Opinions on the New NIV

If you have followed this blog for very long, you are aware that I have a passion for Bibles and a keen interest in English translations of the Bible. A few weeks ago the newly update NIV was made available online. Printed copies will be available in 2011.

Now that the new text has been online for a few weeks, opinions are starting to be expressed. Here are a few:

Trevin Wax questions the need for this “update” of the NIV after only 27 years since the previous update:

We live in a world of constant updates. The programs on my computer require me to update often. A trustworthy program in one decade may require an update installation in order to continue to function properly. But the Bible is not like a computer program. Translation updates are necessary, yes. But they must be done with great care. People read, study, and memorize the Scriptures. To force readers to update to a new version is counterproductive.”

And he concludes:

It’s ironic that the NIV 2011 revision is scheduled to coincide with the 400th anniversary of the King James Version, the most popular and most influential English translation of all time. Unfortunately, the launch of this new revision will have the opposite effect of the KJV. The King James Version united Bible readers around a common text. I’m afraid the NIV 2011 will speed up the growing fragmentation of evangelicals in regards to Bible translations.”

Rick Mansfield is always a very insightful writer when it comes to Bible translations. Rick, unlike me, prefers functional rather than formal translations. Only two days after the updated NIV was released online, Rick offered his initial thoughts on the 2011 NIV, including a personal story of why he came to tweak his thinking on the always controversial gender renderings issue:

I actually consider myself to be fairly conservative, but as I’ve described before, what really changed my mind about gender renderings in Bible translations was the day years ago when teaching Genesis 1 to a group of teenagers, a young woman raised her hand and stated, “Mr. Mansfield, I never knew women were made in God’s image, too.” I looked at her in disbelief; I assumed she was kidding. But she said, paraphrasing the first part of Genesis, 1:27, “All I’ve ever heard was ‘Man was made in God’s image’—not women.” After realizing she was serious, I polled the rest of the class, only to discover that at least a third of them thought the same thing—both male and female students—but mostly female.

This is why I say this is not a political or a theological issue; it’s a communication issue. The masculine universal Man will always have the potential to cause somemisunderstanding; a more inclusive word—which does no damage to the faithful rendering of the original languages—will not ever cause the kind of misunderstanding that I described in the paragraph above.”

Professor J. R. Daniel Kirk of Fuller Seminary, who prefers a more literal (a.k.a. formal) translation, cuts to the quick at the start of his review:

Here’s the bottom line: If you use the NIV, this is a better Bible, with some important updates. Go get an updated version. If you’re not an NIV person, the aspects of NIV that made it unappealing before will continue to do so.”

Another Kirk, this one named Peter, who is from across the pond, is a trained linguist who has served as a translator for Wycliffe Bible Translators. He points out that the 2011 NIV is much closer to the discontinued TNIV than it is to the best-selling 1984 edition NIV (the NIV your average person carries), and backs it up with statistics:

60.7% of verses in NIV 2011 are identical to both NIV 1984 and TNIV; 31.3% are the same as TNIV but different from NIV 1984; 7.5% are different from both NIV 1984 and TNIV; and only 0.6% are the same as NIV 1984 but different from TNIV. That shows that the new version is much more like TNIV than like NIV 1984.”

If you are not an NIV fan, and want some ammunition to use against this new translation, look no further than the Bayly brothers, a couple of Presbyterians who are like the Sons of Thunder when it comes to this topic, calling the new NIV a “politically correct translation” and suggesting that the translation decisions are driven more by financial profit than truth. Read their posts on the subject HERE.

Finally, I point to Gene Edward Veith, columnist for World Magazine and a prolific author, who suspects most people are unaware of the changes taking place with the NIV, shares his thoughts, including a couple of complaints he has with the new version:

Grammatical purists like me will be annoyed that the plural pronoun “they” will be used for singulars of unspecified gender…

Here too is that tendency in American evangelicalism to cut itself off from the church of the past (eliminating “saints”?).”

I have yet to form an opinion of the new NIV and probably won’t until I get a hard copy and spend more time in it.

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4 thoughts on “Opinions on the New NIV”

  1. Thanks for the link. The data in the part of my post which you quote are taken straight from Robert Slowley’s data.

    I don’t think TNIV has been discontinued yet. Zondervan is still selling it. It is probably no longer being promoted actively. But it will only be discontinued when the 2011 update appears in print.

  2. I think Veith is just being cranky about “Saints” … the word in modern English is largely distorted and disconnects those discussed from the OT/NT theme of holiness.

    The Bayly brothers are pretty much cranky about everything all the time. Is the ESV politically correct for noting that adelphoi means “brothers and sisters”? And by the way, the ESV’s translation of anthropos is much more “inclusive” than the old NIV 84.

    From what I can tell the NET Bible tends to handle the “gender accuracy” issue in the best way and most consistently. And it has the best notes ever. Too bad the translation itself is a bit lackluster. http://net.bible.org

    I still have problems with the new NIV. I currently use the HCSB and am not sure that will change when printed versions of the NIV come out. I just can’t understand how and why they choose to go dynamic in particular texts. Why does it say in Genesis “Enoch walked with God” but by the time we get to 2 Cor 5:7 walk becomes too obtuse and the verb “live” is inserted? I just don’t know. The HCSB doesn’t torment me that way!

    The NIV did need an update. They even hired an ESV man after the TNIV debacle to help the transition.

  3. I cherish the NIV, I am disturbed by this revision from passages I’ve read. Believe me love thought for thought translations, the NLT is my number 2. The NIV is an optimal translation which errors on the side of thought. Now it’s diluted. I am 99% sure my new number 1 will become the HCSB.

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