A new bible translation makes a break with its predecessor. It uses plurals to avoid man and brother where the text is not gender-specific. It changes Jews to Jewish leaders in parts of John's gospel. But when the 1996 New Living Translation made these adjustments, hardly any evangelicals raised a fuss. In fact, they rushed to bookstores: the NLT now ranks fourth in Bible translation sales. The King James and New King James versions outstrip it, and the New International Version (NIV) sits atop the chart.
Today's New International Version, an independent update of the NIV (not a revision—the NIV will remain available), has not met with as much enthusiasm. "No one is authorized to treat the Bible like Silly Putty," said Southern Baptist leader William Merrell. People who objected to the British inclusive-language NIV in 1997 now declare that the changes in the TNIV "violate the Word of God."
Why so much anger against the TNIV? In part, we attribute it to the special place the NIV holds in the evangelical world. It was created, in fact, to be the premier evangelical Bible. Though many evangelicals applauded the Revised Standard Version, many others criticized it as theologically liberal. As Peter J. Thuesen wrote in his book In Discordance With the Scriptures (1999), "The NIV finally offered evangelicals an ideologically safe alternative to the RSV, despite NIV committee members' occasional denials that their translation was specifically 'evangelical' rather than simply faithful to the originals."
NIV's Continuing Tradition
Actually, being faithful to the originals was crucially important to the NIV's translators precisely because of their evangelical commitment to Scripture. All involved in the project had to agree that the Bible ...