The revision will be called "Today's New International Version," or TNIV. The original "New International Version," which has sold more than 150 million copies worldwide since 1978, will remain on the market.
The New Testament of the latest version goes on sale in April with the full Bible including Old Testament books expected by 2005.
Zondervan of Grand Rapids, Mich., owned by HarperCollins, holds North American rights for both versions. To date, the Bible society and Zondervan have spent $2 million to develop the new translation but they did not disclose other financial terms.
Both versions, the work of evangelical translators, are especially popular in the conservative, Protestant heart of America's competitive Bible market.
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."
But 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.
Leaders of the Southern Baptist Convention, the largest U.S. Protestant denomination, criticized the language change, as did James Dobson of the influential "Focus on the Family" radio broadcast.
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, based in Colorado Springs, Colo., isn't quite abandoning its pledge because the latest version won't replace the "New International Version" - it will just be sold alongside the older translation.
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.
Like the 1978 Bible, the new version iaimed 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:
All or part of the Bible is currently available in some 70 English translations.
By Richard N. Ostling
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