Click here to read Part I, which is necessary to understand this Part II.
Some take issue with the 2011 update of the New International Version. For example, here’s the official statement from the Council of Biblical Manhood and Womanhood:
As the evangelical community turns to CBMW for trusted counsel on contemporary Bible translations that are faithful and accurate in their rendering of gender-language, we will continue to point them to the many translations available today that do a better job than the TNIV and new NIV (2011) – translations like the Holman Christian Standard Bible (HCSB), the New American Standard (NASB), the New King James (NKJV), and the English Standard Version (ESV).
I do not agree with the CBMW’s position, but I appreciated the measured attitude.
But if you listen closely, you can also hear sounds of breast-beating, garment rending, bursts of outrage and charges of blasphemy and apostasy. You can hear slogans in place of careful study. And I’m afraid that the alarmists are outshouting those who are reasonable:
The Bible teaches a masculine Godhead….[But feminists] have fabricated their own theology that attempts to portray God as having a feminine side. Nothing could be further from the truth. The Bible speaks of God the FATHER, and of Jesus Christ the SON, and of the Holy Spirit Who is referred to with the pronoun HE in the faithful King James Bible (John 16:13)…The NIV 2011 attacks the masculine authority of God, the ruling husband, and the authoritative preacher.
The Devil’s feminist, homosexual, abortionist crowd wants to produce a unisex Bible that doesn’t condemn the sin of homosexuality.
The NIV 2011 attacks the masculine authority of God…The NIV 2011 is evil, catering to the homosexual agenda.
The new gender-inclusive NIV…contains thousands of changes to the Bible’s male-gendered language. Having a gender-inclusive Bible appears to be the latest trend amongst cutting-edge, cappuccino-slurping Christian hipsters.
And while I dislike posting another site online, the page http://www.jesus-is-savior.com/ is about the worst example I have seen of disinformation, ignorance, exaggeration, backwardness, and uninformed writing that I have seen with respect a whole range of themes, and to Bible translating and the NIV in particular; I mention the site because, unlike most reputable bloggers, they do not provide any means for people to comment on their posts – otherwise I would have interacted with them on their own turf.
Now, when people say that a Bible is “evil” and the work of Satan, they had better tread with extreme caution. If you dislike a particular version – as does the CBMW – that’s fine; but you had better do your homework. You had better be certain that God stands with you before holding up a Bible and calling it a product of hell or, as one site instructs its readers, to use the Bible as “toilet paper”. This is God’s precious Word we’re talking about.
I cannot imagine that those who have written such comments have given any serious attention to the text of the NIV 2011, which is freely available online. Let’s begin by sweeping away the wilder claims:
Does the NIV 2011 remove God’s “masculinity” and replace it with a feminine goddess? Goodness, no! Our proof: “For God so loved the world that he gave his one and only Son, that whoever believes in him shall not perish but have eternal life” (John 3:16 NIV 2011) and every other relevant verse throughout the Bible.
Does the NIV 2011 of John 16:13 refuse to call the Spirit “he”? No! “But when he, the Spirit of truth, comes, he will guide you into all the truth. He will not speak on his own; he will speak only what he hears, and he will tell you what is yet to come” (John 16:13 NIV 2011), and every other relevant verse. Here is an excellent example of how some blogger seems to have picked up and repeated gossip without bothering to look it up himself. Here’s an important verse about the Spirit from 1 Cor 12:11 NIV 2011 – “All these are the work of one and the same Spirit, and he distributes them to each one, just as he determines.”
Does the NIV 2011 generally refuse to call the Holy Spirit “he”? Heavens no! Take a look at John 14-16, the passage where Jesus speaks of the Father and of the Comforter, all of whom are referred to with the masculine pronouns “he” and “him”. The passage starts: “And I will ask the Father, and he will give you another advocate to help you and be with you forever – the Spirit of truth? The world cannot accept him, because it neither sees him nor knows him” (John 14:16-17 NIV 2011). The only occasion where “he” is not repeated is where it would be redundant in the English; this is something even the KJV does, for example, in John 14:17b: “for he dwelleth with you, and shall be in you” (that is, why doesn’t even the KJV call the Spirit “he” in the second clause, “he shall be in you”)?
Does the NIV 2011 promote abortion? In a word, no.
Does the NIV 2011 remove men from being head of their wives? Take a look here and draw your own conclusion: “Wives, submit yourselves to your own husbands as you do to the Lord. For the husband is the head of the wife as Christ is the head of the church, his body, of which he is the Savior. Now as the church submits to Christ, so also wives should submit to their husbands in everything” (Eph 5:22-24 NIV 2011).
Does the NIV 2011 promote a homosexual agenda? No. In Part I of this article we examined 1 Cor 6:9 in detail. I suggest that the NIV 2011 is clearer than the original NIV as well as all other versions – including the KJV! – in its condemnation of same-sex relations. I cannot imagine that a text that excludes “men who have sex with men” from the kingdom of God (1 Cor 6:9 NIV) caters to a homosexual agenda.
Are believers who approve and use the NIV 2011 at heart “cutting-edge, cappuccino-slurping Christian hipsters”? This is a little harder to demonstrate scientifically. I enjoy a cappuccino once in a while, and I might even be guilty of the occasional slurp; nevertheless, I am a firmly conservative evangelical who, by the way, has dedicated his life to preaching God the Father, Son and Spirit. I might mention that neither the NIV 1984 nor the NIV 2011 is my favorite version; I’m defending it not because it is my Bible of choice, but because I’m offended by these popular falsehoods on principle.
Is the NIV 2011 “unisex”, removing all gender? By no means, as we shall show. For example, Paul is the “father”, not “parent” and certainly not “mom” of the Corinthian disciples, according to 1 Cor 4:15. A “man is sleeping with his father’s wife” in the NIV; it is not “a person is sleeping with the spouse of the parent” (1 Cor 5:1).
Is it an error to translate masculine gender pronouns as generic English pronouns? Not necessarily, and all English translations do so at one time or another, even the KJV. As any of us know who have studied French, Spanish, German or Latin, certain languages have “grammatical gender”. So, in Spanish, a “house” is feminine, but a “home” is masculine. But grammatical gender does not necessarily refer to sex. “Home” by nature is not a manly thing, nor is “house” a feminine one.
Here is what we encounter in the Greek New Testament:
- Masculine gender words that refer to men. The NIV 2011 translates them as “he”, “him” or “man” in English. For example, 1 Cor 7:18 – “Was a man already circumcised when he was called? He should not become uncircumcised. Was a man uncircumcised when he was called? He should not be circumcised.” Only male circumcision is in view, so he’s talking about men, not women.
- Feminine gender words that refer to women. The NIV 2011 translates them as “she” or “her” in English. For example, 1 Cor 7:4 – “The wife does not have authority over her own body but yields it to her husband;” 7:13 – “if a woman has a husband who is not a believer and he is willing to live with her, she must not divorce him.” What we see in Group 1 and Group 2 is proof that the NIV 2011 is not some “unisex” Bible. Women are women, men are men, and (Group 3) people are people.
- Masculine gender words that, in context, refer to men and women or both. The NIV 2011 tries to translate them literally into English, that is, making them refer to men and women, boys and girls, without restricting the reference to “man = adult male”. In today’s English, “man” refers to a male, and an adult; the original Greek includes people of both sexes and all ages, for example “if anyone is in Christ”, 2 Cor 5:17.
All the controversy over gender neutrality in the NIV 2011 has to do with Group 3. Let’s make a general observation right up front – read this a few times, because it’s easy to miss: Every single English Bible version in use today employs “gender neutral translation” to some extent. That includes the ESV, the NASB and yes, the original King James Version [See below, APPENDIX: Warning! The King James Version uses and affirms a Gender-Neutral Style of Translation!]. In other words, the difference between the KJV, ESV and the NIV 2011 is a relative difference of degree, not an absolute difference in translation philosophy. Hence in 1 Cor 7:17 ESV, the translators went for gender neutrality in the first example, then failed to follow through with gender neutrality in the second and third examples: “Only let each person [KJV “man”] lead the life that the Lord has assigned to him [but, the KJV is gender neutral here, “every one”!], and to which God has called him”.
As we did in Part I of this article, let’s look at 1 Cor 1-7 and analyze how the NIV 2011 handles gender neutrality. Our standard is not another English translation – that is, we cannot reject the NIV 2011 just because it differs from the KJV or NASB or ESV – but the original text.
1 Cor 1:10. See also 1:11; 1:26; 2:1; 3:1; 4:6; 5:11; 6:8; 7:15; 7:24; 7:29. Here and in many other verses in the New Testament, Paul address the Christians as “brothers and sisters” rather than just “brothers” or “brethren”. One website insists that this is silly, since everyone knows that the term “brothers” includes women. But is this so? When someone asks me, “Do you have any brothers?” a proper answer might be, “Brothers? Yes, I have one brother.” I would not say, “Brothers? Yes, I have a sister.” It’s as simple as that: “brothers” no longer includes “sisters”, as it did in English centuries ago, and as it still does in Spanish with “hermanos.” Now, the NRSV has a footnote at 1 Cor 1:10 and in other epistles, saying “G[ree]k brothers.” Its editors thereby imply that while they have given “brothers and sisters” as an acceptable paraphrase, the Greek literally has “brothers.” This is misleading, since the word adelphoi (ἀδελφοί), depending on the context, may equally refer to all males, “brothers,” or to “brothers and sisters” or “siblings.” Odder still is the rendering of the ESV. In the body of the text it renders adelphoi as “brothers” (not “brothers and sisters”). But then at the first use of the term in each letter, one encounters a footnote, as for 1 Cor 1:10:
Or brothers and sisters. The plural Greek word adelphoi (translated ‘brothers’) refers to siblings in a family. In New Testament usage, depending on the context, adelphoi may refer either to men or to both men and women who are siblings (brothers and sisters) in God’s family, the church.
In other words, the ESV editors have conceded that rendering adelphoi as “brothers and sisters” in this context would be the more accurate and literal rendering. In fact, even the traditionalist Colorado Springs Guidelines would not take issue with our “brothers and sisters,” since it states that “the plural adelphoi can be translated ‘brothers and sisters’ where the context makes clear that the author is referring to both men and women.” See “Colorado Springs Guidelines”. I do not know why the ESV opts for “brothers” in the text and “brothers and sisters” in a footnote, even after it states that “brothers and sisters” is the more accurate rendering. This puts the lie to one anti-NIV blog, which says “it contains thousands of changes to the Bible’s male-gendered language.” No, the NIV might contain differences from the KJV, but not from the Bible, which was written in Hebrew and Greek. Can anyone show me how this literal translation of adelphoi as “brothers and sisters” is furthering a unisex agenda?
1 Cor 1:20 – “Where is the wise person?” The masculine gender in this verse is clearly generic, and so “wise person” (or “wise one”) is perfectly literal: God rejects the so-called wisdom of any human being, man or woman. The ESV and the KJV also have gender-neutral language here.
1 Cor 1:25 – “For the foolishness of God is wiser than human wisdom, and the weakness of God is stronger than human strength.” The word Paul uses, anthrōpos, is translated “men” in the KJV. Nevertheless, it does not just mean “man”, it means “man, person” depending on the context. In the international standard Greek dictionary, the BDAG, the first definition is “a person of either sex, with focus on participation in the human race, a human being”. It’s not until the third definition that is means “a male person, man”. Thus, God’s wisdom is greater than that of any man or woman, a striking truth that is hardly part of some “unisex” agenda. The NIV translates 2:1 as “human wisdom”, which is a paraphrase – the original just has “wisdom” – but fits in well with Paul’s point in context, see 2:5. 2:5 – again, the NIV 2011 translates the plural of anthrōpos as “human”, which accords well with Paul’s point – he is not rejecting wisdom of adult males, but of men and women both.
1 Cor 1:31 – “Let the one [KJV – “him”] who boasts boast in the Lord,” which is a proper rendering of a masculine gender participle, which if it refers to an adult male should be translated “man”, but if not can be “one” or “a person” or “man or woman”. Even the ESV uses gender neutrality here: “Let the one who boasts, boast in the Lord.”
1 Cor 2:11 – “For who knows a person’s thoughts except their own spirit within them? In the same way no one knows the thoughts of God except the Spirit of God.” Once again, anthrōpos does not refer to adult males, but to all human thoughts, of men and women, girls and boys. The NIV 2011 is a literal rendering.
1 Cor 2:14-15 – “The person without the Spirit does not accept the things that come from the Spirit of God”, and then “the person with the Spirit”. Once again, anthrōpos does not refer to adult males, but to all human beings; this is an accurate translation.
1 Cor 3:3 – “For since there is jealousy and quarreling among you, are you not worldly? Are you not acting like mere humans?” Also in 3:4 – “For when one says, ‘I follow Paul,’ and another, ‘I follow Apollos,’ are you not mere human beings?” Again, Paul uses the word anthrōpos; this means that translating “Are you not acting like mere humans?” is a perfectly literal rendering, not a paraphrase, and conveys in the English what the Greek says. So is the gender-neutral rendering of the ESV: “behaving only in a human way?” Once again, a version that eschews gender-neutrality uses it at times, but not as consistently as the NIV 2011.
1 Cor 3:7-8 – “So neither the one who [ESV “he who” and throughout these verses] plants nor the one who waters is anything, but only God, who makes things grow. The one who plants and the one who waters have one purpose, and they will each be rewarded according to their own labor.” While Paul is speaking of himself and Apollos, two men, this truth is hardly restricted to men who evangelize others and disciple them, nor to those who hold the position of apostle or pastor. These masculine gender participles are properly translated as a reference to all men or women who serve the gospel. The same is true of 3:12-15, “if anyone [not “any man”] builds on this foundation, etc.”
1 Cor 3:17 – “If anyone destroys God’s temple” is “if any man” in the KJV. The ESV properly renders it as gender neutral – “if anyone destroys, etc.” The ESV goes on to say “God will destroy him”, the NIV “God will destroy them”.
1 Cor 3:18 – “If any of you think you are wise” correctly translates the Greek indefinite pronoun tis (τις). And so does the ESV with “if anyone among you”.
1 Cor 5:13 – “Expel the wicked person from among you” says the NIV 2011. “Purge the evil person from among you” says the ESV, choosing at this juncture to go with correct gender neutrality rather than translating the Greek masculine adjective as “evil man”. Even the KJV is gender-neutral with its “put away from among yourselves that wicked person.”
1 Cor 6:4 – “do you ask for a ruling from those whose way of life is scorned in the church?” as opposed to translating the Greek masculine gender as “men whose way of life”. The ESV and the KJV also translate this as gender-neutral: “those who have no standing in the church” and “who are least esteemed in the church”.
1 Cor 6:17 – “whoever is united with the Lord is one with him in spirit.” (And notice that the Lord is a “him” not a “person” or a “her”!). Although 6:16 refers to male Christians, who are warned away from visiting prostitutes, Paul broadens his point out in 6:17 – all sexual sins rob the Lord of our union with him; see also 6:18…
1 Cor 6:18 – “Flee from sexual immorality. All other sins a person commits are outside the body, but whoever sins sexually, sins against their own body.” This is a proper translation of anthrōpos, see above; men and women who commit sexual immorality sin against their own body.
1 Cor 7 – this chapter is striking because the apostle speaks now to men, now to women, and now to all Christians, men or women. The NIV 2011 carefully translates the chapter so that we can immediately tell if he is speaking to “men”, “women”, or to “men and women both”. Some examples of men and women both: 7:7 – “Each of you has your own gift from God”; 7:17 – “each person should live as a believer in whatever situation the Lord has assigned to them”; 7:23 – “You were bought at a price; do not become slaves of human beings” (anthrōpos): both men and women owned slaves in antiquity. Paul is not saying that Christians should avoid being slaves of male slave owners, but of men or women (similarly 7:20; 7:24; 7:29a); the “unmarried” in 7:8 seems to be men or women; men and women are in view in 7:22 – “for the one who was a slave”. Verses directed specifically to men: see 7:1; 7:2a; 7:3a; 7:4b; 7:11b; 7:12; 7:18, etc. Verses specifically for women: see 7:2b; 7:3b; 7:4a; 7:10b-11a; 7:13; etc. The reader will search in vain for some homogenized, unisex rendering of 1 Cor 7 NIV 2011.
And finally: gender neutrality and 1 Cor 6:9-11a. There are those who argue that a grammatically masculine word in the Greek must be translated with a male word in the English. In fact, this is to mix apples and oranges: grammatical gender simply does not as a rule denote male or female. One further example will show us how some important verses will have to be retranslated if all gender neutrality is taboo: 1 Cor 6:9-11a. The NIV 2011, as we argued in Part I, is a fine translation of the original:
Or do you not know that wrongdoers will not inherit the kingdom of God? Do not be deceived: Neither the sexually immoral nor idolaters nor adulterers nor men who have sex with men nor thieves nor the greedy nor drunkards nor slanderers nor swindlers will inherit the kingdom of God. And that is what some of you were.
But wait! Any philosophy of translation that bans gender neutrality will have to change radically what Paul wrote, since all of these grammatically masculine words would have to be translated as referring to men. This would make him say:
Or do you not know that men who do wrong will not inherit the kingdom of God? Do not be deceived: Neither the men who sexually immoral nor men who are idolaters nor men who are adulterers nor men who have sex with men nor men who are thieves nor men who are greedy nor men who are drunkards nor men who are slanderers nor men who swindle will inherit the kingdom of God. And that is what some of the men among you once were.
I think it’s clear what Paul meant to say: that the ladies who do these sins will be excluded from the kingdom along with the gents. And it is by gender neutral translation, as followed to some extent by the KJV, ESV, NIV, and HCSB and any other translation you can name that we communicate the gospel to men and women, boys and girls.
May the Lord’s blessings be on us as we study his Word. “May our faith our faith might not rest on human wisdom, but on God’s power” (1 Cor 2:5).
APPENDIX: Warning! The King James Version uses and affirms a Gender-Neutral Style of Translation!
Some of those who object to the NIV 2011 do so because it is not the King James; in that case there are many other issues that would have to be dealth with.
Nevertheless, here at least we can point out this surprising fact: Even the King James Version translates masculine pronouns generically, to refer to “people” if that is what is indicated in context. Let me repeat – the translators of the KJV affirm by their translation that it is acceptable and even appropriate to translate masculine pronouns, nouns and other substantives to refer to men and women.
A few examples are more than sufficient:
John 3:16b – “that whosoever believeth in him should not perish, but have everlasting life” (for those keeping track in the Greek, πᾶς ὁ πιστεύων, pas ho pisteuōn, is masculine grammatical gender, but obviously refers to men or women, boys and girls). It would distort our understanding of this blessed verse to render it as some suggest we should, translating grammatically masculine words into “men”, that is, “every man who believes”.
1 Cor 1:2 – “called to be saints, with all that in every place call upon the name of Jesus Christ our Lord” [the KJV translates the masculine participle as generic, not “all men” but “all”. Similarly in 1:14 KJV, “I baptized none of you”, where it according to some, the masculine adjective should have been rendered “I baptized no man of you”].
1 Cor 1:10 – “that ye all speak the same thing” [the KJV translates the masculine gender generically as “all”, not “all men”].
1 Cor 1:12 – “Now this I say, that every one of you saith, I am of Paul, etc.” [has the KJV caved in to some feminist agenda by translating the masculine pantes as “every one”? And by the way, the KJV clearly renders a plural clause – literally in the Greek, “you all say” – as singular, “every one of you saith”, the exact same supposed error that anti-NIV people try to pin on the NIV 2011].
We could multiply examples in 1 Cor 1-7 KJV (for example, 1 Cor 5:13, 6:4, 6:9-11, 7:17 KJV, see above); they appear every verse or so. Every single Bible translation, including the KJV, regularly translates grammatically masculine Greek words into generic English ones, just as they should.
“Is the NIV 2011 a Satanic, Homosexual, PC Bible? Part II”. By Gary S. Shogren, PhD in New Testament Exegesis, Professor of New Testament, Seminario ESEPA, San José, Costa Rica
kings James rules
Dear Peter, greetings. Would you care to elaborate on that?
Gary, just curious…
Would you consider the NRSV superior, inferior, or equal to the NASB?
Hi Preston, you might profit from Which Bible version is the most “literal”?
Overall I think that the NRSV is the better translation, with regard to accuracy, readability, and style.
Let’s take an admittedly extreme example, from Eph 1:9-14. I put in italics the phrases and sentences that seem to me – as a regular Bible student! – to be hard nuts for the reader to crack. And remember that Paul intended Ephesians to be understandable in an initial oral reading, without footnotes:
Part of the trouble areas are when the Greek has a participle, and the NASB editors render it with an English participle. Why is this problematic? Because the participle does not function in the same way in the two languages. In effect, this paragraph is not truly English.
It seems to me that the NRSV conveys careful rendering of the original while avoiding some of the pitfalls of a mechanical rendering.
A goal of a Bible translation is to minimize the static caused by unclear words and phrases.
Thank you, Thank You, and THANK YOU so very much for all your advise, help, and time.
I do not take it lightly.
I eagerly check for your replies, and hang on every word.
And I share your responses with Joe (also from F. B. C.)
We both so want to know God’s Word clearly, and teach it faithfully.
You have been such a huge help to me.
I deeply appreciate your study and pray God’s richest blessing on your ministry.
My pleasure, Preston, give my greetings to the church!
Gary, you mentioned in this post that the NIV is not your favorite. Do you have a favorite? I believe, from what I am hearing, that the NIV is still the best selling translation. There must be a reason for that. I do like it, but it is not my favorite either. But I am sure that some good preachers use it. And I believe that it is the text of some good commentaries. Can it be trusted to be used to preach from faithfully?
Hi Preston, blessings!
The ones I typically use are NIV 2011, ESV, NRSV for everyday study, NRSV and NIV 2011 would be tied for first. I think either are entirely trustworthy for preaching. The NRSV and the ESV are both revisions of the 1952 Revised Standard Version, and I think the NRSV is the superior of the two attempts.
One thing I disliked about the old NIV was that it translated sarx/σαρξ as “sinful nature” – a small thing, but since I study Paul a lot, one that bothered me.
I never noticed it until now, but the NIV 2011 uses “flesh”, with the footnote “In contexts like this, the Greek word for flesh (sarx) refers to the sinful state of human beings, often presented as a power in opposition to the Spirit.” The new NIV just went up another notch in my opinion!
You might enjoy my recent three-part post on why Greek is not necessary from the pulpit.
Gary, simply very fine work here. Thanks for the carefulness of it and the firm and irenic tone you establish in this post, as always. Very well done labor on a cause that matters.
Thanks there, buddy!
Many thanks, Dave. It’s easier to wield a slogan (It’s PC! It’s got an agenda!) than dig around for the actual facts; nevertheless, the facts are there and relatively easy to find. Blessings!