The evangelical publisher Zondervan and the International Bible Society this week announced plans to publish an edition of the Bible called "Today's New International Version," an adaptation of the popular "NIV" that will include some gender-neutral references.
The new version, which is being called the TNIV, will change 7% from the NIV, officials of Grand Rapids, Mich.-based Zondervan and the Bible society said.
Among the changes: "Sons of God" will become "children of God" and "brothers" will be translated as "brothers and sisters" when scholars determined that the original text did not intend a gender. References to God and Jesus will remain masculine.
"We firmly believe that to effect positive change in our world, we must communicate with today's generations in the English they are being taught and that they speak," Peter Bradley, president of the Colorado Springs, Colo.-based Bible society, said in a statement. "To accomplish this mission, we must make certain that Scripture is presented in a way that is unquestionably accurate and perfectly clear."
Other changes in the new version include describing Mary, the mother of Jesus, as "'pregnant" rather than "with child." Jesus will be called Messiah rather than Christ when the text refers to belief in his messianic status but will still be called Jesus Christ when Christ is used as part of his personal name.
Also, some references to Jews will be more specific, using phrases such as "the Jews there" or "the Jewish leaders."
The TNIV translation of the New Testament will be released in the spring and the complete text, including the Old Testament, is scheduled to appear in 2005. The NIV will continue to be published.
"With the confidence of IBS, we look forward to the responsibility of bringing this new edition to millions of people around the world who will receive a fresh, new, accurate understanding of God's word," Bruce Ryskamp, chief executive and president of Zondervan, said in the statement.
The older version's gender usage became hotly disputed in 1997 when World magazine, a conservative weekly, reported that the Bible society was working on an inclusive-language revision.
The society had already produced such an edition with a British publisher.
Leaders of the Southern Baptist Convention, the largest U.S. Protestant denomination, criticized the language change in 1997, as did James Dobson of the influential organization Focus on the Family.
After meeting with critics, the Bible society said it would halt publication of Britain's inclusive edition and had "abandoned all plans for gender-related changes in future editions of the New International Version."
The Bible society isn't quite abandoning its pledge because it is not discontinuing publication of the NIV.