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In (partial) defense of the CBMW statement on the NIV 2011

The Council on Biblical Manhood and Womanhood (CBMW) recently released a statement regarding their evaluation of the NIV 2011. And, although they indicate that the NIV 2011 is a marked improvement of the TNIV, they offer a number of reasons explaining why this still cannot recommend it.

Since that statement was released, I’ve seen a number of fairly critical and dismissive posts of the CBMW stance on the NIV 2011. And, I’m not convinced that such dismissals are entirely fair. At the very least I think people need to be more clear whether they are disagreeing with CBMW’s basic position (in which case, they are not going to like anything CBMS says), or whether they think there is something particularly egregious about this particular statement.

Setting aside that question of whether CBMW’s basic position is correct, I actually found the statement to be rather well done. The tone was charitable and they clearly identified those areas of continued disagreement that prevented them from recommending the NIV 2011 to their readers. They even offered a couple of very specific examples of the kind of translation theory that they find objectionable. (The only significant problem that I’ve seen, as TC points out, is their statement that the NIV 2011 is “based on the TNIV,” when it was actually based on both the TNIV and the NIV 1984.) So, unlike others, I found the statement to be a good example of charity and clarity in theological discourse and well within the stated mission and purpose of CBMW. (Note: I am not CBMW member – do they have members? – or supporter.)

Of course, none of that has anything to do with whether I agree with their conclusion. And, from what I’ve seen so far, I don’t.

First, I don’t agree that woodenly following the original language’s use of gender results in “greater accuracy” of translation. English is not the same language as does not follow the same rules as Greek and Hebrew. Accuracy in translation requires variation from the original language to the target language – that is simply unavoidable.

I’m also not convinced by the argument that generic, plural pronouns (e.g. they, them, their) necessary obscures the meaning of the relevant passages any more than any other translation would. And, I find it revealing that CBMW expresses significant concern over the possible depersonalizing affects of such translation, but evinces no such similar concern over the possible de-genderizing affects of the alternative possibilites.

So, in the end, I found the CBMW statement to be a well-crafted, clearly articulated, and charitable explanation of a position regarding the NIV 2011 that I personally find unconvincing. I haven’t decided yet whether I think the NIV 2011 is a good step forward, but the CBMW statement did not do anything to convince me otherwise.