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Why I Use the TNIV

For a long time I’ve been a bible translation junkie.  For some reason I became interested in how the bible was translated and how different people translated it a long time ago.  Since I was born in 1980 and therefore a teenager in the 90’s my first bible was the famous NIV Student Bible.  I used this until my senior year when I began using the ESV.  I used the ESV for most my time in seminary, but recently have made a switch to the TNIV (Today New International Version).  The TNIV has been much-maligned and while the heavy criticism seems to have passed, there are still sites on the web devoted to objecting to the TNIV http://www.no-tniv.com being one of those sites.

I remember when I was in college I first heard about the TNIV in the student newspaper @ Grove City.  The article cited Dr. T. David Gordon as objecting to the TNIV because of it’s use of “gender neutral language”.  As someone who grew up using the NRSV (New Revised Standard Version) in church I was used to gender neutral translations but didn’t know it.  So, I checked it out using James 3:1

NIV: Not many of you should presume to be teachers, my brothers, because you know that we who teach will be judged more strictly.

ESV: Not many of you should become teachers, my brothers, for you know that we who teach will be judged with greater strictness.

TNIV: Not many of you should presume to be teachers, my brothers and sisters, because you know that we who teach will be judged more strictly.

As I would discover in seminary, the key objection to the TNIV is how it translates adelphoi, the masculine plural of adelphos (brother).  Now, there is no debate that sometimes in the New Testament adelphoi clearly means a group of people including both males and females.  The issue is when did the author intend this.  I remember in his article Dr. Gordon making the point that the TNIV had translated the debate away.  Now, as someone who holds different views on the role of men and women in the church I don’t have this same objection.  But, here’s a better example of why I think the gender neutral update is a good thing.

TNIV: When an evil spirit comes out of anyone, it goes through arid places seeking rest and does not find it. Then it says, ‘I will return to the house I left.’

NIV: When an evil spirit comes out of a man, it goes through arid places seeking rest and does not find it. Then it says, ‘I will return to the house I left.

ESV: When the unclean spirit has gone out of a person, it passes through waterless places seeking rest, and finding none it says, ‘I will return to my house from which I came.’

Now, here’s a case where even the ESV has rejected the more traditional langauge in favor of the gender neutral “anyone” or “a person”.

Finally, and here’s the real reason I use the TNIV – it’s just plain more readable.  I work with Jr. and Sr. High age kids and they’re not stupid by any means – but I need to be using a translation that uses langauge they can understand.  So here’s my last example:

ESV: But when he came to himself, he said, ‘How many of my father’s hired servants have more than enough bread, but I perish here with hunger!

NIV: When he came to his senses, he said, ‘How many of my father’s hired men have food to spare, and here I am starving to death!

TNIV: When he came to his senses, he said, ‘How many of my father’s hired servants have food to spare, and here I am starving to death!

For my use, the TNIV and NIV are simply more readable than more literal translations like the ESV.  And here is a classic case – “When he came to his senses” – what great use of English idiom in translation.  No one would dispute that the TNIV/NIV is easier to read something like the ESV (although many would contend that they’re not as accurate) and updated langauge in the TNIV makes it my recommendation to anyone looking to buy a bible for a teen (or anyone else for that matter).  It’s now the main translation that I use in ministry as well as for my own personal use.  Now, it’s not the only translation – I still keep my others close at hand, and since I know Greek and Hebrew it makes it even easier to use multiple translations.  But, when it comes to preaching, teaching, and recommending – the TNIV all the way for me.

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Categories: TNIV
  1. December 1, 2006 at 5:38 am

    The reason I don’t use the TNIV? Because Zondervan keeps giving them to me for free… and I don’t like feeling like I have to do something because Zondervan told me to. If it’s working for you, though, keep after it, bro.

  2. December 5, 2006 at 6:20 am

    Great post, Wally. I agree that the TNIV is one of the most accurate translations available contrary to the negative spin from its detractors.

  3. Jay
    December 5, 2006 at 11:41 pm

    I have found the TNIV a good version for preaching and teaching the Bible. I like the NLT except in a few spots so I use the TNIV in public and for devotions the NLT.

  4. December 21, 2006 at 9:17 pm

    Good post, Wally. I’m going to add it to my webpage with TNIV Links:
    http://www.geocities.com/bible_translation/tnivlinks.htm

  5. April 11, 2007 at 12:12 am

    I bought my first TNIV on Saturday, and have already designated it as my personal,everyday Bible. I have an NASB wide margin, and many other bibles, but I’m enjoying doing a breezing through the entire bible in the TNIV (I hate doing daily chapter amounts) and finding it a pleasant experience. I think that the TNIV debate is largely contrived, and fairly profitless, unless it helps to correct actual mistakes. Grudem shouldn’t be debating a Bible as much as he should be debating translation philosophies themselves, especially since there are other bibles that do the same thing as the TNIV anyway.

  6. April 16, 2007 at 5:50 am

    Wally, we now have a blog devoted specifically to telling the truth about the TNIV:
    http://tnivtruth.blogspot.com

  7. February 7, 2008 at 12:36 am

    Sweetness! Same here, bro. Just picked up my TNIV 2 weeks ago. I went from NIV(elem-middle school) to NASB (high school-college) to ESV (seminary) to TNIV. It’s awesome! It was weird. As this year started I wanted to read through the entire Bible in a year cuz i hadn’t done that in a while, and i just got so bored out of my brains I couldn’t do it. So i started researching the TNIV. Rick over at THIS LAMP (http://homepage.mac.com/rmansfield/thislamp) put my questions to rest. Then i couldn’t sleep for 2 nights straight. Like when the Lord wants to talk to ya, and you ignore him, and he won’t let you sleep? Same thing! On the 3rd day i drove to the nearest Christian bookstore. Picked up my TNIV. And bam! I’m tearing right through that, baby!

  8. Howard McTaggart
    December 21, 2008 at 9:12 pm

    I find that if you go to a bible book store the 2 biggest sellers these days are the NLT and the TNIV with the NIV in third place and ESV slightly behind in 4th the TNIV and NLT are both gender neutral but I like the TNIV because it’s dating in the Old Testament is much truer than that used in the NLT, which tends to go to Gregorian dating which I think in the Old Testament setting is wrong.

  9. Marzonian
    June 10, 2009 at 8:19 am

    how about The Message. If u are interested in all these watered down versions, might as well use the ultimate paraphrase version, perfectly clear and sure beats the lights out of NIV/TNIV/NLT.

  10. Terry
    December 14, 2010 at 7:31 pm

    HI Brian,

    I read your article and agree with you. Our church uses the ESV as its preaching and teaching Bible but I find the TNIV more clear and readable while being reasonably accurate.

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