Best-selling Bible may get gender update
Some gender terms could get makeover in first update
in quarter century
msnbc.com staff and news service reports
The world's most-popular Bible will undergo its first
revision in 25 years, modernizing the language in some
sections and promising to reopen a contentious debate
about changing gender terms in the sacred text.
The New International
Version, the Bible of choice for conservative
evangelicals, will be revised to reflect changes in
English usage and advances in Biblical scholarship, it
was announced Tuesday. The revision is scheduled to be
completed late next year and
published in 2011.
"We want to reach English
speakers across the globe with a Bible that is accurate,
accessible and that speaks to its readers in a language
they can understand," said Keith Danby, global president
and CEO of
a Colorado Springs, Colo.-based Christian ministry that
holds the NIV copyright.
But past attempts to remake the NIV for contemporary
audiences in different editions have been plagued by
controversies about gender language that have pitted
theological conservatives against each other.
The changes did not make all men "people" or remove male
references to God, but instead involved dropping
gender-specific terms when translators judged that the
original text didn't intend it. So in some verses,
references to "sons of God" became "children of God,"
Supporters say gender-inclusive changes are more
accurate and make the Bible more accessible, but critics
contend they twist meaning or smack of political
Earlier revision fell flat
Acknowledging past missteps, the NIV's overseers are
promising that this time, the revision process will be
more transparent and that they will actively promote
what they describe as a long-held practice of inviting
input from scholars and readers.
The NIV was first published in 1978 and more than 300
million NIV Bibles are in print worldwide; its
publishers and distributors say the translation accounts
for more than a third of Bibles sold worldwide.
The Committee on Bible Translation, an independent group
of conservative scholars and translators formed in 1965
to create and revise the NIV, will oversee the new
effort earlier this decade to create a separate version
of the NIV that used more gender-inclusive language in
an attempt to reach a younger audience fell flat with
groups that felt it crossed the line.
That edition, Today's New International Version, will
cease publication once the new-look NIV is released,
said Moe Girkins, president of Grand Rapids, Mich.-based
Zondervan, its North American publisher.
"Whatever its strengths, the TNIV has become an emblem
of division in the evangelical Christian world," Girkins
was the TNIV that ushered in changes from "sons of God"
to "children of God," or "brothers" to "brothers and
sisters." In Genesis I, God created "human beings" in
his own image instead of "man."
Many prominent pastors and scholars endorsed the
changes. But critics said masculine terms in the
original should not be tampered with. Some warned that
changing singular gender references to plural ones
alters what the Bible says about God's relationships
The Southern Baptist Convention passed a resolution
saying the edition "has gone beyond acceptable
"We fell short of the trust that has been placed in us,"
said Danby, of Biblica. "We failed to make a clear case
for the revisions."
Danby said that freezing the NIV in its 1984 state was
also a mistake, however. He emphasized that in the
revision, about 90 percent of the NIV will be unchanged.
Douglas Moo, a professor at Wheaton College and chairman
of the Committee on Bible Translation, said the group is
committed to "a complete review of every gender related
am not sure how it's going to come out," Moo said. "We
have a genuine, authentic review process ... Everything
is on the table."
One of the most vocal critics of gender-inclusive
translations, Randy Stinson of the Louisville, Ky.-based
Council on Biblical Manhood and Womanhood, said the
group supports updating the NIV. He credited organizers
for their openness.
"We're still probably going to differ on the way they
handle some of the gender language," Stinson said. "But
we're open and anxious to see what they come up with and
we're really going to be reserving judgment."
Most changes will have nothing to do with gender
inclusivity, Moo said. And the TNIV provides a glimpse
of likely changes: In the '84 NIV, Mary is "with child,"
but in the TNIV she is "pregnant." In the NIV version of
Psalm 146:9, "The Lord watches over the alien." The TNIV
used "foreigner" instead of "alien."