March 25, 2023

Gender-Neutral Bible–NIV 2011

Bible Study 2
Bible Study 2 (Photo credit: DrGBB)

I didn’t like it when they did it to state and local Constitutions, and I don’t like it when they do it to the Bible.

What I’m talking about is the wholesale editing of an historical document to make it say something something that it hasn’t said and does not say for the purpose of political correctness.

In this case, I’m referring to the 2011 translation of the New International Version of the Bible.

The 2011 translation of the New International Version Bible, or NIV, does not change pronouns referring to God, who remains “He” and “the Father.” But it does aim to avoid using “he” or “him” as the default reference to an unspecified person. [New Bible Draws Critics of Gender-Neutral Language – CNS News]

Anyone who has read this blog over the past few weeks knows that I support modern translations as well as the traditional KJV. That being said, I am against translations that change the text for the purpose of social issues or to support a cult.

Why They Did It

Traditionally, in the English language the pronoun “he” can be used inclusively—as he or she; however, in the era of feminism, it is getting more popular to say “he or she” to show there is a difference.

Now, on the surface this seem to make sense.  I have sat in services where the speaker made sure that the audience understood that a command applied to women as well.  Usually this was for emphasis, since most of the commands of the New Testament, people understand, apply to both.

The Weak Argument for Keeping It

The article I linked above mentions that the main argument that groups like the Southern Baptist use is this:

“Evangelicals believe in the verbal plenary inspiration of scripture. We believe every word is inspired by God, not just the broad thought,” he said.

So if the original text reads “brothers” – even if that word in the original language is known to mean “brothers and sisters” (such as the Hebrew “achim” or Spanish word “hermanos”) – many evangelicals believe the English translation should read “brothers.”

But I believe this is a weak argument.  The speakers of the day did not speak English, and the traditional English is a translation, not the original.  Therefore, if the newer English were faithful to the text and body of the work, then I could support it.

The problem with this argument is that it opens up all kinds of sister arguments—much along the lines of those that hold the KJV Only position.  If changing from traditional text is wrong, how can you support the NIV at all with it’s (in my opinion poor) reading of “one and only Son” instead of “only begotten Son” in John 3:16?

A Stronger Argument

What I would use as a stronger argument is that this new rendering, while it might play to the more modern rendering of the English in politically correct feminine circles, fails to stay true to the nature of the historical work.

The culture and society of the Bible was patriarchal, and though there are group exhortations and passages that focuses on one or the other sex, the Bible was written primarily to males.  The speeches that were given were focused on males.

Although before God there is no male or female—as we learn in Galatians—the audience of the works of the Bible were to the males.  It’s clear from 1 Corinthians 14 that this is the case.

So, whereas these translators wish to “follow modern conventions” in the rendering of pronouns in order to appeal to women and feminists, they therefore cease to reflect the character of the books of the Bible by erasing their emphasis on the Divine Order, and water down the meaning, while adding nothing.

I don’t have a problem clarifying what words are inclusive or not, but I do have a problem making the text emphasize something that it did not.

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