To celebrate the end of school, I’m spending the week in the northwoods with the kids. On the way up yesterday, we listened to the book of Luke in the car. And, when playing the Bible for the kids in the car, I like to use The Bible Experience, since it’s a lot more engaging to listen to than a straight-reading (there’s lots of voice actors, background noise, music, etc.). And it got me to thinking of how sad it is that the version of the Bible used in The Bible Experience is going away.
If you don’t know, the TNIV (Today’s New International Version) arrived with much fanfare on the scene in 2002. Full page ads in Christianity Today with Bill Hybels and other celebrity evangelicals ballyhooed its release.
But rather quickly, the rightward flank of evangelicalism responded. Some evangelicals decried it, and a couple denominations even released statements opposing its use.
Some background: what sets the NIV apart from the RSV and the NRSV — the favored translations of my people, the mainliners — is that it is both accurate and readable. The NRSV is too often stilted in its English, reflecting, I think, the educated, white mainline denominations in which it is used. For example, the NRSV is often advertised as the translation best for reading in public worship — but, by that is meant public worship of the UCC, PC(USA), Episcopal variety.
The NIV, on the other hand, skews more toward personal, devotional reading, of which evangelicals are fond. And the TNIV was an overdue updating of the scholarship behind the NIV, making several changes in the way that some idioms were written. For example, “the heavens” was changed to “the sky.” I like the NIV for its readability. And I like the TNIV even better.But those changes are not why conservatives turned on the TNIV. No, they did so because it uses “gender-inclusive language.” Not for God, mind you, but for human beings. Thus, what was translated “Dear brothers” in the NIV reads “Dear brothers and sisters” in the TNIV. In lieu of “blessed is the man who…”, the TNIV has, “blessed is the one who…”
This was a bridge too far for conservative evangelicals, and they mounted a campaign against the translation. And they’ve won. Zondervan, who does not own the NIV translation but instead holds a multi-year lease on its publication, has, with its tail between its legs, announced that that TNIV will go away when a new version of the NIV is released next year.
The official party line is that all aspects of the NIV are “back on the table,” including the androcentric language. But I think we all know that the new NIV will come out with man on top. Again.
What most irks me about this chain of events is that conservative evangelicals continue to decry that the unChristian masses consider followers of Jesus to be homophobic, misogynistic assholes. And yet, I strongly doubt that anyone at Catalyst next year will publicly lobby from the mainstage for the new NIV to be gender-inclusive. Does no one else notice this contradiction?