Tuesday, November 2

The problem of mankind and the NIV-2011

My initial reaction to the release of the NIV-2011 yesterday was positive. In some places there are improvements in readability over previous NIV releases. However, I am now starting to see the weaknesses. Our early fears that the translators would stepback from the more gender neutral language of the TNIV have been realized.

For example, John 1:4 in the NIV-2011 reads: "In him was life, and that life was the light of all mankind."

I know from experience that if I get up to read scripture or preach on Sunday morning and use the word "mankind," that there will be a significant portion of my listening audience which will hear nothing else I say. For them "mankind" is a distracting code word for a male hierarchical agenda that has the objective of limiting women. Regardless of whether that is my intention, or if such an agenda really exists, or how we have come to this point in society -- this is the perception. And when if comes to communication, perception shapes reality.

Likewise, I know that if I start using politically correct language like "humankind," that I am going to be distracting another segment of the audience.

However, the fact is that there are so many other natural ways of saying this that I don't need to unnecessarily offended anyone. This leads me to conclude that there was probably some social or cultural agenda -- perhaps even anti-feminist -- on the part of the NIV-2011 translators when they deliberately chose to use "mankind" over "all people" (which is what the TNIV used) in John 1:4.

This is an error in judgment on the part of the translators which will keep a significant number of us from adopting the once influential NIV as a standard translation for the early 21st century. It is indicative of the era in which we live -- sectarian agenda has trumped clear communication and become a barrier to the evangelical mission of the church.

For comparison, here are how some other translations resolve the ἀνθρώπων issue:
  • NLT: "The Word gave life to everything that was created, and his life brought light to everyone."

  • ESV: "In him was life, and the life was the light of men."

  • God's Word: "...and that life was the light for humanity."

  • KJV: "In him was life; and the life was the light of men."

  • CEV: "Everything that was created received its life from him, and his life gave light to everyone."

  • CEB: "...through the Word was life, and the life was the light for all people."

  • HCSB: "Life was in Him, and that life was the light of men."

  • NIRV: "Life was in him, and that life was the light for all people."

  • NRSV: "...and the life was the light for all people."
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