by Vern S. Poythress
[The following post, entitled “Response to Mark Strauss,” is reproduced from “Response to Mark Strauss,” Christianity Today 46/11 (October 7, 2002): 43, 45. Used with permission. It is part of a larger exchange, “The TNIV Debate: Is This New Translation Faithful in its Treatment of Gender?” on pp. 37-45. The piece that I contributed originally to Christianity Today is “Is the TNIV Faithful in its Treatment of Gender? No,” Christianity Today 46/11 (Oct. 7, 2002), 37-45, also available on this website.]
The main points that Dr. Strauss tries to make are not new, but have already received a response in Vern S. Poythress and Wayne A. Grudem, The Gender-Neutral Bible Controversy: Muting the Masculinity of God’s Words (GNBC; Broadman and Holman, 2000; now online atwww.cbmw.org/resources/books and www.keptthefaith.org).
Dr. Strauss says that the TNIV makes improvements to the NIV, such as using person or people when that is what the Greek means. But this has never been the question under debate (see my approval of such changes in GNBC, 91-99, 197-98). The question is not whether the TNIV got some things right, but whether it is faithful in the area of gender–and there are many places where it is not, verses with changes in meaning due to the gender-neutral policy stated in the TNIV preface.
For example, the TNIV changes father to parents (Heb. 12:7), son to children (Gal. 4:7; Heb. 12:7b; Rev. 21:7), and brother to fellow believers (1 Cor. 5:11; 2 Thess. 3:15; 1 John 2:10). This neutering of meaning conforms to political correctness. In all these verses the Greek is singular and the singular form consistently carries a male meaning that is dropped by the TNIV (GNBC 251-276; “Analyzing Today’s NIV,” www.keptthefaith.org). Dr. Strauss confuses the discussion because, under the term inclusive, he unfortunately lumps together these cases that wrongly change a male meaning with cases that rightly translate a Greek meaning that is already explicitly inclusive (GNBC, 94-95, 115-117).
TNIV’s systematic elimination of generic he also causes meaning changes (GNBC, 111-232, 335-347).
Consider Revelation 22:18:
NIV: If anyone adds anything to them, God will add to him the plagues ….
TNIV: If anyone of you adds anything to them, God will add to you the plagues ….
The TNIV’s change implies that “you” all will receive plagues for the sin of “anyone of you.” The TNIV obscures the meaning in the very verse that forbids tampering with God’s Word! The TNIV removes the masculine singular he/his/him/himself over 400 times (see www.no-tniv.com). Moreover, in Greek a generic masculine singular typically suggests a male example, and is not purely gender-neutral, because the text will sometimes shift seemlessly from a generic masculine to a specific male example (GNBC, 142-145, 336-339). Contrary to Dr. Strauss’s assumption, the match between Greek and generic he is very good.
The TNIV says of Jesus, “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 …” (Heb. 2:17). Jesus did become fully human, identifying with both men and women. But high priests were always male. By addingsisters right after brothers, and following it with the telling phrase in every way, the TNIV makes it sound as if Jesus is bisexual (male and female). Such changes, though subtle in individual cases, accumulate to many meaning changes in the whole. In the process, even though the translators did not intend it, plenary inspiration is undermined.