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,
– Pornia: “From G4203 harlotry (including adultery and incest); figuratively idolatry: – fornication.”
– 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.