LCMS Theology Commission: Avoid NIV 2011

The Cyberbrethren blog reports that the Lutheran Church—Missouri Synod’s Commission on Theology and Church Relation’s executive staff has warned against the 2011 version of the New International Version translation of the Bible. The NIV 2011 replaces the previous and widely used 1984 edition.

The four-page statement of opinion from the CTCR staff (PDF) outlines their concern with the use of gender-inclusive language in the NIV 2011. One of the examples discussed is Psalm 8:4–5:

Psalm 8:4-5 in NIV 2011 reads: “What is mankind [collective noun substitution for “man”] that you are mindful of them [plural substitution for “him”], Human beings [plural noun substitution for “son of man”] that you care for them [plural substitution for “him”]? You have made them [plural substitution for “him”] a little lower than the angels and crowned them [plural substitution for “him”] with glory and honor.”

Once again, the rationale for the translation changes seems to be the desire to emphasize a universal truth about all humanity—that humankind has received glory and honor as the crown of creation. The translation decisions, however, obfuscate other things. First, and most importantly, the decision to use plurals here vitiates the Messianic meaning of this psalm, its particular application to Christ. Hebrews 2:5-9 quotes Ps 8:4-5 and notes that these verses testify to our Lord Jesus. He is the Man to whom the Lord gives all glory and honor; the Son of Man to whom all creation is subject. He is the One who exceeds the angels in glory and honor, even though he was made to be lower than them for our salvation.

Second, we should note that the substitution of a generic term like “human being” or “human beings” for “son of man” (a consistent pattern in NIV 2011), impoverishes the understanding of “Son of Man” as the self-designation our Lord uses throughout the Gospels. Jesus uses a term (a particular idiom, “son of man”) from the Old Testament that indicates full humanity and refers it to himself. This is of great importance, especially when it is seen in the light of Daniel 7:13-14. There that same term, “son of man,” is used in a prophecy of our Savior’s incarnation, where “one like a son of man” is “given dominion and glory and a kingdom” in which all nations are included under a rule that shall never be destroyed.

The statement, which is worth reading in its entirety, concludes:

Given the significance of this issue and these examples, we find the NIV’s Committee on Bible Translation decision to substitute plural nouns and pronouns for masculine singular nouns and pronouns to be a serious theological weakness and a misguided attempt to make the truth of God’s Word more easily understood. 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. This is not a judgment on the entirety of NIV 2011 as a translation—a task that would require a much more extensive study of NIV 2011—but an opinion as to a specific editorial decision which has serious theological implications.

One thought on “LCMS Theology Commission: Avoid NIV 2011”

  1. Man, oh man.

    We don’t need to make the Bible “easier to understand” through an increasing parade of translations, transliterations, paraphrases, etc.

    We just do not. We don’t.

    The forty-eleven thousand versions that are out there are already ignored and disdained enough by people, unbelievers and professing Christians alike.

    Making it “easier to understand” or recharging the coffers- isn’t going to cut it.

    I stick with the KJV. Know why? No, I’m not a KJV-Onlyist.

    I don’t have to worry about it being revised and changed in a new “official” improvement anytime soon.

    Besides, if the NIV needed “improvement”, that tells me that the first time around wasn’t done right. Sure glad I haven’t used the NIV for the past 30 or so years…

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