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February 10, 2005

Best Bible Translation for Today is Not the TNIV

The complete Today’s New International Version (TNIV) of the Bible has now been published (the New Testament was released earlier) to mixed reviews that continue the gender neutral controversy that is well documented at BaylyBlog by Tim Bayly, part of the World magazine family. Here is Zondervan’s news release defending the new revision of the NIV.

I recommend that you look elsewhere--to the Holman Christian Standard Bible. Released in 2004, it is the only new translation from the original languages since the original NIV in the early 70’s. We worked on the introduction of the Holman CSB, and I am using it now for both reading and study.

It is as readable, if not more readable, than the NIV, and those who study these things say that it is as accurate as the New American Standard Bible (NASB). Because of its commitment to precise translation, the Holman CSB avoids the current gender neutral controversy.

Posted by Jim at February 10, 2005 08:34 AM

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I would recommend the ESV - English Standard Version, as another good essentially literal trasnslation. And if you want to read a good book on dynamic vs. literal translation, go and read "The Word of God in English: Criteria for Excellence in Bible Translation" by Leland Ryken. It primarily deals with the deficiencies of a dynamic equivalent translation like the NIV.

Posted by: Mark L at February 10, 2005 08:53 AM

I may look into getting copies of both the ESV and the CSB. The problem, I find, is that all of the verses that I have memorized, I have memorized in NIV--and they sound odd in other translations, so I keep going back to the NIV (as does any good Evangelical). One exception, I've got the 23rd Psalm memorized in KJV--NIV sounds too modern for that one.

A better point: I have found great insights in comparing difficult passages in one translation with the same passage in others. When you get a few different perspectives, the intended meaning becomes clearer.

Posted by: Mark Sides at February 10, 2005 09:09 AM

I enjoy many different translations. For my regular study and devotion times, I use the NRSV.

When I first came to faith, I read the Good News Bible (TEV) and still think that it can be a good bridge into the Bible for new believers.

I'm absolutely in love with 'The Message,' produced by a Bible scholar and poet. But of course, its lack of versification--harking back to the original manuscripts--can sometimes make it difficult to use for group study.

I agree with Mark that comparing several translations is really helpful. I will have to check into the translation you reference here.

Posted by: Mark at February 10, 2005 09:32 AM

Appreciate the tip. For years and years I'd resisted turning away from the version that has sustained me in my walk with Christ -- KJV.

Of late, I've realized that I haven't turned away from KJV so much as added other versions in modern English. I still much appreciate KJV for its poetry and elegance. For study, on the other hand, I've come to use the NIV as my mainstay.

Based on your recommendation, I'll give the Holman CSB a try.

Posted by: John Luke at February 10, 2005 11:57 AM

Thanks for the recommend. I have been disgusted by the newest translations that slave to gender sensibilities. The other night I read a translation quoted in a different book:

"Come after me, and I will make you fishers of people."

Wanted to barf. Jesus displayed a very semitic sense of humor throughout the NT, and that pun is now lost...and "come after me" doesn't equal "follow me." Horrible. I will give your recommend a try.

Posted by: TheAnchoress at February 10, 2005 12:05 PM

I use the New King James, but that is because it's the version that my pastor teaches from. There is always the old joke about the NIV - it is the (N)early (I)nspired (V)ersion.

Posted by: Rick at February 10, 2005 12:21 PM


Aren't you supposed to use the New Jerusalem?


Aren't you supposed to be studying?

Posted by: Mark Sides at February 10, 2005 01:11 PM

I know you answer to the Reformed Christian tradition (here's betting Holman's CSB has 39 rather than 46 books in the Old Testament canon), but this might be helpful, as well:

Posted by: Patrick O'Hannigan at February 10, 2005 02:23 PM

"We worked on the introduction of the Holman CSB, and I am using it now for both reading and study."

Forgive me for being a constant's a nasty habit i have. As one would in my world, technology, would you please let us know all affiliation with Holman that you have? We have a consultant that regularly talks about our product and work on his JAVA blog...he always clearly identifies his association with us. the common language used in tech blogs:

"Before I continue, under full disclosure, [company] hired me to do some consulting. So I could profit from you buying this software. I won’t get much, but some, just the same. I am biased toward [product] and my friends at [company], so take this all in with a dose of salt and by all means, question my motives."

it's fait to know your relationship to holman in order to engage in the discussion.

Posted by: skibrian at February 10, 2005 03:55 PM

now about gender neutral:

reading the Zondervan release, it seems as if the word was "person" in Greek, then it is "person" in the translation...even if they departed from the english tradition (my paraphrase) of saying "man".

What is wrong with that!?!?! (Anchoress?? Doesn't make me barf...seems correct and sensible)

i'm far from an expert so I have to take Zondervan's word that this is what they did. And if they did, then who cares if it is gender neutral...being correct, as much as possible, is far more important...even if modern tradition is questioned in the light of a less masculine (and correct) interpretation of the ancient text.

full disclosure:
i am not about to call God "she", and am not a leftist radical, feminazi supporter, or anything else. I'm interested in Truth, and I realize that a translation is often skewed by Man's influence.

Mark is right, good to compare.

Thanks for the Catholic link Patrick...seems like a good idea to cross reference denominational stances on the different translations as well, especially if you are unedumacated in Greek and Hebrew or for that matter the philosophy of proper translation as I am.

Posted by: skibrian at February 10, 2005 04:02 PM

I did disclose that we--my company--helped introduce the Holman CSB, and by that I mean that we handled national media relations. It was a 10-month contract that ended last fall. I wish I would benefit from future sales because it is now #5 on the translations best seller list; but alas, I do not.

But my involvement enabled me to learn a lot about the translation and I came away a real fan.

I've done work for Zondervan, as well; and dozens of other publishers, Christian organizations, and authors. If I didn't have an opinion on anyone or anything I've worked with in the past, my opinions about the evangelical community would be greatly limited!

Posted by: Jim Jewell at February 10, 2005 06:02 PM

cheers jim! always good to know. i didn't know "we" meant your company. us lurking folks don't always know the details. but they help.

i'll take a look at your reccomendation...I think it is time to seriously reconsider the bible I'm using. NIV for 15 years without much deviation.

Posted by: skibrian at February 10, 2005 06:17 PM

Mark, No, No, NO - A THOUSAND times no! We Cat'licks are not "supposed" to use the New Jerusalem Bible, and what an awful, AWFUL translation that is - it lumbers and lists and makes reading scripture feel like slogging through politically correct mud! I have an OLD Jerusalem Bible that I bought in 1976, and it reads like a honey (in fact my publisher asked me why I was using such an old translation in my book, I showed him the New American Whatever Translation that we Cat'licks use and even he said, "umm...yeah, stick with the old translation.")

You'd be surprised at how many Catholics use the KJV for their private reading, simply because of the wonderful language, but since that bible is missing a couple books ;-) I find myself mostly reading my older New American bibles. I just ordered the Catholic Women's Devotional Bible, but I suspect I'll hate it, because as a rule I generally hate anything that is "by women, for women."

Yes, I'm feeling a bit cranky tonight! :-)

Posted by: TheAnchoress at February 10, 2005 06:59 PM

Patrick, THANK YOU for that Catholic Answers link - I always forget about them, and I definately shouldn't.

SkiBrian - is that true, that everyone was just "persons" and "people in the Greek?"

If it's accurate, it's accurate, but perhaps difficult for me to wrap my head around the fact that the inaccuracy carried through for 2000 years! But as I say, I am cranky tonight. :-) I rather liked the 2000 years of inaccuracy that managed to get us by before the feminists and de-constructionists of the last 30 years started demanding changes. :-)

Posted by: TheAnchoress at February 10, 2005 07:11 PM

A few thoughts:

Anchoress, Maybe a few days off from swimming?

B, Jim's a pretty forthright guy. I know there's lots of conflicts of interest stuff going on in blogging, etc., but it ain't Jim.

All, I'm not sure about the Greek issue. I've gone to the experts for the official call and I'll let you know. (No, I do not mean John Bishop Spong.)

Posted by: Mark Sides at February 10, 2005 10:06 PM

What it is, is I'm missing being able to have strawberries and cream at night is what it is....grrrrr....a few days, though, and I'll be better. :-)

Posted by: TheAnchoress at February 10, 2005 10:31 PM


i took my info from the Zondervan press release. Assuming (assuming because I don't know JACK about Bible translation--more than the average Christian, but that's theory. I have barely conversational spanish as a second language...not much help with the Word). Anyway...ASSUMING (as I must) that Zondervan is truthful in the release, they are simply staying gender neutral in English when it is Gender neutral in Greek. If that is true, I'm cool with that. If the original really means all people and not "brothers" then they use the english phrases to convey the idea of all, men and women.

i have no problem with that if that is what they are doing.

I did check a few other denominations for kicks after Patrick provided the catholic link...there are many translations that are very leftist and generally accpeted as substandard. Probably best to avoid those.

Posted by: skibrian at February 10, 2005 10:34 PM

"missing being able to have strawberries and cream at night"

This is why I am not Catholic!

Posted by: Mark Sides at February 11, 2005 12:03 AM

The experts have weighed in. I have sent the Greek question out for analysis and the results are in. One of my experts will need to stay anonymous. More on that soon. Pastor Mark Daniels, whose website Better Living ( is excellent, has provided this guidance:

(1) Generally, when translations like the TNIV or NRSV use the term "people," it's translating the Greek term "anthropon" (hard to transliterate), which, depending on the context can refer to a group of adult males or to humanity. This is no different from the traditional usages of the word "men" in the English. In these circumstances, I see nothing wrong with saying, for example, "fish for people."

(2) Gender neutrality can become anything from dicey to heretical when applied to God. While we know that God is Spirit, I believe that the Scriptures generally refer to God in masculine terms for more than mere cultural reasons.

Or more accurately, I believe they do so in a way that jarringly breaks with the cultural norms prevalent in both Old and New Testament times. The conception of "Father" found in the New Testament, whether in the Lord's Prayer (Abba), the parable of the Prodigal Son, or elsewhere represents a decided departure from traditional conceptions of both God and fathers in that partiarchal society. While the term "Father" is rarely used of God in the Old Testament, descriptions of Him as compassionate, using a word related to that for the female womb, pointing to God as nurturer, also break with the culture. These instances, it seems to me, indicate that God is a Father, but one not bound by the traditionally domineering associations made with that title. This underscores the "absolute otherness" of God.

(3) I am less familiar with the TNIV than I am with the NRSV. While there undoubtedly were some among the NRSV translators who marched to a feminist tune, I don't believe that in the case of either translation, substantive harm to the meaning or intent of the texts was done. In the case of those associated with the TNIV especially, I think this is a safe statement. They were a solidly evangelical group and showed great reverence for the texts.

Posted by: Mark Sides at February 11, 2005 12:47 AM

"it is the only new translation from the original languages since the original NIV in the early 70’s"

Not true.

The NET Bible ( ) is a new translation from the originals, according to that page. You can access it online from the above link or from .

I've found it to be a very good translation -- and the translator's notes and textual criticisms are wonderful.

Posted by: LotharBot at February 11, 2005 02:36 AM

Yes, LotharBot, you are technically right. The NET Bible is a good effort that is, as I understand it, updated online regularly. But it is not a published Bible; it available online only.

Posted by: Jim Jewell at February 11, 2005 06:51 AM

I'm not an expert, but to build on Mark's observations about the peril of gender neutrality: it usually comes in two guises. So-called "horizontal neutrality" descends into self-parody when (as the Anchoress observed) translators take a pun like "I will make you fishermen fishers OF men" and turn it into "fishers of people." So-called "vertical neutrality" is plainly contrary to the intention of both the prophets and the evangelists. The bottom line is blindingly obvious to everyone here, I expect: Jesus called God "Father (Abba, Daddy--you know the drill) and asked us to do the same. And yet some people presume to correct Him.

As C.S. Lewis wrote somewhere, one could say (philosophically) that in relation to God, all things are female.

Posted by: Patrick O'Hannigan at February 11, 2005 03:05 PM

For in relation to Christ (AKA God) we (all genders) are the Bride and He is the Bridegroom.

Posted by: skibrian at February 11, 2005 03:29 PM


I have a paper NET Bible. It's officially the "second beta edition"...

Mine (piled up with other study tools):

Online store:

Posted by: LotharBot at February 12, 2005 01:12 AM

I decided to purchase one based on the a number of things (like the idea that one can never have too many Bible translations.) I haven't gotten into it in depth, but so far it seems like a nice user friendly version, very similar to the NIV...I use several versions when studying and this will be a nice addition to the mix. I haven't notice anything with genders yet. I have a short posting with some scriptures on my blog.

Posted by: Sal at February 12, 2005 09:05 PM

Well, I definitely recommend the ESV. I also heartliy endorse the NASB and use of their heb/grk concordance for word studies. I wouldn't touch the TNIV with a ten foot cattle prod, for obvious reasons. And as far as the Message goes? Well, Peterson has recently been pointed out as an inadvertant advocate of the New age Christianity (via The Renovare Study Bible), so I have been careful when using my copy of the Message.(See for more on this.) I can also say that the HCSB is a well rounded tool for study-it follows pretty much right along the same waves as the NETBible, which is another invaluble refrence tool(!! As always, the KJV is a great primary reference tool. Plenty of study aids out there to support it, and with the proper tools it CAN be understood...

Posted by: Aaron at February 20, 2006 01:04 PM