Dr. Poythress assumes that the guiding principle behind the TNIV is to avoid offense. This is wrong. The guiding principle is to translate God's Word as accurately as possible. I am sure that Paul's condemnation of homosexual behavior, his commands for wives to submit to their husbands, and his assertion that the husband is the head of the wife are just as offensive in the TNIV as in the NIV. The TNIV does not update the meaning of the text, but communicates the original meaning in today's language.

Dr. Poythress is concerned about losing "details of meaning." So am I. This is precisely why the TNIV is needed. English has changed, so that when people read the NIV's man, many hear male instead of Paul's meaning, person. This is a significant loss of meaning. Thirty years ago the NIV translators meant for words like man and brother to be understood generically. Generic means referring to people in general. The problem is these words no longer sound generic to many readers, potentially misrepresenting the author's intention.

Now a new twist: Dr. Poythress claims that these are not true generics at all, but male representative words, where a male example teaches a general principle. But he offers no evidence for this theory, nor any criteria for determining when a passage is a male representative. Then he claims the TNIV distorts the meaning by using a true generic!

Dr. Poythress repeatedly calls for the retention of Greek forms (person, number, etc.). But the NIV has always been a meaning-based translation (the philosophy of most international Bible translation). The TNIV continues this tradition.

I should add that I do not believe the TNIV always gets it right. Like every translation, the TNIV was produced by fallible people wrestling with difficult interpretive decisions. Yet in every passage opponents cite, the TNIV represents a legitimate interpretation.

For example, scholars have long recognized that the Greek dative heauto in 1 Corinthians 14:28 probably means "by himself" (= "when alone") rather than "to himself," since it stands in contrast to "in the church" (see A. Robertson and A. Plummer, A Critical and Exegetical Commentary on the First Epistle of St. Paul to the Corinthians [ICC; T&T Clark, 1911] 321; G. Fee, The First Epistle to the Corinthians [NIC; Eerdmans, 1987] 693).

Dr. Poythress's claim that the Greek "unambiguously" means "to himself" is wrong. The same can be said of Hebrews 2:6-9, a passage often cited by TNIV opponents. As conservative a commentator as John MacArthur Jr. recognizes that Psalm 8 is cited in Heb. 2:6-7 with reference to humanity, and then applied to Jesus in verse 9 (so TNIV) (John MacArthur Jr., Hebrews [Moody, 1983] 45).

Article continues below

After a well-intended but misguided media campaign against the TNIV, the tide seems to be shifting to a more thoughtful approach, with leading evangelical New Testament scholars—D. A. Carson (Trinity International UNIVersity), Craig Blomberg (Denver Seminary), Darrell Bock (Dallas Theological Seminary), and others—weighing in with substantial scholarly papers (see www.TNIV.info). Books by Dr. Carson and myself also provide readers with linguistic tools to investigate this issue (Mark L. Strauss, Distorting Scripture? The Challenge of Bible Translation and Gender Accuracy [InterVarsity Press, 1998]; D. A. Carson, The Inclusive Language Debate: A Plea for Realism [Baker, 1998]).

In time this translation controversy will pass—like those surrounding John Wycliffe, William Tyndale, and others. And through it all, translators will continue the challenging task of rendering God's Word into the language of the day.

Vern S. Poythress responds to Strauss.

Related Elsewhere

Our TNIV Debate package also includes:

The TNIV DebateIs this new translation faithful in its treatment of gender?
Is the TNIV faithful in its treatment of gender? NoPolitical correctness puts pressure on translators to change details of meaning.
Is the TNIV faithful in its treatment of gender? YesThe TNIV does not eliminate gender distinctions but rather clarifies them.
A Response to Mark StraussThe TNIV undermines plenary inspiration.

For coverage of the TNIV debate, see these articles from Christianity Today:

Getting the TNIV Debate StraightOur policy against negative ads doesn't mean we're cutting off discussion. (June 7, 2002)
TNIV Critics Blast Scripture 'Distortions'But evangelical backers of new translation say gender changes are 'accurate.' (March 19, 2002)
Why the TNIV Draws IreNo translation is perfect, and each must be read with a careful exegetical eye. A Christianity Today editorial. (March 19, 2002)
Which Version Should We Use?What we said when the NIV was first published. A Christianity Today editorial. (March 19, 2002)
Christian History Corner: Translation WarsSharp as debate over the TNIV may be, the version's translators are getting off easy compared to John Wycliffe and William Tyndale. (March 1, 2002)
Weblog: The TNIV Battle ContinuesDobson and others launch "Kept the Faith" to accuse TNIV creators of violating their word and God's (Feb. 11, 2002)
Article continues below
Comparing the Three NIVsHow does the TNIV treat verses that were earlier criticized as theologically incorrect? (Jan. 31, 2002)
Weblog: Southern Baptist Leaders So Upset About TNIV That Denomination May Abandon NIV (Jan. 29, 2002)
Revised NIV Makes Its DebutTranslators alter 7 percent of the text to update style and gender issues. (Jan. 28, 2002)

The TNIV Web site offers the full New Testament text (in Adobe Acrobat format), a questions and answers section, endorsements, and other promotional material. Zondervan is also providing free copies of the translation.

Criticisms of the TNIV are available at KeptTheFaith.org and the Council on Biblical Manhood and Womanhood.

Michael W. Holmes, professor of biblical studies and early Christianity at Bethel College writes on the TNIV in the current issue of Books & Culture, a Christianity Today sister publication.

Christianity Today coverage of gender-inclusive Bible translation includes:

The Battle for the Inclusive BibleConflicts over "gender-neutral" versions are not really about translation issues. (Nov. 15, 1999)
Do Inclusive-Language Bibles Distort Scripture?He Said, They Said (October 27, 1997)
The Great Translation DebateThe divide over gender-inclusive Bibles hides what unites us. (Oct. 27, 1997)
Hands Off My NIV!Bible society cancels plans for 'gender-accurate' Bible after public outcry. (June 16, 1997)
Bible Translators Deny Gender AgendaFocus on the Family yanks children's Bible; NIV translator loses seminary job. (July 14, 19997)

Previous Christianity Today articles on Bible translation include:

A Translation Fit For a KingIn the beginning, the King James Version was an attempt to thwart liberty. In the end, it promoted liberty. (Oct. 22, 2001)
The Reluctant RomansAt Douai in Flanders, Catholic scholars translated the Bible into English as an alternative to the Bible of "the heretics." (Oct. 22, 2001)
We Really Do Need Another Bible TranslationAs good as many modern versions are, they often do not allow us to hear what the Holy Spirit actually said. (Oct. 19, 2001)
Old Wisdom for New TimesThe International Bible Society is doing "spiritual archaeology" and retro-publishing to reach seekers. (April 23, 2001)
And the Word Came with PicturesVisual Bible International (VBI), is producing a movie version of the Bible book for book, word for word. (March 1, 2001)
New Bible translations help to preserve world's disappearing languagesThe total number of languages in which the Bible is available in part or in its entirety now stands at 2,233. (Feb. 28, 2000)
Article continues below
What Bible Version Did Jesus Read?What does the knowledge that Jesus used different versions of Scripture mean for us today? (April 26, 1999)
On the Shoulders of King JamesBarclay M. Newman has kept before him a question posed by the translators of the 1611 King James Version: "What can be more [important] than to deliver God's book unto God's people in a tongue which they understand?" (Oct. 27, 1997)
Confessions of a Bible TranslatorAs a stylist on a new translation of the Bible, Daniel worries over the effectiveness of the language into which the text is translated. (Oct. 27, 1997)

Have something to add about this? See something we missed? Share your feedback here.

Our digital archives are a work in progress. Let us know if corrections need to be made.