Sola Scriptura…

…but which version? There are many, many translations out there. At issue is Today’s New International Version (TNIV), whose New Testament was issued in August 2001 under the sponsorship of the International Bible Society.

Firstly, I am not enthusiastic about new translations generally. That needs to be stated. I grew up with the King James Version; it has been my rock. In recent years however, I’ve come to prefer the NIV (1984 edition) for my everyday Scripture reading, and for study. Why? Simple. The updated English makes it is easier to understand and take in God’s truth. Does this make it a better translation than the King James? Yes, in that aspect.

No, however, if one is also reading Scripture as literature. In this regard, KJV is better. Is KJV therefore more fully the “word of God” than the King James? Not really. Both are imperfect translations of His word. As is the TNIV.

My Hebrew is limited; certainly not competent enough to read Scripture for deep meaning. My Greek is nonexistent. Thus, to read the word of God in the original languages is not an option for me. Like almost everyone else, in other words. So, long ago, I put aside any fanciful notions that any particular translation into English (or Latin or any other language, for that matter) is somehow, the “word of God.” As opposed to the imperfect renderings by God’s servants.

The first purpose for a Bible is to spread the Good News of Christ. Alright, the sceptic asks, what if that Good News is mistranslated so as to become a parody of God’s word? If it serves a political, as opposed to a divine, purpose? This is really unanswerable. Like much else, it is in the eyes of the beholder.

The TNIV stands accused of being inaccurate in its replacement of first-person masculine pronouns. Guilty as charged; I don’t especially like this, because it is not what was written in the original. Those pesky Baptists had this to say, when the Southern Baptist Convention not only rejected the TNIV, but forbade its sale in their bookstores (extracts from the SBC 2002 resolution re: TNIV):

The TNIV makes significant changes to the NIV, largely in the area of gender language; and…

WHEREAS, The translators erased these gender-specific details in two ways: (1) they eliminated gender-specific terms (changing }”father” to “parent;” “son” to “child;” “brother” to “fellow believer;” “man” to “mortals,” “humans,” or “those;” and “he” to “they,” so that gender-specific meanings are eliminated), and (2) they added gender-specific readings that are not found in the original text (such as changing “brother” to “brother or sister”) so that any gender-specific emphasis of the passage is eliminated; and

WHEREAS, This translation obscures significant biblical references to the person and the work of our Lord Jesus Christ by altering references “father,” “son,” “brother,” and “man;” and…TNIV has gone beyond acceptable translation standards; and…This translation alters the meaning of hundreds of verses, most significantly by erasing gender-specific details which appear in the original language; and

RESOLVED, That we cannot commend the TNIV to Southern Baptists or the larger Christian community.

There is also a significant collection of pastors and theologians who disapprove of TNIV; see the TNIV Response Center for details. Those who voice their objections do seem to be from the sturdier branches of the sola scriptura church, to be sure. Or at least the more conservative.

What I’ve read from the TNIV New Testament, frankly, doesn’t seem that bad to me. It just seems stilted and forced. It does not seem to alter the basic meaning, and one could get used to it. Consider this example from the Book of James, Chapter 2, of the progression from KJV to TNIV:

King James Version

1 My brethren, have not the faith of our Lord Jesus Christ, the Lord of glory, with respect of persons.

2 For if there come unto your assembly a man with a gold ring, in goodly apparel, and there come in also a poor man in vile raiment;


1 My brothers, as believers in our glorious Lord Jesus Christ, don’t show favoritism. 2 Suppose a man comes into your meeting wearing a gold ring and fine clothes, and a poor man in shabby clothes also comes in.


1 My brothers and sisters, believers in our glorious Lord Jesus Christ must not show favoritism. 2 Suppose someone comes into your meeting wearing a gold ring and fine clothes,and a poor person in filthy old clothes also comes in.

KJV is certainly more elegant. It also is a little difficult to immediately grasp the true meaning of the first verse, given today’s English usage. The NIV is less elegant, but crisp in its meaning. Finally, TNIV is less crisp. Brothers become “brothers and sisters”; “shabby” becomes “filty old”. The entire effect is only apparent to those familiar with the more traditional translations. The harm is that TNIV does some violence to the original translations — and, in some instances albeit not the extract from James, to their meaning.

Because of this, I will not use the TNIV, and if my church should somehow wish to use it, I would object. On the other hand, if it will bring more people to know Christ, then the TNIV will be a very, very, good thing.

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  1. TNIV is clearly not a “translation” but an “interpretation”. I won’t read it either. There are some paraphrased translations that are very useful-The Message, for example, but its not good for accurate Bible study. We all know that when Jesus said “My brethren” or “Brothers” that we was referring to all believers, not just male. The idea of Politically Correct Bibles frightens me….

  2. Personally, I read the NIV for all of my scripture study.However, in light of the fact that we live in such a politically correct society today, I would seriously question the translators’ motives behind changing all references to “man”, to words that are gender neutral. At the risk of being considered a “conspiracy nut”, I truly fear that their motives are far more sinister than just making the Bible more readable. Semantic infiltration can be a very dangerous thing. I would never use the TNIV for any study or casual reading (if there is any such thing as casual reading)of the Word.

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