The TNIV controversy has a shelf life that dates back nearly a decade.

News of plans to revise the NIV in a gender-neutral direction first came to public notice in 1997 when WORLD magazine detailed the intentions of Zondervan and the International Bible Society (IBS) – the group responsible for the NIV – in a series of stories that led to a meeting in Colorado Springs between a number of evangelical leaders and Bible scholars and representatives from Zondervan and IBS.

Participants in that meeting – which Focus on the Family founder James Dobson convened – reached an agreement that the NIV would not be revised as planned. Opponents of the revision, as well as Zondervan and IBS representatives, signed a document called the “Colorado Springs Guidelines” that gave specific guidance as to how gender-related language in the Bible should be handled.

However, in 1999, IBS effectively reneged on the agreement and announced plans for a new translation. In 2002, Zondervan rolled out the New Testament edition of the TNIV, which unleashed a hail of discussion over its use of the original languages. 

Citing an article that appeared in the organization’s publication “Light Magazine,” WORLD’s Gene Edward Veith recently reported that IBS President Peter Bradley said translators had to “withdraw” from the Colorado Springs Guidelines because they conflicted with guidelines of the Forum of Bible Agencies, to which the IBS subscribes. In the wake of the release of the TNIV New Testament, more than 100 evangelical leaders, including many Southern Baptists, signed onto a public statement stating that “the TNIV Bible is not sufficiently trustworthy.”

In producing English Bibles, there essentially are two approaches to their translation. One is "formal equivalence" – sometimes referred to as a "literal" or "word-for-word" translation. Literal translations must paraphrase certain isolated texts, but the basis for the approach is to treat every word as inspired and thus important. The other approach is called "dynamic," which is occasionally referred to as a "paraphrase." Dynamic translations tend simply to maintain the concept of the verse, while not necessarily rendering an exact translation of the original text.

Dynamic equivalence translations include the NIV and variations of the Living Bible, among others. Formal equivalence translations include the New American Standard Bible (NASB), English Standard Version (ESV), Holman Christian Standard Bible (HCSB), New King James Version (NKJV) and the venerable KJV.

So where does this discussion leave the discriminating pew-sitter in the local church? Stinson urges believers to select translations that are most literally congruent to the ancient biblical languages.

“Evangelicals should be encouraged to embrace translations that have adopted a word-for-word translation philosophy such as the ESV, NASB, NKJV, or HCSB, just to name a few,” he said. “People buying Bibles should have accuracy as their first concern. Even those in the 18-34 age group can understand the language in these translations.”

The TNIV is available online at The Council on Biblical Manhood and Womanhood will be providing more extensive critiques of the TNIV at

© 2005 Southern Baptist Convention, Baptist Press.  All rights reserved.  Used with permission.