The “Gender-Neutral” NIV: What Is The Controversy About? -- By: Wayne Grudem

Journal: Journal for Biblical Manhood and Womanhood
Volume: JBMW 07:1 (Spring 2002)
Article: The “Gender-Neutral” NIV: What Is The Controversy About?
Author: Wayne Grudem


The “Gender-Neutral” NIV:
What Is The Controversy About?

Wayne Grudem

Research Professor of Bible and Theology,
Phoenix Seminary,
Phoenix, Arizona

Many Christians still remember the huge public outcry in 1997, when people discovered that the IBS and Zondervan were about to release a gender-neutral edition of the New International Version (NIV), the largest-selling Bible in the English speaking world. The controversy ended May 27, 1997, when the IBS, under immense public pressure, announced that they had “abandoned all plans for gender-related changes in future editions of the NIV.”

On that same day, May 27, 1997, at Focus on the Family headquarters in Colorado Springs, I had been part of the original group who drafted the “Colorado Springs Guidelines for the Translation of Gender Language in Scripture.” So when I received a certified letter on January 24 of this year, telling me IBS was withdrawing from their 1997 commitment to abide by the Colorado Springs Guidelines, I was surprised and disappointed. I knew that this letter meant that the IBS, as copyright holder for the NIV, and Zondervan, as the exclusive publisher of the NIV, had now decided to go ahead with a “gender-inclusive” version, in spite of the 1997 agreement.

I did not have to wait long to hear what they had done. The next Monday, January 28, 2002, national TV and radio networks proclaimed that a “gender-neutral” NIV was being published, the New Testament this April and the Old Testament to follow in 2003. The marketing campaign included about 40,000 advance copies of the New Testament that were being mailed to Christian “gatekeepers.” The new edition would be called Today’s New International Version (TNIV), and the IBS gave assurances that the current NIV would also remain in print as long as there was still demand for it.

What is the controversy about, and why should we be concerned?

The heart of the controversy is this: The TNIV people have decided to translate the general idea of a passage and to erase the male-oriented details.

They do two things to erase the male-oriented details: (1) they eliminate them (changing “man” to “mortals,” “father” to “parent,” “son” to “child,” “brother” to “fellow believer,” and “he” to “they,” so that all male meaning is gone), or else (2) they add female-oriented details that are not found in the original text (such as changing “brother” to “brother or sister,” so that the male emphasis in the Bible’s examples is gone).

We can look at some examples of these changes from the 1984 NIV to the 2002 TNIV.

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