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by Craig Blomberg


Craig, were there a fair number of revisions adopted by the CBT this year?

Can you characterize the revisions that were adopted?

And we dare never forget that the Bible was not written to be elegant, or in a high literary style by the standards of its day, but in the common language of the ordinary person (not just men!) to be understood and thus obeyed.

I suggest you read Job, or the Psalms, or the opening of Ezekiel, or the entirety of the Hebrew Scriptures, and then revise your opinion.

PS: A typo in your post "here"/"hear".

Dr. Blomberg,

Very helpful post in general and I appreciate your clear explanation of how some of this stuff.

That said and with all due respect, have you not skirted the inclusive language issue here some? I have not used the TNIV hardly at all (I'm certainly open to, just haven't really gotten around to it!) so I do not mean this as any kind of a slam- just a question. That question is, isn't the issue with the inclusive language not so much the general move but the move on some specific, debated passages? Further, even if our culture uses inclusive language, the Bible simply doesn't, which means that you are in fact changing the text of the Bible (which I'm sure you agree with, right?).

That said, I'm open to an explanation of why that is ok, but I do need to get a better sense of why that is the case even within dynamic equivalency other than simply "That's what our culture does now."

Thanks again.


Thanks for this post. I've commented on it over on the NLT Blog.


Thanks for your wise comments. I have tracked the TNIV discussion/controversy for quite awhile now and I thank you for injecting some sanity into the debate.

Interesting post. I very much enjoy the TNIV and look forward to many happy years reading it. Thanks for your contribution to the Church.

In Craig's bio, you mention the Zondervan Exegetical NT Commentary. Will this 20 volume work be released all at once? And please do a cd-rom version!

ML, It will not be released all at once. The commentary on James will be released this fall. Look for some more info on the entire series in the next few weeks.

I appreciate that many people labor carefully to try to produce faithful translations of the Bible. I agree that sometimes people fail to respect that.

The issue of "inclusive language" should at heart be, and I think you were trying to get at this, what language most effectively expresses what was being said. If some idea was meant to apply to both men and women, clearly masculine language is not the best choice.

Where it goes wrong is if it becomes a PC effort to sanitize the Bible according to a current set of assumptions. Then it is no longer faithful to the text.

A good translation, like the TNIV, winds up using a lot of inclusive language because that is the most faithful way of translating without getting caught up in the PC trap.

"And we dare never forget that the Bible was not written to be elegant, or in a high literary style by the standards of its day, but in the common language of the ordinary person (not just men!) to be understood and thus obeyed."

That's a pretty good dodge, but misses the point. What is sad is that your interpretation that the Scriptures are gender neutral will be gobbled up by a generation of individuals who have no idea that what they are reading is your post-feminist gloss on the text.

There have been some good comments/questions here, but Dr. Blomberg has been unable to respond due to some prior commitments. I've asked him to interact with these in another post; hopefully, we'll be able to do that soon.

My apologies for the delay in responding to these posts; I was in England at a country club without internet access celebrating the wedding of my older daughter!

I did not deal with the inclusive-language issue in my post because I published extensively on it when the TNIV first came out. My article can be found in the summer issue of the Bible Translator and was also posted on the official TNIV website for quite some time. The gist of it was that for a Bible translation that by design tries to strike the best possible balance between formal and dynamic equivalence, the kinds of translations applied to the inclusive language for humanity in the Hebrew and Greek texts is best dealt with as the TNIV has done.

The point about the more poetic parts of the OT being more literary and elegant is absolutely correct, but I was allowed only a fairly short post, and the poetic parts of the Scriptures are a minority of the whole of the Bible, so my generalization continues to remain true. The NIV and TNIV both, however, do seek a more elegant level of translation and allow for a bit more old-fashioned language in a number of places in these poetic parts.

As for changes adopted this year, they were largely based on suggestions of committee members from past years that the committee had not yet gotten to. With only one or two exceptions, they were the "not very exciting" kind of thing that nevertheless has to be done, such as determining what to do in a myriad of OT contexts for the Hebrew previously translated "creeping things" once it was determined that normal English vernacular wouldn't today use that expression. However, we have distributed all of the suggestions that Wayne Leman and his friends gave the committee among all of us according to our area of specialties and we will be determining which of those should be brought to the full committee beginning next summer for discussion and voting on.

I've been saying in blogosphere that the TNIV will rise. Well, I'm being convinced of that fact more and more. Thanks for this post, Dr. Blomberg.

Here is an example of the type of translation work I do:

(Genesis) Adam/man (Hebrew-synonyms) = ‘ruddy’, rosy, the flush of red blood

‘man became a ‘living soul’ ‘ (Genesis):
soul (Hebrew & Greek) = animal principle/breathing creature

- does not suggest a ‘human’ being but rather a ‘ruddy’ creature (as coming from 'dust' of the 'ground' - the ‘red’ earth, mine-primordial soup)

It very much appears that Adam/man was not initially a ‘human’ being as many suppose but rather a ‘ruddy creature of earth’, an animal (which had to have been a chimpanzee because of recent human genome DNA mapping).

Religious tendencies are observed strictly in the ‘human’ species. If human beings are ‘soul (animal)’ then why aren’t such tendencies evident in other primates? Could it be because we have something the other primates don’t have?

animal = soul
human being = soul + immortal spirit

soul = mortal
spirit = immortal

It makes more sense, to me, that there was only 'one' primate from which human ancestry came - otherwise chimps today would be in various stages of evolving.

Dear Craig,

I commonly hear people use a plural possessive ("their") to refer to a singular antecedent ("everyone"), but I never hear "everyone" followed by a plural verb ("want").
Was that a typo, or do you hear such? Thanks for the article!

Hi Barry, good to hear from you! No it wasn't a typo, but I did write this from England where people do speak that way. Remember when you lived here how on BBC they would say things like, "Parliament want to change the law about. . ." using plural verbs with colllective singulars. So I guess I unconsciously lapsed into English instead of American! Thanks for asking!

Craig, the problem is that you are asking people to accept "the TNIV for what it deserves to be—the truly standard English-language version for years to come" while, in fact, it does not use what most people consider to be standard English. The greatest resistance to the TNIV is from traditional NIV users themselves. They feel that the use of pluralizing, the use of the singular they/their/them, and the use of words like "mortals" is being imposed upon them for the sake of political correctness. The great majority of schools, like my own, still teach that the singular they/their/them is incorrect English usage and most NIV readers agree that that is the case. But the CBT, despite this, decided to regularize that which in the history of the English language has only been used as an exception. Is it used in common spoken English today? Yes, but in varying degrees depending on many factors. Without a doubt it is extremely controversial and is guaranteed to cause controversy if used in a major translation. Unfortunately, there is no middle ground for people like myself who prefer a Bible in the NIV tradition. Their choice becomes that of going all the way with the NIV, going all the way with the TNIV, or else switching to a more moderate usage of gender inclusiveness such as the ESV or HCSB. It is certain that making pronouncements about what a great translation the TNIV is is not going to convince the thousands and thousands of people who grew up to speak/write English in a particular way and are comfortable with the language of the NIV that they've used for much of their lives - though most would welcome a more moderate revision. If, however, most NIV readers are not convinced about the superiority of TNIV who is going to give and recommend the TNIV to others? If the CBT is serious about truly getting people to read an up-graded version of the NIV such as the TNIV, then they need to honestly come to terms with fact that NIV readers as a whole are NOT accepting it and that a much, much better job needs to be done of convincing them of why they should. This should also include the consideration of an intermediate NIV/TNIV version that uses more moderate gender-inclusive language in a similar manner as the ESV or HCSB. Otherwise, it is the TNIV itself which may simply become, or should I say 'remain', the niche translation.


Congratulations! I hope you and your lovely and talented wife have time to enjoy things over there. I made my first foray over the border into Scotland this last April - I just love Edinburgh.

I'm sorry to have to disagree wtih you on this. This insistence that women don't know when they are included is just plain silliness and pandering to the spirit of feminism. I was at the CBE meeting in the summer of 1997 when the NIVI controversy was breaking - there Stan Gundry and Cathie Kroeger promised that this move to "inclusive" language would NEVER lead to feminine language for God. And we all know how long that promise lasted on the CBE end of things.

I hold no hope that it won't likewise infect the rest of Evangelicalism.


I came to faith in 1970 through Campus Life/Youth for Christ and the Living Bible Paraphrased! I learned that there were some inaccuracies in that paraphrase, indeed more than in any of today's plethora of translations. I moved on from that but my girls were weaned on the New Living Translation until they were old enough to enjoy and benefit from the NIV. My passion is not to convince NIV readers to switch to the TNIV but for the lost. I work with Scum of the Earth church in urban Denver with twentysomethings raised to use inclusive language as a matter of course with no political agenda behind it. For them the NIV, ESV, and HCSB, for all their many strengths, are still jarring when in countless texts "A man must. . ." appears in proverbs and other generalized truths. Who is the audience we are most concerned to reach? The polls make it clear how we're not reaching the younger generation adequately, and they are rightly sensitive to the harm traditional Christianity has done to people in various ways in the past. My motives have nothing to do with feminism but everything to do with 1 Corinthians 9:19-23, avoiding every possible stumbling block except that of the foolishness of the cross to bringing people to Christ. The TNIV helps me best in that effort, when people have enough education to move beyond the NLT.


I have about 67 things I'd like to say in response - but I'll leave with one question and a link. Since when did the Church ever need polls and marketing experts to do God's work of evangelism and discipling?

Here is the link:



Need them? Never. Does that mean we can't learn from them and use them profitably? of course not! The biblical authors astutely wrote and the apostles and prophets preached in ways very tailored to each distinctive audience. All the polls, etc., help us do is know our audiences better and that has always been a crucial task in communicating the gospel.

Iam enquiring about an idividual by the name of [ESTOLIS or EXTOLS]. To my knowledge he lived during the period of Christ and he must have had significance in that era because there is a stone plaque with his name on it in his memory. Any asistance you can provide would be appreciated. I may be contacted via e-mail: [email protected]

Thanks - Eric.

Richie, you're not distinguishing between descriptive and prescriptive correctness in language. Descriptive correctness is simply the rules that people by and large actually use when they speak and write (actually not the same set for speaking and formal writing, and you get different sets of rules in different dialects along with even more for internet blog commenting or cell phone texting). These are are rules, and there is a fact about what is correct in any given language setting. The fact is that the vast majority of Americans will use "they" and its forms to refer to a semantic singular, and this observation is supported by hundreds of years of literature, including the KJV and works of such eminent writers as Jane Austen, Oscar Wilde, and C.S. Lewis. There's no resisting that conclusion unless you flat-out ignore the evidence.

Now there is something that people call prescriptive grammar, and this is simply what rules you would prefer that people adopt. There's no fact about which set of rules is the right one. That's how descriptive grammar works, since it's based on observable fact, and linguists can categorize languages and dialects according to their various systems of rules. But prescriptive grammar is wholesale invention by those who come up with their sets of preferences for how people should talk and write. Prescriptive grammar books that you point to as what's taught in school do not line up with ordinary usage (since that's what they're trying to "correct"), but as I've already said they don't even always line up with the best literature of the language, which has included this sort of construction for hundreds of years. It wasn't until 20th century prescriptivists arbitrarily selected it as something to remove from the language that anyone developed the idea that it's wrong.

Moving past the gender language issue I think we are missing something even more important. Many struggle with embracing the TNIV because it fails theologically to translate vital concepts such as propitiation in Rom. 3.

Or consider 1 Cor 15:21-22:

NIV: 21) For since death came through a man, the resurrection of the dead comes also through a man. 22) For as in Adam all die, so in Christ all will be made alive.

TNIV: 21) For since death came through a human being, the resurrection of the dead comes also through a human being. 22) For as in Adam all die, so in Christ all will be made alive.

Clearly what the TNIV has said here is true. But, the change from "man" to "human being" does lead one to wonder whether there is any significance to the male gender of either Adam or of Christ.

I just think it is fair to point out that making the TNIV gender inclusive has also been done at a cost, ans raises many issues and problems.

Fascinating post and comments. I remember coming down on the other side of this debate when it first surfaced, but as I have watched English (American-style) change over the last 20+ years, I have come to the conclusion that I was wrong. I still have some "heartburn" with certain renderings in the TNIV, but that's immaterial. I notice that virtually everyone who weighs in on these debates is Christian, and few consider our "target audience" (can an unbeliever understand and receive the Word as translated in xxxxxx Version?? that's the question, since we have this little thing known as the Great Commission).
For me, the operative questions are not:
Which version do I prefer?
Which version is the "most literal,"
"who can understand this?"
Is this version "childish," in the sense of being so simple that it loses its literary power? (mustn't do that, either)
If our nonChristian contacts cannot understand, receive, and appreciate the message of the New Testament, we've done like the Roman Church prior to the Reformation--decreed that only a "foreign language" text (the Latin Vulgate, for those who wonder what it was) be used, and then chained that translation to the pulpit.
A Bible that nobody can read is useless. An inaccurate Bible does not represent the truth accurately.
Plain English. Accurate English. Contemporary usage. Those are good things. Thanks for the blog.
--Steve Bradley.

Male? Female? Does it matter?

As it is written "For in the resurrection they neither marry nor are given in marriage, but are like angels in heaven." Matthew 22:30 (NRSV)

If the gender language used in the TNIV is correct for the context, use it. Period.

My hope and prayer for the NIV 2011 is that they slap an NIV cover on the text of the TNIV and sayd "Done!" Maybe fix any typos or any outright errors, but no back-pedaling.

If they surrender to the opposition...well, I'll just use...the NRSV with my NET/NASB.

Make it an outstanding day!

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