The Bible Experience and TNIV

January 15, 2007

Thanks to my wonderful friend, Deneen, I have found an incredible audio-Bible called: The Bible Experience. To have insight into the heart behind this project, see the “Making Of…” section on that site. Basically, a number of noted African American entertainers have come together to make a relevant, exciting and yes, entertaining recording of the Bible in an effort to reach a generation of people who might not hear it any other way, who might not choose to set foot in a church. The production values are on par with any highly professional recording. Blair Underwood plays Jesus, and when the Old Testament version comes out in November, Denzel Washington will be reading Song of Songs…bestill my heart! Take a look at the cast list and you’ll find you recognize an awful lot of names.

When I searched for this at a local Christian bookstore, I was met with blank stares for a bit, until one kind woman took it upon herself to find it on the computer. But I found that this store didn’t carry it, and there then ensued some debate as to whether they could order it for me. Come to find out that the problem lies in the translation used for this production: Today’s New International Version. A little cursory internet search reveals that this has been a hot and heavy debate in the Christian world due, in large part, to the supposed “gender-inclusive” language used in this translation. No, God isn’t referred to as “She” or “It” or anything wacky like that, but instances where Paul refers to “brothers,” the TNIV might use “brothers and sisters.” The plural pronoun, “they” is often used in place of “he.” As a former writing teacher, I might actually have more trouble swallowing this from a grammatical standpoint, when a sentence starts in the singular (i.e. “a farmer”) and ends with the plural (i.e.”they”), than I do from a theological one.

I don’t want to minimize or oversimplify an issue about which good people disagree, and I believe that fidelity to the best Biblical texts available is paramount in translating the living, breathing, fully inspired Word of God…but really? Most any translation we have today in English is pretty darn good. We must recognize the sort of largess we enjoy when we’re talking about the Bible in English — how blessed we are! We might disagree about some particulars, but I seriously question whether or not any of these particulars greatly affects the BIG stuff: who Jesus is, the resurrection, God’s plan throughout history, etc. And from my brief research on the topic, it seems awfully unfair to the translators of the TNIV to write this off as their effort to be politically correct to appease a pro-feminist society. We can argue (hopefully without some of the vitriol I read) as to what text is best and truest to the originals; any church should (and does) have the freedom to use whatever text deemed superior for that congregation or denomination.

But is TNIV a good enough text to put into the hands of someone — perhaps a someone who grew up in a post-Christian age where issues of gender matter in a society’s debate about life’s meaning? I would argue that yes, it is. And moreover, I think that The Bible Experience offers a compelling avenue of communicating the Word the likes of which we’ve never seen. What a shame that arguments over translation, however well-meaning, could prevent this wonderful tool from being used.

By the way, local Barnes & Noble stores have The Bible Experience on sale for 20% off! Check it out when you get a chance.

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5 Responses to “The Bible Experience and TNIV”

  1. Paul said

    You have made a convincing argument – I’ve heard of this project and am now going to check it out for myself. The translation investigating I’ve done tells me it is a user-friendly translation – better than a paraphrase because it was constructed by experts (professors, etc) and it is gender accurate which is important to the people in my circle of friends. Thanks for the review.

  2. Beth Koruna said

    Thanks for reading, Paul. I hope you like The Bible Experience as much as I do — let me know what you think of it, if you get a chance.

  3. Marsha said

    TNIV is like NIV, TNLT, NKJB, and whatever else there is out there in that there is truth. I have a feeling I know what bookstore it was. In all honesty, if I had to look for another church sometime in the future in another town, I would prefer not to go to a Southern Baptist Church because of this issue. The TNIV is used the services of the church I attend weekly.

    I myself bought one about 6 mnths ago and I love it. I did not go to a SBC a fews back, however people of the movement of churches I belonged to before going to VCC heard about this gender inclusive Bible. They were treating it as though it almost blaspemous, as I recall a prayer meeting I went to. This translation is being treated the way many Christian treated Christian rock 15 to 25 years ago. This is only worse because this vain jangling has made it on Fox and places like that.

  4. Beth Koruna said

    Interesting…when I looked through the TNIV, it looked pretty good to me — VERY similar to NIV. Thanks for reading and posting!

  5. Marsha said

    The TNIV is very similar except that is more gender inclusive than the NIV. I like being referred to as a child of God, rather than a son of God.

    I like my TNIV.

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