The TNIV: Gender Accurate or Ideologically Egalitarian -- By: Peter R. Jones

Journal: Journal for Biblical Manhood and Womanhood
Volume: JBMW 07:2 (Fall 2002)
Article: The TNIV: Gender Accurate or Ideologically Egalitarian
Author: Peter R. Jones

Gender Accurate or Ideologically Egalitarian

Peter Jones

Professor of New Testament;
Chairman of the Department of Biblical Studies
Westminster Theological Seminary
Escondido, California

Much controversy has surrounded the Today’s New International Version (TNIV) since its appearance in 2001. Naturally, the TNIV committee has sought to reassure the Christian evangelical community that its work is worthy of Bible readers’ confidence. The publisher, Zondervan, affirms categorically that the TNIV “is not a gender-neutral translation.”1 This statement is strictly true, and laudably so. Unlike some recent, liberal translations like Oxford University Press’s The New Testament and Psalms: An Inclusive Version, which refer to God as Mother/Father, eliminate all male pronouns for God, and designate the eternal Son as “child,”2 the TNIV has retained all the male references to God and kept “Son” for Christ. We are in the committee’s debt for holding the line on this important issue.

However, it is fair to say that the TNIV is “gender-neutral” in relation to human males and females. A working translation principle is stated in the opening pages: “Among the more programmatic changes in the TNIV is … the elimination of most instances of the generic use of masculine nouns and pronouns … Also] the so-called singular “they/their/them” … been employed… fill the vocabulary gap …”3

It seems to me that this “gender-neutrality” with regard to male and female sometimes takes the TNIV in an unquestionably “egalitarian” direction. I affirm this not because there are Bible scholars on the translation team who have publicly identified themselves as egalitarian. As a matter of fact there are some complementarians on the team. I affirm this because, in eliminating generic male references, the TNIV, like the evangelical egalitarian movement in general, at this crucial point, appears to side with modern culture in its rejection of the very notion of male representation. I grant that where there is the possibility of serious misunderstanding, that is, where it looks like only males are referenced, though all are nevertheless addressed, “gender-accurate” translation can be justified. This is a judgment call. But a heavy-handed or inflexible application of “gender-accuracy” fails, I judge, to do justice to the subtle and nuanced character of much biblical language. What I do find disconcerting is the TNIV’s automatic elimination of male-tagged biblical usage when the Bible seeks to communica...

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