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Opponents of TNIV compared to those who burned Tyndale

IRVINE, Calif. (BP)–Those who oppose the Today’s NIV version of the Bible will be remembered and spoken of in the same breath with those who burned William Tyndale at the stake, according to a professor at Bethel Theological Seminary.

Mark Strauss, professor of New Testament at Bethel Theological Seminary in San Diego, Calif., made the comment during an Internet webcast debate about the TNIV with conservative scholar Wayne Grudem May 21.

“I guess we should be grateful — as Bruce Metzger points out — that at least today they only burn the translations and not the translators. I’d be afraid if I saw them building a bonfire outside tonight,” Strauss said.

Grudem, research professor of theology and Bible at Phoenix Seminary, who has opposed the TNIV, responded to Strauss’ comment, saying that those who opposed Tyndale and his translation did not want the Bible in the hands of the laity.

“They thought lay people could not understand Scripture. That was a wrong motive,” Grudem said. “It really troubled me when Dr. Strauss said that I and those who oppose the TNIV will be remembered along with those who opposed William Tyndale. Those were terrible motives to keep the Word of God from people and terrible moves — burning people at the stake. It troubles me that he could say that about those of us who are opposed.”

Strauss, who holds a Ph.D. from the University of Aberdeen in Scotland, said that he was deeply concerned about the precedent being set by those who were attacking the TNIV. Critics, he said, “are, after all, attacking a highly accurate expression of God’s inspired and authoritative word.”

Worse than that, Strauss said, was that criticism of the TNIV was unfounded and based on misperceptions. Most critics, he believed, had never even seen the TNIV. Strauss has seen the translation and referred to it as “intentionally gender accurate and not gender neutral.”

“Much of what I have read about the TNIV is often unfair, unwarranted and simply untrue,” Strauss said. “Gender accurate translations like the TNIV seek to accurately convey the sense of the Hebrew or Greek original while utilizing the language people use today. That is the best possible goal for Bible translation.”

Strauss said that such a goal was what the translators of the King James Version had in mind when they wrote the preface to their 1611 edition.

“Keeping the Bible current was critically important to the King James Version translators. It was critically important to William Tyndale, whose magnificent translation captured the hearts of the English people in their own words, and it is critically important to the TNIV translators.”

Strauss emphasized that a number of New Testament scholars had endorsed the TNIV, among them Darrell Bock and Don Carson. Bock is professor of New Testament Studies at Dallas Theological Seminary and Carson is professor of New Testament Studies at Trinity Evangelical Divinity School.

But Grudem countered Strauss’ assertion, saying that he had spoken with Bock and that he had refused to endorse the TNIV. Carson also was said to have rejected the translation.

“I don’t think you should use them if they haven’t made a public statement,” Grudem said.

Grudem, who holds a Ph.D. from Cambridge University, provided a list of over 20 conservative evangelical scholars who had rejected the TNIV, among them Al Mohler, president of Southern Baptist Theological Seminary; Paige Patterson, president of Southeastern Baptist Theological Seminary; and R.C. Sproul and Verne Poythress.

Grudem noted that changes in gender language made by TNIV translators revealed a systematic agenda with the goal of “muting the masculinity of Christ” and attributing traditional male roles in Scripture to women.

“1 Timothy 3:11 (TNIV) says, ‘In the same way, women who are deacons are to be worthy of respect.’ That’s a debatable question exegetically, and doubtful, but the TNIV puts it there and we have women deacons required and no longer debatable,” Grudem said. “These are big changes revealing a systematic agenda.”

The changes, Grudem said, were evidence that the translators had succumbed to political correctness and a feminist agenda.

Strauss, however, said that the application of “gender accurate” phrasing was neither politically motivated nor representative of any agenda. “The TNIV is not trying to make God into a woman,” he said. The translation, according to Strauss, was only an attempt to bring the sense of Scripture into the modern vernacular.

“Why are we fighting about this?” Strauss asked. “Let’s not let an issue like this divide and breakup the body of Christ.”

Grudem answered that he, too, was for promoting the full equality of male and female in the sight of God, but the risk of altering meanings by applying “gender neutral language” to the Bible was to change the words of God.

“I want to be remembered with William Tyndale, who would not alter one syllable of Scripture contrary to the meaning of God’s Word. … I stand before God with a clear conscience. I struggled long and hard before speaking out publicly against this, but I thought it was necessary because the purity of the Word of God was at stake,” Grudem said.

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  • Gregory Tomlin