CT, the SBC, and the NIV

From CT’s exceptional editorial:

At their annual summer convention, the Southern Baptists passed a resolution expressing “profound disappointment with Biblica and Zondervan Publishing House” for publishing the 2011 New International Version, concluding that “we cannot commend the 2011 NIV to Southern Baptists or the larger Christian community.”

The resolution strikes us as divisive, shortsighted, and something that brings us, and no doubt the majority of the Christian community, profound disappointment.

To be fair, the resolution was not brought to the convention by the resolution committee, which wisely determined that the convention did not need to comment on the new translation. The resolution was the work of a single delegate, and only one other person spoke on its behalf. But no one on the convention floor spoke against it, and eyewitnesses say that up to 90 percent of the delegates raised their ballots to signal their approval….

No single translation method can possibly convey with complete accuracy the biblical text. An Italian proverb sums it up well: Traduttore traditore, “The translator is a traitor.” There is, indeed, always something lost in translation. So we need both formal and functional equivalence biblical translations. Formal equivalence translations highlight what the text literally said. Functional equivalent translations highlight how that text was originally heard. Only when we employ these together can we begin to approximate Scripture’s deepest and broadest meaning.

We are convinced that the Southern Baptists want to grasp the deepest and broadest meaning of Scripture. Thus, we strongly encourage them to rethink the resolution and make room for a variety of translations….

Our advice: Don’t do as the Southern Baptists say at their conventions. Do as they do in their bookstores.

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  • Amos Paul

    Has anyone seen any formal response(s) by SBC leaders to all the criticism that’s been leveled their way concerning this? Even the most conservative evangelical news posts are bashing the decision, a la CT. I would think someone would be taking notice…

  • Blake

    As free church as the SBC is it feels pointless that we even have annual meetings to pass these kinds of resolutions since it’s not binding on the rest of the convention nor does it represent the opinions of the rest of the convention. The only thing we’ve found the annual meetings good for are one faction taking control of entities from other factions.

  • Jason Lee

    sbc has thousands of employees in its agencies … convention has impact on them, no?

  • Robin

    Since the financial gain to the HSBC was brought up when the motion passed, it is fair to bring up here…how much money do you think CT gets from Zondervan for advertising, and could that have anything to do with their editorial.

    If the SBC had financial incentives (the HSBC) so does CT.

  • Jason,

    Honestly, the convention resolutions have very little impact on anything, especially for something like this. If there is a lot of work on a resolution coming into the convention and there is wide spread support maybe it will translate into something later. But in general, most people in SBC know that resolutions mean almost nothing the minute the vote is over.

    (Actually this is one of the reason I have left SBC, because the polity is broken.)

  • rjs


    While commenters sometimes make absurd statements on this site (and this comment was made), the idea that either CT or the SBC were motivated by financial gain on Bible sales is ludicrous and not worth any serious consideration here. It certainly isn’t worth any kind of rehash.

  • Love this editorial. Favorite bit is this:

    “We all should be concerned about any translation that lets an ideology shape its language. But we should not let ideology—egalitarianism or complementarianism—determine whether a translation is valuable or not. The only criterion for a good translation is this: Does it accurately convey what the authors said and what the original listeners heard?”

    Irony of ironies – concerns that a translation might fuel a particular ideology leads to that translation’s rejection on ideological grounds.

  • discokvn

    okay, first i don’t think that the financial concerns were at the top of the SBC’s priority list… and i don’t even know if this is staying on topic… none-the-less i will ask:

    what do y’all think of the HCSB?

  • Robin

    No opinion whatsoever on the HCSB. I’ve attended SBC affiliated churches, for he most part, since 2000 and I can’t say for sure I have every known someone that owned one. I notice mostly ESV, old-school NIV, and NKJV.

  • rjs


    I have the HCSB on Kobo on my iPad. As far as the translation goes – I have no more complaints than with any other translation, it seems to be a reasonable translation … but I am not an expert on translation, so this is a lay evaluation, not an expert evaluation.

    However, I dislike HCSB on Kobo, not because of the translation but because it is impossible to navigate around in the text within the Kobo app on my iPad. (The NASB I have in Nook, and the NIV in Kindle are much much easier to use.)

  • E.G.

    The HCSB Kindle iPad version is great for navigating.

    As far as the translation goes, I’ve been reading Isaiah lately in HCSB. Seems fine to me. But I’m not a nit-picker.

  • I have read HCSB as well and as a non-professional, seems like a decent readable translation. But I also read lots of translations.

  • DanS

    The issue is accuracy. One specific example:

    Psalm 8:4 is translated “What is mankind that you are mindful of them, human beings that you care for them?” in the new NIV. In the ESV it is correctly translated “what is man that you are) mindful of him, and the son of man that you care for him?”

    The effort to remove (ideologically) the male gender reference “man” and replace it with the politically correct “human beings” when there is no textual reason to do so is a huge problem, because it erases the messianic reference “son of man” and the specific prophetic reference to Christ.

    It is exceedingly sad that a concern that accuracy be accuracy becomes yet another club to bludgeon “biblicists” with. All the SBC did was pass a resolution saying they could not endorse a translation. Who is being ideological?

  • Fixing the 1 Corinthians 7:1 passage is a major bonus for the NIV in my opinion.

  • rjs


    Are you implying that the appropriate interpretation of Psalms 8 is that God is only mindful of the male half of humanity? It is only the male half that he cares for and has made a little lower than the heavenly beings? I’ve been wrong my entire life thinking this verse applies to me as well as to my father, brother, husband, and son?

    Of course the idea that this first and foremost a Messianic reference may just be what is distorting the text.

  • It seems to me to be a fascinating statement about the tacit praxis of hierarchical polity within a ostensibly free congregational tradition, that 90% of delegates would vote vs. a translation based on only 2 delegates speaking.

  • Ethan Magness

    Greetings DanS,

    I have no particular interest in promoting the new NIV, but I am confused by your example. It seems that you have chosen an example in which the NIV precisely got it right. Surely psalm 8 is not about men specifically and although you made be sad to lose the Hebraism “Son of”, I think that we can hardly accuse them of bad faith in changing this to human being. That is a pretty common understanding of the phrase and certainly psalm 8 precedes the messianic use of the Son of Man.

    No doubt this translation let us miss some of the phrasing and feel of the Hebrew text but that is inherent to the process of translation and that is the reason that we encourage many to study the original languages.

    I don’t know this but I highly doubt that the ESV translate the Hebraism “son of” with the english “son of” every time that it appears. However I could be wrong on that.

    In short, there may be examples of the NIV being over-zealous in its efforts to neutralize gendered language, but this hardly seems like one of them.

  • rjs


    I just downloaded the Kindle version as well – and the HCSB is as easy to navigate as the NIV. Clearly the difficulty was the fault of Kobo.

  • RJS, I was going to comment above, I bought the HCSB because it was easy to navigate on kindle. I don’t have a paper version of it.

  • Patrick


    Hebrews 2:6 re-quotes this specific verse and the 2cd half of Psalm 8:4 is about Christ at least using the author of Hebrews hermeneutic( which is not ours).

    Maybe the Psalm author didn’t have Christ in mind (unlikely IMO), the Hebrews author did.

    My question now is, how does this new NIV handle the Hebrews 2:6? the same way?

  • Bob Smallman

    Patrick @20

    NIV11, Hebrews 2:6 —

    Heb. 2:6 But there is a place where someone has testified:
    “What is mankind that you are mindful of them,
    a son of man that you care for him?”

  • rjs


    I doubt if there is a single perfect translation out there.

    There will always be disagreements about specific verses and phrases. Perhaps DanS is right and the second half of the verse in Psalms 8 should be translated son of man as in Hebrews.

    But this isn’t enough to condemn a translation. Every translation has blind spots. I think the passage on Junia is one in the ESV (Romans) where Junia had to be referred to as “well known to the apostles” instead of “well known among the apostles” because a woman couldn’t be an apostle. But I wouldn’t condemn the ESV over this.

    The real lesson, I think, is that we need to consult a variety of translations and think hard about what the text means.

  • Amos Paul

    While I, personally, think ‘mankind’ and ‘them’ are the concepts that the verse DanS quoted is actually referring to–I am personally saddened by today’s insistence that ‘man’ no longer means the race of man, but specifically the male gender. The race of man has long been established as the title of our people in history long before we got the more technical ‘human’. Now we have all these gender debates about distinction which, IMHO, make the text more austere and vague rather than rich and personal.

    I’m not arguing about a substantive difference in meaning… merely style. Two cents, anyway.

  • My feeling on this is that the process of translation is not perfect, and that rather than take the easy way out of merely applying a particular ideology (whether it be of a liberal or conservative bent, or any bent whatsoever) to a given translation to judge whether we like it or not, we need to do the hard work of actually employing experts in Hebrew and Greek to pore over the manuscripts and try to figure out how best to translate the meaning that the authors of Scripture intended into our modern languages (and yes, even cultural situations).

    I’m not one of these experts, merely a lay reader who receives the end product, but I appreciate the painstaking effort that these translators undergo. Of course, since no translation is perfect, there are always going to be disagreements. I guess sometimes these disagreements are writ large in the passing of resolutions by denominational conventions. I just am leery of the motives behind these resolutions.

  • pds


    You should get the ESV Study Bible for iPad. Simply awesome.

  • discokvn

    re: DanS

    DA Carson (who wrote one of the articles in recovering biblical manhood/womanhood, so he’s not an egalitarian) addressed the Psalm 8/Hebrews 2 issue when the TNIV was about to come out, here’s a brief quote from the article, the entire article is instructive but below is something to think through…

    “Scanning my commentaries on Hebrews (I have about forty of them), over three-quarters of them do not think that “son of man” here functions as a messianic title, but simply as a gentilic, as in Psalm 8. If this exegesis is correct (and I shall argue elsewhere and at length that it is), Jesus is said to be “son of man” not in function of the messianic force of that title in Daniel 7:13-14, but in function of his becoming a human being – which all sides recognize is one of the major themes of Hebrews 2. If one wishes to take the opposite tack – that “son of man” here is a messianic title – there are competent interpreters who have taken that line. But it is not a matter of theological orthodoxy, since understanding the text one way does not mean that the translator (or the commentator) is denying the complementary truth, but is merely asserting that the complementary truth is not in view here.”

  • discokvn

    also, thanks everyone for the feedback on HCSB… seems like a bunch of you have it in electronic form, but nobody seems to have it in print form… which is interesting in and of itself…

  • discokvn, honestly, I don’t know that I have any version in print form. I know my wife has an old NIV in a drawer. But it has been years since I regularly used a paper bible. I know that that is anathema to some, but I think that it is not about the HCSB in digital or paper form, but all bibles in digital or paper form.

  • Blake

    I have a copy of the HCSB given to me at the 2009 annual meeting. I have no major complaints as far as the translation goes. I’m as indifferent to it as I am the NRSV, NIV85, NIV11, ESV, NKJV, etc. My preferred translation will continue to be my NET Bible First Edition with 60K+ translators notes.

  • discokvn

    @ Adam — would you say you are typical of most?

    @ Blake — is you NET Bible electronic or print? would you ever go the other way given the option?

  • Blake

    @discokvn – I have both electronic and print versions of the NET Bible. The print version came with a CD-ROM when I bought it in ’06. I don’t have a Kindle or iPad version if that’s more what you’re getting at.

  • discokvn

    @ Blake, what i wanted to know really was what you carry around… if it’s the print version (isn’t it ginormous?) or an electronic version via whatever (kindle, iPad, nook, etc)

  • Blake

    If I’m going to a bible study or class where I actually expect to make serious use of my Bible I carry around my NET Bible in a specially made plastic case (yes, it’s big, somewhat heavy and sticks out). If I’m going to Sunday services or somewhere I expect not to be given the opportunity to study the Word in depth then I take a smaller readers version that doesn’t have so many of the notes (about 1/3 the mass of the normal NET Bible).

  • David

    Scot – Many people are struggling in accepting the NIV 2011 because so many scholars and pastors have come out against it like the TNIV. Many liked the old NIV and would like to continue using the NIV tradition. However, alot of this has shaken many people’s confidence in the translation. Would you please consider doing an extended series of articles on Jesus Creed Blog? I know you have a section there on translations already but I would appreciate you going more in depth in the pros and cons to help a whole bunch of us out here who have turned to the ESV temporarily because we don’t know what to do. The public needs some reassurance regarding the NIV 2011 and its accuracy.