The new NIV is online…my thoughts and comparisons

November 1, 2010

I’ve been anxiously awaiting the new NIV, which debuted today. The print edition is scheduled for March of next year and will retain the name, “NIV” (not “NIV 2011″).  As much as I appreciate the RSV and ESV, the NIV is still my favorite translation, especially when it comes to the Old Testament. I was disappointed with the TNIV’s over-extension of a “gender-accurate” method, which often enough distorted the text (see below). On the positive side, the TNIV included some needed textual updates. As many of you know, the TNIV was almost a complete failure, despite several high-profile evangelical endorsements. Why? A far greater number of evangelical leaders rejected it and exhorted churches to do likewise. The Reformed wing of evangelicalism was nearly unanimous in trashing the TNIV, and the Dispensational wing mostly ignored it. Several major Christian bookstore chains refused to stock it, following the example of (SBC-owned) Lifeway.

The point of contention was gender-accuracy. As readers of this blog may know, I’m not exactly Wayne Grudem’s biggest fan, but he rightly pinpointed numerous instances where the TNIV’s gender-neutrality distorted the text. Some of his examples are stronger than others, and, yes, many are not terribly important. I’m not sure how happy Grudem will be with the new NIV. It rightly adopts gender-neutrality in several places, especially Paul’s address to “brothers and sisters.” Yet, the new NIV often resorts to the original NIV (1984), or opts for a third/mediating translation, in most of Grudem’s examples. For your convenience, here is a selection from Grudem’s list, with the new NIV added.

VERSE: Genesis 5:2

NIV: He created them male and female…. And when they were created, he called them “man.”

TNIV (2005): He created them male and female…. And when they were created, he called them “human beings.”

NIV (2011): He created them male and female and blessed them. And he named them “Mankind”[a] when they were created.

  1. Hebrew adam

VERSE: Psalm 8:4

NIV: What is man that you are mindful of him, the son of man that you care for him?

TNIV (2005): What are mere mortals that you are mindful of them, human beings that you care for them?

NIV (2011): what is mankind that you are mindful of them, human beings that you care for them?[a]

  1. Or what is a human being that you are mindful of him, / a son of man that you care for him?

VERSE: Psalm 34:20

NIV: He protects all his bones, not one of them will be broken.

TNIV (2005): He protects all their bones, not one of them will be broken.

NIV (2011): he protects all his bones, not one of them will be broken.

VERSE: Proverbs 13:1

NIV: A wise son heeds his father’s instruction, but a mocker does not listen to rebuke.

TNIV (2005): A wise child heeds a parent’s instruction, but a mocker does not respond to rebukes.

NIV (2011): A wise son heeds his father’s instruction, but a mocker does not respond to rebukes.

VERSE: Matthew 7:3

NIV: “Why do you look at the speck of sawdust in your brother’s eye …”

TNIV: “Why do you look at the speck of sawdust in someone else’s eye …”

NIV (2011): “Why do you look at the speck of sawdust in your brother’s eye and pay no attention to the plank in your own eye?”

VERSE: John 14:23

NIV: If anyone loves me, he will obey my teaching. My Father will love him, and we will come to him and make our home with him.

TNIV (2005): Anyone who loves me will obey my teaching. My Father will love them, and we will come to them and make our home with them.

NIV (2011): Jesus replied, “Anyone who loves me will obey my teaching. My Father will love them, and we will come to them and make our home with them.”

VERSE: Acts 20:30

NIV: Even from your own number men will arise and distort the truth in order to draw away disciples after them.

TNIV (2005): Even from your own number some will arise and distort the truth in order to draw away disciples after them.

NIV (2011): Even from your own number men will arise and distort the truth in order to draw away disciples after them.

VERSE: 1 Corinthians 15:21

NIV: For since death came through a man, the resurrection of the dead comes also through a man.

TNIV: For since death came through a human being, the resurrection of the dead comes also through a human being

NIV (2011): For since death came through a man, the resurrection of the dead comes also through a man.

As you can see, a lot of the TNIV’s most egregious translations have been corrected. For example, it’s irresponsible for the TNIV to use “parent” instead of “father” in Proverbs 13:1. Both grammatically and contextually, “father” (not “father and mother” or “parent”) is the proper translation. This is ancient Israel, not 21st century America. Likewise, Acts 20:30 should be reflective of the male leadership (elders) at the time. In another example, 1 Corinthians 15:21, the TNIV loses the Christ-Adam parallel by replacing “man” with “human being,” thus distorting Paul’s redemptive-historical train of thought. In these instances, the new NIV rightly continues with the original NIV’s translation. However, in John 14:23, both the TNIV and the new NIV replace the personal “him” with a general “them.” This may not be as important as the other examples, but I prefer to know whether a personal or general reference is being used. Jesus is using the personal, “him,” which functions differently as a means of exhortation. Moreover, “they” or “them” diverts the attention away from individual indwelling (the point of the text) to corporate indwelling (which is taught elsewhere but not here).  I wish the new NIV had retained the original NIV in this example.

The best example of a textual update/revision is the ever-controversial Romans 3:21-22. I’m really happy with the new NIV’s rendering. Like the TNIV, the new NIV changes the original NIV’s “a righteousness from God” to “the righteousness of God.” On this point, N. T. Wright is correct. However, “through faith in Jesus Christ” is retained, with “through the faithfulness of” in a footnote — also a good choice.

It may be too early to say, but I’m mostly pleased with what I’ve seen in the new NIV. I wish John 14:23 had retained the singular reference, but no translation is perfect.

UPDATE

I just noticed that the new NIV uses “flesh” for sarx, instead of “sinful nature.” See, for example, Romans 8:3-4. This will greatly help the NIV’s case for being a translation suitable for scholarship. The NASB, ESV, and NRSV all use “flesh.” No other term can substitute without sacrificing the embodied aspect of sin and, thereby, important implications for Christology and atonement.

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13 Responses to “The new NIV is online…my thoughts and comparisons”

  1. Bobby Grow said

    I am really excited as well, Kevin. The only reason I didn’t like the 84 NIV was because of the ‘sarx’ translation; and I was very unhappy with the TNIV and the gender stuff. I can’t wait until I can get one of these in my hands. Ah, another excuse to add to my Bible collection ;-) ! I’m currently reading the NASBU, but I really do prefer the dynamic equivalency vs. the formal; but currently, I don’t really like any of the other dynamic or formal equivalent translations. So I’ll stick with NASBU until the new NIV hits the book stores (I should say that I do read multiple translations, but the NASBU has been my mainstay for awhile).

    What do you currently read from?

    • Kevin Davis said

      I currently read from the NIV (Spirit of the Reformation Study Bible) and the ESV (the translation my church uses). If I’m researching a topic, I’ll also consult the NRSV and the NASB.

  2. I too like the NIV, Kevin, as it really is the only choice if you want a Bible in dignified but contemporary English (the ESV is dignified but fails the contemporary English test, imo). We still use it for the lectionary readings in church in the LCA. But one thing I noticed in seminary when going through certain OT books in Hebrew was how much the NIV left out in comparison with the NRSV, for example. Can’t give you any examples off hand – I’d have to find and go through my notes. Anyway, the switch to ‘flesh’ in the NT is an improvement. Thanks for the review.

    • Kevin Davis said

      Yes, the NIV achieved a very good balance between formal and dynamic equivalence, plus literary excellence. I also really like the NRSV’s balance between dynamic and formal equivalence. In fact, if it were not for the liberal bias in certain places (and over-use of gender-neutral terms), I would say that the NRSV is the best translation on the market. Now that the NIV has improved its accuracy (as with sarx and with “the righteousness of God”), it seems that the new NIV will have the best of what the NRSV offers, without the liberal bias.

      I still like a lot of the quaint expressions and sentence structures of the ESV (taken over from its KJV and RSV ancestry). If you read a lot of pre-1970 theology, it’s good to be familiar with a translation like the ESV (or the RSV). Whether you are reading John Owen or Emil Brunner, the Scripture passages being used are similar to the ESV. Hence, the Reformed community, which emphasizes dogmatics, has been very enthusiastic about the ESV.

  3. Highanddry said

    Hi Kevin,

    I wonder what others think about the rights to the NIV being owned by Rupert Murdoch (News Corp inc – FOX, multiple media outlets, Zondervan, Harper Collins and the list goes on). I’m guessing Zondervan will be publishing the NIV exclusively.

    While there is no escaping these media moguls and their market domination, it always irks me when I think of the most popular and highest selling Bible in the world the NIV as ‘owned’ by the likes of Murdoch.

    I like the sound of the 2011 NIV though, so maybe I need to put my corporate prejudices away in the name of an improved Bible.

    • Kevin Davis said

      Yes, I’m not enthusiastic about the Murdoch connection. But, the connection is fairly distant. Murdoch does not “own” the NIV copyrights. He does not even own News Corp. He runs News Corp as its CEO, and the profits are shared among the shareholders (as a publicly traded company), though he receives (by far) the largest share of profits. Zondervan itself is largely independent of any direction or oversight from News Corp. Zondervan still employs a Christian editorial staff with a Christian mission.

      I’m more concerned about the sappy romance novels that Zondervan publishes than I am about the infinitesimal amount of profit that Murdoch receives from the NIV. But, still, I would much prefer that the connection did not exist.

  4. 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

  5. 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

  6. 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

  7. [...] set of lay comparisons is here.  It doesn’t look good to me, but who knows? Tags: [...]

  8. John said

    I wonder what the implications are for the switch from “…for by him all things were created,” to “…for in him all things were created. (Col. 1:16)” Most of the translations that I trust and use have the word, “by.” It just seems a little stronger. Maybe it’s no big deal. NIV has been my default version for about 25 years.

    • Kevin Davis said

      I’d actually argue that “in” is stronger: indicating the ontological “setting” (the divinity of the Son) in which creation took place.

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