“New” NIV retreats to “old” language

USA Today reports that the Committee on Bible Translation, which translated the New International Version of the Bible, admitted that the revision released in 2002, call “Today’s New International Version,” was a mistake.

It was a mistake because they attempted a measure of gender-inclusion in their translation. For example, they substituted “brothers and sisters” where the New Testament writers used “brothers.”

Since its debut in 1978, the New International Version — known as the NIV — has been the Bible of choice for evangelicals, selling more copies than any other version. But a 2005 gender-inclusive edition bombed after being condemned as too liberal.

Translators hope their latest edition, which debuted online this month, will avoid a similar fate. They’ve retained some of the language of the 2005 edition. But they also made changes — like going back to using words like “mankind” and “man” instead of “human beings” and “people” — in order to appease critics.

It’s available for preview at BibleGateway.com, with print versions expected in March.

Wheaton College Bible scholar Doug Moo, head of the translation committee, said the group tried to create an accurate English Bible without ticking off readers….

“…We really tried to get it right this time,” he said. “We tried to be careful about not bowing to any cultural or ecclesiastical agenda. We also talked to anyone who wanted to talk to us.”

In 2009, the NIV accounted for 28% of Bibles sold in Christian bookstores. That was followed by the King James, at 16%.

USA Today says that the Committee, in making the last revision, broke a promise they’d made to James Dobson, founder of Focus on the Family, John Piper, pastor of Minneapolis megachurch Bethlehem Baptist, and other conservative pastors, not to produce a gender-inclusive NIV.

In response, Dobson accused translators of distorting the word of God.

So in order not to bow to culture, did the translators bow instead to a constituency? Is this a case of evangelical “political correctness?” Not so, says Moo.

“The whole idea that we want to make this constituency or that constituency unhappy is wrong,” he said. “You don’t do a translation that way. You don’t say ‘this will make the liberals unhappy’ or ‘this will make conservatives unhappy.’ Your job is to produce the most accurate translation possible.”

Moo disagrees. He says that the new version of the NIV is accurate. But he also admits that the committee did some research to see what words evangelical Christians — who are most likely to buy the new NIV — prefer.

In the “you can’t please everyone” department, a professor at Boyce College criticized the latest, more traditional version, for being too egalitarian.

Denny Burk, a professor of New Testament at Boyce College, a Southern Baptist school in Louisville, has complained about one change in 1 Timothy 2:12. That verse from a New Testament letter from the Apostle Paul, used to read, “I do not permit a woman to teach or to have authority over a man.” Now it says, “I do not permit a woman to teach or to assume authority over a man.”

The change from “have authority” to “assume authority” is huge, Burk argues. He believes that God gave men and women different jobs — and that women can’t be pastors. Burk says the new Bible sides with his opponents.

“It appears, therefore, that the NIV 2011 comes down on the side of egalitarianism in its rendering of 1 Timothy 2:12,” he wrote in a blog at BibleGateway.com.

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