'Gender Accurate' Bible Criticized for 'Political Correctness'
(CNSNews.com) - The world's best selling modern Bible translation, the New International Version (NIV), is scheduled for an "inclusive language" overhaul, despite criticism from some church leaders who say the changes are an attempt at political correctness.
The International Bible Society (IBS) announced this week that its new translation of the New Testament, dubbed Today's New International Version, or TNIV, will go on sale in April and contain "inclusive language" to portray a more "gender accurate" translation.
Protestants make up a majority of users of the NIV translation of the Bible. The NIV does not include additional biblical books used by Roman Catholic and Orthodox churches.
Judy Billings, public relations manager for IBS, said the goal of the TNIV Bible is to produce a better understanding of the original Hebrew and Greek text in which the scripture was written. "Certainly, God's word does include women as well as men," she said.
Billings said there has been a lot of interest in the TNIV Bible, most of it positive.
"We are most encouraged by that. It just reflects a better understanding of the meaning of the original Hebrew and Greek. The majority of the changes are made to better clarify passages or update everyday English without altering the meaning. There is only a seven percent change from the NIV. The TNIV matches the NIV word for word most of the time. It is very exciting and very encouraging to us."
But leaders of the Southern Baptist Convention, the largest U.S. Protestant denomination, have challenged the translation.
Dr. Richard Land, president of the Southern Baptist Convention's Ethics & Religious Liberty Commission, said Billings' description of the TNIV translation as gender-accurate is "what's known as spin."
Land called this new translation a way to "meet the political correctness of the moment."
"When they are talking about a gender-neutral Bible, they are translating words that are masculine in nature into neutral expressions. That is not translation, that's a paraphrase," he said.
The Southern Baptist Convention plans to offer its own new translation, the Holman Standard Translation, which will be complete in 2004.
"We're going to stick with strict translation and not be subject to paraphrasing," Land said.
Other conservative Bible scholars say the meaning of the scripture has been skewed as well.
"There are many instances where words are unnecessarily mistranslated," Randy Stinson, executive director for the Council on Biblical Manhood and Womanhood, said.
The Council on Biblical Manhood and Womanhood, a Louisville, Ky. group, works to preserve gender specific language.
According to Stinson, in its attempt to be inclusive, the IBS has abused the right of Biblical translation.
"We're really against what they've done here and what we are saying is that there are instances where singular words are made plural and instances where words are translated other than the way they should be in order to be more gender sensitive," he said.
"The primary consequence is that it actually changes the meaning of some of these texts," Stinson added. "As evangelicals, we affirm what is called the verbal inspiration of scripture which means even the words are inspired."
Billings rejects Stinson's argument. "That's not correct. The TNIV translation of the New Testament is to just shed light on this new generation that is coming up so that they will understand in more clear language than ever before. We have not tampered with the words of God or God's son Jesus," she said.
"The TNIV version uses generic language only where the meaning of the text was intended to include both men and women," she said.
Zondervan Publishing holds the North American rights for both the NIV and TNIV. Scott Bolinder, executive vice president and publisher at Zondervan, said extensive measures have been taken to preserve the original meaning of the text.
"There's no social agenda," he told CBS News.
Dr. James Dobson, president of Focus on the Family and an influential Christian radio host, was less quick to judge the new translation.
"None of us here at Focus on the Family are translators or expert theologians, with a requisite knowledge of the Greek and Hebrew languages," Dobson said. "We have no statement at this time [on the TNIV], and are awaiting the analysis of those Evangelicals who are theologically and linguistically qualified to assess this new translation."
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