I remember being told by my pastor how much easier it was to teach the gospel with the words “adoption as sons” for the Greek word uiothesia, than “adoption as children.” He explained to me about Roman laws regarding inheritance and so on. A lot of people could see his point. In fact, in the TNIV, Gal. 4:5 was translated as “adoption to sonship,” just so that this version could be used to explain salvation, in spite of otherwise using inclusive language like “brothers and sisters.” Sonship was a very important word. Women are saved through sonship and being under headship. It takes two ships to save a woman.
And as one evangelist explained about Matt. 5:9,
Actually, the TNIV appears to be a move not toward greater accuracy but away from it. One example: In the Sermon on the Mount, Jesus says, ‘Blessed are the peacemakers, for they shall be called sons of God.’ (Matt. 5:9). The TNIV changes sons to children. But the Greek word huios in its plural form means ’sons,’ not ‘children. ‘My Latin Bible translates it ’sons’ (filii). My German Bible, my Dutch Bible, and my French Bible translate it ’sons.’ Likewise, every English Bible I own translates it ’sons.’ Indeed, from the first century until today, the whole world has understood what the Greek says.
I had never made a serious investigation into finding out which Bibles translated Matt. 5:9 using “children” once I knew that the KJV and Luther used “children” or the linguistic equivalent. But eventually, my curiosity got the better of me and I decided to line up six verses for investigation. They are Matt. 5:9, Romans 8:15, 8:23, Gal. 4:5 and Eph. 1:5. Here are the verses in the ESV using “sons.”
Blessed are the peacemakers, for they shall be called sons of God. Matt. 5:9
but you have received the Spirit of adoption as sons, by whom we cry, “Abba! Father! Romans 8:15b
we wait eagerly for adoption as sons, the redemption of our bodies Romans 8:23b
so that we might receive adoption as sons. Gal. 4:5b
he predestined us for adoption as sons through Jesus Christ Eph. 1:5
The preface to the ESV says of “adoption of sons,” “it was used as a legal term in the adoption and inheritance laws of first-century Rome.” Yes, the term was used when a man with no heir adopts a free male citizen with no father, and that adopted son is under the authority of his adopted father until the father dies, and then the adopted son inherits and carries on the family name. The adopted son was not free nor did he inherit until the adopted father was dead. Not much comparison with Paul’s epistles. However, that is the explanation.
In any case, here are the translations I have picked, Tyndale, Coverdale, Bishop’s Bible, Geneva Bible, KJV, Luther and Calvin’s French Geneva Bible, 1588. I feel that this covers the Reformation fairly well. I will simply list the terms used in each of these 5 verses in the various Bibles.
Tyndale: chyldren, adoption, adopcio, naturall sons, heirs
Coverdale: chyldren, adopcion, childshippe, childshippe, as children
Bishop’s Bible: chyldren, adoption, adoption, adoption as chyldren, adoption as children
Geneva Bible: children, adoption, adoption, adoption of sons, adopted
KJV: children, adoption, adoption, adoption of sonnes, adoption of children
Luther: kinder, kindschaft, kindlichen, kindschaft, kindschaft
Calvin: enfans, adoption, adoption, adoption d’enfans, adopter
Following the use of “adoption” all these translation used the word for “children” or the linguistic equivalent, except for the 3 cases I have noted. I would like to note further that all these translations use “children of God” in Matt. 5:9, and Luther, Calvin and Coverdale, three significant Bibles of the Reformation use “children” and “adoption as children” throughout.
Continuity with the Reformation seems important to some people, and I wonder if they would like continuity with Reformation Bibles. Afterall, these were the Bibles which influenced so many for salvation, for doctrine, for literary and secular purposes as well. These are the recognizable Bibles. How does the TNIV stand up to this,
TNIV: children, adoption to sonship, adoption, adoption to sonship, adoption to sonship
Clearly this correctness overall did not affect the acceptance of the TNIV. It was doomed for including women on any level, in spite of the inclusive tradition of the Reformation Bibles. How about the NIV 2011?
NIV 2011: children, adoption to sonship, adoption to sonship, adoption to sonship, adoption to sonship
Well, I have no statistics to say that “adoption as sons, or to sonship” as saved more people than just plain adoption, or adoption to childshippe, I just don’t know. But I do know that if we want to connect with our heritage, we need a few more children. I know which ship I want to be on.