Lutherans Latest to Reject New NIV Bible Over Gender Language

The 2011 NIV Bible was released in stores in March. The  updated translation has drawn mixed reviews, with the latest criticism coming  from the Southern Baptist Convention.

The updated NIV Bible has gained another critic: the Lutheran  Church-Missouri Synod. In a recent report, a panel of Lutherans cautioned  against use of the new NIV over gender-related issues.

“The use of inclusive language in NIV 2011 creates the potential for  minimizing the particularity of biblical revelation and, more seriously, at  times undermines the saving revelation of Christ as the promised Savior of  humankind,” the Commission on Theology and Church Relations Executive Staff  stated in an August report.

“Pastors and congregations of the LCMS should be aware of this serious  weakness. In our judgment this makes it inappropriate for NIV 2011 to be used as  a lectionary Bible or as a Bible to be generally recommended to the laity of our  church.”

The New International Version is reported to be the world’s leading  contemporary English Bible translation as it is known for being easy to  understand. It was announced in 2009 by global ministry Biblica that the popular  translation would be revised for the first time in 25 years.

The updated NIV (completed by members of the Committee on Bible Translation,  an independent body of global biblical scholars that has the sole authority to  update the text of the NIV) was released in 2011 and has drawn criticism largely  over its revised gender language.

Critics include the Committee on Biblical Manhood and Womanhood and the  Southern Baptist Convention, which officially rejected the revised NIV last  year, saying it “alters the meaning of hundreds of verses, most significantly by  erasing gender-specific details which appear in the original language.”

Conservative Lutherans are the latest to express caution against use of the  2011 NIV.

The Commission on Theology and Church Relations of the LCMS has long  recognized that language evolves. It also acknowledged the intent of the  Committee on Bible Translation to try to communicate the meaning of the Bible’s  texts in English as it is used today.

But the commission took issue with some of the substitutions for masculine  singular pronouns.

“While there may be many examples in which such substitution does not change  the sense or inherent intent of the passage,” the commission reported, the  approach is advised against because “of its potential to alter  significantly the meaning of passages.”

Among the changes made in the updated NIV is the substitution of “he,” “him,”  and “his” for “they,” “their,” and “them.”

The commission provided two significant examples where such a revision proved  to affect the meaning of Scripture “adversely.”

Example one:

Genesis 1:26-27 in NIV 2011 reads: “Then God  said, ‘Let us make mankind [collective noun substitution for “man”] in our  image, in our likeness, so that they [the plural pronoun is in the original] may  rule over the fish in the sea and the birds in the sky, over the livestock and  all the wild animals, and over all the creatures that move along the ground.’ So  God created mankind [collective noun substitution for “man”] in his own image,  in the image of God he created them [plural pronoun substitution for “him”];  male and female he created them.”

In the first substitutionniv of “mankind” for “man,”  the particularity of the first man is made unclear. The rationale for this would  seem to be the desire to emphasize that all humanity is created in God’s image,  but the original text itself had made that abundantly clear already by  paralleling “man” in the first clause of verse 26 with “they” in the following  clause. In verse 27, the second substitution of “mankind” for “man” again  undermines the particularity of Adam’s creation. Moreover, when coupled with the  substitution of “them” for “him” as the verse continues, the progression of the  verse is obfuscated. The original verse itself progresses from the particular  creation of Adam-the one man who is father of all creation, created in God’s  image, and in whom all will die through his sin (Rom 5:12)-to the male and  female, which is paralleled to him. The original text then preserves both the  particularity and universality which NIV 2011 undermines.

Example two:

Psalm 8:4-5 in NIV 2011 reads: “What is mankind  [collective noun substitution for “man”] that you are mindful of them [plural  substitution for “him”], Human beings [plural noun substitution for “son of  man”] that you care for them [plural substitution for “him”]? You have made them  [plural substitution for “him”] a little lower than the angels and crowned them  [plural substitution for “him”] with glory and honor.”

Once again, the rationale for the translation  changes seems to be the desire to emphasize a universal truth about all  humanity-that humankind has received glory and honor as the crown of creation.  The translation decisions, however, obfuscate other things. First, and most  importantly, the decision to use plurals here vitiates the Messianic meaning of  this psalm, its particular application to Christ. Hebrews 2:5-9 quotes Ps 8:4-5  and notes that these verses testify to our Lord Jesus. He is the Man to whom the  Lord gives all glory and honor; the Son of Man to whom all creation is subject.  He is the One who exceeds the angels in glory and honor, even though he was made  to be lower than them for our salvation.

Second, we should note that the substitution of a  generic term like “human being” or “human beings” for “son of man” (a consistent  pattern in NIV 2011), impoverishes the understanding of “Son of Man” as the  self-designation our Lord uses throughout the Gospels. Jesus uses a term (a  particular idiom, “son of man”) from the Old Testament that indicates full  humanity and refers it to himself. This is of great importance, especially when  it is seen in the light of Daniel 7:13-14. There that same term, “son of man,”  is used in a prophecy of our Savior’s incarnation, where “one like a son of man”  is “given dominion and glory and a kingdom” in which all nations are included  under a rule that shall never be destroyed.

Though critiquing the updated NIV for its “misguided attempt to make the  truth of God’s Word more easily understood,” the Lutheran commission clarified  that its judgment is not on “the entirety of NIV 2011 as a translation.” The  commission would have to do a much more extensive study of the translation, it  said.

LCMS describes itself as a mission-oriented, Bible-based, confessional  Christian denomination. The Commission on Theology and Church Relations was  established by the Synod in 1962 and it provides study documents, opinions and  statements on theological issues.

Read more at  Christian Post

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