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The New NIV: DOA?

As you may already know, the newest revision of the New International Version is now available online. Early reviews in the biblioblogosphere suggest a range of reactions from mildly favorable (at least as it pertains to gender-accurate language: David Ker, Tim Henderson) to unreservedly negative (Ken Schenck, Charles Halton). Here is Charles’s summary:

I am pretty disappointed with this new release.  I didn’t expect that the translators would drop everything and hang on to my every blog post, but I did expect that they would do their job and competently fix and update a Bible translation.  Now, I haven’t looked at other passages besides these, but the reason why I pointed out these passages a year ago was because they illustrate underlying ideological and methodological flaws in the NIV translation committee’s perspective, understanding of the Hebrew language, transmission history of the text, and historical and cultural background.  These flaws are not particular to the NIV, they are common to most of the other translations as well.  However, I thought that maybe with this update some of these would be mitigated but literalistic ideological idiosyncrasies and/or commercial interests won the day.

Ken Schenk voices something of my personal frustration that the publishers hadn’t stuck to their guns with the TNIV, which was in many ways an improvement over the original NIV:

The NIV was never a very good translation from an inductive Bible study perspective.  It wore the theology of its translators on its sleeves in numerous places where it added words and played interpretive possibilities.

The TNIV was a definite improvement, and I was prepared to make it the default for all my church and university writing.  Of course politically, the use of “brothers and sisters” for “brothers” opened a door that the ESV walked through.  The ESV has quickly become the (Calvinist) evangelical favorite.  It is a better formal equivalence translation than the NIV ever was.

In this context, the NIV2010 would have had to hit some sort of wacky home run, and I was very curious to see what they would do.  Instead, it is less than expected.  It reverses clear gains of the TNIV while keeping the one aspect of the TNIV that ticked its clientele off–“brothers and sisters.”  So it now combines the skew of the NIV with the marketing challenges of the TNIV.

It’s dead.  There is nothing here to excite anyone and all the old embarrassments.

In light of these developments, I’m wondering if I should issue a retraction of the penultimate paragraph of my recent review of the Common English Bible. Might the CEB in fact fill a niche for Bible readers looking for a fluent English dynamic-equivalent translation?

I still don’t think so. Evangelical readers, if they’re willing to “forgive” the improvements in gender-accurate language, will continue to use the NIV or perhaps gravitate to the New Living Translation. I can’t imagine them switching to a new translation branded as the product of mainline Protestant (i.e., “liberal”) scholars. Folks in mainline churches may warm to it eventually, but the CEB will have to strive mightily to displace the NRSV in those congregations.

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4 Comments

  1. Charles says:

    I think you are right in your assessment of the adoption of the new translations in the pews. I was underwhelmed with the CEB NT release but I’m still hopeful with the OT–there are a lot of great scholars working on it and if the publisher doesn’t squelch them they should come out with something good. Marketing it though is a different story…

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  2. I thought you and your readers might find it useful to know that I’ve just put up some pages that show how similar the NIV2011 is to the NIV1984 and the TNIV. My pages also show each verse where the NIV2011 differs from the NIV1984 or the TNIV in an easily read / clear manner.

    The pages are online @ http://www.slowley.com/niv2011_comparison/

    I’d appreciate any comments or suggestions if anyone has any. Please either email me robert@slowley.com or leave a comment on my blog post http://community.livejournal.com/robhu_bible/4977.html

    Thank you,
    -RobHu

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  3. I’ve significantly updated my NIV2011 comparison pages. I’ve improved the wording, fixed the colouring in of changes (and made it clearer), made some of the tables clearer, fixed some mistakes that made some of my numbers slightly off, and have added more explanatory text.

    Perhaps the biggest additions though are these two new pages:

    Top 250 added / removed words:
    http://www.slowley.com/niv2011_comparison/most_added_removed_words.html

    Top 250 most changed verses:
    http://www.slowley.com/niv2011_comparison/most_changed_verses.html

    You can also look at the details of the changes within a book (this was always there, but some people didn’t realise), e.g.
    http://www.slowley.com/niv2011_comparison/Genesis.html

    The start page itself can be found @
    http://www.slowley.com/niv2011_comparison/

    It’s also worth knowing that John Dyer has made a series of similar (excellent) pages:
    http://donteatthefruit.com/2010/11/niv-2011-every-last-change/

    -RobHu

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  4. I’ve just updated it again. The measure used for how different a verse is has been improved, and you can now see every instance of when a word has been added / removed.

    For instance here is the list of every time the word ‘humankind’ has been added or removed when going from the TNIV to the NIV2011:
    http://www.slowley.com/niv2011_comparison/words/tniv_humankind.html

    The full list of changed words can be found here:
    http://www.slowley.com/niv2011_comparison/most_added_removed_words.html

    -RobHu

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