The New International Version of the Bible (NIV) is a very weak translation, and the latest revision only makes it more so. “Gender neutral” or “inclusive” language has been a plague on liturgy, hymnody, and biblical scholarship for the better part of the last thirty years. It is the unhappy by-product of a creeping feminism which has dumbed down not only the manner in which the church speaks, but also the way it thinks about God.
Last year, the Southern Baptist Convention rejected the new NIV because of its use of “gender neutral” language. Last month, the Lutheran Church-Missouri Synod (LCMS) issued a report from its Commission on Theology and Church Relations Executive Staff, also urging rejection of the updated translation.
The updated NIV Bible has gained another critic: the Lutheran Church-Missouri Synod. In a recent report, a panel of Lutherans cautioned against use of the new NIV over gender-related issues.
“The use of inclusive language in NIV 2011 creates the potential for minimizing the particularity of biblical revelation and, more seriously, at times undermines the saving revelation of Christ as the promised Savior of humankind,” the Commission on Theology and Church Relations Executive Staff stated in an August report.
“Pastors and congregations of the LCMS should be aware of this serious weakness. In our judgment this makes it inappropriate for NIV 2011 to be used as a lectionary Bible or as a Bible to be generally recommended to the laity of our church.”
The New International Version is reported to be the world’s leading contemporary English Bible translation as it is known for being easy to understand. It was announced in 2009 by global ministry Biblica that the popular translation would be revised for the first time in 25 years.
The updated NIV (completed by members of the Committee on Bible Translation, an independent body of global biblical scholars that has the sole authority to update the text of the NIV) was released in 2011 and has drawn criticism largely over its revised gender language.
Critics include the Committee on Biblical Manhood and Womanhood and the Southern Baptist Convention, which officially rejected the revised NIV last year, saying it “alters the meaning of hundreds of verses, most significantly by erasing gender-specific details which appear in the original language.”
Conservative Lutherans are the latest to express caution against use of the 2011 NIV.
The Commission on Theology and Church Relations of the LCMS has long recognized that language evolves. It also acknowledged the intent of the Committee on Bible Translation to try to communicate the meaning of the Bible’s texts in English as it is used today.
But the commission took issue with some of the substitutions for masculine singular pronouns.
“While there may be many examples in which such substitution does not change the sense or inherent intent of the passage,” the commission reported, the approach is advised against because “of its potential to alter significantly the meaning of passages.”
Among the changes made in the updated NIV is the substitution of “he,” “him,” and “his” for “they,” “their,” and “them.”
As I have noted before, the translational inadequacies of the NIV are not limited to gender neutrality. As the leaders of more and more denominations issue caveats against its use in worship and study, they are protecting their flocks from a whole heap of bad theology.