By Adriane Dorr
Calling the gender-neutral language found in the New International Version (2011) translation of the Bible “a serious theological weakness and a misguided attempt to make the truth of God’s Word more easily understood,” the executive staff of the Synod’s Commission on Theology and Church Relations (CTCR) has released a brief opinion calling attention to the translation’s limitations.
The New International Version (2011) translation, which removes certain references to gender-specific pronouns, such as “he/him/his,” and replaces them with “they/their/them,” is a cause for concern for LCMS congregations, according to the document titled “CTCR Staff Opinion on Inclusive Language in the New International Version (2011).”
According to the opinion, which was requested by the Synod president’s office and is based on the 1998 CTCR report “Biblical Revelation and Inclusive Language,” substituting “gender-inclusive language that is not present in the original languages of texts of Scripture” undermines not only the meaning of certain specific texts but the LCMS’ understanding of Scripture as God’s inspired, inerrant Word as a whole.
In the translation’s preface, the New International Version’s Committee on Bible Translation explained that the shift in language usage occurred due to “many diverse and complex linguistic factors” that have brought about “subtle shifts in the meanings and/or connotations of even old, well-established words and phrases.” While understandable, the opinion notes that the removal and replacement of biblical pronouns can have far-reaching implications.
Citing NIV’s (2011) generic “human being” references as an example, the opinion notes that using a purposefully vague term in place of one such as “Son of Man” actually “impoverishes” the language Christ uses to speak of Himself in Scripture. “The use of inclusive language in NIV 2011 creates the potential for minimizing the particularity of biblical revelation,” the opinion states, “and, more seriously, at times undermines the saving revelation of Christ as the promised Savior of humankind.”
The document urges LCMS congregations and their pastors to “be aware of this serious weakness” in the NIV (2011) text, concluding that, “In our judgment this makes it inappropriate for NIV 2011 to be used as a lectionary Bible or as a Bible to be generally recommended to the laity of our church. This is not a judgment on the entirety of NIV 2011 as a translation — a task that would require a much more extensive study of NIV 2011 — but an opinion as to a specific editorial decision which has serious theological implications.”
To read and download the entire document in PDF format, go to www.lcms.org/page.aspx?pid=675 and click on “CTCR Staff Opinion on Inclusive Language in the New International Version (2011),” under the “Theological Opinions” heading.
Adriane Dorr is managing editor of The Lutheran Witness.
A recent conversation with the publisher of NIV confirmed that it no longer grants permission for authors and publishers to quote from previous versions of the NIV translation, including the well-known 1984 version, in their articles and publications. — Ed.
Posted Sept. 19, 2012 / Updated Sept. 20, 2012