"Updated" NIV

When the TNIV (Today's New International Version) of the Bible first came out, I bought it upon the recommendation of a friend. He chose the translation for its readability, translation, and gender neutral language. I can't tell you how beautiful and freeing it was to read "brothers AND sisters"; "humankind" instead of "mankind." Finally, here was a good translation that included women and brought everyone together. (More on the TNIV at CBE.)

I was very disappointed when they pulled the TNIV out of print. The Committee on Bible Translation announced they would be retooling the NIV. My first thought was skepticism about the decision. I figured, as some reports suggested, that the CBT were caving to critics who didn't like the gender neutral language. But I was cautioned to reserve judgment until it came out.

The latest NIV was released recently and I am saddened by it. While it does, on occasion, still employ the terms "brothers and sisters", it also says "mankind". It's actually quite confusing. Turn to Genesis, and God says, "let us make mankind in our image." Turn to Acts and Paul says, "There we found some brothers and sisters." (The entire updated NIV is available and searchable on Bible Gateway.)

According to the CBT website, the committee itself is supposed to be comprised "of leading evangelical Bible scholars drawn from various denominations and from some of the finest academic institutions in the world." It is not, by any means, a diverse committee. There are 12 white men, one Indian man, and two white women (one of whom is the secretary). Out of the entire English-speaking world, the CBT is comprised of mostly Americans, a few British men, and one from India.  

The translator notes do not adequately explain their decision to change gender neutral language. Their first aim is to reflect "changes in English." Which, obviously, referring to humanity as "mankind" does not. According to my husband the English teacher, the Modern Language Association says "mankind" is no longer grammatically correct. Using "he" as a stand alone pronoun (instead of he/she or them) is also unacceptable. If anything, this goes backwards as far as the MLA is concerned.

The translator notes also state:

For this revision to the NIV, particular attention has been paid to external feedback in the area of gender language. As stated in the September 1, 2009, announcement regarding the planned update, every single change introduced into the committee’s last major revision (the TNIV) relating to inclusive language for humanity was reconsidered. Some were preserved, some were abolished in favor of the 1984 rendering and many were reworded in a third, still different way.
 In some cases, one could argue, the translation seems to favor more egalitarian understandings. In a recent USA Today article about the new NIV, the author quotes a complementarian seminary professor:

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.
 So I'm confused overall and a little dismayed. I'm glad to have the TNIV and that a few other reliable gender-neutral translations exist. Above all, I know God's Word speaks above human voices. So where people try to subjugate or leave out, God will include with love and justice.

See other articles from various perspectives on the issue of gender neutral language in Bible translations at Bible Researcher.

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I Don't Understand

Our pastor is a kind man who grew up in Sierra Leone. Tonight he recounted with grief the reaction of the Anglican church in England to women bishops. "Women bishops? They have a problem with this? With women preaching the Word of God? I just don't understand. I don't understand."

Well, I don't understand either why so many people oppose women preachers. Of all the things to be concerned about in the Church, why is it such a big issue?

In our small group tonight we discussed the broader meanings of the phrase "Thy will be done" in the Lord's Prayer. I noted that sometimes God's will can seem counter-cultural, even in your own church.

I gave the example of one church I attended, in which I discovered I had pastoral gifts. The trouble was, there were no female ministers in my church and the majority of the leadership believed women should not be on pastoral staff. I did not particularly feel called into the ministry, but I did want to nurture these gifts and see where they would lead. But if I had been called to be a pastor, I would have had to leave the church in order to lead.

The host tonight asked me how this felt. I said it was confusing. And after further reflection, I feel a bit betrayed. It was like some of the staff were patting me on the head, saying good for you, just don't get out of line. The host added that if in a similar situation he would feel oppressed. And I did.

It's hard to be honest about the deep ramifications of something like this, particularly when I have fond memories of this church and mean no ill will toward the staff. But I have to be honest in order to continue to heal.

I wanted to cry almost tonight, being in a room full of people who truly believe all people are capable and made in God's image. And when called, people should do God's will as preachers/pastors/bishops. Men and women.

So much energy the Church wastes on keeping people in their "proper" place! If all the sermons I've heard about what it means to be a "godly" (read: submissive, teach only other women, primarily wife/mother) woman had been spent on love and grace and justice, we'd be in a much better situation as a Church.

One woman tonight suggested that perhaps we had an impact at that church that we don't even know about. Maybe we were a pebble that created a ripple. And I believe we might have been. I'd rather be a boulder that smashes hierarchy. But I'll settle for the pebble, gently spurring a collective examination.

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