While the NIV still commands a whopping 40% of Bible sales and is listed in first place among Bible purchased by the CBA, many people are still waging a war against the NIV.
Even in 2017 DOTB gets upset ranters commenting on blog posts with false information and condemnation for all who read the NIV. The typical rant usually looks something like the following:
The NIV and all the other new (per) versions come from the corrupt Egyptian texts (codex sinaiaticus and Vaticanas and were translated by a couple of satan worshipping reprobates (Westcott and Hort) to say that the KJV is not a good translation makes me angry considering that people died to get that bible translated and printed. The arrogance is breathtaking. William Tyndale and the 40 some scholars who sweated blood for 7 years to get the word of God out to the world under the name King James Bible would be face palming in heaven. The chief editor of the NIV is a sodomite and the chief stylistic editor is a dyke! But carry on reading your easy to read garbage so called bible which tells you to cut off your genitals in Galatians 5:12! (Source: https://dustoffthebible.com/Blog-archive/2016/07/21/should-christians-hate-the-reprobates/)
Other similar claims are commonly made about the NIV, many of which are dirived from Gail Riplinger’s book, New Age Bible Versions. Below we are going to address a very common claim about the NIV translation team, namely, that the NIV translation committee was somehow influenced by homosexual translators. Some, like the comment above, go as far as to say that the chief editor of the NIV was a sodomite.
This claim, in it’s many forms, is simply false.
Who Translated And Edited The NIV?
The translation team for the original NIV was adjusted a bit as editing got heavier but the list of the first initial translators and editors is below. Their academic institutions are listed with them as they were when the NIV was first translated. Some of them have since changed institutions.
From 1965 to 1983 the members of the CBT  were:
- E. Leslie Carlson: Southwestern Baptist Theological Seminary.
- ** Larry Walker: Mid-America Reformed Seminary
- Edmund P. Clowney: Westminster Theological Seminary.
- ** Robert Preus: Concordia Theological Seminary
- Ralph Earle: Nazarene Theological Seminary
- Burton L. Goddard: Gordon Divinity School
- R. Laird Harris: Covenant Theological Seminary
- Earl S. Kalland: Conservative Baptist Theological Seminary (Denver)
- Kenneth S. Kantzer: Trinity Evangelical Divinity School.
- ** Richard Longenecker: McMaster Divinity College
- Robert Mounce: Bethel College (St. Paul).
- ** Youngve Kindberg: International Bible Society.
- ** Donald Wiseman: Oxford Inter-Collegiate Christian Union
- ** Youngve Kindberg: International Bible Society.
- Stephen W. Paine: Houghton College
- Charles F. Pfeiffer: Central Michigan University
In 1974 the “long-inactive” Pfeiffer was replaced by Kenneth L. Barker
- Charles C. Ryrie: Dallas Theological Seminary.
- ** Ronald Youngblood: Wheaton Graduate School, Bethel Seminary
- Francis R. Steele: North Africa Mission.
- ** William J. Martin: Trinity College
- ** Bruce Waltke: Reformed Theological Seminary
- ** William J. Martin: Trinity College
- John H. Stek: Calvin Theological Seminary
- John C. Wenger: Goshen Biblical Seminary
- Marten H. Woudstra: Calvin Theological Seminary
- * Elmer Smick: Gordon-Conwell Theological Seminary
- * Herbert Wolf: Wheaton College
- * Gleason Archer: Trinity Evangelical Divinity School
- * Roy Hayden: Huntington College
*Added during expanded editing processes from 1976-1978.
** Added due to death and/or absence of original members.
The following names are listed as literary consultants which were used by the NIV committee. The role of such consultants were not usually of translation but of style, English idiom usage, and sentence construction and word-flow. They were not involved in translation or theological formation.
- Edward M. Blaiklock: University of Auckland, New Zealand.
- Frank E. Gaebelein: Headmaster Emeritus, The Stony Brook School.
- Charles E. Hummel: Inter-Varsity Christian Fellowship.
- Elisabeth Elliot Leitch: Writer.
- Calvin Linton: The George Washington University.
- Kathryn R. Ludwigson: Grand Rapids Baptist Bible College.
- Alvin Martin: Fuller Theological Seminary.
- Virginia Mollenkott: William Paterson College.
- Margaret Nicholson: Author-Editor.
- W. T. Purkiser: Kansas City, Missouri.
- Walter R. Roehrs: Concordia Theological Seminary.
- Samuel J. Schultz: Wheaton College.
- John T. Timmerman: Calvin College.
- Richard F. Wevers: Calvin College.
Who Were The Gay Translators?
Before we address who the alleged homosexuals where that translated the original NIV, let’s first establish that just because a person is a homosexual and they assisted in a Bible translation, that does not mean that the translation is corrupt. Like nearly all modern translations, each translator is assigned a block of text to translate and comment on. Thus, if a gay person was given the task of translating Genesis, in no way would their influence have an affect on whoever translated Leviticus and especially not on New Testament books. Almost universally, Hebrew scholars and Greek scholars stick to their main language. They do not jump back and forth.
That being said, below are the supposed translators that “corrupted” the NIV.
Virginia Ramey Mollenkott: Literary consultant
Virginia was listed in all references as a literary consultant. She has also said herself that all she did was provide services as a stylistic consultant. She did not participate in any translation work. In fact, in one letter she wrote to Michael J. Penfold, she lamented the use of “homosexual” in the Old Testament because it was too anachronistic. A portion of the letter reads as follows:
I worked on the NIV during the entire time it was being translated and reviewed, although I was never free to attend the summer sessions even when I was invited to do so. Elisabeth Elliot and I were the Stylistic Consultants: our job was simply to make sure the translation would communicate clearly to modern American readers, and that the style was as smooth and understandable as possible. I was never removed, sacked, or made redundant from my work on the NIV; if I were, my name would not have appeared on the list sent out by the IBS. It was Dr. Edwin Palmer, who lived near my college, who invited me to work on the NIV. He had heard me speak and respected my integrity and my knowledge. So far as I know, nobody including Dr. Palmer suspected that I was lesbian while I was working on the NIV; it was information I kept private at that time. Dr. Palmer always sent me the batches of translating to review, and I always returned them (with my comments) to him. I have not kept track of which of my suggestions made it into the final version; I am a busy person, and it was a labour love in the scriptures. I do not think anything concerning homosexuality was in any of the batches I reviewed. I do not consider the NIV more gay-friendly than most modern translations, so I do not understand why anybody would want to bash the NIV because a closeted lesbian worked on it. I was not a translator; if I were I would have argued that the word/concept “homosexual” is too anachronistic to be utilized in translating an ancient text. But I was a stylist and nobody asked me. I no longer have any contact with the NIV-CBT, but I am often amused to remember that I frequently refused my $5 an hour stipend because I heard the project was running out of money. (Virginia Mollenkot)
As a stylistic consultant Virginia would have had virtually no influence on how the Bible was translated. Rather, she advised on which English words, phrases, and idioms, would best communicate the ideas behind the translator’s work. She also engaged in style advice which would been things like sentence structure and readability, specifically for American English speakers.
It’s pretty clear that Virginia was not a major player in the translation, not that that would have made a difference.
Dr. Marten Woudstra: Chair of the Old Testament committee
As some would point out, the real offender of corruption is Dr. Marten Woudstra. To be fair to the critics, Dr. Woudstra did eventually come out as a homosexual. However, he has no publications addressing the matter. He has very few public mentions of the topic and he was not known to have a “partner”. Of the known homosexual Christians in the academic world, from the 70’s, Woudstra was the least vocal on the subject.
However, Woudstra did comment on the nature of the Old Testament and it’s use of sexual terminology.
“There is nothing in the Old Testament that corresponds to homosexuality as we understand it today.” (Dr. Martin Woudstra)
Many would argue in favor with Woudstra’s reasoning. However, Woudstra’s view does not necessarily give the stamp of approval on modern homosexual practices. He never said that homosexuality isn’t in the Bible or that it’s ok to practice. The better question is: does Woudstra’s perceived position on homosexuality affect the actual translation efforts of the NIV?
Most who knew and worked with the man would say that he was professional and kept his personal life out of his work. Woudstra worked with a slew of great theologians, even F.F. Bruce. Woudstra was revered by the conservative staff at Calvin Seminary, where he wworked.He was also on a committee in the early 70’s to establish a denominational position on the issue of homosexuality. The report that came from committee did not condone homosexuality, even though Woudstra was, himself, a homosexual. This seems to be a trend in his academic works. One would even argue Woudstra had reservations about even his own opinions on the topic.
On the more practical side of things, one must ask what the role of the OT Chairman actually was? As chairman of the OT committee, did Woudstra have influence over the translation of the entire OT? The simple answer is no. He did not get to dictate how the entire OT was translated. He simply oversaw the work.
Additionally, from looking at his previous work it can be suggested that he was not the type of chairperson to force his opinion on others. It should also be noted that he was ONLY involved in the 1973 – 1978 NIV which was only printed for about 6 years, before another revisions was made. Clearly, whatever influence he had was very limited.
If one looks at the passages in the NIV where homosexuality is discussed, it is obvious that the Bible still condemns homosexuality. The question of whether or not Dr Woudtra “corrupted” the NIV can be answered clearly by looking at the OT passages that his team translated. Here are the passages below, including some in the NT.
NIV – Do not lie with a man as one lies with a woman: this is detestable. (Leviticus 18:22)
‘If a man has sexual relations with a man as one does with a woman, both of them have done what is detestable. They are to be put to death; their blood will be on their own heads. (Leviticus 20:13)
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 10 nor thieves nor the greedy nor drunkards nor slanderers nor swindlers will inherit the kingdom of God. (1 Corinthians 6:9)
Because of this, God gave him over to shameful lusts. Even their women exchanged natural relations for unnatural ones. In the same way men also abandoned natural relations with women and were inflamed with lust for one another. (Romans 1:26-27)
Do you not know that the wicked will not inherit the kingdom of God? Do not be deceived: neither the sexually immoral nor idolaters nor adulterers nor male prostitutes nor homosexual offenders. (1 Corinthians 6:9) [Homosexual offenders referring to those who have homosexual sex]
In a similar way, Sodom and Gomorrah and the surrounding towns gave themselves up to sexual immorality and perversion. They serve as an example of those who suffer the punishment of eternal fire. (Jude 7)
It is clear that the only passages that seem “soft” on homosexuality is 1 Corinthians, yet that is a NT passage, for which Dr. Woudstra would have no hand in translating. He was the chair of the OT committee not the the NT committee. Furthermore, the passage still condemns homosexuality. It just uses a phrase (homosexual offenders) that seems a bit strange because it’s not a common phrase. They could have used a better phrase, like they did in later revisions. The new NIV now reads.
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. (1 Corinthians 6:9 NIV 2011)
Any other passage on the matter are also firmed up in later revisions of the NIV. Even if the original was a tad soft (which it wasn’t) the newer revisions correct any confusion.
[Featured image from www.saltradioministries.com]