Sunday, October 15, 2006

Why I Support the TNIV

I have heard a lot of bad press about the TNIV, Today's New International Version, and that is why I did not switch over from my NIV. However, after reading Perspectives on the TNIV from Leading Scholars and Pastors and specifically Dr. Darrell L. Bock's essay, "Do Gender Sensitive Translations Distort Scripture? Not Necessarily," I have realized that the changes the TNIV makes from the NIV are positive changes and lead to a more clear understanding of the biblical text. I have always thought that it was strange that many English translations of the Bible use male pronouns when the original Greek or Hebrew was referring to both men and women. Therefore, the TNIV makes these appropriate changes and is a more accurate and improved translation on the NIV. The TNIV is not a feminist translation by any stretch. Most of the translators hold to a traditional understanding of male elders/pastors, etc. In fact, many of the supporters of the TNIV are sound conservative and faithful Biblical scholars. I think that John Piper, Wayne Grudem, and the people connected to the Council on Biblical Manhood and Womenhood, in being rightly concerned about feminism in Christian circles are oversensitive and have picked the wrong battle. Its almost as if these people have established an "orthodoxy within orthodoxy" that will only lead to legalism and will divide the body of Christ. I think that I will make the switch to the TNIV (however, I will also consult other versions such as the ESV when I am studying a passage in English).

See those that oppose the TNIV:

Gender Netural Bibles (
The Gender-Neutral Bible Controversy: Muting the Masculinity of God's Words by Vern Poythress and Wayne Grudem (Nashville, TN: Broadman and Holman, 2000).
"Is the TNIV Faithful in Its Treatment of Gender? No." by Vern Poythress, Christianity Today.

See these essays and books that lend support to the TNIV:

The Inclusive Language Debate: A Plea for Realism by D.A. Carson (Baker, 1998).
Distorting Scripture? The Challenge of Bible Translation and Gender-Accuracy
by Mark Strauss (InterVarsity Press, 1998).
"Do Gender Sensitive Translations Distort Scripture? Not Necessarily," by Darrell L. Bock.
"Today's New International Version: The Untold Story of a Good Translation" by Craig L. Blomberg
"Is the TNIV Faithful in Its Treatment of Gender? Yes." by Mark Strauss, Christianity Today.
TNIV Website (

People that Support the TNIV

"The TNIV is more accurate than its remarkable predecessor, the much-loved NIV, while retaining all the readability of the latter. It is a version I can use with confidence, whether I am speaking at a university mission, or in a Bible conference anywhere in the English-speaking world. I am deeply impressed by the godliness, linguistic competence, cultural awareness, and sheer fidelity to Scripture displayed by the translators. Thirty or forty years from now, I suspect, most evangelicals will have accepted the TNIV as a 'standard' translation, and will wonder what all the fuss was about in their parents' generation — in the same way that those of us with long memories marvel at all the fuss over the abandonment of 'thees' and 'thous' several decades ago.
- D.A. Carson, Ph.D, Research Professor of New Testament, Trinity Evangelical Divinity School

“The TNIV is a fine translation whose goal of being sensitive to the English of its audience opens up the Word, especially to those who may not be familiar with Scripture. The use of alternatives in the marginal notes helps the reader see where the translation is disputed. It is clear, concise, and contemporary. In my book, that is three for three.”
- Darrell Bock, Ph.D. Research Professor of New Testament Studies, Dallas Theological Seminary

"It has never been easy to distinguish between a 'translation' and a 'paraphrase'. Translations tend to go for contemporary scholarship at the expense of contemporary language, whereas paraphrases tend to sacrifice accuracy for relevance. Today's New International Version is highly successful in combining both scholarly accuracy and linguistic relevance."
- John R. W. Stott, Rector
Emeritus, All Souls Church; President, London Institute for Contemporary Christianity;
Author, Basic Christianity

"The Reformers of the 16th century translated the Bible into the vernacular languages of their day so that 'the farm boy at his plow and the milk maid at her pail' could read and understand the Scriptures in their everyday speech. The TNIV stands in this same tradition. I predict the TNIV will have a shaping influence on the English of the future, even as it reflects today's contemporary idiom."
- Timothy George, Th.D., Executive Editor of Christianity Today, Dean of Beeson Divinity School

"The TNIV is an exciting translation for the present time. It is written in contemporary English and is completely accurate to the original languages."
- Tremper Longman III, Ph.D., Robert H. Gundry Professor of Biblical Studies, Westmont College

"The TNIV should become the standard translation of its kind. It incorporates many helpful and accurate updates in the most widely used translation of our time. I welcome it, will use it personally, and plan to encourage both new and advanced Bible readers to do the same."
- Dr. John Armstrong, President, Reformation & Revival Ministries

"The TNIV avoids the overly free translation of certain texts that previous gender-inclusive translations have included, while rendering gender-inclusive uses of "man," "he," "brothers," and the like with appropriate, contemporary English exactly corresponding to the meaning of the original Greek or Hebrew. Not to do this leaves a Bible that increasingly misleads the modern reader; as the father of two daughters I know first hand how this works! And I remain a complementarian with respect to gender roles; the two issues are quite separate."
- Craig Blomberg, Ph.D., Professor of New Testament, Denver Seminary

"As one of the more than one hundred scholars who labored to produce the original NIV, and one who strongly advocated the inerrancy of the autographic text of scripture, I would like to indicate my strong approval of the purpose of the TNIV and of its implementation of that purpose. . . . With the changes in the English language and with many women's tendency to read as exclusive passages which are in fact inclusive, the job accomplished here needed to be done."
- Roger Nicole, Ph.D., Visiting Professor of Theology, Reformed Theological Seminary

"The NIV took the late twentieth century church by storm. It has been the most readable version of the Bible in English. Today's NIV is even better. I recommend it warmly."
- Rev. Canon Dr. Michael Green
Senior Research Fellow,Wycliffe Hall, Oxford University

“I am thrilled with Today’s New International Version. The TNIV offers significant improvements in scholarship and in its use of English idiom. Without question, the TNIV is the finest English translation available at the beginning of this new millennium.”
- John R. Kohlenberger III, Bible scholar; reference book editor; author, The Exhaustive Concordance to the Greek New Testament


tomgee said...

First, I'll admit upfront that I don't have a TNIV Bible, so my thoughts come more from the TNIV's detractors than from my own experience with that Bible.

I think where I am concerned about the TNIV translation is not so much use of gender-neutral language, but the switch (in many instances) from singular to plural. Since English does not have a gender-neutral singular 3rd person pronoun (i.e. only "he" or "she"), the TNIV translators in several instances changed the text from singular to plural, that they might use the neutral English plural pronoun ("they").

For example, Hebrews 12:7 says:
"For what children are not disciplined by their parents?" in the TNIV, while the ESV renders this "For what son is there whom his father does not discipline?".

I would argue the latter is not only more faithful to the Greek text, but maintains the point of personal discipline from one Being to another, as opposed to a more nebulous and general idea of "parents" and "children".

(Besides, I like to use the ESV to check my Greek homework. :-) I'm often surprised at how closely the ESV is able to render Greek into English.)

Since any translation necessarily requires interpretation, there is certainly a spectrum of options between so-called "literal" and free translations. But I like a translation that makes as few interpretations as possible, even if that makes it a bit difficult to read.

So, personally, I love the ESV. In fact, if you compare the ESV to the NIV, the ESV is more gender-inclusive than the NIV (for example, rendering anthropoi as "brothers and sisters").

But, to paraphrase a well-known verse, in the approval of many translations there is safety. So I think multiple English translations should be used for in-depth study.

Of course, since you're a student with Gordon-Conwell, you know the great value of the original languges, which is terrific! Your description of that school, Nick, is part of the reason why I left Tyndale to go to Toronto Baptist Seminary, since they too have a strong focus on Greek and Hebrew.

Thanks for the great article, brother!

R. Mansfield said...

Great post, Nick. I, too, have been in the process of becoming a TNIV convert. And I also believe that the supposed controversy about this very good translation is a "forced" controversy and one that really doesn't exist except in minds of those making the claims. And it seems that most of those scholars with the loudest voices have mixed interests since they are on the committee for a competing translation.

Tomgee, I highly recommend you get a TNIV Bible since you don't have one!

By the way it's recently been demonstrated that the ESV also makes some of the very changes in person that you describe, all for the sake of clarity. See, for instance Hosea 2:6 and 4:19 and compare the pronouns in the ESV to the actual Hebrew.

And if you really want a shocker, check out the ESV's use of a "singular they" in 1 John 3:24.

Granted, this practice isn't done as often in the ESV as it is done in the TNIV, but it's there nonetheless which makes one really question the heavy-handed criticism from some ESV proponents against the TNIV when the ESV does the very same thing.

In reality, I don't fault the ESV itself for this. Whenever one translates to a receptor language, what's most important is communicating the message, not creating identical pronoun numbers. Going from one language to another will sometimes require this for sake of clarity in the receptor language.

tomgee said...

Oh, that's a good illustration. What a remarkable translation they give. I wonder why they didn't render it "he abides in him"?

R. Mansfield said...

Truly, I believe 1 John 3:24 is an oversight/typo in the ESV. See my blog entry on the subject:

Nick Hill said...

Thanks Tom and Mansfield for your comments. Sorry that this is so late; I have been up to my eyeballs in work for the conference I have been organizing: "At Risk: Bringing Hope to Hurting Youth" ( Tom, I agree that the translation of Hebrews 12:7 in the TNIV is unfortunate, and that the ESV offers a better translation, but I think overall, the TNIV is a good revision of the NIV, and to agree with you: "in the approval of many translations there is safety." Also, I am glad that I was an encouragement to you to pursue the languages at Toronto Baptist Seminary. I am so happy that you are taking the work of the ministry so seriously and are investing a lot of time and effort to understand the Scriptures in their original languages so that you can be sure that you are faithful in your exposition of the text before a congregation now at Grace Fellowship as a lay elder and in your pastorate in the future.

Mansfield, thank you for your insightful comment: "And I also believe that the supposed controversy about this very good translation is a "forced" controversy and one that really doesn't exist except in minds of those making the claims. And it seems that most of those scholars with the loudest voices have mixed interests since they are on the committee for a competing translation." Thank you also for much to think about. May God richly bless your important ministry of teaching the word of God to the people of God so that they are equipped to do the work of the ministry that God has called them to. I am thankful for both of you brothers.


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God bless you.