The 2011 NIV: Challenge #1

The world’s most popular English selling Bible, the New International Version, is in the revision process with the new NIV to be released in 2011. Responsible for the changes is the NIV’s Committee on Bible Translation (CBT). The CBT faces a herculean task in producing a revision that will continue the success and dominance of the current NIV, which is currently in its 1984 revision form (originally published in 1978). In fact, maintaining the level of success of the New International Version is probably impossible for three reasons, the first of which I will present today:

1. COMPETITION – The 1984 NIV did not have near the competition the 2011 revision will face. The trusted old King James Version (KJV) was still very popular in the mid-1980s, but I would not consider it as competition to the NIV. People who loved the KJV would stick with it and people who didn’t feel like they could understand the archaic language of the KJV were looking for something else. Two modern versions seemed to stand out as the greatest competition to the NIV: the New American Standard (NASB) and the New King James (NKJV).

The New American Standard (NASB) was well received by scholars and conservatives but because of its high reading level (11th grade) and awkward syntax (ordering of words) it was never warmly embraced by the masses. The New King James Version (NKJV) was considered by many to simply be the old King James Version without the Thees and Thous.

With the NASB and NKJV solidly in the formal translation camp, the NIV stood basically unchallenged in what we now call the functional translation category (click HERE to read my blog post about formal vs. functional).1

When the new NIV revision is released in 2011 the competition will be much stiffer. Three new translations have gained considerable, and growing, support among evangelical Christians: Tyndale’s New Living Translation (NLT), Crossway’s English Standard Version (ESV), and Broadman & Holman’s Christian Standard Bible (CSB). Meanwhile the KJV and NKJV still maintain strong followings. The NASB has largely lost its readership to the ESV. The Message, though really a paraphrase and not a legitimate version, is definitely a popular alternative as well.

Tomorrow I will present the second challenge facing the CBT as they revise the NIV.

Footnotes:

1. Other relatively popular versions at that time: The Revised Standard Version (RSV) was shrouded in controversy since its publication in the early 1950s because of its perceived liberal bent (e.g. Isaiah 7:14 translated “young woman” instead of “virgin”). The Living Bible was popular but recognized only as a paraphrase and not a legitimate translation.

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4 thoughts on “The 2011 NIV: Challenge #1”

  1. Brett,

    I have read the HCSB several times. The one thing I get out if it is that is a sorry excuse of a translation. It seems like the translators are trying to make more literal than the NIV without sounding like the ESV or NASB. I do agree that the new NIV will have a tough time in the marketplace and looking forward to the next entry. Personally, I will not be using the new NIV because I did use the TNIV as one time and thought it was a good translation until I saw some important verses misread. I switched to the ESV in 2008 and have looked back ever since.

    I am not sold on the NLT as a good translation because it so much like the Living Bible, which the NLT is based on. Anyway, cannot wait to see the next entries.

    Chris

  2. Thanks, Chris, for your feedback. I am assuming that when you say, “I have read the HCSB several times,” you mean that (a) you have read several different passages in the HCSB rather than (b) you have read the entire text of the HCSB several times.

    I have not spent enough time to speak authoritatively about the HCSB (now being called the CSB) and was even a little cautious about recommending it on the sidebar of my blog, but I have read enough recommendations from people I respect and am optimistically intrigued with the stated translation philosophy that I went decided to go ahead with the recommendation. It really stands in a class by itself in terms of translation theory. As I plan to spend more time in it, I will develop a more definitive opinion.

    Regarding the ESV, it is my preaching/teaching version. I study in the ESV and NASB (with reference to the other versions), teach and preach from the ESV, but do my daily devotional reading (10 chapters a day) usually from the NIV, but occasionally from the ESV or KJV.

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