Is the NIV “a Bible that has blasphemed the Son of God”?
As a pastor, I often get questions about the Bible. This is a good thing, of course, not only because people need a place to go with questions, but also because it gives me the chance to study topics and ideas I may not normally have the occasion to explore. However, since “theology” isn’t everyone’s favorite thing to read about, I’ve decided that when more academic or scholarly topics come up, Thursday will be the day to post them.
That said, I hope this post is a blessing to you, and if not…try tomorrow!
— Pastor Phillip
QUESTION: I’ve heard some theologians recently speak critically on the New International Version of the Bible (NIV), that many of the powerful truths have been altered for a more palatable presentation to general audiences.
When a good friend of mine raised this issue, I enjoyed researching some of the links he sent. I was drawn to one in particular, and decided to dig a little deeper into some of the individual claims the author makes.
I have read the NIV front to back and though it’s not a translation I currently use, I don’t remember finding any problems with it before. However, I am VERY committed to the inerrancy of Scripture and the importance of accurate translations, so I took a good bit of time to explore the context of the passages, the original Greek words used, and how other translations have handled some of these verses. The original criticism site can be found here, and below are some of the things I discovered in my search.
NOTE 1: My intention here isn’t to attack or even defend any particular translation, simply to explore the texts referenced by the author and try to dig underneath the surface to see what’s there in each individual case.
NOTE 2: This is part two of a three-part series on this issue. Part one can be found here and the rest will be posted next Thursday.
CLAIM TWO (A and B)
“Sodomy” was eliminated from [the NIV] text. The rendering was changed to “temple prostitute.” Yes, the Sodomites were “temple prostitutes” but were more than just “temple prostitutes.” This is a serious violation and was applauded by Virginia Mollencott, a lesbian that served as a consultant and English stylist (The word “fornication” was also completely removed.)
The actual word “Sodomy” is not included in the KJV text. The word “sodomite” is included once, and “sodomites” four times. All mentions are in the Old Testament, and all use the Hebrew word “qadesh“, which literally means “(quasi) sacred person, that is, (technically) a (male) devotee (by prostitution) to licentious idolatry: – sodomite, unclean.” The first mention of the term is in Deuteronomy 23:17. Here it is in context.
– KJV: “There shall be no whore of the daughters of Israel, nor a sodomite of the sons of Israel. Thou shalt not bring the hire of a whore, or the price of a dog, into the house of the LORD thy God for any vow: for even both these are abomination unto the LORD thy God. “
-NIV: No Israelite man or woman is to become a shrine prostitute. You must not bring the earnings of a female prostitute or of a male prostitute into the house of the Lord your God to pay any vow, because the Lord your God detests them both.
-ESV: “None of the daughters of Israel shall be a cult prostitute, and none of the sons of Israel shall be a cult prostitute. You shall not bring the fee of a prostitute or the wages of a dog into the house of the LORD your God in payment for any vow, for both of these are an abomination to the LORD your God. (NOTE: “dog” is listed in the footnotes as a euphamism for “male prostitute.”)
-NLT: “No Israelite, whether man or woman, may become a temple prostitute. When you are bringing an offering to fulfill a vow, you must not bring to the house of the LORD your God any offering from the earnings of a prostitute, whether a man or a woman, for both are detestable to the LORD your God.
I looked closer at the groupings of words in this passage, and found something interesting. “whore” in the KJV is the Hebrew word “qedeshah“, defined as “Feminine of H6945; a female devotee (that is, prostitute): – harlot, whore.” So the word rendered “whore” is the SAME word as that which is rendered “sodomite,” just in feminine form. It seems in this case that the other translations’ pairing of the two words as the same type of offense is a sound approach. Similar issues are found in 1 Kings 15:12.
1 Kings 15:12
-KJV: And he took away the sodomites out of the land, and removed all the idols that his fathers had made.
-NIV: He expelled the male shrine prostitutes from the land and got rid of all the idols his fathers had made.
-ESV: He put away the male cult prostitutes out of the land and removed all the idols that his fathers had made.
-NLT: He banished the male and female shrine prostitutes from the land and got rid of all the idols his ancestors had made.
Note how the New Living Translation actually adds to the passage the reference to “female shrine prostitutes,” presumably because the context of the passage is not individual deviant sexual practices, but the pagan rituals surrounding idol worship. The same issue is found in 2 Kings 23, where the whole context of the passage is about removing the methods and practitioners of pagan idol worship from the land.
The NIV faithfully preserves passages such as Leviticus 20:13 “”‘If a man lies with a man as one lies with a woman, both of them have done what is detestable. They must be put to death; their blood will be on their own heads.” Also Romans 1:27 is written this way, “In the same way the men also abandoned natural relations with women and were inflamed with lust for one another. Men committed indecent acts with other men, and received in themselves the due penalty for their perversion.” Hardly an approval of homosexual practice.
The author of the site also mentions that “the word ‘fornication’ was also completely removed“. Here is an analysis.
2 Chronicles 21:11 Moreover he made high places in the mountains of Judah, and caused the inhabitants of Jerusalem to commit fornication, and compelled Judah thereto.
Isaiah 23:17 And it shall come to pass after the end of seventy years, that the LORD will visit Tyre, and she shall turn to her hire, and shall commit fornication with all the kingdoms of the world upon the face of the earth.
Ezekiel 16:26 Thou hast also committed fornication with the Egyptians thy neighbours, great of flesh; and hast increased thy whoredoms, to provoke me to anger.
Ezekiel 16:29 Thou hast moreover multiplied thy fornication in the land of Canaan unto Chaldea; and yet thou wast not satisfied herewith.
These passages use the word “zanah“, which means literally, “A primitive root (highly fed and therefore wanton); to commit adultery (usually of the female, and less often of simple forniciation, rarely of involuntary ravishment); figuratively to commit idolatry (the Jewish people being regarded as the spouse of Jehovah): – (cause to) commit fornication, X continually, X great, (be an, play the) harlot, (cause to be, play the) whore, (commit, fall to) whoredom, (cause to) go a-whoring, whorish.”
We can see, then, that it is a multi-faceted word. In fact, it appears 93 times in the Old Testament, and is almost always translated as “whore”, “whoredom”, “whoring”, etc. Look, now, at the passages again, this time both in the KJV and NIV.
2 Chronicles 21:11
-KJV: Moreover he made high places in the mountains of Judah, and caused the inhabitants of Jerusalem to commit fornication, and compelled Judah thereto.
-NIV: He had also built high places on the hills of Judah and had caused the people of Jerusalem to prostitute themselves and had led Judah astray.
-KJV: And it shall come to pass after the end of seventy years, that the LORD will visit Tyre, and she shall turn to her hire, and shall commit fornication with all the kingdoms of the world upon the face of the earth.
-NIV: At the end of seventy years, the LORD will deal with Tyre. She will return to her hire as a prostitute and will ply her trade with all the kingdoms on the face of the earth.
-KJV: Thou hast also committed fornication with the Egyptians thy neighbours, great of flesh; and hast increased thy whoredoms, to provoke me to anger.
-NIV: You engaged in prostitution with the Egyptians, your lustful neighbors, and provoked me to anger with your increasing promiscuity.
-KJV: Thou hast moreover multiplied thy fornication in the land of Canaan unto Chaldea; and yet thou wast not satisfied herewith.
-NIV: Then you increased your promiscuity to include Babylonia, a land of merchants, but even with this you were not satisfied.
So the NIV takes the translation most regularly associated with “zanah” when the context seems to be prostitution or religious idolatry, and yet also includes the idea of promiscuity in general in the Ezekiel passage.
Now, what of the New Testament? In the KJV, the word “fornication” appears 32 times. In all instances except the book of Jude, the Greek word is either “pornia” or “porneuo“, related words that mean, respectively,
– Porneuo: “From G4204; to act the harlot, that is, (literally) indulge unlawful lust (of either sex), or (figuratively) practice idolatry: – commit (fornication).”
– Porne: “Feminine of G4205; a strumpet; figuratively an idolater: – harlot, whore.”
We can see, then, that the original words comprise much MORE than the standard definition of the English word “fornication”, which is “voluntary sexual intercourse between two unmarried persons or two persons not married to each other.” The original intent of the text includes adultery, incest, prostitution, and “unlawful lust” in general.
So then, comparing passages like 1 Corinthians 6:18 reveals this:
1 Corinthians 6:18
-KJV: Flee fornication. Every sin that a man doeth is without the body; but he that committeth fornication sinneth against his own body.
-NIV: Flee from sexual immorality. All other sins a man commits are outside his body, but he who sins sexually sins against his own body.
1 Thessalonians 4:3
-KJV: For this is the will of God, even your sanctification, that ye should abstain from fornication:
-NIV: It is God’s will that you should be sanctified: that you should avoid sexual immorality;
So the issue in the King James Version seems to be sexual intercourse between unmarried persons, while the NIV broadens the warning to include all forms of sexual immorality that don’t line up with the Biblical ideal. Seems like the latter is a little more helpful and consistent with the whole of Scripture. Here’s the kicker though…
-KJV: But I say unto you, That whosoever shall put away his wife, saving for the cause of fornication, causeth her to commit adultery: and whosoever shall marry her that is divorced committeth adultery.
-NIV: But I tell you that anyone who divorces his wife, except for marital unfaithfulness, causes her to become an adulteress, and anyone who marries the divorced woman commits adultery.
-KJV: And I say unto you, Whosoever shall put away his wife, except it be for fornication, and shall marry another, committeth adultery: and whoso marrieth her which is put away doth commit adultery.
-NIV: I tell you that anyone who divorces his wife, except for marital unfaithfulness, and marries another woman commits adultery.”
Wait, so if someone wants to divorce his wife, in the KJV he can only do that if she has committed “fornication”, yet how can she do that at all if we maintain that “fornication” is sexual intercourse between unmarried persons??? If one of the parties to the act is married, that’s not technically fornication anymore, it’s adultery.
Therefore, “marital unfaithfulness” seems to cover the bases rather well.
The word “Lucifer” was removed from Isaiah 14:12 and Satan was actually called, “O morning star,” the same title given to Jesus in the Book of Revelation.
(To be continued…) REMINDER: This is part two of a three-part series on this issue. Part one can be found here and the rest will be posted next Thursday.
Was it only Jesus who was sent to “set the captives free”?
I had a conversation once with a man who argued that it is the Church’s responsibility to help only those who are believers. He pointed out what the Apostle Paul wrote in Galatians 6:10, “as we have opportunity, let us do good to everyone, and especially those who are of the household of faith.”
I was not impressed or inspired.
Yes, that passage speaks to the importance of helping those within the Church, but if that’s all it’s about, that doesn’t sound like something I want give my life to. It’s not something I can get passionate about.
I get excited when I read THIS…
“The Lord works righteousness and justice for all who are oppressed.” -Psalm 103:6
I get excited thinking how if God’s heart is to work good for those who are oppressed, ALL those who are oppressed, then as the Body of Christ, we who are the Church are called to do the same, and Jesus always empowers those He calls! It’s way bigger and better than just “we help our own.” This is about impacting the whole world!
Of course, some don’t want to answer the call.
Others will answer, but want to limit the scope to something manageable.
For me, though, I want to be a person and belong to a Church that focuses on expanding to do good to the “everyone”, not restricting to serve only our own “household.” I’d rather be part of a movement that seeks justice and righteousness for all who are oppressed, not just the people like me.
I’d rather be a person whose constant question is not “how few people must I serve and still be ok?”, but rather, “how many people can I serve through the power of Christ in me?”
What if “standing strong” was your greatest weakness?
For even when we came into Macedonia, our bodies had no rest, but we were afflicted at every turn–fighting without and fear within. But God, who comforts the downcast, comforted us by the coming of Titus, and not only by his coming but also by the comfort with which he was comforted by you, as he told us of your longing, your mourning, your zeal for me, so that I rejoiced still more.” -2 Corinthians 7:5-7
How encouraging to know that even a great man of God like the Apostle Paul had struggles and seasons of fear. How validating to know that opposition is normal in the Christian life and that fear comes after the best of us.
Here’s what Paul knows, though, and what can become a huge key to our freedom. God uses our admission of vulnerability as a doorway through which He sends people to let us know we’re not alone.
The religious spirit takes a “just me and Jesus” attitude, partly out of pride, and partly out of the fear of being judged for not having it all together.
“I’m just trusting God” can sometimes be merely the Christian way of saying “I can handle it, so leave me alone.”
How good is our Father, then, that He would continue to send people to break down our walls of self-imposed isolation and step in to our hurt so we can walk out of it together!
Christian community doesn’t promise all the answers and understanding. It gives us the freedom of knowing we don’t have to struggle alone.
Compare ourselves with our friends. Compare ourselves with what we see on TV and in the movies. Compare ourselves with “statistics” to find out whether we’re “normal” or not.
But that’s not the path to freedom, and that’s not the way of Jesus.
“Not that we dare to classify or compare ourselves with some of those who are commending themselves. But when they measure themselves by one another and compare themselves with one another, they are without understanding…”Let the one who boasts, boast in the Lord.” –2 Corinthians 10:12, 17
There may be a thousand things in this world that we don’t have, but God has promised His children a glorious gift that trumps them all: Himself.
Then others, I take time to read because I know there’s something special inside.
“Notes from Terry” is one of the ones I read, because in his role as “Team Strategist” for Music and Worship Ministries office of the Florida Baptist Convention, Terry Williams always has some great stuff to share.
One of my favorite things is “A Word on Worship,” a little section at the end where Terry takes a brief passage from a book or teaching on worship from some of today’s best thinkers and practitioners.
This is one that came through the other day (9/19/12). May the truths found in these words be truly found in our worship. Enjoy!
Elmer Towns from his book PUTTING AN END TO WORSHIP WARS
The effectiveness of worship is not measured by atmosphere, or by how fast the songs are sung, or how deeply we meditate on solitude. It is not measured by a new Plexiglas pulpit, or using no pulpit at all. It is not measured by raising hands, by affirming the Apostles’ Creed, or by congregational applause. It is not measured by responsive readings, or by listening to an expositional sermon based on a proper interpretation of the text.
True worship is always measured by the response of the believer’s heart to God.
True worship is measured by the transformation of worshipers because they have been in the presence of God.
True worship is measured by repentance because worshipers have faced their sins and asked for forgiveness.
True worship is measured by new insights about God that deepen their daily walk with God.
True worship never allows us to remain the same person we were before we came into the presence of God.
As a pastor, I often get questions about the Bible. This is a good thing, of course, not only because people need a place to go with questions, but also because it gives me the chance to study topics and ideas I may not normally have the occasion to explore.
Now, I’ve also realized that “theology” isn’t everyone’s cup of tea, so a steady diet of it isn’t always the most helpful thing to be posting, at least not one hopes to reaching more readers! So, I’ve decided that when I have questions or topics that come up that tend towards a more academic or scholarly feel, Thursday will be the day to post them.
Why Thursday? Because it starts with a “th” just like “theology.” DUH!
That said, I hope this post is a blessing to you, and if not…just check back tomorrow 😉
— Pastor Phillip
QUESTION: I’ve heard some theologians recently speak critically on the New International Version of the Bible (NIV), that many of the powerful truths have been altered for a more palatable presentation to general audiences.
So, this was the issue raised by a good friend of mine, and what a great topic it is! He’s a very intelligent person with good insights, so I enjoyed researching some of the links he sent. I was drawn to one in particular, specifically some of the individual claims the author makes.
I decided to test them out.
I have read the NIV all the way through but don’t use it day-to-day. Though I don’t remember finding any problems with it before, I am personally VERY committed to the inerrancy of Scripture and the importance of having accurate translations, so I set out to use the tools I have available to explore the context of the passages, the original Greek words used, and how other translations have handled some of these passages. The original criticism site can be found here, and my and below are some of the things I discovered in my search.
PLEASE NOTE: My intention here isn’t to attack or even defend any particular translation, simply to explore the texts referenced by the author and try to dig underneath the surface to see what’s there in each individual case.
“Jesus is called ‘Master’ forty-six times in the New Testament. The NIV used the term ‘teacher’ instead of ‘Master.’ Why reduce Jesus to a teacher when His very Person calls for the term ‘Master’?”
I searched for “master” in the New Testament, to see what Greek words were used and how they were translated. Here are some examples of the words used.
WORD NUMBER ONE “Didaskalos” (G1320) From G1321 (“didasko”) ; an instructor (generally or specifically): – doctor, master, teacher. Additionally, the root word “didasko” means “A prolonged (causative) form of a primary verb δάω daō (to learn); to teach (in the same broad application): – teach.”
-KJV: And a certain scribe came, and said unto him, Master, I will follow thee whithersoever thou goest.
-NIV: Then a teacher of the law came to him and said, “Teacher, I will follow you wherever you go.”
-ESV: And a scribe came up and said to him, “Teacher, I will follow you wherever you go.”
-NLT: Then one of the teachers of religious law said to him, “Teacher, I will follow you wherever you go.”
– KJV: And he said, Go into the city to such a man, and say unto him, The Master saith, My time is at hand; I will keep the passover at thy house with my disciples.
– NIV: He replied, “Go into the city to a certain man and tell him, ‘The Teacher says: My appointed time is near. I am going to celebrate the Passover with my disciples at your house.'”
– ESV: He said, “Go into the city to a certain man and say to him, ‘The Teacher says, My time is at hand. I will keep the Passover at your house with my disciples.’”
– NLT: “As you go into the city,” he told them, “you will see a certain man. Tell him, ‘The Teacher says: My time has come, and I will eat the Passover meal with my disciples at your house.'”
This seems to be a common theme, where the KJV translates “didaskalos” as “master” and other translations translate it “teacher.” It seems the Greek supports “teacher” more readily than “master” in this case.
WORD NUMBER TWO “Kathegetes” (G2519), From a compound of G2596 and G2233; a guide, that is, (figuratively) a teacher: – master. This is made up of the words “kata” which means “down” and “hegeomai“, which means “to lead, that is, command (with official authority); figuratively to deem, that is, consider: – account, (be) chief, count, esteem, governor, judge, have the rule over, suppose, think.”
– KJV: But be not ye called Rabbi: for one is your Master, even Christ; and all ye are brethren.
– NIV: But you are not to be called ‘Rabbi,’ for you have only one Master and you are all brothers.
– ESV: But you are not to be called rabbi, for you have one teacher, and you are all brothers.
– NLT: Don’t let anyone call you ‘Rabbi,’ for you have only one teacher, and all of you are equal as brothers and sisters.
Matthew 23:10 (two verses later, Jesus continues His speech)
– KJV: Neither be ye called masters: for one is your Master, even Christ.
– NIV: Nor are you to be called ‘teacher,’ for you have one Teacher, the Christ.
– ESV: Neither be called instructors, for you have one instructor, the Christ.
– NLT: And don’t let anyone call you ‘Teacher,’ for you have only one teacher, the Messiah.
These are the only two places this word is used in the New Testament.
WORD NUMBER THREE “Rhabbi” (G4461) Of Hebrew origin [H7227] with pronominal suffix; my master, that is, Rabbi, as an official title of honor: – Master, Rabbi.
In the KJV, this word is transliterated eight times as “Rabbi”, and occurs an additional nine times as “master”. However, look at what Vines Word Studies has to say…
My great one; my honorable sir. Explained by Jesus himself as διδάσκαλος, teacher (Matthew 23:8, where the proper reading is διδάσκαλος, instead of καθηγητη’ς, guide, master, found in Mat_23:10). Used by the Jews in addressing their teachers, and formed from a Hebrew root meaning great. It occurs commonly in John, and is found in Matthew and Mark, but not in Luke, who uses ε’πιστατής. See note on Luke 5:5.
Note the passage referenced, Luke 5:5. Here the word used is “epistat’ace”,“From G1909 and a presumed derivative of G2476; an appointee over, that is, commander (teacher): – master.”
– KJV: And Simon answering said unto him, Master, we have toiled all the night, and have taken nothing: nevertheless at thy word I will let down the net.
– NIV: Simon answered, “Master, we’ve worked hard all night and haven’t caught anything. But because you say so, I will let down the nets.”
– ESV: And Simon answered, “Master, we toiled all night and took nothing! But at your word I will let down the nets.”
– NLT: “Master,” Simon replied, “we worked hard all last night and didn’t catch a thing. But if you say so, I’ll let the nets down again.”
We can see that all the translations render this word “master,” so no problems there.
From these examples, it appears the issue of “Master” vs. “Teacher” is almost more a case of the KJV imposing terms of Lordship on the text when “teacher” seems to be actually more applicable and faithful to the original Greek. There are plenty of other passages that rightfully explain Jesus’ Lordship, so it seems unnecessary to find serious ill-intent in the way these particular passages are translated.
CLAIM TWO (A and B) “Sodomy” was eliminated from their text. The rendering was changed to “temple prostitute.” Yes, the Sodomites were “temple prostitutes” but were more than just “temple prostitutes.” This is a serious violation and was applauded by Virginia Mollencott, a lesbian that served as a consultant and English stylist (The word “fornication” was also completely removed.)
All throughout history the people of God have struggled with hurt, with pain and uncertainty. It’s never easy to walk through the valley of the shadow, especially because we never DO know how long it will last.
And yet, it is in these times of suffering that God offers us a point of light, a beacon of hope to look to & know that He is still with us.
It is the cross of Christ.
It is the cross that reminds us that He has suffered deeply, painfully, and it was for us.
No trite words of “God loves you” can bring peace in the time of pain, but let the blood-stained wood of the rugged cross be your support. Let the nail-scarred hands of the crucified Savior hold you up. Let His wounded head nod in understanding at your suffering, and His tear-filled eyes overflow with yours, because He loves you.
I can’t promise you easy answers or quick fixes, but I can promise you this: He did not go through such agony then to abandon you now, and no matter how long the night may be for you and those you love, He will be with you until the morning comes, and beyond.
“Do not harden your hearts, as at Meribah, as on the day at Massah in the wilderness, when your fathers put me to the test, and put me to the proof, though they had seen my work.” -Psalm 95:8-9
The foundation of every relationship is trust, especially our relationship with God.
Time and again the children of Israel had seen Yahweh provide, prepare and powerfully deliver them, yet they continued to demand more proof of His goodness. They did not trust Him, and you cannot truly love one whom you do not trust.
So it is with us, with me. If I harden my heart and close my eyes to all the ways God has cared for me in the past, if my attitude is one of doubt, then I am saying to Him, “God, I don’t trust You.” Without trust there can be no love, and no true freedom.
If I would experience freedom and joy in my life, I need only look back at the things Jesus has done and believe that “Jesus Christ is the same yesterday and today and forever.” (Hebrews 13:8) If He was faithful then, He’ll be faithful now and forever, and faithfulness like that isn’t hard for me to love at all.
And He put all things under His feet and gave Him as head over all things to the church, which is His body, the fullness of Him who fills all in all. -Ephesians 1:22-23
As the Church of Jesus Christ, we certainly tend to do a good job proclaiming that He is Lord of all
things, has triumphed over all things, and has overcome all things.
The question is, do we also realize that as the body of Christ, we as the Church are also called “triumphant” and “victorious”, with all things “under our feet?” Good news: WE ARE!
Scripture says that the Church is the means by which Christ fills the earth with His goodness, and as we carry out this mission, we can walk in His victory and our victory, too. Indeed, that’s why we’re here.
“For the Lord comes to judge the earth. He will judge the world in righteousness, and the peoples in his faithfulness.” -Psalm 96:13b
To be reminded of the righteous judgement of God is a joyful thing for the believer. The promise that He will judge with equity and fairness should cause us to delight and yearn for the day of His judgement.
Because on that day He will open the books and pull up the record of every deed, every thought, every motive of our hearts.
He will examine our life to see how well we performed and what punishment or reward we deserve, and on the record of each person who has trusted Christ will be stamped this verdict.