A Review of the NIV 2011: Part 3 of 4

In my previous blogposts about the NIV 2011, I discussed selectively the history of the English Bible, and discussed the positive features of this version. Now, I wish to look at some of the weaknesses.

Weaknesses in the NIV 2011

There are some niggling issues that need to be mentioned. A few categories will be listed here.

First, along with virtually every other translation on the planet, Mark 16.9-20 and John 7.53–8.11 are found in the text, even though (almost) all the translators considered them to be inauthentic. But the NIV 2011 admirably puts them in a different font and has an in-text note to show that they are rather dubious. The reasons translations keep these verses in the text even when the translators themselves do not consider them authentic is due to a tradition of timidity. But with the publication of Bart Ehrman’s Misquoting Jesus (2005), a popular book on the transmission of the New Testament text, the cat is out of the bag. Most biblical scholars—including evangelical scholars—have long recognized that these passages are most likely later additions. We do the living church no service by not fully admitting this fact in our translations. But because these two passages have a long history in printed Bibles and even in the manuscripts, they should not be eliminated altogether. Placing them in the footnotes would seem to be the best policy.

Second, the gender-inclusiveness of the NIV 2011 creates some problems of style and even meaning in a few places. This version has done a significantly better job in both Matt 18.15 and 1 Tim 3.2 than the NRSV, but it still stumbles over Rev 3.20 (“I will come in and eat with that person”), for example. An added note in the places where the modern English generic singular ‘they’ can be misleading, as well as a few similar instances, would more than adequately solve this problem, however. I would encourage the Committee on Bible Translation (CBT) to consider adding such moves in the next iteration. At bottom, I think the gender issue has been overblown by people who have reacted to what they thought the TNIV would say, long before it was published, and the same attitude has carried over to the NIV 2011—even though for both translations it is difficult to find passages where they are at fault. 

Table 2

NIV 1984 Compared to NIV 2011




Matthew 18.15 If your brother sins against you, go and show him his fault, just between the two of you. If he listens to you, you have won your brother over. If your brother or sister sins, go and point out the fault, just between the two of you. If they listen to you, you have won them over.
1 Timothy 3.2 Now the overseer must be above reproach, the husband of but one wife, temperate, self-controlled, respectable, hospitable, able to teach,


Now the overseer is to be above reproach, faithful to his wife, temperate, self-controlled, respectable, hospitable, able to teach,
Revelation 3.20 Here I am! I stand at the door and knock. If anyone hears my voice and opens the door, I will come in and eat with him, and he with me. Here I am! I stand at the door and knock. If anyone hears my voice and opens the door, I will come in and eat with them, and they with me.

A few observations are in order. In comparison with the NRSV, the NIV 2011 has better marks on style and accuracy in Matt 18.15, and accuracy in 1 Tim 3.2. To be noted in Matt 18.15 is that ‘against you’ has been dropped from the text. This is a variant in the Greek, and I believe that the 2011 NIV has got the correct reading. In 1 Tim 3.2, instead of “the husband of but one wife,” the 2011 version interprets the Greek phrase “husband of one wife” to mean “faithful to his wife.” This, however, is but one interpretation among a myriad of views. In this instance, as in many instances throughout the NIV, I would have preferred that the translators retained a more interpretive-neutral stance as long as the English rendition wasn’t nonsense. “Husband of one wife” would fit that principle just fine, and it would not have caused angst for pastors who preach from the NIV but disagree here and there with the interpretive rendering that gratuitously show up. See also 1 Thess 4.15 for a similar text: “according to the Lord’s word” makes it sound as though this is some saying of the earthly Jesus. The problem is that “the word of the Lord” is virtually a technical phrase in the Old Testament for prophecy and Paul seems to be using it in the same way here. But that interpretive option is shut out in the NIV 1984, the TNIV, and the NIV 2011.

Third, as with the original NIV, this recent iteration still breaks up sentences from what they were in the original. Though of course this is due to modern English usage, the real problem comes when the English reader is deprived of meaning that the reader of the (especially) Greek text has. This is no more clearly seen than in subordination of thought. In 1 Peter 5.7, for example, the NIV has “Cast all your anxiety on him because he cares for you.” But the Greek word for ‘cast’ is a participle (ἐπιρίψαντες) and is best seen as subordinate to the main verb of verse 6, “Humble.” The two verses should be read together, rather than as two different commands. 1 Peter 5.6 is calling for believers to “humble yourselves under God’s mighty hand.” But this is not accomplished by negatively prostrating oneself under to God’s almighty thumb, but by positively casting one’s cares on him because he cares so deeply for us! The NIV masks this relationship because of the overarching concern for today’s reader. A simple footnote in such places would resolve the matter, and allow the modern reader to gain a better glimpse of the beauty and significance of the original text. Thus, though not related to the gender issue, I am concerned about the NIV’s gratuitous interpretive renderings when a more neutral translation would be just as readable, giving the added benefit to the English reader of seeing in his or her Bible the interpretive options that the translators wrestled with.

Fourth and finally, the greatest strength of the NIV tradition is also its greatest weakness: the language is so much closer to the way people speak today than just about any other bona fide translation that it is not memorable. This version simultaneously is a joy to read because of its almost conversational style—almost as though one is listening, for example, to Paul preaching—and somewhat forgettable because it lacks the turns of expression that make the KJV, REB, ESV, and (to a lesser degree) the NET the kinds of translations that linger in one’s memory. The tension here for translators is almost palpable: a translator’s goals are fidelity to the original, clarity and memorability in the receptor language. The KJV reigned supreme on memorability (or elegance), while the NIV does this on clarity. It also scores high marks on accuracy. But these objectives—accuracy, clarity, and elegance—are cross-purposed. No translation can do them all justice. There is an old Italian proverb: “Translators, traitors!” This is similar to the English proverb: “Something always gets lost in translation.” By choosing clarity and readability above the other objectives (even though accuracy is listed as its first priority), the NIV stumbles over elegance. One can’t have everything in a translation, but it is possible to have two of the three major features. The NIV is strong on readability and somewhat strong on accuracy, while the ESV is strong on elegance and somewhat strong on accuracy and, less so, on readability. The NET is strong on accuracy, somewhat strong on elegance (though this is patchy), and semi-strong on readability. Perhaps a chart of major English translations with these objectives in mind would help the reader. 

Elegance, Accuracy, Readability

in Major English Bibles

(scale of 1-10, with 10 being the best score)

  Elegance Accuracy Readability




























NIV (whole tradition)








At bottom, there is a variety of factors that one must consider when choosing a translation. The three basic translation philosophies—which, incidentally, correspond to the three periods of English Bible translation: elegance (1536–1881), accuracy (1881-1971), readability (1978–present)—are just one way of looking at these translations.

115 Responses to “A Review of the NIV 2011: Part 3 of 4”

  1. That blog post was 10 on elegance, 10 on accuracy, and 10 on readability. Great insights! You always seem to nail the most interesting posts. Thanks Dan. Now get ready for the fire about your comments about John 8 and Mark 16. I’m a’ hiding.

  2. Phil McCheddar July 25, 2011 at 7:39 am

    Daniel wrote: “This version is a joy to read because of its almost conversational style—almost as though one is listening, for example, to Paul preaching.”

    I think a conversational style of English is good if the underlying Greek was also written in a conversational style. Therefore I think the high-faluting posh English of the KJV is not appropriate for Paul’s epistles. But what about other parts of the NT? For example, did John write Revelation in a chatty, informal style of Greek? If Revelation was written in a more formal and sober tone, has the NIV2011 (or any other translation) tried to reflect this difference by using a more formal style of English to rtanslate it? In other words, is there a single translation that uses different styles for different books of the NT, depending on the style of the underlying Greek for each book?

  3. I am curious to know why the NASB scored lower than the NET on accuracy.

    I’ve enjoyed these posts on the NIV update, and am grateful for them. I look forward to the final post.

  4. Thank you so much for this series on the NIV2011. So far the NIV2011 is looking pretty good. I’m considering getting a copy for my own use now, though I use my NIV so much that I don’t know if I can completely change over…

  5. Dr. Wallace,
    I think it is true to say that most of the criticism of the NIV2011 out there has to do with the “gender” issues. In fact, there has been a substantial amount written on this, whether justified or not.

    By contrast your “weakness” section, I have to say, treats the topic in a rather breezy manner, and that sandwiched between remarks that apply to the NIV tradition as in general, rather than anything specific to the 2011 edition.

    You characterize objections along this lines as “overblown” and attribute such reactions to a predisposition on someone’s part. (Bulverism?) You also say it is “difficult to find passages where they are at fault.” In fact, since the difficult work has ostensibly been done, and covers quite a bit more that your brief treatment covers, could you not take more specifics in hand to interact with these published comments? Perhaps that is what your part 4 contains.

  6. NLT 10 – 10- 10

  7. Great article , I prefer the ESV over the NIV. Especially the Study Bible. I didn’t realize that the NET was so strong on accuracy. Now, concerning Mark 16, I always wondered about the picking up of a serpent or drinking poision and not being affected is never mentioned by those who believe in charasmatic gifts, just a thought!

  8. This and the other two were great. Looking forward to the fourth post.

  9. C. Michael Patton said, “Thanks Dan. Now get ready for the fire about your comments about John 8 and Mark 16. I’m a’ hiding.”

    Michael, you have enough room for one more; I’ve seen that discussion come close to blows!? :)

    Dan, I do appreciate your insights on this translation but will likely stick with my “8’s” across the board ESV.

  10. Dr. Wallace, with the NET scoring 10 for accuracy, bet you wish you had been involved in the translation…

    …oh, wait…

  11. Dr. Wallace,

    I’m curious as to why you chose not to include the NLT and the HCSB in your list of “major translations.” I was wondering if you could take some time to explain that choice. I would have liked to have seen your take on these two with regards elegance, accuracy, and readability.

  12. I’m enjoying this series, especially your comparison chart above. But where is the HCSB? How would you rate it?

  13. Daniel B. Wallace July 25, 2011 at 11:00 pm

    Phil McCheddar,

    I am unaware of any translation that completely consistently tries to capture the tone and reading register of the original documents. Indeed, it’s very, very difficult to do.

    Part of the problem has to do with the biblical author’s literary skills themselves. Some writers are a bit pedantic, yet it might be considered inappropriate to translate their writings in such a boorish style. Translators have an obligation both to be faithful to the meaning of the original and to try to translate those texts in a way that the biblical author was trying to communicate. Yes, Revelation is very somber in tone; but it is also filled with grammatical errors of the most unspeakable nature! Are these intentional? If so, then can a translation even pick up on such without making it sound stilted? Or consider poetry: How should we translate that? One view is to translate it as literally as possible, but then the emotive power is lost on the modern reader. Tough calls all!

  14. Daniel B. Wallace July 25, 2011 at 11:08 pm

    William, the reason the NASB scored lower than the NET on accuracy is because it’s not as accurate. It is certainly more literal, but not as accurate. I’ll illustrate this as follows: the Greek word translated ‘city’ is polis. But it doesn’t mean just ‘city.’ It also means ‘town.’ Indeed, there was no other word for ‘town’ in Koine Greek. This is an instance of a word encompassing more in Greek than its corresponding word in English does. But when you think of ‘love,’ there were four words in Greek that are translated by the one English word. There is almost never exact overlap between synonyms in two different languages. This is one reason why a literal translation is not going to be accurate.

    What does the NASB do with polis in the New Testament? Every time it occurs, they translate it as ‘city’. Every time. Never as ‘town.’


  15. Daniel B. Wallace July 25, 2011 at 11:14 pm

    What does the NET do with polis in the NT? We looked at every reference and worked up criteria, based on size, status with the Roman government, and other criteria. polis occurs 163 times in the NT; the NASB, as I said, translates it as ‘city’ every single time (it even increases in the NASB 95!). The NET translates it as ‘town’ 76 times, I believe, the rest as ‘city.’ In more than one place whether a city or town is in view is quite important. E.g., Matt 10.23: “You will not finish going through all the {cities/towns} before the Son of Man comes.”

    I hope this clarifies the difference between a literal translation–in which there is extensive matching between the original language and the receptor language, even if the two words are not exact synonyms–and an accurate translation that takes a lot of other things into consideration.

  16. Daniel B. Wallace July 26, 2011 at 2:45 am

    Marv, there are three basic reasons why I think the reaction to the TNIV and NIV 2011 in reference to the gender issue are overblown: (1) as I said, the reaction was more to what the TNIV was supposedly going to be than to what it was, and the NIV 2011 is just riding on the coattails of the criticisms; (2) the translators of the TNIV and NIV are both complementarians and egalitarians; the translation is not an egalitarian work, in other words; (3) for some reason the evangelical community has gotten up in arms over the gender issue, and in the process has not noticed some exceptional work done by the (T)NIV translators. What doctrines are at stake in this new translation? The constant harping on this one issue is dividing evangelicals, and it’s a very sad state of affairs.

    By the way, I did discuss texts that relate to the gender issue: Matt 18.15; 1 Tim 3.2; and Rev 3.20. These are some of the more important ones that fellow complementarians have raised.

  17. Daniel B. Wallace July 26, 2011 at 2:49 am

    Adam and Greg,

    The reason I didn’t include the NLT is because it’s not a translation; it’s a paraphrase. As for the HCSB, I couldn’t discuss every translation. Maybe I’ll do a review of that translation later.

    I would change one thing: I think I gave too high marks for the ASV on elegance. It doesn’t deserve a 4; closer to a 2-3.

  18. First, I thank Dr. Wallace for responding to so many comments. I wish all posters here would do that as well.

    Hmm. NLT a paraphrase??? I think not. T does stand for “translation” and if I understand correctly, the NLT was done by beginning from the original languages and… translating them into English. I don’t quite understand what part of that does not merit the term “translation.”

    Now the Living Bible was produced, I believe, starting from one English translation (KJV) and rewording it. English-to-English… i.e. “Paraphrase,” which is exactly what it stated on the cover.

    Somehow “paraphrase” was widely RE-interpreted to mean a translation that did not closely follow the structure of the source language, an “idiomatic” translation, or the so called “dynamic equivalence” translation. Good or bad, the NLT ought to be termed a translation and not a paraphrase (IMHO).

  19. Dr Wallace,

    I’d like to ask you about this that you said:

    (2) the translators of the TNIV and NIV are both complementarians and egalitarians; the translation is not an egalitarian work, in other words;

    Is this really true? Was there an equal split on the committee between complementarians and egalitarians? It doesn’t seem so to me looking at the list of translators. How do we know that the egalitarians didn’t dominate by virtue of numbers? I think the majority of complementarians would not favor gender-neutral language, thus they must have been a minority in the committee. Apart from Doug Moo, who else was on the committee that was complementarian? I think it is a bit simplistic to imply that the committee was not biased in this regard just because there was at least one complementarian on the committee.


  20. Dr Wallace,

    I would also like to ask a simple question I can never seem to get past with gender-neutral translations: How is it fair to the reader for the translator to make a judgement for him that the biblical writers use of masculine generics is not important?

    Given scriptures teaching on male and female roles there seems a very natural reason why writers use masculine generics – it reflects their belief that men were normally to be the representative leaders their communities, not the women. This seems to be a very obvious and integral meaning component in scripture that is stripped away with gender-neutral translations – to the disservice of the reader.

    Why not, at the very least, use masculine generics when they are in the original text and put a translation note saying something like ‘many scholars believe the use of masculine generics by the biblical writers is not significant and does not reflect a belief that men were to be the representative leaders in their…

  21. (continued from above…)


    You mentioned in part 2 that:

    The preface to the NIV 2011 explicitly notes that it is a translation meant for people today, and it recognizes that the use of ‘man’ in the sense of ‘person’ is no longer a viable option for most English speakers in the 21st century. The fact is, the English language has changed.

    If, as suggested here, it it purely a matter of understandibility then I think gender-neutral advocates owe it us to deal with Vern Poythress’ arguments that show that this is not a valid interpretation of the Collins Dictionary data used by the NIV 2011 (see his recent review of the NIV 2011 for example).

    I dearly hope that defenders of gender-neutral translations will answer these arguments. If I am wrong on this issue I sincerely would like to know but it is of no help when everyone seems to avoid dealing with the obvious objections to gender-neutral translations philosophy. Please help me see the light if I am…

  22. (continued from above…)

    Please help me to see the light if I am wrong, really! If God is really happy with gender-neutral translations then I don’t want to oppose him, the converse also.

    A final note from a Poythress article that I read:

    “Third, and finally, some writers adopt a style in which they oscillate between using generic “she” and generic “he.” This oscillating use is not objectionable to feminists. The oscillating use shows not only that people still understand generic “he,” but also that the real objection is not to a single occurrence of generic “he.” Rather, the objection is to any pattern in which male examples predominate over female ones. The objection is to a pattern of thought. Authors writing in English may of course adapt to the contemporary scene as they see fit. But a translator, in distinction from an author, is not free to change the pattern of thought in Scripture, even if it should prove offensive to some.”

  23. Hi Dan,

    Can I ask you to please define what you mean by “paraphrase”? I cannot see how you can call the NLT a paraphrase without also calling the ESV one. Your use of this language seems very sloppy, which is a shame considering the quality of this series in general.

  24. Dr. Wallace,

    Thank you so much for answering my question on the “accuracy” count of the NASB. I better understand now the distinction between “literal” and “accurate.” God bless.

  25. C Michael Patton July 26, 2011 at 1:21 pm


    One post at a time. That is why there is the character limit and it says one comment at a time.


  26. My understanding about the NLT is that it has been “updated” twice from The Living Bible (1996 & 2004) and is much more of a translation that it ever has been. I am also really suprised that the NET bible is ranked so much lower than the NIV for readability and especially lower than the ESV. Is there particular books that make the reading so much more difficult?

  27. ah thanks, I didn’t read that!

  28. Moses didn’t write the last chapter of Deuteronomy. Why does it matter if Mark didn’t write the “longer ending”? The most of the church throughout history has recognized it as Scripture.

    Raymond Brown argued that John 21 was added at a later point. What if we find manuscript evidence that proves him right? Are you going to put John 21 in the footnotes as well?

    What if the textual variants come from the author’s own hand? Perhaps Paul wrote more than one copy.

    Perhaps our “inerrant in the original manuscripts” viewpoint needs a little work.

  29. Dannii Willis July 26, 2011 at 6:16 pm

    henrybish, there are strong arguments to be made that the Greek words were also gender-neutral. When the KJV was translated, it translated those words with gender-neutral words like “he”. But English has changed, so we need to change which words we use to be gender accurate.

  30. A couple more thoughts.

    In relation to my previous comment…

    There are many instances where it is difficult to separate composition of the text from the transmission of the text. This is especially true in OT textual crit.


    What about instances where the Greek text actually uses the phrase “brother or sister” (1 Cor. 7:15)? Does the NIV’s gender policy obscure the meaning? Now the reader might mistakenly assume that the Greek just mentions the “brother” and that “sister” has been added by the translator.

  31. Dannii,

    I think you are confusing ‘gender-neutral’ with ‘generic’.

    A gender-neutral word would be one like ‘they’ or ‘them’ or ‘anyone’. Those words do not use any particular sex as representative or both men and women – hence ‘gender-neutral’.

    But ‘he’ is a masculine word that can be inclusive of females, hence it can be used as a ‘masculine generic’ word. That it can be used as a generic does not make it ‘gender-neutral’ though.

  32. Dannii Willis July 26, 2011 at 6:35 pm

    henrybish, yes, as I said many argue that Greek words like anthropos and autos are gender-neutral.

    Many also argue that such a significant proportion of current English speakers no longer use “he” generically, that it should not be used in translations generically. (You’re right that in KJV times “he” was generic not gender-neutral.)

  33. Daniel B. Wallace July 26, 2011 at 8:01 pm

    Marv, your comment #18: I believe you’re thinking that a paraphrase cannot be a translation. This is not the case. A paraphrase expresses the meaning of the author using different words, often to achieve greater clarity. This is exactly what the NLT does. I think that the scholars who translated it were outstanding. And, of course, as any paraphrase should, it get exceptionally high marks on readability. The problem is that it is more than a translation. It is highly interpretive. Just look at Rom 3.21-26 and compare it in the NLT with NET, NIV, NRSV, ESV. You’ll plainly see that the NLT is not done the way they are. Further, the NLT often moves in the realm of application–again, look at Rom 3.22 and compare with other translations. The NLT is not a study Bible; it is meant to be read passage by passage, not verse by verse.

  34. Daniel B. Wallace July 26, 2011 at 8:22 pm

    henry (#19), Do you really think that Doug Moo is the only complementarian on the CBT? Even if that were the case, he is a former member of the CBMW and has written some of the finest work on 1 Tim 2.8-15 in defense of complementarianism. Then there’s William Mounce, whose commentary in WBC on the Pastorals is strongly complementarian. Others have written on behalf of a complementarian hermeneutic, including Bruce Waltke, Ken Barker (former chairman of the NIV Study Bible), Mark Strauss.

    As for egalitarians, there’s Gordon Fee, R. T. France, Craig Blomberg, and Ron Youngblood, I believe. I can’t speak for the rest.

    But I would disagree with you that complementarians don’t care for gender-neutral translations. The NET Bible considers itself gender-accurate, rather than gender-inclusive or exclusive. And most of those who worked on that translation are complementarians.

    In other words, your conclusion is based on faulty assumptions; both of them are wrong.

  35. Daniel B. Wallace July 26, 2011 at 8:39 pm

    henry (#20), there are so many faulty assumptions here that I don’t know where to begin. But let’s address two words in Greek: anthropos and aner. Both, when used of an individual person, refer to a man. In gender-exclusive translations of a former generation, anthropos in the plural was translated ‘men,’ even though the word did not mean ‘adult males.’ The reason it was translated that way was that English used ‘men’ in the sense of ‘people’ at the time.

    Now, aner almost always means ‘adult male’ (though not always; e.g., there are some instances in the LXX, esp. in poetry, where it means ‘person’). And it should thus be translated as ‘man’ in the NT, which it is in these various translations. The NRSV is gender-inclusive, and it sometimes changes aner into ‘person’ or the like; but the NIV is gender-neutral, which means that it tries to be honest with the data and reflect its meaning for modern readers, not change its meaning so that modern readers can accept…

  36. Daniel B. Wallace July 26, 2011 at 9:13 pm

    henry (#21), the issues related to gender in translation, when the receptor language (in this case, English) is constantly changing, are complex. Poythress’s WTJ article was very thoughtful and handled the Collins study reasonably well. I found a few weaknesses in it, but some good points, too. And, as I mentioned in my review, when a generic singular ‘they’ is used to refer back to an individual in the NIV, I think *IF* confusion over the meaning is involved, a footnote should be added. But I also noted that the number of verses that are impacted by this significantly are few and far between.

    Remarkably, although since 1997 the gender issue in translation has been escalating, there doesn’t seem to be much recognition, let alone complaint, that gender-exclusive translations–which were the norm for centuries–distorted the scripture. Obviously, we don’t want to replace one distortion for another, but we also need to recognize that the language itself is changing.

  37. Just because Mark 16:9-20 and John 7:53-11 are not in originals, it doesn’t necessarily mean that they are not Scripture.

    Authors revise. Editors update. It’s all over the OT. Raymond Brown argued that the gospel of John was revised at least three times.

    If you want to reject these pericopes, you need a better reason than “they’re not in the autographs.”

  38. For those of us who are sticklers for grammar, the use of the singular “they” is so distracting as to make the translation nearly unusable. That’s a “solution” to the gender problem that should have been left off the table.

  39. Dr. Wallace,

    I am hoping you could address the following verses cited for inaccuracy by the CBMW:

    Romans 16:7 with the choice of Junia being “outstanding among the apostles”

    1 Corinthians 14:33-34 with the choice of placement of “as in all the congregations of the saints” postion.

    Proverbs 15:5 with the choice of “parents” instead of “father” for ‘ab

    Does ‘ish mean “successor” or “person” as it is translated in 1 Kings 9:5 and Proverbs 27:17

    With regard to the point you make in post #35 about anthropos would that mean the NIV2011 mistranslates it as “brother and sister”. CBMW claims a single male example is being used.
    Finally, does nashim mean “women” as CBMW claims. They cite Nahum 3:13 as an example of a misstranslation as well as Isaiah 19:16, Jeremiah 50:37 and Jeremiah 51:30
    I hope you realize I”m not trying to bait you into some sort of argument over those texts. Rather, I”m trying to sort through to understand what if any objections…

  40. of the CBMW are valid.

  41. Dannii Willis July 27, 2011 at 3:23 am

    Eric, grammar sticklers should really be aware that it’s more accurate to call it the “indefinite they” than the “singular they”…

    What about it is distracting?

  42. Daniel B. Wallace July 27, 2011 at 3:58 am

    Daniel (#28), it is true that the OT text was edited after the author wrote, but the redaction is typically an updating of anachronistic data. And probably most evangelicals would argue that it was done during the time of the prophets, not later.

    Mark 16 and John 8 are different: those longer passages were added after the death of the last apostle. And in any event, the human author would no doubt strongly object to these additions to his text. I take it that inspiration took place when either prophets or apostles were still alive. After that, no more. Thus, it does make a difference whether these passages are part of the original text or not. As for John 21, that is Brown’s opinion, but many would disagree with him. I believe that John 21 was added to the Gospel, but by the original author, just before it was dispatched.

    If we are going to say that passages that were added later should be considered scripture, this opens pandora’s box.

  43. Daniel B. Wallace July 27, 2011 at 4:01 am

    Daniel (#37), if you want these passages to be considered scripture, you need a better argument than that they have appeared in the majority of MSS. If we were to adopt that approach, the Greek text behind modern translations would need to be revised nearly 7000 times! And textual criticism—the hunt for the autographic text—would simply come to an end. We don’t do this with any other ancient literature; why do it with the Bible?

  44. Daniel B. Wallace July 27, 2011 at 4:07 am

    Adam (#39), I won’t address all those passages, just the NT texts (due to space concerns and my expertise). Rom 16.7: I agree with you on this. In fact, the CBMW based their criticisms of the NIV translation of this verse on an article that Michael Burer and I co-authored for New Testament Studies.

    On 1 Cor 14.33-34: the placement of ‘as in all the congregations of the saints’ the issue is one of punctuation, not translation. There are good reasons on both sides (since the autographs had no punctuation). It should be noted that the NIV gives the alternate in a footnote.

  45. Dr. Wallace,

    Thanks for your response.

    I am not a “Majority Text” advocate. Most majority text advocates would argue that the Majority Text is the best reflection of the autographs.

    I would argue that these texts are Scripture because the majority of the church throughout history have recognized them as Scripture. And because they reflect authentic traditions of Jesus’ life. Mark 16 has allusions to Matthew 28, Luke-Acts, and John.

    Deuteronomy 31 was written after the death of the prophet.

    What if you find a manuscript that doesn’t have John 21?

    What if the variants in Ephesians are due to the fact that Paul made multiple copies of the letter and sent it to several different churches? Perhaps in one copy the amanuensis writes “first” in Ephesians 4:9, and he leaves it out in another copy.

    Or what about Romans 5:2? The subjunctive has better textual evidence. The indicative makes better sense internally. Metzger argues that the amanuensis…

  46. Dannii Willis asked me:

    What about it [use of “they” with a singular meaning] is distracting?
    It grates on me. I recognize I’m in the minority, and I am fully aware that the use of the singular “they” (or, if you prefer, the use of the indefinite “they” with a singular antecedent) has been used since before the time of Shakespeare. And while it is accepted by some grammarians, it isn’t accepted by all (for example, at least the last time I checked, “The Elements of Style” still condemns its use).

    I’m not the only one who doesn’t like it. The TNIV editors found the issue controversial enough that they had to justify their decision in the introduction (or so I’ve read). I would have taken a different approach.

    I understand the problem, though. In my own writing, I recast to the plural (something not always an option in a translation) and/or use “he or she,” “he/she,” the generic “he” and/or the generic “she.” And some people find those…

  47. Thanks for responding to my questions Dr. Wallace. I do wish there was someone who could speak to the questions I have about the translation of some of the Old Testament passages. Regardless, I do have a couple more questions for you. The first one is regarding the translation of “diakonos” as deacon as opposed to servant or even deaconness with footnotes to 1 Timothy 3:8 and 1 Timothy 3:12. Can you speak to that choice a bit.

    Secondly, I was wondering if you could explain why you rated the ESV higher on readability than the NET. Also, is there any plan for an “update” to the NET anytime soon?

  48. Dannii Willis July 27, 2011 at 6:27 pm

    Eric, Strunk and White were stylists, not grammarians/linguists. They couldn’t even correctly distinguish between passive and active! But we could look past that if they at least wrote what they did on the basis of field testing, but as far as I know, they didn’t.

    It’s okay for us to each dislike certain things – there are many varieties of English, and we each have our own idiolect too. But if you yourself recognise that you’re in the minority, why do you want to stop the majority from using language which the find very natural?

  49. Dr Wallace,

    thankyou very much for your engagement. I have a few brief thoughts in response:

    I still can’t see that you have engaged the most basic objection that I have made. (Perhaps it was part of your truncated post 35?). That is, if scripture does indeed teach a patriarchy of sorts, then the use of patriarchal language forms by the inspired writers (such as masculine generics, using a male as the representative example rather than a female) is hardly insignificant.

    I’m sure you are aware that in Ray Ortland’s chapter in RBMW (that talked about the ‘whispers of male headship’ in Genesis), he made some arguments based on patriarchal language forms such as ‘mankind’ rather than ‘humankind’. That is why to excise patriarchal language from scripture seems a little rash to say the least. Do you not fear that could be unnecessarily removing an important part of the fabric of God’s word that He intends for His people to hear? At the very least leave that decision up…

  50. Dr Wallace, #35#36

    It will not do to simply say that ‘language has changed’ and that this forces us to abandon masculine generics. That seems to me to be assuming the very argument that needs to be made – Vern Poythress has amply dealt with those arguments based on the Collins Dictionary data in his recent review of the NIV 2011. This really does need responding to. I’m all ears, if I am wrong I would sincerely like to know.


  1. Dan Wallace On the NIV 2011 « Δόξα ἐν ὑψίστοις θεῷ - July 29, 2011

    […] 1: A Selected History of the English Bible Part 2: Praise for the NIV 2011 Part 3: Weaknesses in the NIV 2011 Part 4: […]

  2. Wallace completes NIV 2011 review « Better Bibles Blog - July 29, 2011

    […] Wallace has completed his blog series, reviewing NIV 2011. You can read part three here and the final part […]


    […] objective and scholarly reviews of Greek New Testament critic Dr. Dan Wallace (Part One, Part Two, Part Three, Part Four). I was an avid reader and promoter of the TNIV, though I admit that the version was not […]

  4. After the NIV, then what? | The Briefing - October 9, 2011

    […] in a few places”, but he concludes, “At bottom, I think the gender issue has been overblown”. ‘A Review of the NIV 2011: Part 3 of 4’. […]

  5. Which Translation of the Bible should I use? « Droo’s Clues - December 22, 2011

    […] *All reliable translations, and capable of teaching the lost about Christ with great accuracy. While “somewhat biased” is my weakness label for the NIV 2011, I am a fan of it.  It is largely accurate it seems, and it has re-placed original text in many of the controversial biased spots of the 1984 NIV.  For example, sarx (flesh) in Greek is translated “sinful nature” in the 1984 NIV, which indicates a definite bias toward a doctrine of original sin.  Although I am not offended by the phrase, “sinful nature”, it is not necessarily the Biblical meaning for the term flesh.  If you are referring to a general state of being lost in the human condition, I’m cool with it.  If you’re referring to the idea that I was born as a sinful infant, inheriting the guilt of my fathers, I disagree.  However, I’m a fan of the 2011 because although there are a few liberties taken, they appear to be driven by a desire to be combination literal word-for-word, and also phrase-for-phrase. To answer your question… Romans 5 does utilize “flesh” in the NIV 2011, rather than “sinful nature” – although – it does use “sinful nature” in that chapter several times.  When I say “somewhat biased,” that’s what I’m referring to.  They respect the desire to allow the reader to establish his own meaning for the term, flesh. Another specific example for consideration.  In 1 Cor. 6:9, the quite literal NASB (New American Standard Bible) states, “Or do you not know that the unrighteous will not inherit the kingdom of God? Do not be deceived; neither fornicators, nor idolaters, nor adulterers, nor effeminate, nor homosexuals,…”  – feel free to look it up by the link and read it in context. HOWEVER, the NIV 2011 translates it like this:  ”Or do you not know that wrongdoers will not inherit the kingdom of God? Do not be deceived: Neither the sexually immoral nor idolaters nor adulterers nor men who have sex with men…”   Footnotes:  1 Corinthians 6:9 The words men who have sex with men translate two Greek words that refer to the passive and active participants in homosexual acts. For that matter, the ESV (English Standard Version) does the same thing for the verse, stating, “nor men who practice homosexuality”.  See that verse HERE. Clearly, literal translation in the NASB is somewhat vague in terms in modern English, and misses the Greek meaning of the term malakos.  Some of us think we know what “effeminate” means in English; however, the Greek terms malakos and arsenokoites are extremely graphic, and are clarified in the footnote above (taken directly from the NIV 2011 text).  Combining those two terms – clearly meaning two different things – does help in the NIV 2011.  It helps in the sense that it states unequivocally that homosexuality is sinful in either case; whether one is malakoi (a receiving male prostitute, or youth who is in a relationship with a man) or arsenokoites (one who sodomizes, or lies with a man like he would a woman).  In this case, the English of the NIV 2011 spares us some terribly graphic details of Greco-Roman sexuality, and accomplishes the meaning of the passage at the same time. Graph & bottom paragraph below courtesy of:  Dan Wallace – A Review of the NIV 2011: part 3 of 4 […]

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