New Edition Of Bible Will Be

XThe Bible, which once taught men how to be better God-fearing citizens, will now teach "people" the same lesson.
Starting with its next update, America's most popular modern Bible is going to be gender neutral, the International Bible Society said Monday.

The new version will be called "Today's New International Version," or TNIV, with a New Testament on sale in April and the full Bible expected by 2005. The original "New International Version," which has sold more than 150 million copies worldwide since 1978, will remain on the market.

Examples of some changes from 1978 to 2002: "sons of God" to "children of God" in Matthew 5:9, and "a man is justified by faith" to "a person is justified by faith" in Romans 3:28.

A publicity release says "the TNIV is not merely a gender-accurate edition of the NIV," because 70 percent of the changes do not relate to gender. Also, terms referring to God and Jesus Christ have not been altered.

Both versions, the work of evangelical translators, are especially popular in the conservative, Protestant heart of America's competitive Bible market. The idea of a gender-neutral has drawn fierce criticism from traditionalists.

Randy Stinson, executive director of the Council on Biblical Manhood and Womanhood, a Louisville, Ky., group that works to preserve gender specific language, said Monday he had not yet seen the revisions but was concerned that word meanings may have been altered.

"This is incredibly serious to evangelicals, how the Bible is translated," Stinson said. "We believe the Bible is the word of God, so changing these things deliberately is dangerous."

Scott Bolinder, executive vice president and publisher at Zondervan, said there are relatively few changes involving gender and those have only been made "to reflect the original meaning of the text."

"There's no social agenda," he said.

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 published such an edition with a British publisher.

When Leaders of the Southern Baptist Convention, the largest U.S. Protestant denomination, and James Dobson of the influential "Focus on the Family" radio broadcast criticized the language plan, the Bible changed its mind and halted publication of Britain's inclusive edition. After meeting with its critics, the society said it had "abandoned all plans for gender-related changes in future editions of the New International Version."

Throughout this change, the wordplay's the thing. Technically, the Bible society, based in Colorado Springs, Colo., is hewing to the letter of its pledge because the latest version won't replace the "New International Version" ó it will just be sold alongside the older translation.

Like the 1978 Bible, the new version is aimed at Protestants, and will not appear in an edition with the extra biblical books recognized by Roman Catholic and Orthodox churches.

The major U.S. sales competitor for the NIV has been the venerable King James Version. But the international versions will now also have to compete with two evangelical translations that appeared last year:

ï "English Standard Version" from Crossway, a slight update of the 1952 Revised Standard Version that makes modest use of gender-free terminology.

ï "Holman Christian Standard Bible" from Broadman & Holman, the Southern Baptist book house, which rejects gender-neutral wording. It is currently available only in the New Testament, with the full Bible due in 2004.

The new translation has cost $2 million to date. Zondervan of Grand Rapids, Mich., which is owned by HarperCollins and holds North American rights for both versions, did not disclose other financial terms.

All or part of the Bible is currently available in some 70 English translations.

The Associated Press contributed to this report.

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