Dobson, Piper, Sproul, and others launch anti-TNIV group
"One of the earliest translators, William Tyndale, was burned at the stake in 1536 for rewriting the Greek and Hebrew Holy Scripture in popular language," notes the St. Petersburg Times. Is history being repeated, it suggestively asks?
The men at the forefront of the battle against the Inclusive-Language New International Version (NIVI) in 1997 say Zondervan Publishing House, the International Bible Society (IBS), and the Committee on Bible Translation (CBT) have broken faith. Back in 1997, Focus on the Family president James Dobson called in representatives of the organizations along with opponents of the NIVI to sign 13 "Guidelines for Translation of Gender-Related Language in Scripture." Now Dobson and the anti-NIVI folks say Zondervan, the IBS, and the CBT are violating those guidelines by issuing the Today's New International Version (TNIV). (Sorry for the alphabet soup, folks.)
"To change the text of God's Word so that masculinity intended by the authors of Scripture is muted, and thus risk indirectly obscuring both the archetypal fatherhood of God … and the true identity of Jesus Christ, is to violate the Word of God; to do so after promising not to do so violates one's own word," the eight anti-NIVI men said in a press release Friday. "We call upon the International Bible Society and Zondervan Publishing House again to reverse their announced direction, thus keeping their word and God's."
The signers are Dobson, Tim Bayly (who in 1997 was the executive director of the Council on Biblical Manhood and Womanhood), World magazine publisher Joel Belz, Wayne Grudem (who in 1997 was president of the Council on Biblical Manhood and Womanhood), Charles Jarvis (then executive vice president at Focus on the Family), and theologians John Piper, Vern Poythress, and R.C. Sproul.
The men have also launched a Web site to counter the TNIV: KeptTheFaith.org. The Web site (operated by Bayly's Church of the Good Shepherd) suggests that the press release isn't just a one-shot deal—this may be the start of an anti-TNIV organization.
So far, Weblog hasn't seen a direct response to the press release from the Zondervan/IBS/CBT folks, but they've already answered many of the claims that they've violated their 1997 agreement. They say the TNIV is a more accurate translation than the NIV and better reflects today's English language. Furthermore, back in 1997 CBT chair John Stek told Christianity Today the group wasn't beholden to the guidelines. "They have no standing with us," hs said. "[If Dobson] wanted official representatives of CBT he should have contacted me."
The Christian Booksellers Association and Evangelical Christian Publishers Association are backing the TNIV (Zondervan is one of the dominant players in the Christian book market). "I was just at a trade show in Indianapolis where 5,000 people attended from 47 states and 21 countries and I did not hear controversy, but rather a readiness to carry this new TNIV translation," CBA president Bill Anderson tells the St. Petersburg Times. "The Bible is still the No. 1 best seller. I don't think that controversy particularly helps nor hinders Bible sales. If anything, it does create some talk or buzz amongst people and therefore increases awareness in the marketplace." ECPA president Doug Ross is similarly upbeat: "I think this new translation will enjoy very good sales. I think the translation is right where people would like it to be. … Publicity is publicity. Sometimes publicity creates a dialogue so that more people know it exists and want to see for themselves. The damage done is to the unskilled consumer who begins to question all Bible translations."
The anti-TNIV folks received some backing this week from a somewhat surprising source: The New York Times Magazine's Emily Nussbaum. "When you make literal changes for a readership that takes the Bible literally, you bump up against the fact that men and women in the Bible are not even remotely equal," she writes.
A truly gender-neutral interpretation of the Bible would quickly begin to fall apart at the seams—laws about rape or slavery rising up like invisible ink from ancient parchment. One solution, of course, is to reject the Bible entirely. Another is to regard it merely as a parable whose historical foundation can be ignored. But for anyone who wants to take religion seriously, neither solution truly suits. Instead, it seems necessary to confront the contradictions in the text—to keep the pronouns as they are and wrestle instead with the messy truth, like, well, manly Jacob with his angel. It's a more difficult task, but it's the only honest way out.
But Weblog isn't sure that the Council on Biblical Manhood and Womanhood will be touting their agreement with Nussbaum, editor of the erotica site Nerve.com.
One final note on the TNIV. A few days ago, Weblog noted that the CBMW had purchased a Google ad so that anyone searching for "TNIV" would come across their criticism of the translation. It looks like someone over at Zondervan reads Weblog—searches will now also see an ad link to the official TNIV site.
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