The New International Version is the Bible translation of choice for English-speaking evangelicals. So you might be surprised to learn that the 2002 “update” of the translation chose to use gender-neutral language for humanity. And you might not be surprised to learn that this proved to be a marketing disaster.
The translation committee will not make the same mistake twice. Another revised version of the NIV is now out in electronic format and will be available in print next year. According to an article in USA Today, the translation committee went back to “mankind” instead of “humankind” and “man” instead of “people.” (Direct quotes in this blog entry are from the USA Today article.)
Why? Because “man” most accurately represents the literal meaning of the Hebrew and Greek words? Because “man” is most faithful to the original intent of the biblical authors? Because “man” most readily translates the truth of the Gospel into our contemporary context?
Actually, they made the change “in order to appease critics.” The head of the translation committee, Doug Moo of Wheaton College, admits that the committee researched what words evangelical Christians prefer.
Ahhh, a Bible that is custom-made to suit particular theological and political proclivities. Can I get one of those? I would like my translation committee to find a more gentle term for God’s anger. And maybe they could do something with Jesus’ words, “I have not come to bring peace, but a sword.” And surely there is a different way to translate those passages that seem to say that women cannot speak in church.
Special interest groups are upsetting enough when they control so much of our political process. I am deeply angered that a special interest group has been allowed to so thoroughly influence the most popular and accessible translation of the Word of God. (Anyone else feel like turning over some tables?)
Evangelical leaders like James Dobson and John Piper have used their influence over hundreds of thousands of Bible-purchasers to dictate to the Bible translators how to translate the scriptures. If the Bible does not get translated according to their liking, they will start using a different translation.
And so the NIV committee did their best to “create an accurate English Bible without ticking off readers.”
I can’t help but wonder what the New Testament would be like if Jesus had shown such concern for the religious powers of his day. At a press conference, at the ripe old age of seventy-five, a well-dressed Jesus with his slightly overweight disciples (and their photogenic wives) could have explained to reporters the secret of his success: “I just tried to present an accurate portrayal of God without ticking off the Pharisees.”
I, for one, am sticking with my New Revised Standard translation. And maybe brushing up on my Greek.