place, the threaded replies have come to an end, but it’s in response to Dec. 3 at 2:32 AM.)

            The Ps 8 passage is a perfect illustration of a no-win situation for translators. I think our discussion so far has borne that out. Either choice means that one of the two important components is going to be marginalized or eliminated.

            It still makes me uncomfortable that your preference is to give a translation that is less clear on the original meaning in order to point out an (admittedly important) prophetic connection. You say that the “son of man” translation would cause people to have questions and then they will hopefully pursue an answer.

            I still think there’s blatant fallacy in that kind of thinking… People will have a TON of questions if they read the KJV—so why no recommend that translation and so promote teacher interaction and discipleship?

            The point of a translation must be to make the original meaning as clear as possible, while aiming to preserve intertextual connections when and by the best means possible (sometimes a footnote is the best we can do).

            There are intertextual connections that could be made much more obvious in our English translations literally ALL OVER the Bible… if we were willing to sacrifice an accurate translation to make those connections. This is a borderline example, I’ll agree. But I think it’s telling that this is one of the most blatant examples you noted in your article—and I hope this discussion has at least shown that it’s not a slam-dunk case that the NIV translators made a bad decision here.

          • says


            Thank you for your continual dialogue. I would like to provide some points of clarity on my position, as well as explore the implications of your position.

            I disagree with your statement, “The Ps 8 passage is a perfect illustration of a no-win situation for translators. I think our discussion so far has borne that out. Either choice means that one of the two important components is going to be marginalized or eliminated.” In fact, there is a win-win situation: a translation of Psalm 8:4 that conveys both the human and messianic element. You do not have to chose one or the other, when “son of man” provides both meanings. The reality is that the translation “son of man” is a more literal rendering of the Hebrew “son of Adam” when compared to the NIV 2011’s translation “human beings.” In this case, the translation “son of man” is actually embracing the very words of Scripture. This is important because these words convey specific ideas that other possible translations fail to encompass.

            You say, “It still makes me uncomfortable that your preference is to give a translation that is less clear on the original meaning in order to point out an (admittedly important) prophetic connection. You say that the “son of man” translation would cause people to have questions and then they will hopefully pursue an answer.” First, you should be uncomfortable if I was actually saying that I prefer “a translation that is less clear on the original meaning in order to point out an (admittedly important) prophetic connection.” This is not my point. My point is that your translation philosophy believes that biblical language must be interpreted by the translator in order for the Bible to be understood. I dispute this claim, and believe that your position actually makes the Bible less clear in the long run. This is a classic example of “what the Bible means” vs. “what the Bible says” (See The dynamic equivalence translation philosophy holds that the translator is responsible not just for translation, but also interpretation (A translation is nothing less than a commentary on the Bible). Here, the translation ideal is to communicate the point of the verse into the receptor language. This is in opposition to a formal equivalence translation philosophy, which attempts to accurately represent what the Bible says. Second, I did not say “that the “son of man” translation would cause people to have questions.” What I said was that “I concede that individuals might read “son of man” and not fully know the full sense of this phrase.” “Might” implies potentiality, whereas “would” implies actuality. The “son of man” phrase is not as limiting as you might think.

            We both want a Bible translation to be as clear as possible. We disagree on how this clarity is achieved. I think the unintended implications of a dynamic equivalence translation philosophy is that it often makes the text less clear. The dynamic equivalence translator seeks clarity by eliminating biblical language for general meaning. The argument goes that since people will not understand biblical language, we must interpret it for them. In the NIV 2011‘s translation of Psalm 8:4, the biblical language “son of man” is traded in for one of meanings of this phrase: “human beings.” So now everyone who reads this translation will know that Psalm 8:4 has a human element. But at the same time, many will be unaware of the messianic element because the translation “human beings” does not allow for a messianic reading. You say that not everyone will understand the “son of man” language, and you use that premise to argue that “humans beings” is a better translation of Psalm 8:4. But you have admitted that “human beings” takes away the messianic element. So you have made one thing clear (the human reference), and one thing obscure (the messianic reference). The translation “son of man” makes both things clear, though has the potentiality of being misunderstood. But is this not the case of all the Bible. Remember what Peter says concerning Paul’s writings, “Paul also wrote to you according to the wisdom given him, as he does in all his letters when he speaks in them of these matters. There are some things in them that are hard to understand, which the ignorant and unstable twist to their own destruction, as they do the other Scriptures” (2 Peter 3:15–16 ESV). So if a translator translates what the Bible says and it is misunderstood, is this really the fault of the translator? In contrast, when the translator obscures the meaning of the biblical text, that would be his fault.

            What kind of clarity is the dynamic equivalence or paraphrase translation providing? Suppose someone reads Romans for the first time in the Message Bible. If this individual said after reading Romans, “I completely understand Paul,” would his assessment be accurate? Perhaps the reader has a general understanding of Romans, but it is unlikely that he fully understands every nuance of Paul’s argument. So the question becomes, “What does the reader fully understand about Romans?” The answer is that the reader fully understands Eugene Peterson’s interpretation of Romans. Peterson has made his interpretation clear, and the reader understands his interpretation. However, understanding Peterson’s interpretation is not the same thing as understanding the Bible. This is just like the congregation who may understand the preacher’s interpretation of a passage during his sermon. It does not necessarily follow that the congregation, at the same time, understands the Bible. We know this, because different pastors say different things in different pulpits on the very same text of Scripture. Thus, understanding the preacher is not the same as understanding the Bible. In the same way, understanding the interpretation one find’s in a translation is not the same as understanding Scripture. Though all translations involve some amount of interpretation, formal equivalence translations contain less interpretation and more conveying of actual words and phrases. This I find to be preferable, especially since the Bible is also meant to be read in community and through the process of discipleship. Though reading the Bible on your own is an important aspect of the Christian life, so also is reading the Bible together as the body of the Christ.

            Concerning Psalm 8:4 and the CBT, I think is interesting to see the transformation that has taken place. In Psalm 8:4 and Hebrews 2:6, the NIV 1984 chose to use the ?“son of man” phrase. The TNIV changed both of these references to “human beings.” The NIV 2011 kept the “human beings” in Psalm 8:4, and changed Hebrews 2:6 back to “son of man.” I believe my original critique is still valid, since it appears that the CBT prefers to use gender-neutral language as much as possible. Though I applaud their recognition that “human beings” completely obscures Hebrews 2:6, they still fail to grasp the fact that they have muted the messianic element of Psalm 8:4. This is significant, since the Bible is ultimately about Christ.

          • says

            We may be at am impasse on Ps 8:4. I absolutely do not believe that anyone reading English today would interpret the singular “the son of man” to mean ‘all of mankind’ or ‘humanity’. In Old English, yes. In the Chronicles of Narnia, yes. Modern readers? Not without a footnote or explanatory comment.

            I think I understand the point you’re making with the value of formal equivalence—I just don’t think it reflects the reality of the situation. Sounds good in theory, but it really is not an either/or question when it comes down to actual practice.

            Any translation is going to have to use a certain amount of dynamic equivalence. All translations have to do some interpretation. I think it’s much more helpful to think of the question as one of degree, or a sliding scale, rather than as either one or the other.

            In fact, with a translation like the ESV, I would argue that in many areas they’ve gone way too far in trying to be formally equivalent. So much so that they actually end up with English nonsense. I mean real actual rendering that make no sense whatsoever.

            Take Acts 8:23: “For I see that you are in the gall of bitterness and in the bond of iniquity.” huh?

            Or Acts 9:28: “So he went in and out among them at Jerusalem, preaching boldly.” Sure reflects, Greek idiom well, but terribly unclear in English.

            Rom 9:7: “Through Isaac shall your offspring be named.” Very literal, but the verse is most certainly not about naming.

            Phil 4:12: “I know how to be brought low, and I know how to abound.” Severely misses the meaning.

            Josh 10:6: “Do not relax your hand from your servants.”

            (These and many more available at )

            If the ESV started of with the goal of being formally equivalent, then I guess you could say they’ve succeeded. But if they wanted to produce an understandable translation, then these are a few examples of where they’ve fallen far short.

            It won’t do to say formal equivalence is better. One of the jobs of translators is to decide when it simply won’t do to bring foreign language over word for word into English. It really is a question of more or less and evaluating the tradeoff in each instance. There just is not as much value as some people make it sound in the “literalness” of a translation.

  5. Christiane says

    The Bible itself records an incident where Scripture is translated from one language to another:

    One of the earliest known ‘translations’ of Holy Scripture is found in the Bible: where Nehemiah ‘translates’ orally to the people, as he reads from the Book of the Law written in Hebrew, and translates it for them orally into the Aramaic language, so they could understand it’s meaning.
    Why did Nehemiah need to translate?
    Some of the Jews present did not know Hebrew (Neh 13:24), having grown up in Babylon and elsewhere — away from Jews who were fluent in the Hebrew language. So Nehemiah translated it from the Hebrew language into Aramaic, the common language of the Persian Empire, which explains how all the people could then understand.

    As one of the ‘guardians’ of the Holy Scriptures, it is likely that he did not add or subtract from the original meaning in anyway, which would have been forbidden, and is still forbidden.

    So, ‘translation’ is mentioned in the Bible: from Hebrew into Aramaic, in the days of Nehemiah. What is also important to see in that Chapter 8 of Nehemiah, is the profound respect of the people for what they were hearing. And their gratefulness.

    • Dave Miller says

      Nehemiah 13:24 says nothing about translating the scripture. In that passage, Nehemiah confronts Jews who have intermarried with Canaanites. In verse 25, we see this, “And I confronted them and cursed them and beat some of them and pulled out their hair. And I made them take oath in the name of God, saying, “You shall not give your daughters to their sons, or take their daughters for your sons or for yourselves.”

      Nehemiah was not translating scriptures into anyone’s language. He cursed the people who had intermarried and pulled out their hair. No mention of translating into Aramaic there.

      I see nothing in Neh 8 either about translation into Aramaic. Aramaic was a common language in that day, and portions of the Bible are written in Aramaic instead of Hebrew (though the languages are very similar).

      I’m not sure where you get the idea that Nehemiah translated God’s word into Aramaic? I can find no justification in the text for your assertion in either of the texts you mentioned.

      What is your textual basis for saying that Nehemiah translated the scriptures to Aramaic?

      • Christiane says

        Hi DAVID,

        Source was Wesley’s Notes on Nehemiah.
        I have also read about this in other studies, so it apparently is not something specific to Wesley. (?)

        “8:7 Understand – As well the words, which being Hebrew, now needed to be translated into the Chaldee or Syriack language, now, the common language of that people, who together with their religion, had also in a great part lost their language; as also the meaning of them: they expounded the mind and will of God in what they read, and applied it to the peoples present condition. Place – That is, In their several places and stations into which the company seems to have been distributed for conveniency of hearing; it not being likely that so vast a congregation could distinctly hear one man’s voice. Or, by their stations, that is, by the several stations of the Levites, and persons last named; who seem to have had several scaffolds, by comparing this with chap. 9:4 , upon which thy stood, as Ezra did upon his pulpit, ver. 8:4 .
        8:8 They – Ezra and his companions successively. Sense – The meaning of the Hebrew words, which they expounded in the common language. Thy gave – So they gave them both a translation of the Hebrew words into the Chaldee, and an exposition of the things contained in them.”

        Another study site mentioning this, I have already given
        (to Si Cochran, in my comment to him Comment 5):

        where it says, if you scroll way down toward the ending, this:
        “The first stage of inculturation consists in translating the inspired Scripture into another language. This step was taken already in the Old Testament period, when the Hebrew text of the Bible was translated orally into Aramaic (Neh. 8:8,12) and later in written form into Greek. A translation, of course, is always more than a simple transcription of the original text. The passage from one language to another necessarily involves a change of cultural context: Concepts are not identical and symbols have a different meaning, for they come up against other traditions of thought and other ways of life.”

        DAVID, have you never heard about this before, or do you think that my information may be incorrect? Let me know.

          • Dave Miller says

            what you are seeing in the footnote there is a potential alternate translation of the phrase. “Making it clear’ could mean translating.

            But that is a far cry from any kind of formal translation process.

        • Dave Miller says

          I think whoever wrote for EWTN above is trying to impose a point on scripture rather than simply interpreting scripture.

          • Christiane says

            Actually, the article comes from the Vatican’s Pontifical Biblical Commission. EWTN is just a television station with a library of Vatican resources.

            by the Pontifical Biblical Commission
            and was published in 1994 and in its introduction, this:

            “The Pontifical Biblical Commission, in its new form after the Second Vatican Council, is not an organ of the teaching office, but rather a commission of scholars who, in their scientific and ecclesial responsibility as believing exegetes, take positions on important problems of Scriptural interpretation and know that for this task they enjoy the confidence of the teaching office. Thus the present document was established. It contains a well-grounded overview of the panorama of present-day methods and in this way offers to the inquirer an orientation to the possibilities and limits of these approaches.

            Accordingly, the text of the document inquires into how the meaning of Scripture might become known—this meaning in which the human word and God’s word work together in the singularity of historical events and the eternity of the everlasting Word, which is contemporary in every age.
            The biblical word comes from a real past. It comes not only from the past, however, but at the same time from the eternity of God and it leads us into God’s eternity, but again along the way through time, to which the past, the present and the future belong.”

      • Christiane says


        “8:8 They – Ezra and his companions successively.
        Sense – The meaning of the Hebrew words, which they expounded in the common language.
        Thy gave – So they gave them both a translation of the Hebrew words into the Chaldee, and an exposition of the things contained in them.”

        Joe, ‘Chaldee’ is the same dialect as Aramaic

        • says

          I read it below. Wow, that certainly settles it, huh? I mean, it’s not like they couldn’t have known Hebrew as a primary or second language. That just isn’t possible. L’s has spoken.

          By the way, I’m not sure if you can tell, but the above was me mocking you. Having sources is not the same thing as proving something.

          • Christiane says

            Here’s an interesting site, JOE:


            scroll down to this section: Literature and language

            “One of the more important developments of the Persian period was the rise of Aramaic as the predominant language of Yehud and of the Jewish Diaspora. Originally spoken by the Aramaeans, it was adopted by the Persians as the lingua franca of the empire, and already in the time of Ezra it was necessary to have the Torah-readings translated into Aramaic to be understand by Jews.”

          • Christiane says

            JOE, don’t you like to debate and dialogue about a topic ?
            I think it’s fun. Maybe we disagree, but that’s okay, too.

          • Christiane says

            Seems to me to be an awful lot of negative ‘mocking’ and ‘put downs’ lately. Maybe the holidays get to people, Joe. But it could be so much better if people did dialogue respectfully and debate issues using sources and share ideas.

            Joe, that ‘mocking’ thing and all that ‘negative’ is kind of boring and immature. It’s just not ‘interesting’.

  6. Frank and Larry says

    Brent, in regard to your post above (#32). I totally understand they problem with some of the NKJV language. I also see great value in the ESV tradition. I need to explore the ESV a little more.

    This thread has been helpful in that I am currently getting to the point of leaving the NIV, but I’m not sure where I’m headed. Personally, I work from the Greek New Testament and struggle through the BHS OT. So, my issue is not with my personal Bible but with what I recommend to others.

    Again, thanks for your insight. Duly noted and greatly appreciated.

    • says

      Frank, I understand where you’re coming from, as I can work in the languages and use tools to help me understand without being tied to any one translation. I think we’re coming from the same perspective there. It comes down to what do I preach from and recommend to others like you.

      I really like the ’84 NIV and my ideal would have been for them to update it while leaving the gender issue completely alone. Most of the other changes are excellent.

      I think you would be happy with the ESV. It would probably be my second choice but I have enough reservations about it that I’m not comfortable making the switch there either. And the HCSB, as you mentioned above, is interesting and good in many ways but also quirky and, IMO, not ready for prime time.

      My plan is to stay with the ’84 NIV for at least the next few years and continue to evaluate and decide. If I had to choose right now, I’d pick the NIV Update with some reservations.

  7. Christiane says

    One of the most famous (and controversial) incidents in the history of the translation of the Holy Scriptures, at the time of the Reformation, revolves around Martin Luther’s addition of the German word ‘allein’ (alone) to his German translation in the Book of Romans.

    Here is some back-up on this incident:

    from ‘An Open Letter on Translating
    By Martin Luther, 1530′, this:
    “But I will return to the subject at hand. If your papist wishes to make a great fuss about the word sola (alone), say this to him: “Dr. Martin Luther will have it so.”
    (in German, it reads: “Wenn ewer Papist sich viel unnütze machen wil mit dem wort (Sola / Allein) so sagt ihm flugs also / Doctor Martinus Luther wils also haben.”)

    Where is Luther’s famous addition found?

    “Luther added the word ‘alone’ to his translation of Romans 3:28,
    (Luther’s German translation:
    “[3.28] So halten wir nun dafür, daß der Mensch gerecht wird ohne des Gesetzes Werke, allein durch den Glauben.”
    [In English, translated, it reads:
    “Therefore we conclude that a man is justified by faith alone without the deeds of the law.”]

    Today, most translations of Romans 3:28 have removed Luther’s word ‘allein’ (alone), and that text is now properly translated.

    Luther had difficulty with about four of the books of the New Testament, and removed them to the BACK of his German Bible. His followers, after his death, replaced those books to their proper positions in the NT canon. Among them was the book of St. James.
    Luther had thought that the book of James contained material that was not in support of his doctrine on the ‘solas’.

      • says

        Related to the post, note that the ESV translated ?????????? as one, a gender-neutral (or accurate) pronoun. They changed what had been translated as man in the KJV and NIV (1984).

        I’m just saying… 😉

        • Dave Miller says

          …from the law of sin and death. (Romans 8:2)

          The point of that passage is not just that Christ provides freedom, but that he provides freedom from the condemnation our sin brings when we seek him apart from the works of the law.

          Context is crucial.

          • Christiane says

            There is a certain saying of my faith:
            “”The one who has hope lives differently;
            the one who hopes has been granted the gift of a new life.”

          • Dave Miller says

            My point is simple, Christiane. When you deal with scripture, it is important to put the snippet you use in the context. When you pull part of a verse out of the whole, it can give a false idea of the intent of the passage.

            I think the way you used part of a verse above was in danger of missing the true meaning and import of the passage.

            Next, you will be finding scriptures that teach that kittens are not evil.

          • Dave Miller says

            The point of the passage you referenced is that hope and freedom only come through the blood shed on the cross.

          • Christiane says

            God loves kittens, DAVID. :)

            The Book of Romans always makes me think of St. Augustine’s words:
            “‘Christ died for all, that those who live might live no longer for themselves but for Him, who for their sake died’
            To live for Him means allowing oneself to be drawn into His Being for others.

  8. Christiane says

    No DAVID, not heresy. God loves all creatures great and small.
    I give you Psalm 104, a great song of praise to Our Creator.
    Nothing lives but that God wills it and gives it life, and sustains that life.
    On one level, the Spirit (or wind) of God is the fall and winter rains that provide food for all creatures. On another, it is the Breath (or Spirit) of God that makes beings live.

    A kitten is loved. Like dear JOE says, ‘deal with it’. :)

  9. Richard says

    I don’t know where to begin! I understand the importance of correctly translating the scriptures, but I believe we are being a little to picky here.

    Your reference to John 6:44, for example, and the word “them” just doesn’t measure up. The 2011 verse is worded exactly how we as people speak today! The verse is speaking in third person, so the word “them” is 100% appropriate. You seem to insinuate that people are really dumb by thinking that they will think “them”, in this particular sentence, refers to a group of people instead of the singular “them” – the “one” referenced in the start of the verse. I believe you are being really, really, picky over wording that means the same thing.

    Your other reference was 1 Tim 2:12 and the difference between “have authority” or “assume authority”. If anything, the verse as written with “have authority” reads as if a woman is to have NO authority over a man, not that she can only be authoritative with that which has been given to her.

    This sort of thing is what is derailing Southern Baptist today! No wonder we are having the lowest number of baptisms in years, we can’t get along and we nit-pick every single little item as if it is a major theological issue – it isn’t!

    Show me a verse that says homosexuality is ok, or that Mary Magdeline was a lover not a follower, etc., etc., and you’ll see me leading a revolt… but whether we use a singular “them” or a “him” (which isn’t the way we talk today) is not of a high concern and only causes conflict and separation between christians and non-christians.