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.
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.