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Psalm 78
. . . we will tell the next generation the praiseworthy deeds of the LORD, his power, and the wonders he has done. .
so the next generation would know them . . . and they in turn would tell their children.
Then they would put their trust in God and would not forget his deeds but would keep his commands.

Friday, December 30, 2011

The New NIV

Why are Bible translations such a deeply emotional topic for some? Because the higher we hold God's Word, the more we care about getting it right. When we believe that the Scriptures are inspired by God in the original manuscripts, we want to know exactly what the original said. The catch is that translating anything from one language to another will always be an inadequate process. There just isn't a decoder ring somewhere that can convert text from one language to another as if each word in one language had an exact counterpart in the other.

In Bible translation, there are typically two approaches, as I'm sure you know. The formal equivalent, which is as word-for-word as possible, and the dynamic equivalent which tends to be more interpretative. The dynamic equivalent approach aims to communicate meaning, and if a literal rendering makes no sense to readers, the translation uses other words to get at the meaning.

The New International Version has always been a dynamic equivalent translation. This doesn't mean it isn't trustworthy, just that the aim of the translators is to compose English that communicates the meaning of the Scripture to contemporary readers. Well known literal translations include the English Standard Version and the New American Standard Version. If you want to know as exactly as possible what the words in the verse are, these are the translations to consult. However, some people find that they are not very readable, particularly in group settings.

The new NIV revisions, according to the Committee on Bible Translation, are organized around three categories: changes in English, progress in scholarship, and concern for clarity. Be sure to read the CBT's notes (follow the link) to fully understand these categories.

Let's look at a few familiar verses and see how the NIV has been revised (changes in bold print).
Psalm 23:1-4
NIV 1984
1 The LORD is my shepherd, I shall not be in want.
2 He makes me lie down in green pastures,
he leads me beside quiet waters,
3 he restores my soul.
He guides me in paths of righteousness
for his name’s sake.
4 Even though I walk
through the valley of the shadow of death,
I will fear no evil,
for you are with me;
your rod and your staff,
they comfort me.

NIV
1 The LORD is my shepherd, I lack nothing.
2 He makes me lie down in green pastures,
he leads me beside quiet waters,
3 he refreshes my soul.
He guides me along the right paths
for his name’s sake.
4 Even though I walk
through the darkest valley,
I will fear no evil,
for you are with me;
your rod and your staff,
they comfort me.

Matthew 4:19
NIV 1984
“Come, follow me,” Jesus said, “and I will make you fishers of men.”

NIV
“Come, follow me,” Jesus said, “and I will send you out to fish for people.”

Acts 4:12
NIV 1984
Salvation is found in no one else, for there is no other name under heaven given to men by which we must be saved.”

Salvation is found in no one else, for there is no other name under heaven given to mankind by which we must be saved.”

Philippians 4:12-13
NIV 1984
12 I know what it is to be in need, and I know what it is to have plenty. I have learned the secret of being content in any and every situation, whether well fed or hungry, whether living in plenty or in want. 13 I can do everything through him who gives me strength.

NIV
12 I know what it is to be in need, and I know what it is to have plenty. I have learned the secret of being content in any and every situation, whether well fed or hungry, whether living in plenty or in want. 13 I can do all this through him who gives me strength.

(This last example is cited by the CBT as a change made to improve clarity. Verse 13 is often wrongly applied or taken out of context. This is an attempt to point readers back to the context. Paul is explaining that he is able to be content because of Christ, who gives him the strength to do that.)

This whole topic, I must add, is a problem of abundance. We are rich indeed when our language offers us multiple translations, online study tools, and commentaries around every corner (or link). Let us not lose sight of this fact. And yet, with all of these options, can the English-speaking world be described as "people of the Book"? While I enjoy looking at these different versions, please don't forget that the important thing is to be reading God's Word! It will be of no use to you to have what you consider to be the best, most reliable, most popular, most endorsed Bible translation if you are not reading it, obeying it, and keeping it as your authority for living.

This post is second in a series.  The first post: "The End of NIV 1984."

3 comments:

Sharon said...

I'm enrolled in Intro to Old Testament this year at Trinity, and in the reading requirements I found it very interesting that my lecturer has specified that the NRSV or the NIV2011 are suitable as English language Bible texts for the course, but the NIV1984 is definitely not suitable. I'm looking forward to asking him why, and whether any particular translation differences are to blame for this decision. Either way, it seems that our lecturer is happy that these problems have been minimised or completely rectified in the latest translation. (Not sure why the lecturer recommended the NRSV but not the ESV, either, given they are in similar translation families.)

When I talked to Jeff about whether this was a good opportunity for me to go out and buy a new personal Bible (NIV 2011), so I could use it throughout the rest of my Trinity studies, he found me an old copy of the NRSV that was lying around. I'm so blessed to live in a house with so many Bibles!

Having now read 40% of the Holman Christian Standard Bible (according to my YouVersion app), I am finding their rendering of the original YHWH as Yahweh frustrating, rather than helpful. That's mostly because they just haven't been consistent with it. I noticed this especially in two psalms that I read together, one of which said something like "Praise to the Lord" and the other was "Praise to Yahweh" all the way through. And they don't use caps to indicate the tetragrammation when they don't render it Yahweh, either. They just use Lord, which doesn't distinguish between the alternate possible meanings of "Lord" (a title of authority similar to Boss or King) and "YHWH" (God's personal name, I AM WHO I AM) in the original. The use of Lord is uncommon in the OT, but it is there, and I would like to know whether the Bible passage is describing God's authority and sovereignty, or referring to Him by name. I can at least do this when YHWH is rendered LORD, even though I have to internalise this as Yahweh / I AM WHO I AM. I wish they had just rendered "YHWH" as Yahweh every single time it is in the text, and "Lord" as Lord, rather than muddy the waters as they have.

Can you tell I am looking forward to reading your post on the HCSB? I'm glad I checked it out with YouVersion first, rather than accumulating yet another translation for my shelves. I think I'll be doing that a lot in the future. What I would like is just one omnibus side-by-side comparative Bible, like the one I have on the shelves which has the KJV, NIV1984, NASB and Amplified Bible. But my ideal comparative Bible - at the moment (!!) - would have NIV2011, ESV, NASB, maybe HCSB (I do like it and find it very readable other than the above complaint) and the Good News. Not that that last is a brilliant translation, but it is good for working out how to explain something to little kids. Which brings me to observe that I really like the convenience of flicking between translations on the YouVersion app to see how different translators have rendered a particular verse when I find it confusing or warranting further thought. But I still need a paper Bible for my own personal study, because I mark up in ways that just aren't compatible with e-versions. Aah, the problems of the visual learner and thinker.

Sharon said...

PS We had that verse from Philippians discussed in a sermon several weeks ago and that particular point made about the difference of meaning, and I found it very helpful. Now it's an even better verse to consider at New Year's Resolution time: to be able to be content in all circumstances (which God puts me in) through Christ's strength, rather than being able to do whatever I strive to do (without regard to God's plan for me) through Christ's empowerment. Hmmm. Might need to revisit some of my own NYRs...
xS

Mrs. Edwards said...

Sharon,
I agree that the Holman isn't perfect, but my copy does use the all caps "LORD" when they do not use Yahweh. e.g. Gen. 7:1 "Then the LORD said to Noah..." or Psalm 130 is an example of using Yahweh as God's name when addressing Him personally (v. 1, 5), Lord to translate the word meaning "master" (v. 2, 6) and LORD to translate Yahweh when referring to Him (v. 7). When I compare to ESV, it seems consistent.

However, I agree that this is a bit confusing and could lead you to doubt the consistency. The way Holman handles Yahweh is slightly interpretative, which is what annoys me about NIV (and why I've been using ESV for years now). I'm reading Holman for my personal reading now, and as I said, I'll post on it soon.

Your professor's take on this is very interesting. I wonder, is he "egalitarian"? That is, what is his view about women's roles? I will post more about this gender issue, but it seems that scholars are taking sides with these translations depending on their view (egalitarian v. complementarian). The CBT insists that they are ecumenical about this issue, but it seems that the complementarian theologians have not embraced the new NIV. Sad that it is driving this wedge.

The NRSV is one that I read following my college years after being influenced a bit by egalitarians at Wheaton. The NRSV was one of the earlier (I think) translations to use "brothers and sisters" and other more inclusive language. Although the ESV has put this in footnotes, it isn't as overt.

The New American Standard Bible is a bit of a sister Bible to the RSV and through all of this remains the most absolute literal translation, I think. I think it will enjoy a renaissance given the new NIV, but I could be wrong. It is often awkward English, however, but if you just want to know what the Scripture says, it has it for you.

Thank you for all your comments! It is good to hear from you.

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