The new NIV translation of the Bible has been released online. It is a new NIV translation just six years after the same company, Zondervan, produced the TNIV (Today’s New International Version). Maybe it has happened, but I am not aware of the same company ever producing two translations that close together in time.
The TNIV was an updated version of the 1984 NIV, the most widely-read translation in America. One of the many advances in the TNIV was language like “human” and “humanity” where the original biblical word clearly meant to include men and women. The 1984 NIV used “man” generically whereas most Americans in 2010 would say “person”, “human”, and “humanity”.
I have used the TNIV from it’s beginning. It was endorsed by many respected evangelical pastors like Bill Hybels, Rob Bell, Lee Strobel, Jim Cymbala, John Stott, John Ortberg, and others. According to the TNIV website, Christianity Today, Young Life, Relevant Magazine, and the Urbana Convention also supported it. The translators seemed to be proud of their achievement, and Zondervan promoted it.
Then, some groups boycotted the TNIV over its use of “humanity”, “human”, and “person”, etc. instead of “man”. For example, Lifeway Stores, which is owned by the Southern Baptist Convention, refused to sell the TNIV.
“Mankind” vs. “Humanity”
So, just a few days ago, Zondervan discontinued the TNIV and replaced both it and the 1984 NIV with the new 2011 NIV. The new NIV uses some of the more contemporary language for gender like “human” and “humanity”, but, puzzling to me, in other places it has taken a step backward from the TNIV, and uses “mankind” instead of “humanity”.
“Mankind” and “man” in the generic sense are quickly becoming archaic. In fact, they are no longer used in Bible scholar circles- at least not in the books I read. More importantly, they are not used any longer in the contemporary speech of mainstream young people. Even five years from now, my guess is that very few people in the U.S. will use “mankind”.
It’s unfortunate that this has resulted in the use of the word “mankind” in the new NIV when the meaning clearly refers to all people, everyone, both men and women. While the TNIV was not perfect (no translation is), it’s use of “humanity” matches contemporary language. For the new NIV, supposedly an updated version, to revert to “man” and “mankind” is disappointing.
The new NIV is a step forward from the 1984 NIV, but I view it is a step backward in gender language from the TNIV. It would be ironic if the new NIV is still accused of being too “liberal” by some groups because it uses “humanity” in certain places. I hope that is not the case.
Good English Translations
My go-to English translations are the TNIV for reading and the NRSV for study, widely considered by scholars to be the best English translation of the Bible. A great study Bible is the New Interpreter’s Study Bible.
Other English translations that I consider good for reading:
Here is a Bible translation chart produced in May 2002 that was published on the TNIV website: