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July 14, 1999






Battle renewed over NIV update
___By Adelle Banks
___Religion News Service
___COLORADO SPRINGS, Colo. (RNS)--Two years ago, the International Bible Society was swamped in controversy until it canceled plans to publish a "gender-accurate" version of the popular New International Version of the Bible. Now, the Bible society has more quietly announced it has encouraged a Bible translation committee to work on a "gender-accurate" translation that will not be called the NIV.
___The late May decision, which has disappointed critics but is drawing far calmer reaction, is the latest chapter in an ongoing debate about gender language and the Bible.
___"The changes between the 1984 NIV and the text that could be released in a number of years are substantive enough ... it would be much more than a revised NIV," said Steve Johnson, communications director for the society, based in Colorado Springs, Colo. "Since we committed to freezing the 1984 text, they're not working on changes that would ever be incorporated into the NIV."
___The focus of the continuing work of the Committee on Bible Translation, which originally translated the NIV, is accuracy, not agendas, Johnson said. It will use NIV as a "building block" for the new translation, which is not likely to be published until 2003 or 2004.
___Among the kinds of changes being considered: Where the current NIV renders 1 Corinthians 11:28 as "A man ought to examine himself before he eats of the bread and drinks of the cup," a possible new translation could begin "A believer ought to examine him or herself before" eating the bread or drinking the cup, Johnson said.
___The IBS Web site, on which the change in approach regarding gender language was announced, notes there will be no change in describing God or Jesus Christ in male terminology.
___The NIV, a translation particularly popular in evangelical circles, was "frozen" after an agreement was hammered out in 1997 by the society, the holder of the copyright to the NIV; Zondervan Publishing House, the publisher of the NIV; and vocal critics such as James Dobson, president of Focus on the Family, and executives of the Council on Biblical Manhood and Womanhood.
___The agreement ended a controversy that began when World magazine, an ultra-conservative evangelical newsweekly, published an article harshly criticizing the IBS for what the magazine said were plans for a "unisex" replacement of the NIV.
___World magazine is not pleased with IBS' recent decision, according to an article in its June 5 edition, carrying the headline, "There they go again."
___Another critic of the new Bible translation proposal is Al Mohler, president of Southern Baptist Theological Seminary in Louisville, Ky. Mohler told Religion News Service he felt "a sense of betrayal" because the 1997 agreement seems to now have "no effect."
___But Johnson said the IBS has not changed its plans. "In 1997, IBS said we would not produce an inclusive edition of the NIV, that the 1984 NIV would stand forever. We haven't wavered from that one iota."
___Changes in gender language are only one of the ways the new translation will differ from the 1984 NIV edition, Johnson added. For example, verses about Jews plotting against Jesus would be changed to specify Jewish leaders, "referring back to Pharisees, not the entire Jewish population," he said. "It's attempting to increase the accuracy in the English interpretation."
___Since the 1997 decision, new scholarship has added to the debate. Two evangelical scholars, D.A. Carson and Mark Strauss, have written books discussing changes in gender language as a linguistic necessity rather than a response to feminist pressure.
___"The committee recognizes the desperate need for gender accuracy, that really the English language has changed significantly enough that the NIV is becoming rapidly out-of-date," said Strauss, associate professor of New Testament at Bethel Seminary San Diego in California.
___"Most every translation that's been done in the last 10 to 15 years has been gender-inclusive, just as a matter of course," he said. "The NIV is atypical."

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