WELS President Comments on NIV 2011 and New Translation

June 12th, 2013 Post by

As one reads BJS lately, you may get the impression that this is an in-house LCMS production. We may not be posting as much lately, but there are non-LCMS contributors and readers, and we, too, will be having synodical conventions soon. For the ELS, convention starts this Sunday, June 16 and runs through Thursday, June 20. The WELS convention runs from July 29-August 1 and will be held at Martin Luther College in New Ulm, MN. A major issue for the WELS this year is that of a Bible translation. Last year, the ELS doctrine committee weighed in the issue, recommending against the use of the NIV 2011.


A number of congregations in the ELS currently use the NIV (1984) Bible for worship and Christian education. This edition of the NIV is no longer being printed. It has been replaced with the NIV (2011) which makes significant changes to the text of the NIV (1984). These changes have diminished the accuracy of the NIV. Therefore, based on preliminary study of the NIV (2011), the Doctrine Committee recommends against the use of the NIV (2011).

Some of the reasons for the ELS recommending against the use of the NIV (2011) are listed below.

  1. The NIV (1984) was not as widely used in the ELS as elsewhere. Only about half of our synod used the NIV (1984), and therefore many of our people are not familiar with it. The reason that many pastors and congregations did not use the NIV (1984) was concern over the translations of Acts 3:21, 1 Corinthians 10:16–17, Philippians 2:6–8, and other passages in this version. These same concerns are found in the NIV (2011).
  2. On a continuum between formal equivalency and functional equivalency, ELS congregations generally are looking for a translation that is closer to formal equivalency (word for word) than functional equivalency (thought for thought). It is understood that no translation is purely formal or functional.
  3. The ELS tends to be traditional in language, as is seen in the Evangelical Lutheran Hymnary.
  4. The gender question: All will admit that feminism has changed our language and made inroads into our culture. How then should one react? The ELS is looking for a translation which is faithful to the original text and is readable.
  5. Even non-Lutheran church bodies of the Reformed persuasion have voiced concerns about the NIV (2011). The Southern Baptists passed a resolution critical of the version.

The Doctrine Committee recommends for use in the ELS translations such as: New King James Version (NKJV), English Standard Version (ESV), An American Translation (Beck, AAT), and the New American Standard Bible 1995 (NASB 95). These translations are accurate and understandable. If a new Lutheran translation is prepared in the future, this also could be an option for use in the ELS.

The essay by the Rev. Brian Keller (WELS), “Evaluating Bible Translations,” is suggested for further study <http://www.wels.net/ sites/wels/files/Essay%20-%20Keller.pdf>. Other essays for additional reading on this topic may be found here: <http://www.wels. net/about-wels/synod-reports/bible-translation/choosing-best-bible-translation-wels-publications>. Also the 2012 Bjarne Wollan Teigen Reformation Lectures were dedicated to the topic of Bible translations (see Lutheran Synod Quarterly vol. 53, no. 1 [March 2013]).

(Book of Reports and Memorials, 96th Convention of the Evangelical Lutheran Synod, pages 22-23)


Now the WELS President Mark Shroeder has publicly stated his views on the translation matter, expressing concern over the NIV 2011 and supporting a new translation produced by the WELS and other confessional Lutherans.


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  1. Pastor George Poulos
    June 12th, 2013 at 08:25 | #1

    The link provided in the initial posting (referencing WELS President Schroeder’s statement) does not connect. The following link has been tested and connects to the WELS linking page.


  2. Brad
    June 12th, 2013 at 09:05 | #2

    Good stuff, and a commendable work of the doctrine committee. It’s long overdue, that we get the mush of the NIV out of our congregations.

  3. David Dahl
    June 12th, 2013 at 10:31 | #3

    I really feel encouraged with the idea of a new translation, by men who believe the Word is the true Word of God. I applaud Pastor Shroeder’s addressing a point I seldom see – that, a new translation for God’s people can be accomplished WITH GOD’s HELP. How often I forget that He gives the strength to accomplish all things.

  4. Nicholas
    June 18th, 2013 at 20:47 | #4

    Why don’t they adopt the ESV, as we in the LCMS have done, rather than make yet another new translation?

  5. June 19th, 2013 at 00:56 | #5

    Just an observation about choosing a translation like the NIV as the standard for a denomination and its educational and liturgical materials.

    The NIV has as part of its philosophy that it should be revised every 20 years or so. All translation issues and theological issues should have priority. But even if those issues were resolved in a God pleasing way, it seems quite shortsighted to adopt a translation a year or more after it’s out, spend 5 to 10 years on changing over all the educational and liturgical publications in the denomination to the new translation, and then just getting 10 to 15 years–or even fewer than 10 years out of those publications before they have to be retooled.

    Seems like a recipe for frustrating the laity and the pastors. Each time such a revision comes up there will be kicking and screaming simply because the older generation no longer knows the Bible or the Liturgy used at their own congregation. The very words of the Christmas and Easter accounts have been taken away from them along with all the other liturgical expressions by which they had been grounded in the faith.

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