Ding Dong the Witch is Dead: TNIV is gone gone gone!

Is there any doubt from the title of this post that I don’t exactly have great feelings of sadness for the demise of the TNIV?  It is perhaps not so appropriate to call the TNIV “the witch” since it is a “faithful and scholarly translation” but there you have it.  There are others for whom the TNIV has been an important resource for their own lives and ministry and they are sad to see it go.  Daniel writes:

As someone who communicates from the Bible on a weekly basis, I have found the TNIV to be a faithful, accurate and scholarly update to the best-selling NIV translation many of us grew up with.

Well  God bless him.  Eugene Cho also is lamenting its demise. I personally have used the TNIV on occasion (usually because there was no other option available) but have never purchased one and wouldn’t unless I had no other option.  I was opposed to its publication for a number of reasons, not the least of which was the gender inclusive language.  From Christianity Today:

“Whatever its strengths were, the TNIV divided the evangelical Christian community,” said Zondervan president Moe Girkins. “So as we launch this new NIV, we will discontinue putting out new products with the TNIV.”

Girkins expects the TNIV and the existing edition of the NIV to phase out over two years or so as tniv-study-bible_0products are replaced. “It will be several years before you won’t be able to buy the TNIV off a bookshelf,” she said.

“We are correcting the mistakes in the past,” Girkins said. “Being as transparent as possible is part of that. This decision was made by the board in the last 10 days.” She said the transparency is part of an effort to overhaul the NIV “in a way that unifies Christian evangelicalism.”

“The first mistake was the NIVi,” Danby said. “The second was freezing the NIV. The third was the process of handling the TNIV.”

I have no quarrels with or suspicions about the motives of the scholars who did the work of translation for the TNIV.  I am certain (as certain as anyone can be about such things) that their motives were honorable and pure before God.  This is true even as it relates to the issue of gender inclusive language.

Doug Moo, chairman of the the Committee on Bible Translation (which is the body responsible for the translation) said the committee has not yet decided how much the 2011 edition will include the gender-inclusive language that riled critics of the TNIV.

“We felt certainly at the time it was the right thing to do, that the language was moving in that direction,” Moo said. “All that is back on the table as we reevaluate things this year. This has been a time over the last 15 to 20 years in which the issue of the way to handle gender in English has been very much in flux, in process, in development. And things are changing quickly and so we are going to look at all of that again as we produce the 2011 NIV.”

The “flux” to which Moo refers concerning the English language is actually overstated.  Neutered language is the norm in academic English usage and has moved  into common usage beyond the academy due mostly to rather aggressive efforts to mold popular use.  Unlike the evolution of the English language generally, the neutering of the language happened intentionally as a way to counter what were considered to be the oppressive patriarchal assumptions embedded in the language.

Why this gender thing matters, but not really

In so many ways, it honestly doesn’t. Though I am no Greek scholar, I am aware that in many places the language used is, in some ways, generic, that is, it does not specify gender, or more specifically, sex.  To neuter the original language in this way in order to conform to contemporary English usage norms makes a lot of good sense and doesn’t fundamentally challenge any doctrines of the church.

In other ways though, the neutering of language is quite significant as it says something powerful about how the church interacts with culture.   It is in fact only the newest manifestation of the church’s efforts to respond to and speak relevantly to a culture that is rapidly becoming post-Christan and into which the church’s voice as a culture shaping agent is less and less important.  The multiplication of English language translations in the last century is testimony of the increasing marginalization of the church in society and every attempt at relevance reinforces greater and greater alienation.  But more on that in a later post.  In the mean time:

Author: elderj

I was born the fourth child and third son of godly parents in Nashville Tennessee. After leaving home for college I got involved with InterVarsity, then graduated with a degree in finance. After that I got a masters in history. Nowadays I spend too much time reading, writing, thinking, and occasionally doing my job.

6 thoughts on “Ding Dong the Witch is Dead: TNIV is gone gone gone!”

  1. Love the title of your post, even though I’m coming from a different perspective 🙂

    I appreciate your questions about how the church interacts with culture. The last thing we should do, in my opinion, is capitulate to prevailing cultural trends in some effort to be “relevant.”

    For many of the people in my church community, the gender inclusivity is not an issue of broader culture – they simply hear phrases like “all men” to mean “all men (and not women). As someone whose calling includes preaching & teaching, I strive to communicate clearly – so, if Scripture refers to “all people,” then I want to relay that in a faithful, understandable manner.

    [An aside: Perhaps the way people in my church community hear “all men” has been shaped by broader culture, but many of them are coming from outside of the church. I can’t change what has shaped their past views but, now that they’re a part of our community, I want to point them towards Jesus and the redemption He alone can bring – including in areas of gender relations.]

  2. It sure is a good thing God made the Bible an open source document. We’ll get one we all like eventually.

    I’m being sarcastic.

    But does this make the TNIV the Windows Vista of Bible translations?

  3. I could probably go either way on this issue depending on what day it is, but one thought I have as I read this is that it makes sense that in a translation striving for word for word accuracy (ESV) that it would not neuter the language. but in a translation striving for thought for thought accuracy (NIV) it should neuter the language when that presumably fits. obviously there are still references to men that should be left alone as they actually are specifically referring to masculine homo sapiens.
    the “word for word” vs. “thought for thought” is a different argument for a different day but I would think each approach would tackle the gender language differently.

  4. Berry captured most of my thoughts RE: translation.

    But I have a question. Your title, and the majority of your post, sound like a lead-in to a long description of why you are glad the TNIV is dead and how terrible it is. However, that long description never happened. The post just.. ended. What happened?

    Honestly, I’ve been looking forward to someone I respect writing one of these posts, because so far I’ve enjoyed my TNIV, I’m surprised that it’s gone, and I’m even more surprised that people are celebrating. I get the “word-for-word vs. thought-for-thought” argument, but it doesn’t really seem to me that you’re making that argument–maybe I’m wrong. So, if you have time, why do you think the TNIV should be gone?

    The CT article made me think that the main reasons Biblica/Zondervan dropped TNIV were for the sake of bureaucracy, politics, and a desire for unity, and less about particular aspects of the TNIV itself. But I’m still sort of struggling to understand the entire thing..

  5. Zondervan dropped the TNIV for the same reason they published it: money. All of the argumentation about gender language aside, the TNIV was promoted as gender neutral in order to make a splash and to sell well. They did not succeed for the which I am glad.

    As to the larger points about my dislike, they will come later. My apologies for the abrupt termination of

  6. I find it interesting that much of the comparison of the TNIV is with the ESV. I contend the claim that the ESV is the best word-for-word alternative. There’s an agenda there as well, it leans reformed.

    Hope to hear more of the dialogue.

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