I have not been a fan of the NIV ever since I was able to understand the complexities of translation philosophy. In my opinion, it was more popular due to its marketing strategy than for its merit as a translation. (My opinions on the NIV can be found mixed among my posts on bible translation.) I'm sure Zondervan has high hopes that NIV 2011 will help them retain market share and win over the crowd that largely panned TNIV due to the gender translation issue. While initial reports suggested NIV 2011 was more restrained on that issue, I don't think they went far enough to fix the problems with TNIV (as noted here). My litmus test remains their translation of Isaiah 19:16. TNIV and NIV 2011 gut the original of its intentionally insulting rhetoric. I won't translate the verse here lest I offend you.
I have ignored most of the recent advertising push to promote the NIV 2011, but a full back cover ad on a Christian magazine caught my eye. Here's the text from the ad. Is it just marketing spin or a misleading misrepresentation of the facts?
It's amazing how going back to the beginning moves us so far forward. Translated from the most reliable ancient biblical manuscripts. Tirelessly researched by the world's preeminent biblical scholars and linguists. And made crystal clear for English-speaking audiences worldwide. The New International Version is the translation that's easy to understand, yet rich with the detail found in the original Scripture.
Let's look at these claims and their implications.
1. "Translated from the most reliable ancient biblical manuscripts." Oh no! I need to get an NIV. My other Bibles didn't use the most reliable ancient manuscripts. Actually, most translations use the same critical texts in Hebrew and Greek created by scholars from what seem to be the most reliable ancient manuscripts. NIV has a slightly different Greek text than the standard NT critical text, but we are all essentially working with the same manuscript data. The difference is in which variations get preference in translation.
2. "Tirelessly researched by the world's preeminent biblical scholars and linguists." Other Bible translation committees don't have the "preeminent" scholars (only the eminent ones), so NIV must be better. And they worked "tirelessly" this time. Actually, in these past two decades of expanding English Bible versions, many scholars have been involved in the production of multiple versions. Some of the same people working with a different translation philosophy. But at least when working on the NIV, they didn't get tired.
3. "And made crystal clear for English-speaking audiences worldwide." This is a value judgment. Crystal clear relative to what? Young's Literal Translation? The New American Standard? The King James? What is made clear? The meaning of the "original"? The English style?
4. "easy to understand, yet rich with the detail found in the original Scripture." It's as easy to understand as most moderately idiomatic English translations. But I don't understand how they can claim, in all seriousness, to be "rich with the detail found in the original Scripture." The gender-sensitive issue forces a translation that completely suppresses the rich metaphorical detail of the Hebrew in Isaiah 19:16.
I realize that some people will honestly agree with the opinions about the NIV found in this ad. Only the last claim is, in my opinion, stretching the truth. Our Bible translation preferences have been conditioned from years of using a particular favorite. For a long time, the NIV has been that favorite for a lot of people. An ad like this is designed to get people to stick with the NIV, hopefully without thinking too much about it.