Archive for the ‘Bible/Bible Translation/Bible Publishing’ Category

History and Background of the NIV Controversy

January 16th, 2013 2 comments


This paper provides one of the very best histories of the New International Version Bible translation and the controversies surrounding its various “updates” up to and including the publication of NIV2011, the version that the Evangelical Lutheran Synod and The Lutheran Church—Missouri Synod have issued warnings about. The Wisconsin Evangelical Lutheran Synod appears poised to give is a “pass” and recommend it still be used.

This continues to amaze me, given the WELS position on inspiration and inerrancy and the authority of Scripture. Should the WELS choose to go with the NIV2011 as their translation of choice they will be endorsing a translation of the Bible that undermines key Biblical doctrines that the WELS wants to uphold.

Here is the paper that I found extremely helpful. It even mentions in it the WELS and The LCMS. Click the link below to download the PDF file:


An Interesting Conversation About Textual Criticism

November 6th, 2012 3 comments

Recently, as I mentioned in this post, Dr. Jeff Kloha at Concordia Seminary posted an interesting article about the latest edition of the standard version of the Greek New Testament, the Nestle-Aland edition, now in its 28th edition. In the footnotes of this book are indicated all the little minor differences we find between the myriad of copies of the Greek New Testament. In not a single instance does any of these textual “variants” change anything the New Testament teaches.

Here is the dialogue that resulted when I responded to Dr. Kloha’s article, which I think you may find helpful and interesting. And, as always, thanks for overlooking some of my typos, etc.

  • I’m looking forward to Dr. Kloha’s further articles on the NA28. I am not sure I can part with my trusty NA used throughout college, seminary, etc. recovered, et. Glad to hear of the online options.

    The “Nestle-Aland” text is the one most frequently used by students, pastors and scholars. It provides a large amount of data in the footnotes indicating minor textual differences, called “variants” that exist between the various copies of the original documents of the NT, known as the “autographs” — none of which we have, of course.

    Some would use this reality to propose that somehow we have an uncertain, unreliable or shaky knowledge of what the New Testament actually contains. Not true at all. Anytime you hear anyone using the matter of textual variants to dispute or try to refute the doctrine of inspiration or inerrancy you need to know you are dealing either with a person who has no real awareness of what he speaking about, or, as is sadly more often the case, a flat-out liar trying to deceive you.

    Keep in mind that there is not an iota (see what I did there?) of Christian doctrine that depends on, or is contradicted by, a textual variant.

    In spite of the myriad of textual variants, we do in fact have a reliable text of Holy Scripture.

    Ironically, it is perhaps the text of the NT for which there is more attestation than any other document from the ancient Greek/Roman era.

    It would be dangerous to suggest that there is some vast distinction between the form of the text and the material brought forward by the text (forma and materia). So, while our confidence is in the material content of the texts we do have we can also be confidence that God in His providential care for His Church has allowed us to have, to this day, the form of the texts that he gave by plenary, verbal inspiration, inerrantly, to those penmen who were moved along by the Holy Spirit, writing the very God-breathed words that the Lord wants us to have and to know.

    Therefore the faithful can know that the text of the NT is not some sort of obscure, hidden text that finally can only be trusted to the extent that the latest and greatest version of a critical edition like the NA makes available every few decades.

    Also, I also caution folks not to get caught up in rather foolish speculations about the canonical authority of those texts the Church has always received, for instance, speculations that, for example, the Book of Acts perhaps should not be counted among the homolegoumena, should be put into that category of ideas that, as my friend Jim Voelz likes to say, “Makes for an interesting journal article, but is wrong.”

    • Jeff Kloha says:

      Thanks for the comment. This essay, and the comment by Rev. McCain, was cross-posted on, though the comment has slight variations. I’m not sure which version of the comment was the “original text” and which was the copy, so I’ll leave the same reply on each site.

      A few thoughts in reaction:

      1) When I’ve given presentations on the text of the NT to lay audiences, which I’ve done on many occasions, I find that they do not need things “simplified”; they are well aware of the issues and appreciate careful presentations that are honest with the challenges and realities of the history of the text. In fact, I use virtually the same presentation for a lay audience that I do for pastors. So, indeed, we do not wish to cause any doubt. But I’ve found that the best way to avoid causing doubt is to be as thorough and clear about the manuscript situation and the textual problems as possible.

      2) The comment raises issues about how we express the authority of the Scriptures in light of the differences in the manuscripts. I hope that we as Lutherans can have some helpful conversations about the way that we express this (though I’d doubt that an internet forum is the best place for that to happen). I’m not entirely convinced that using Aristotelian and Thomistic categories of “Material” and “Formal” are helpful; these categories are not used in the early fathers when discussing the authority of the text, nor are the found in the Reformation period or in the Lutheran Confessions. I suspect that we’ll be better served if we reinvestigate the way that our early fathers viewed the authority of the text, because they were dealing with a similar phenomenon of text that we now have: Rather than the seemingly fixed, immutable, printed text known to the post-Reformation and Modernist church, we today have a transient transmission of the text, much like the Reformation and early church had. In any case, I was hoping to elicit conversation, and thank you for offering your thoughts. I hope the discussion continues in a helpful manner.

      3) I understand why you introduce language like this: “God in His providential care for His Church has allowed us to have, to this day, the form of the texts that he gave by plenary, verbal inspiration, inerrantly, to those penmen who were moved along by the Holy Spirit.” However, this is precisely the question: Which of the thousands of manuscripts, printed editions, translations, etc. carries, precisely, the plenary, verbally inspired, inerrant text? Does the authority of the Scriptures rest solely on having possession of such a text? And, are these the only alternatives available to us: 1) “we have the absolutely perfect wording of the text as left by the penmen” or b) “we have nothing”? I think those are false alternatives, and neither alternative accurately or faithfully addresses the situation of the text.

      4) Acts is antilegomena? Who’s smoking crack?

  • Just a couple follow ups to Dr. Kloha’s remarks. Yes, the textual transmission of these comments is a bit uncertain, no doubt a critical edition might be helpful, but for now…

    The major point I was attempting to make is that while we definitely both can, and should, explain the fascinating subject of textual criticism to the laity, we must never leave them with the impression that we do not have a NT text that is uncertain due to the myriad of variants. And in so doing create the impression that finally we need to try to figure out what might be the closest to the original so that we can finally know what the NT is trying to teach. I do think it is critical to assert, from the very start, that there are no textual variants that alter any point of doctrine and that the text, in spite of variants, is more than adequate for establishing sedes doctrinae. We must take never to lapse back into creating a chasm between “the Word” and “the inscripturated Word.” Those were not good days for our church body. I say no more.

    And, I do think it is worth pointing out how NT text is perhaps the one text from antiquity for which we have the greatest manuscript attestation. And I would also respectfully disagree that we can not point out the providential care of God for His church in providing the text of the Bible that we do have and use today.

    And finally, I would encourage Dr. Kloha to reconsider the very useful distinction between materia and forma, used quite brilliantly by Lutheran Orthodox dogmaticians to set apart Lutheran Biblical interpretation from competing views, used to make clear that in whatever form the Word comes, as long as it is based on that authoritative text of the Sacred Scripture, it is delivering the “goods” whether it be in a sermon, hymn, etc.

    And of course, Dr. Kloha knows that I never suggested we have today a “perfect wording of the original text from the original penmen.” But, on the other hand, we do have a perfectly useful and adequate and certain text from which we do draw our doctrine. We never want to suggest in any way, shape or form, otherwise. I’m sure he would agree.

  • Jeff Kloha says:

    Thanks for the thoughts, and the tone.

    Just one comment to the comment: We are trying to accomplish the same thing, that is, to allow the Scriptures to do the work of the Spirit, without causing doubt and uncertainty. Whether we need to defend the Scriptures by articulating one specific way of defining that authority is where I think we differ. And, given recent history, by failing to provide our congregations with an adequate way of understanding the authority of the text in light of the uncertainty of the text and canon (Misquoting Jesus, Gospel of Judas, Davinci Code, etc.), we have allowed uncertainty to creep in.

    This is where I’d like some conversation, where you say: “we must never leave them with the impression that we do not have a NT text that is uncertain due to the myriad of variants. And in so doing create the impression that finally we need to try to figure out what might be the closest to the original so that we can finally know what the NT is trying to teach.” It is the terminology that concerns me. The “text” is actually “uncertain.” That cannot be denied. Is it so uncertain that the voice of the Shepherd is lost? No, and this is where we might point out the ancient attestation of the text (though, of course, we all wish we had far more manuscripts from the earliest period). It is not a “clincher” argument, and, in its limited way, is helpful.

    But rather than talking generalities, a good “test case” is the ending of Mark. What do we do with that, and how does that reflect our view of the authority of the text? Luther used Mark 16:16 as a sedes doctrinae for Baptism in the Small Catechism. He did not, nor did anyone of his day, know of any manuscript or patristic evidence that would call that passage into question, nor that there were other “endings” to Mark. We now can be as confident as we can with any other major textual question that Mark 16:9-20 was not written by the same person who wrote what we now call Mark 16:9-20, nor for that matter di that person write the “Intermediate Ending” of Mark nor the various combinations and permutations of those endings (there are actually at least five different endings in the manuscript tradition). So, in this case, a sedes doctrinae is called into question by a textual problem. Now, other passages in Scripture teach that baptism works forgiveness of sins, rescues from death and the devil, and gives eternal salvation, so the teaching itself is Scriptural (indeed, there are passages that teach these things perhaps more clearly than does Mark 16:16), but should we use that passage (Mark 16:16) as a sedes doctrinae? I would suggest not, that we do in fact want to distinguish the words of God from the words of men if indeed those words have been added to the scriptural text. A parallel example is where Luther himself specifically rejected the use of the comma Johanneum as a sedes doctrinae in 1 John 5 because he did not think they were written by the Apostle, even though those words were common in Latin manuscripts and editions and in later printed editions of the Greek NT. He did not translate that text in either of his editions of the German Bible. So, I will respectfully disagree with the statement that it is *incorrect* to say that “we need to try to figure out what might be the closest to the original so that we can finally know what the NT is trying to teach.” If we believe in the authority of the Scriptures, I think that we are required to do exactly that.

    The church long before Lutheran Orthodoxy was able to hear the voice of the Shepherd in the Scriptures, even though they knew full well that their hand-made copies were different from one another. They certainly tried, to best of their skill and knowledge, to “figure out what might be closest to the original.” There are numerous discussions of specific textual problems in Tertullian, Origen, Eusebius, Jerome, Augustine, etc., etc. In fact, in Augustine’s De doctrina christiana, his hermeneutics treatise, he says specifically, “The first task of the interpreter is the correction of the copies, so that the uncorrected ones give way to the corrected ones.” It is not just modern-day critics who know that there is an uncertain text. And the early church and the Reformation was able to teach faithfully even though there was textual uncertainty. So, I do think that we might find helpful (better?) ways of describing the authority of the text in the Reformation and early church.


  • Dr. Kloha, I too appreciate this conversation and welcome the chance to clarify.

    “The “text” is actually “uncertain.”

    Perhaps you and I are using the word uncertain in a different way, in fact, I think I’m quite certain we are using uncertain differently.

    When I speak of certainty in this context, I’m speaking of certainty that the teaching of the New Testament, drawn from the very text itself, is not uncertain because of textual variants. That is, there is no doctrine from the NT that is cast into doubt because of the various variant readings, which are, as I’m sure you would agree, in the overwhelmingly vast majority of the cases, in fact, minor in a major way, if you will.

    You are coming at it, perhaps, if I’m understanding you correctly, from the position that in fact the study of textual variants does present us with changes in word order, or verbal forms, or things added, or things taken out, and so, in that sense, I can see how you are asserting that the text is uncertain.

    Even in the examples you cite, can we say that due to what is perhaps the most “notorious” textual variant (rare indeed, to be sure) that regardless of which ending is “most original” we have nowhere else in the NT which would establish the doctrine covered there? Or likewise in the other infamous example you cite, again, a rarity when viewing all the variants we are considering, changes or alters the doctrine of the Holy Trinity? I think not. That’s my point.

    So, perhaps we would each want to be establish precisely what is certain or uncertain about the text.

    In other words, perhaps I find manuscript differences in different historical transmission of Caesar’s commentary on the Gallic wars (Commentarii de Bello Gallico), and since I have no hope of ever having the actual autograph from the pen of Caesar himself, I have to rely on copies, which have differences.

    Is the text therefore “uncertain” in the sense that we can not be certain we know what Caesar would have had us know and understand from the text? No. Is it uncertain in the sense that we can not have in our hands a text that we can all agree is precisely what Caesar himself wrote? Certainly so.

    In other words, in spite of variants, is it no longer to be certain that Caesar did write that all of Gaul is divided into three parts?

    Did he say: Gallia est omnis divisa in partes tres or did he write Omnia Gallia in tres partes divisa est. Does that “textual variant” change anything that is asserted in that text? No, I do not think so.

    Similarly, that’s how I regard the study of textual variants in the New Testament.

    I hope that offers some clarification of what I’m trying to assert here, and thank you for giving me the opportunity to clarify my own thinking on these things.

    I’m looking forward to your further ruminations on this issue in your forthcoming articles on NA 28.

    Cordially, in Christ,

  • A final thought, Dr. Kloha, and I certainly do not mean to drag this out any further, but here are some thoughts I’ve had whenever I again take up some study of textual criticism, which I personally find utterly fascinating, and I’m grateful for NA28.

    I’m glad someone investigates all of this but I cannot personally or professionally get stirred up about it. If one reads canonically—Scripture interprets Scripture—worry about the variants evaporates. If one reads like a splitter, then no text is safe. I am concerned that the way you frame these issues might come off as a sort of “splitter” modality, which I do not find is helpful.

    I guess I would ask whether any of this moves the Lutheran Church away from the ancient practice of Scripture interpreting Scripture.

    Do the variants observed make the canon less canonical for us?

    Do they change or alter any doctrine of the Church, which the Church must always draw from the text proper as the norma normans?

    Respectfully, and cordially, in Christ,

  • Jeff Kloha says:

    Well, since you don’t get stirred up about textual criticism, Paul, I’ll get stirred up for you, so you don’t have to worry about it. We all bear our own, unique, burdens.

    I think we’ve clarified quite a bit here. We do need to make a distinction between “wording of the text” and “the dogma of the church” (to use Sasse’s preferred phrase). The creedal teaching transcends any single passage (and, as a result, any single textual problem). So, no, textual criticism does not affect, in a major way, any single “doctrine,” but it does affect which passages we use to teach those doctrines. Is that fair?

    It follows, then, that arguing that “the text is certain” and “doctrine is certain” are two different arguments, and each rests on different claims and evidence. Is that fair?

    No need to reply, I just don’t understand this question: “Do the variants observed make the canon less canonical for us?”

    I don’t know if it is what you refer to as “splitting” or not, but your example from Caesar is an example of a change that pretty much does not matter. The “meaning” is the same, though the “text” is different. But, I think we can agree that the ending of Mark, 1 John 5:7-8, and other less significant textual problems do, quite often, affect the exegesis of a passage, and as a result what we may teach from that passage (emphasis on “what we teach from that passage”; I did not say, as noted above “affect doctrine”). For example, in John 1:18 is Jesus the unique Son or the unique God? The difference between those two is a single word, but the exegesis of that passage, and hence the teaching drawn from it, will be different. But, whether or not Jesus is the Son of God does not rest on that textual decision. Is that fair?

    But, your previous comment (10:52am) sounds pretty much like what I would say, so its good that we’ve had a chance to clarify.

    I don’t want to throw textual criticism entirely under the bus, though. Take, for example, issues regarding the role of women in public worship. There is a significant textual variant at 1 Cor 14:34-35; another at Romans 16:7; another at Gal 3:28-29. All those are critical for discussion of this issue. So, I’ll keep working at this stuff, just in case . . .

  • Thanks, Dr. Kloha, I certainly do not wish to give the impression I’m overly critical of textual criticism, but as Dirty Harry wisely pointed out “textual criticism has got to know its limitations” … at least that’s what I remember him saying, or something like it.

    Thanks for the exchange.

“New” Greek New Testament — But Not Really

November 3rd, 2012 3 comments

Here is an interesting article by Dr. Jeff Kloha. I’m looking forward to his further articles on the NA28. The “Nestle-Aland” text is the one most frequently used by students, pastors and scholars. It provides a large amount of data in the footnotes indicating minor textual differences, called “variants” that exist between the various copies of the original documents of the NT, known as the “autographs” — none of which we have, by the way. Some would use this reality to propose that somehow we have an uncertain, unreliable or shaky knowledge of what the New Testament actually contains. Not true at all. Anytime you hear anyone using the matter of textual variants to dispute or try to refute the doctrine of inspiration or inerrancy you need to know you are dealing either with a person who has no real awareness of what he speaking about, or, as is sadly more often the case, a flat-out liar trying to deceive you.

Keep in mind that there is not an iota (see what I did there?) of Christian doctrine that depends on a textual variant, that is, in spite of the myriad of textual variants, we do in fact have a reliable text of Holy Scripture.

It would be dangerous to suggest that there is some vast distinction between the form of the text and the material brought forward by the text (forma and materia). So, while our confidence is in the material content of the texts we do have, we can also be confident that God in His providential care for His Church has allowed us to have, to this day, a reliable form of the texts that he gave by plenary, verbal inspiration, inerrantly, to those penmen who were moved along by the Holy Spirit, writing the very God-breathed words that the Lord wants us to have and to know. We may not have the very original autographs, but we do have a reliable form of them. That’s the take-away from this kind of thing we must impress upon the laity.

Also, be doubly careful not to get caught up in foolish speculations about the canonical authority of those texts the Church has always received, for instance, any speculations that, for example, the Book of Acts perhaps should not be counted among the homolegoumena, should be put into that category of ideas that, as my friend Jim Voelz likes to say, “Would make for an interesting journal article, but is probably wrong.” Smile



Lutheran Theology Commission Warns Against Use of NIV2011

August 31st, 2012 1 comment


The Lutheran Church—Missouri Synod’s Commission on Theology and Church Relation’s executive staff has issued an important warning against the new version of the New International Version (referred to as NIV2011). I’ve included the full statement for you to read, but please note these key words in the document:

The use of inclusive language in NIV 2011 creates the potential for minimizing the particularity of biblical revelation and, more seriously, at times undermines the saving revelation of Christ as the promised Savior of humankind. Pastors and congregations of the LCMS should be aware of this serious weakness. In our judgment this makes it inappropriate for NIV 2011 to be used as a lectionary Bible or as a Bible to be generally recommended to the laity of our church.

At the time Lutheran Service Book was adopted a number of years ago, the NIV was rejected for continuing use in the hymnal after careful evaluation by the Synod’s CTCR, the Synod’s two seminaries and by the Commission on Worship. The reason it was rejected was because of the already significant weaknesses in the NIV, but now along comes NIV2011, which is completely replacing the older form of NIV. It introduces even far worse problems. I strongly encourage  you to share this statement wide and use it to warn people against continuing use of the New International Version translation.

Here is the statement, which you may download. It is a PDF file.

CTCR on NIV 2011


Preparing a New Lutheran Translation of the Bible: A Wise Word of Warning and Caution

July 11th, 2012 4 comments

This is a Bible-copying monk-arm, called “Kuka,” which appears to be a fairly standard industrial robot, reprogrammed to inscribe the entire Martin Luther bible onto a endless roll of paper in a calligraphic style.


My colleague here at Concordia Publishing House, Rev. Edward Engelbrecht, General Editor of The Lutheran Study Bible, The Reformation Heritage Bible Commentary; The Apocrypha: Lutheran Edition with Notes (forthcoming); The Lutheran Bible Handbook (forthcoming); Associate Editor of Concordia: The Lutheran Confessions; Author of Friends of the Law, to name only a very few of his many projects, has posted a very helpful and instructive caveat, or, frankly, a warning to those who think that doing a “Lutheran” Bible translation will result in some sort of “gold standard” translation that will change little over time. I again encourage you to follow Rev. Engelbrecht’s blog. Ed is a very perceptive theologian and scholar, whose publishing track record is frankly without peer in the history of English speaking Lutheranism. Here is Ed’s caveat.

I recently spoke with someone about Bible translations and we discussed the idea of preparing a specifically Lutheran translation. Among the goals mentioned for such a translation was that it would not go through changes, which would be governed by the concern that Luther raised with the catechism that one should “adopt one version, stay with it, and from one year to the next keep using it unchanged” (Preface to the Small Catechism). In contrast to Luther’s approach, the example of Melanchthon’s revisions to the Augsburg Confession were noted. Melanchthon’s Variata have been roundly condemned for centuries and, since they indicated changes in his teaching, this condemnation was rightly deserved. But the idea that Melanchthon tended to revise texts but Luther did not is a historical fallacy.

I note from M. Reu’s book, Luther’s German Bible, that Luther and his team of Bible editors translated or revised the Psalms in 1524, 1525, 1528, 1531, 1534 and perhaps made minor revisions until they reached the settled text of the 1545 Luther Bible. Luther was driven to translate and retranslate the Psalms because he wanted them to read properly as German poetry. So, criticizing Melanchthon for wanting to change things while praising Luther for leaving things the same simply does not reflect the facts of history. [McCain note: The "Luther Bible" was never a static text until after Luther's death, but up until 1545, Luther and his colleagues were making constant changes and improvements to their translation].

Those who wish to create an unchanging Bible translation are setting themselves up for disappointment. I cannot think of a translation that did not go through revisions or editions. Even the venerable King James went through four revisions and exists in Oxford and Cambridge editions. Any attempt to create a new Lutheran translation will also go through changes—guaranteed. As people use a new translation, from scholars to children, they recommend changes. As translation committees change, they also respond differently to requests and criticisms and so introduce revisions and new editions. It has always been this way and I believe it will always be so, as long as a text remains in use (a text that is not being used, of course, becomes remarkably stable). I certainly understand and empathize with the concern about changes but I thought it important that we get the facts of history straight on this issue. I close with a few words from Luther that illustrate the challenges. In his Defense of the Translation of the Psalms, he wrote:

“Now because we extolled the principle of at times retaining the words quite literally, and at times rendering only the meaning, these critics will undoubtedly try out their skill also at this point. First and foremost they will criticize and contend that we have not applied this principle rightly, or at the right time—although they never knew anything about such a principle before. Yet they are the type who, the moment they hear about something, immediately know it better than anyone else. If they are so tremendously learned and want to display their skill, I wish they would take that single and very common word, chen, and give me a good translation of it. I will give fifty gulden to him who translates this word appropriately and accurately throughout the entire Scriptures. Let all the experts and know-it-alls pool their skill, in order at least to see that actually doing the translation is a wholly different art and task from that of simply criticizing and finding fault with someone else’s translation.” (LW 35:222-223)

“The Voice” — Another Mangled Bible Translation

April 19th, 2012 8 comments
New Bible translation called ‘The Voice’ focuses on dialogue
By Bob Smietana — ENInews/RNS
Nashville, Tennessee, 18 April (ENInews)–The name Jesus Christ doesn’t appear in “The Voice,” a new translation of the Bible. Nor do words such as angel or apostle. Instead, angel is rendered as “messenger” and apostle as “emissary.” Jesus Christ is “Jesus the Anointed One” or the “liberating king.”
That’s a more accurate translation for modern readers, said David Capes, lead scholar for “The Voice,” a complete edition released this month by publishing company Thomas Nelson, reports Religion News Service via USA Today. Capes says that many people, even those who’ve gone to church for years, don’t realize that the word “Christ” is a title.
“They think that Jesus is his first name and Christ is his last name,” said Capes, who teaches the New Testament at Houston Baptist University in Texas.
Seven years in the making, “The Voice” is the latest entry into the crowded field of English Bible translations. Unlike the updated New International Version or the Common English Bible — both released last year — much of “The Voice” is formatted like a screenplay or novel. Translators cut out the “he said” and “they said” and focused on dialogue.
So in Matthew 15, when Jesus walks on the water, scaring his followers, their reaction is immediate:
    Disciple: “It’s a ghost!”
    Another Disciple: “A ghost? What will we do?”
    Jesus: “Be still. It is I; you have nothing to fear.”
“I hope we get people to see the Bible not as an ancient text that’s worn out but as a story that they participate in and find their lives in,” Capes said.
The title for “The Voice” came from the New Testament Gospel of John and from the Greek word logos. It’s usually translated as “word” in verses such as John 1:1, which reads: “In the beginning was the Word, and the Word was with God, and the Word was God,” in the New International Version, one of the most popular English translations.
In “The Voice,” that passage reads: “Before time itself was measured, the Voice was speaking. The Voice was and is God.” Frank Couch, the executive editor and publisher of “The Voice,” said that translation better captures what logos means.
Mike Norris of Franklin Road Baptist Church in Murfreesboro, Tennessee, disagrees. His congregation follows the belief that the King James Bible is the most accurate translation in English. Other translations, he says, don’t stick to a word-for-word translation.
“They say the other translations are easier to read and more accurate,” he said. “We disagree.”
(Smietana also reports for The Tennessean in Nashville. Heidi Hall of The Tennessean also contributed to this story.)
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Evangelical Lutheran Synod Doctrine Committee Recommends Against NIV 2011

December 7th, 2011 5 comments

Kudos to our friends in the Evangelical Lutheran Synod, whose doctrine committee has released a statement asserting that the NIV 2011 is not a good choice for use as a Bible translation by its member congregations. I hope the Wisconsin Synod is willing to listen to their partner church.

Doctrine Committee recommendation regarding Bible translations

Many congregations of the ELS currently use the NIV (1984) Bible for worship and Christian education. This edition of the NIV will no longer be available for purchase at the end of 2011. It has been replaced with the NIV (2011) which makes significant changes to the text of the NIV (1984). These changes have diminished the accuracy of the NIV. Therefore, based on preliminary study of the NIV (2011), the Doctrine Committee recommends against the use of the NIV (2011). The Doctrine Committee recommends for use in the Evangelical Lutheran Synod translations such as: New King James Version (NKJV), English Standard Version (ESV), An American Translation (Beck, AAT), and the New American Standard Bible 1995 (NASB95). These translations are accurate and understandable. If a new Lutheran translation is prepared in the future this also could be an option for use in the ELS.

Biblical Literacy: Thoughts by Rev. Edward Engelbrecht

September 28th, 2011 1 comment

Here is my colleague, Rev. Edward Engelbrecht, the General Editor of The Lutheran Study Bible and The Story Bible. I sometimes like to call him General Ed. And when the General speaks, it is always worth listening!

Why NIV 2011 is Bad News for Lutherans – Continued

September 19th, 2011 10 comments

I picked up this critique of the NIV 2011 from WELS Pastor Robert Koester, and am passing it along to you for your consideration. Note: the same concerns raised here pertain equally to the gender-neutral version of the Book of Concord – the Kolb/Wengert edition — which intentionally distorts the original language of our Lutheran Confessions to accommodate the feminist/homosexual agenda in the ELCA. Be warned!

One of the major issues with the NIV 2011 is not a matter of this or that poor translation, but rather a complete overhaul of the entire Bible with regards to gender language. The following letter written by Rev. Robert Koester highlights some of the root problems underlying the NIV’s drastic changes to gender language. This letter has already been shared with the Translation Evaluation Committee, and we post it here because we believe it should be read as widely as possible within the WELS. Rev. Koester’s points deserve our urgent consideration.


Thoughts on Gender-Neutral Language in the NIV 2011
I believe there are major linguistic and hermeneutical problems with the gender neutral language used in the NIV 2011. The concerns noted below go beyond translation problems with individual passages.

We are familiar with the NIV 2011’s attempts to make Scripture gender neutral. Words that carry a masculine meaning are retranslated using the normal editorial tools for gender neutrality. For example, singulars become plurals; “one” or “someone” is made plural in the predicate; “you” is substituted for “he” or “him;” and words like “brother” and “father” are changed, so that “brothers” becomes “brothers and sisters” and “fathers” becomes “parents.” (This is distinct ANTHROPOS and ADAM that can often be translated using gender neutral terms.)

Depending on how you count them, the changes number in the hundreds and perhaps well over a thousand. We are no longer dealing with changes to individual passages that we could teach around (even if there were several dozen of them) but with the entire fabric of Scripture in this area.

A gender-neutral translation changes the way in which translators determine the meaning of words. We have all relied on lexicons to help us understand word meanings. We trust the lexicographer to study a word, relying, where possible, on how the word is used in Scripture. After a thorough study, the lexicographer gives the word a range of meanings.

In the interest of gender neutrality, however, gender neutral translators extend the range of meaning of certain words far beyond what traditional lexicographers have arrived at. In regard to gender neutral language, the approach is this: If a word is used in a context that references both men and women, the word was considered by the original writers actually to be gender neutral. Accordingly, translators are allowed to use whatever techniques they need to translate into gender-neutral English.

Completely overlooked is the reverse argument, namely, that since groups of men and women are addressed or referred to by words that carry a masculine meaning (when the writers could have easily used a different word or included additional words to make the passage gender inclusive), we should explore why the original authors did this and wrestle with how we should reflect this in translation.

Some words in the Hebrew and Greek do have a wide range of meaning. ADAM and ANTHROPOS certainly do. And we may not hear the word ANDRES exactly like the early Greeks did, even if we debate the likelihood that they heard a straight gender-neurtral “brothers and sisters.” Often, the NIV 1984translates “man” or “men” when it could or should have used “person,” “people,” or some other gender-neutral term. A retranslation of the Bible that singles out those terms for a gender-neutral treatment would be helpful in our society and probably would make a drastic difference in how gender specific Scripture is considered to be.

But the NIV 2011 does not stop with these words. If a Hebrew or Greek word is used in a context where men and women are being addressed, the translators do not rely on the reader to read that fact into the gender-specific word used in Scripture. Rather, they widen the range of meaning for that word and translate accordingly. For example, “your own brothers” is changed to “your fellow Israelites,” “brothers” becomes “relatives,” “turn your sons away” becomes “turn your children away,” “your needy brother” becomes “the needy among your fellow Israelites,” “sin of the fathers” becomes “sin of the parents,” “fathers” becomes “ancestors,” etc.

It can certainly be argued that in the context, men and women were included in those statements. But can the translator for that reason expand the range of meanings of “father” at will and translate “father and mother”? Or in the case of the Greek word for “brothers,” does the context give the translator the right to extend its range of meaning and translate “brothers and sisters”? At NPH we regularly operate like this, but we are dealing with people’s words—that we have the right to change—not with the words of God.

But the NIV translators go beyond this. Their intention is not just to reflect what they think is how the early Hebrews or Greeks understood certain words like “men” or “brothers,” but to remove those words entirely and substitute other words. Consider the translation of Acts 10:23. The NIV 1984 translates, “The next day Peter started out with them, and some of the brothers from Joppa went along.” The 2011 NIV translates, “The next day Peter started out with them, and some of the believers from Joppa went along.” Perhaps the translators didn’t think the context would allow their normal gender-neutral translation, “brothers and sisters.” So to get rid of the gender-specific word “brother,” they translated “believer.” But “brother” and “believer” are two different words.

Again, we are not arguing that Paul’s audience did not include men and women, or that when Paul addressed a mixed group he was only addressing the males. We are arguing that the word he used was not always gender neutral.

But gender-neutral translators still go further. Once they have been given license to retranslate words, they retranslate events or offices. They make them fit more closely with Western culture. Here are a few examples from Deuteronomy. In 5:23 “leading men” is translated “leaders,” even though the reference is to the elders—all males—who approached God along with Moses at Mount Sinai. In reference to soldiers in 20:8, “is any man afraid . . . his brothers” is changed to “is anyone afraid . . . his fellow soldiers.” (In this case, they make part of the sentence gender neutral yet retain “his.”) In 21:5 and 31:9, “the sons of Levi” is changed to “the Levitical priests,” even though the priests were all male. In 10:22 “forefathers” is changed to “ancestors,” even though the 70 referred to here were all men. In 1:35 “not a man of” is changed to “no one from,” even though the reference is to the people counted in the original census, who were all males. In 1 Chronicles 9:17, there is a reference to the gatekeepers in the temple: “Shallum . . . Ahiman and their brothers” is retranslated “Shallum . . . Ahiman and their fellow Levites.” Was this change made only to excise the male word “brothers,” or was it made to suppress the fact that only males served in that capacity in the temple?

For additional illustrations and concerns, see the reviewers of Judges, Acts, and 1 Corinthians in the reviewer notes on our synod’s translation committee’s Web page. And note the comment from the convention floor regarding the change of “brothers” in Acts 1:16 to “brothers and sisters,” which then becomes the antecedent for “they” in verse 23, the people who nominated two men to replace Judas.

The ability to communicate is based on the meaning of words. A gender neutral translation bases word meanings more on the perceived needs of the receptor language than on what can be proven from the original.

Feminine versus masculine endings, plural versus singular endings, third person versus second person endings—these are realities of language. But the NIV 2011 translators have simply ignored these grammatical distinctions for the sake of gender neutrality.

Except when the reference is to a specific male person, the translators have eliminated the use of “he” and “him.” Sentences are simply made plural, even though the nouns and verbs are singular. The second person is sometimes substituted for the third person. The predicate is made plural when the subject is singular. (We might accept that as being in line with modern usage. At least in this case the force of the singular and its ability to address each of us personally is not completely lost, which it is in many passages.)

The lack of attention to singulars and plurals can lead to odd results. For example, in Leviticus 14:2-9 where the Lord gives Moses a law regarding skin disease, at verse 2 the translators begin substituting the plural for the singular. This is followed consistently in the next seven verses. When you get to verse 9, which details the rites of purification, you have Moses commanding everyone to shave off their beards. The law of skin diseases no doubt applied to women as well as men. But a sensitive translator would not have allowed himself to get backed into this corner. It seems that it would have been difficult to avoid this error unless the masculine singular had been retained. Of course, this would have resulted in inconsistent translation practices.

We have been appealing to Luther for the right to translate idiomatically and in good English. We certainly agree with his translation principles, and we should emulate them. But I find it hard to believe that he would play fast and loose with the grammar of the original language simply to make it more readable for his culture. His concerns at Marburg would hardly have carried much weight if he had. I believe we should think twice before we use Luther to defend a gender-neutral translation like the NIV 2011.

This is not an argument for a wooden translation. We all know that the idiomatic nature of language often moves outside of the structure of grammar. There may be times when we are forced to change singulars to plurals or give noun and verb endings a meaning not in the original simply so we can communicate. But the NIV 2011 moves far beyond this. On a wholesale level, it ignores the noun and verb forms so it can make the language gender inclusive. Some may argue that this is the modern idiom. But changing the actual meanings of words, changing the grammar, and even changing the nature of a situation that was part of the culture of Scripture for the sake of gender neutrality is simply not an acceptable way of translating, no matter how much an art translating might be. This smacks more of an agenda than a simple heartfelt desire to make God’s Word understandable.

Culture Shift
In my opinion, there is an even more serious matter in gender neutral-translation.

A gender-neutral translation implies a shift in cultures. There is the implication that today’s Western society, in how it views the relationship between men and women, has advanced in its understanding and moved beyond the weakness of previous (read patriarchal) cultures.

Gender-neutral translators are forced to articulate why they feel compelled to translate into gender-nutral language. They can express their reasons in one of two, but mutually exclusive, ways.

The first, which we discussed in the first two sections, is to argue that their translation does indeed reflect the meaning of the words God uses in Scripture. But without tampering with word meanings and grammar, I think it would be difficult to prove that the original readers understood Scripture to be a gender-neutral document. Without trying to define it further, there is a certain “maleness” to the language of Scripture that surfaces in the language, the laws, and in how the New Testament applies Old Testament statements.

I think it is more accurate to say that while the people did understand that male terms often referred to men and women, they were content to accept God’s way of speaking. They saw something in God’s way of expressing himself—something that simply cannot be jettisoned by some future egalitarian society. They also realized that how God expressed himself was foundational for their culture and carried applications for the roles of men and women—without at the same time affirming the many ways mankind’s sinfulness has corrupted those applications.

Anyone who agrees that the linguistic justification for an egalitarian translation rests on shaky grounds must turn to the second approach, the culture-shift argument. They must make the claim that a shift in cultures justifies a shift in one’s approach to the subject—which commonly occurs in application of certain Bible passages, but can also occur in translation practices.

They will admit that the original Hebrew and Greek authors had an overlying gender-specific way of speaking. They will admit that Scripture has a certain maleness about it. They will admit that it was written in the context of a patriarchal culture, reflects that culture, and affirms it. But they believe they must adjust all of this in order to to communicate with modern culture. They reason that if the ancient authors were writing today, they would simply have written in modern gender-neutral terms.

But if God is behind the words of Scripture, then it is not just the people of a culture who are involved in the words of Scripture, but God. Here is where the damaging implications of gender-neutral language begin to show.

I think it can be demonstrated that most denominations that resist gender-specific language also object to what that language implies for our culture. They consider some aspects of modern culture, specifically its egalitarian nature, to be superior to the culture of the past. And since the relationship of men and women in those cultures was based to some extent on the gender-specific language of Scripture, then that language must be changed. If there is a “maleness” in Scripture, it must be excised. And if the Lord was behind this, he was either wrong or the Bible writers were not communicating his truth clearly but allowing their own culture to emerge in their writing.

At heart, gender neutrality is not about translating per se, but about hermeneutics, a hermeneutics driven by the fact that cultures change and by the question of what that implies about the words and statements of Scripture.

We are all aware of the unbiblical practices rapidly gaining ground in the formerly conservative Evangelical world. Evangelical Christian denominations have come to evolutionary teaching, homosexuality, and egalitarian Christian congregations and homes. At first, some in these churches have tried to justify their new positions on the basis of the words of Scripture and exegesis of its passages. But invariably, when they realize this cannot be done without stretching word meanings and introducing odd interpretations of the pertinent passages, they turn to the culture-shift argument and appeal to our more enlightened understanding. It cannot be overstated how deeply this argument is embedded in Western Christianity—not just in liberal churches but in a large part of the Evangelical world.

This is a different spirit. In a gender-neutral translation, this spirit does not show itself in Bible interpretation as in the examples in the paragraph above, but in Bible translation. The translator’s view of how culture should be and how we should express ourselves to reflect our understanding of culture trumps how the Scripture writers expressed themselves.

We readily grant that the NIV 2011 retains an accurate enough translation of passages on which the conservative Christian world has built its theology of the roles of men and women. But the extent to which the translators have altered word meanings, etc., makes a person wonder about their attitude toward the passages that will not allow an egalitarian society. That is a strong statement, but is it that far out of line? Would they prefer that God had inspired his Word in a culture similar to ours today and written in clear, unmistakable gender-neutral terms?

And here is where the danger lies. To a greater or lesser degree, God is pitted against Scripture. He must be distanced from what the Scripture writers said. The verbal inspiration of Scripture is watered down or lost. I am not implying that anyone in our circles is thinking this way. But my concern is that if we adopt the NIV 2011 or any gender-neutral translation, we are admitting a Trojan horse into our church that will weaken how we approach, interpret, and apply Scripture. If continued study reveals that a gender-neutral approach to Bible translation cannot be argued linguistically, then we will be forcing ourselves to sit in judgment on God’s way of expressing himself in what we perceive as a different cultural context.

The subject of gender-neutral translating is, at heart, about whether God’s way of expressing himself is legitimate for all time. By God’s grace our church body still says yes to that. Gender neutral translators say no.

Accordingly, we need to guard the fact that God chose to reveal his will in very specific ways. He chose to use gender-specific noun and verb endings. He chose to use “brothers” and “fathers” when he could have used specific gender-inclusive language. His tools for protecting Israel and for teaching them his Word—the military and the priesthood—could have been comprised of men and women, but they weren’t. Every law could have been the same for males and females, but they weren’t. Women could have been included equally in the long lists of genealogies. But they weren’t.

There is a vast difference between saying, “God’s Word in the original reflects the culture of the time” and, “God’s Word in the original reflects the headship-helper relation between men and women as taught throughout Scripture.” By accepting a gender-neutral translation, we will be accepting the first expression. This is the Trojan horse. If our synod does adopt the NIV 2011 translation, we will force ourselves into the quagmire of redefining how we arrive a word meanings, what is the role of gender, person, and number in translation, and the role culture shift should play in our hermeneutics of Scripture.

It is better to live with what Scripture says and do our best to translate it into good English. It is far better to trust that the Lord will reach his elect through a legitimate translation and will overcome any problems such a translation may cause in the ears of the modern reader.

Practical Issues
The points I’ve made above are the most important. The following are a few observations of a more practical nature.


What exactly is accuracy? We use this term without defining it. We probably think of it as a relative term, referring to the number of passages where a word is mistranslated or where a grammatical construction is missed. We must determine how many such problems earn a translation the label “inaccurate.”

If we accept how the NIV 2011 update of individual passages has improved or worsened the NIV 1984, I believe we can legitimately use the “there is no perfect translation” argument. But if we do not agree with how the NIV 2011 deals with the words and grammar in question, we can only conclude that the NIV 2011 is a very inaccurate translation, purposely ignoring some word meanings and grammar for the sake of gender neutrality.

Note: This is essentially the conclusion the majority of the Southern Baptist Convention arrived at. At their most recent convention they passed a resolution which included this evaluation of the NIV 2011: “This translation alters the meaning of hundreds of verses, most significantly by erasing gender-specific details which appear in the original language; and . . . although it is possible for Bible scholars to disagree about translation methods or which English words best translate the original languages, the 2011 NIV has gone beyond acceptable translation standards.”)

A separation of “ability for the reader to understand” and “gender-neutral language”

Those who argue for the NIV 2011 seem to combine these two issues. It’s almost as if objecting to gender-neutral language is to object to wanting Scripture to be understood in our society.

To be sure, the NIV 1984’s translation of ANTHROPOS as “man” and its many unnecessary uses of “he” or “him” as the pronoun, may cause confusion to some in our culture and set up a roadblock to understanding.

But in most cases, gender-neutral changes hardly make it easier for people to understand what the Bible says. The pastor who reviewed Judges for the WELS translation committee offered these comments on Judges 17:3:

    “The problem I see with inclusive language and the NIV 2011 is that the translation committee [Biblica] felt obligated to find gender neutral terminology for terms where there is no confusion about the gender of the men to whom Scripture is referring. ‘But because he was afraid of the . . . men of the town. . . .” [NIV 1984] That translation offers no confusion to anyone, whether traditionalist or feminist. It is idiomatic English, inoffensive, and perfectly understandable.”

The writer’s final statement can be applied to many, probably to most, of the passages where gender-neutral language is used.

In our discussions, we should carefully distinguish these two issues. Gender-neutral language cannot necessarily be equated with the ability of people in our modern culture to understand Scripture better.

Our own translation and study Bible

The entire discussion of whether or not to create our own translation depends on how we deal with the topics of words, grammar, and culture shift discussed in the first part of this paper. If we did our own translation, would it be gender neutral? Or are we assuming that our own translation would be gender specific? What would our posture be toward word meanings and grammar?

Perhaps if we started our discussion with these issues, our path would become clear. Otherwise, a translation process will not be a peaceful thing, nor will it solve any problem.

The same could be said of a study Bible. A study Bible based on the NIV 2011 will have to adopt a position on gender neutrality. Would we choose to accept gender neutral language, remain noncommittal, or express disagreement? The Pentateuch is perhaps the section of Scripture most consistently affected by gender neutrality. It also establishes the foundation for the rest of Scripture. It would take an effort to explain the NIV 2011’s translation practices in that section of Scripture, particularly if we disagreed with gender neutrality.

And if the impetus for a study Bible comes from the need to explain and correct the problems we see in the NIV 2011, one wonders if it is wise to choose that translation in the first place.

If the NIV 2011 is accepted, could we also endorse an alternate, secondary translation—something gender specific and perhaps more literal? Would that be a wise compromise? Authors submitting books to NPH could choose to use the alternate translation if they chose not to use the NIV. Or would that also cast suspicion on the NIV 2011?

A stable translation

The synod needs a stable translation. I question how stable the NIV 2011 is. The objection to this concern is that we don’t know how stable any translation will be. There is some truth to that. But have we researched the long-term translation philosophies and publishing plans for other translations?

We do have a track record for Biblica and Zondervan. Previous translations, the NIVI and the TNIV were published without taking the NIV 1984 out of production. Both faced criticism from the Evangelical world, largely because of their gender-neutral language. Both were withdrawn from publication.

The NIV 2011 is a scaled-back version of the TNIV in regard to gender neutral language. Immediately upon release of the NIV 2011, Zondervan ceased publication of the NIV 1984. It does not take a lot of business sense to figure out why. A failed translation means a big loss of revenue. The only way Zondervan could keep this from happening again was for them (1) to argue that the NIV 2011 was simply a normal maintenance upgrade, call it the “NIV” without any additional letters, and simply put it in bookstores as a replacement for the NIV 1984; and (2) consistent with this, take the 1984 version out of print. Obviously, this would force people to buy the 2011 version.

The speed at which this was done is frightening. Denominations and publishing houses were caught off guard. September 2009, when the new translation was announced, to March 2011, when the NIV 1984 was no longer in print, was too short a time for our denomination and publishing company to retool. And the fact that the NIV 2011 was not available for review until November 2010 made it even more frustrating.

Congregations in the WELS are now experiencing the repercussions. Members are buying new NIV Bibles without realizing they are buying the new version. Some want to buy a new Bible for themselves or as a gift but realize the WELS is still deciding on whether or not to adopt the new version or not. Synod officials are being forced to make decisions they cannot make in a few month’s time and are feeling the pressure. NPH is being forced to hold off publishing a large amount of curriculum material until the dust settles. And Zondervan is still unclear about how long it will give NPH permission to use the 1984 version.

How can it be said that Zondervan is acting for the good of God’s kingdom? They certainly have the right to publish a new version if they wish. But Zondervan should not force denominations to use their new translation, which is essentially what they are doing. At the least, they should have kept the 1984 version in production for four or five years to give churches time to decide if they wanted to use the new version. That would have been simple Christian courtesy and fairness.

Biblica and Zondervan seem to be hiding behind the idea that the NIV 2011 is merely a normal maintenance upgrade to the 1984 version—no big deal. But the number of changes and the change to gender neutral-language make it a very big deal. If it were a maintenance upgrade, publishers could simply continue their publishing plans using the 1984 version and updateing the passages that were changed. And churches could simply keep their present pew Bibles knowing that members might find a few differences when they followed along with the readings. But the number of changes to NIV makes this impossible.

In spite of all this, the display material Zondervan supplies to Christian book stores gives the buyer no clue that this is a new translation. It is simply advertised as the NIV.

Some denominations, most notably the Southern Baptist Convention and the LCMS, don’t agree that this is a maintenance upgrade. They have either rejected the new translation and/or chosen not to use it. It is not fair to simply dismiss their actions by saying they want to promote their own translation (in the case of the SBC) or that they simply prefer another translation (in the case of the LCMS). It is more fair—and accurate—to say that these denominations saw the direction Biblica and Zondervan were going in their translation philosophy and chose to jump ship. The SBC created their own translation (as some in our synod are now recommending that we do). The LCMS adopted another translation (which others in our synod are now recommending).

When we consider the stability of the NIV 2011, we should consider the following: The NIV 2011 is a rework of the TNIV, which failed largely because of its gender-neutral language. Biblica was committed to the kind of changes found in the TNIV (otherwise they would not have produced that translation in the first place). It would not be unfair to say that at least some on Biblica’s translating committee would like to make a future NIV more in line with the TNIV. Zondervan has no compunctions about calling the NIV 2011 a simple maintenance upgrade and treating it as such. If the rather radical jump from gender-specific to gender-neutral language can be treated as a normal upgrade, would an advance on gender neutrality be treated any differently?

True, we don’t know the future of any translation. But Biblica’s and Zondervan’s track records give us some pretty solid data about how they handle things. Do we want to continue our relationship with them? I think we should think long and hard about that.

In saying this, I am not taking the obstructionist position but am concerned about what will be the most beneficial for our synod in the long run. My main concern, however, is not about what is easiest, but what is best for the spiritual lives of our people and the hermeneutical challenges we will face.

Making a decision to adopt a new translation now would be difficult, but it will be even more difficult down the road with the next NIV translation (if Biblica advances gender neutrality) after our pastors and people have accepted that way of translating.

Develop a way to deal with an issue in interpretation and not in translation

We should develop a clear philosophy of how far translations can go in interpretation and how much must be left to the teacher. This is an important topic, especially for those translating the Bible into a language or dialect for the first time. We might agree that in that context and as an aid to new Christians the translator could be more free to settle on a translation that reflects one specific interpretation of the text.

But it can also be argued that such a translation is not the best for a church body such as the WELS. After all, many paraphrases are available to those who want to read the Bible quickly without having to do a lot of on-the-fly interpretation. We do need a translation that is adequate for reading from the lectern, but we especially need a translation that can serve our people in their study and growth in God’s Word—a Bible that gets them closer to the Hebrew or Greek idiom without sacrificing the English.

This past Sunday the pastor was preaching about Solomon. Without disparaging the NIV, he pointed out the difference between the NIV’s translation of Solomon’s answer to God’s request and how it is stated in the original. In the NIV Solomon said, “I am only a little child and do not know how to carry out my duties” (1 Kings 3:7). The KJV reflects the original in its translation: “I am but a little child: I know not how to go out or come in.” I appreciated his pointing that out. With a couple words of introduction, it conjured up a fine picture that even a little child can understand.

How far you go in either direction is a judgment call. But the topic is worth discussing. It is worth bringing it to the attention of our laypeople as they think about reading this or that translation.

An emotive issue?

It may be necessary to issue this warning. But in my opinion, making too much of it is counterproductive. It assumes that many pastors and laypeople are loading their rifles and circling the wagons. I think our pastors and members realize that we have been put into a difficult position. Zondervan has forced denominations either to make a quick decision or to make a slower decision with all the havoc that it creates. People realize this or are willing to have it explained to them. Emotions are aroused if the issues are not addressed. The answer to dealing with hot tempers is not only warning people against them, but for leaders to explain the issues in a logical way so that people can understand them.

I think our people would rather have us make a careful and reasoned decision no matter how long it takes. After all, this is the Bible their publishing house will be asked to use in its publications and the one they will likely be using every day of their lives.

This whole process can be a very positive thing for our synod!

The entire Evangelical world is awash in loose principles of translating and horribly wrong interpretations fueled by the culture-shift argument. Our people are often influenced by this. Lessons learned in wrestling with the NIV 2011 translation issue will help our people grow in their understanding of Bible translation and interpretation.

Robert Koester
September 1, 2011

Why the New NIV is Bad News for Lutherans

July 27th, 2011 21 comments

You may have heard, or if you haven’t heard, you should know, that Zondervan has released a new version of the New International Version. For lack of any other name, it is referred to in most circles as NIV 2011. Simply put, this translation is not appropriate for use by confessional Lutherans because it imposes a theological and cultural agenda that is alien to that of God’s Word. It does so through the use of “gender neutrality” in how it translates God’s Word. I frankly am glad that this new translation affords us the chance to move away from a translation that has been insufficient since it was first released, and now, in light of the fact that Zondervan corporation, the publisher of the NIV, is owned by Ruppert Murdoch’s media empire, the sooner we can stop putting money into one of the world’s largest purveyors of pornography, the better.

We here at CPH reviewed carefully the text of the NIV 2011 and are particularly disturbed by the subtle, but highly significant, ways it changes the wording of key texts referring to men and women and their proper relationship and roles in the Church. These changes open wide the door that laypeople will be misled into thinking that women clergy are appropriate.

In the past couple years, I’ve published a number of blog articles on this issue, and I thought it time to bring them back and gather them in one place to make it more convenient for you to read them. Here they are, you can either link to them, or you can read the full article in this blog post by following the “read more” button:

Major Evangelical Organization Says It Can Not Endorse NIV 2011

NIV 2011: Proceed With Caution

Updating the New International Version: Translator’s Notes [revealing the agenda driving this translation]

Why We Must Avoid Gender Neutrality Like the Plague

God Inspired Metaphors: Another Key Problem with NIV 2011

ESV v. NIV Read more…

Do You Want This Man Controlling the Bible Translation Used in Your Church?

July 14th, 2011 15 comments

Who owns and controls the New International Version? This guy, Rupert Murdoch. Zondervan, the company that publishes the NIV, was bought out by HarperCollins Publishing, a division of NewsCorp, in 1988. NewsCorp is one of the world’s leading providers of pornography, across its various cable and satellite TV divisions. So, do you want this man controlling the Bible translation your church uses? No, me either. Here’s why the NIV2011 is such a bad translation.


Rupert Murdoch


It’s Hard to Believe That the WELS is Actually Willing to Endorse the NIV 2011 For Use in Its Congregations

June 27th, 2011 28 comments

First Look Inside at Martin Luther Graphic Novel – We are Ready to Take Your Orders Now

May 5th, 2011 6 comments

I’m very happy to give you a good first look at the forthcoming graphic novel from Concordia Publishing House titled Echos of the Hammer. It will be available in June. We are offering the following discount structure for group purchases: 1-9 copies: $10.99 each; 10 or more $9.99 each, plus shipping. Use the promo code YEH at checkout on our web site, or when you call into to our customer service center at 800-325-3040. Here’s a downloadable sample of the book.

This is the story, from birth to death, of Martin Luther who headed a revolution that changed the world. From a small town in medieval Germany, the Reformation resulted in dramatic, sweeping change that still echoes today. Here is Luther’s story of adventure, courage, and faith told for the first time in graphic novel style. Scattered throughout the book are informational call-outs of key supporters and enemies of Luther including Frederick the Wise, Katherine von Bora, Charles IV, and many others. Also included is a comprehensive explanation of Luther’s Seal and an extensive history timeline that gives broad context to Luther’s life. As children and middle school children become increasingly visually literate, their reading habits change accordingly. This Luther biography will teach in a fun, comfortable format while providing an educational and appreciation of Luther and the Reformation. It’s perfect for classroom use. Author Susan K. Leigh is an editor and author who lives in a small town in Illinois. She is the author of several children’s picture books, including twelve titles in the popular “God, I Need to Talk to You” series. Illustrator Dave Hill graduated from Glasgow School of Art. He has worked in the video game industry for ten years. As a freelance illustrator, Dave’s passion is children’s book and comic books. He lives in Scotland with his wife and their two children.

Cover of "Luther: Echoes of the Hammer"


Sample of color illustration in "Echoes"


Sample of black and white illustrations in "Echoes"


Hey, Kids! Here’s a Bible Designed to Help You Entirely Miss the Point of the Bible!

May 5th, 2011 4 comments

I have reviewed, literally, hundreds of “children’s Bibles” over the years, and no matter how many times I do, I am still stunned, and shocked, to see how so-called Christian Bibles and so-called Christian authors so horribly neglect the Gospel when they prepare these resources. Well, here is the latest monstrosity, from Zondervan Publishing Company, which, of course, is now owned by the Ruppert Murdoch media empire, which is concerned only about the bottom line. It’s no surprise that Zondervan is also responsible for releasing NIV 2011, the new NIV translation that misses the mark horribly. As mentioned in this post.

I give you…


Check out the promotional copy for this Bible.

Join the Berenstain Bears as they explore the most amazing book of all time—the Bible. Filled with 18 full-color pages of delightful illustrations of the beloved Berenstain Bear characters, the Berenstain Bears Holy Bible, NIrV highlights verses that feature virtues supported by God’s Word. This Bible will teach children ages 4 to 7 more about God and how he wants them to live.

What’s the Bible all about? Virtues! But, kind reader, consider that you do not need a Bible to learn about “virtues” … you can get great lessons in virtues and how God wants us to live by reading fairy tales and legends, and Aesop’s fables or Mother Goose stories. You see, the Law is not unique to the Bible. It’s embedded in the very fiber of God’s creation. But the Gospel, alone, is unique to the Holy Scriptures and that is what the Bible is really all about: Christ and His work for you and His gifts and blessings for you. Thankfully, you do not have to buy junk like this. You have a much better choice. Ahem….click here.

Rejoicing in the Word of God: The Kimyal People Receive the New Testament

March 2nd, 2011 2 comments

Watch this video, friends. Watch it and be deeply moved by this stirring testimony of the joy God’s people have when they are able to receive His word in their own language, in this case, the Kimyal people. You will probably, like me, be moved to recognize the sinful sloth that attends my efforts to be devoted to the study and meditation on God’s Word and then, you will, like these dear people, rejoice in the Light of Christ!


The Kimyal People Receive the New Testament from UFM Worldwide on Vimeo.