I was deeply disappointed to learn (via Eugene Cho’s blog) that Zondervan will no longer continue to publish the TNIV translation of the Bible. I have been using the TNIV in my personal Bible reading and in preaching & teaching in our church community – I am sad both to see the TNIV discontinued and the way in which Zondervan is handling it.

Zondervan CEO Keith Danby says:

The first mistake was the NIVi. The second was freezing the NIV. The third was the process of handling the TNIV.

You can read more about the details the reasons Zondervan has given for discontinuing the TNIV at the Christianity Today blog.

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Faithful Communication

As someone who communicates from the Bible on a weekly basis, I have found the TNIV to be a faithful, accurate and scholarly update to the best-selling NIV translation many of us grew up with.

Some critics have narrowly focused on the TNIV’s use of appropriate gender-inclusive language as “proof” of some politically correct agenda. However, as Craig Blomberg writes in The Untold Story of a Good Translation:

A little less than 30% of these changes involve inclusive language for humanity-using “brothers and sisters” for “brothers” when a mixed audience is clearly meant by the biblical terms, or “human beings” for “men” or shifting to a third-person plural or a second-person pronoun to avoid a generic “he,” and so on. To date, virtually no notice has been paid to the majority of the changes, which are unrelated to gender-inclusive language, while much more heat than light has been generated in controversy over the gender-inclusive language.

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It’s All Interpretation

Despite the claims of some who say, “They don’t interpret the Bible, they just read it,” the very act of reading a Bible (even in the original Hebrew or Greek) is an act of interpretation.  All translations have bias & “agenda” built into the equation because the work is being done by real people, with different perspectives, insights and goals.

I can appreciate a person’s preferences for different versions, but it does not benefit anyone to uphold one translation or another as the “only true” translation. In my own biblical studies, I benefit greatly from having a wide spectrum of translations on hand.

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Translate This!

If your experience is like mine, you were taught that the “literal” translation of the Bible is always the best one. However, anyone who has ever learned another language realizes that word-for-word translation can often render the original phrase meaningless in another language. Gordon Fee & Mark Strauss give an example in How to Choose a Translation for All Its Worth:

Take, for example, the Spanish sentence, Como se llama? A literal (word-for-word) translation would be “How yourself call?” Yet any first-year Spanish student knows that is a poor translation. The sentence means (in good idiomatic English), “What’s your name?” The form must be changed to express the meaning.

There are two ends of the spectrum of biblical translation.  On the one end is formal equivalence, or a more “word for word” approach.  At the other end is functional equivalence, or a “thought for thought” approach.  It is important to note that this spectrum does not necessarily connote “conservative vs. liberal” but, rather, a range of approaches to translation. Again, in my opinion, we benefit from consulting with versions from both ends of the spectrum.

For the visually-inclined, here are two graphs depicting this formal/functional equivalence spectrum, one from Zondervan and one from the Urbana site.

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Back To Gender For A Moment

Some people are totally hung up on the TNIV’s use of gender inclusive language. They rail against its “politically correct agenda,” draft resolutions against it and seek to ban its sale in different Christian bookstores (and, perhaps, might be celebrating victory today with its demise). Apart from serious questions of how we, as followers of Jesus, wield power and deal with disagreements, I take issue with this anti-gender inclusive approach.

If the original biblical Hebrew or Greek implies both men and women (which it often does), shouldn’t we translate it as such?  The archaic use of “all men” to imply all people might speak to some, but is increasingly out of touch for more & more people. If we say, “all men” today, most of the time we mean, “all those of the male gender.”

Because my commitment to love God & people and to live faithfully according to Scripture has helped me to see the equal dignity, worth, value and calling of both women & men, I appreciate what Eugene wrote in his post:

The TNIV is not about gender inclusivity but sadly, it was pegged and even advertised as such. The TNIV is about the Holy Scriptures foremost. And while others will strongly disagree, I find it difficult for translations NOT to take into account for appropriate gender neutrality and inclusivity.

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Oh Yeah, That’s Why We Read It

Unfortunately, what often gets lost in the translation debates is the reason we read Scripture in the first place. As Jesus puts it, the whole point is:

‘Love the Lord your God with all your heart and with all your soul and with all your mind.’ This is the first and greatest commandment. And the second is like it: ‘Love your neighbor as yourself.’ All the Law and the Prophets hang on these two commandments.

No matter how fervently we want to defend a particular translation, let’s not lose sight of what really matters and the life to which God calls us.