“We’ll get Mikey to try it, he hates everything”
classic Life cereal commercial line
At their annual convention in Phoenix, Arizona, “messengers” of the Southern Baptist Convention voted overwhelmingly “not to commend” the newly revised edition of the New International Version translation of the Bible, aka NIV 2011.
Their unstated reason is simple: They don’t like it.
Specifically, they don’t like it when passages that traditionally referred to males — using words like he, him, his, man, men, etc. — get changed to gender neutral pronouns.
But gender neutral is usually how the original texts read. In the book, How To Choose A Bible Translation for All It’s Worth by Gordon Fee and Mark Strauss, the latter talks about working on the translation committee for the TNIV. He notes that the Greek “anthropos” — from which we no doubt get the word anthropology, the study of human civilization — refers to ‘person’ or ‘persons.’ You could say, tongue in cheek, that “in anthropos there is neither male nor female.”
But he goes on to explain that forms like “Son of Man” cannot be jettisoned so easily, since they are both a poetic form and a doctrinal statement. In other words, God is not a ‘she’ in either the TNIV or the NIV-2011, though this is how some hot-headed people would have you believe it reads. It’s the end of doctrinal purity as we know it.
Consider this verse which we’ve been discussing here on this blog and at Christianity 201 recently:
If any man would come after me, let him deny himself and take up his cross daily and follow me.
What possible major doctrinal violation takes place when I paraphrase that as:
If anyone would come after me, let them deny themselves and take up their cross daily and follow me.
[The so-called "singular to plural" crisis is, in this case, solved by the antecedent use of "one."]
The answer is: Nothing. It’s a much closer rendering of what Jesus is saying here, unless, of course, he is extending the invitation of discipleship entirely to males.
The Southern Baptists simply don’t like the change. And they don’t like it with the same venom that characterizes King James Version Only people. (And yes, I said King James Version only, which KJ-Onlyites hate because it concedes there are in fact other versions.)
Furthermore, when you read it, you’ll note this interesting clause:
RESOLVED, That we respectfully request that LifeWay not make this inaccurate translation available for sale in their bookstores;
Ah yes, the power of an economic boycott. The SBC controls the LifeWay chain of bookstores and websites; an organism about which I’ve already expressed a certain degree of contempt here. This is the group that believes women should not teach men, but rakes in huge piles of cash daily from the sales of books by Beth Moore. This is the same mentality that caused a group of 800 male pastors to turn their chairs so that their backs were to the podium during an address being given by Billy Graham’s daughter, Anne Graham Lotz; a story referred to in a chapter of J. Lee Grady’s book Ten Lies The Church Tells Men, that was referred to here a few days ago.
What is Zondervan to do about all this? The remaining editions of the NIV-1984 version in the Thinline and Church Bible (formerly Pew Bible) style — the two most popular formats — have already been discontinued and remaining copies donated to mission agencies. The devotional, teen and study Bibles are not in reprint awaiting the fall release of the rest of the NIV-2011 product line.
Zondervan made an “all-in” commitment to the new translation, and is now met with this slap in the face from North America’s largest Protestant denomination.
But largest for how long? As we reported here on Wednesday, USAToday’s religion page states that baptism statistics for the SBC are at a virtual all-time low for the past two generations, dropping to 1950s levels. The denomination is going the way of many mainline Protestant ones; losing relevancy and losing younger families.
As for the translation issue: C’mon guys (which implies both male and female here). Look at the example above from Luke 9 and tell me that some element of the Christian faith is being compromised by the paraphrase I offered.
If not, then suck it up.
Jesus Christ is the same, yesterday, today and forever. Our faith is based on unchanging truth.
But the English language is changing, and male-dominated, patriarchal language simply doesn’t mean what you think it means anymore; it isn’t heard that way, and simply doesn’t cut it.