making the TNIV a better Bible

After the anti-TNIV campaign, some people probably would never open a TNIV. Others love the TNIV and find it that it makes the NIV even more accurate. Still others consider the TNIV a good translation but find passages where it can be improved?

And that brings me to the topic of this post. If you could sit down with the CBT (Committee on Bible Translation) that revises the TNIV and talk with them professionally, what verses would be at the top of your list for them to revise further, and what evidence would you give as support for each of your suggested revisions.

Please do not link to lists of hundreds or thousands of verses which have been posted on websites by anti-TNIV people. The CBT already has access to those lists. For this post we are interested in what you yourself would most want to see revised in the TNIV to make it an even better translation. Please mention the top few verses which you think need revision in the TNIV and what revision you feel would make those verses better.

I have a feeling that if we do a good job with comments on this post, we may be able to make an important contribution to the future of the TNIV. Please keep all comments constructive and gracious, not dismissive of the TNIV, as whole. There are other forums where people who do not like the TNIV can dismiss it. On this blog we do not want to dismiss any Bible version. We want, instead, to know specific ways that versions can be improved.

61 thoughts on “making the TNIV a better Bible

  1. R. Mansfield says:

    Wayne, you’ve seen the following, but I thought it was worth repeating here as part of the conversation:

    I really see only two issues that people complain about the most: gender language and the use of the so-called singular they.

    The TNIV is held to an unfair standard–a double standard–in regard to the issue of gender language. Lifeway Bookstores won’t carry the TNIV because of gender accurate wording in the TNIV, but they carry multiple translations (NLT, the Message, CEV, NRSV) that do the exact same thing. The critics of the TNIV have primarily focused on this issue, but it’s really a thinly veiled guise for what is actually a political assault. It’s ironic that some of the very people who signed the TNIV untrustworthy statement also worked on the NLT translation committee that did the exact same thing. I don’t think you can remove gender accurate language from the TNIV. It would only make it less accurate, and really, it would become a translation that I, personally, would not be interested in.

    Where some compromise might be found is in the removal of the singular they. I have no problem with the use of the singular they, and I have a degree in English! Nevertheless, the TNIV is the only Bible that does this, and I believe it could be removed without too much damage. Other translations such as the NLT and NRSV get around it, most often resorting to the 2nd person such as in Rev 3:20. Plus, it would be an easy fix because a gender accurate version of the NIV already exists in the NIVu, published in the UK in the mid-nineties. I have a copy of this edition and it works quite well.

    I’m not so certain that any of this will do much good, though. The detractors will continue to detract because the issues are much deeper. The key, however, is to change public perception of the TNIV. If customers are asking bookstores for copies of the TNIV, I promise you, those stores will carry it. This can be achieved in two ways (and I suggested these strategies two years ago):

    (1) Zondervan is going to have to invest in a very public re-education campaign that addresses the claims of the TNIV’s critics. I know that such information exists at websites such as the IBS’ , but a “come find out from me” approach is too passive. Ministers, church members, and bookstore owners and managers are going to have to be targeted–and I think that’s about everyone in the Christian community!

    (2) To help with the above, the TNIV needs some extremely high profile endorsements. When people have doubts about something but then see someone they respect backing it, they often will reconsider their original position. When I tell anti-TNIV folks in my circles that D. A. Carson and Timothy George have endorsed the TNIV, usually that surprises them. But Zondervan needs to find a few well-known individuals on the academic, ministerial, and lay levels that will take on the TNIV as their mission and will promote it and defend it publicly and loudly.

    Rebranding might not hurt either, but realize it’s only going to give the critics something new to complain about.

  2. Bill Blue says:

    I like the TNIV. It is my favorite audio Bible, and my 4th favorite translation in print (behind the NKJV, NLTse, & ESV). It is an improvement over the NIV and I recommend it to readers who are less literate.

    I don’t have specific verse recommendations, but I do suggest three things:

    1. Do a better job marketing the translation. Borrow a chapter or two from the publishers of the ESV and the NLTse. Go social beef up blogging, Facebook and twitter

    2. Provide a variety of bindings and text sizes. Give some away to reviewers.

    3. Provide more notes documenting literal meanings, alternate translations, and specify identities of manuscripts for alternate translations the way the NKJV does. Limit cross-references to parallel passages.


  3. Jay Wermuth says:

    I was recently doing a translation for one of my Hebrew courses and as I was translating Psalm 23 I wondered why the TNIV chose to translate v. 4 as such:

    Even though I walk
    through the darkest valley, [a]
    I will fear no evil,
    for you are with me;
    your rod and your staff,
    they comfort me.

    While I understand that they have a footnote with the alternative rendering “Or the valley of the shadow of death,” I think that the idea of a valley of a death shadow (צלמות) as the Hebrew actually means makes plenty of sense to the average reader and carries the poetic sense of the passage. Furthermore, this passage is so widely known and read that it simply seems awkward to read “even though I walk through the darkest valley.” To me, the meaning is not lost at all in rendering this passage more literally.

    Just a thought… And I will mention that I both fall into the target age range of the TNIV (25) and am not a fan of the “Essentially Literal” translation philosophy as a general principle.

  4. Sue says:

    Und ob ich schon wanderte
    im finstern Tal,
    fürchte ich kein Unglück;
    denn du bist bei mir,
    dein Stecken und dein Stab
    trösten mich.


    I somehow think that perhaps this is the more literal translation.

  5. Tyler says:

    Heb 2.6-8, making the alternate translation (that is supplied in the footnotes) the primary translation. I understand the TNIV’s desire to be gender-neutral, but here the context is that the author of Hebrews used the Psalm quoted to refer to Jesus, hence there ought to be a 3rd person masculine pronoun, not a 3rd person neuter. Hopefully I’m not being completely ignorant saying that.

    Also, the TNIV comes so far, but falls so short – why can we not get a decent English bible (other than the NJB) that transliterates Yahweh instead of perpetuating that old superstition surrounding the tetragrammaton? Honestly! When English readers hear “brothers” they don’t hear “brothers and sisters,” why should we think that when they hear “Lord” they’re not hearing medieval nonsense? “Lord?” If you want to talk archaic language that needs updating, that’s your Exhibit A!

  6. CD-Host says:

    I can think of lots of verses but really the issue for the TNIV is strategy. In many ways Zondervan lost the gender debate unfairly. To hit back hard against the people who defamed the TNIV may not be in their interests. They sell lots of books to the religious right. I would guess their thinking is that if they TNIV dies it dies, but war could be very costly.

    If that is true then since it has been branded already so I’d say make use of that. Or go more liberal with the study notes and push it as a good translation for mainline churches. The TNIV is a much better bible for day to day church use than the NRSV and the gender neutral will be a plus with that crowd.

    Even more radical, The Catholics and Orthodox are still looking for a good bible. They NJB is not nearly as good as the TNIV. Make it theologically correct in terms of catholic doctrine (which is only a few hundred changes at worst) sell it as a Catholic bible. Pull something like a mix of the history from the TNIV study notes and the Navarre study notes. That’s a wide open market. (Of course that means 7 more translations if they don’t have them already).

    Alternately, give away the expositors plus some other materials and make it a free webapp. They already have a CD version of the expositors, and they already have dictionaries, interlinears… they own. They could easily become the “e-sword” translation of choice. If NET does not have the supporting volumes yet. Fight on price and offering a full featured package. Accept you are going to not make money on the TNIV but don’t lose the mindshare as the NIV fades.

  7. Tim says:


    While I have recommended to the TNIV translation committee that they produce an edition with the Deuterocanonicals, there is a whole process by which a Catholic Bible needs to get approval from the bishops conference (USCCB) before it can be labeled as such. I think this was attempted with the NLT, which has a Catholic reference edition. However it does not have official Catholic approval, thus it is not widely available.

    I would push for a TNIV w/ Apocrypha (Deuterocanonicals).

  8. Wayne Leman says:

    The verse for me that I think would help reduce anti-TNIV sentiment if it were revised is Heb. 2:17:

    “For this reason he had to be made like his brothers and sisters in every way, in order that he might become a merciful and faithful high priest in service to God, and that he might make atonement for the sins of the people.”

    Some people misunderstand “he had to be made like his brothers and sisters in every way” to mean that Jesus was no longer a male, that he was some kind of androgynous human. So much has been made of this in criticism of the TNIV that I suggest the wording be changed so it doesn’t invite that interpretation. I have tried to think of revisions that might work but none, so far, satisfy me. For instance, I think that “he had to be made like his fellow humans in every way” communicates the intent of the original author well, but it can be criticized for lacking the familial metaphor. But the CBT is smart and I think that they could come up with a revision which is both accurate and not open to the severe criticism which the current wording has.

  9. CD-Host says:

    Wayne —

    Gaus handles 2:17 nicely:

    …for which reason he had to be one of us, his brothers and sisters, in every way so he could have ….

    which weakens the issue.

    As an aside, I think the bible is pretty clear elsewhere that the incarnation was male. To think the Logos is male in any meaningful sense is IMHO a violation of the second commandment, but that’s just my take.

  10. CD-Host says:

    Tim —

    Good point. What would stop Zondervan from going through the formal process after they “fix” the few hundred verses that need fixing?

    And since you are catholic and on this blog I have a question I’ve been waiting to ask…. the NEB/REB both seem to have gotten the approval. I never hear American Catholics discussing these version as an option, when discussing their choices. Do you know why not?

  11. CD-Host says:

    Tyler —

    Interesting point. How would you update the language regarding God for a democratic society? I can’t think of any language that isn’t medieval that describes the bible’s use of God. What would you suggest?

  12. Tim says:


    I don’t want to take up too much time on this thread discussing the REB, but let me just say that the REB had Catholic participation in the actual translation process. However, I don’t think it was ever approved for liturgical use for any English language Mass. (I could be wrong.) Also, it is just not that easy to get here in the States. Once in a while I will see the REB Study Bible, but that is about it. So availability is a main reason.

    As for the TNIV and USCCB approval, I really don’t know. If a Catholic edition of the TNIV was developed and presented to the USCCB for formal recognition it could be possible, but certainly not for liturgal use. The NAB is still king in the eyes of the USCCB.

  13. Richie says:

    Both the NIV and the TNIV have a solid base of supporters now. The NIV’s support is vast having been built up over three decades now. Millions, such as myself, have used it as their primary Bible for much of that time and for many of them it is now “their Bible”. All other versions are measured against it including the TNIV. In addition, millions of children have been brought up on the NIV – one to two generations so far – and for many of them it is also “their Bible” and they understand it as it is.

    The TNIV support base is much, much smaller; however, it has the support of many well-known Bible scholars and ministers. If the TNIV is going to expand its support base in a significant way that support must almost certainly come primarily from NIV readers. They are the ones who will give or recommend it to others if they are convinced of its benefits. Otherwise,it is possible that the TNIV may become more popular simply with time because it does have a support base amongst many in academia, various ministers, various churches and amongst many younger people.

    I think that the only changes that would make it more acceptable with NIV readers as a whole would be (1) get rid of the “singular (indefinite) they” and (2) “de-pluralize”. Examples of both of these are well known so I won’t go into that. Doing one or the other or both of the above would give the TNIV more support among NIV users; however, doing one or the other or both of the above would also cause many supporters of the TNIV to withdraw their support for it.

    Therefore, I would suggest that the NIV be left as it is (it continues to be #1). Let the TNIV continue along the lines it is already going with moderate refinements. Then, perhaps also, add a new NIVu (update) that incorporates more so-called inclusive language along the lines of the ESV as well incorporating many of the other non-gender changes of the TNIV. The English of the NIV is still acceptable and clear to a very large segment of the English speaking population. The English of the TNIV is acceptable amongst an ever growing segment of the English speaking population. The same would be true of a new NIVu. It is a mistake to think or say that any of these forms of English is intrinsically better than the others. Let them all have a life of their own and let them all find their own support amongst the Bible reading public.

  14. John Miller says:

    Wayne, I don’t know any of the original languages, but the following language would convey the familial relationship in Hebrews 2:17:

    “For this reason he had to be made like his siblings in every way, in order that he might become a merciful and faithful high priest in service to God, and that he might make atonement for the sins of the people.”

    John Miller

  15. CD-Host says:

    I’m not sure. The REB and NEB were officially sponsored though by the RC church of England, Wales, Scotland and Ireland. Is there a distinction between official sponsorship and whatever would be the equivalent of USCCB for GB?

  16. Tim Worley says:

    Psalm 14:7
    “Oh, that salvation for Israel would come out of Zion!
    When the LORD restores his people,
    let Jacob rejoice and Israel be glad!”

    The actual Hebrew, rendered by the TNIV “restores his people”, is “restores (or brings back) the captivity of his people.” The best way to render this is debated. The NIV and ESV have “restores the fortunes of his people”, while the HCSB and NASB have “restores his captive people.” The NKJV chooses the formal rendering, “brings back the captivity of his people.”

    There is good support for both the NIV/ESV and HCSB/NASB decisions. On the one hand, taken more literally, “restores the captivity of his people” would indicate a bringing back from physical captivity. On the other hand, there is precedent for treating “restore captivity” idiomatically. In Job 42:10, the LORD is said to have “restored his [Job’s] fortunes” (TNIV/NLT/ESV/NASB), “restored his losses” (NKJV), and “restored his prosperity” (HCSB) – all of which render the same Hebrew phrase as in Ps. 14:7 & 53:6.

    So, while I’m aware of the difficulty involved in translating this verse, the TNIV rendering has always struck me as a bit too safe. In a sense, they’ve avoided having to take a side by flattening out the phrase to simply “restores his people.” While this may be a legitimate strategy given the difficulty of rendering the phrase, I guess I wish the TNIV translators would take a side.

    Tim Worley

  17. Theophrastus says:

    CD-Host — you have the Oxford Study Editions, right? Check the prefaces. The NEB had no Catholic participation and was only “sponsored” after the publication. The REB had Catholic observers only. It’s all spelled out in the prefaces.

    The REB appeared in 1989, but under the Vatican’s 1987 Guidelines for Interconfessional Cooperation in Translation the Bible the NEB and REB cannot receive imprimatur because they had no official Catholic participants.

  18. Demas says:

    CD-Host: Moffatt used ‘the Eternal’ for the tetragrammaton in the OT and the ‘Realm of God’ in the NT. Might be a place to start.

  19. Tim Chesterton says:

    First, if the TNIV is to crack the mainline market (and I’m sure plenty of mainliners would be happy for an alternative to the NRSV that is easier to read), it needs to be available in an edition that includes the Apocrypha. I don’t see what the big deal is with this. All the major Reformation translations included the Apocrypa. I’m an Anglican, and we use a daily office lectionary that includes the Apocrypha. I really like the TNIV, but until it includes these books it can never be my primary reading Bible.

    Second (I know this isn’t a translation issue), I’m not familiar with the UK editions but almost all the North American editions have print that is too small for anyone under forty, and the bindings are mainly too cute and gimmicky. This is in strong contrast to the NIV which first came out in the North America in 1978 with a fairly large typeface and (what I’ve always preferred myself) a single-column format (thank you, NEB and JB!).

    Third, I don’t think the translators of the TNIV have really taken into account the implications of reading it out loud in a liturgical setting. The obvious example of this comes from the psalms, which surely should be translated with public reading in mind. Try reading out loud the TNIV of Psalm 46:1 (which I believe is identical to the NIV and was one of the places I was hoping they’d fix it!). ‘God is our refuge and strength, an ever-present help in trouble’. It’s very hard to read that out loud without making it sound like ‘a NEVER-present help in trouble’!

    My two-cents’ worth.

  20. ElShaddai Edwards says:

    I would echo Tim’s comment about critiquing the text for oratory issues. This was one of the major issues for the REB revision team as they looked at the NEB text and it would be a feather for the TNIV if it read as well rhythmically as it already does for “modern English”.

  21. Bill Blue says:

    Re: “it would be a feather for the TNIV if it read as well rhythmically as it already does for “’modern English’”.

    What a super-herculean task!

    This may be why I prefer the NKJV (along with my personal longer history with the NKJV, and personal oral tradition and memory of the NKJV).

    The TNIV is a great translation, but is the English language as used in the 21st Century as easily adaptable to a rhythmic structure as the English of the 17-19 centuries? All of the latest modern English translations regardless of philosophy functional (ESV), balanced (HCSB, TNIV), or dynamic (NLT) are all striving to adapt ancient manuscripts to not only modern English, but English as used by the current generation. Can this be done without sacrificing comprehension?

    My admiration and appreciation for the translators and review committees has just grown appreciably.

  22. Tim Chesterton says:

    ElShaddai brings up a bigger issue than I had in mind. Oral rhythmic structure is wonderful (and by the way, Bill, I think the REB is one modern translation that does an excellent job of it), but I was simply wanting any TNIV revision to avoid obvious oral snafus like ‘a never-present help’ (the first edition of the NEB had a wonderful one – ‘have nothing to do with loose livers’!!!!).

    A modern translation, read aloud, will never have the sonorous sound of the KJV tradition, and if that’s what we have in mind when we say ‘It reads well’, we’re bound to be disappointed in modern translations. Modern translations can read well aloud, but they will do so on their own terms, not those of the KJV tradition.

  23. ElShaddai Edwards says:

    > Modern translations can read well aloud, but they will do so on their own terms, not those of the KJV tradition.

    I agree, Tim. I would not expect the TNIV to sound like the KJV, but perhaps oral reading could be part of the review process. Maybe, for example, they could sit down with the Bible Experience recordings and read along, flagging each passage that doesn’t “speak well”.

  24. CD-Host says:

    I have to say one my pet peeves is the “all-in-one” bible. I honestly think bibles should aim to excel in one area. What is required for one use is often the opposite of what is needed for another . Liturgical use requires that a bible read wonderfully, have inspiring visions, accuracy should be secondary. Devotion / daily reading requires that a bible read smoothly and quickly. Low level of vocabulary, short sentences get the main points quickly, don’t worry about the details. Conversely study requires that a bible be accurate its all about the details. I think we would be better off if bibles were more focused.

  25. Michael Nicholls says:

    The first principle of any biblical translation is accuracy to the biblical text;

    But what kind of accuracy? Accuracy to form? Accuracy to meaning? Genre? Impact? Style? If you slavishly follow the forms of one language in another language, you might give a whole different impression that was never intended by the original author.

    Back on topic…

    I had a quick look through 1 Peter and here’s what I came up with.

    Just wondering why there’s a change in capitalization of ‘Stone’ in 1 Peter 2:4-8

    As you come to him, the living Stone

    See, I lay a stone in Zion

    In 2:12

    Live such good lives among the pagans

    ‘Pagans’ to my ears has negative connotations that probably weren’t intended. The Greek has ‘τοῖς ἔθνεσιν’, which perhaps would be better translated ‘nations’ or ‘unbelievers’ in this verse, e.g. (and I’d even take out ‘the’):

    Live such good lives among unbelievers

    3:10 sounds awkward because of the switch from the 3rd person ‘whoever’ and 2nd person ‘you’:

    “Whoever among you would love life
    and see good days
    must keep your tongue from evil
    and your lips from deceitful speech.

    Whoever among you … must keep your tongue from evil just doesn’t sound right.

    “Whoever would love life
    and see good days
    must keep his tongue from evil
    and his lips from deceitful speech.

    The NIV sounds much better here, but just needs to work out the gender issue.

    Perhaps the TNIV could be fixed just by adding a ‘you’ before ‘must keep’, i.e.:

    “Whoever among you would love life
    and see good days–
    you must keep your tongue from evil
    and your lips from deceitful speech.

    You could even get away with removing ‘you must’ and just using a hyphen after ‘days’. That way sounds best to me.

    Btw, the Greek doesn’t use ‘he’ or ‘his’ at all in this verse, just a masculine article that goes with the participle. Why do people object to using gender inclusive language but have no problem inserting masculine pronouns that don’t exist in the original? Just food for thought… 🙂

    4:7 almost sounds like it’s reverted to more archaic language:

    Therefore be alert and of sober mind so that you may pray.
    (and 5:8 – Be alert and of sober mind.)

    Therefore be clear minded and self-controlled so that you can pray.
    (5:8 – Be self-controlled and alert.)

    Just wondering what the decision behind that was.

    Same for 4:12

    do not be surprised at the fiery ordeal that has come on you to test you, as though something strange were happening to you.

    do not be surprised at the painful trial you are suffering, as though something strange were happening to you.

    In 5:5

    “God opposes the proud
    but shows favor to the humble and oppressed.”

    “God opposes the proud
    but gives grace to the humble.”

    θεὸς ὑπερηφάνοις ἀντιτάσσεται,
    ταπεινοῖς δὲ δίδωσιν χάριν.

    Apart from the poetry of the NIV sounding better, isn’t ‘humble and oppressed’ being a little too ‘additive’? And why replace ‘grace’ with ‘favor’?

    I know that some of these issues were inherited from the NIV, but it would still be nice to clean them up.

    Ok, that’s all from me. Sorry it’s all 1 Peter but it’s because I’m really familiar with it.

    Keep up the good work!

  26. tc robinson says:

    I’d like to see a “human body” for sarx at 1 Tim 3:16 – not “a body.” It’s too vague.

    I’d like Proverbs 3:12 to read more like the NLT’s rendering.

    Proverbs 4:23 should go back to the NIV’s rendering, “wellspring of life.”

  27. Sarah says:

    I want to see the “Son of Man” instead translated as the “Son of humankind” (or equivalent) in the TNIV. The word “Man” in the phrase “Son of Man” was not intended as a gendered word, it was intended as a gender-inclusive word and should be treated fully as such in the TNIV translation.

    Because words like “Man” and “he” have double meanings (meaning either male-human or any-human), when any person reads the word “man” or “he” that person’s mind finds it easier to associate the word with a male human than with a female human, even if the context is obviously gender-neutral. This biases the reader of a gender-inaccurate bible translation. Male readers will identify more than female readers will with passages that use masculine language in a supposedly “gender-neutral” way. Female readers have a harder time really connecting and identifying with such passages (even though on a conscious level they do). Research studies have shown that this bias exists (the bias towards identifying an obviously gender-neutral-intended paragraph with a male person when masculine language is used). It impedes our understanding of the bible. This is not a new problem created only out of the Feminist movement’s push for ‘politically correct’ language, it has always been a problem. But it is becoming a bigger problem because using masculine language in a “gender-neutral” way is becoming much more infrequent. Using masculine ‘gender-neutral’ words are imperfect stand-ins for using truly ‘gender-neutral’ words.

    I also want to read a bible that refers to God as female (at least some of the time). I am not suggesting the TNIV should have done this at all. But if we truly believe God is equally male and female (that both Adam & Even were created from God & in God’s image), then our use of masculine language alone to describe God is problematic because it makes it hard for us to see the feminine side of God. It constructs God falsely as “male first” or “father first” with some ‘feminine’ qualities. It constructs God as more male than female. By using female language to describe God we can view our same ungendered God from a different angle, and get a wholer picture of God (and of women in general).

    To counterbalance the God=male and therefore male=more-godlike bias that using masculine language for God creates, there needs to be a bible translation that uses female language to describe God (and also Satan & the Holy Spirit; but not Jesus). The only reason masculine language was used to describe God in the scriptures was as an imperfect concession (something had to be used to describe God).

    I know there would be enormous opposition to describing God – occassionally – (and in the occasional bible translation) – as female. To those people I want to say this. When the word “brothers” is used in the scriptures it is often (not always) intended to mean “brothers & sisters” or “siblings”. When God is described as male in the bible, we know that the original authors intended us to understand that God was both male & female. If we change the word “brothers” to the gender accurate “brothers and sisters”, we should also consider changing at times the reference to God as male to a female reference. Some people see God as more female than male (while others see God as more male). God is neither & both, and our writings about God should reflect this.

  28. Sarah says:

    I agree with previous commenters that:

    1. the TNIV should be available in a larger text size

    2. the 23rd Psalm should say “the valley of the shadow of death” instead of “the darkest valley”. I love that psalm, and in particular that line, and I think the “valley of the shadow of death” conveys a darker and deeper meaning than the phrase “the darkest valley” does.

  29. Jay Wermuth says:


    You state “I also want to read a bible that refers to God as female (at least some of the time).”

    Where would you propose doing this? I see no place where it would be appropriate to “change” the reference of God to a feminine word. This I am sure is the slippery slope that critics of the TNIV fear. The point of the gender-accurate language of the TNIV is that the translations of anthropos, adelphos, aner etc. can mean man, humankind, people, brothers and sisters or the like. I am not sure what this would be a legitimate use of any word used to describe God. I do not think there is any legitimate use of Pater as mother in reference to God for that matter, which would be requisite in rendering God in a feminine sense. I think the reason some people like the TNIV is not because is makes passages gender neutral, or introduces feminine language where it is not naturally found to make women feel better, but that it makes passages more accurate no matter what the end of that accuracy may be.

  30. Michael Nicholls says:

    Although I strongly support gender inclusive language, referring to God as female is actually a form of gender exclusive language.

    If we change the word “brothers” to the gender accurate “brothers and sisters”, we should also consider changing at times the reference to God as male to a female reference.

    These are two different issues. Translating ‘brothers’ as ‘brothers and sisters’ is removing the gender definiteness. Translating male references of God to female references is removing one specific gender and giving it another specific gender.

    Being gender inclusive means that at times masculine pronouns/words are grammatically male but semantically indefinite/inclusive.

    The biblical authors had every opportunity to use gender language that referred to God as female, but they never did. There is no linguistic basis for translating masculine language as feminine, although there is linguistic basis for translating masculine language as indefinite/inclusive.

    But if we truly believe God is equally male and female

    Our theology shouldn’t change our principles of translation. We translate into English what the writers were trying to say in their own language, and they never tried to say that God was female.

    our use of masculine language alone to describe God is problematic because it makes it hard for us to see the feminine side of God.

    That’s an issue you’ll need to take up with the original writers of Scripture. It’s not something that translators are linguistically permitted to meddle with.

  31. Jay Wermuth says:

    “But if we truly believe God is equally male and female”

    I would also argue that God in reality, is not actually a male and not actually a female, but God is “GOD”. YHWH is the name, referring to “him” as Father is simply describing one way that God relates to creation. God is not a man, nor is God a woman.

    Just a thought.

  32. Peter Kirk says:

    Sarah, I agree with your objection to “Son of man”, and sympathise with your issues about male language for God. But I disagree with you about “shadow of death”. The problem with that is that the Hebrew word tsalmavet simply does not mean “shadow of death”; rather it is a perfectly good word (with Arabic etc cognates) meaning “darkness”. Probably some ancient translator (of LXX?) didn’t recognise the word and so split it up into tsal “shadow” and mavet “death”, or guessed that it was a compound of these two words. But Hebrew does not make compound words like that. The problem is that some English translator (perhaps via the Vulgate) picked up the “shadow of death” mistranslation, and that has found its way into traditional renderings of Psalm 23. But it is time to get rid of errors like that one, and I am glad that TNIV has done so.

    Michael, you wrote:

    We translate into English what the writers were trying to say in their own language, and they never tried to say that God was female.

    Indeed, but they also never tried to say that God was male. They simply followed the linguistic convention in Hebrew and in Greek in which the word for “god” is grammatically masculine. The problem is that the English pronoun “he” does tend to imply that the referent is male (not grammatically masculine as English has no such concept). So if we call God “he” in a translation we do NOT “translate into English what the writers were trying to say in their own language”; rather, we distort their message by introducing an element of natural gender or sex. Unfortunately there is no easy answer in English – or perhaps we should call God (the Trinity, a plural noun in Hebrew) “they”.

  33. CD-Host says:

    Sarah —

    I think in the direction you want to go, exploring the femaleness of God you are going to have a tough time inside of Protestantism. The bible describes either a male God talking to his male followers or a sexless God talking to his followers using heavily gendered language depending on your point of view. Protestantism doesn’t allow for the sort of loose rewording that are needed for explicit feminazation for the text.

    Collyridian Christianity might be something you want to look at which balanced God out by identifying Mary as coequal with Jesus and using non gendered language (generally Allah = the sole God) for “the father”.

    Another place is in traditions that give Sophia a leading role, like Esoteric Christianity, which comes out of the Orthodox Church. Finally there are “Christian” forms of Wicca which have doctrines like YHWH is the sky father and Gia the earth mother, though whether these are meaningfully Christian at all is debatable.

  34. R. Mansfield says:

    Billy, all three designation are used for essentially the same thing. However “gender neutral” is generally used in the pejorative sense by those who disapprove of such language translation. “Gender accurate” has been used by those who translated both the TNIV and the NET Bible to emphasize that when a reading is translated so that both male and female is included in a context that it was originally intended as such, this more “accurately” communicates the intention of the author.

  35. Jay Wermuth says:


    I understand your perspective on the issue of tsalmavet, however, according to BDB, the word literally conveys the sense of a death-shadow or a deep shadow. It can also mean darkness or a deep darkness.

    Some have argued that the word is a “combination of salamu ‘be dark’ (Akkadian also Arabic) plus ut as an abstract ending.” Thus this word is likely a compound noun. This word would not be dissimilar to compound nouns found in Ugaritic. The word can also give the sense of “the darkness of eyelids tired from weeping (Job 16:16)” and “the darkness of the abode of the dead (Job 10:21f; 38:17).”

    I think that the “darkest valley” (TNIV) is a legitimate translaion, however, I think the valley of the shadow of death, at least based on the lexicon’s is just as valid a translation and better conveyed the correlation with the danger found in the later vv. of this passage.

    That’s just my perspective. Maybe I am wrong… it wouldn’t be the first time.

  36. Nancy says:

    I don’t have a comment about a specific verse, but I do have one gripe which affects many, many verses in the TNIV (which overall, I like very much), namely its consistent insertion of a hyphen in ‘no-one’. Where did they get the idea that ‘no-one’ is hyphenated? I’ve never seen it hyphenated anywhere else, in any variety of English. It’s a small thing, but I find it a recurrent irritation in reading the TNIV.

  37. R. Mansfield says:

    Nancy, I have multiple copies of the TNIV and none of them have a hyphen in “no one.” I wonder if perhaps you obtained a British copy? What is the publishers of your copy of the TNIV?

  38. Peter Kirk says:

    Jay, the scholarship in BDB is over a century old, but even its compilers note that most modern scholars read tsalmavet as tsalmut, implying the derivation from the common Semitic root ts-l-m plus the suffix -ut. Don’t confuse nouns with suffixes like this, a normal Hebrew means of word building, with compound nouns made up from putting two nouns together, very rare in Hebrew. There is a meaning component “death” here only if this word is such an exceptional compound noun, whereas all the evidence, even the BDB gloss, suggests that it is a normal suffixed noun.

  39. Jay Wermuth says:


    You very well may be correct on this issue. I certainly do not have the expertise that you have in bible translation. Again, I am not offended by the “darkest valley” decision, but if “shadow of death” is a legitimate option, it would be my preference. On this matter I will defer to the experts 🙂

  40. Nancy says:

    Rick, my copy is the Anglicized edition published by Cambridge University Press. I’m interested to know that the American versions don’t hyphenate ‘no one’, but I’m still baffled as to why the British edition does.

  41. R. Mansfield says:

    Nancy, maybe Peter Kirk can offer some insight.

    Incidentally, I just pulled my Cambridge REB off the shelf, and in looking up Rom 3:12, I notice that a hyphen is not inserted into “no one” there.

  42. Peter Kirk says:

    In British English “no-one” is commonly written as such, hyphenated, and sometimes as one word, “noone”, not so often as two words “no one”. I have a feeling that REB deliberately used mid-Atlantic English, compromising with those pesky ex-colonials on matters like that. 😉

  43. Nick Mackison says:

    I suggest giving the TNIV a radical make-over. Be more free in some parts and more literal in others, like a gender-accurate HCSB.

    For example, on the literal side:
    1. change “sinful-nature” to “flesh” every time it occurs
    2. change Romans 1:5 from “faith and obedience” to “obedient faith”
    3. change Romans 8:36 from “we face death all day long” to “we are being killed all day long”
    4. change John 17:6 from “I have revealed you” to “I have revealed your name”
    5. change John 17:11 from “protect them by the power of your name” to “keep them faithful to your name”
    6. change 1 Timothy 3:17 from “all God’s people” to “the servant of God” (the current TNIV footnote)
    7. change “evil spirit” in the gospels to “unclean spirit” every time it occurs
    8. change “observing the law” to “deeds required by the law” every time it occurs in Romans and Galatians
    9. change 1 Kings 18:27 from “busy” to “relieving himself”.
    10. change Hosea 2:20 from “acknowledge the LORD” to “know the LORD”
    11. change Ephesians 5:21 from a stand alone sentence i.e. “Submit to one another” to “and therefore submit to one another”. So include verse 21 with the rest of Ephesians 5:18-20 as does the NLTse
    12. change Romans 1:18 from “The wrath of God” to “For the wrath of God”
    13. change Romans 1:18 from “wickedness of human beings who suppress the truth by their wickedness” to “unrighteousness of human beings who suppress the truth by their unrighteousness.”

    On the free-er side:
    1. change Romans 3:25 from “sacrifice of atonement” to “wrath bearing sacrifice”
    2. change Matthew 6:9 from “hallowed be your name” to “may your name be regarded as holy”
    3. change “LORD Almighty” to “LORD of multitudes” or “Yahweh over heaven’s armies” everywhere in the OT.
    4. perhaps change “LORD” to “Yahweh” in the OT
    5. change “Christ” to “Messiah” everywhere it occurs and not just in the gospels.

  44. Nancy says:

    Peter, I’m sorry, but I’ve never seen ‘no one’ hyphenated in a British English text (and British English is the variety of English I read, teach, write and publish in). Hyphenation is an option (according to my dictionary), but it’s not standard usage and you can’t blame the REB’s non-use of it on some notion of ex-colonialism.

  45. Peter Kirk says:

    Nancy, some people here certainly use “no-one” hyphenated. See for example its use in the title, and again in the text, of this BBC article, and in the title of this article in the New Statesman. These are supposed to be high quality publications, and a search of the BBC site shows that it is common although it is not their house style (p.24). Here is a whole list of quotations using “no-one”, although the spelling here may be editorial policy. Find some more with a Google search for “no-one”. But I accept that “no one” is more common, even when I restrict my search to UK sites.

  46. Gerald Bastin says:

    There will always be tweaks that could be made to the text itself, but I don’t actually think text tweaks are what is needed. The TNIV needs to have a fighting chance in the market, something Zondervan has to up to this point been unwilling to do. New NIV editions come out all the time, yet it seems to take an act of congress to get a new edition of the TNIV out.

    How about this: instead of playing rope-a-dope with the gender issue, embrace it. “Hey all you women out there, this translation actually acknowledges you’re a part of the Kingdom and were considered important to the church in the 1st Century.

    Blitz the folks. Come up with a paper back edition that could be given away and then actually give it away! Every person that I have suggested check out the TNIV, has liked it better.

    Go Apple on the NIV. Listen folks it’s time to upgrade, we have a better edition and support for the old one is over as of December 2009.

    Go on Offense – It is high time to confront Dobson, Grudem and the gang – they were guilty of bearing false witness against a brother. The TNIV would be helped tremendously if even one of them came and admitted they were wrong.

  47. Michael Nicholls says:

    Here’s one that they’re all guilty of, except a few, like The Message, the NLT, the CEV, and maybe others. But perhaps the TNIV team could take a look at it:

    Mark 1:2a (TNIV)
    as it is written in Isaiah the prophet
    (Καθὼς γέγραπται ἐν τῷ Ἠσαΐᾳ τῷ προφήτῃ)

    Am I the only one whose ears don’t like ‘in Isaiah the prophet’? It sounds like something is written inside of him, rather than in the book that he wrote.

    Why can’t the ‘ἐν’ be taken as instrumental? – ‘as it is written by Isaiah the prophet’.

    Or ‘as it is written in the book of Isaiah the prophet’.

    As it is written in Paul or As it is written in Paul’s first letter to the Corinthians?

    Those fateful words, written in Tolstoy or Those fateful words, written by Tolstoy?

  48. Peter Kirk says:

    Michael, perhaps one reason for not translating ‘as it is written by Isaiah the prophet’ is that this authorship claim would be controversial. Many scholars deny that the words quoted from Isaiah 40 were written by the original Isaiah son of Amoz, and argue that they were written centuries later by “Deutero-Isaiah”. Here is not the place to debate this issue except to point out that it would be wrong to press this use of en in Mark 1:2 as a claim of authorship. It is just as likely, perhaps more likely, to indicate the place where the words are found. This implies that the rendering “by” is not a good one. So I would prefer to translate this ‘as it is written in the book of Isaiah the prophet’.

  49. R. Mansfield says:

    Of course, no one in the first century–to my knowledge–thought of Isaiah as anything but a unity. To me, that’s not the issue here.

    Καθὼς γέγραπται ἐν τῷ Ἠσαΐᾳ τῷ προφήτῃ as “just as it is written in Isaiah the prophet” is a fairly literal translation, and I for one think that Michael has a good point. The phrase is essentially shorthand for “just as it is written in THE SCROLL of Isaiah the prophet.”

    The NLT better reflects the original meaning, or at least avoids confusion from literalism, with “just as the prophet Isaiah had written.”

  50. Joshua says:

    As I already said in the post for the TNIV, 1 Corinthians 7:36-38 is severely inaccurate in the TNIV (as it is in many other translations, even including literal translations like ESV). See the NASB or NKJV for a correct rendering.

    It’s the same underlying Greek but it’s talking about a completely different matter depending on what translation you read. The main word in question is Strong’s G1061, which means to be GIVEN in marriage, not to marry.

    Obviously there is a cultural reason behind the misrepresentation of this passage’s teaching in so many popular Bibles. It is contrary to the culture for women to be “given in marriage.” Nevertheless, this is what the Greek says.

  51. Peter Kirk says:

    It is contrary to the culture for women to be “given in marriage.”

    Actually, no, at least here in the UK. It is a standard part of the marriage service for the officiant to ask “Who gives this woman to be married to this man?” The person who answers is usually the bride’s father, or another man taking his place, who has just led her up the aisle. At the wedding I went to on Saturday, for the first time I remember, a woman took this part, the bride’s mother because her father had died.

    Of course this idea of giving away the bride is purely nominal in most modern practice (although perhaps not in very conservative complementarian homes), but this does show that the concept is not an unknown one.

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