A few years ago, when Zondervan and the IBS came out with the TNIV, I quickly noticed (despite the fog I’m usually in) that there was a firestorm that suddenly sprang up around that new translation. So I started doing a lot of my own research, that is, reading everything I could find on the subject. I consumed the articles I read, particularly the ones opposing the TNIV. They made a lot of sense to me. I agreed especially with the parts about how the TNIV’s inclusive language would obscure the prophetic nuances in many Old Testament passages which might possibly be referring to the Messiah.
Also, since I have been personally embroiled in the major controversy in the United Methodist Church over liberalism and the authority of the scriptures, it was my knee-jerk reaction to almost automatically side with the anti-TNIV forces, because I knew that anybody who wanted to change the scriptures to make them gender-inclusive just had to be liberal.
Since then I have written many things on internet discussion boards and blogs, railing against the TNIV and other inclusive translations. I just knew they must be tools of the devil, designed to grab the hearts and minds of gullible new believers and drag them straight to hell.
Over the past several months, since I first found the Better Bibles Blog and got to know the people there and other bloggers who write about Bible translations, the Lord has been working on my heart as well as in my mind. I have discovered that this is not a liberal/conservative thing. I have discovered that the people who translate these new Bibles, and the people who market these new Bibles, do not have red skin and run around with horns on their heads, long tails, and pitchforks in their hands. No, I have discovered that they’re people, and not necessarily misguided people.
What is becoming clear to me is that these people are, for the most part, kind, generous, godly people who care very much about our salvation in Christ and wouldn’t dream of making any Bible that would mislead anybody. They care very deeply that the Bibles they make are as close as is humanly possible to the original manuscripts in the meaning they convey to us. In other words, they are trying, with every ounce of their being, to make the very best English Bibles possible.
And I have discovered that many of them are hurt deeply by the reaction of the so-called evangelical community to the work that they have done.
This morning I was reading the “Statement of Concern” about the TNIV that I found somewhere on the BBB or TNIV Truth blog, or possibly one of the other blogs (I can’t seem to find it right now.) Of course I was not surprised by anything I read; I had read it all before, and I used to agree with it. But then I started going through the list of evangelical leaders who had signed the statement, and I became quite saddened as I saw many names of respected pastors and theologians, a couple of whom I trust very much and I didn’t know they had signed on with the Colorado Springs Guidelines.
This is scandalous! What a terrible thing to have going on in the evangelical community, and in the church in general! They are conservative, evangelical translators making conservative, evangelical Bibles. Why can’t we get that through our heads? We have been attacking our brothers and sisters!
My thoughts keep forming around this passage from Matthew 23:
13-14 “Woe to you, teachers of the law and Pharisees, you hypocrites! You shut the door of the kingdom of heaven in people’s faces. You yourselves do not enter, nor will you let those enter who are trying to. (TNIV)
Isn’t that exactly what we have been doing? We have been blocking the understanding of the scriptures for new believers by insisting they read the Bible in an old form of English that we don’t even speak any more. These fine translators I have been talking about are trying to give us a Bible in the language we speak! What more can we ask? We need to be encouraging people to read the Bible, not discouraging them. Give them a Bible they can understand! We still have our NASBs and ESVs and NRSVs and so on, so if we can just get people interested in reading the Bible, it will open the door to conversation, teaching, and greater faith. These new translations can be the way to open that door!