NIV translators make the Bible a lie


Recent news

In May 2002 the Atlanta Journal published two opinion pieces about the gender neutral Bible from the NIV stable:
What's the big deal about a gender-neutral Bible?

My article

A good contemporary translation
Men use tools better
Version for New Readers
Gender Biased Version
Brave defenders of God's Word
Your invitation to complain

A good contemporary translation

The way people use language changes. The KJV writes in Hebrews 4:12: "For the word of God is quick, and powerful..." readers today would understand this to mean something about the speed of action of God's word. The NIV renders the phrase: "For the word of God is living and active..."

There the translators rightly recognise that English usage has changed, quick no longer means "alive/living" but only "fast" etc.

Men use tools better

In a similar way we now need to recognise that for many readers "man" and even "mankind" no longer speaks clearly about the whole human race. People who read or hear a sentence like:

"Men are able to handle tools more effectively."

Are likely to assume that it means "men handle tools more effectively than women", unless the cotext makes clear that the comparison is with animals. Thus if we read in the Bible:

"This is good, and pleases God our Savior, who wants all men to be saved and to come to a knowledge of the truth." (1 Tim 2:3-4)

Many people will, at least at first glance, understand the epistle to say that God is particularly concerned that men be saved, and perhaps wonder if he is less concerned for women's salvation! This danger is especially present for readers who do not yet know much about Christian faith. The original Greek is quite unambiguous, the word used is anthropos "human being".

Version for New Readers

Recognising this the NIV translation team preparing a version of the NIV aimed at such readers - the New International Readers Version (NIrV) - avoided rendering the Greek and Hebrew words anthropos and 'adam by "man" or "men" for fear that God's word be misunderstood.

The same kind of sensitivity was used in a recent British edition of the NIV. John Stott a noted Evangelical preacher and teacher wrote of it::

"When man means human being, without any intention to exclude women, and when the use of brothers was never intended to exclude sisters, then to retain such gender-specific words would be offensive."

He added:

"Even worse, it would actually misrepresent the meaning of the biblical text."

He also commended the translators:

"The revisers have done their work with skill and sensitivity, and without in the process developing a clumsy, ponderous, or repetitive style."

Bible readers who know Hebrew or Greek and listen to the people around them can only agree with Stott.


The Committee on Bible Translation according to their secretary, Kenneth Barker, are all scholars

"totally committed to all the great evangelical doctrines of the historic faith-including the Bible as the authoritative, infallible, inspired, and completely truthful Word of God."

They had done a good job, and we eagerly awaited an improved updated NIV.

Sadly not everyone agreed. The revision and the NIrV provoked a storm of protest. This included a man who drilled holes in copies of the NIV. Clearly he doubts this Bible’s integrity! IBS is said to have received 500 other complaints about the proposed changes, and well respected evangelicals, including psychologist James Dobson, have lined up to support the "don’t update the NIV" cause.

The battle-lines were drawn.

(Since this was written, people have pointed me to articles raising other more well-founded objections to other changes, I hope to deal with this in another article soon.)

It is rather like the battle fought by Catholic prelates against Wycliffe, Tyndale and other early Bible translators. Then truth won and our modern English translations are the result of their battles.

I would love to tell you that the scholars on the Committee on Bible Translation, like Wycliffe and Tyndale, stood firm for truth and for the accessibility of God's word for everyone. Sadly they have not, they have bowed to the vocal pressure of ignorant and unlearned men - who have never learned the original languages of the Bible. They have even "revised" the NIrV, to ensure it lines up with the old uncorrected NIV.

Gender Biased Version

A preface to the new deliberately gender exclusive edition (scheduled for release in August 1998) gives

"Genesis 1:27 as one of three examples to highlight the gender revisions. The original NIrV read: So God created human beings in his own likeness. He created them in the likeness of God. The revised edition reads: So God created man in his own likeness. He created him in the likeness of God."*

Notice the effect of this "revision":

Genesis 1:27 as an example:

Original NIrV

"So God created human beings in his own likeness."

New "improved" Version

So God created man in his own likeness."

So according to this new "improved" version we are explicitly being told that God did NOT create "human beings" in his own likeness, only "men".

When it comes to the likeness of God the Bible (in the Hebrew) says God created humanity in his image NIrV now denies this biblical truth and excludes women!

The word of God becomes a lie!

Brave defenders of God's Word

Centuries ago, brave and scholarly men suffered persecution and hardship so that we could read God's word in language familiar to us. In the USA today, conservatism has won and the truth of the Bible is denied.

The issue is no less than salvation. For apparently this harsh Conservative God does not want women to be saved:

"This is good, and pleases God our Savior, who wants all men to be saved and to come to a knowledge of the truth." (1 Tim 2:3-4)

Again the Greek is anthropos and, thank God, salvation (like judgement) is for all and the saying really does apply to men and women alike!

The issue here is not like that of "inclusive language" prayers or songs. Still less is it like feminist attempts to "neutralise" the Bible. In this case the issue is simple. Pious men and women who fear changes to their Bible, but are ignorant of the languages in which it was written oppose equally pious, and similarly evangelical, scholars and block their concern that God’s Word speak with clarity and precision.

Your invitation to complain

If this wilful denial of God's word offends you write to Steve Johnson or to the IBS.

Footnote: quotation from an e-mail press release dated December 3, 1997 from Steve Johnson of IBS, see the www site.            RETURN to TEXT 


© Tim Bulkeley, 1996-2002

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