God Didn't Say That

Bible Translations and Mistranslations

Gender in the Updated NIV

According to the translators’ notes for the updated (“2011”) NIV, “every single change introduced into the committee’s last major revision (the TNIV) relating to inclusive language for humanity was reconsidered.” This is in keeping with an announcement the translators made in 2009.

Some people were concerned about this, because they were afraid the translation committee might reverse some of the progress the TNIV made in preserving gender accuracy.

From the quick look I took today, it seems that the gender-neutral translations for humanity have largely been preserved.

OT Examples

For example, the phrase ashrei adam appears six times. In all six places, the TNIV had “those” for adam, an update from the 1984 “man” in five out of six of the instances.

In half of those cases (Psalm 32:2, Psalm 84:16, and Proverbs 28:14), the NIV2011 changes “those” to “the one,” while in the other half (Psalm 84:6(5), Proverbs 3:13(12), and Proverbs 8:34) the newer version retains “those.” I think it’s unfortunate that ashrei adam now enjoys two translations in English, but I think the more important point is that the gender neutrality was preserved in the new NIV.

Likewise, Psalm 1:1 with its similar asrei ha-ish is now “one.” It was “those” in the TNIV, and “man” in the older NIV84.

In Psalm 147:10, surprisingly, the NIV translators chose “warrior” for ha-ish. I think it’s a mistake, but it still demonstrates a commitment to gender accuracy in translation.

NT Examples

On the other hand, for Matthew 4:4 (ouk ep’ arto zisetai o anthropos), the NIV2011 reverses a decision made by the TNIV, reverting to “man” (which is what NIV84 had) for anthropos: “Man shall not live on bread alone.”

This is confusing. Unless the translators think that “man” is gender inclusive, the translation is wrong. But if they do think that “man” is inclusive, it’s not clear why they didn’t use it elsewhere.

We find the same thing in Matthew 12:35: “A good man [anthropos] brings good things out of the good stored up in him, and an evil man [anthropos] brings evil things out of the evil stored up in him.” The TNIV had “peoplethem.” Perhaps the new translators, having abandoned “people” for the singular anthropos, didn’t know what to do with “him” here. After all, a lot of people don’t like the “someone … them” construction. But the translators specicially claim that “them” would be the best option after “someone” (page 5 of this PDF):

The gender-neutral pronoun “they” (“them”/”their”) is by far the most common way that English-language speakers and writers today refer back to singular antecedents such as “whoever,” “anyone,” “somebody,” “a person,” “no one,” and the like.

So “a good person brings good things out of the good stored up in them” seems more consistent with the published goals of the NIV. And, indeed, this is the sort of solution they offer in Matthew 16:26: “What good will it be for someone [anthropos] to gain the whole world, yet forfeit their soul…?”

In Matthew 12:10-13 (which is tricky, as I describe here), we find “person” in verse 12 for anthropos, (the TNIV had “human being”; the NIV84 had “man”), even though in verse 10 it’s still “man.”

In Colossians 3:23, we see “human masters” for the plural anthroposes Again, I disagree with the editorial addition “masters,” but the translation demonstrates a willingness to leave the now-outdated translation “men” behind.


So it seems that the new NIV translation tries to preserve gender accuracy in its translation, even if in practice the translation is inconsistent and falls short in places.


November 1, 2010 - Posted by | Bible versions, translation practice, translation theory | , , , , , , ,


  1. ISTM that unless a woman is being told that she screwed up, she should be quiet and submit to her man, or some other extraordinary circumstance is being addressed, the scriptures were originally addressed by men to other men for other men, and this gender neutral stuff is in most places just falsifying the documents in order to bring them in line with the buying public.

    The view from here. I like to rib my wife about that (if you get my pun) but she doesn’t find it amusing.

    Comment by WoundedEgo | November 1, 2010

  2. I doubt very much if I will ever read the NIV or any other translation with New or International or Living in its title. But when it comes to gender, I am surprised how many words there are that are gender neutral in English and that don’t get used – e.g. the awkward humankind or worse mankind gets used instead of the less awkward humanity.

    The ‘one’ works to some extent but not of that other word for one is used nearby. The one is better than ‘those’ when singular is required – such as in Psalm 1 where the singular is critical to ‘the one’ becoming ‘the many’ in the Psalter as a whole. (If one reads the psalter that way as this one does.)

    Also in English – person, people, even soul of self are gender neutral. Maybe we should invent some new English pronouns. I really enjoyed using earthling in Ecclesiastes and then using ‘it’ for the pronouns. But that’s my Dr Seuss style for that book and who knows if I won’t be called on the carpet for ‘it’ at some point. Thanks, by the way, for suggesting Dr Seuss – perhaps you didn’t know that I took that suggestion from you.

    Comment by Bob MacDonald | November 1, 2010

  3. for ‘not of’ please read ‘not if’..

    Comment by Bob MacDonald | November 1, 2010

  4. […] Joel M. Hoffman discusses gender in the new NIV. […]

    Pingback by NIV Around the Blogosphere « Near Emmaus | November 1, 2010

  5. What do they do for PRESBUTEROI?

    Comment by WoundedEgo | November 1, 2010

    • Never mind. They apparently go with the nebulous “elders.”

      Comment by WoundedEgo | November 1, 2010

  6. I thought you and your readers might find it useful to know that I’ve just put up some pages that show how similar the NIV2011 is to the NIV1984 and the TNIV. My pages also show each verse where the NIV2011 differs from the NIV1984 or the TNIV in an easily read / clear manner.

    The pages are online @ http://www.slowley.com/niv2011_comparison/

    I’d appreciate any comments or suggestions if anyone has any. Please either email me robert@slowley.com or leave a comment on my blog post http://community.livejournal.com/robhu_bible/4977.html

    Thank you,

    Comment by Robert Slowley | November 2, 2010

    • Very nice. Thanks.

      Comment by Joel H. | November 2, 2010

  7. […] evaluation of the new NIV by saying: “I am pretty disappointed with this new release.”Joel M. Hoffman has another post dealing with the issue of inclusive language in the new NIV. According to Joel, […]

    Pingback by Dr. Claude Mariottini - Professor of Old Testament: The Revised NIV: A Step Backward | November 3, 2010

  8. I’ve significantly updated my NIV2011 comparison pages. I’ve improved the wording, fixed the colouring in of changes (and made it clearer), made some of the tables clearer, fixed some mistakes that made some of my numbers slightly off, and have added more explanatory text.

    Perhaps the biggest additions though are these two new pages:

    Top 250 added / removed words:

    Top 250 most changed verses:

    You can also look at the details of the changes within a book (this was always there, but some people didn’t realise), e.g.

    The start page itself can be found @

    It’s also worth knowing that John Dyer has made a series of similar (excellent) pages:


    Comment by Robert Slowley | November 4, 2010

  9. I’ve just updated it again. The measure used for how different a verse is has been improved, and you can now see every instance of when a word has been added / removed.

    For instance here is the list of every time the word ‘humankind’ has been added or removed when going from the TNIV to the NIV2011:

    The full list of changed words can be found here:


    Comment by Robert Slowley | November 4, 2010

  10. My computer generated comparison of the NIV2011 with the TNIV and NIV1984 has had many major updates:

    1. Greek text – now includes the SBLGNT with apparatus

    2. Hebrew text – HBS text included (experimental)

    3. Most changed verses list compared with both TNIV and NIV1984:

    4. List of (possible) proper noun changes:

    5. List of word changes relevant to the gender language debate:

    6. List of all words in text (warning: page is very large)

    Plus many many bug fixes, improvements in presentation, and other minor fixes.


    Comment by Robert Slowley | November 6, 2010

  11. […] Joel Hoffman posts on gender in NIV:Gender in the Updated NIV […]

    Pingback by Posts of note on the new NIV « Better Bibles Blog | November 10, 2010

  12. […] here, here), Suzanne McCarthy (here, here, here, Iver Larsen (and here), Bill Mounce,  Joel Hoffman, John Hobbins, Rick Mansfield, David Ker, Peter Kirk, and Brian Fulthorp. Comparison charts by […]

    Pingback by I’m liking the updated NIV 2011 « New Epistles | November 21, 2010

  13. […] should it be more… discriminating? Joel M. Hoffman (God Didn’t Say That) concludes that NIV 2011 has preserved much of TNIV’s gender-neutral language, but observes a few inconsistenc…. Ben Witherington (On The Bible and Culture) provides a summary of many of the changes involving […]

    Pingback by Biblical Studies Carnival נז (November 2010) | Bulletin for the Study of Religion | December 1, 2010

  14. Never mind. They apparently go with the nebulous “elders.”

    Comment by Dolly Serrano | December 29, 2010

  15. […] Gender in the Updated NIV […]

    Pingback by The Year in Review « God Didn't Say That | December 31, 2010

  16. […] Joel M. Hoffman has another post dealing with the issue of inclusive language in the new NIV. According to Joel, the new NIV has reconsidered the inclusive language of the TNIV and decided to preserve many of the changes introduced by the TNIV. Joel concluded his post by agreeing with most of the changes: “So it seems that the new NIV translation tries to preserve gender accuracy in its translation, even if in practice the translation is inconsistent and falls short in places.” […]

    Pingback by The Revised NIV: A Step Backward | Dr. Claude Mariottini – Professor of Old Testament | June 21, 2011

  17. […] Forbid Coveting Making Jesus the “Human One” The Value of a Word for Word Translation Gender in the Updated NIV Who are you calling a virgin? So, What? John 3:16 and the Lord’s […]

    Pingback by The Year in Review (2011) « God Didn't Say That | January 1, 2012

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