The death of the TNIV: follow the money...

(Tim) Before everyone forgets about it, here are a couple thoughts about the announcement by Zondervan and Biblica that they're scrapping their TNIV product.

I've spent my life inside the world of Christian publishing, particularly the Bible publishing world. And the thing everyone must understand is that it's an exceedingly rare Bible translator or publisher who is unaware of the money that can be made or lost on Bible sales. And usually made--not lost. We're talking hundreds of millions of dollars per year, and the necessity of keeping an eye on the mammon is as applicable to men like Don Carson who have been paid to translate gender-neutered Bibles as it is to the women like Moe Girkins who have been paid to head up gender-neutered Bible publishing corporations like Zondervan.

So, for instance, we all know Zondervan has canned their TNIV product because its sales have been pitiful. Looking more deeply into the matter, we find...

the TNIV lost the battle with Tyndale House Publishers'  New Living Translation--the other sex-neutered Bible marketed to the Emerging Evangelical church. The NLT outsold the TNIV twenty-to-one.

You say you don't want to think of Bible publishing this way, but would prefer to discuss this latest news in higher and more noble terms? There are many men who have given their lives to Bible paraphrase and translation and publishing who were motivated by the sincere desire to spread the Word of God for the salvation of mankind.

Rarely are motives that simple, though. Consider the Bible Itself.

Do we wish Galatians didn't record the Apostle Peter's multiple cowardly deceptions? Or the Apostle Paul's public confrontation of one of Peter's deceptions in front of the church of Galatia? Lot's wife and daughters? Judas pinching money from the common purse? Ananias and Sapphira? Our Lord's Letters to the Seven Churches?

Christians need accountability, so read on.

Rather than treating the marketing press releases of Zondervan and Biblica (and the ensuing revival of discussions of translation philosophies) as matters above our pay grade, it would be good for all of us to yawn as we think to ourselves, "Well, looks like Zondervan's taken it on the chin with the TNIV."

That's it. End of story. Finis.

Except two small additions. First, that the press releases make it clear that Ms. GIrkins is uncomfortable with being the CEO of a corporation that's viewed as schismatic and divisive by large swaths of the Emergent Evangelical Chuch. Generally, relational peace matters more to women than to men, and since Ms. Girkins has come onto the scene at Zondervan, she's been working hard to put this nastiness behind her. So no, I don't think it's all about money. Some of it is about avoiding being viewed as divisive, and that's commendable as far as it goes. (I've said as much to Ms. Gerkins personally, by letter.)

Second, Zondervan and Biblica are going to try again, with another product they hope will make them piles of money--both for Zondervan's stockholders and Biblica's coffers (out of which Doug Moo, Gordon Fee, and other members of the Committee on Bible Translation are paid good money for their services).

Always keep in mind that back in 1997 when the gender-neutered Bible controversy broke, nationally, through Susan Olasky's cover story in World, the only division of Zondervan that was profitable that year was its Bible division. Which leads me to repeat something I heard from reliable sources back then.

In response to the international stink World brought to Zondervan that year which poisoned its reputation and alienated many customers within its primary market segment, Zondervan's CEO heard from Rupert Murdock.

You ask "Well, what did Rupert Murdock have to say, and what business was it of Rupert Murdock, anyway?"

I have no firsthand knowledge of what Mr. Murdock said, but I'm guessing the conversation wasn't happiness and bonhomie. After all, Zondervan's best and brightest had shot the goose that laid the golden egg--the golden egg that kept Zondervan profitable that year, remember.

And what business was it of Rupert Murdock, anyway?

Years ago, in exchange for boatloads of money, the ownership of the world's largest Bible publisher passed from Christian to secular hands. Since then, Doug Moo has been paid by the International Bible Society (recently renamed Biblica), which in turn has been paid by Zondervan, which in turn has been paid by HarperRowCollins Publishing, which in turn has been paid by NewsCorp, which in turn has been run by Rupert Murdock. Here's the blurb Zondervan's web site puts at the bottom of products pages:

Zondervan, a HarperCollins company, is a world leader in Christian communications and the leading Christian publishing brand. For more than 75 years, Zondervan has delivered transformational Christian experiences through general and academic resources by influential leaders and emerging voices, and been honored with more Christian Book Awards than any other publisher. Headquartered in Grand Rapids, Mich., with offices in San Diego and Miami, Zondervan conducts events and publishes its bestselling Bibles, books, audio, video, curriculum, software, and digital products through its Zondervan, eZondervan, Zonderkidz, Youth Specialties, Editorial Vida, and National Pastors Convention brands. Zondervan resources are sold worldwide through retail stores, online, and by Zondervan ChurchSource, and are translated into nearly 200 languages in more than 60 countries. Visit Zondervan on the Internet at (mobile site:

If you want to read current Evangelical church history and start to see some minimal similarity to the sin and failure we see recorded concerning other Christians all across church history--especially in the New Testament--only one thing is necessary: follow the money.

Then check on the perqs and hotels and meals and fees and commissions and copyrights and royalties and salaries of the publishers and their authors and scholars, and you'll never be able to see what's chic and cool and hip again without also seeing the Temple as Jesus trucked on through with a whip and the fury of zeal for His Father's glory.

Now, we can all go back to our favorite Christian blog or online ministry with all their ads and conferences and books and cruises and money... Buy a sermon or book from your favorite Reformed pastor. Do it today. Give him his royalties and make him happy.


Shameless plug: why buy from tim keller what you can get from me for free???

Good post, Tim. Zondervan is nothing but a nameplate. Eerdmans is lost, too.

How about Intervarsity Press?

> Zondervan has delivered transformational Christian experiences through general and academic resources by influential leaders and emerging voices...

You know someone's in trouble when they say they are hearing "emerging voices."

[from the Washington Times story:]

> The changes did not make all men "people" or remove male references to God, but instead involved dropping gender-specific terms when translators judged that the original text didn't intend it.

No, that is NOT what they are doing at all. What is extremely interesting about Bible neutering is that the changes are designed to liberate women, not to make everything universal that was intended to be universal.

There are countless examples of their failure to do what they claim to have done. Here's just one:

"You shall not covet your neighbor's wife..." NASB

"You shall not covet your neighbor's wife." TNIV

The 10th Commandment applies to women, too, so why didn't the TNIV neuter the gender-specific terms? Because they are only neutering anything that can be seen as restricting women.

[again from the Washington Times story:]

> Supporters say gender-inclusive language is more accurate and makes the Bible more accessible...

"Accessible"? What is that, an emergent code word for "palatable"? The English Bible is already accessible to anyone in the US who is interested.

> In Genesis I, God created "human beings" in his own image instead of "man."

How can anyone understand the Declaration of Independence anymore, when it says:

"We hold these truths to be self-evident, that all men are created equal, that they are endowed by their Creator with certain unalienable rights, that among these are life, liberty and the pursuit of happiness. That to secure these rights, governments are instituted among men..."

" Nor have we been wanting in attention to our British brethren."

Don't they need to change the wording to "human beings" and "brothers and sisters" to make the Declaration of Independence more "accessible"?

Would that TNLT would die a quick and painful death, but what are the odds of that happening?

"transformational Christian experiences"

Ugh. The Christian life is now a commodity to be marketed and sold - Fits right in with Rick Warren & Joel Osteen's message. Follow these principles and we'll have you happy in no time. What a pile of dung.

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