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A REVIEW OF THE NIV

GARY W. SUMMERS

The top-selling Bible across the country is the New International Version (NIV). According to the Bookstore Journal (September, 1994), the King James is second, followed by the New King James, with The Living Bible in fourth place, the New American Standard in sixth, and the New Revised Standard Version in tenth. One recent full-page aggressive advertisement in a magazine pictures Jesus teaching several people by a lakeside with one of the people in silhouette. An arrow points to this person with the words: "You are here." The caption reads: "Reading the NIV is the next best thing to being there." The text underneath declared the NIV to be: "unparalleled in its accuracy." 

Solomon observed that: "the race is not too the swift, nor the battle to the strong, neither yet bread to the wise, nor yet riches to men of understanding, nor yet favor to men of skill" (Ecc. 11:9). It could similarly (and successfully) be added: "nor favor to a translation of accuracy." The NIV is more popular than precise. Two of the others on the list (produced in the latter half of the twentieth century) and better: the New King James and the New American Standard. Yet they are outsold. The reasons for that phenomenal success will be dealt with later; first various preliminaries must be dealt with. 

TEXTS

"The New International Version is a completely new translation of the Holy Bible made by over a hundred scholars working directly from the best Hebrew, Aramaic, and Greek texts" begins the Preface to the NIV, written by "The Committee on Bible Translation." The reader may wonder how they define the word best in the light of their usage of most reliable prior to Mark 16:9-20. 

For the Old Testament the translators used "the standard Hebrew text, the Masoretic Text as published in the latest editions of Biblia Hebraica." However, they also consulted the Dead Sea Scrolls, the Samaritan Pentateuch, "ancient scribal traditions relating to textual changes," variant Hebrew readings found it the margin of the Masoretic text, and important early versions. Jack Lewis points out that the NIV's choice of the phrase, "all the wild animals" (found in Gen. 1:25 and 8:1), comes from one of those "early versions," the Syriac. No other translation injects the word wild

The NIV admits to using a eclectic text for the New Testament, which means that they did not rely on one major manuscript family, such as the Textus Receptus. Theoretically, they compiled a text based upon the best manuscript evidence, which in itself is not objectionable. But the translators' reluctance to accept Mark 16:9-20 (they imply strongly that the passage does not belong in the Bible) demonstrates that their judgment in weighing texts is flawed. 

However, their inconclusion and exclusion of certain portions of Scripture do no differ substantially from the New American Standard. Both of them, for example, omit "in letters of Greek and Latin and Hebrew" from Luke 23:38 and "according to the flesh, He would raise up Christ" from Acts 2:30 without even a footnote. And while both versions omit the following portions of Matthew 27:35--"that it might be fulfilled which was spoken by the prophet, They parted my garments among them, and upon my vesture did they cast lots"-- the NIV footnotes it while the NAS ignores it completely. 

Many have unfairly criticized the NIV for omitting portions of the text with which we are all familiar. Some have implied that they did so on the basis of whim or capriciously; such is not the case. While they may be blamed for other facets of their work, they do not appear to show any bias in the use of texts--except for Mark 16:9-20. And while it is perfectly proper to disagree with their final decisions and the worthiness of a text; nevertheless, the ones they omitted are legitimately disputed. 

PHILOSOPHY OF TRANSLATION

Those undertaking the task of translation deserve a large helping of tolerance and understanding. Anyone who has ever studied a foreign language is familiar with problems of translation. Idiomatic phrases and certain grammatical constructions pose problems. Although some words carry with them a primary meaning, others are so versatile that the context must determine the definition. The first three definitions for ago in the Latin are "drive, do, discuss." Besides beginning with the letter b, what exactly do these definitions have in common? Both the noun and the verb forms of drive in the English have multiple definitions, many of which seem unrelated. All who seek to change the Bible from one language to another face these problems; so a little latitude must be granted. 

Generally speaking, two translation philosophies over the centuries have been used: literal and paraphrase. A literal translation, such as the American Standard version of 1901, strove to be as accurate as possible. It ended up being so literal that it made for choppy reading. Paraphrases, such as The Living Bible or Good News For Modern Man, are too loose, but they read very smoothly. A third method, Dynamic Equivalence, falls somewhere in between the other two; it has been called a "scientific paraphrase." 

According to the Preface of the NIV, the goals of the translators included providing "an accurate translation and one that would have clarity and literary quality..." How successful were they? To make use of a popular song title: "Two Out of Three Ain't Bad." The NIV's Clarity and literary quality have no doubt made it the popular success that it is, but its accuracy must be challenged. The translators must be commended for being "united in their commitment to the authority and infallibility of the Bible as God's Word in written form," but unfortunately their approach to translating allows biases to enter in. 

Jack Lewis identifies their operating philosophy as "Dynamic Equivalence." Their won description of it is set forth in the Preface: "The first concern of the translators has been the accuracy of the translation and its fidelity to the thought of the Biblical writers." A close consideration of that sentence prompts the question: "How can the NIV translators be sure they know the thought of the Biblical writers? Would it not be easy for their theology to skew their view of what the Biblical writers thought? It not only could; it does, as will be demonstrated later on. 

Paraphrases may be highly readable, but they are more like commentaries in that they contain what the paraphrasers think the passage means. The NIV adds (as does the NKJV) the words "with passion" to 1 Corinthians 7:9 from what most interpreters believe "to burn" means and fail to distinguish such as an addition. The NKJV puts "with passion" in italics, for the possibility exists that it means to burn in Gehenna because of falling into fornication. The KJV and ASV quite properly left it open. The NIV translators' personal understanding of the text may be correct or incorrect. Those using the Dynamic Equivalence approach must likewise assume that they know precisely what the message is before they can translate it, which opens the door to subjectivity. If the translators are primarily Calvinists, for example, they might select "sinful nature" for the Greek Word sarx, meaning "flesh." Or they might have David transfer the sinful action of his mother to himself in Psalm 51:5. 

WHEEL OF GRAMMAR

In their won explanation of Dynamic Equivalence, the translators make the following comment in their Preface: "Because thought patterns and syntax differ from language to language, faithful communication of the meaning of the writers of the Bible demands frequent modifications in sentence structure and constant regard for the contextual meaning of words." 

In the abstract these words sound lofty and reasonable; in reality one wonders if all the changes they made were indeed justifiable. Although the above explanation makes sense, anyone comparing their translation to the Greek or other accurate, literal translations must wonder if there was not a huge wheel being spun with the parts of speech on it instead of dollar amounts like the television program, Wheel of Fortune

Suppose in the Greek a word is a verb. Spin the wheel and make it an adjective. What about this noun, which is the subject of the sentence? Give the wheel a spin; hey, it's a verb now. What will we do with this adjective? Spin the wheel and --all right, a special prize--an early lunch break. Not only is this fun, but with a few endorsements from denominational heavyweights, this thing will be a best seller. 

Of course, this is a bit of an exaggeration. But consider a few examples. Part of Luke 24:49 reads (correctly) in the Interlinear: "I send the promise of My Father upon you." The KJV, NAS, and the NKJV all keep promise as a noun, the direct object of the sentence. The NIV translators must have spun the wheel at this juncture and decide that promise should be made into a verb. They complicate a simple sentence by rendering it: "I am going to send you what my Father has promised." Although this involves no great theological significance, grammatically speaking you has been made an indirect object, and the direct object (consisting of one word) has been replaced by a noun clause which changes a former noun into a verb. (Don't trust these fellows to figure your income tax!) 

Consider 2 Corinthians 5:11. Literally, the first part of the verse reads: "Knowing therefore the terror of the Lord, we persuade men," which is exactly how the KJV and the NKJV render it. The NAS is only slightly different with its "Therefore knowing the fear of the Lord, we persuade men." None of these translations found it necessary to make any structural change in the sentence. And the NIV?: "Since, then, we know what it is to fear the Lord, we try to persuade men." This time the wheel came up with "noun-into-verb"Terror or fear is a noun, but the NIV makes it part of an infinitive phrase! and although the focus of attention here is to notice changes in parts of speech, one cannot but help wonder where did "we try to persuade" come from? Paul didn't say we try to persuade men, thus weakening the force of the verse; he said we persuade men

Most Bible students are familiar with Matthew 5:28. The KJV records: "whosoever looketh on a woman to lust after her..." Literally, the verse is "everyone that looks on a woman to lust after her..." The NKJV and the NAS say "to lust for her," but substantially they are the same. To lust remains an infinitive phrase. The NIV renders the verse: "anyone who looks at a woman lustfully." An aorist infinitive has been changed into an adverb. 

This kind of handling is the way "Dynamic Equivalence" works. It can become as loose as the translators see fit. Upon a whim they can change nouns into verbs, verbs into nouns, infinitives into adverbs, etc. Nor are these isolated examples. One can read literal translations side-by-side with the NIV and see that the NIV's translators can scarcely string a dozen verses together without rearranging the grammar and sentence structure. [To look at the NIV renderings of Ephesians 5:19 (i.e. "make music in your hear"), Ephesians 4:13 (i.e. "until we all reach unity in the faith and in the knowledge of the Son of God and become mature"; cf. 1 Cor. 13:10), and Acts 2:31 (i.e. "that he was not abandoned to the grave") is to see just how seriously translation principles can affect meaning. Study closely the NIV's change of "takes" and "sees her nakedness" to "marries" and "they have sexual relations" in Leviticus 20:17. "Takes" does not necessarily involve marriage, and isn't it possible to "see" a person's nakedness without having "sexual relations" with that person? Should anyone think this is an unimportant point, he should perhaps be asked by the single Christian (or non-Christian): "Just how far can I go sexually before I get married?" For my part, I plan to stay with the more Form or Content Oriented translations like the ASV, KJV, and NKJV! 

Again, numerous reviewers have noticed the NIV's almost freehand altering of sentence structure. That is not to say that occasionally any translation might not change a verb into a noun--if it is a difficult passage to comprehend; the complaint against the NIV is that they do so needlessly. Many of the verses they tamper with are plain passages of Scripture which translate easily into English. The NIV committee altered them because they wanted to, not because they needed to.

MEANINGFUL ALTERATIONS

In the example cited above it might be argued that even through the grammatical changes are unneeded and unjustifiable, they do not really harm anything. The problem is that when a loose approach becomes the overriding philosophy, alterations in meaning will eventually follow. In James D. Price's Complete Equivalence in Bible Translation this point is demonstrated. 

The NIV changes the Hebrew grammatical structure of preposition and noun ("for good") to an adjective modifying the previous noun "hand": 

The hand of our God is upon all those seeking Him for good (word-for-word translation of Hebrew word order). 

The gracious hand of our God is on everyone who looks to him (NIV).

The word "good" is changed to "gracious" and transposed from its adverbial function (explaining the purpose of God's hand upon the people) to an adjectival function (defining the quality of God's hand). This produces a simpler, more natural expression, but obscures the purpose involved. Obviously God's hand is good and gracious, but it is not always upon a person "for good"(34-35).

Price points out that the NIV's use of looking to God in the above verse does not "capture the full force of meaning contained in the vocabulary of the original language," as seeking does. In other words, Dynamic Equivalence does not always convey an equivalent meaning
DYNAMIC ABSENCE

In fact, sometimes words are left out altogether. Price includes a section on what are called "particles," which consist of a single word or a brief expression, used for emphasis. One example cited is Nehemiah 1:5, in which Nehemiah petitions God with the words: "I pray." The NIV leaves out this particle entirely. It is not replaced with something else; the words have just disappeared. Evidently the translators did not think they were necessary, despite the fact that such interjections as "behold" dramatically call attention to a spectacular scene or an even of profound importance

Price does not discuss the New Testament, but the reader does not have to travel very far into the book of Matthew before he realizes something is missing. Count the number of times the word behold or its equivalent appears in the first two chapters of Matthew in the King James Version. Although the Holy Spirit inspired Matthew to use the particle six times (1:20, 1:23, 2:1, 2:9, 2:13, and 2:19), the NIV translators removed it. God put it in; the NIV "translators" took it out! Nor is this a fluke. Consider the extent of this situation. The word idou is used 213 times in the New Testament. On 107 of those times (50%), the reader will find no equivalent of the word in the NIV. It is not that it is an obscure word or part of another word. They simply deleted it from the pages of the New Testament. Why

How do other translations treat the word? In the King James Version idou is translated "lo" 29 times, "see" 3 times, and "behold" 181 times. Notice it is not omitted even once. The NASB omits the word five times, but textual variation is the reason four of those times. No explanation is given for its omission by them in Mark 5:22, but they translate it the other 208 times. They chose "behold" all but eighteen times. The NKJV uses a variety of words to translate idou, such as "suddenly," "indeed," "look," and "see" in addition to "to" (twice) and "behold," which appears with the greatest frequency. They occasionally use a phrase such as "at once," "think of it," "here am I," or "at that very moment"--but they do so sparingly (fewer than ten times); they never fail to translate the Greek word. 

But the NIV omits the word 50% of the time. They never use "lo," and if you desire to see "behold," you must wait until arriving at Revelation 1:18. They included it three more times in that book (16:15, 22:97, and 22:12). Using "look" or "see" as a more modern equivalent is acceptable, but then why use "behold" at all? If the thinking is that such a word is too obsolete for today's reading public, why insert it even four times (out of 213)? 

Following are some of the passages that the NIV translators decided that no word (to call attention to what follows) was needed. The NIV rendering will be given; the place in which the words lo or behold belong will be inserted in brackets to show where it has been omitted. 

"[Behold,] the virgin will be with child" (Mat. 1:23). "After they had heard the king, they went on their way, and [lo] the star they had seen in the east went ahead of them" (Mat.2:9). "after Herod died, [behold] an angel of the Lord appeared in a dream to Joseph in Egypt" (Mat. 2:19). "[And, behold] Two men, Moses and Elijah" (Luke 9:30). "Go! [Behold] I am sending you out like lambs among wolves" (Luke 10:3). "And [behold] I am going to send you what my Father has promised" (Luke 24:49). Others include John 4:35, Acts 2:7, and 2 Cor. 5:17, all of which are familiar verses to many students of the world. 

Dynamic Equivalence allows the translators a little freedom that those compiling a literal translation do not have. The question is: "How responsibly is that freedom used?" When words are omitted or the meaning of the verses is altered, the answer must be: "Not very." 

"HOW LOOSE THOU ART"

Surely most people would not think that liberty of expression would include some of the following, but the NIV translators thought so. In Matthew 18:22 they put "seventy-seven times" for "seventy times seven." The KJV, NKJV, NAS, the Interlinear, and the Linguistic Key to the Greek New Testament all have "seventy times seven"; why change what is so familiar to readers when it is not a textual variation and everyone else has been perfectly consistent in this matter? True, they mention the usual rendering in a footnote, but that scarcely justifies the decision. 

In Mark 14:6, when Mary anointed Jesus, He proclaimed that she had done a "good work," which the KJV, NKJV, and Interlinear record; the NAS is virtually the same with "good deed." The NIV dynamically unnecessarily substituted "beautiful thing." Jesus asks in Mark 14:48: "Have you come out with swords and clubs to arrest Me, as though I were a robber?" For some reason the NIV (in place of robber) put: "Am I leading a rebellion?" 

In Luke 12:25 the NIV translators have Jesus asking: "Who of you by worrying can add a single hour to his life?" Although they do add a footnote saying "or single cubit to his height," there is no explanation for the change. Is adding an hour to one's life supposed to be more relevant than adding eighteen inches to one's height? The NIV strangely changed "strange flesh" (a literal rendering) in Jude 7 to "perversion"; the other translations do not. 

Most translations have the church in Philadelphia (Rev.3:8) receiving an "open door" because they have demonstrated a little strength. The NIV alters this idea to: "I know that you have little strength, yet you have kept my word and have not denied my name." The traditional translation seeks to build on the strength they have; the latter rewards them in spite of themselves and seems inconsistent with the point of the passage. 

Another questionable change is the use of the word "warn" in Revelation 22:18 in place of "testify," the literal meaning of the word summartureo wherever it is found in the New Testament. Once again, the NIV stands alone; no other translation will join it in this variation. 

One cannot help wonder if some of the changes in the NIV were for change sake rather than a grammatical compulsion or reasons of clarity. Consider, for example, Exodus 20:7. Following are the renderings of the four translations made use of in this study. 

KJV: "Thou shalt not take the name of the Lord thy God in vain." 

NKJV: "You shall not take the name of the Lord your God in vain." 

NAS: "You shall not take the name of the Lord your God in vain. 

NIV: "You shall not misuse the name of the Lord your God." 

Is misuse even equivalent of not taking the name of the Lord in vain, let alone the "dynamic" equivalent? What reason warranted this change? For centuries youngsters have been taught not to take the name of the Lord in vain; with the popularity of this translation, they will be memorizing not to misuse it instead. 

What happened to certainly in Exodus 3:12? For most people studying this passage certainly conveys a sense of emphatic comfort. Moses has just asked God: "Who an I, that I should go unto Pharaoh, and that I should bring forth the children of Israel?" "Certainly I will be with thee," answers God in the King James Version. But alas! certainly is one of those "pesky particles" which the NIV takes delight in omitting. 

Why is Manoah's lament "We shall surely die" in Judges 13:22, changed to the melodramatic: "We are doomed to die!"? The NIV left Genesis 2:17 intact: "You shall surely die." If God wasn't made to say: "You will be doomed to die," why put such words in Manoah's mouth? 

Another familiar passage is Deuteronomy 6:7 in which Israel is exhorted to teach diligently God's precepts to their children. The NIV for some reason thought impress on was a better equivalent than the rendering the KJV, NKJV, and NAS decided upon. Teach is more accurate. 

Psalm 119:160 has been oft quoted from translators newer than the King James Version because it states: "The sum of Thy word is truth" (NAS) or "the entirety of your word is truth" (NKJV). It sets forth an important principle about how to read and study God's Word. One passage should not be taken out of context because another passage may reveal a different aspect on the subject (e.g., faith and works). The KJV has: "They word is true from the beginning," but newer translations have all been in accord with the thought expressed above. The NIV just about returns to the KJV on this verse with a weak: "All your words are true." 

DYNAMIC VULGARITY

Most translations have refrained from using common or vulgar equivalents; the NIV at times seems to express the "Roseanne" mentality. Genesis 31:35 in most versions renders Rachel's words as "the manner" or "the custom of women is upon me" as her excuse for not arising. These are literal renderings and not too difficult to understand. But the NIV translators evidently felt that people would not grasp the situation; so they used: "I'm having my period." They did get the thought this time, but is it not the purpose of commentaries to do this work? 

IN Genesis 38:26 Judah never "knew" Tamar again; in the NIV he never "slept" with her again. That is more modern, isn't it? In Genesis 4:1 the NIV used a better choice of words: "Adam lay with his wife Eve." The NIV renders this verb more respectfully in each of the other passages in which it is found; it is especially refreshing to notice that the translators refrained from saying that Joseph did not "sleep" with Mary until after Jesus was born. 

The NIV has Samson saying: "With a donkey's jawbone I have made donkeys of them" instead of "heaps upon heaps." A little coarse humor there? Not that it would be out of character for Samson, but is this justified? [The NASB points out that heaps and donkeys come from the same Hebrew root word.] Despite these few instances of poor taste, at least they did not follow the vulgar path of Kenneth Taylor in 1 Samuel 20:30; they left it: "You son of a perverse and rebellious woman!" 

DOCTRINAL BIAS

Proving that someone's theology has affected their translation is difficult at best. More passages arouse suspicion that can be dealt with here, but three areas of doctrine will be considered: the role of women, Calvinism, and salvation

The role of women. In the latter half of the twentieth century the role of women has expanded tremendously in most denominations. While some continue to hold out, most have surrendered to the pressures of groups like the National Organization of Women. If Romans 16 is not concession to the NOW-type feminists' one is at a loss to understand the motivation behind it. 

Most reliable translations use the word "servant" in Romans 16:1 for a simple reason--it's accurate; the NIV follows suit. But they cannot resist putting in a footnote (as does the NASB), adding "or deaconess." For them to suggest that diakonon can equally be translated into "deaconess" is a theological decision, not one of vocabulary. It presumes that there is such an office rather than leaving it in the realm of interpretation where it belongs. 

Although the NASB and the NIV are alike on Romans 16:1, the NIV goes even further in verse 12 to make sure the reader knows what gender some of the workers are: "Great Tryphena and Tryphosa, those women who work hard in the Lord. Greet my dear friend Persis, another woman who has worked very hard in the Lord." The Greek text contains neither "those women" nor "another woman." If the translators felt compelled to inform the reader of the gender of these workers, they could have cited in a footnote rather than include it as part of the text. Their decision here reflects a bias in favor of an expanded role of women. 

Calvinism. Part of this doctrine teaches that men are born sinners. They believe all mankind is depraved because of the results of the fall of Adam and Eve. All human beings have thereafter been tainted by sin and can of their own accord do nothing good or righteous. Many brethren have written on numerous occasions concerning the NIV's bias in this direction. In the Old Testament Psalm 51:5 has been more than mishandled; the NIV brutally assaulted the passage, as the following comparison shows. 

KJV: "Behold, I was shapen in iniquity, and in sin did my mother conceive me." 

NKJV: "Behold, I was brought forth in iniquity, and in sin did my mother conceive me." 

NAS: "Behold, I was brought forth in iniquity, and in sin my mother conceived me." 

NIV: "Surely I was sinful at birth, sinful from the time my mother conceived me." 

Notice the shift of focus away from the sinfulness of the mother to the sinfulness of the child. The child became wicked even in the womb. Such a philosophy harmonizes well with Calvinism. They cling to this doctrine despite the fact that no one can inherit anyone else's sins (Eze. 18:20) and regardless of the fact that Jesus illustrated what the kingdom of heaven is like by using the purity and innocence of a child (Mat. 18:4). What was He saying: "Become like this little child who has been sinful from birth, even from conception"? As brother Taylor points out: when David praised God for being "fearfully and wonderfully made" (Psa. 139:14), was he thanking God for creating him a depraved sinner? Even those enamored with the NIV will agree that this is an unfortunate rendering. 

"SINFUL NATURE"

Equally horrendous is the arbitrary translation of sarx in the New Testament as "sinful nature." Of the 151 times sarx is used in the New Testament, the King James Version translates it as "flesh" 148 times and "carnal" or "carnally" the other three times (Rom. 8:6-7 and Heb. 9:10). According to Vine, Kittel, and others, sarx does have different shades of meaning, depending on the context. "Sinful nature," however, does not appear among the definitions, although some may seen close to it. But even if some lexicographer did define the word as "sinful nature," would that prove that it is so? No! No more than the NIV's using such a definition proves them correct. 

How do we know that "sinful nature" is an incorrect translation? One reason is that the other major translations never chose to use that phrase. The KJV, NKJV, ASV, NAS, and the RSV all use "flesh." Some of these are as literal as they can be; only "dynamic equivalence" could produce such a mis-concept, which underscores what has been pointed out throughout this chapter: the translating committee has complete liberty to use what they "think, feel, or imagine" are equivalents to the words in the Greek text. 

The NIV enjoys using about any word but "flesh" to define sarx. In fact, they must have considered it the most versatile word in the New Testament. They translate it "flesh" 33 time, "body" 25, "sinful nature" 25 times, "one" five times, "man" four times, "mankind" (Luke 3:6), "people" (John 17:2; Acts 2:17), "human standards" (John 8:15), "physical" (Rom. 2:28), "in this matter" (Rom. 4:1), "natural selves" (Rom. 6:19), "natural descent" (John 1:13), "external" (Heb. 9:10), "worldly point of view" (2 Cor. 5:16), "worldly manner" (2 Cor. 1:7), "life" (1 Cor. 7:28), "natural" (Rom. 9:8), "race" (Rom. 9:3), "life on earth" (Heb. 5:7), "nature" (Rom. 8:5; Gal. 6:8), "sinful mind" (Rom. 8:7), "sinful man" (Rom. 8:3,6), "outwardly" (Heb. 9:13), "personally" (Col. 2:1), "unspiritual mind" (Col. 2:18), "ordinary way" (Gal. 4:23,29), "another" (1 Cor. 15:29), "human ancestry" (Rom. 9:5), "in this matter" (Rom 4:1), "standards of the world" (2 Cor. 10:2), "good impression outwardly" (Gal. 6:12), "birth" (Eph. 2:11), "evil human desires" (1 Pet. 4:2), "illness" (Gal. 4:13-14), and about a dozen other ways. 

When "sinful nature" is used, the translators do add a footnote which provides the alternative "flesh," but such is not exceedingly helpful. First of all, when a text is read publicly as a Scripture reading or as part of the text of a sermon, nobody bothers to say "or flesh." Secondly, when young people memorize a passage of Scripture (and Rom. 8:1 is a good one), they will not likely add "or flesh" when quoting the verse. Even if they did, however, it would still not be helpful because they are not equivalents, dynamic or otherwise! 

THE IMPLICATIONS OF A "SINFUL NATURE"

Why protest this unfortunate rendering of "sinful nature"? It has long been held a matter of logic that any teaching which implies a false doctrine is itself false. What ideas does "a sinful nature" suggest? If man has a "sinful nature," where did he get it? The first choice is that God created us that way. If so, then He can hardly expect us to do anything other than sin. If we all possess an uncontrollable urge to sin, and God put it there, how can He accuse us of choosing wrongly? Does anyone condemn a crippled man for not walking or a blind man for not seeing? Likewise, if God put within us an unfailing desire to sin, how then can we be justly blamed and condemned? 

The Bible teaches that when God finished the Creation (including man), it was very good (Gen. 1:31). Such could not be said if man were created with a "sinful nature." In such a case, sin would have been waiting for a chance to express itself. Rather, we were created with free-will, which allows sin to be an option, but not a necessity. 

That we have free will is the reason we are encouraged to make the right decision. God calls for us to obey (Mat. 11:28-30; Rev. 22:17). We still have the choice to obey or disobey--even as God's people. Joshua commanded the people to choose whom they would serve (Jos. 24:14-15). If we fail to please God, it will be our fault. Freedom of choice is that which allows God to hold us accountable. Animals won't be judged; they cannot help being what they are; human beings can. 

The second way that man might have obtained a sinful nature is through the "fall." Somehow, when man sinned, he became depraved and incapable of doing good. The nature of man changed at that moment, Calvinists say. But there are a few problems with this theory. The first is that hereditary total depravity is unnecessary to explain why people sin today. Ask a Calvinist for the reason, and he will answer: "Depravity." Then ask: "Is that why Adam sinned?" "Oh, no; Adam was made in the image of God. Mankind only became depraved after the 'fall.'" If Adam did not need depravity in order to sin, why do we? Free-will explains both situations; depravity explains neither. 

Also, the "fall" rationale carries with it the same basic problems the first theory has. How is mankind benefited if Adam was not created depraved, but we are? We still would not be able to help it; our sinfulness would not be our fault. God could still not hold us accountable. Besides, God told even Cain (after the "fall") that he had a choice: he could do well or give in to sin (free-will). 

Somebody could perform a real service by polling the NIV translators. It would be interesting to find out how many of them believe in the tenets of Calvinism and how many of them think that man is born in a depraved condition. Where else would they get the idea of "sinful nature"? Their repeated use of this phrase disqualifies the NIV as a reliable, accurate, or unbiased translation. 

Salvation. Needless to say, the prevailing philosophy towards salvation amongst those in the denominational world is that people are saved by grace through faith, period. Most deny that baptism is an integral element of the salvation process and are happy to dispense with it altogether unless it be in some incidental sense. Although they cannot, of course, remove the numerous verses that show that baptism is essential to salvation, they can do the next best thing: co-opt a popular verse in their favor.

They have done exactly that with their "dynamic" reconstruction of Romans 10:9-10. Instead of: "That if thou shalt confess with they mouth the Lord Jesus, and shalt believe in thy heart that God hath raised Him from the dead, thou shalt be saved. For with the heart man believeth unto righteousness, and with the mouth confession is made unto salvation" (KJV), the NIV has: 

That if you confess with your mouth, "Jesus is Lord," and believe in your heart that God has raised him from the dead, you will be saved. For it is with your heart that you believe and are justified, and it is with your mouth that you confess and are saved.
How about teaching these memory verses to young children? Who can read these verses without concluding that faith and saying: "Jesus is Lord," is enough to save someone? Instead of confession bringing a person unto salvation, confession "saves" him. 
MARK 16:9-20

The most flagrant bias against baptism, however, is in connection with Mark 16:9-20. No doubt the translators would affirm that their theology had no direct bearing on their treatment of this text, but since brethren have been debating denominational preachers for over a century on the subject of baptism, it is no secret that they would prefer this passage were absent from the pages of divine inspiration. Most editions of the King James Version include it without comment. Other translations have added qualifying notes. Compare the statements of other translations about this text with the one made by the NIV. 

RSV: "Some of the most ancient authorities bring the book to a close at the end of verse 8." 

NEB: "At this point some of the most ancient witnesses bring this book to a close." 

NAS: "Some of the oldest mss. omit v. 9 through 20." 

NKJV: "Vv. 9-20 are bracketed in NU as not in the original text. They are lacking in Codex Sinaiticus and Codex Vaticanus, although nearly all other mss. of Mark contain them." 

ASV: "The two oldest Greek manuscripts, and some authorities, omit from ver. 9 to the end." 

NIV (1978): "The two most reliable early manuscripts do not have Mark 16:9-20." 

NIV (1984): "The most reliable early manuscripts and other ancient witnesses do not have Mark 16:9-20." 

The first four above assessments of these disputed Scriptures are correct; the last three are erroneous. The ASV of 1901 should have added the word complete to modify "Greek manuscripts." The NIV's statements, however, are false and deliberately worded to deceive readers into thinking Mark never wrote these words. In fact, there is no way to read that statement and conclude that this ending belongs in the New Testament. People who use the NIV are drawing exactly that conclusion--whenever someone mentions Mark 16:16. 

The NIV translators have done at least as much damage as the RSV did when they first put the passage in as a footnote. The NIV avoids that, but the effect is the same. By adding the word "reliable," they have rendered a verdict upon the quality of two manuscripts, which judgment everyone does not share. 

FROST ON HER BIKINI

In Peoria, Illinois, the Uniroyal Tire Company found a rather unusual way of catching the public's attention. On the curb in front of the store stands a fiberglass figure of a shapely woman 17 and 1/2 feet tall, standing on a metal frame. Her hair is black, her face resembles that of the late Jacqueline Kennedy Onassis, and her body clad only in a red bikini. It's not one of the major tourist attractions, but anyone driving down Washington Street cannot help but notice her. 

In the winter an interesting anomaly occurs. When weather conditions are just right, motorists will notice a humorous incongruity--frost on the stately lady's bikini. Of course, a read woman would not be standing on the street corner dressed that way in freezing temperatures. This mixture of the two most opposite seasons is ridiculous. Frost on her bikini! 

Equally absurd (though not funny at all) is the devotion of some of our church members to the NIV! Not only do preachers often use it, but many recommend it to members. It has been estimated that the NIV is used by 90% of our young people, which is tragic. No wonder that at some of our youth meetings speakers have begun to allude to our "sinful nature." What can elders be thinking of? 

Churches of Christ have long put a premium upon the Word of God--its authority and accuracy. Yet many are apparently willing to sacrifice all of that on the alter of "Readability." Such actions might be excusable if the NIV were the only modern translation and sufficient warnings and safeguards were issued concerning its use. Neither, however, is the case. The New King James Version is easy to read and immensely more accurate than the NIV. Why do not more elders and Bible school teachers insist on its use? 

For the church of our Lord that has for two hundred years displayed such a commitment to the truth, urged a respect for the authoritative Word of God, and fought battles over the accuracy of proper translation to embrace a version of the Scriptures that is scarcely better than a paraphrase, replete with doctrinal bias, and arbitrary in its renderings is as ludicrous as the image of the woman with frost on her bikini. 

WAS THE CHURCH OF CHRIST INVOLVED IN THIS TRANSLATION?

One more matter should be dealt with from the Preface of the NIV. They proudly proclaim the following. 

The fact that participants from the United States, Great Britain, Canada, Australia and New Zealand worked together gave the project its international scope. That they were from many denominations--including Anglican, Assemblies of God, Baptist, Brethren, Christian Reformed, Church of Christ, Evangelical Free, Lutheran, Mennonite, Methodist, Nazarene, Presbyterian, Wesleyan, an other churches--helped to safeguard the translation from sectarian bias.
It has already been demonstrated that they failed with regard to keeping out bias. But the reader may well wonder what is meant by including "Church of Christ" among the denominations, since we are not now nor have we ever been one. 

Jack Lewis sets forth his knowledge of the matter in his book Questions You've Asked About Bible Translations. Of the New Testament brother Lewis makes known that he not only played no role in its translation, he did not even see it until it was published and available to the general public. He further suggests that since the Cincinnati Bible Society people refer to their congregations as "churches of Christ," possible the Preface of the NIV was referring to them. Finally, he explains the rather insignificant role he played in the Old Testament translation as follows: 

Each of twenty teams had a translator, a co-translator, two consultants, and one English Stylist. Dr. Clyde T. Francisco and Dr. Marvin Tate of Southern Baptist Seminary, Louisville, were the translators on Team Four. The other consultant and stylist I have not yet met. A translation consultant is about as essential as a second-string quarterback behind Joe Montana. With the passage of time, Dr. Tate sent me the first chapters of a trial translation of Exodus. I compared them with the Hebrew text and with the wording of the RSV. I marked up the copy, fussed about the freedom with which he had changed the traditional wording, mailed it back, and heard no more about it. Eventually, some other sections cam; and a few chapters from some of the other books, such as Joshua, were sent out from translation headquarters for general criticism. I wrote the editor, Dr. Edwin J. Palmer, and told him I thought the translations were too free and that change was being made for the sake of change where none was actually needed.
What more needs to be added to that final observation except--AMEN!

*Send comments or questions concerning this article to Gary Summers. Please refer to this article as: "A REVIEW OF THE NIV."



Edited to remove external links; content not changed. Added 5-2-2012


 
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