Which Bible To Use? -- By: A. Berkeley Mickelsen

Journal: Priscilla Papers
Volume: PP 11:4 (Fall 1997)
Article: Which Bible To Use?
Author: A. Berkeley Mickelsen

Which Bible To Use?

Alvera Mickelsen

A founding Board member of CBE, Alvera Mickelsen taught at both Wheaton and Bethel Colleges. She and her late husband, Berkeley (who also served on the CBE Board), wrote Understanding Scripture, a lay person’s guide to interpreting the Bible. In addition, Alvera edited Women, Authority and the Bible (available from the CBE Book Service.)

Shortly after the controversy over the New International Version Inclusive Language Edition (NIVI) erupted, an older woman in one of my Bible classes asked me, “Are you in favor of changing our Bible?”

I knew immediately to what she was referring since she listens frequently to Jerry Falwell and James Dobson. I said, “Of course I am not in favor of changing God’s Holy Word. But I am in favor of correcting erroneous translations or English language that has changed so much it is no longer readily understood. Aren’t you?” She looked at me with some confusion.

Then I asked, “What translation are you using?” She held it up for me. It was the New Living Translation, one of the many translations that uses inclusive, gender-accurate language when the original text so indicates. I told her the fine translation she was using was exactly what she should have and that she need not worry that her Bible had been changed.

Although she is an intelligent woman, very knowledgeable about the Bible, she had been misled by those who wanted to imply that the plans of the NIV committee on Bible translation (CBT) to produce an inclusive-language edition was part of a “feminist seduction of the evangelical church” (headline used in World magazine, March 19, 1997).

Why should the effort to produce a gender-accurate Bible become the center of a storm of controversy? It is a sad story that has brought ridicule on evangelicals by all those who have some understanding of the translation process and the constantly changing English language. It is one of the few times in my life when I have been embarrassed to identify myself as an evangelical. And I have learned that many others feel the same.

The New International Version (NIV) was first published in 1978. The translators were respected evangelical scholars skilled in Hebrew or Aramaic (the Old Testament Languages) and/or Greek, the language in which the New Testament was written. The group became known as the Committee on Bible Translation (CBT). In 1984, the NIV came out with its first revision, carrying out the clearly stated goal of the CBT to keep the NIV up-to-date in light of current biblical scholarship and constantly changing English language usage. The translation committee kept on working, expecting another revision about the turn of the...

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