My recent “change of heart” concerning the gender-inclusive Bible translations brought some surprising (to me) attention to this blog. I changed from recommending such versions as the NASB, NIV, ESV, and HCSB to adding the TNIV and NLT, while backing away from at least one of the previous favorites.
I’m afraid this may have created a bit of a misconception for some of my readers. The fact is that while I am now recommending some of the gender-inclusive versions, I still have some reservations about them. So I’d like to try and lay out some of those reservations for you.
One thing I really like about the TNIV’s translation philosophy is the idea of gender accuracy rather than gender inclusiveness. Probably my greatest concern in Bible translation is that the Word of God be translated as accurately as possible into English. I have been greatly encouraged by what I have seen in the TNIV in this regard, including the gender accuracy of the translation. The more I read it, the more convinced I become that they have done a very careful and serious job of translating the genders with a view towards accuracy. But I still occasionally feel that in certain places, for whatever reason the translation has been put into a state of gender inclusiveness when it may in fact be possibly more correct theologically to translate it in the masculine gender. My previous post of March 29 showed an example of this where I feel the TNIV’s translation of John 3:4 would be better in the masculine, as it has been traditionally translated. While it appears to be perfectly correct using the singular “they”, etc., I think it could be argued that it would be better the other way.
But they may yet win me over! Besides, I’m no expert!
The TNIV is definitely an improvement over the “old” NIV. It’s clearly more accurate in many places. But where it hasn’t been improved, it’s simply the same old NIV, with all of its positives and negatives. And among those negatives is a rapidly aging style of English, including Biblese, or “church language”; English that is spoken in church, but not very well understood outside of the church.
And that’s where the NLTse seems to shine. It’s an easy read. It’s smooth; and it contains some excellent, excellent translation work! They really do a good job of making the meaning of certain passages clear in English.
But believe it or not, that’s what is causing me some problem with the NLTse. You see, the NLTse has been so simplified that sometimes I feel like I’m reading a children’s Bible. It’s like whenever I’m not reading a great theological truth or insight, then it’s just way too simple. Maybe I’m expecting too much. Maybe the NLTse is really intended to be a children’s Bible, but I don’t really think so. I think Tyndale, while they have really done an excellent job, should maybe ratchet the style up a notch.
What I have been finding lately is one Bible that seems to be achieving that balance I’m looking for, and that is the NET Bible. It’s simple yet adult in style. It’s clear and also gender accurate. In fact, I think the NET Bible team has done the best job of all with gender accuracy. If I have any problem with it at all, it’s that it is occasionally awkwardly-worded. And as you know, I’m no stranger to awkward wording!
You can get the NET Bible in its complete form with its almost 61,000 translators’ and study notes, but to be perfectly honest, the NET is a fine translation in its own right. You can get the Readers Edition; you can always check out any questions you have by looking at the notes online! But I have used it enough, including the notes, that I think I can trust the translation team, and I think I can recommend this Bible very easily to just about anybody.
Yeah, I changed my mind. But that wasn’t too great a change. I’m as conservative as ever, and I’m as concerned about accuracy as ever. And I just couldn’t ignore some of these new translations because it was claimed they were corrupting the Scriptures with their inclusiveness. I finally realized that didn’t disqualify them; that they were actually better than some of the “safe” translations I was recommending.
No, I didn’t switch from conservative to liberal; I didn’t switch from Republican to Democrat. But I am trying to be honest about Bible translations.