Saturday, November 6, 2010

The NEW and "Improved" NIV is . . .

driven (IMO) more by a desire to sell more Bibles and maintain the market share of NIV in light of competition from HCSB, ESV, and NLTse than by any real need for another English version. It is clear that the translators are less interested in revealing the linguistic and literary complexity of the biblical world than with maintaining an ignorant public's faith in the accuracy of the putative original language and text. My opinion is based on the quote from Douglas Moo shared here by Joseph Kelly and reproduced in part below.
When the books of the Bible were first written, they captured exactly what God wanted to say, in the languages and idioms used by the ordinary people of the time. Those first readers of God’s word could understand the meaning of what God was communicating in the form that God chose to say it—the Hebrew and Greek that were the languages of that time.
This is perhaps the greatest oversimplification of the issues of writing, literacy, and vernacular speech vs. scribal language that I have ever seen/heard/read from an educated Bible scholar. Disappointing but not unexpected considering the audience.

Responses to the translation (now available online) have proliferated around the biblioblogosphere this week. A helpful roundup of some of the posts is at Near Emmaus. I have not yet had time to look closely at the translation to see how it compares to earlier NIV or if it fixes what I disliked about TNIV. John Hobbins offers an analysis of their translation of Ecclesiastes 11:1-2. Rick Mansfield has offered his initial thoughts on the translation.

I'm sure there are more, but if this is an issue you're interested in, there's plenty to read already.


  1. I was appalled by the "translation" of Ecc 11:1-2 and agreed with Hobbins' analysis.

    Meh. That's why I learned Greek and Hebrew, to be independent of this debate.

    (Disclaimer: I translated 1 Kings for the HCSB; I disagreed with many of the HCSB translation committee's decisions and policies.)

  2. I've always wondered how much of an impact the HCSB had once LifeWay no longer had to pay to use the NIV in their curricula.

  3. I can't say, as I'm not privy to their business information. I do know that economics was a major factor in doing the translation. For their situation, it made sense, and we got another English translation that non-Greek/Hebrew readers could use for comparison and commentators could argue about. :-)

  4. Per my request, the Southern Library just acquired Writing and Literacy in the World of Ancient Israel: Epigraphic Evidence from the Iron Age by Christopher A. Rollston. I'll be interested to compare his conclusions with Doug Moo's comments.

    I think the key here was identified by Kirk. Committees (and publisher's) often make decisions that are not based on issues directly related to translating, but that significantly impact translations. The thought of an online open source dynamic bible translation is never far from my mind, as it would avoid these familiar problems (though it will no doubt create problems of its own). It all comes down to the mechanics of it all. Hmmm?

  5. Just noticed I'd lost my link to when I stripped the formatting from my last paragraphs. It is now fixed.

    I agree that translation committees have to weigh the expectations of their audience along with the challenges of translating any foreign text, let alone an ancient one. Despite Moo's assertion, I don't think it's possible for a translation made for a 21st century Christian audience to throw off the baggage of centuries of tradition to be transparent back to what God was really saying to the original audience. The reality is too dangerous to reveal. It's an interesting research problem in translation studies that I'm looking at investigating more - how the society/audience/cultural context of the translator affect what they can and can't say.