Matthew 5:13

"Trodden under foot of men"

Notes © 2003, 2011 by T.L. Hubeart Jr.

Matthew 5:13 (KJV) Ye are the salt of the earth: but if the salt have lost his savour, wherewith shall it be salted? it is thenceforth good for nothing, but to be cast out, and to be trodden under foot of men.

Here, in an intriguing example of modern scholarship bending the Biblical text to suit present-day protocols, the International Bible Society's Today's New International Version (TNIV) has here: "It is no longer good for anything, except to be thrown out and trampled underfoot." Compare the original NIV,* which reads the same except in ending the sentence "thrown out and trampled by men."

This is apparently an instance of what TNIV's "A Word to the Reader" describes as one of the "more programmatic changes" in this NIV revision, "the elimination of the generic use of masculine nouns and pronouns." Where such masculine nouns and pronouns reflect what in the Greek has no gender, such changes can perhaps be defended on that ground. But in fact in this case the Greek reads "hupo anthropon," rendered literally ("of men") in the KJV. (The NIV's "by men" expresses the same idea in more contemporary phrasing.) In order to accomplish their program of change, TNIV has to knock the last two words of the Greek text out of the translation, so as not to offend against canons of political correctness. Given a choice between disturbing the text and disturbing modern-day sensibilities, the revisers have unhesitatingly opted for the former.

The present verse is hardly an isolated instance of such "programmatic changes" in TNIV, but it is a particularly flagrant example. Many years ago, C.S. Lewis, in his preface to "Screwtape Proposes a Toast," pointed out that "At bottom, every ideal of style dictates not only how we should say things but what sort of things we may say." In hewing to their style ideal, the TNIV's revisers have presumed to veto the words of the Son of God Himself, dictating both the content and the expression of what He says here--not to mention presenting a false historical picture of a social order where men really were, for good or ill, the doers and actors in most of everyday life.

Did the severe warnings in Rev. 22:19 not give the TNIV committee even a moment's pause before they decided to rewrite the words of God Himself?

* Addendum (2/19/2011): Since a revision of the NIV announced in 2009 is being published in early 2011, the NIV text referenced above is that of 1984. The 2011 NIV text adopts TNIV's reading in this verse.

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