So the TNIV makes the news in the UK. It comes with 45,000 changes from the NIV. The translators have taken the step of removing words like ‘aliens’ and replaced it with ‘foreigners’ since young people think of extra-terrestrial beings. (I have to admit that reading ‘aliens’ in our family Bible reading has actually added to the fun of the occasion and has offered the opportunity of explaining that ‘aliens’ really were outsiders!)
Of course, the most controversial changes have been in the use of gender neutral language as far as possible. The reason for all of this is given at the Zondervan website:
For Zondervan, more people engaging the Bible more means reaching 18- to 34-year-olds with the Bible in compelling, innovative formats, all supported by the most readable and reliable translation for today’s generation—the TNIV.
In other words, it is a marketing ploy.
There has been great deal of scholarly discussion of the TNIV, and its predecessor the NIVI, but Vern Poythress of Westminster Theological Seminary writes:
The scholarly discussions have their place. We can debate about the meaning of this or that individual verse. But in the end, the differences in opinion do not arise primarily from scholarly technicalities. If there is any justification for the overall policy of the TNIV, it is a pragmatic one.
Clearly pragmatism, increasingly the dominant consideration amongst those who call themselves Christian, is winning out over the plain meaning of Scripture as delivered to us. Poythress concludes:
[I]t is not legitimate to drop some meanings out of the Bible itself, for the sake of acceptability. We must beware lest, in spite of our good motives, we end up compromising the word of God. We then end up implying, in spite of noble intentions to the contrary, that God made a bad marketing mistake when he wrote the Bible the way he did, but that fortunately we are here to help him out! No. Rather, let us respect what God has spoken in his Word, and let us not attempt to be wiser than God.
More on the TNIV debate can be found here.
2 thoughts on “TNIV Makes the News”
“the plain meaning of Scripture as delivered to us”But what is this? We’ve talked elsewhere about mistaking a particular translation of the Bible for “The Bible” – the “real” Bible is only the greek and hebrew. So, translation is always an attempt to render that original as closely as possible in English. Given that English changes all the time (and, as a professional editor, I face this problem all the time), no translation, however good, can possibly stand for ever as The Correct Version.
As for the issue you picked out of inclusive language – if it genuinely causes some people problems to read “men” where the meaning should be “people”, what’s the problem with changing it? There is nothing stopping you using your own preferred version; why should other people not use theirs?
Also, beware of believing that there is such a beast as “the plain meaning of Scripture”. All this usually means is “what I believe”. There are many places where there is genuine disagreement about what Scripture as a whole says on certain issues. For either side to say “You must be wrong because you are ignoring the plain meaning” is ignorant and arrogant. Far better to engage on the issue of how we read Scripture, how the written word reflects the culture of the writer, the reader and all intervening commentators and so on.
pax et bonum
I don’t want to minimise the problems you raise about translation. They are big questions and worthy of much thought and discussion. And I certainly would not stand in the way of using modern language, where warranted, to improve comprehension.
I just ask you to remember the context of the post. I was pointing to the issue of gender inclusivity in translating. In both greek and hebrew, ‘he’ means ‘he’, not ‘they’ or some other gender-neutral reconstruction. Here the meaning of scripture is plain. The same is true for other gender specific terms.
The point is that there is a policy decision that has driven the translation of the text, based largely on market share. This should worry us all, even if the product agrees with our prejudices.
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